Thursday, October 28, 2010

TVOS at The Hockey Writers: Carolina Hurricanes Finally Arrive Home...

Wearing a few different hats at The Hockey Writers these days... Along with my coverage of the Ottawa Senators and the NHL Alumni Association, you can add the St. Louis Blues and Carolina Hurricanes to the list.

Last night, the Hurricanes finally arrived at the RBC Center in Raleigh for their "home opener"... Unfortunately, the Washington Capitals spoiled the party with a 3-0 win.

Read about the Hurricanes home opener at The Hockey

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

TVOS at The Hockey Writers: 1,000 NHL Games for Gonchar

The Ottawa Senators celebrated Sergei Gonchar's 1,000th career game with a pre-game ceremony and a 5-2 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes on Tuesday evening.

Read all about the milestone moment at The Hockey

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

TVOS at The Hockey Writers: Halak Named 2nd Star By NHL In Weekly Honours

Halak at the 2010 Olympics
Photo by s.yume on Flickr
Do hockey fans in Montreal have the Blues? Jaroslav Halak has found a home and his comfort zone in St. Louis; he was named the 2nd Star of the Week by the NHL.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Voice Of Sport, The Hockey Writers And The NHL Alumni Association

TVOS, The Hockey Writers, and the NHL Alumni Association
present "Ask the Alumni"
TVOS, The Hockey Writers and the NHL Alumni Association are pleased to announce a new project at The Hockey Writers - "Ask the Alumni"

When our hockey heroes leave the spotlight of the NHL, they certainly do not leave the hearts and minds of their fans. With this new project, you will have the chance to submit a question and connect with former NHL players.

Read all the details at The Hockey and find out how to submit your questions.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

TVOS at The Hockey Writers: 1,000 NHL Points For Alfredsson

Ottawa Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson reached an important career milestone Friday evening in Buffalo... His hat trick brought him to 1,000 career points in the NHL.

Congrats Alfie!!

Read all about it at The Hockey

Friday, October 22, 2010

Have The Montreal "Boo-Birds" Migrated South?

This article was first published in the October 22nd edition of Main Street Week and is reprinted here with permission from the editors. Drop by Main Street Week News to have a look at a great community newspaper or sign up and have Main Street Week delivered right to your inbox every Friday.

The theme of my September 24th Main Street Week article was how the new NHL season is a fresh start for every team. After a great trip through the playoffs last year with Jaroslav Halak leading the way, the Montreal Canadiens decided that Carey Price would be their number one goaltender moving forward, and the concept of a fresh start also applied to the young net minder. Much to my surprise, that very same week, the boo-birds were out in full-force when Price stumbled in his first pre-season game, allowing four goals on nine shots.

While I was critical of the Halak trade, the timing of the deal more then the fact that he was dealt, the Canadiens management team obviously has faith in Price, after all, their jobs depend on a successful year. So now that the season has begun and Price is statistically one of the better goaltenders in the early portion of the season, I am left wondering - have the boo-birds migrated with our other feathered friends? Perhaps they are waiting for the first losing streak to make their return.

As I write this column, the Canadiens are second in the Northeast Division, with a 3-1-1 win/loss record, one point behind the Toronto Maple Leafs for first place. On a side note, when was the last time the Maple Leafs were in first place? Getting back to my point, Price has started every game for the Canadiens and has a 2.57 goals against average and a .914 save percentage. He has looked composed in the Montreal net, covering his angles and working with the defencemen to limit the second chance opportunities of the opposition.

While the season is still in its early stages, it is a positive sign that Price is playing well. Signed to a two-year contract, with a $2.75 million salary cap hit both years, he is still a few years away from outright free agency. When his current contract expires, he becomes a restricted free agent, which means other teams can make a contract offer but Montreal has the right to match the deal or let Price go and receive compensation; the same scenario the Canadiens faced when they decided to trade Halak.

The one thing I have been wondering since the boo-birds swooped in on Price during the pre-season opener is this... What if he does become the great goaltender Bob Gainey and current GM Pierre Gauthier believe he can become. While it is tremendous that the Canadiens have many passionate fans, there is the risk that Price does become an all-star calibre goaltender and chooses to leave town at the age of 25 because he is tired of the second-guessing and the turmoil in Montreal.

If he continues to improve, there is a very real possibility that Price can become an elite goaltender in the NHL and in the modern day era of free agency and the salary cap, he could lead someone else’s team to the Stanley Cup. Something the Montreal boo-birds might want to take into consideration. Have a great sports day everyone.

Friday, October 15, 2010

TVOS at The Hockey Writers: The Ottawa Senators Pick Up Their First Win Of The New Season

Photo by TVOS
The Ottawa Senators finally added a victory to the win column, defeating the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 at Scotiabank Place on Thursday evening. Mike Fisher powered the offence with two goals and Brian Elliott took over in net after Pascal Leclaire left with a groin injury after only two minutes of action.

Read about the win and other Senators news at The Hockey

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Concussions in Sports - TVOS Talks with Radio Host and Former Rugby Player Francesco Lepanto

A portion of this article first appeared in the October 2010 edition of Main Street and is reprinted here with permission of the editors. Drop by Main Street Week News to have a look at a great community newspaper.

Rugby is growing in popularity in the Laurentian area, which is great to see; unfortunately, with the high-impact nature of the sport, there is also the risk for head injuries and concussions. Former University football player and professional rugby player Francesco Lepanto spoke with The Voice of Sport recently to discuss his passion for sports and his experiences with concussions.

“For me rugby is everything, it changed my whole life,” said Lepanto. “It got me where I needed to go; it got me around the world. I owe everything to rugby in so many ways because of the brotherhood, the opportunities and the travel. It was a really great experience!”

“The first sport I ever played was soccer, my parents being European, the Italian background, but it was so boring I didn’t enjoy it at all. I was actually a huge hockey fan, I loved hockey, but it was so difficult being from a poor immigrant family; it was so expensive to play. My cousin got us into football, I played city ball for about five years, and I finished off in midget on the all-star team and got scouted by a bunch of big-time Universities in the States. I went to play at John Abbott College (in Ste. Anne de Bellevue, Quebec), to season my play.”

“At Abbott, I went out with some of my buddies to play rugby and I loved it! I loved the fact that I could run with the ball and not have to play defence all the time, but my fifth game someone fell on my leg and it snapped; that was pretty much the end of my football career.”

With his college football career behind him, Lepanto made the decision to attend Concordia University in Montreal. He began to shine on the rugby field with the Concordia Stingers and the Montreal Barbarians and enjoyed the free-flowing nature of the sport.

“Football was not as much fun anymore in comparison to rugby because of all the structure. It just seemed like so much time for such a little amount of fun. Rugby was just so much fun and after many years of playing football and not winning any championships, it was pretty good timing because the Barbarians were winning everything and Concordia was starting to get good too. I found rugby much more enjoyable - the challenges of getting out there and playing for the whole game and not subbing off and on.”

Lepanto would go on to play rugby in Western Canada with the James Bay Athletic Association, the oldest sports Canadian sports organization west of Montreal. He also spent a year playing in China before he wrapped up his rugby career and embarked on a new one - radio host.

Unfortunately, with his background in football and rugby, Lepanto is one of the many former professional athletes now dealing with the long-term effects of multiple concussions.

“I started having memory problems when I was seventeen,” Lepanto confided. “I grew up in LaSalle, which is a real hard part of town in Montreal. When we played football in LaSalle, it wasn’t about hitting the guy; it was about killing the guy. We were taught to put our helmets into the guy’s chest - it was about who had the most marks on their helmets after the game. We used to go out and hammer people because that was the style of football that we played.”

“I still have those memory problems now; it still happens where I have to regain what my thought is. I don’t know how many concussions I have had in football and rugby. My nickname out in James Bay was ‘Rocko’ because I used to go out and rock people. Everybody had a job, and my job, whether it was playing football or playing rugby, was to go out and hit a guy and try to change the game - if you want to beat us, you will have to pay a price.”

To assist Chris Nowinski and the Sports Legacy Institute to help raise awareness and further their research, Lepanto has agreed to donate his brain to research when he passes, much like many other athletes affected by multiple concussions. Was it difficult to reach that decision?

“No, not at all,” Lepanto said. “I’m a spiritual guy and I understand that there is something else as we move forward, but I don’t think the physical body is part of that journey, it’s left behind. If it is something that is left behind and it can help people, then hey, what better karma then to pass that on. At the same time, I think there is a lot that can be learned from it, I’ll be part of that generation who stopped playing at a certain age; they can learn from it.”

“The example I often use is smoking; back in the day, it was ‘smoking doesn’t kill you’, but then we saw people dying of cancer. You should at least be informed when you make the decision to go out and play. Would I have changed anything? I would have never changed my style of play that‘s just the way I was, but it would be better to know the guidelines that if I got hurt, it is this amount of time to rest the injury.”

“Just to be informed and then let a kid make their own decision. I would never say abolish hockey or abolish football, or get rid of these sports, I think a lot of them create who you are, I owe everything in my life to sports; now I talk about sports for a living. It’s good to know the drawbacks, how to prevent things from getting worse; the more you educate yourself, the more information you have to make these decisions.”

The key word to preventing and properly dealing with concussions is education. Knowing how to deal with a brain injury could prevent the second or third concussion and a lifetime of health issues. No one is saying stop playing or enjoying these high-impact sports like rugby, just take the advice of a pro, be aware of the risks involved.

As for his work as a radio host, Lepanto is preparing for his next venture, a weekly hockey show. While the final details are still being ironed out, he is excited and ready to get started.

“Nothing is confirmed right now but a hockey show is in the works, we are waiting to finalize that,” Lepanto revealed. “I will probably be getting into some writing as well, I like seeing things from different angles; I have done some writing before at I also started putting my NFL picks up at a new blog.”

Keep an eye out here at TVOS for an announcement regarding Lepanto’s new radio show and you can follow Cesco on Twitter at CescoRadio.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Ottawa Senators Goaltender Pascal Leclaire Is Ready for the 2010-2011 Season

Photo by TVOS
The Ottawa Senators got an unexpected surprise on opening weekend - Goaltender Pascal Leclaire is in top form and appears ready to stake his claim as the number one net minder. Unfortunately, the rest of the team has struggled out of the gate, dropping their first two games to Buffalo and Toronto.

Read all about it at The Hockey

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Senators Forward Jarkko Ruutu and Ottawa Mayor Larry O'Brien Celebrate a New Hockey Season at City Hall

The Ottawa Senators and the City of Ottawa celebrated the start of another NHL season with a rally today at City Hall. Sens forward Jarkko Ruutu arrived in style, driving the team Zamboni along Elgin Street (also known as the Sens Mile) to City Hall. The event was hosted by Bob FM's Stuntman Stu.

Read about the rally and other Senators news at The Hockey Writers...

Ruutu Arrives at Today's Rally

Ottawa Mayor Larry O'Brien

The Voice of Sport meets his mentor, Stuntman Stu

The Senators flag will fly over City Hall for the first week of the season

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Expos Fans Cheering For Vladimir Guerrero and the Texas Rangers This Post-Season

With each passing baseball season, the opportunity to discuss former Montreal Expos players on their way to the post-season is disappearing. While the Expos never reached the World Series during their time in Montreal, and their lone playoff appearance ended with one swing of the bat in 1981 on “Blue Monday”, several players have gone on to post-season success. This year, one of Montreal’s most popular players, Vladimir Guerrero, is hoping to add World Series champion to his lengthy list of accomplishments.

Signed by the Expos as a free agent amateur in 1993, Guerrero made his MLB debut in 1996 and became a regular in the Montreal lineup the following season. He would go on to play eight seasons with the Expos, thrilling fans with his stellar defence and unconventional swing at the plate. Guerrero never saw a pitch he did not like, often swinging at pitches clearly out of the strike zone, but his tremendous hand-eye coordination translated into great success at the plate; four of his nine all-star appearances came while wearing an Expos uniform.

During his time in Montreal, he played in 1,004 games before moving on to the Angels as a free agent. His numbers with the Expos were impressive: 1,215 hits, 226 doubles, 234 home runs, 702 runs batted in (RBI), and 123 stolen bases. Unfortunately, his on-field success and the disastrous state of Montreal’s finances, made Guerrero too expensive and he joined the growing list of Expos stars forced to leave the Expos.

It was with the Los Angeles Angels that Guerrero’s star truly began to shine. The rest of the baseball world witnessed what Montreal fans knew all along - Vlad Guerrero was a star! In his first season with the Angels, he was named the 2004 American League MVP, leading the Angels to their first division championship since 1986. Unfortunately, for Guerrero and the Angels, they were swept aside by the Boston Red Sox in the first round of the playoffs as Boston marched towards their first World Series title in 86 years. In six seasons with the Angels, Guerrero played in 846 games, collecting 1,034 hits, 173 home runs and 616 RBI’s. Injuries began to slow down the former Expos speedster, limiting him to 52 stolen bases.

Without a contract heading into this season, many analysts wondered if Guerrero’s best days were behind him. He eventually signed a one-year contract (plus an option for 2011) with the Texas Rangers and the change of address appears to have rejuvenated his career. After seeing limited action in 2009, a healthy Guerrero played in 152 games this season and re-discovered his powerful swing - hitting 29 home runs and driving in 115 runs.

While Texas may be miles away from Montreal and Guerrero left the Expos at the end of the 2003 season, but he is fondly remembered for his aggressive play and wild swings at the plate by baseball fans in the region. As time goes by, we are slowly running out of “former Expos” to cheer for in the MLB. Perhaps this is the year that Vlad Guerrero can add a World Series title to his list of accomplishments - he has certainly earned it.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Former Ottawa 67's Captain Will Colbert Signs With ECHL's Gwinnett Gladiators

There was good news this week for a friend of TVOS, as the Gwinnett Gladiators in the ECHL announced that former Ottawa 67’s captain and Arnprior, Ontario native Will Colbert had signed on with the team for the upcoming season. Colbert and Winchester, Ontario native Bryan Helmer were featured last month in a TVOS article discussing their contract situations.

The Ottawa Senators selected Colbert in the 2003 NHL draft but when they did not sign the defencemen, he re-entered the draft in 2005 and was selected by the San Jose Sharks organization. Already committed to attend and play hockey at St. Francis Xavier University in the Maritimes, the Sharks agreed with Colbert’s decision to complete his education. He earned his degree in kinesiology and captained the X-Men during his time there. In 109 games during his University career, he scored 12 goals and added 41 assists.

Upon the completion of his schooling, Colbert joined the Sharks organization and began his professional career last season, splitting the year between the Worcester Sharks (AHL) and the Kalamazoo Wings (ECHL). In 19 games with Worcester, he assisted on one goal before joining the K-Wings. In 37 games with the ECHL team, he scored four goals and added five assists.

Speaking with Colbert before he left for training camp it was clear the 6’2 defenceman was happy to be heading to Gwinnet and continuing his professional hockey career. By joining the Gladiators, Colbert is reunited with his good friend and fellow defenceman Sam Roberts, a teammate at St. Francis Xavier University; the pair will no doubt be a formidable defence pair for the Gladiators this season. Look for an interview with Gwinnett’s dynamic defensive duo in the future here at The Voice of Sport.

The Gwinnett Gladiators finished last season with a 31-33-5-3 record last year, missing the playoffs in the South Division. They will be an improved team this season, with a good mix of returning players and new talent. The Gladiators get their season underway on October 15th against the Florida Everblades and the home opener is October 22nd against the South Carolina Stingrays.

Friday, October 1, 2010

NHL Alumni Interview with Executive Director Mark Napier - 2010 NHLA Gala

During his NHL career with the Montreal Canadiens, Minnesota North Stars, Edmonton Oilers, and Buffalo Sabres, Mark Napier dazzled fans and the opposition with his speed and puck handling abilities. In 767 career games, he scored 235 goals and added 306 assists. He started his professional career in the WHA as an eighteen-year-old with the Toronto Toros and spent two seasons with the Birmingham Bulls before the WHA and NHL merged; he scored 136 goals in 237 WHA games.

The two-time Stanley Cup Champion (1979 with Montreal and 1985 with Edmonton), is still adding to his assist totals, helping players transition into retirement and raising funds for numerous charities as the Executive Director of the NHL Alumni Association.

It is a busy time of the year for Napier, as the 8th Annual NHL Alumni Week gets underway in Toronto, Ontario on October 4th. The featured events include a gala dinner and award ceremony on Monday evening, the NHL Alumni golf tournament on Tuesday, and the festivities wrap up with “Grapes with the Greats” on Wednesday.

At the award ceremony on Monday evening, Montreal Canadiens legend Guy Lafleur will receive the Man of the Year Award, and the long-time voice of the Canadiens and Hall of Fame broadcaster Dick Irvin will receive the Keith McCreary Seventh Man Award. As a former Canadiens forward, Napier has a unique perspective on this year’s award winners.

“A big part of it, is we recognize the charitable work that the have done, and I know personally what Guy has done in and around Montreal,” said Napier on the telephone from his Toronto office. “Any time he’s called upon, including his trips over to Kandahar, which is pretty spectacular, he’s always very giving of his time. Guy is very well-deserving of this award, so this will be one of the easier ones we have handed out.”

A first round selection of the Montreal Canadiens in the 1971 NHL draft, Lafleur played 17 seasons in the league with Montreal, the New York Rangers and the Quebec Nordiques. A 5-time Stanley Cup champion, he entered the Hall of Fame in 1988. Lafleur was the 10th member of the NHL’s illustrious 500-goal club. In 1127 career games, Lafleur scored 560 goals and added 793 assists. He also accumulated 134 playoff points during his time in Montreal. Past winners of the Man of the Year Award include Gordie Howe, Bobby Hull, Andy Bathgate, Jean Beliveau, and Ted Lindsay to name a few; putting Lafleur in with some very elite company.

“Yeah, not too bad eh,” Napier said with a laugh.

The Seventh Man Award, named in memory of Keith McCreary, a Chairman of the NHL Alumni Association, will be presented to Dick Irvin. For many Montreal Canadiens fans that listened to the games on the radio and for Hockey Night In Canada viewers in the Montreal area, Irvin’s voice was the voice of the Montreal Canadiens for many generations. Inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1988 as a broadcaster, Irvin worked at Hockey Night In Canada from 1966 until1999. He is still involved with special events on the broadcast. He has also authored six books since 1988 and has always been active with many charitable organizations. His father, Dick Irvin Sr., is a Hall of Fame NHL player and coach, in the league as a player from 1922-23 to 1928-29 and as a coach from 1928-29 to 1955-56 with Chicago, Montreal, and Toronto.

“Once again, Dick is very well-deserving of this, with the vast amount of hockey knowledge that he has, but also, here’s another guy that does a ton of charity stuff that a lot of people do not even know about,” said Napier.

“We recognize with the Seventh Man Award, guys that have made contributions to the game but never played the game; Dick is almost perfect for this with the history with his dad and his family, the whole nine yards with him. When you think of hockey, you think of Dick Irvin calling those games. He’s also always supported the Alumni quite a bit and we are very happy to be recognizing him with this award.”

Past winners of the Keith McCreary Seventh Man Award include, Scotty Morrison, Brian O’Neill, Jim Gregory, and Norm Jewison to name a few.

While Alumni Week has witnessed strong support from the business community for several years, the event was not immune to last year’s economic downturn. However, the celebrations are back on track and Napier expects an exciting week ahead for the Alumni and its supporters.

“Last year obviously was a challenge,” Napier confided. “We lost a few tables at our dinner and we lost a few spots in our golf tournament, but not too many. We are back up to where we were a couple of years ago with our table sales, there are roughly 420 people that come to our award dinner, and actually, our golf tournament is sold out.”

The start of another NHL season also marks the beginning of the Alumni Hockey Tour, sponsored by Scotiabank. Alumni players gather to take on various teams, often the local law enforcement officers or the local fire department, to help raise money for charity. It is a great way to help the people and communities that have supported the players during their careers, and former teammates and rivals lace up the skates again for a worthy cause.

“Yeah, that’s a lot of fun because usually we play the local police, firemen, or emergency guys and they are all very well respected in their communities and they are really great guys,” said Napier. “We get to do something we love, which is play hockey, and we get to help raise money and it’s nice because it stays in the local communities.”

“We have fun, although we certainly don’t skate quite as quickly as we used too but we are like little kids when we get back out there on the ice. We have a group of about thirty or forty guys that we can call upon. I really look forward to those games.”

One trip the Alumni players have embarked upon several times is not close to home at all. On numerous occasions the have journeyed to Afghanistan, visiting the Canadian troops in Kandahar. It is a difficult and dangerous venture, but the joy it brings to the soldiers makes it all worth the effort.

“I went over in March of last year,” Napier recalled. “We plan to go over again sometime this year; it will be pretty special. A big part of it is that there is no political motive involved; it is simply to support the troops. It is a great morale boost for them and it is also great for our guys to do it.”

In their work on and off the ice, the Alumni Association and its members continue to make a difference in many communities. Napier and his fellow alumni are shinning examples for today’s hockey players and hockey fans; great things can be accomplished by working together as a team. Congratulations to Guy Lafleur and Dick Irvin, and thank you both for many wonderful memories. As Napier said, with all of their charitable work, they are very deserving of the honours bestowed upon them at the 8th Annual Alumni Week.

Should Your Tax Dollars Fund A New Arena In Quebec?

This article was first published in the October 1st edition of Main Street Week and is reprinted here with permission from the editors. Drop by Main Street Week News to have a look at a great community newspaper or sign up and have Main Street Week delivered right to your inbox every Friday.

The Quebec government's recent announcement that they will provide funding for a new arena in Quebec City, hoping to bring the NHL and the Nordiques back to life is good news on many fronts. By pledging millions in funding, the government has revealed that the health care crisis is solved, the unemployment rate is at zero, and our schools have all the funding they require. Every child in the province has a healthy breakfast, and our entire road and infrastructure needs have been met. Congratulations everyone! Wait, you mean those problems have not been solved...

I tackled this topic at The Voice of during the Phoenix Coyotes bankruptcy saga; it is wrong and economically unnecessary to spend public funds on sports leagues and their new stadiums/arenas. It is a double-edged sword and a clear attempt at purchasing goodwill and votes with your hard-earned income. Now, the city and the province are reaching out to the federal government to complete the trifecta of public funding for a new arena.

It is on very rare occasions that I find myself agreeing with Prime Minister Harper, in fact, this may be the first time, but at a recent Conservative Party gathering, he discussed the possibility of his government providing the estimated $200 million needed to give the Quebec City arena project the green light.

“My friends, we are all great fans of professional sports, but professional sports are first and foremost the responsibility of the private sector. If there is a role for the federal government, it must be equitable across the country and also affordable.”

In other words, if you are looking for money from the federal tax coffers, keep looking. This is not a slight at the people of Quebec, it is the harsh realities of today's economic climate; there are more important things then new arenas for privately owned sports teams. The Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers are ready to build new arenas; do they qualify for public funds along with Quebec City? Would the other Canadian NHL teams look for retroactive funding? The Montreal Canadiens have dealt with property tax bills in the neighbourhood of $10 million per year, and the Ottawa Senators built their own off-ramp to Scotiabank Place when they joined the league at a cost of $14 million.

While it is quite common for public funds to go towards stadiums and arenas in the United States, it is something our government has avoided in the past, resulting in the Winnipeg Jets and the Nordiques heading south into new arenas in the 1990's. At least in the US, the final decision often remains in the hands of the taxpayers themselves with a vote in a public referendum, as was the case in the state of Washington in 1997 when a new stadium for the NFL’s Seahawks was required.

When researching this topic for my original articles at TVOS, I discovered a report by the University of Maryland on Professional Sports Facilities, Franchises and Urban Economic Development. In the report, they discuss the subsidies provided to sports franchises between 1998 and 2003. Twenty-six new facilities began operations for NFL, MLB and NBA teams, five facilities were for NBA and NHL teams. The average cost of the new stadiums/arenas was $320.6 million with an average of $208 million in taxpayer subsidies. The study concluded there is “very little to no economic improvement” in cities that use tax dollars to build new facilities.

Why the love affair with spending public funds? To put it quite simply, it is all about optics. It looks good to ride in and save the day, being the hero with someone else's money. Until the most urgent needs of society have been met, using tax dollars for stadiums and arenas can be summed up in a single word - irresponsible. Ask the citizens of Glendale, Arizona about tax dollars and new arenas... Have a great sports day everyone.