Friday, March 16, 2012
* Tell me what other WHL team as a two-hour pregame show?? That's right, we'll be broadcasting the Sports Cage again live from the Brandt Centre today beginning at 5:00 pm as the Regina Pats welcome the Brandon Wheat Kings at 7:00 in their final home game of the regular season. Sportsnet's Arash Madani will drop by the program for a little football talk on Four Seasons Football Friday, but the rest of the discussion will be sticks and pucks.
* Pats Fever is definitely sweeping the Queen City and first year head coach Pat Conacher can feel it as he takes the Pats into the playoffs for the first time since 2008. "I basically just travel between home and the rink but I do go to Walmart!" Conacher laughed on the Sports Cage this week. "It's funny, I've seen the same people all season and in August they were saying 'Hey you're the new coach of the Pats! Good luck with that group!' Haha. Now I walk through Walmart and the same people are saying 'Those players are really putting out! What you guys are doing is great!'.
"I know there's great hockey fans in this city because I see it. We've got lots of support and it's great. We're all excited and the kids feel it. We're really looking forward to the playoffs. It's not me, it's the boys but we appreciate the support we get from you guys. They've come to work every day with their work boots on and I've never coached a better group than this."
* We've said since Christmas there's something special about this group and it wouldn't surprise me to see a first round upset. However, the Pats will be an underdog no matter who they face in round one.
* A lady behind the counter at Robin's Donuts at Park & McDonald said she expected more out of the Pats this year under Conacher. WHAT??!! What a forehead-slapper. Sometimes I shake my head at the Regina sports fan.
* Regina Pats playoff tickets go on sale this morning at 10:00 am.
* Had a visit with an NHL scout at Gold's Gym on Thursday. He had some advice for those of you who are voting on the WHL Player of the Year award. Consider this: yes, Brendan Shinnimin of the Tri-City Americans leads the league in scoring with 131 points but both his linemates are 100 point guys and are in the top 10 in scoring. Jordan Weal has 116 points but he doesn't have a teammate in the top 60 scorers! Weal is literally, singlehandedly, rewriting the Regina Pats record book as he's now 4th in all-time scoring and 3rd in all-time assists and without the North Vancouver product, Regina wouldn't have a sniff at the playoffs.
* That NHL scout also agrees Jordan Weal is a better junior than Pats legend Jordan Eberle. We had this discussion on the Sports Cage from the Brandt Centre on Wednesday when I said Weal's a better junior player. And there's no bigger Eberle fan than me. Scruffy said Eberle was the better junior. There's no right or wrong answer. It's just a fun debate.
* And consider for one second if there's an NHL lockout next year, Jordan Weal could be back for a 20-year old season which will, in all likelihood, make him the highest-scoring Regina Pat ever.
* Speaking of comparisons, who feels the love of a woman first: Justin Bieber or Tim Tebow?
* Happy birthday today to former Regina Pats trainer Torchy Simpson and also to Olympic gold medalist Ben Hebert of Regina.
* Global TV Regina's Tom Vernon has produced a 30-minute HBO-style 24/7 documentary on the Regina Pats. It airs Saturday night at 6:30 pm and again Sunday morning at 11:30. I'd love to see it.
* I have to clear up my stance on the NHL-to-Saskatoon because dozens of people have stopped me in the street and said they're surprised how I feel. I'M ALL FOR THE NHL IN SASKATOON. No strings attached, no conditions. If you can do it, get it done. And when I read this week that John Graham is the man behind this movement, the situation got a whole lot more serious to me. John's a guy I've worked with the past few years regarding NHL exhibition games in Regina. He's big time. And, he has close ties to the New York Islanders. Perhaps the Isles could be on the move to Saskatoon sooner than we think. The Saskatoon Islanders!!!
* The funniest thing I saw all week was Eric Cole of the Montreal Canadiens high-five the referee after scoring a goal in a 3-2 shootout win over Ottawa. The ref was signaling the goal when Cole skated by and high-fived him. I've never seen that in 100 years of hockey. "He was the only guy there to celebrate with!" Cole said afterwards. "He stuck his hand out so I slapped it."
* The single greatest thing hockey did was institute the shootout. It eliminated ties and has made for spectacular highlights night after night. The SJHL did it first in these parts. It's a great way to decide games but thank God it's not used in the playoffs. Also, I've never seen a goalie blamed for a shootout loss which is great.
* Sidney Crosby notched one assist in the Penguins' 5-2 win over the Rangers in New York last night. Initially I thought teaming Crosby with Matt Cooke on a line would be like hitching up Secretariat with a donkey but Cooke scored twice in the win. As another NHL scout said to me yesterday, "Cooke has cleaned up his act". The Penguins have won 10 in a row.
* TSN's Dan O'Toole referred to Madison Square Garden as "the most famous rink in the world" this week. Really? I know MSG bills itself as the world's most famous arena but is it really the most famous rink? The new generation of hockey fans really missed out that they never got to watch games on TV or in person at the Montreal Forum, Maple Leaf Gardens, Winnipeg Arena, Boston Garden, Chicago Stadium, L.A. Forum, etc. That's the NHL I loved.
* Jarome Iginla can still get it done. This is his eleventh straight season with 30 or more goals.
* Could any other coach get more out of the Edmonton Oilers than Tom Renney?
* Saskatchewan is sponsoring Sportscentre on TSN. I love it!
* It's odd when Sportscentre and Sportsnet Connected feature the exact same thing on their Top 10 and Connected Countdown features on the same day. On Tuesday they both featured the greatest premature celebrations in sports. Danny Macoccia made both lists with his 2005 Grey Cup gaffe. Anyways, when they both feature the same thing it's like showing up at a party and seeing another guy wearing the exact same shirt. AWKWARD!
* The Toronto Star's Damien Cox finally admitted something that a lot of us are afraid too. That is, that today's sports world is tough to follow sometimes. Cox wrote on Twitter that he saw the coach of the Dallas Stars on TV and didn't know who it was. Hasn't that happened to all of us with a coach in one sport or another? Of course the head coach of the Dallas Stars is Hudson Bay, Saskatchewan's own Glen Gulatzan and what a magnificent job he's done in his rookie campaign.
* Did Marc Crawford actually ever coach the Dallas Stars or was that just a dream I had? It seems so foggy.
* Was the WHL actually ever really in Chilliwack, BC or was that just a dream too?
* Rider Pride continues to conquer the world. Or at least the western hemisphere. Check out the blog mailbag (email@example.com):
I just thought I'd email you some pics that I took on a recent trip to Hualtuco, Mexico. Some Riders fans convinced local beach merchant Jungle George (Sergio Ziga Ortiz) to swim out to the rock island in Tangolunda Bay and plant a Rider flag right beside the flag of Mexico. Jungle George is easy to spot on the beach as he's always adorned in his Rider gear. He says he gives extra special deals (almost free) to Rider fans and not-so-good deals to Bomber fans.
firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll forward the info to the coach. This city is getting ridiculous when it comes to housing and vacancy.
* My army buddy Jeff "Sarge" Dickson was lamenting the "instant gratification" element of society today. It wasn't enough for me to announce on Twitter yesterday that the Riders aren't interested in signing Stevie Baggs. A barrage of commenters needed to know why. The answer? Just because.
* Got a team in March Madness? I was pulling for Montana but they lost yesterday in the single elimination tournament (Pedersen Jinx strikes again). I guess now we'll support Gonzaga (Spokane) who plays Ohio State in the next round.
* There's reason to be excited about your Toronto Blue Jays. Consider this snippet from the New York Post this week as they examined the American League East:
“The Blue Jays, methodically, have assembled a talent base at both the major and minor league levels that has them poised to turn the AL East into a Fearsome Foursome. That unsettles no one more than what had been the Terrific Trio of New York, Boston and Tampa. As Yankees GM Brian Cashman said, “It is not good for anyone going up against them.”
“Here is another thing you might not know: Toronto’s owner, Rogers Communication, just might be the majors’ richest ownership. Thus the money is there to take the payroll to places the Rays could never dream about; keep the homegrown elites that ultimately flee Tampa.”
““This is not a long-term project anymore,” Cashman said. “They are knocking on the door. It is undeniable that they are going to win and win for a while. They are reaping the benefits of great scouting, patience and doing things right.”
* Don't say Regina is progressive, and booming, until there's more than one actual Starbucks in this town. What a joke. Daily it's lined up out the door. Actually, I think I'm going to write them on Twitter right now and tell them what a disgrace it is. I keep hearing "This isn't your Mom and Dad's Queen City anymore". Well it is until we have at least SIX real Starbucks locations. Saskatoon is kicking our A$$ in that regard.
* This blogger is 160 followers away from 4000 on Twitter. So, I'm putting up a Darian Durant autographed football for my 4000th follower. Hopefully we can make it happen over the weekend!
* If you don't like paying chequing fees, then stop paying chequing fees.
* Quote of the week goes to Frank Fiacco, brother of Regina Mayor Pat Fiacco and president of the Lonsdale Boxing Club. I told him he should run for Mayor since his brother blazed the trail. "I wouldn't take that job for a million dollars!" Frank huffed.
* Saw the movie Contraband this week at Rainbow Cinemas. Two thumbs up from the Monday Morning Goalie. Check it out this weekend.
* Hmmm. Not much football today. Oh well, it's not football season. Maybe next week.
* Today's Press Box Sports Bar Friday lunch buffet courtesy Chef Trent:
Mashed Potatoes and Gravy
Sweet and Spicy Chicken Wings
Beef and Mushroom in Creamy Marsala Sauce
THAT'S ALL! AFTER TONIGHT'S SHOW WE'RE HEADED TO THE STATES FOR HORNETS BASKETBALL. FOLLOW US ON TWITTER @hornetstourney. HAVE A GREAT WEEKEND!