In Los Angeles, for example, teams in the NBA and NHL still are alive two months into the post-season, this coming off a soccer championship and with baseball’s Dodgers running away in the National League West.
The Minnesota market, with terrible teams across the board, has at least had six playoff appearances by the Twins since the Blue Jays won the World Series. And the worst part of the MLSE trio of incompetent teams — there is nothing at this time to make you believe next year will by any better.
THIS AND THAT
And I know what you’re thinking, the Marlies have a shot. Please. Don’t confuse farm team performance with anything very meaningful. Of the past 15 MVPs of the American Hockey League championship series, one of them, Carey Price, has gone on to become an NHL player of consequence ... A problem impossible to solve: The first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs is riveting in intensity and quality of play. The Conference finals, not so much .... Replacing Dale Hunter won’t be easy for the Washington Capitals. But if the Caps want to maintain Hunter’s style of play and his somnambulant post-game news conferences, the best choice to replace him is Jacques Martin ... While Luke Schenn’s slow development is often attributed to youth, how is it two younger defencemen, drafted after him, Michael Del Zotto and Ryan McDonagh are doing just fine in the top 4 with the New York Rangers ... Anybody know if there’s a crease in the NHL? Anybody know why? ... Wonder how John Tortorella feels about becoming a punchline. It’s one thing to insulate your team, protect your ideals and play the us-against-the-world game. It’s another when you’re being spoofed all over the place, including in your own town by the manager of the Mets ... Anyone who has coached hockey, though, understands Tortorella’s frustration with Marian Gaborik. Nothing ticks a coach off more than a winger who can’t get the puck off the wall and out of your zone.
HEAR AND THERE
Just for old time’s sake, shouldn’t Tie Domi’s son, Max, sucker-punch Ulf Samuelsson’s kid when they play each other in the Memorial Cup? Or maybe not ... One of the players to watch in the Memorial Cup is highly rated Griffin Reinhart, son of Paul, one of the more underrated defencemen in NHL history ... Cory Clouston, who bombed out as coach of the Ottawa Senators, did the same in junior with Brandon. Clouston knows the game: Communicating it is the issue ... You want to cut down on shot blocking in hockey? Easy. Don’t allow players to wear extra plastic protection on their legs ... If the Leafs want to fix their penalty killing maybe they should hire John Stevens. His PK as assistant coach in Los Angeles and head coach in Philadelphia before that has been at or near the top of the NHL ... Why the playoffs bear no resemblance to the regular season, Part 6785: Jarret Stoll had a horrible season with the Kings, went half a year without scoring. Radim Vrbata finished 11th in goal scoring in the NHL with the Coyotes. Now Los Angeles is knocking off Phoenix with ease: Which player would you rather have?
SCENE AND HEARD
Major League Baseball fired longtime arbitrator Shyam Das for two basic reasons: 1) It didn’t and couldn’t agree with his Ryan Braun decision; 2) It had to fire him before he actually wrote his decision on Braun. Had he put the decision to paper, baseball precedent would have been set. Now, there’s basically no written understanding of how Braun remains in the Milwaukee lineup ... Bad month so far for the ex-Blue Jay, Vinnie Chulk. Guy has given up 10 earned runs in nine innings pitched for the Brewers ... How long before the Blue Jays have Jose Bautista batting third, Edwin Encarnacion batting fourth, Vladimir Guerrero batting fifth ... This is when the Jays have to learn to close out an opponent. The Blue Jays need to sweep the Mets on Sunday to put to rest the problems of earlier in the week ... Bautista, at the plate, in the field, with his arm, looking like Bautista again ... It’s a long way until September but if the American League East remains this close, the final month should be crazy. The Jays play 25 of their 27 September games against East opponents, and now that Baltimore is real and the Red Sox are crawling back into the race, it should be the best baseball month in Toronto since the World Series years ... The New York Rangers have 11 goals from their defence in the playoffs. The other three remaining teams have just 13.
AND ANOTHER THING
Grey Cup people take pride: The City of Indianapolis lost $1 million playing host to this year’s Super Bowl. Most of the money was lost in policing and security costs. The average Grey Cup nets several million for the group playing host ... Things that don’t make sense: 1. The Edmonton Oilers waiting so long before firing Tom Renney; 2. New Orleans not doing the obvious signing Drew Brees; 3. The NHL and NBA playoffs; 4. Canada’s third straight elimination from medal round at world hockey championships; 4. Adam Lind’s career .... This hasn’t happened in 31 years: Evgeni Malkin led the NHL in scoring and led the world championship tournament in scoring. Last guy to do it, Wayne Gretzky ... For a guy who looks angry all the time, I don’t know many people funnier than Glenn Healy ... Simple: Without Chris Bosh the Miami Heat is not a serious contender. And who saw that coming? ... Strange connection: Peter DeBoer coaches the Devils. Adam Graves works for the Rangers. The two are part-owners of the Oshawa Generals. Meanwhile, Gretzky’s old team, the Los Angeles Kings, are playing the one he coached and part owned in Phoenix and the winner could face Gretzky’s last team, the Rangers in the Cup final ... Happy birthday to Stan Mikita (72), Bud Grant (85), Sadaharu Oh (72), David Wells (49), Todd Stottlemyre (47), Leroy Kelly (70), Joe Cocker (68) and Lonny Bohonos (39) ... And hey, whatever became of Chico Escuela?
THE HAYHURST COLLECTION
I met Dirk Hayhurst for a brief moment a year ago. He was walking out of an elevator at Rogers Centre and I was walking in. He handed me his book, we shook hands, and went our own ways. Now I can say with absolute certainty that I hate the man. Hate him the way you hated that kid in school who got 90s without ever studying. I read his first book, The Bullpen Gospels, and found myself in awe of his immense talent. I just finished his second book, Out of My League, and I hate him just a little more. The Hayhurst collection of books — there is another on the way — written by the marginal and now finished former Blue Jays pitcher, are nothing short of sensational. He is a marvellous story teller, honest funny, self-deprecating, terrifically human, who brings you into his life, makes you care about him and his wacky family and his fledgling career, and is honest to a fault. His eyes and ears miss nothing, taking you from minor league clubhouse to major league clubhouse, with all his quirks and insecurities, as if you’re walking right beside him. The books should be an absolute read for anyone who cares about baseball or great writing.
TIME TO SAY GOOD-BYE TO PLAYOFF BEARDS
The closeup came from my television, in one of those scrums around Mike Smith in the Phoenix net, and I decided to push pause because the moment seemed so strange. In the crease, aside from Smith were six NHL players, three from each team, all of whom were sporting full fledged beards. And I couldn’t help but think on the frozen shot they looked like brothers in competing uniforms. The faces all young. The beards are new and of similar length. It had a family reunion look about it, which is among the many reasons why the NHL should push to get rid of the tradition of playoff beards. What once seemed a rite of passage now appears in no way distinct. I always wondered why the NHL would want its finest athletes to look this way at the most watched time in the game. But now it just looks like a convention of young lumberjacks, fresh from a magazine ad. It doesn’t in any way enhance the league, its image, or anything else for that matter.
THE MARY SPENCER WATCH
As the buildup to the 2012 Summer Olympics in London continues, one athlete has become the convenient darling of the Canadian media. In fact, she has been featured in television ads, and with major features written in most of Canada’s most prominent newspapers. And because it’s women’s boxing, a new Olympic sport, her story as medal contender was fresh and intriguing and told way too often. Which is very nice, except for one problem. Boxer Mary Spencer has yet to qualify for the Games. She lost her opening bout in the most recent pre-Olympic tournament. The other two Canadian fighters — there are three weight divisions in London — did not qualify either. Spencer still has a shot, as a wild-card entrant, if she gets chosen. But you have to wonder about the practice of building up athletes, creating hype, making them famous, before we’re even sure they’re heading to the Games.