Manitoba hockey's place to be
TED WYMAN -- Winnipeg Sun
Quick, name all the Canadian cities that currently have professional hockey teams playing in the playoffs.
If you stopped at one, give yourself a pat on the back.
That's right folks, the only city in this hockey-mad country with a pro team (albeit minor-league) still in action is the one we're sitting in, eating our corn flakes.
There's no annual pipedream in Toronto, no City of Champions chatter in Edmonton, no talk of reviving the glory days in Montreal, no surprise runs at Stanley in Calgary, no first-round disasters in Ottawa, no vigilante justice in Vancouver.
This year, for this one month of May, it's all here. Thanks to great playoff runs from the Brandon Wheat Kings, Portage Terriers and the Moose, just this once, Manitoba can fairly be dubbed Canada's hockey hub.
And that's kinda sweet.
ONE MORE TIME: Just have to mention again that of the 40 or so players who will take part in the WHL championship series between the Wheat Kings and Kelowna Rockets, 19 are from Manitoba. The Wheat Kings, four wins from the Memorial Cup, have 15 homegrown players, while the Rockets have four. Meanwhile, the ANAVET Cup champion Terriers (15 Manitobans) also found success with mostly local players. Interestingly, the team that bears Manitoba's name, the Moose, has only one local boy. The good news is, Winnipegger Lee Goren happens to be leading the team in playoff scoring ... As if we needed another sign our minor hockey system is working well, six Manitobans were among the first 17 taken in the WHL bantam draft this year. It just keeps getting better ... Still can't stop laughing about that anthem singer wiping out after flubbing the Star Mangled Banner twice. With the way Caroline Marcil went down on such a big stage you would think she took some pre-game pointers from Perdita Felicien ... Man, I thought it was weird that the Manitoba Moose and St. John's Maple Leafs played in the same AHL conference (Western), until I saw this: One of the conference finals in the ECHL (EC stands for East Coast remember) features the Trenton Titans of New Jersey against the Alaska Aces, who apparently qualify for the league because they are off the east coast of Russia ... Bud Selig may have played a brilliant move by asking the baseball player's union to approve 50-game suspensions for a first doping offence. If you're player's union boss Donald Fehr, you can't turn that down unless you're more clueless than that guy who still wants to marry the runaway bride ... To all those baseball players who have been busted for steroids. Enough already with stuff like "I didn't know what I was taking," or "I was shocked that I tested positive," or "I would never jeopardize my career." Just once, we'd like to see somebody come clean, especially in the face of hard evidence.
PAY-ROD: I've always been an Alex Rodriguez fan, but you can't ignore some of the coincidences about his career. As soon as he left the Seattle Mariners, they became one of the best teams in baseball. As soon as he left the Texas Rangers, they went from sad sacks to playoff contenders. Now he's a Yankee and the perennial champions are battling Tampa Bay for last place. Rumour has it George Steinbrenner is finally planning a formal apology for the Yankees stealing Babe Ruth by offering A-Rod to the Red Sox ... The Yankees shook up their lineup this week and then got swept by the mighty Devil Rays. Rumour has it if he shows anything special today at the Kentucky Derby, the new starting right-fielder tomorrow (if he passes the drug test) will be Bellamy Road. The dude's a real horse and, at a cost of $87,000, comes a couple million cheaper than anyone else on the team ... Steve Nash dominating a game from the back-court: masterful. The Detroit Pistons smothering defence: impressive. Vince Carter sitting forlornly on the court after getting swept in the first round: priceless ... You have to feel for curler Cathy Gauthier, who is quitting Team Canada because her kids come first. You have to feel for the media too, who will miss the best quote this side of Colleen Jones ... Woke up one morning and saw that the Ottawa CFL team was in deep financial trouble and was counting on the Gliebermans to bail it out. It was in 1993. Not much has changed since.