Thursday, May 29, 2014

Why don't fans go to Blue Jays games?

From where I sit it looks like there is a major question surrounding the Blue Jays...


Specifically, where are the fans? Take a look at their attendance figures. The Jays are 22nd over all with an average of 24,067 per game. However, when you take out series against the Yankees and Red Sox the numbers plummet to 19,066, 28th over all. Only Tampa Bay and Cleveland average fewer. Arizona is averaging 27,145 and the Diamondbacks are a brutal 21-33. What can the Blue Jays do to get more fans? They are at or near the top of the Majors in runs, hits and home runs. Toronto has won 14 of their last 16 games. So, it's not a lack of excitement. How about price...get in the door for $11, field level seats start at $44. Not bad, above the league average, but given the price of other sporting events certainly nothing to complain about. Part of what make this so surprising is the borderline insane dedication to even the slightest hint of success from either the Leafs or Raptors. Yet, the Blue Jays show signs of life and they're greeted with a big yawn from Toronto. I guess Yogi Berra was right, “If people don't want to come out to the ball park, how are you going to stop them?”

At least that's how I see it, and I sit in the cheap seats.

Monday, May 26, 2014

The Oil Kings make their mark on Edmonton

From where I sit it looks like the Oil Kings need a new slogan...


Since the team's renewal in the WHL the Oil Kings have billed themselves as 'The other Oil in town'. And since 2007 they have played second fiddle to the Oilers. However, in the past 3 years it's become apparent the best bet for good hockey in Edmonton is the Oil Kings. The team has won more league titles in the last 3 seasons than the Oilers in the last 25 years. Not only are the tickets more affordable, but they also played better hockey. The team can put up points or dominate in a tight defensive game. Case in point the Memorial Cup final against Guelph. Not only did they give up the opening goal a minute into the game, but trailed 2-1 after the 1st to a team they had lost badly against a week prior. Add to that the Oil Kings played basically two more games than the Storm, it becomes an increasingly impressive performance. Too add a poignant touch Oil Kings players brought out the jersey of their late teammate Kristans Pelss as they celebrated their championship.  Judging by the throng of fans greeting them at the airport and the front page spreads in the local papers, it looks like the Oil Kings are becoming a larger part of the Edmonton sports scene.  Perhaps calling themselves the better Oil in town would be more accurate, but they like to let their play do the talking.

At least that's how I see it, and I sit in the cheap seats.

A tight Indy 500 finish follows red flag

From where I sit it looks like IndyCar is taking a tentative step towards the edge...


It should be first pointed out that throwing a red flag due to a crash isn't new. The horrific crash of Swede Savage comes quickly to mind. Although in 1973, the track was almost blocked and the severity of the crash was fully apparent. This crash was clearly not serious and the track was damaged; however cars could have continued rolling and it would have meant the race finished under caution. Certainly not the optimal result. I can see both sides of this issue. At the very least IndyCar managed to avoid the dangerous NASCAR idea of extending the race distance in a vainglorious attempt give fans a green flag finish, or to wreck more cars, it's hard to tell which. That being said if a race ends under caution, it ends under caution. It's that simple. This juvenile attempt to placate part-time fans is quite needless. Somehow a thrilling 470-or-so miles isn't enough to create a fan? Not every race is going to be decided by inches. That's the reality of racing. In fact these forced finishes are just as likely to crate carnage as they are to stage a perfect ending.

At least that's how I see it, and I sit in the cheap seats.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Rangers lose two and dont read much into the World Championships

From where I sit it looks like one hit will create more trouble for the Rangers...


Yes, Prust deserved to be suspended. It was a bad hit and late. His two games seems to be in line with the NHL standard for playoff games. However, it's the Rangers paying the bigger price. Not only have they lost Derek Stepan for an unknown length of time, but Dan Carcillo for 10 games. Yes, the refs should have called the penalty of Prust, but that doesn't excuse Carcillo for losing his mind. It wasn't even like he was the only one trying to get a Prust. If he's not restrained, he's the third man in. It will remain to be seen how losing two players will impact New York. Stepan is the team's third leading scorer, but thanks to Carcillo they now have two holes to fill. Sure, Carcillo had only played 8 games, but now he can't play any. No matter what minor contribution he was making, he will spend the rest of the playoffs in the press box. It's a stupid, needless loss for New York, now it's up to Montreal to take advantage of it.

Meanwhile, Russia is a win away from the World Championship...

via the Canadian Press

It's a great opportunity for the Russians to prove their 'A' team is better than the top B/C teams from the hockey world. Thanks to early eliminations from the playoffs Russia has iced a great team, including Sergi Babrovski, Alex Ovechkin and Yevgeni Malkin. They managed to shut down an underpowered Sweden in the semi finals. Congratulations if you know Anders Nilsson was the goalie of record for Sweden, a bonus point if you know he's in the Islanders system. The World Hockey Championships are a fun tournament. It's a good opportunity for young players to get experience playing international hockey. Honestly, there's no reason to any country to get an inflated ego from winning, nor is there a reason to get too upset with sub-par performances. If you want to accurately judge the level of competition hold a best-on-best tournament. Like the Olympics or World Cup. Evaluate the success at those levels and it's easy to see who are the top countries. Canada, Sweden, Finland, the US, each have medals from the last two Olympics. Those are your top teams. They're the one's who's top players are still playing for the Stanley Cup.

At least that's how I see it, and I sit in the cheap seats.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The CFL risks alienating fans

From where I sit it looks like the CFL may be heading to a work stoppage...

It's a situation that both the league and players association need to try to avoid. The CFL is not the NHL, NFL, MLB or NBA. This isn't a multi-billion dollar league. It's barely a mullti-million dollar league. The latest offer from the CFLPA asks for a salary cap of $6.24 million dollars. To give that some perspective there are 60 NFLers making over $6 million a season. The league's offer of $4.8 million sees an increase of about $10,000 per player, at least that's according to the CFL. None of that deals with the major problem staring both sides in the face. Fans. The CFL, despite it's shiny new TV contract, is a gate driven league. Any work stoppage could see games, even pre-season, cancelled. No games means no money. It also means fans get frustrated. Any work stoppage in any league has that ripple effect. It's a very real risk that the players and league will shoot themselves in the foot. Yes, the CFL is a Canadian tradition, but in the biggest markets there are plenty of other forms of sport to get support. Yes, fans in Saskatchewan will come flooding back. They will in Winnipeg too, probably in Edmonton, Calgary and Hamilton. Ottawa will still see decent attendance with a new team. But in Vancouver and Toronto don't count on it. Montreal is too focused on the Habs to even notice the Alouettes might not by playing. In a league that's so delicately balanced the thought of a work stoppage should be terrifying for both sides.

At least that's how I see it, and I sit in the cheap seats.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

More allegations of NFL mistreating players

From where I sit it looks like the NFL is facing another headache...

Once again former players are suing the league over allegations of mistreatment of injuries. Just like the concussion issue, I'm really of two minds on this. On the one hand players should be able to trust the team doctors. I mean this is a doctor, right? Someone dedicated to keeping people healthy and safe. He (or she) is employed by the team to ensure that all the players are physically fit to play. It make perfect sense. It also gives players someone they know to talk to openly about their injuries. At least that's how it should work. Just not necessarily in the NFL. At the same time when does the athlete have to take responsibility for their own actions? Didn't these players start to question things when they were, as the suit alleges, lined up to receive powerful anti-inflammatory injections in the buttocks just before kickoff? It seems they didn't talk to family or friends outside of football to see how normal people lived. The allure and pressure of professional sports is clearly creating an untenable situation. Even if this lawsuit is successful, there will be little change. There's simply too much money involved.

At least that's how I see it, and I sit in the cheap seats.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

An uphill battle for the Habs

From where I sit it looks like the Canadiens are in deep trouble...


No, it's no just the loss of Carey Price, it's the loss a pretty much everything that was going right against Tampa Bay and Boston. The once vaunted power play has gone 0-for-7 against New York. Coming into the series the Habs were averaging just over 3 goals a game. They have scored a total of 3 in the two losses. Add to that a respectable shot total in game 2 (41) the picture looks increasingly bleak for Montreal. The next issue is Dustin Tokarski. He made 27 saves in a tough situation. And his team certainly wasn't helping. Take a look a the Ranger goals. A deflection off a defenseman and two perfect pass/shot combinations. Sorry, Habs fans, but Price wasn't going to stop those either. In spite of all that, it's hardly lights out for the Canadiens. Of the 7 series that have seen a 2-0 lead, the team losing the first 2 games has gone on to win the series 3 times (Minnesota, Chicago and Los Angeles). So don't give up hope Montreal, at least not yet.

At least that's how I see it, and I sit in the cheap seats.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

a close call for Ovi and a national champion from Yorkton

From where I sit it looks like the Capitals season just got a bit worse...


And they quit playing in early April. While the NHL got a reminder about the dangers of having their players in the World Hockey Championships. Eric Staal was the victim last year, this time it's Ovechkin getting low bridged by some German pylon. Yes, Ovi was trying to avoid the hit, but that doesn't preclude the fact that one of the NHL's top stars could have been seriously injured by Marcus Kink. Kink is a pretty good defenceman with the Mannheim Eagles, but nearly lived in infamy for a hit. It's a delicate balance for the NHL and IIHF. We all like seeing the best players face off, but sometimes it seems like the cost could be way too high. Sadly, there isn't really a solution to the problem. No matter where you're playing there is always a risk of injury. Thankfully, Ovechkin looks to be alright. Which, given all the other issues facing the Capitals, must be a great relief.

A big congratulations to the Yorkton Terriers of the SJHL...

I spent 3 years in Yorkton with GX94 Radio and covering the Terriers on Access Cable. Without a doubt the most exciting part of my broadcasting career was being in the press box for back-to-back SJHL championships. Now, 8 years after I left, my team has won the national championship, RBC Cup. My daughter was born in Yorkton and was sitting next to me when Derek Falloon jammed the puck home to give the Terriers their first national title. We both cheered happily as our team piled on the ice to celebrate. I can only imagine what the scene was like in the bars and watering holes in Yorkton. A big congratulations to the team, coaching staff, ownership and of course the fans!

At least that's how I see it, and I sit in the cheap seats.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Goodbye to Teemu and Round 3 predictions

From where I sit it looks like the NHL is losing a legend...

It's often difficult to measure the impact of a player. For others it's easy to think about their place in sports history. Teemu Selanne is one of those rare players who has managed not only a lengthy career, but an effective one. Selanne was one of my favourite players growing up. And now my daughter cheers for him. It's a bit staggering to think that in the course of Selanne's career Winnipeg lost it's team, then got it back. His rookie goal (76) and points (132) records still stand and rank as two of the game's unassailable marks. He played in 6 Olympics and the World Junior Championships in 1989. There was a telling moment after game 7 against the Kings, as both teams stayed on the ice and payed tribute to the Finnish Flash. An easy sign about the level of respect for a future Hall of Fame star.

As for predictions for round 3...


I'm pleased with a perfect round 2, including another 2 perfect predictions (LA in 7 and Montreal in 7). In the West, the Kings have made stirring comebacks in both of their series, but they aren't playing the Sharks or Ducks. The Blackhawks know what it takes to close out a series and don't have any questions in net. Both San Jose and Anaheim exposed faults in the Kings, but couldn't capitalize on the momentum. There won't be any problems like that for Chicago, Hawks in 6. Meanwhile, in the East it's a Sochi rematch in net. And that's where the Olympic similarities end. Both the Rangers and Canadiens have capitalized on speed in the first two rounds. Both have solid defence and skilled forwards. This series really looks like a pick-em. So, I'm going to act patriotic and chose Montreal in 7.

At least that's how I see it, and I sit in the cheap seats.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Lucic should keep his mouth shut or talk quietly

From where I sit it looks like Milan Lucic will get a talking to from the NHL...

It's a great tradition in hockey. Spend up to 7 games trying to kill each other, then line up and congratulate your opponent. Win or lose. It's beautiful to see and the source of a great many classic photos. However, Lucic decided to run his mouth. He's welcome to do that, but he clearly didn't think that reporters would ask what he was saying or that anyone with a decent TV would be able to read his lips. I get that he was pissed off. It was a tough series. The Habs were mocking him. He was probably upset that Montreal was taking offence over gestures that mean something special to him showing support for Boston. None of that precludes the fact that it was needless and stupid. Lucic has painted a target on his own back in a effort to call out the Canadiens. Look, I'm not saying he was out of line for what he said, my problem is that he made such a production of saying it. You can curse people out as you shake each hand for all I care, but if you hold up the line to make juvenile threats you can expect people to react.

At least that's how I see it, and I sit in the cheap seats.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

a CFLer is in trouble for his Twitter rant

From where I sit it looks like some people are still struggling with the realities of new media...

I never ceases to amaze me when people post their hate on Twitter (or anywhere else), then get surprised when others chide them for it. Let's face it, we all have our own prejudices, but if you make those opinions part of the public discourse there will be repercussions. That's just the reality of life in a connected world. It also strikes me as odd that Price is making these comments on a Monday...the draft was over on Saturday.  So, not only did he make inflammatory comments, but he was two days late doing it.  Further to that if you are a member of or associated with a particular company or business don't be surprised if your employer isn't too impressed. Maurice Price is quite entitled to his opinion. And the Stampeders are entitled to punish him for making those opinions public. Price even has the gall to complain about the up coming fine. If you're stupid enough to do something that you know will result in punishment from your employer, don't act surprised when you get in trouble.

At least that's how I see it, and I sit in the cheap seats.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Donald Sterling's antics overtake NBA Playoff talk

From where I sit it looks like the posturing has begun from Donald Sterling...

It was the cut and dry feel good story; racist, despicable NBA owner gets turfed after being caught expressing his revolting views on tape. Fast action from the league leads to a life time suspension and attempts to force Sterling out. Now the defense has finally started with counter charges and denials. So, fantastic comebacks in two games are completely overshadowed by Sterling. Yes, fans will be talking about the Pacers and Clippers getting amazing late rallies, but the talk about Sterling will still be far too prevalent. What makes this worse is the almost certainty that the whole situation will descend into a 'he said, she said' match. Further to that the players have made it clear what they think of Sterling. All this is leaving the game itself a secondary player. Sports is supposed to be an escape from the pressures and stress of every day life. Sadly, for the foreseeable future the Clippers themselves will serve as a reminder that bigotry is closer than any of us would like.

At least that's how I see it, and I sit in the cheap seats.

Friday, May 9, 2014

More evidence of a lack of concussion control in the NHL

From where I sit it looks like the NHL needs to take a closer look at concussion protocols...

The real problem is how do you force someone to admit they're hurt? It's the playoffs. It's a tie game. Max Pacioretty doesn't want to miss a shift, never mind taking 20 minutes in the quiet room. If it was me, there's no way I would speak up. Why not? As the NHL like to remind everyone #BecauseItsTheCup. Generations of hockey fans have grown up on the legends of Maurice Richard, Bobby Baun, and dozens of others who simply ignored pain and played. It's a badge of honour in pretty much every sport. The ability to put physical discomfort aside to make an impact on the game. That being said it's one thing to play with a bloody foot or broken ankle, it's something else significantly if you have a concussion. And yet, control of the issue remains with the athlete. In other words, it's up to the person whose brain isn't working to decide if their brain is working. Somehow that logic seems flawed. This isn't just an NHL issue, but at some point all the sports that feature collisions will need to have independent doctors ready to evaluate players where there's even a hint of brain trauma. Until that happens I remain concerned it will take a tragedy for anything to change.

At least that's how I see it, and I sit in the cheap seats.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The NFL Draft gets underway

From where I sit it looks like it's NFL draft day...


Or should that be draft days? I fully acknowledge any effort to extend the amount of time your sport is in the public focus is a good plan. However, at what point does it start getting ridiculous? How far are we away from a full week of NFL draft? One round on each night. It wouldn't surprise me. Despite all that I will be tuning in to see the selections. It's great drama and about the most fun you can get from watching talking heads. Part of what make it such an amazing event is the lack of anything actually happening. Even with a steady stream of trade rumours there really isn't anything going on. It's a bunch of guys in suits talking. Yes, it's the biggest day(s) of the lives of some young men, and possibly the start of a great career on the field, but this really is nothing but sitting and watching. That really shows the marketing and level of dedication the NFL (and other leagues) have created. There will be viewings and parties all weekend. Not for a game, but to watch men in suits talk to other men in suits about what might happen in four months...and it's can't miss viewing.

At least that's how I see it, and I sit in the cheap seats.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Time for a proper NBA awards night

From where I sit it looks like the NBA should doing their awards differently...

A richly deserved MVP for Kevin Durant. And a beautiful speech. Too bad it was all done in Edmond, OK. I'm sure it's a great city, according to the Wikipedia entry it was number 1 on CNBC's 'Top 10 Perfect Suburbs' in 2011. Sounds lovely. Still not the best place to crown the league MVP. The NHL has been doing it for years, the NFL is now on board. The NBA should be doing these awards in a special presentation at the end of the season. The NHL heads to Vegas, the NFL is holding it in the Super Bowl city the night before the big game. Imagine a powerful speech in prime time TV from New York or LA, not from the winner's practice facility. Durant's emotion was palpable. Too bad most of us only saw it on SportsCentre.

At least that's how I see it, and I sit in the cheap seats.

Monday, May 5, 2014

More heartbreak in Toronto

From where I sit it looks like the Raptors season will have a lasting impact...

For the most part it's a good impact. The series against Brooklyn grabbed the attention of most Canadian sports fans. However, I would like to start by saying their #WeTheNorth was grating at best. I know what they're trying to accomplish, but honestly I'm not enough of a basketball fan to even consider the Raptors 'my team'. Add to that they are from Toronto which is enough to make some people cheer against any team. So they are facing an uphill battle for the hearts of the nation. That being said, they did a great job creating atmosphere but inside and outside the ACC. Each game of the series was competitive, the only blowout being the Nets 97-83 win in game 6. Apart from that it was single digits, with four games being decided by two possessions or less. It was tight, exciting basketball culminating with a frantic charge from the Raptors in the 4th quarter of game 7. The entire series came down to the final possession for the home team as time expired. And the Raptors got no shot. Kyle Lowry dribbled himself into three Nets and was left with nothing. He had Terrence Ross wide open to his left with 3 seconds left and he just lowered his head and tried to drive the lane. Lowry put the ball on the floor and grabbed it away from Patrick Patterson with 1.5 left as he desperately tried to be the hero. Instead he was rejected soundly by Pierce. I don't know why the ball wasn't passed. Was the play designed to have Lowry take it to the rack? Even I know that's a tough spot to go late in the game. Or did Lowry put blinders on and simply think he didn't need help? No matter what was supposed to happen the Raptors season came to a heartbreaking halt in game 7. Kind of like the Maple Leafs last season.

At least that's how I see it, and I sit in the cheap seats.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Should the Sharks dismantle and round 2 picks

From where I sit it looks like there could be changes coming in San Jose...


With lots of emphasis on 'could'.  Let's be honest here, it's hard to critique the Sharks. They are a great team 3/4 of the time. They have only missed the playoffs 5 times in their history, the last miss was over a decade ago (2002-03). They are a great team, in the regular season at least. A run to the final is still elusive. San Jose appeared in back-to-back conference finals, but only managed a single win; being swept by Chicago in 2010 and losing to Vancouver in 5 in 2011. They consistently approach the 100 point plateau, but stumble inexplicably at the last hurdles. Is it time for a change, at least in some of the big names who managed to all but vanish in the last four games against the Kings? Perhaps it's a coaching issue. Also take into account they play in a tough division. The Pacific is not a walk in the park, just ask the Canucks. It's a sad sight, great fans having their hopes dashed year after year by a team who simply can't get it done.

As for the teams who actually made the second round...

I'm fairly satisfied with my first round record. Not only was I 5-for-8, but I actually got 3 of them bang on (Boston in 5, Rangers in 7 and Chicago in 6). So, here's my prognostications for round 2. Carey Price will out play Tukka Rask and the Bruins won't be able to stay out of the penalty box. Habs in 7. The Penguins were woefully exposed by the Blue Jackets, Rangers in 6. In the West, Chicago is simply too good and will shut down Minnesota in 5. While Anaheim and LA will go the distance. The Ducks goaltending isn't where it needs to be to make it to the conference finals, the Kings is. LA takes game 7 in overtime.

At least that's how I see it and I sit in the cheap seats.