The Ugly

The Toronto Maple Leafs have completely embarrassed themselves for yet another season. Unlike so many years passed, this was the year that had true potential, grit and truculence. Players looked happy and worked well together, fans were ecstatic and the city was buzzing. Even as a Montreal native I could see the Leafs were not playing at the same calibre as they used to, similarly so for the Canadiens, who started to plummet in the standings and have since hit rock bottom.

That was over two months ago, a fall from grace few expected to actually happen. The biggest collapse was from within; where the home crowd have suffered up until now its 11th straight loss at the Air Canada Center. Goaltending has been painful to watch, giveaways have been too often, and the blame game is back in rotation. A heartbreaking scene for Leafs Nation.

That’s why they’ve turned to baseball and golf, where the chants in last night’s 7-1 defeat to the playoff bound Flyers were “Let’s Go Blue Jays”, the shiniest peach in all of Grapefruit action. Ouch! With record high temperatures in the city last week, the green grass was practically inviting the Buds to bring out the clubs and hang up their skates early. They may or may not have accepted that offer. Even the local sportsman is getting flack for how hard he was on a report he did on their blown season. With only 5 games left in their season, this is a reminder the Masters start in less than a week.

You pretty much know the years is over when you get those funny emails of the coach directing his team to look at a play on the board, and it’s actually a golf course layout.

While the Leafs started handing those out a couple weeks ago, I’ve had mine in my inbox for a couple months.


The Hunger Games

I haven’t read the book or watched the movie… yet, but this is that time of the year in hockey where if you’re not hungry enough, you’re going to be eaten alive.

Points are golden droplets that come out of a dirty syringe, and with a fistful of games left you don’t know what these teams are willing to do to get their hands on it. Regulation wins, OT losses, shootout wins and regulation losses… will make all the difference between family movie night on Saturdays, and strapping up at the Joe April 11th.

Staring at the standings, it’s hard to imagine what the final playoff map will look like. The Washington Capitals better get a move on because they’ve already started to stagger. Sabres goalie Ryan Miller usually gets hot at this time of the year, and now that Buffalo have the 8th place reigns (finally!), I don’t see them letting up. The Sens are also hanging in tight after loosening their grip on the 7th seed. I can somehow see them blowing it. Tonight the Panthers try to extend their Atlantic division lead over Washington to 7 points, maybe six… or it could be closed down to just 3, with Washington you just never know.

Out West it doesn’t get any easier for the 6 teams hunting for 3 playoff spots, all only 4 points apart. The Dallas Stars and L.A Kings are going to make sure nothing is left on the ice, as the ladder fall is high from 3rd to 11th place. I hear a loud crash coming.Tonight the Sharks try to take a bite of the Blackhawks, who hold 6th with 93 points. Best part about the final 5? The outright intensity, and the possibility that a team like the Wild or Lightning (or the Habs and the Leafs) can crush the dreams of a team like San Jose and Chicago.

Hungriest team of the year? I’m still in shock with the St. Louis Blues, who have only four regulation home losses all season. But like they say, come hungry, leave happy.


Time to Forgive Tiger

I think it’s time for me to forgive Tiger Woods.

I’ll admit, I wasn’t too impressed when I found out about his extra-marital affairs a couple years back, and I certainly didn’t wish him any luck on the course … but after watching him earn his first PGA Tour win since ’09, I took a moment to look into his soul and saw that he had gone through so much to get this victory.

Yes, everyone makes mistakes, but when it happens to a celebrity the impact is so much more. It’s a lot easier to judge them for their faults because they’re so publicized. Now that I’ve had some time to think about it, I guess I was a little hard on the guy. I mean he did have it all; money, trophys, a beautiful wife, two kids and the respect of every golfer on the planet. But if he really did have it all, none of this stuff would have ever happened. Just because Tiger is a superstar, it doesn’t make him super human. He still has personal issues he must overcome on his own, in order to move on.

And now that I’ve seen him do it, I can breathe a sigh of relief, for him.
There’s a reason the divorce rate nowadays is so high, because a lot of married couples are unhappy. How is Tiger’s infidelity any different from anyone else you know that has been unfaithful to their partner? It’s not. It’s exactly the same. The time it takes to recover from a breakup is always excruciatingly tough, and the emotion lingers for a long time after. But you’ll know the moment you’ve put it in the past, because it will feel like a giant club was removed from your back, and you used it to sink a hole-in-one. Can't wait for the Masters, it's going to be a good one.



I'm still in shock right now over the amount of changes that have occurred in the NFL. It seems like every day a high profile story breaks and a part of my soul goes with it. Not in a bad way though, it’s just this emotional attachment I have with players I'm used to seeing in certain colours all of sudden go green, or blue, or red, or orange.

The freshest transition that comes to mind is not just Peyton Manning in Broncos orange, but Tim Tebow in Jets green. Apparently John Elway still knows how to drop a bomb. Last time I checked it was ‘All Hail Tim Tebow’ out West, now he’s been sacrificed for even less than a lamb. The Jets did good to grab this once 1st rounder, only giving up a 4th and 6th round pick.

What rocks me was the thought NY had already put all their faith into Mark Sanchez. Just weeks ago they stunned almost everyone by re-signing the kid to a $40.5 million deal, half of it guaranteed. Hopefully Tebow can bring his uplifting attitude to a very openly dysfunctional locker room, because there’s even more pressure now after the many changes in the AFC.

WR Brandon Lloyd has shifted to Patriots gear after signing a 3-year deal. New England also rolled the dice by adding often injured Jonathan Fanene, whose name I just love saying; Fenene, Fenene, Fenene. He’s ditching the Cinci stripes for some navy blue too. The retirement of Hines Ward means one less beautiful smile to look at in Pittsburgh yellow, while the abomination of the Indianapolis offense is something I still have to come to grips with.

No more Pierre Garcon, he went to sport Washington maroon. No more Joseph Addai - he was cut. Cut along with Gary Brackett, Melvin Bullitt, Dallas Clark and Curtis Painter. Even Jeff Saturday won’t be Centre for the new QB. At least Reggie Wayne has decided to stay in Colt blue and white.

Not sticking in another shade of blue is Mario Manningham, who made some incredible catches for the New York Giants. He’s shifting to San Fran, where he will be alongside Alex Smith, who re-signed with the team through to 2014. Another Mario to look out for in a new suit is Mr. Mario Williams, the defensive end who spent all of his time in Texas. He went all out in Buffalo, signing a six-year contract with the tough luck Bills.

QB Matt Flynn goes from Green Bay green to Seattle neon, while Kyle Orton gets his chance to back up Tony Romo in Dallas. Brady Quinn too gets a new home in Kansas City, going from brown to red, but still as a backup.

Add in the Saints’ bounty woes and the Megatron mega contract, and we have a March as busy as September.

I know changing teams and wearing different uniforms is a part of the game, and that very few athletes get to spend their full careers with one team. Change is good though, that’s what they say. But in the NFL if the change isn't good enough, there’s always a pair of scissors handy.


Sidney's Return

If Sidney Crosby is going to rejoin his team heading into the post season, the question I’m wondering is how will the rest of the league treat him?

After being sidelined and scrutinized for several concussions and the return of concussion like symptoms, there’s a mutual understanding between players that concussions are a brutal part of the game. Crosby, considered hockey royalty has had his fair share of injury missing 40 games this season. No player wants to concuss another, but there is no stopping what happens after the hit. The hit is in the moment, and if Sidney Crosby happens to have the puck, he’s going to take the hit.

Players who suffer head injuries shouldn’t be treated any differently from players who remain healthy or suffer other body injuries. Especially considering the last time Sidney Crosby returned to the ice he had a 4-point night. That stretch lasted 8 games leading into December, and he had 11 points in the first 5 games. It was a sure sign he was back in competitive form, and the ‘A OK’ that he was ready to compete at the same level he was at before he ever took a hit to the head. Lo and behold three games later his play became stagnant and on Dec. 7th he bowed out of the lineup and hasn’t played since.

The timing of Sid’s return is daunting for the opponents, as the Penguins have been flying without him. Yes, Penguins can fly. They've gathered 53 points without him and have won 9 straight. However, they must face division rivals 9 more times before the season is over. On top of that tight race, the Pens also suit up against a couple teams still fighting for their playoff lives.

This late in the season you would think there would be a ‘no mercy’ attitude on the ice. Going soft on a potential big hit just seems so wrong because of a players’ medical history. This is the NHL, a full contact sport and there are no excuses for putting your head down. But at the same time, you don’t want to ruin someone’s soft tissue because of it, especially if you know what it’s like. The Kings of the East, the New York Rangers get a go at the Kid tonight. We will all be waiting for the first guy to rough him up. It’s going to be a tough stretch from now until early April, I just hope the Kid can tough it out.


Peyton's Goodbye

“It was a long, emotional flight… now the sun is trying to rise.”

That was the message Colts’ owner Jim Irsay tweeted at 6:37 this morning, the day he released quarterback Peyton Manning from his 14 season tenure in blue and white.

It was a long time coming, but reality is always the mirror you must face in order to move on. For me it’s tough, as Peyton Manning is very the reason I started watching football. If you haven’t noticed by my often questionable picks, I like the underdogs. And not to say the Colts are underdogs by any means in the NFL, but at one point in time when I was just a teenager they were.

In the early 2000’s, the New England Patriots held the good luck charm. QB Tom Brady and his crew had everything the Colts desired, and despite comparable records it was always Brady’s team first. Deservingly so, Brady has topped Manning on many levels; regular season matchups, playoff wins, playoff matchups and Super Bowl titles. Society even acknowledges that Brady is better looking than Manning. For non-sports lovers, looks tend to be the deal breaker for women that make watching football tolerable. It also seems to be a deciding factor for girls who just want a team to cheer for. But not for me. When I compared Brady’s good looks and great arm to the frustration I saw on Peyton’s twisted face, I felt for him and knew from then on Peyton would be my guy.

I have long suffered with the Indy faithful treacherous post-season losses after nearly perfect regular seasons. But like me, the Colts too have a great sense of morale. Then Head Coach Tony Dungy was a big reason I decided to cheer for the horseshoe, as his beliefs on building solid foundations and giving credit where credit is due was just outstanding. Belittlement does not occur on Indy turf nor in the locker rooms. To this day I respect his philosophy of showing respect to one another, and loving each other like family. Manning had made it clear he wanted to end his career as a Colt, and I believe it was through Dungy’s philosophy that he felt confident to make that statement.

The best part about Indy’s relationship with Manning is that eventually, they did win it all. Some athletes spend their entire career with one team and never a shot at glory, while others bounce around in search of it. In 2007 Manning led the Colts passed the Bears 29-17 in Super Bowl XLI. At the time Indy had the worst rush defense in the league and had to go through the Patriots again in the Championship game. Manning however finally took control of his fate and brought the Patriots to a standstill after trailing 21-3 late in the first half. The 38-34 comeback win was immaculate and will forever resonate in my mind as a turning point in my life. It was the day I realized any challenge can be beat no matter how many times you’ve failed in the past. It was after that I decided to pursue my dream of sports broadcasting and enrolled myself in school for the following semester.

Coach Dungy believes success is comparative to ones character. That your attitude and the way you treat others off the field speak louder than your physical contributions on the field.

I was only 14 years old when I started to follow Peyton Manning’s career, and after all this time I’ve grown to learn that not only is he a great athlete, but he’s a great person and I wish him all the best in his future endeavours.


The Beast of the Southeast

Don’t look now, but that roar you hear down the South Coast is a surging playoff push by the Florida Panthers.

It’s been over 10 years since the cats scratched the post-season, an unsavoury NHL record. To break that bad habit they made some unorthodox moves. GM Dale Tallon brought out the catnip on Free Agency Day and took a big gamble on a bunch of strays... So far it's paying off.

Many of those strays have found new life as the Panthers lead the Southeast division by three points on the Capitals. A big pat on the back for Tallon, the Panthers are seeking just their 4th playoff appearance. He managed to acquire cats with plenty of playoff experience, but for whatever reason didn’t get another chance in their old uniforms.

Kris Versteeg
Acquired via trade July 1st from the Flyers for a conditional 2nd and a 3rd round pick. Having a career year with 22 goals in 59 games and leads team in points with 49.

Tomas Fleischmann
Acquired via Free Agency July 1st to a 4 year contract.
Often injured Flashman is having a ‘comeback player of the year’ type season, on pace for 25 goals and 62 points – milestones he has yet to reach in his pro career.

Brian Campbell
Acquired via trade June 24th from Chicago for Rotislav Olesz.
Waived his no trade clause to join team. Life’s a beach for the 11 year veteran as his 39 assists are his biggest contribution since lifting the Cup in ’10.

Rounding out the other studs or duds that donned Panthers red on July 1st or via trade is playoff breakout star Sean Bergenheim, who made a big case in Tampa Bay’s run last year, John Madden, Tomas Kopecky and Ed Jovanovski, all of whom have spent time off the ice this year due to injuries, and goalie Jose Theodore, who has done well balancing the pipes with Scott Clemmensen. Vets Marco Sturm and Mikael Samuelsson were unloaded by the Canucks in exchange for David Booth, Steve Reinprecht and a 3rd round pick in 2013. While Booth and Sturm have played less than 35 games with their new teams this year, Reiny is in the minors while Sturm should be back for the playoffs. Samuelsson has already had 5 multi point games with the Panthers, a good fit with long time cat Stephen Weiss on the top line.

Most recently the Panthers have rolled the dice by adding Wojtek Wolski and Jerred Smithson to the roster, in trades between the Rangers and the Predators respectively. The Panthers have won 3 in a row since they joined. Many of Florida’s pickups have been injured throughout the season, but it doesn’t change the fact that they still hold the Southeast lead. The big question with 20 games left in the season is can they hold on?

The Caps are familiar playoff players while the Jets are pushing to make Winnipeg proud. Two of the 3 teams in the division should make the playoffs. Thursday’s game against the Jets is monumental as Winnipeg is in 9th in the East, fighting within a 5 point battlefield for playoff contention. Just like cats, the Panthers have woken from a long nap in the Eastern basement in time to sharpen their claws. Predators by nature these kitties won’t go down easy, and it’s going to be a bloodbath to see who makes it out alive in the Southeast.

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