Monday, August 30, 2010

Georges St.-Pierre's next title defense to be held in Montreal

Mark December 11th on your calendars--Georges St.-Pierre, currently Canada's best athlete, will again be fighting as the hometown hero at the Bell Centre.


St. Pierre, the current welterweight champion of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, is ranked as the number one "pound-for-pound" fighter in the world by Yahoo! Sports. After coaching opposite top contender Josh Koscheck on The Ultimate Fighter Season 12, the two will fight a week after the season finale on the 4th.

Koscheck has been building up his resumé. One of the UFC's villains, you may recall how he called out the city of Montreal after beating Paul Daley there in his previous fight back in May. That was the same night that the Pittsburgh Penguins had beaten the Montreal Canadiens in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series.

"Don't worry, Pittsburgh Penguins are going to kick your ass next week, baby!" Koscheck yelled to the Montreal crowd. "And then I'm going to beat St-Pierre, so you guys are going to lose twice, how bout that? Yeah, that's right Montreal."

*Of course, Montreal came back to win Games 6 and 7 to take the best-of-seven series*

Back in April of 2007, Georges St. Pierre beat Matt Serra at the Bell Centre in the main event at Canada's first ever UFC event, after dominating Serra with takedowns and eventually finishing him off with knees as the seconds ticked away in the second round to win the undisputed welterweight belt, in what remains Canada's finest moment in this sports' young history.

GSP's first win in Montreal did more than win him a title. After beating Matt Serra, and Matt Hughes in his previous fight, it meant that the scrappy French-Canadien had beaten both mixed-martial arts opponents he has lost to. In fact, GSP has not lost a single round since August 25th 2007.

6 fights, 23 rounds.

His opponent that night? Josh Koscheck.

Josh Koscheck vs. Georges St. Pierre

Round 1

Koscheck starts out throwing heavy leather. St. Pierre looked rattled. GSP shoots in and muscles Koscheck to the floor. St. Pierre works from half-guard. Two elbows land for GSP. Koscheck defends well as the Canadian controls him from the top. Koscheck works to his feet and explodes into a takedown. Though GSP gripped fence, he still finds himself on his back. Koscheck lands an elbow of his own. Close round. 10-9 for Koscheck.

So, GSP lost the first round, but would take the next two and the unanimous decision.

While matching the hated Koscheck, known for his trademark frosted tipped hair, against GSP, one of the international heroes of mixed-martial arts, would sell a fight regardless, that angle makes the fight that much more interesting.

Both men are wrestlers who prefer to wear down opponents on the ground rather than knocking them out. In fact, in both fighters' 41 combined professional fights, only four have ended with either Koscheck or GSP knocking out their opponents--Koscheck claiming all four.

Koscheck's last two fights have been extremely controversial, as well. His fight against Anthony "Rumble" Johnson at UFC 106 began with Johnson "delivering" an illegal knee to a downed Koscheck, though fight replays showed that the knee failed to make contact with Koscheck. The fight was stopped to allow Koscheck to recover and Johnson was docked a point. In the second round, Koscheck attempted a punch at Johnson and released his fist as he was to make contact, which resulted in Johnson being gouged in the eye and a second stoppage, of which Johnson never recovered and eventually submitted to a rear-naked choke.

Against Paul Daley, again, in the first round, an illegal knee failed to hit Koscheck, and the judges eventually did not take a point away from Daley, but the fight was mired at the end, when Daley took a swing at Koscheck after the final horn blew. An adrenalin-soaked Koscheck called out the crowd at the Bell Centre to boos as Kos cancelled his victory party to leave town quickly.

So, with all that in mind, is this fight going to be great or what?

The Week 9 Excitement Rankings

Websites and other news organizations often compile statistics to determine how good a team is and call them 'Power Rankings'. These rankings are completely meaningless since the only true indicator of how good a team is is by its win-loss record, which is the same way that the league determines it.

These rankings are not totally useless, however, since they've given the 'Eh' Factor an idea into compiling statistics to determine how exciting the team is in played games. While close defensive battles may be a signature of the game of football, we all know that long bombs and high scores put butts in the seats and close games keep you tuned in on the couch.

Call these what you will. 'Excitement Rankings' suffice for us.

1: Toronto Argonauts (5-3), 2nd place East)

The Ontario teams managed to leapfrog the Stampeders this week thanks the the Stamps blowout win in BC that didn't feature any drama after the 3rd quarter kickoff, thus setting up the most important Battle of Ontario ever this week.
2: Hamilton Tiger-Cats 4-4, 3rd place East

The Tiger-Cats are 2nd in passing yardage, tied for first in average point spread and first in return TDs, and hey, if the CFL isn't about imported quarterbacks and rookie all-purpose backs dazzling us, then, I, uh... guess the Hamilton Tiger-Cats shouldn't be up here.

3: Calgary Stampeders (7-1, 1st place West)

After Henry Burris had thrown his league-leading 12th pick against the Lions, I thought for sure that he had finally pulled away from Darian Durant in Interceptions. How wrong I was. The last 1:56 of the half in the Stamps/Lions game was one of the most bizarre sequences I've ever seen, that featured:

-6 possessions, each at an average of 19 seconds long
-2 interceptions on consecutive Burris passes
-1 fumble
-2 field goals, 1 by either team
-1 punt

I haven't seen anything crammed into that tight of a time period since Pierre McGuire's hypothetical Emmy's speech.

4: Edmonton Eskimos (2-6, 3rd place West)

Du... dur... durrr.... really? This was one of the strangest upsets I've ever seen in the CFL because Edmonton started out so badly. They were down 14-0 after the first quarter, had a total of four completions through the first half and already a quarterback change.

Also, huge quarterback controversy in Edmonton. Both Ricky Ray and Jared Zabransky were totally mediocre, but they did their jobs--Zabransky's entrance in the 2nd quarter seemed to zap the Esks, and Ray, the veteran, was the one who led the game-winning drive in the fourth. Zabransky went 8-for-17 for 109 yards, 1 TD and 2 INT, while Ray was 6-for-11 for 63 yards and 1 INT, but there was something else going on when Zabransky was on the field.

Glen Suitor of the TSN broadcast first mentioned it--when Zabransky hands off the football, he rolls out to either side, which freezes the middle linebacker for a split second, giving the running back time to make his cut. The best Eskimo when Zabransky is on the field is Arkee Whitlock, who rushed 4 times for 14 yards (3.5 yard average) with Ray in the game and 10 times for 60 yards (6 yard average) with Zabransky in.

We all know a good running quarterback in this league is more effective than a not-so-good running quarterback, even if the latter is a better passer. The 'Eh' Factor thus endorses Jared Zabransky in this matter, since it allows Edmonton to not have to throw the ball as much to one of their terrible, terrible receivers.

5: Montreal Alouettes (6-2, 1st place East)

I know I shouldn't be cheering for injuries, but the Lions play in Montrealland this week, but Anthony Calvillo has been an unstoppable monster this year, and Chris Leak has played like your average Alouette backup in his couple of appearances, with a QB rating of 56.7, 0 TDs, 1 INT.

6: Saskatchewan Roughriders (5-3, 2nd place West)

It's odd to see the Riders so damn low on this chart, but let me toss some statistics out at you:

-The Riders have seen just eight lead changes in games they've been a part of.
-The Riders still have yet to return a kick, and 11 passing touchdowns is good for fifth in the league.

This is one of those places where a good running back will hurt you--when it's your own, and he continues to score your touchdowns. I think it should be illegal to run the ball on the one-yard line. There's no drama in just pounding the ball buried in there, while we wait for the referees to make a signal that may be overturned by a challenge anyway.

If the home team can't celebrate the instant a TD is scored, it's not as fun.

7: BC Lions (1-7, 4th place West)

The funny thing about this week is that Casey Printers was the lone non Interception-happy quarterback, and BC was the only team to not throw three picks. Fumbles, dropped passes, missed tackles and busted coverages, sure, but not interceptions. They had two touchdown passes from Printers and one from Lulay, which matched the season total from the first seven weeks they played.

How will they manage against the dangerous Chris Leak?

8: Winnipeg Blue Bombers (2-6, 4th place East)

In the wake of Edmonton's miraculous comeback win, the 6-team playoff system appears to be intact and vindicated, as the Bombers and Eskimos are officially tied for the last playoff spot.


Labour Day weekend is coming up. Weather reports will now be part of the Thursday previews. One more week of football before school, and other football, starts. Football.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Three news bits somewhat related to Canadian sports

Number one:

The curse of the Montreal Expos strikes again, as the face of the franchise, pitching and the future of baseball

Number two:
We all know that Brian Burke wants to balance his Top 6 and his Bottom 6. What he doesn't seem to realize is that those terms are reserved for forwards, and not defensemen.

Number three:

The Edmonton Oilers now employ a convicted drunk driver, and no, they haven't re-hired Craig MacTavish. This one comes with a free catchy tabloid title, KHABI-BOOZIN!

Meet Team Canada... no, no, the OTHER Team Canada

The Canadian team, ranked 19th in the world, for the 2010 World FIBA basketball championships in Turkey was officially announced Friday afternoon.

The full roster can be found at the Official FIBA tournament website.

There are some familiar names for hardcore fans in there. Andy Rautins, of course, started for Syracuse in the Big East last season and was drafted this summer by the New York Knicks. Joel Anthony, the only other NBAer on the roster came off the bench and played 16 minutes a game with the Miami Heat last season. The 28-year old post has played all three of his seasons there.

Rautins has had injury troubles in the lead-up to the tournament but it does not look like that will be a problem heading into the tournament.

Canada plays in Group D, with Lebanon, Lithuania, France, New Zealand and Spain. The top four teams after group play advance to the Round of 16, which will then lead to a single-knockout tournament until the final on September 12th.

Here's the Canadian schedule,

August 28th, 11:30 am EST - vs. Lebanon
August 29th, 9:00 am EST - vs. Lithuania
August 31st, 11:30 am EST - vs. France
September 1st, 9:00 am EST - vs. New Zealand
September 2nd, 9:00 am EST - vs. Spain

All games will be on TSN2, who broke down and got the TV rights to the tournament earlier this month. The network will also show the semifinal and final.

CFL Week 9 preview

Here we are, Week 9--the last of the bye weeks.

A lot of websites that offer odds and tell you which way to bet keep a running record of how they've done. Since I started doing this about a quarter of the way through the season, my record against the point spreads and over/under is easily over .500.

Am I not checking because I'm worried that my record is worse than what I say it is? Not at all. Am I lazy? Partly. So why bring it up? Because when we have probably the best two teams in the CFL playing two of the worst this weekend, an upset will stem only if either Calgary or Saskatchewan don't show up, or its a total fluke. Rock-solid analysis won't be able to predict anything here.

I was originally going to be in Vancouver for the Lions and Stampeders game, but my plans changed, and I will now spend my weekend sitting around in my underwear playing Madden '11, which really need to add a CFL feature. A few years ago, EA Sports' NHL titles had custom rules where you could play on European-size ice, and they continue to offer European teams in the NHL series that nobody will play except Europeans. How about a CFL mode for the rest of us?

Calgary Stampeders (6-1) @ BC Lions (1-6, +5) O/U 52
Today at 10:30

Calgary won by five last time these two met at Empire, and that's the closest that the Lions have won to winning at home outdoors since some time back in the 70s. In that game, I felt that BC really, really, really had a chance, but the offense just couldn't put it together. To offer some Glen Suitor-type analysis, if the Lions' defense is as strong as it was the first time these two teams met, but the offense is drawn up a little better and executes better, BC has a chance.

Take Calgary -5, and the under. As far as Jarious Jackson incomplete hail mary passes go, whatever the number is, take the over.

Saskatchewan Roughriders (5-2) @ Edmonton Eskimos (1-6, +6) O/U 55

One of the big question marks about this season is, who are more hopeless? The Lions or the Eskimos? Edmonton came close to beating Saskatchewan at Mosaic earlier this year back in Week 3, after giving up a 20-13 fourth quarter lead.

For a while Edmonton was just bad in the second half. They gave up a sure win to Montreal thanks to a Fred Stamps dropped pass. Now they're just bad all around and drop passes in every quarter.

So, for posterity's sake, take Saskatchewan -6 and the under. I am not convinced the Edmonton triple-QB offense can generate anything against the different defensive packages Saskatchewan comes out with. Jared Zabransky can't even throw those hook-and-lateral plays, because even if the initial pass to Kelly Campbell is complete, Kamau Petersen will just drop the lateral.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

What do Major League Baseball's leaked documents mean for Edmonton?

A few days ago, Deadspin released leaked documents about the finances of the Florida Marlins, a team that held its home city hostage hostage and threatened to move until the city would give it a favourable deal for a new stadium, originally billed at $515, but now being billed as upwards of $600 million.

It turns out that the Marlins have turned a healthy profit over the last two seasons, and now the city of Miami is considering backing out of its original advertising deal as part of the new stadium.

So what does this mean? Well, consider all that Edmonton Oilers owner Darryl Katz has been doing to secure a publicly-funded arena in downtown Edmonton for his own private profiteering. Katz has guaranteed $100 million for a new entertainment district if Edmonton fronts the rest of the cash.

Katz, like Marlins, and former Expos, owner Jeff Loria has pled the "small market" excuse, that the team cannot operate in a "significant economic and competitive disadvantage." His efforts to control Copps Coliseum in Hamilton are suspicious, since when the Rexall Place lease expires in 2014, Katz may pick up the team and move them to Hamilton, if Edmonton doesn't give them what he wants.

The point here is that the Florida Marlins were able to get what they wanted by flat-out lying about their financial situation, and now we're stuck in a similar situation where Darryl Katz is directing Edmonton City councillors based on emotions. Can Katz fund the entire project? Probably not, but why must it be so glitzy?

Copps is not all that much bigger than Rexall. Is Darryl Katz looking to hold two Canadian cities hostage to move his team to the city that will give him the best playground, or does he simply want a controlling interest of a building that will inevitably host the NHL a few years down the road?

It's far more fun to think that it's the former.

More reading:

The team values and revenues of the National Football League are over double those of the NHL, but the NHL plays in a larger average market.

Andy Grabia of the Battle of Alberta is keeping a blog, Why Downtown? which takes a critical look at Edmonton City Council and Darryl Katz' arena plans.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

How the NHL network TV schedule affects Canadian teams

The National Hockey League released it's 2010/2011 network television schedule for both the Canadian and American markets on Wednesday. CBC, TSN and TSN2 will carry national games in Canada, along with the early game we'll see on NBC after New Year's.

National TV broadcasts get us into a nice routine. Saturday nights are for curling up on the couch and flipping on CBC, particularly after playing out on the pond, or spending the day sleeping off a hangover and playing video games. The weekday TSN games are great for when you come in after work or school, too bent out of shape to complain about Pierre McGuire.

TSN are advertising 124 games on TSN and TSN2 this season, although the TSN2 games tend to be picked up from Versus. Some highlights from the TSN2 schedule include:

Monday October 18th - Colorado @ NY Rangers
Monday November 29th - Dallas @ Carolina
Monday December 27th - Minnesota @ Columbus
Monday January 17th - Los Angeles @ Dallas
Monday February 14th - Washington @ Phoenix
Tuesday March 15th - Buffalo @ Carolina

Sure, maybe some of those games, along with others on the 48-game TSN2 schedule, won't be total stinkers, but the TSN2 games are either Versus pickups or games where an extra camera crew may happen to be leftover in the region. Subtract those and the six preseason games plus four games from Europe that are on during times nobody will be able to watch, and we're looking at a 66-game schedule. That's nothing to sneeze at, and the North American season starts off nicely with a double-header on October 13th, with Toronto in Pittsburgh and Vancouver in Anaheim.

All in all on TSN we're looking at a 66-game schedule, with eight double headers, so 58 days during the year where there will be a nationally-televised game featuring a Canadian. That is more than enough to get your truculence fix from the Maple Leafs or Flames.

CBC, as usual, offers up the usual Saturday doubleheader, plus a doubleheader on Thursday, October 7th with Montreal in Toronto and Calgary in Edmonton with some specially scattered games throughout the season.

The national broadcaster will also have tripleheaders on December 4th, New Year's Day (accounting for the Winter Classic, which falls on a Saturday this year), February 5th, Hockey Day In Canada on February 12th, March 12th, and on April 9th, the last Saturday of the regular season.

Some notes:

-All three Western Canadian teams will be broadcasted on either TSN or CBC a total of 24 times: 14 times on CBC and 10 times on TSN. The Toronto Maple Leafs see their 24th nationally televised game on January 25th. The Montreal Canadiens will see their 24th nationally televised game on January 18th. The Ottawa Senators will see their 24th nationally televised game in franchise history sometime next season.

-The Edmonton Oilers boast the number one draft pick who will likely play on the team, but they have no nationally televised games in the United States.

-The Vancouver Canucks will not see a Saturday night game against a Western Canadian foe until, get this, January 22nd against the Calgary Flames. The Oilers and the Canucks will only see each other once on CBC.

-As usual, every Montreal Canadiens game will be televised in Canada on specialty channel RDS, which can be bought from all of the major carriers in smooth standard definition.

TSN2 to show gold medal hockey game tonight

Yes, TSN2 has been showing repeats of Winter Olympic events, and finally we get to the gold medal hockey game. It will come on your television box at 8 EST/5 PST, so set your PVRs accordingly. This one will never be wiped from the hard-drive.

A replay of the game is great. It allows us to watch and enjoy without the nervous finger-biting or plans to throw ourselves off the Lions Gate Bridge if they managed to choke away that 2-goal lead, although we are still allowed to remember the highs.

When the game finished, I reconvened with some of my friends, before heading off to my parent's place so I could write my column on the event for the school paper, which recapped the last week of the Olympics, before heading out to celebrate more downtown.

Here's the column on the goal and the ensuing celebration, or, as I like to call it, a monument to terrible, cheesy sportswriting:

[Click to enlarge]

These images are courtesy of Thompson Rivers University's student paper 'The Omega', who were merciful enough to have that the column itself taken off of their website.

A friend showed me this video yesterday. It really is a shame how announcers from the UK, France and South Korea, not exactly hockey hotbeds, seem far more into the moment than Chris Cuthbert.

Again, set the PVRs accordingly.

Canada's newest international foe: Panama

This isn't anything to go to war over, but if Stephen Harper came out today and imposed economic sanctions on Panama, I would not be opposed.

First, Luis Bazan struck out nine as the Panamanian Little League squad beat our own Little Mountain squad 4-2. Look how big the guy is. The only thing missing is a column from Damien Cox questioning whether Bazan is truly under the age limit.

Then later, Panama squad Arabe Unido beat Toronto FC 1-0 in a CONCACAF Champions League match, which exposed CONCACAF for being cheap, corrupt, bastards, with the reds giving up 21 fouls, and two red cards to boot, to Unido's eight.

Yes, the real story, as often is in soccer in matches featuring teams from more than one country, was the referee, in this case, Marlon Mejia.

"It's cheeky to suggest that referee Mejia was the man to watch in this contest, but he truly did steal the show," wrote Asif Hossain of "The multiple stoppages in Arabe's favour restricted TFC as much as the players' reliance on directionless long balls."

Le sigh. Unido, model citizens; TFC, no discipline.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Winnipeg mayor kicks kid in face during charity soccer game

It's Tuesday afternoon, and rather than create more tension between local Toronto media and those dirty, filthy weblogzones which offer unsubstantial claims about the habits of athletes, we may as well drag some politics into the mix.

This is from a charity soccer game in Winnipeg, where the mayor Sam Katz got a bit of a high boot on some poor kid from the other team.

[Watch - via]

Hopefully, some smart-alek in Winnipeg with knowledge of the photoshops creates an animated .gif of the incident for our compulsive viewing pleasure.

Critical praise: Jose Bautista's go-ahead shot in the eigth

Toronto's 3-2 win over the New York Yankees Monday night wasn't a playoff game, but it could have been. Jose Bautista had one of those nights again, with two home runs, knocking in all three.

But his go-ahead home run in the eighth inning was a thing of beauty, and will go down as one of those "all-time" Blue Jays highlights for four reasons:

1 - It was against the Yankees, which meant that the Rogers Centre had a terrific turnout. 29,198 people came out to the ballpark--9,000 over average. Of course, that accounts for a number of Yankee fans who made the trip North for the series, but the crowd was decidedly pro-Blue Jays, and closer Kevin Gregg's performance in the closing moments seemed like it blew the retractable roof off the place, or it seemed that way on TV.

2 - During Bautista's last at-bat before the home run, the benches cleared after a pitch got away from Yankee starter Ivan Nova and nearly clocked Bautista in the head. After Cito Gaston and Yunel Escobar were tossed earlier in the game for arguing balls and strikes. The game became far more important as it wore on.

3 - It was his 40th home run. No Blue Jay has hit 40 home runs since Carlos Delgado in 2003, and particularly awesome because of the bat flip that came at the end.

4 - Damien Cox.

Video via

But don't take my word for it. What do the real critics have to say?

When Jose Bautista launched his game-winning home run to left field in the eighth inning that provided the Toronto Blue Jays (65-59) with a scrappy 3-2 victory over the Yankees (77-48) Monday night at Rogers Centre, his deliberate journey around the bases had added meaning.

-Robert MacLeod, The Globe and Mail

all of the hesitancy and maintained composure that Jays fans had exhibited over the past season fell by the wayside yesterday evening. Like most heroes, all it took was the sight of Bautista overcoming adversity to accomplish what he set out to do. And to the gratefulness of all Jays fans, he set out to win the game with a single swing of the bat.

-Zoolander34, Drunk Jays Fans

This is a big moment for Bautista. Jays fans haven't been sure how to react to his success. But what happened Monday night — defying the Yankees, and a PED insinuation — will endear him to Toronto.

-David Brown, Big League Stew

Bautista's jog around the bases lasted 28 seconds and he soaked up every step as the Yankees watched. After finally planting his foot on home plate, he pumped his fist repeatedly as the crowd inside Rogers Centre roared with approval.

-Jordan Bastian,

[Above image courtesy of Zoolander34]

Jose Bautista accused by Damien Cox of being a Toronto Blue Jay

Before Steve Simmons was making dumb statements online, there was Damien Cox.

Damien Cox... Damien Cox seems to have mastered the art of making bold statements without actually making bold statements. His latest 'Star' column is accusing Jose Bautista, who hit 2 home runs in a 3-2 Blue Jay win over the Yankees Monday night, of taking drugs.

The great news for Bautista is that these numbers will surely net him an enormous increase on his current $2.4 million salary when his contract expires. That would motivate any player to find a way to improve his stats.

The Blue Jays, we know, have quietly become known as a bit of a nest for alleged steroid abusers over the years. Clemens played here. Gregg Zaun has been implicated. Ditto for Troy Glaus.

And now comes Bautista. Blue Jay fans will, of course, angrily respond to the suggestion that everything isn't on the up-and-up, just as I remember getting bushels of bitter emails from baseball fans when questioning Mark McGwire's open use of androstenedione back when he was smashing Roger Maris' record.

This seems to be an implication that not just Bautista, but ever single Toronto Blue Jay in the team's history has been juicing. "Joe Carter? He played for the same organization as Troy Glaus. Think about it, guys: Pat Hentgen played in Skydome, LIKE ROGER CLEMENS DID!!!!"

The beauty with Cox is that he can get away with making his stupid, baseless arguments because he's not alleging that Jose Bautista's cap size has grown by 1000% over the last three months. He's alleging Jose Bautista to have played for an organization that has had some players with steroid problems, like every single Major League Baseball team for the last twenty years.

The post had the side-effect of inspiring a "Cox Bloc" post, where Godd Till alleges that Damien Cox is taking drugs because other writers take drugs, and the argument is virtually the same.

But one is intentionally funny, and the other is just pure stupidity.

After the game, Cox took to Twitter, where he was either distancing himself from his argument or providing further evidence.

"So adorable to watch baseball media circling the wagons. Just like they did with McGwire. . .and Sosa. . .and Clemens. . .and Zaun. . . ."

"Don't forget, it wasn't baseball media that brought down Bonds. They watched McGwire openly keep stuff in his locker, cheered him on."

"My favourite so far is the one that delivers a solemn lecture on ethics and reporting in the cyber era. Gosh, we are so impressed."

I don't get this guy. He's trying to circle the media wagons around Bautista, like they did for McGwire. But now the media are cheering McGwire on and, because we're in the cyber era we're... wait... what?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Steve Simmons has become a parody of himself

The Toronto Sun's Steve Simmons, fervent defender of lazy sportswriters, and yet another clown who does not understand the salary cap, has taken some heat recently.

Quite understandably, Simmons became front-and-centre online thanks to his legally correct yet ethically bankrupt defense of colleague Dave Fuller during the Pensio Plan Puppets saga.

Simmons has now come out comparing Cristobal Huet signing in Switzerland on loan from Chicago to Ilya Kovalchuk making $3.5 million more than his cap hit.

"Transferring Huet to the Swiss League is a circumvention of the salary cap," Simmons writes, and quite surprisingly, he credits CBC's Jeff Marek for the idea. Huet has one of the more egregious problem contracts in the NHL at $5.625 million.

Funnily enough, Jeff Marek never explicitly said that the Huet deal was circumvention. Marek said that some could see it as against the spirit of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. While I think that Marek is wrong, I think it's fair to point out that Jeff Marek is not as stupid as Steve Simmons.

For one, Simmons makes me imagine that he thinks every time a problem contract is moved, it's cap circumvention. Loaning a player to Europe is a creative way of getting rid of a problem contract.

The word 'circumvention' in this case is just mind-numbingly stupid because circumvention implies that you're getting around an obstacle, in this instance, the salary cap.

But if the Chicago Blackhawks aren't paying Cristobal Huet and he isn't playing for them, you're not getting around the salary cap obstacle. There is no obstacle. Capiche, Simmons?

Later in the evening, Simmons wondered via text message whether he Blue Jays lead the American League in baserunners thrown out at home or not. Naturally, the official account for the Pension Plan Puppets called him out on it:

"Maybe," they wrote, "as a sports journalist, you could find out for us. Would be interesting to know."

This incited Simmons to reply to the message in a manner that makes us unsure whether Steve Simmons' "Official Twitter account" is just a well-done parody.

Here's a tip to the media: you may yet be used to having your thoughts never escape the comfortable regions of your own subscriber base. While I encourage every writer, blogger, musician or anybody looking for exposure to use the social media service, keep in mind that Twitter is a place where your intellectual property, or lack thereof, is stored online. Don't try to be too 'edgy' if all you are is a lazy sportswriter, who's publication is beaten on scoops by three days.

The lastest post... about the World Cup of Hockey vs. Olympics debate. In it, I long for a return to the good old days when men were men, women were scared of vampires and there was still respect for Sly Stallone.

The CFL Week 8 Excitement Rankings

Websites and other news organizations often compile statistics to determine how good a team is and call them 'Power Rankings'. These rankings are completely meaningless since the only true indicator of how good a team is is by its win-loss record, which is the same way that the league determines it.

These rankings are not totally useless, however, since they've given the 'Eh' Factor an idea into compiling statistics to determine how exciting the team is in played games. While close defensive battles may be a signature of the game of football, we all know that long bombs and high scores put butts in the seats and close games keep you tuned in on the couch.

Call these what you will. 'Excitement Rankings' suffice for us.

1: Calgary Stampeders (6-1, 1st place West)

The idle Stamps jumped over three active Eastern teams who played a couple of stinkers this week. Two statistics jump off the page--even though the Alouettes have played one more game than Calgary, Calgary has as many passing touchdowns, (and will likely build on that against BC this weekend) but the Stamps have one statistic rarely found in the CFL this season: zero return touchdowns.

2: Hamilton Tiger-Cats (4-4, 3rd place East)

The tabbies fell back this year, though they got a very important comeback win on the road in Toronto. Kevin Glenn cooled off, throwing for only 247 yards, but Arland Bruce III continues to heat up, earning a week-high eight receptions. This bodes well for fans of passing football and morbid endzone celebrations.

3: Toronto Argonauts (5-3, 2nd place East)

I can only imagine that Chad Owens' 37-yard completion this week off a reverse is a direct result of seeing Arland Bruce gun one in similar fashion last week. Owens is now leading the Argonauts in QB rating (a perfect 158.3) and yards (37).

4: Montreal Alouettes (6-2, 1st place East)

Every now and then, Anthony Calvillo will get injured and a backup quarterback that nobody on the team has heard of will wander in and then the over-extensive analysis of Calvillo's injury begins. This week it was Chris Leak, and while he made away with a very passable 10-for-15 with 99 yards, the game changed when Calvillo got knocked out of the game. A 24-0 lead quickly changed to a 24-17 lead until Brandon Whitaker came through with a terrific fourth.

But the charge over the backup quarterbacks--we've seen a number of quarterbacks start out as backups and become all-stars in a flash. Darian Durant is a great example of this. I can't think that Montreal doesn't have quarterbacks in reserve with zero athletic talent, I think it has more to do that Calvillo still calls his own plays, thus knows the offense better than anybody. Perhaps there's something to be said for holding a clipboard and recognizing how the offense works.

5: Saskatchewan Roughriders (5-2, 2nd place West)

Idle Riders, idle in the rankings. I'm deliciously anticipating the force stereotypes as we prepare for the Banjo Bowl.

6: Edmonton Eskimos (1-6, T-3rd place West)

This week, the Eskimos have a great chance to get their defensive statistics back to a number that's more indicative of how bad of a team this is. They actually have the second best defensive scoring stat in the league, 179 points allowed, to Calgary's 142.

7: BC Lions (1-6, T-3rd place West)

They have the worst combined point statistic in the lead, (offensive points plus defensive points x .66), seventh place in my brand-new EXCITING TOUCHDOWNS statistic (return touchdowns plus passing touchdowns / 4) and seventh place in passing yardage.

This week TSN started asking whether Wally Buono should step down. Please?

8: Winnipeg Blue Bombers (2-5, 4th place East)

Wow. They are a terrible team too. The obvious flaw in the CFL playoff system is that either one of Edmonton, BC or Winnipeg will make it. Reduce the number of playoff teams to four, and all of a sudden, we can get rid of these three horrible teams, and we have a great battle for the final playoff spot in the East between Toronto and Hamilton.

In a perfect world, we prefer to have the meaningful games played between good teams. In Week 18 this year, the Bombers play the Eskimos. How bad will that one be, and how awful would it be if the winner of that one bad game made the playoffs only to get destroyed by Saskatchewan or Calgary?


Bye week, and hey you guys, I just might be at Empire Stadium on Saturday.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Hoser headlines, the Sunday morning update

The most important thing we can do on a Sunday, before we blast you with irrelevant news on Canadian sports figures throughout the week, is show you a picture of Jon Ryan, a punter for the Seattle Seahawks from Regina, Saskatchewan:

He's a great punter.

Here is Tyler Dellow of mc79hockey offering up how the NHL will ruin Internaional hockey, by elimination Olympic competition. Dellow is responding to a stupid Bleacher Report post from a Leafs fan who will back every move.

Simeon Jackson scored his first goal in the Coca-Cola Championship. That's English soccer for you North Americans.

Canada's representatives at the Little League World Series, from Little Mountain in Vancouver, won their opening game 4-2 against Panama. Apparently tacky pants were involved, but I don't have a picture.

Saint John's Matt Stairs hit for a record 21st pinch hit home run on Saturday. As the great Jonah Keri pointed out, CANADIANZ IN UR BASEBALZ, EATING UR RECURDZ

Finally, Something's Bruin has the definitive recap on the Pension Plan Puppets/Toronto Sun snafu that's being going on. You can find it here.

Basically, a newspaper from a major chain stole something from a blog. From where I stand, that decreases the value of my own journalism degree. I should sue. A newspaper writer is different from a blogger because he or she has already established a level of trust, and when a newspaper man does anything to lessen that level of trust, we are all affected.

But let's turn the subject. Don Cherry thinks that the Toronto Maple Leafs will make the playoffs, and the Phoenix Coyotes will return to Winnipeg within the year.

Finally, a good piece by the guys at Hoops Head North explaining the future of Canadian basketball and what we must do to get on top. After all, our own James Naismith invented the game. By the way, the FIBA World Championship will now be on TSN2.

That it? Stay patient for the updated Excitement Rankings later. I suggest sitting there and constantly refreshing the page.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Toronto Sun lifts Czech translation from Leafs blog

Tomas Kaberle will be traded, but that isn't really the big story here. Dave Fuller of the Toronto Sun "broke" the story on Tomas Kaberle's father suggesting that the Leaf defenseman doesn't like Ron Wilson, attributing Czech website

SUN link

But a couple of days before that, Leafs blog Pension Plan Puppets ran the same story, but it was translated into English by a Canadian living in the Czech Republic known to the PPP boys as Romdgpce.

PPP link

Here is a quote from the PPP story:

The possibility of moving Tomas Kaberle from Toronto has already been discussed for many years now and it was generally expected to happen just after the end of last year. "I have to admit that I expected it a bit too. I really don't understand Tomas staying on in Toronto," said Frantisek Kaberle senior

PPP alleges that the Sun ran the same quote without attribution, and the online version of the story has that quote deleted.

This is the Google Translation of the same quote:

A possible replacement Tomas Kaberle of Toronto is talking for several years. Všeobecné očekávání bylo, že k němu dojde právě po skončení uplynulého ročníku. General expectations were that it occurs just after the end of last year. "Musím přiznat, že jsem to tak trochu čekal taky. Setrvání Tomáše v Torontu moc nerozumím," kroutí hlavou hráčův tatínek František Kaberle starší. "I must admit that I waited a bit too. Persisting Thomas in Toronto, you do not understand," the player's father shakes his head Frantisek Kaberle older.

What are the odds that the Sun does not only employ a Czech-to-English translator, but that that translator happens to be Romdgpce?

And as I am typing this, TSN continues to quote the Toronto Sun for breaking the story.

*CORRECTION - Romdgpce is a Canadian living in the Czech Republic who translated the article for PPP blogger blurr1974*

*UPDATE - Commenter Bower Power from PPP has a side-by-side comparison of quotes.*

*UPDATE x2 - Oh boy... it happened again.*

What the Bills failure to sell in Toronto means

We have seen the Rogers Centre emptier--but that isn't really the point. What matters is that, halfway towards the end of the deal Rogers made with the Buffalo Bills, the NFL probably isn't closer to giving Toronto a team.

Announced attendance for the Bills 34-21 win over the Colts at Rogers Centre was 39,583, some 13,000 below capacity and the lowest attendance for an NFL game in Toronto since the series began three years ago. Clearly, seeing Peyton Manning ride the pine for three quarters or watching the Buffalo Bills isn't a recipe to draw fans, particularly at $155 for lower-bowl tickets, but if Torontonians want the NFL, they'll have to do better than that.

"It's not easy to screw the National Football League up," writes Bruce Arthur of the National Post. "Of course, the fact that Buffalo may be the most ruthlessly, relentlessly, comprehensively boring franchise in football might have doomed the series before it began."

One Toronto Star columnist hypothesizes that the game was only physically attended by half of the announced attendance.

That's an issue. The pictures and video from the event show plenty of footroom for somebody to stretch out and relax upon. But is it really a bad thing to sport in Canada?

If Richard Griffin from the Star is right, and only 20,000 people showed up, that's probably fewer than are likely to attend the Tiger Cats/Argonauts game tonight. An NFL team in Toronto means that the Argonauts are pretty well toast, along with many of the CFL's major sponsors who have a base in Southern Ontario: Nissan, Gibson's, Scotiabank, Wendy's. Suppose Hamilton moves to Québec and Toronto contracts to accomodate the Bills, would the sponsors still be around? Can the league get major sponsorship bucks without a team in Toronto? (The NHL says, yes)

The Bills are a terrible football team and the Rogers Centre is a terrible place to watch football. Canadians like me always notice the lack of butts in the seats before anything else when watching a hockey game in a Southern market. Canada isn't right for the NFL, and the NFL isn't right for Canada.

That's not to say that the NFL is welcome to come and stage events here, but the fans have voted with their wallets, and vote for the NFL to show them some respect. Don't bring in a preseason game and expect them to pay upwards of $100 to watch one quarter of bonafide NFL starters.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Kurt Browning sets house on fire

Former Canadian figure skating champion and three-time Olympian Kurt Browning is doing well for himself. Until yesterday, he had a porsche convertible and a Forest Hills mansion.

Then, the porsche got left out in the rain, and, in an attempt to dry the seats, Browning used a leaf blower on the upholstery.

The resulting three-alarm fire sent flames through the roof of the Forest Hill mansion, brought 80 firefighters and at least 10 fire trucks to the scene and cost figure skater Kurt Browning and his ballet dancer wife Sonia Rodriguez the contents of their home.

“We’re dealing with a bit of a crisis here,” an obviously rattled Browning told the Star. “It’s family time right now.”

Neighbour Mike Markovic said he ran out of his house when he heard the commotion and saw half the house on fire and a bare-foot Browning standing outside.

[Toronto Star]

Why does the whole thing play out like it's something out of Backdraft?

Nobody was hurt, but the house was too 'structurally unsound' to go in. This meant that 80 firefighters and the Browning family had to stand and watch as the thing fell apart.

If you can afford a porsche and a Forest Hills mansion, please get a garage as well, okay, Kurt?

Week 8 CFL preview, the slog towards Labour Day

Week eight in the CFL is upon us, and this slog of a midseason continues to hang over our heads as we continue to watch these games, moreso out of guilt than anything, eschewing the final days of summer with a bottle of beer in our clenched hands and football on our screens.

We are cursed this year with four really good teams and four really horrible ones, conveniently dictating both the Western and Eastern Finals. It is at this time that I can see the rationalization of CFL critics in staying away from an eight-team league. If we get these playoffs over with, we can sip champagne for the Grey Cup before NHL training camps open.

But that isn't bound to happen anytime soon, and the middle part of any sports season is rough. This is why basketball, hockey and baseball seasons have All-Star Games in the middle of their schedules. This is why golf spreads its majors across five months and why The Oscars ceremoniously plays its slideshow of B-and-C-list cult heroes who have croaked over the past twelve months.

We all need a break, and we are just a couple of weekends away from Labour Day, which is the closest thing the CFL has to a true midseason. There's a reason the league keeps its rivalry games during this part of the schedule. On the last day of freedom before the September grind begins, it's nice to go out with the family to catch in a football game. This is also when the playoff races begin to take shape and the games just seem meaningful from here on in.

Stay patient, fellows, we only have four games to go until then. Let's do it without any controversy.:

Winnipeg Blue Bombers (2-5 4 E) vs. Montreal Alouettes (5-2 T1 E) (-11) O/U 52.5
Today at 7:35

Winnipeg busted out of the gate this year, putting together three solid games and going 2-2 after the first four weeks, looking like they might contend. They've dropped three straight since then, and are in the middle of sorting out the question mark at quarterback.

Last week, Anthony Calvillo threw for 450 yards and managed to lose a game that wasn't even close. Considering how many touchdowns (8) and passing yards (645) Winnipeg gave up to Kevin Glenn over the last two weeks, this looks like one of those crazy games that we expect the Als to win and cover.

And in these situations, they always do. Eleven points is nothing--both teams average a larger point spread than this (all CFL teams except for BC and Toronto do, anyway) and the teams are second and third in the league in points scored by both teams during games played.

Hamilton Tiger Cats (3-4 3 E) vs. Toronto Argonauts (5-2 T1 E) (-2.5) O/U 53.5
Friday at 7:35

Insightful analysis from Toronto's half last week: Chad Owens, Chad Owens, Chad Owens, Chad Owens. Chad Owens? Chad Owens!

Insightful analysis from Hamilton's half last week: Arland Bruce still has something in him.

Generally I'm not stoked on rivalry games. I think the media plays it up a bit more because rival fan bases dislike each other, but we always hear about hatred that never manifests between the teams themselves, give or take a few shoves every now and then.

Hell, these two teams play each other so much I'm sure that Arland Bruce is willing to forgive his old teammates for whatever it is they did during his final days in Toronto.

The Argonauts are beginning to find their offensive groove, which is scary. Hamilton is still in the 'well, we put up a whole bunch of points and yards, but we HAVE played Winnipeg four times... so...' stage. Advantage Lemon. And the under.

Monday, August 16, 2010

CFL Week 7 Excitement Rankings

After inputting all the statistics for this week, BC was third in the rankings. I thought, 'wait, that can't be right. My system is totally flawed,' so I changed it. Passing touchdowns are now a factor in the rankings, and offensive points are weighted slightly heavier in the combined point total statistic.

By the way, this week, there was just one lead change. The BC Lions scored a field goal on their opening series, only to have Saskatchewan come back with a touchdown and take a 6-3 lead pending convert. That's one lead change for every bench-clearing brawl.

#1 - Hamilton Tiger Cats

The TIger Cats have a terrific formula for exciting games: a red-hot quarterback, a deceptive, rookie return man who scores a lot of touchdowns in a lot of different ways, and a mouthy receiver throwing downfield bombs with his team up by 14 points on the road in the second half.

Marcus Thigpen has become the first player to score a touchdown in five different ways in a single season: punt return, kickoff return, missed field goal return, reception and a run from scrimmage. Sure, it looks alright, but I'll be really impressed when he scores the same way every game.

#2 - Toronto Argonauts

Well, well, well, Hamilton and Toronto are number one and number two heading into their pre-Labour Day battle at Rogers Centre Skydome. Toronto is 5-2 after a surprising win over the Montreal Alouettes in which Cleo Lemon looked strangely competent.

The Argos have a high ranking because they play in close games that are decided late. The 11-point spread was actually the lowest in the league this week

#3 - Montreal Alouettes

Only in the CFL can you throw for 450 yards and three touchdowns and lose in a blowout. Calvillo is back from injury and looking great, as expected, less dropping a snap.

#4 - Calgary Stampeders

The Stamps put up 56 points, their highest total of the year, against an impressively bad Edmonton team. After this week's events, they lead the league in passing touchdowns, passing yards and are second in total combined points.

#5 - Saskatchewan Roughriders

The Riders now have two wins against the Lions, which is the equivalent of one win against any other team. Despite Chris Getzlaf factoring in only one series and nothing out of Weston Dressler, the passing game is still just as good as Calgary's.

Remember when Wes Cates was a trick play specialist with the Stampeders? It seems he can do pretty well for himself as a starting running back, being ahead of Joffrey Reynolds in every major rushing category.

The Riders biggest problem in these rankings is that they take leads too early and never give it up, so we're let down by the fourth quarter when we're watching Ryan Dinwiddie play catch with whoever the backup running back is.

#6 - BC Lions


#7 - Winnipeg Blue Bombers

One of the most used phrases in the CFL over the past two seasons is "...Buck Pierce return..." although now we're mired in a quarterback controversy in Winnipeg, ducking around the issue that they're now a 2-5 football team simply one game ahead of the very terrible Lions and Eskimos.

#8 - Edmonton Eskimos

The 2010 Edmonton Eskimos is where once-great quarterbacks come to die. They boast former All-Stars Jason Maas and Ricky Ray. Jared Zabransky of 2007 Fiesta Bowl fame has become the pet project of Richie Hall, although keep in mind the most memorable pass completion during his time at Boise State took place when he was lined up as a weak-side receiver in a modified wildcat formation.

Also, after a terrific first couple of weeks, Kelly Campbell has just become a poor man's Kamau Petersen--this week he managed to drop two fourth quarter touchdown passes.

After the 56-15 loss to Calgary, Coach Hall stood in front of the podium and said "I can't tell you what kind of team we are." I can, coach. It's pretty easy, and by the end of your bye week, I'm pretty sure you'll no longer be using the pronoun 'we'.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Sportsnet One: The Phantom Menace?

Mustachioed D1 soccer enthusiast Andrew Bucholtz wrote a poignant post this morning on the availability of top-tier European football on Canadian channels, or lack thereof. Buried deep within the post is a criticism of Sportsnet One, the new flagship cable channel of the Rogers media empire, and their attempt to screw the rest of us.

Sportsnet One is essentially Sportsnet HD. It shows the Raptors, Blue Jays, Oilers, Flames, Canucks and Senators, with the hockey teams being restricted to their own markets.

So really, the only alternative programming that Sportsnet One will offer is European football, but, as Bucholtz points out,

1: Sportsnet One is available only on Rogers carriers.

2: Rogers only offers cable to Ontario, New Brunswick and Newfoundland.

For now, the only thing we'll be missing out on is Rogers' rights to Premiership games. For now. Keep in mind this summer that the Vancouver Canucks took on the communcations giant as a business partner this summer.

13 Canucks games to be broadcast on Sportsnet One

Since BC viewers are unable to get Rogers One, this means there will be pressure on Shaw, the Western Canadian cable company, as well as sattelite carriers, to carry the Rogers channel.

The Canucks generally have 11-17 pay-per-view games per season. The package is about $11 a game or $15 in HD. If Shaw begins carrying Sportsnet One at, say, $5 a month, it disguises the cost of pay-per-view games as a regular cable channel, offering nothing that the old Sportsnet didn't do already.

Good business? Hell yes. Ethical? Hell no. It's not just the Canucks, but the Oilers and Flames each have 58 games to air via Sportsnet, without the release stating how many will be reserved for the Sportsnet One broadcast.

This would be the television equivalent to money-laundering. How many Canuck, Flame and Oiler fans refused to buy the pay-per-view broadcasts because of the inherent bias of the phrase? Under the 'Sportsnet ONE' umbrella, it's just another cable channel, like TSN2.

Unlike TSN2, however, Sportsnet is not actually committed to bringing sports programming to our homes, but more determined to shut us out from it.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Canadian basketball team prepares for worlds; Canada doesn't

Last night at the Air Canada Centre, the Canadian senior men's team defeated the French national team 59-68 in preparation for the 2010 FIBA World Championships.

The FIBA World Championships, unlike the IIHF hockey championship, is not played in season, thus actually attracts pretty solid teams. The Americans, for example, are sending Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala, Lamar Odom, Rudy Gay and Derrick Rose. The Canadians have a few notables; while Steve Nash no longer plays internationally, Joel Anthony of the Miami Heat and two Gonzaga University standouts Robert Sacre and Kelly Olynyk are playing.

So how come, for a pre-tournament game, just 2,652 spectators showed up at the Air Canada Centre?

In the wake of the World Cup and the Olympics where we sat through all kinds of faux-sports purely in the interests of national pride, having fewer than 3,000 people to support the National team is just week.

Heck--go to the website, and take a look at the broadcast carriers for the tournament: Click, and scroll down and you'll see that Canada doesn't even have a TV broadcaster for the tournament.

Phone calls to Rogers and TSN were, of course, not returned, but I was able to get in touch with somebody at the CRTC who said that while he had no idea what the tournament even was, there's a good chance that international basketball doesn't appeal enough to Canadians to get one of our major sports carriers to cough up cash to show the events.

"If it's expensive, they'll probably pass on it and show us poker and darts instead," he told me.

Canada had four channels which offered pretty much round-the-clock Olympic coverage. Canada had two channels which shut off their regular programming for a month to show us the FIFA World Cup. The idea that one broadcaster won't bite the bullet to show a dedicated [very] few the FIBA World Championships shows our major sports carriers their business-savvy more than it does their commitment to complete sports programming.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

CFL Week 7 Preview

All right, Hall of Fame weekend! New buildings! Teams moving! NFL cuts! Mid-season CFL, running time next to NFL preseason games. In actuality, pro football at its worst.

BC @ Saskatchewan - Today at 9:00

Defeating the Lions at home has become a ritual among CFL teams this year. Jarious Jackson is getting the start at quarterback for BC. After three more losses, whose neck is going to be next on the chopping block?

The Riders are favoured by seven and a half. Take it. It should be fun. It's been interesting this year to watch BC lose in many different ways to many different teams. Take the 54.5 under, as well.

Hamilton @ Winnipeg Friday at 8:30

Remember when Bob Young bought the Tiger-Cats after they came off their 1-19 season and he was going to be the guy to turn everything around?

Yeah, about that...

When the Ti-Cats play at CanadInns Stadium, I hope they hate the subpar facilities, and don't cringe when they realize, um, oh yeah, that...

My own conspiracy theory is that the Hamilton City Council backed the downtown West Harbour Stadium to chase away the Tiger-Cats who are adding to Hamilton's unfortunate reputation. This past decade was the first that the Tiger-Cats didn't win a Grey Cup since the 1900s, just like the Montreal Canadiens. Unlike the Montreal Canadiens, they didn't finish in the top four in the league last year.

Anyways, playing the Bombers each week has become sort of an annoying chore, like church, to be repeated each and every weekend because the scheduler seemed to have completely forgotten about these two teams when making up the early season schedule. Home team has won each game. Winnipeg is favoured by three, continuing a trend where only two times this year has a game been decided by fewer than three, I'll take Winnipeg. The over/under is 54. Kevin Glenn has been on fire as of late, and Winnipeg quietly has put up the third best scoring offense in the league. Go up.

Montreal @ Toronto Saturday at 7:30

The only thing that would make this Montreal/Toronto Saturday night game better is if it were played on ice. It makes you wonder how the Habs would do against the Leafs on fake grass and vice versa; how would the Alouettes fare against the Argonauts on a cold, slippery, synthetic indoor surface?

The Leafs have some big guys who could play linebacker. Dion Phaneuf would love to hear that he's legally allowed to leave his feet on hits. Dress JS Giguere up in those big pads of his and just try to see a guy run past him on the end. From a skill standpoint, they have enough speed guys to run the big field in Kessel, Versteeg and Kulemin. Francois Beauchemin is a cut guy with good vision who could be a decent quarterback.

But what kind of team do the Habs have? Their second biggest player is their backup goalie, Alex Auld. If he's as adept at stopping a run as he is stopping a puck, the team is in serious trouble. I see Michael Cammaelleri at quarterback, PK Subban at running back, and Tomas Plekanec as a defensive captain and safety.

Take the Argonauts +7 at home, with Colby Armstrong running for a couple of touchdowns. Take the over at 52.

Edmonton @ Calgary Sunday at 8:05

The first Battle of Alberta game this year is in Calgary, with the Stampeders as one of the premier teams, and the Eskimos coming into the game running routes at random, without direction. I'm sure last week I saw tackle Calvin Armstrong fall for the old "your shoelace is untied" gag from an opposing defensive lineman, leading to a Ricky Ray sack.

Take Calgary minus ten at home, and under 54. Both these teams are better defensive than offensive clubs.

I cut my thumb this week pretty badly, making my digit equivalent to every CFLer who tried out for the NFL this week. Although Dmitri Tsoumpas and Titus Ryan certainly aren't part of a very passable spaghetti sauce.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Maple Leafs sign their Taylor Hall

Meet Jerry D'Amigo, the nice looking young man who is the new face of the Toronto Maple Leafs, and will likely lead them to their first Stanley Cup since the formation of The Guess Who.

Picked as a potential diamond in the rough, D'Amigo has proven to be worth much more than a sixth round pick.

After tying Taylor Hall in points at the World Junior Championship, D'Amigo finished his breakout campaign by putting up 10 goals and 25 assists for 35 points in 35 games for the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, leading his team in points.

[Bleacher Report]

We all know the terrific prospects who have come out of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. While D'Amigo may be a guy who had a better 19-year old season than first expected, the attention he's drawing for maybe signing with the Leafs in the next couple of days just means he is another beneficiary of the mid-August no-new-signings crash.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Expected Result: Damien Cox totally wrong on Kovalchuk ruling

Toronto Star writer and guilty conscience of every Canadian hockey fan came back from his vacation today, just in time to pen a blog post on how an independant arbitrator would uphold Ilya Kovalchuk's 17-year, $102-million contract.

"Most don't expect that [arbitrator Richard Bloch to uphold the NHL's decision] to happen," Cox writes, "and instead it's likely Ilya Kovalchuk will officially become a New Jersey Devil, with his controversial 17-year, $102 million deal approved."

I fail to comprehend who "most" is referring to. If Cox has an extensive list of labour lawyers and union experts to quote and draw his conclusions from, well, all the best to him. The thing is that he doesn't, and his source list is likely made up of ex-players and former agents--former agents for a reason--who have read the NHL Collective Bargaining Agreement as extensively as we have, and have no more insight into the matter as that braindead co-worker.

Using an all-encompassing term like "most" without quoting sufficient sources is what seperates real journalists from schmos who, already having made a career, just mail in every column and offer no differing opinion than the majority of 7pm-10pm sports fans.

That being said, in the unlikely event that Bloch does not overturn the NHL's decision, we're told by Cox, in the same column, that "it's believed the Los Angeles Kings would be first in line to try and sign him," even though Dean Lomardi, General Manager of the Kings says that his team "weren't in the the ballpark" with the deal that the Devils initially signed Kovalchuk to.

Toss in a couple of Tomas Kaberle rumours, also with no substantial evidence to back up his claims, as click-bait, and you have your typical Damien Cox column, including a close-to-but-not-exceeding-400 word count.

So, an hour or so after Bloch decided to prove Damien Cox wrong, Cox came out with an apologetic response piece, explaining the ramifications of this whole thing. Reading is not reccomended.

CFL Week 6 wrap-up, with Excitement Rankings!

Websites and other news organizations often compile statistics to determine how good a team is and call them 'Power Rankings'. These rankings are completely meaningless since the only true indicator of how good a team is is by its win-loss record, which is the same way that the league determines it.

These rankings are not totally useless, however, since they've given the 'Eh' Factor an idea into compiling statistics to determine how exciting the team is in played games. While close defensive battles may be a signature of the game of football, we all know that long bombs and high scores put butts in the seats and close games keep you tuned in on the couch.

Call these what you will. 'Excitement Rankings' suffice for us.

1: Toronto Argonauts

Cleo Lemon responds to his coach's challenge, per sé, and throws for 292 yards, gets the win on the road, and Toronto take the top spot in the Excitement Rankings. This isn't based on a whole tonne of factors, but I'd be lying if I said that the games the Argos play in don't keep me interested through the full sixty minutes. They've gained and lost the lead a total of 13 times (a league high) and each game they've played have had the winning points scored in the fourth quarter. Taking the lead on your last offensive play from scrimmage doesn't hurt either.

2: Hamilton Tiger-Cats

Marcus Thigpen hasn't returned for a touchdown since Week 2, but the Ti-Cats still lead the league in return TDs, though I'm not entirely sure what accounts for their 5-spot jump in the Excitement Rankings. Perhaps it has something to do that Kevin Glenn has thrown for just under 800 yards in the past couple of weeks, a distance longer than some Western European countries. The Ti-Cats played to a close finish this week at home to Winnipeg, and it took a clutch tackle by Garrett McIntyre a disastrous step by Steven Jyles to climb to 2-4.

3: Montreal Alouettes

The Alouettes did not learn from their Week 1 mistakes, and blew another big lead to Saskatchewan in hopes of preserving a close victory. They drop out of a Top 2 spot for the first time this year, based on a so-so passing game, they didn't score a touchdown in the second half, and, along with Saskatchewan, have seen the fewest lead changes in the league, just one per game.

4: Edmonton Eskimos

It's about this time in the year, where two of the spots in the top half are taken up by the Toronto Argonauts and the Edmonton Eskimos, and I realize I need to reconsider my ranking formula. In fairness, they fought admirably against a way better team. Arkee Whitlock looked dangerous for the first time all year, Ricky Ray looked competent and an adorable attempt to win the game on laterals.

5: Calgary Stampeders

No team plays in closer games, on average, than Calgary, (7.67 point difference each game), and they see a lot of lead changes. However, Henry Burris is a shadow of his former dominant, and less interesting where turnovers are concerned, self, and they don't see a lot of points on the field. At 5-1, the best battles they fight are on the Internet.

6: Saskatchewan Roughriders

Darian Durant may be the first person on the planet to be interecepted on a shovel pass against the Alouettes. That's gotta count for something.

7: BC Lions

It wasn't enough for Nik Lewis to criticize the Lions' defensive backs for hitting low, but now he has to go after the weather in Vancouver? On the two worst venues in the CFL, Empire Fields in the rain is on par with BC Place in mid-summer heat, and slightly above Ivor Wynne.

Early reports suggest that Jarious Jackson is going to become the third Lions starting QB this year. The one problem is that the Lions are going to run out of quarterbacks to call on by Week 10.

8: Winnipeg Blue Bombers

First, Adarius Bowman sees one pop out of his mitts on third down, and then the team fails to convert with no time on the clock to tie the game. Luckily, the CFL schedulers give them a break and will let them play the Ti-Cats in Week 7, which comes at a beneficial time, when you need to get your team as many different looks as possible.


This is the only week on the schedule this year that will see every game played on a different day, allowing the average Joe to watch each one. Don't get complacent, because they're also using four different time slots, although the games are being played in just three time zones. Be careful when setting your PVRs, being sure to record over the Lions offense.

The weekend in Blue Jays

Or, how I learned to stop worrying and love the trade

Toronto somehow managed to sweep the American League Wild Card leading Tampa Bay Rays this week, pulling themselves to within a not insurmountable, yet distant, eight games out of a playoff berth.

That doesn't really matter anymore. The Jays have won consecutive games on the backs of two dominant individual performances.

It started Saturday with the call-up J.P. Arencibia. It's a tough name to spell, but he had one of those debuts that would have found its way into a movie script if Apollo Creed pitched for the Rays. Arencibia went 4-for-5, with two home runs, including one on his first big-league pitch.

Arencibia didn't just explode onto the scene. As Dustin Parkes of DrunkJaysFans mentioned via Twitter on Wednesday after John Buck's injury, "Trying to imagine what Twitter would look like if the Yankees had just called up a catcher hitting .303/.360/.639/.998 with 31 bombs in AAA."

Call To The Pen has a great breakdown of where Arencibia came from, what his numbers look like and where he can go from here.

Anybody who made the trip down to Toronto to catch a couple of ball games certainly got their money's worth, because Arencibia's debut probably wasn't even the best performances of the weekend.

Brandon Morrow (also known as the guy traded for Brandon League as part of the elaborate Roy Halladay trade) came within one batter of a no-hitter on Sunday, with Joe Carter in attendance.

The Jays knocked off the Rays 1-0. It was admirable (for lack of better adjective in this instance) of manager Cito Gaston to keep Morrow in with two runners on in the ninth up by just one, to allow Morrow to finish off his first complete game, and his first complete game shutout.

More amazing than the no-hit bid were the 17 strikeouts, which is the most by a Blue Jay in history not named Roger Clemens. Many people have, thus, been talking about Morrow's trade from Seattle, in an, 'oh, you shouldn't have done that,' sort of fashion. Most notably of these, Bill Simmons.

So can we evaluate where the Blue Jays stand with 'The Doc Deal' looming less than a year behind us? No, but just for a weekend, it became cool to talk about the Blue Jays and not get all teary-eyed about Doc at the same time.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

White beats Red at junior camp intrasquad game

That's a shame. I'm a Red fan.

Highlights can be found At the TSN site, of course. Right at the start of the package, we see Jeff Skinner twirl around before taking a faceoff. Between that and falling over at a breakaway in practice, a lucky guess might be that he doesn't even tie his own skates.

Scores a tonne, "slightly above average skater" and undersized? Jordan Eberle 2.0?

Aah... *swoons*... Jordan Eberle...

This was the last chance for the juniors to perform before the team is created, except for the entire first half of the hockey season and December team-selection camp.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Meanwhile, the NHL is looking at some possible rule changes

A presser from the NHL came out today offering some suggestions for rule changes, and announcing a training camp towards the end of August where the league will work it out.

Two veteran NHL coaches -- Ken Hitchcock and Dave King -- will take part in the camp and will be challenging the prospects with strategies which emphasize offensive play and creating scoring chances.

Right off the bat, I can tell you that something about Hitchcock's involvement makes me think they're doing it wrong.

Here is a list of potential rule changes:

Wednesday August 18 (all times ET; subject to change)

10:00 a.m. – Noon

* Hybrid icing rule;
* No line change for team committing an offside;
* Crease reset rule;
* Face-off variation (face-off controlled by whistle in place of traditional puck drop);
* Overtime: three minutes of 4-on-4; three minutes of 3-on-3; three minutes of 2-on- 2 followed by shootout (5 players per team).

2:30 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.
* Bigger crease;
* Verification goal line (additional line situated behind the goal line);
* Wider blue lines;
* Line changes zone in front of each bench;
* Face-off variations (infringement results in the offending player moving back further, three face-off dots down the middle of the ice);
* No icing the puck while shorthanded;
* OT – three minutes of 4-on-4; three minutes of 3-on-3; three minutes of 2-on-2 with long line changes; followed by three shooters per team shootout (if tied after three shots then players who have shot previously can shoot again).

Thursday August 19 (all times ET; subject to change)

9:30 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.

* No touch icing;
* Team that commits an offside infraction cannot make a line change and face-off is in offending team zone;
* Face-off variation: after a face-off violation, opposition center may choose his face-off opponent;
* Second referee located off the playing surface;
* Delayed penalty rule
* No icing the puck while shorthanded;
* OT – 4-on-4 (with long line change) followed by a shootout with five players.

1:30 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.

* Variations of special teams play;
* OT – 4-on-4 (with long line change).

Other than the modified overtime rules and no touch icing, this camp reeks of a total overhaul of games that are exciting enough already. Weren't the playoffs a blast? Haven't we decided that, with Antti Niemi and Michael Leighton as starting goalies in the Cup Finals, that the goaltending era in hockey is over?

Sure, the state of the game in 2004 allowed the NHL to take a look at itself and make some overdue rule changes, but the most effective change was enforcing the rules they already had, as in actually calling hooks and holds, (during the regular season anyways).

Back in 2004 there was a tie for the league goal-scoring lead at 41 between Ilya Kovalchuk, Jarome Iginla and Rick Nash. Three players cracked 50 this year, and to possibly show how meaningless rule changes are, keep in mind that neither Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos or Alexander Ovechkin were playing back in '04.

Some things can be tinkered with: the overtime format, the puck-over-glass rule, the two-referee system and touch icing. Hell, when you're worried about head shots and concussions, you may as well also institute shoulder and elbow pad regulations.

But bigger creases? Face-off dots down the middle? How about a coloured zone in front of the net where defensive players aren't allowed to stand? Let's not get into the total insanity of a 'verification goal-line' since physics dictates that a puck can be both fully across the line, but not a full puck's length across the line.

Perhaps the only good that can come of this is Down Goes Brown's inevitable 'other rule changes the NHL attempted.'

Until then, a camp looking at increasing scoring hosted by Ken Hitchcock and Ken King at the Toronto Maple Leafs' practice facility, where goals and dreams go to die.

CFL odds, thoughts and ends headed into Week 6.

All right--I spent a week moving in. What did I miss? Probably nothing. Wait... Danny Macocia fired? Twitter crap? NFL cuts? What's happening?

Saskatchewan @ Montreal - Today at 7:05

The great thing about this game is that it's completely overlooked as a rematch of a Grey Cup game, and instead as a rematch of an earlier regular season game. I will say it's hard to get used to the idea that Saskatchewan are one of the league's elite teams, instead being a well-supported footnote in each CFL season.

What else does this game have? It's being played in front of more drunk Frenchmen than usual, apparently.

The over/under is 60, and the Alouettes are favoured by six. With both teams averaging more than 300 yards passing and at least 58 points in each game, it's unfathomable to think it'll be lower than that. I'd also say Montreal wins by more than a touchdown--keep in mind they were up by 21 points in Week 1 against the Riders.

Toronto @ Edmonton - Today at 10:05

Toronto coach Jim Barker did his best to not create a quarterback issue this week by creating a quarterback issue Wednesday after practice. Barker said a whole bunch of "no, Lemon has won like, 3 of 5 games, so he's good, right?"

Toronto has, been winning games not because Cleo Lemon is 3-2, but because they're good in close games and have a good running back. They have a defense that gives up field goals instead of touchdowns. Hell, just one CFL team has not had a 300+ yard passing game.

Ricky Ray has not fared any better, and his play was bad enough to cost General Manager Danny Maciocia his job.

The Argos actually give up an average of 31 points on the road, but Edmonton has not cracked the 30-point mark so far this year. In a war of mediocre versus terrible, I'll side with mediocre. Take Toronto plus eight points, and under 52.5.

Winnipeg @ Hamilton - Saturday at 7:05

This is the third time these two teams have played each other in six weeks, with another meeting next week. The home team has won by 20-plus points the first two times these teams played. It's apparent that these two teams will likely compete to play against Toronto instead of Calgary or Saskatchewan come playoff time, so it's good to get all the important games out of the way early.

Winnipeg coach Paul Lapolice hasn't said anything about Buck Pierce's possible return, which means it probably won't happen. Meanwhile, Kevin Glenn threw for 425 yards last week. Quarterback advantage?

Hamilton is favoured by four. Take it. Take the over set at 54. But this game could be over quickly. Just once this year have the Blue Bombers seen a lead change in the fourth quarter. That was all the way back in Week 2. Blowout written all over this one. At least the Saturday nightcap game will be close, right?

Calgary @ BC - Saturday at 10:05


Somewhere, deep inside this British Columbian's heart, we can hope that Henry Burris has one of his four interception nights. Or Jamal Robertson runs for 163 yards again. Or the offensive coordinator decides to draw up a play that will send the ball more than 10 yards on 2nd and long.

But most of me knows that probably won't happen. BC are terrible. Calgary has just one loss this year, and it was in the last second. They also have the league's best defense, against its worst offense. In an eight team league, sure, there's about a 25 per cent chance of that happening in any given week.

Calgary's favoured by 4 on the road. I take that. The over/under is 48. I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that the Lions crack the two touchdown barrier, meaning that Calgary is going to have so score four times to get the over. That sounds reasonable enough.

Shout-out to Boxer Lager for advertising the lowest legal price in Ontario. I bet it doesn't totally taste like moose piss. I think it'd be worth a case for posterity purposes. Just a thought.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A roundup of today's hockey news

-The official press conference for the Heritage Classic, Canada's answer to the Winter Classic, came today at McMahon Stadium in Calgary. The Flames will play Montreal in an outdoor battle on February 20th. Check out the sweaters both teams will wear. The Flames sweaters, in particular, are absolutely spectacular, based on the old Western Canadian league Calgary Tigers threads.

Also, to quote Gary Bettman on this event: "The roots of our game emanate from frozen ponds and backyard rinks in Canada. When you have a heritage as proud and as strong as we do, you want to celebrate it."

-Meanwhile, the Team Canadian World Junior development camp kicked off in St. Johns. TSN's angle was that Taylor Hall didn't show up, and he had to be mentioned in all but two of the first eleven paragraphs, even though he was the offensive centrepiece on the first team to not win gold at the Jrs since 2005.

Kitchener Ranger Jeff Skinner, first round pick of the Carolina Hurricanes, scored the pretty practice goal that will have everybody talking for a couple of days: [Watch]]

-Move-in almost complete. CFL preview tomorrow, complete with Jim Barker delusion.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

CFL Excitement rankings update:

-Today I will simply post the new rankings that my computer is spitting out at me. I am doing this for two reasons:

#1 - I did not watch a single second of football this week. Not at home, where I spent the weekend moving. Not at work, where the gay guy who worked the electronics department at the department store I'm a part-timer at bitterly refuses to show sports on the TV unless it's a corporate-mandated event.

"But Cam, surely you saw some highlights," NOPE! This brings us to reason...

#2 - Without an Internet connection I was lost, and by the time I got a connection last night any video TSN would have on their website would be way out of context, without understanding the flow of the game that was played. In elementary school, we always ran through the hypothetical "what three things do you bring to a deserted island?" question. A similar scenario dished out is likely "what three things do you bring to a house with no Internet [or cable]." Well I'll tell you what: my Nintendo 64, GoldenEye 007 for said N64, and a copy of Stieg Larsson's "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo".

On the plus side, I'm connected now, and the cable company assured me that the cable guy will be here within the next hour and a bit. I eagerly anticipate when I'll be able to watch Two and a Half Men while eating breakfast.

So... rankings: There was quite a bit of change this week, but not in the top two spots:

#1 - Montreal Alouettes The Als hold top spot despite blowing out two straight opponents. They do have the league's top offense and its top passing offense.

#2 - Toronto Argonauts Yep, still here, despite being punched to the throat 41-10 on Thursday.

#3 - Calgary Stampeders They played in another close game and moved up one spot. Henry Burris managed to not throw an interception.

#4 - Saskatchewan Roughriders Riderville is in a state of shock after discovering they have dropped one spot. Their tendency to play in games already decided after the fourth quarter has caught up to the fact that they play in ridiculously high-scoring games.

#5 - Edmonton Eskimos - BC Lions The two teams are sharing a spot here, both having moved up two spots thanks to an (I can only assume) thrilling game between two anaemic offenses and questionable decisions. This one involved a late fumbled that allegedly went unchallenged. CONTROVERSY!

#7 - Hamilton Tiger-Cats The Ti-Cats average nearly a 16-point difference in each game and wear yellow. Mathematically, that isn't very exciting, but they are one point more interesting to watch than...

#8 - Winnipeg Blue Bombers After a successful couple of starts, the Bombers have dropped down to the last spot in the wake of the Buck Pierce injury. They became a run-focused team that wins 33% of its games as opposed to a pass focused team that wins 33% of its games.

So there you have it. On Friday night we get the rematch of the Week One classic between the Riders and Alouettes. I may even get to watch it.