Archive for July 16, 2016

The 1-2-3 of the Week

1171 for publication July 15, 2016

Ross Brewitt

Early each and every morning I enter the kitchen, turn on the TV, keeping up with the overnight degree and tone of the news out of the wacky world of sport.

For instance, George McPhee being named GM of the NHL’s Las Vegas entry wasn’t a surprise, at least to me. There was never any doubt he would get another job, and I’ve always believed he was only biding his time until the Vegas job opportunity was filled. It’s simply attributable to McPhee’s patience.

After seventeen years with the Washington Capitals he had that virtue and more. Don’t forget, he was the patient evaluator who hired coach Bruce “Gabby” Boudreau out of the AHL. That same patience was there in handling an immature and headstrong Alex Ovechkin. If both didn’t achieve success in D.C. wasn’t McPhee’s fault.

I also learned from an overly dramatized Sportnet exclusive that P.K. Subban can handle any and all questions about his “impact” on the Montreal Canadiens and Nashville Predators. According to the non-shrinking-violet defenceman, both teams will have benefited from his presence and personality.

First, allow me to explain that Subban, without question, is one of the top D in the league. But, he’s also the most brash, always “on-stage,” and as such he rubs many the wrong way, especially those within the hockey community at the levels of coaches and GM’s.

In the first segment of the interview, Eric Engel was lobbing patty-cake questions to P.K., like a batting practice pitcher tossing soft strikes at the home-run derby, giving the entire interview a feeling of being rehearsed. Problem is, Engel or Subban aren’t accomplished actors.

By the second go-round on Thursday AM, a few of the questions were borderline stiff, but again lacked any harm to a player who thinks nothing of walking through a teammate’s interview and stealing the spotlight. Nor does it cover the occasional tantrums and on-ice gaffes, but at least P.K. owned up to them.

Getting back to hockey, and the shocking trade, Subban will help the Preds. OK, and Shea Weber isn’t going to hurt the Habs. Subban will be out of the limelight, and Weber has never been in the glare that he will have to navigate in La Belle Provence.

In the end it came down to P.K. wearing out a welcome. But that doesn’t mar the fact he remains one hell of a player.

The Jays, those lovable rascals, were losers, 8-7 with the restart of the schedule out on the coast in Oakland where Josh Donaldson began his MLB career as an A’s catcher.

Strange isn’t it, Jays were tied for second in the AL East, while slowly, steadily, getting players back into the lineup. Yet the Orioles and Red Sox had  played 87 games, as opposed to the Jays 91. This is another four-game adjustment that bears watching and could go either way, as the others play catch-up.

Regardless, Jose Bautista will be returning to the fold, bringing a legitimate outfield arm besides his at-bats and walks. Also Chris Colabello may return after serving his 81 game suspension for crossing the MLB drug rules. Will he return to the Jays? If so, will he come close to those 2015 numbers?

You sure won’t hear it from… sorry, just looking up the Jays “Front Office” lineup… um, Mark Shapiro, pres and CEO, or Ross… hold it, I’m digging it out… Adkins. Wait! Ross Atkins, the Jays GM. These two execs have successfully managed to stay incognito, but like it or not, they’ll be front and center soon.

On their “needs” list here’s another area they may want to address. The Jays leading base-stealer following the break is Kevin Pillar, with seven. A paltry 24 steals for the rest of the team. It makes the lead-off batter on first in any inning a non-threat.

So gentlemen be advised, bullpen, and speed, are in demand, but don’t forget to hold onto your prospects, and let’s see if you can drum up consistency.

The Superstar & the Patient Patient

1170 for publication July 1, 2016

Ross Brewitt

Today’s column is about how everyday things we take for granted can be trigger a healing process. To begin, my lifelong friend Anthony’s first son, Nicholas, is the father of Maxwell, who is the father of Tony’s great-grandson, Athen.

No, it’s not confusing it’s simply the chain of command in a closely-knit family, and the central focus of the story I’m about to relate concerning Max and Athen, father and son.

Last year Tony had advised to me Max’s medical situation was brain cancer, and as expectations go, they weren’t encouraging.

Good times are rare under these conditions, moments are precious and fleeting, the future often shifting from dire to promising. Whatever victories come are hard won, setbacks arduous and tiring, always facing an opponent who’s holding the trump cards. But into this dangerous mix came a hockey angle, and a wish with many moving parts for those who made it happen.

Against this backdrop father and son shared what many Canadian families do, an affinity for hockey. For Max, his role-model player growing up was Joe Sakic, the one with Stanley Cup rings, gold medals, plenty of silverware, and following his 20 NHL seasons, a seat in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Searching for a new hockey role-model, father and son came to an agreement and selected another well-qualified NHL leader, Steve Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning. This is where the dream-idea first occurred.

Athen, now 14, plays AA hockey, and despite some days being better than others, Max usually attends all games and practices he can along with wife Joanna. It’s been a regular occurrence that maintains family unity.

As Max had phrased and reflected on his situation, “… since the cancer entered our lives, my number one priority was to make it as easy as possible on Athen… and this was my way to keep myself involved. As the treatment progressed moving back and forth between radiation and chemo… I was tired, not giving up, just wondering ‘what if it is my time?’ I wanted to make sure if the worst happens and it is my turn, that Athen and I can have one super-moment we can share.”

It’s difficult reading a person’s private, complex thoughts and putting them into context, but it was the small idea that followed and became a major undertaking. Max and Joanna quickly settled on getting Athen to Minnesota on November 7 for a game between the Wild and Lightining. Somehow, there had to be an opportunity to meet Stamkos. There was, but it didn’t come easy.

Max used Twitter, made calls to the Lightning offices, trying any way he could to dredge up a Stamkos response but his persistence fell short.

With Max not cleared for travel, their original plan was to send Athen, Joanna, and her father to the game but later came a welcome agreement from his doctors, and Max was now cleared to go.

Also, through a cousin now living in the Minneapolis area, who also had connections to the Wild and the St. Paul Hotel, mere blocks from the arena, they were on their way. Better still, behind the scenes, direct contact was eventually made and relayed Stamkos. Nothing was set in storne.

But when it all came together, they were advised they were cleared to see the Lightning’s game day skate, and were also told to wait in the hallway following the practice. What happened next was Steve Stamkos, exiting the dressing room and approaching them, bearing gifts and a big smile.

Let Max’s response take if from here. “… when I saw Steve walking down the hallway with a smile, and a stick in his hand…  my heart almost came out of my chest, because I saw the same look on my son’s face… and when Athen shook his hand, it was the greatest cancer treatment I could ever receive.”

So, this is a much shortened story about courage, determination, and just rewards. It’s also an example of small blessings going a long way.

In this business, you don’t often come upon them.