Archive for January 17, 2017

Win Some, Lose Some, & Ties Don’t count.

1202 for publication January 13, 2017

Ross Brewitt

A week ago the late start, 8:00pm for the World Junior game, found me with not enough time to write my full column on the Canada-USA final. It also didn’t help when the Yanks took their time putting the game away, a 5-4 winner in the shootout following four full periods of and seven rounds of one-on-one to settle the score.

With my Thursday deadline normally at 4:00pm, it was 9:45pm when in a panic, I forwarded what I had, with instructions if possible for typing in the final score. It was that or an empty white space.

Canada had their chances, but the eventual dramatic end was a final goaltender’s save. I hate shootouts. This isn’t soccer.

Yet I would have focused my words on Thomas Chabot, the left-side defenseman and captain of Team Canada, who was chosen MVP of the gold medal game, topped off by also winning the tournament MVP. It also could have been the two excellent referees.

But odd that a lanky nineteen year-old, a 6-2, 185-pounder would be considered a power-house in today’s game. With 200-pounders up-and-down any lineup at the pro level, that lack of tall beef he lugs around allowed him to play just under 44 minutes in the marathon final game, and almost 30 minutes the day before, a 5-2 win over Sweden.

To use the considered description of a former NHL defenseman friend of mine, “Chabot was a horse.”

It only proves the size most prospects once tried for heading into the 2017 NHL training camps isn’t necessary. With Chabot’s superior passing and playing skills at either end of the rink, this young man is what used to be called “a student of the game,” a player with the demeanor to play tough and smart, on the same shift. The good news? He’ll be 200 in another season.

He also comes under the heading of many coaches wish list, a no-worry sense of conduct and responsibility, on and off the ice, plus the smarts to relax and recover even when on the bench. Put him down as a “10.”

Last April the end of the 2015-16 season, there were no Canadian teams in the playoff races. None. Seven organizations had failed to crack the post-season lineup, a black mark to be sure. So I stopped whatever it was I was doing at the time and looked up the seven failed teams, rated their potential, stability, and chances of ever going forward again, went out on a limb, and made a prediction. Actually I guessed in my own mind that three Canadian franchises would break through this season.

Right now, we have three. Maybe even a surprise fourth. The Montreal Canadiens, second in the East, have Carey Price back. Need I say more. Ottawa is in 8th tied with Florida, with the Leafs in 11th just two points behind.

Fifth place in the west belongs to Edmonton, Calgary sixth, Vancouver 9th and Winnipeg one point back.

How about San Diego losing their NFL Chargers? The voters there turned down a new tax for building a new stadium. I wonder if this is an opening salvo at the NFL battleship, or the last gasp for Roger Goodell? For a while it seemed a contest for who had the newest, most impressive stadium. I’ve always wondered if the costs of getting shovels in the ground, the armies of lawyers to work out the details and deals, or the escalating cost of playing personnel, will shut down NFL expansion.

Maybe we’re about to find out. The new L.A. Chargers will begin playing out of a 30-thousand seat stadium in La-La Land.

Just wondering, is there anything more disgusting than a hockey player yarping up one of those bilous-coloured tooth-guards, then rolling it around into a revolting position in their mouth? No? The smart players take it out altogether. It certainly doesn’t make them look tough, or menacing, intelligent or worldly-wise. However, if it’s done to convey lack of class and an abundance of crude, you’ve nailed it.

Last, who’s the worst poker player in baseball? Jose Bautista.

Should Come Down to Canada-USA, Not Shoot-Outs

1201 for publication January 6, 2017

Ross Brewitt

Have to admit, the annual World Junior Hockey championship get-together is a welcome opening in the interminable NHL schedule, plus their usual sideshow, the winter outdoor games where NHL players get back to their roots.

I’d be willing to bet that not a player in the present NHL ever played an organized league game anywhere but in an enclosed arena. Most kids today couldn’t find their arenas without a GPS. Even if they did, who would carry those oversize equipment bags?

I was talking with an old pal from back in our hockey playing days, who admitted he respects the mountain of evidence proving how superior the NHL is to, oh, let’s say minor hockey. But, he also confessed the two games he saw on television on Wednesday were the finest hockey games he had witnessed in years. He was speaking of the World Cup Junior action.

Heckling aside, my friend was right, and I told him so. Eventually. Because the pace and tempo of those games, and these games were unique, hi-speed throughout, and though provocation was attempted, all four teams fighting for the medals kept their composure.

Still Wednesday’s games were the best of the tournament, certainly a much improved effort from Canada who in their previous contest had begun playing a tempo-crushing, rush-killing, drop-pass game, that I thought had been left behind in the Stan Mikita era in Chicago.

In that time it was simply two players skating nearby, the puck-carrier leaving it for the trailer. It rarely worked then, it doesn’t work today. In the quarter-final game, against the Czech Republic, Canada was carrying the puck almost to the Czech blueline before back-passing to their defenceman, a good forty feet behind in some cases. In several attempts it left the Canadian forwards cooling their jets on the Czech blueline, losing any momentum they had gained. It seemed to be a part of the game plan by the coaches.

But despite their sometimes slow starts, their maddening shots off goal-posts and crossbars, the failure of their best scorers to jump-start the game plan, they’ve made it to Thursday’s gold medal tilt. Their workmanlike approach as the event wore on brought top results, just as it did against both the Russians and Sweden.

Now it was the Americans, and rightfully so.  They are the authors of Canada’s only loss of the tournament.

As a journalist your supposed to be neutral. As I was told long ago, you can takes sides, just don’t ever let it show.

And so, on this night with the first period in the book, a 2-0 lead by what can only be described as an opportunistic Canuck team, came to “nail-biting” time, and “sure ‘nuff” USA tied it up before the period ended, shorthanded no less.

They exchanged 2-goal leads again, which led to sudden death overtime and the two teams, held each others feet to the fire but again, held the line, tied, after another 20 minutes with the score remaining 4-4.

Now, here’s the part I absolutely detest with passion. The two teams handed in five man selections for their shoot-out lineups.

In the game-congested NHL they have travel considerations and obligations with airlines, hotels, TV schedules, ticket-holders, plus obligations and rules to boring to mention. However, the IIHF runs this show, and are more than proprietary and edgy in all aspects of “their game.” Still, in this instance they need some guidance.

This is billed as a World Championship and you don’t terminate a game or award a title based on trickery, flim-flam, or the luck of the draw. The two teams deserve to play to the finish of this game with a winning goal.

The IIHF World Junior championship, should end in an honourable way. Not on what consists of an uncontested breakaway. And, not on an uncontested goal by a skater who has already had a turn in the first five selected.

Regardless, the U.S., a more than worthy team, won the game. I’m sure they would have preferred to play it out, and there is no reason not to play until one or the other scored. Time, literally, has proven that two teams who have played back-to-back days, and are now into overtime, are susceptible to fatigue, regardless of what age, or fitness, has been reached.

Using the gimmicky, and unnecessary shoot-out, the score ends Canada 4 – USA 5. Congratulations to a fine American team who earned it.

Yet it says here that’s not an honourable way to decide a world championship.