Friday, February 29, 2008

Happy Leap Day!

The Myth About Professional Athletes

The past week has seen a lot of debate about NHL contracts with "no trade" clauses. Much of the focus has been on the Toronto Maple Leafs where management has decided to rebuild by unloading expensive contracts but the players don't seem to want to go along with that plan. For the moment the players have the upper hand because 5 (Mats Sundin, Darcy Tucker, Bryan McCabe, Pavel Kubina, Tomas Karberle) out of the 6 biggest contract handed out by the team have no trade provisions.

In fact, over 100 players in the NHL have no trade contracts and quite a number would have moved before the trading deadline if only they had agreed to a trade. For example, Ottawa tried to trade Wade Redden but he also refused. In fact, the only player who changed teams this week with a no trade contract was Brad Richards.

Fans are puzzled by the players' attitude and as always the media leads the charge by making all types of outrageous accusation targeted at both management and players. There is a general misconception about no trade contracts.

Most people think that players ask for them so they can control where they play. But it goes beyond that. Players ask for them because once they have decided to play for a team, they don't want to move. As players reach the age where they can become unrestricted free agents, they typically are married with young children. A trade throws their family life into turmoil. While the player is off making money, the spouse and kids are developing roots in the community.

When you are young, you dream of winning a Stanley Cup for your hometown team. However, if you are fortunate enough to become a professional athlete, reality sets in and its about earning a good living over a short career to set yourself and your family up for life. It's all about the paycheck. A guaranteed contract with a no trade provision is as secure as working for the government only with better pay.

Winning a championship is nice but not necessary. I'm not too sure that many hockey players are motivated by the opportunity to win a Stanley Cup. That's why the Leafs' Frozen Five don't want to leave. They are perfectly happy and content here even though the team sucks. Rick DiPietro signed a 15 year contract with the Islanders last year knowing that they might miss out on the playoffs more times than get in. All types of players sign with teams knowing very well that they have no prospects of winning. But their families are the big winners. That's what its all about.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Panthers Claw Their Way Back to Even Series

Well the winning streak eventually had to come to end. A desperate Aurora team had the bounces tonight and played just well enough to win. Meanwhile the Storm didn't really get any bounces and lost the game 2-0.

The Storm were missing 2 players - Amanda and Lauren N. However, Amanda was at the game sporting a pretty spiffy cast on her wrist. Unfortunately she will be a spectator for the next 6-8 weeks. The pivotal point in the game was late in the first period when Aurora took a 1-0 lead. Shortly after that. the Storm had a 2-man advantage but couldn't capitalize.

The two team play the deciding game on Sunday. Both team expect to be short players for this final game.

He Shoots, He Scores...$1 Million

Darwin Head of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, shooting from centre ice last night during the intermission of the Canucks/Avs game, buried 15 shots into the net in 24 seconds. That earned him $1 million which is more money than the annual salary of 20 of the players playing in last night's game at GM Place.

I'm pretty sure this picture was photoshopped

Something to consider when choosing university programs

Cliff Fletcher is a Genius

I've got to hand to the Silver Fox, he had me fooled. When he was brought in to replace John Ferguson last month he immediately announced that the Leafs weren't good enough to compete for the Cup and that the team needed to be dismantled. A clever ruse.

So he pretends to be a seller on NHL trade deadline day but doesn't unload any of his core players. Instead he trades old slow players for draft picks and replaces them with young swift kids from the Marlies. The man is brilliant. Meanwhile the teams the Leafs need to catch didn't improve so there you have it. Only 6 points to make up in 17 games. But he had a 1st round draft pick he could have traded for someone like Alex Hemsky in Edmonton. Draft shmaft, who needs it?

It's incredible how the Maple Leafs can never get it right. Play lousy for 3/4 of the season and sink to the bottom of the conference and then take a run at a playoff spot in the last portion of the schedule when its too late. The Frozen Five want to prove to the hockey world that can win when everyone has written them off. So while season subscribers give away tickets, the GM is making plans to blow up the team and the coach is polishing his resume, they are going to go out and win. Right now they have taken themselves out of a lottery pick. They can't even tank properly.

Don't get sucked into believing that this group can do it. To make the playoffs they will need at least 92 points which means winning 14 of their remaining 17 games. Their schedules includes 2 games against New Jersey (0-2 so far this year and the hottest team in the East), 3 against Boston (2-3 so far this year) and 2 against Montreal (3-1-2 this year but also hot right now).

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Maple Leaf Players are Delusional

Normally when you hear players on losing team talk about their team it's often contrived. Not that many NHLers are going to publicly dump on their teams. And when they get an opportunity to jump to a contender they can't pack their bags quick enough.

You hear the same nonsense coming from Leaf players but when given the opportunity to leave they refuse. I think they actually believe what they are saying which makes me wonder what are they spiking their gatorade with? Pavel Kubina had agreed to waive his no trade contract but after beating Ottawa 5-0 on Monday changed his mind. Heck, the Beamsville Bombers could beat Ottawa right now.

Kubina explains, "I want to stay a Maple Leaf. My heart is here. We had a big win (in Ottawa). We're just six points out of a playoff spot. This is where I want to be." McCabe suggests, "We honestly think we have a legitimate shot to make the post-season." Are these players that stupid?

First thing they don't have a legitimate shot to make the playoffs. For the past 2 seasons the last playoff spot required 92 points in the East. The Leafs have 18 games remaining and need to win of those 15 games to reach 92 points.

The new Leaf management has openly stated that the core of this team isn't good enough. But the players in this core seem to be the only ones who don't agree. Heck if management says we don't want you around anymore why would you stay? Wouldn't you want to go where you are wanted? This is not the case where you can outlast a lame duck coach. Fletcher was brought in to make changes and he has other options if players don't volunteer to leave.

Fortunately some of the no-trade contracts signed by the Leafs contain small windows where players can be moved if the team doesn't make the playoffs. Kubina can be traded this summer. Kaberle in 2009 and Tucker in 2010. Players can also be bought out which the Leafs might be able to afford.

A buy out is at 2/3 of the players remaining salary spread over twice the number years remaining in the contract. So if you have a player for 2 more years at $1.5 million per year the cost of buying him out would be $0.5 million per year for 4 years. If the Leafs were to buy out Mark Bell, Andrew Raycroft and Jason Blake this summer, they would eliminate $8.3 million in salaries and the cost would be $2.67 against the cap for a net savings of $5.67 million. If they are able to trade Kubina then that is another $5 million saved.

That would mean on July 1st the Leafs' payroll would only be $30 million and the cap is expected to rise to about $54 million. That is a lot more cash to play with compared to previous years.

Rebuilding the Leafs will take longer than trade deadline day

For those who are disappointed with the minor activity by the Leafs at the trade deadline, it's the best that Fletcher could do at this stage of the game. He has only been around for 5 weeks after all.

Around that time I did point out that the most likely players to move would be the larger physical guys (Belak, Kilger, Gill and Ponikarovsky) who would provide depth for a contender. I got 3 out of 4 correct. There was a lot of interest in Ponikarovsky but no offer was accepted. There was also offers for Toskala (I bet Ottawa) but Fletcher has always rebuilt teams from the net out (remember the Grant Fuhr trade). So he hung on to his goalie.

There were nibbles for McCabe and good interest in Kubina but he wouldn't waive his no trade. This was likely not too smart of a move. Kubina can be traded this summer. If he had agreed today at least he could have controlled where he goes. Kaberle can be traded in the summer of 2009 and Tucker in the summer of 2010.

So the Leafs free up about $3.5 million but are still have $40 million in salary commitments for next year (not including Sundin). Fletcher isn't a tough guy and wouldn't force one of his no trade players to go. The next GM might not be as nice. So look for more salary dump over the summer. Definitely Raycroft is gone and likely Bell as well. An attempt might be made to try to trade Kubina again. These players represent about $9 million in salaries. In the meantime the Leafs have 4 additional draft picks although they could not pick up an additional 1st rounder.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Totally harmless, really

Storm Tame the Panthers

The opening game of the quarter final series against the Aurora Panthers was like any other game in the past month. The Storm used speed to wear down their opponents and took advantage of a scoring opportunity to walk away with a 1-0. The score was close but the Storm had a significant territorial advantage. Kendra was rarely challenged as she came up with her 6th shutout of the season.

Mari again came through in the clutch with the only goal of the game. That was all that was needed this night. The undefeated streak goes to 12 games which beats the 11 game undefeated streak of last season. Nine of the 12 games have been wins.The games will be tougher from here on. Amanda was lost today for the rest of the season with a fractured wrist. As well, 4 players will be away over next few weeks during school breaks. However, this team no longer relies on one or two players. We know that those who are around will pick up the slack.

The second game of the quarter final series is Thursday at the Aurora Community Centre.

Monday, February 25, 2008

We're Going to the Big Show!

At the beginning the season they were the team that couldn't shoot straight. In January it seemed like they would never score another game after putting together 4 consecutive 1-0 losses. But not anymore! This team surpassed most people's expectations with a spectacular 11 game winning streak to power its way in the Provincial Championships.

The Scarborough Sharks put up a good fight but rarely penetrated the Storm defense after the first period. In the second period shortly after a powerplay had expired, Mari picked up a puck at the Shark blueline and while driving down the left side fired it past the Shark goalie. It was all the Storm needed as they hung on to the 1-0 lead until Sheri fired the puck into an empty Scarborough net with the goalie pulled with 17 seconds remaining in the game to clinch the win.

Bianca had the shutout today, her 5th of the year. It was Mari's 5th goal in 6 playdown games and Sheri's 3rd goal. However, the best story coming out of the playdown games was the balanced scoring. All three lines consistently contributed goals.

The coaches are pleased to be able to bring teams to the Provincial Championships 7 straight season. But this year has to be the most gratifying considering where we started from at the beginning of the season. The credit has to go to the players who worked hard all year, never quit on the team when things weren't going well and supported each other throughout the season. We are so proud of what they have accomplished already. Let's hope there is more to come.

Next up is Aurora for round 1 of the LLFHL playoffs. Tomorrow at 8 pm at Grandravine. GO STORM GO!

Thanks Mats!

You did the right thing by standing up to the corporate barons who would peddle away the heart of the team if it could make them a bigger profit. No Leaf captain has retired wearing the Maple Leaf on his chest since George Armstrong called it quits almost 4o years ago. Doug Gilmour, Wendel Clark, Rob Ramage, Rick Vaive, Darryl Sittler, and Dave Keon were dumped in most cases for spare parts that never brought the team close to a Stanley Cup.

Sundin always provides value for money so why not keep him around. The rebuilding process will be less painless with him in the dressing room and on the ice. He will give you a solid effort every shift. Who else is going to provide this type of leadership - Darcy Tucker, Bryan McCabe, Alex Steen? I don't think so.

Sundin has not been the problem in this organization. He has been the solitary shining light amid underachieving teammates, feuding executives, incompetent managers, and ineffective coaches. I think Mats said it best when he commented "why should I have to fix the mistakes made by John Ferguson"? I agree.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

NHL Trade Deadline Day--BORING!

The most over-hyped day in the sporting world has to be the NHL trade deadline. Last year there were 50 deals done in the two weeks leading up to the deadline with 25 done on the last day. There were 3 big deals but the rest were minor deals that have no real impact at all - like the Leafs picking up Yanic Perreault. So far this year there have only been 2 deals so don't expect and flood on Tuesday.

The sports stations, both radio and TV, have dusk to dawn coverage. Talk about boring. What the heck are they going to talk about for 14 hours? Marty Reasoner for a 6th round draft pick. Petr Prucha for Mike Sillinger. Yeah that should keep audiences riveted for hours.

So where does this hype come from? It's the media just doing their job which is to increase viewers (TV), listeners (radio) and readers (newspapers) which increase advertisement revenue. They start the rumours like Tucker going to Calgary while nothing could be further from the truth. Then the ask players, coaches and managers if they have any comments about the rumours. Then the ask the same people what impact the rumours are having on them. It's a silly cycle. How many of these rumours are true? Maybe 0.1%.

By the way did you hear that Philadelphia is going after McCabe since Kaberle has turned them down?

Almost There!

The Storm moved one step closer to the Provincial Championship weekend today with a 3-2 win against the Etobicoke Dolphins. All three goals were scored on rebounds as the Storm forwards crashed the net. Today the forwards took advantage of scoring chances that earlier in the season would have ended as missed opportunities - a sign of how much this team has matured and grown.

The Storm actually had a slow started and fell behind 1-0 in the first period after some sloppy play in their own end. In the second period the team stepped it up and totally controlled the play. Sheri knocked in a rebound from a shot by Jackie to tie up the game. Just a minute and a half later Mari did the same thing on a rebound by Kailee. The Dolphins were able to tie the game up with a perfect pass to a player in the high slot who was able to fire in the top corner behind Kendra. With just over 5 minutes left in the game Jessica B was called for interference and the Storm was able to prevent Etobicoke from having a shot on net. At the end of the penalty Mari drove to the net with the puck with two Dolphins draped over her. Amanda followed up and banged in the rebound over the goalie who was sprawled on the ice for the winning goal.

Tomorrow's game is huge and just a tie will guarantee a spot in the Championships in April and maintain the 10 game undefeated streak. The playdown standings are:

North York 4-0-1, 9 pts
Scarborough 1-0-3, 5 pts
Etobicoke 0-2-2, 2 pts
Leaside 0-3-2, 2 pts

Please no more stories about Mats Sundin

Talk about running a guy out of town. It's like all of Toronto (with our so helpful media leading the charge) wants to put one of the greatest players to wear a Leaf uniform on a one way bus ride to....anywhere.

I'm just not so sure the Leafs will get that much for Mats so at the end of the day fans may be disappointed. Last year's big deadline deals (Keith Tkachuk, Ryan Smyth and Peter Forsberg) involved substantial transfer of young talent. However, the teams picking up the expensive rental players didn't advance beyond the first round of the playoffs and none of the 3 players resigned during the summer. Considering Mats doesn't really want to move and he may retire or return to the Leafs during the summer, he just isn't going bring in a substantial package. General Managers around the league are learning that these trades don't usually work. It's the deadline deals for depth that can make the difference.

Let's just say Ottawa picks up Sundin. He is not very familiar with the Ottawa's system or players but he only has about 20 games in integrate himself. He is unlikely to displace any of Spezza, Alfredsson or Heatley off the number one line. That means substantially less playing time for Sundin and a drop off in production.

I keep saying that the Leafs are much better off trading away player whose contracts are a burden to the team. That would be either Jason Blake, Bryan McCabe or Pavel Kubina. No one in their right mind would take Kubina at $5 million or Blake at $4 million. But there would have to be takers for McCabe if he would agree.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Storm Lay an Egg and Steal a Point

Maybe the legs weren't there after 5 games in 6 days and 9 games in 13 days. Maybe it was the lunar eclipse. Maybe it too much birthday cake the night before. We will likely never know the exact reason for the stinker of a game by the Storm. But they managed to get a point off of the Scarborough Sharks which keeps the Storm ahead of the pack.

After a very sloppy first period, things got worse in the second. Scarborough scored with only 31 seconds left in the period. But Sheri was able to jam a puck behind the Shark goalie only 24 seconds later to even the score with a period to go. In the third period, the Storm had several powerplays but could not take advantage of the opportunities. However, with with less than 2 minute left in the game Genevieve skated from behind the net and slipped the puck past the Shark goalie. Scarborough pulled their goalie in the last minute of the game and on failed clearing attempt got the tying goal with 38 seconds remaining in the game. The game ended 2-2 and the Storm undefeated streak stands at 9 games. Quite a contrast to the 9 game winless steak early in the season.

The current playdown standing are:

North York 3-0-1, 7 pts
Scarborough 1-0-3, 5 pts
Etobicoke 0-1-1, 1 pt
Leaside 0-3-1, 1 pt

The next games are Leaside vs. Etobicoke on Saturday at Centennial Park Arena at 8 pm and Etobicoke vs. Noth York on Sunday at Risk Arena at 10:15 am.

Regular Season Results for Other Storm Teams

Intermediate A: 12-10-2, 26 pts
Midget A: 6-10-8, 20 pts
Midget BB: 10-12-2, 22 pts
Midget B: 6-12-6, 18 pts
Bantam BB: 2-14-8, 12 points
Peewee BB: 1-15-4, 6 pts
Atom C: 4-17-3, 11 pts

Sad News

Coach Willie got back the results of his MRI on his knee and it confirms a torn meniscus. Marathon running is on an indefinite hold. The spring/summer running season is ruined anyway. Will re-evaulate in the fall.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Half Way to Provincials

Well three down and three go on the march towards the Provincial Championships. The Storm had a more difficult time with the Leaside Wildcats this time around but still pulled off a 2-0 win.

The Storm came out skating hard in the first period, didn't give up a shot on net and came away with 1 goal lead. However, the second period was very sloppy and Kendra had to cover up for some weak defensive play. Powerplay goals by Marley and Kailee was all that the Storm needed this night to keep the undefeated streak alive at 8 games. The stretch of 4 consecutive 1-0 losses is just a faint memory now as the offense has finally caught up with the defense. Kendra recorded her 5th shutout and has not given up a goal in 3 games.

The win gives the Storm a 3 point lead over Scarborough in playdown games. The current playdown standing are:

North York 3-0-0, 6 pts
Scarborough 1-0-2, 4 pts
Etobicoke 0-1-1, 1 pt
Leaside 0-3-1, 1 pt

Monday, February 18, 2008

Sundin's Value Just Went Up

Forsberg's agent Don Baizley has begun advising NHL teams that Forsberg doesn't have enough confidence in his wonky foot to commit to a return to the league this season.

''The prospect of Peter having enough confidence in the foot-skate issue to commit to being able to play in the NHL this season isn't where it needs to be at this moment,'' Baizley told TSN. ''As a result, teams are being told it is unlikely he will be able to commit to return to the NHL this season.''

As Forsberg drops out of play so to speak, all eyes turn in the direction of the Maple Leafs. There are quite a few rumours being tossed around including a possible bidding war between Dallas and Anaheim. Philadelphia is supposedly interested in Kaberle. That is if he agrees to move.

Statistical Summary

A summary of player stats for the first 37 games (regular season, exhibition, tournament, playoffs).

Most goals (14) - Mari
Most assists (9) - Kailee, Mari
Most points (23) - Mari
Most goals by defenseman (5) - Lauren N
Most assists by defenseman (3) - Lauren N
Most points by defenseman (8) - Lauren N
Most penalty minutes (22) - Sheri
Most games played (37) - Jackie, Marley, Maryssa, Lauren N, Rebecca, Jessica B

Lowest GAA (1.45) - Bianca
Most wins (7) - Bianca
Most shutouts (4) - Kendra, Bianca

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Storm Slip into 7th Place

On the last day of the regular season, the Storm finished off an incredible run to grab 7th place and avoid a sudden death playoff game with Etobicoke. Just 3 weeks ago the Storm were 8 points behind Vaughan and had just lost a disappointing game to Clearview after coming back from a 3 goal deficit. Since then the Storm have been undefeated in 7 regular season/playdown games.

The game against Etobicoke was an intense and hard fought game. The first goal was scored by Marley with less than a minute left in the 1st period on the powerplay as a result of a nice 3-way passing playing with Sheri and Jackie. It was the only powerplay opportunity for the Storm because for the first time this season the took more penalties than their opponents. However, Mari scored a shorthanded goal in the 2nd period on a shot from the left faceoff circle. Early in the 3rd period, Sheri was off for tripping when Amanda was also called for tripping. The Dolphins were able to score on the 2-man advantage but that was it. They put on considerable pressure for the rest of the game but the Storm played well defensively and hung on for a 2-1 win.

The win was a huge confidence boost for a team that was near the bottom of the standing all season and had only 1 win at the start of the new year. The game had an extra dimension to it as it was also a playdown game. The Storm are now undefeated in 2 playdown games.

The Playdown standings currently are:
North York 2-0-0, 4 pts
Sarborough 0-0-1, 1 pt
Leaside 0-1-1, 1 pt
Etobicoke 0-1-0, 0 pts

And the Winner of the NBA Slam Dunk Contest is...

Dwight Howard!

Storm Reaches 100 Penalty Minutes

There are no longer any teams in the Midget B tier with under 100 minutes in penalties as the Storm received 6 minor penalties against North Simoce to reach the century mark. North Simcoe received 8 penalties for a total of 14 in the game. This exceeded the total by the same two teams last month in Midland when the same referees handed out 12 penalties. According to my calculations, if we played every game with those referees we would have 264 penalty minutes. Even Jackie got a penalty, her first of the season.

Oh, did I mention that the score was 0-0. The two teams spent so much time killing penalties that no one got around to scoring. Actually the frequent whistles and penalties robbed the game of any flow. The Storm who are used to good old fashion up and down hockey could never get going. Kendra had her 4th shutout of the year and need to make some difficult saves to preserve the single point.

The tie keeps the Storm undefeated streak in league play alive at 6 games. The Storm are now just 1 point behind 7th place Vaughan with one game remaining in the season.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Storm Pummels Leaside

The Playdowns began tonight with a game against the Leaside Wildcats. It took the Storm about 7 minutes to wear down Leaside. After that they just kept coming in waves at the Leaside net as they rolled to a 7-0 win. The Wildcats have been on the bad side of a few lopsided games this season but only once have they lost this badly. That was a 8-0 loss to Whitby.

The Storm scoring was led by Mari and Jessica R who both had 2 goals and 2 assists. Genevieve had 3 assists and single goals went to Maryssa, Jackie and Kailee. This was the 4th straight goal in which Jackie has scored a goal. Bianca was not terribly busy to record her 4th shotout of the season.

The Playdown standings currently are:

North York 1-0-0, 2 pts
Sarborough 0-0-1, 1 pt
Leaside 0-1-1, 1 pt
Etobicoke 0-0-0, 0 pts

Saturday May be Sundin's Last Game as a Leaf

The media buzz regarding a Mats Sundin has been relentless for 2 months. That is all that is being discussed on the radio, TV and in print. It has really polarized fans between those who think he should leave for the sake of the team and those who believe he has earned to the right to decide his destiny.

I would love to see a package of prospects and picks that could turn around the Leafs but I don't think he should be traded. The Leafs have an ugly history of trading their best players when they don't want to go. Sittler, McDonald, Horton, Clark, Gilmour, etc. I don't even want to talk about how they treated Dave Keon. Isn't it time the organization did the right thing and keep this guy around until he is ready to retire.

Many fans were slow to appreciate his greatness. They said he was soft. A lousy captain and no leader. He has responded by putting together a career like no other Maple Leaf. In 13 seasons with the Leafs he has only missed 42 games. That is incredible! Here are his other accomplishments.

1290 games
547 goals
755 assists
1302 points
35 goals and 74 points n 83 playoff games
9 All Star game selections
15 overtime goals (NHL record)
First European to be draft first overall
Only Swedish player to reach 1000 points
1 Olympic Gold
3 World Championship Golds
1 World Chamionship Silver
2 World Championship Bronze

Next week the GMs meet in Naples, Florida for 3 days and rumour has it the Ducks are putting together a package that will knock the socks off of Cliff Fletcher. If it's true Sundin could be gone. So Saturday could be his last game in a Leaf sweater. Very sad.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Never Seen a Girl Dunk Like This

Snow Storm Forecast for Sunday

Hmm. Let me check that schedule.

Yup. We are playing Etobicoke in what is turning out to be the 2008 Snow Series.

Geoff Coulson, an emergency meteorologist with Environment Canada, told today that:

A relatively small storm is expected to drop five to 10 centimetres of snow on the GTA Friday. But then another, stronger storm should move in from the Gulf Coast late Sunday, pounding the GTA with snow, rain and freezing rain — just in time for Family Day on Monday.

Best Sandwich in the World: The Philly Cheese Steak

I did graduate school in Philadelphia about 30 years ago and discovered the most incredible junk food - the Philly Cheese Steak sandwich. I return every summer to visit friends but we always plan one meal of Cheese Steaks.

When we were in Erie this past weekend, the restaurant we ordered dinner from on Saturday has steak sandwiches on the menu but I didn't bother ordering any. Outside of Philadelphia the sandwiches are mediocre. Seems no one can recreate the taste although they are simple to make.

Every Philadelphia native has their favourite establishment. The locals have debated who makes the best sandwich for decades. My favourite and on the list of the most famous is Pat's King of Steaks in South Philadephia. Right across the street is the biggest competitor Geno's (isn't it always that way). The places are dumpy, greasy places with little seating and big lineups.

Locals think in terms of steak sandwiches with or without cheese. Without cheese, the sandwich is referred to as a “steak.” With cheese, it is a “cheese steak” or "cheesesteak." Cheeze Whiz is the topping of choice for serious steak connoisseurs. However, you can also use provolone cheese (which how I like it). According to Philadelphians, you simply cannot make an authentic Philadelphia Cheese Steak sandwich without an authentic Philadelphia roll. The rolls must be long and thin, not fluffy or soft, but also not too hard. They also say that if you are more than one hour from South Philly, you cannot make an authentic sandwich.

During the 1930s in the Italian immigrant section of South Philadelphia, brothers Harry and Pat Olivieri sold hot dogs and sandwiches. Tired of hot dogs, Pat suggested that Harry go to a store and buy some beef. Harry brought it back, sliced it up and grilled it with some onions. The brothers piled the meat on rolls and were about to dig in when a cab driver arrived for lunch, smelled the meat and onions and demanded one of the sandwiches. It was not until 20 years later that cheese was added to the sandwich. In 1940, the brothers opened Pat's King of Steaks.

When you go inside one of these places there is a huge pile of thinly sliced beef (usually top round) grilling and separate piles of onions, mushrooms and peppers. The slices are quickly browned and then scrambled into smaller pieces with a flat spatula. If you ask for onions, peppers or mushrooms they are mixed in with the meat. The cheese is added last right before its put in a roll. The sandwich is pretty high in calories and fat. A recent addition has been chicken in place of the beef.

There is a defined South Philadelphia protocol for ordering, consisting of the desired cheese and whether fried onions should ("wit") or should not ("witout") be added. A common order in South Philly is "Whiz, wit", meaning a cheesesteak with Cheez Whiz and fried onions. "Wit" (or "wid") is an approximation of the South Philadelphian pronunciation of "with," which is how the word is actually spelled on some menus. For example, "Give me a provolone wit," is an order for a cheesesteak with provolone cheese and fried onions on top. "I'd like a pepper cheez wit", for a sandwich with peppers and onions and Cheez Whiz.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

It's snowing we must be playing Etobicoke

Another snow storm and another game against Etobicoke. So to shake things up a bit the coaches revamped the line up with 5 defensemen and forwards switching positions. The result was the largest margin of victory for the season as the Dolphins were whipped 4-0. It seems the scoring funk has come to an end as the Storm have scored in the past 5 league games and 3 tournament games which included 4 wins and 2 ties.

Goals were scored by Lauren N, Sarah-Kate, Rebecca and Jackie. Sarah-Kate's goal was her first this season on a terrific set up by Marley from behind the net. Jackie's goal was scored while short handed in the last minute of the game. The shutout was shared by Kendra an Bianca.

The Storm is now just 2 points behind 7th place Vaughan with 2 games remaining. This week the Storm plays a Playdown game against Leaside on Friday, a regular season game against North Simcoe on Saturday and a combined Playdown/regular season game against Etobicoke on Sunday.

Meet the world's smallest bodybuilder

At just 2ft 9in, Indian muscleman Aditya 'Romeo' Dev is the world's smallest bodybuilder. Pint-sized Romeo is well-known in his hometown of Phagwara, India - for his ability to lift 1.5kg dumbbells - despite his overall 9kg body weight. Every day, crowds flock to the local gym to the see the mini-muscleman in training. Romeo said: "I've been training as a bodybuilder for the last two years and by now I think I must be the strongest dwarf in the world.

TSN Hires John Ferguson

TSN has issued a press release announcing John Ferguson has joined the TSN broadcast team as an analyst for the February 26th NHL trade deadline. He is quoted as saying:

"I made many trades over 10 deadlines in management with St. Louis and Toronto. I look forward to plying a new trade with TSN this deadline."

I don't want to sound cruel but hiring JFJ as analyst on NHL trades is like hiring Britney Spears as a parenting expert. I can hear one of the co-analysts turning to JFJ to ask:

"So John, how does that Montreal-San Jose trade compare to your deadline deal of Yanic Perreault and a 2008 5th round draft pick for Brendan Bell and a 2008 2nd round draft pick? Or how does it rank with Andrew Raycroft for Tuukka Rask?"

Monday, February 11, 2008

Blue Jays Start Spring Training

But who really cares when the Maple Leafs are just 6 points out of a playoff spot.

That sucking noise you hear... the sound of the Buffalo Bills reaching into the wallets of Toronto football fans. Some of us were looking forward to welcoming the Buffalo Bills to Toronto. The eight games they'll play here over the next five years could've been the perfect complement to our existing football diet of live Argonauts games and televised NFL matches. Now that the details have been announced, more than a few of us have been priced out of attending. The majority of tickets average into the $350 per game range, and are only available if you ante up for all eight games at once.

Clearly this is a move by Ted Rogers and Larry Tennenbaum to bring NFL football to Toronto on a permanent basis. It's nice to optimistically imagine that there's 30,000 die-hards who'll continue to cheer on every Argos home game, and that the league can remain a viable. But just look at all the empty seats at a Marlie games and you realized Torontonians do not support any team that isn't perceived as big-league.

In the absence of some sort of CFL-NFL agreement being worked out, there's the real possibility that the Argos and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats will eventually disappear. The loss of the teams could void the CFL's existing television contract, and the Canadian league itself would be starved out of national advertising and sponsorship revenue by the NFL franchise. It would be crushing to watch the CFL slowly drained of life.

Lookout, Leafs Only 6 Points out of Playoff Spot!!

It's happening again! Each year the Leafs go into a nose dive in mid-winter to the point where making the playoffs is mathematically possible but virtually impossible. Once they reach that point, the pressure to win disappears and suddenly the wins start to come. Of course, they finish just out of the playoffs but everyone is optimistic about next year because of their strong finish.

This past week the Leafs looked liked contenders (if you can ignore the 8-0 embarrassment against the Panthers) by beating Ottawa, Montreal and Detroit. Seems very impressive except that the Leafs will once again not make the playoffs so these games are meaningless. Suddenly, key players (eg., Tucker and Blake) who have done nothing all season, are scoring again so that by the end of the schedule they statistically will appear to have had acceptable seasons.

To make the final playoff spot in the East, you will need at least 90 points. The past 2 seasons the 8th place teams had 92 points. The Leafs currently have 55 points and are tied for 13th spot in the East. To reach 90 points and 8th place they would need to leap frog 6 teams and go 17-7-1 the rest of the way. That would be quite an achievement for a team that needed 48 games to win its first 17 games.

This team can't even lose right. Pushing up to to 9th or 10th place means that at the Amateur Draft in June, the Leafs will not be able to grab an impact player. Hopefully, this nonsense will soon be put to an end by Cliff Fletcher when he trades away the dead weight that finally woke up for the last 25 games of the season.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Storm Finishes Strong

The Storm had another early morning game against the Gilmour (Ceveland)Sabres at the Erie Civic Centre on Sunday. Gilmour had previously lost 1-0 to Camillus and beaten Cazenovia 5-0. They were a big physical team which would make for an interesting match up with the speedy Storm players. As it turned out Gilmour struggled to keep up with the Storm but hung on for a 1-1 tie. It was a scoreless struggle for 2 periods until the two teams exchanged goals in the first 2 minutes of the 3rd period.

The Storm goal was scored by Jackie who was set up by Mari who had just left the penalty box to jump into the rush. The line of Jackie, Sheri and Marley dominated throughout the game and frustrated the opposition by controlling the puck in the Gilmour end. The line scored goals in all 3 tournament games. Genevieve had 2 excellent scoring chances as she easily skated around the slow Gilmour defense.

The 1-1-1 record was not enough to move into the championship game but the weekend was a super confidence builder for the improving Storm team. Final standing based on the tournament point system:

Hamilton 12.5
Camillus 9
Gilmour 8.5
North York 7.5
North Pittsburg 4.5
Cazenovia 3

Championship Game
Camillus 2
Hamilton 0

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Dancer Fall Off Stage....The Show Must Go On! - Watch more free videos

NHL union balks at endorsing Thermablades

The revolutionary "hot" new blades being endorsed by Wayne Gretzky have turned out to be duds. Gretzky boasted during a packed press conference at the Hockey Hall of Fame four months ago that $400 heated skate blades developed by a Canadian company would "revolutionize the game of hockey."

Trouble is, the NHL players who have tested Therma Blade Inc.'s heated blades don't agree. Of the five players who were sent the heated blades – Toronto's Mark Bell, Chicago's Martin Lapointe, Detroit's Kris Draper, Edmonton's Marty Reasoner and Calgary's Matthew Lombardi – Reasoner is the only player who professed liking the blades.

This is not good for Calgarian Tory Weber who invented the blades and spent more than $5 million to bring Thermablade to market. The poor reviews from Draper and Lapointe have prompted the NHLPA to balk at signing off on the blades.

Therma Blade has sold 2,500 pairs of blades to Canadian and U.S. stores. The company would try to persuade other NHLers to test the blades.

The Igloo is no Palace

Game 2 in the Erie Tournament was played at the ungodly hour of 7:10 am at a rink called The Igloo. It's a bit of stretch to call the place a rink but we are in Erie. It was actually converted from a supermarket. It has a low ceiling, bad lighting and an elevated ice pad. The refridgeration equipment was installed ontop of the grocery stored floor so you had to step up from the bench to get on the ice.

The Storm played the North Pittsburgh Wildcats and had a very strong start. We dominated in the first 2 periods but only had a 1-0 lead on a powerplay goal by Mari. The Wildcats did not get a shot on net in the second period. The Wildcats did tie the score in the 3rd but Jackie scored the winning goal later in the period and the Storm hung on for the win. Mari had an opportunity to put the game away when the Wildcats pulled their goalie late in the game on a powerplay. She picked up the puck at centre ice and was one-on-one when she fired the puck at the empty net from about 20 feet out. The puck hit the defenseman in the arm and went wide of the goalie-less net. The defense had a strong puck control game in particular Paitra and Lauren N.

Next game will be early early Sunday morning against Gilmour.

Welcome to Erie

I think they call Erie the Mistake on the Lake. Well maybe that's Cleveland but it could apply. At least the shopping is good. Yesterday we opened up the Erie Tournament with a 3-1 loss to Hamilton. We had to come all the way down here to play a team just down the QEW.

Hamilton was is a Bantam A team and although our Storm team was able to skate with them and even outshot them 23-17, we were outclassed in several skill areas including passing and shooting. It was a tied game until late in the 3rd period when we game 2 quick goals and that was it. The only Storm goal was scored by Marley who crashed the net for a rebound to match her sister who scored a goal last weekend.

Next game is against North Pittsburgh at the cruel time of 7:10 am.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Players not likely to return to the Maple Leafs

It goes without saying that there will be significant changes made to the Toronto Maple Leafs and their lineup to start next season will look signficantly different. Although some fans would like to see the team get rid of everyone and start from stratch, that's just not feasible. So there will be a lot of players returning because their contracts make them impossible to trade or for the only reason that the team needs to dress 23 players. Here is my guess at who will not be back.

Andrew Raycroft: Raycroft represents the biggest disaster from the Ferguson era. The player appears to have no confidence and the team has even less confidence in him. He will be impossible to trade but that won't stop the team from getting rid of him. The last year of his contract will be bought out or he will be waived and sent to the minors.

Mark Bell: His situation is even worse than Raycroft. A combination of his contract, play and injury also make him untradeable. I can't see him coming back so his fate will likely be the same as Raycroft.

Chad Kilger: I have a feeling that Kilger will go at the trading deadline for a low draft pick. His size and checking ability might interest a contender looking for some depth. But no one will give up much for him. His salary is also reasonable.

Wade Belak: Belak is a unrestricted free agent at the end of the season so if no one picks him up at the trading deadline then we will be let loose at the end of the season.

John Pohl: Also an unrestricted free agent in July. Hasn't played much so he will be replaced by a younger player.

Dominic Moore: He is here only because of injuries. Also an unrestricted free agent who won't be signed.

Hal Gill: A big man who can add depth to a contender. You can never have too much defense. Salary isn't prohibitive like some of the others so he may be traded this month.

Kyle Wellwood: The team appears to have lost patience with Wellwood and he is only playing because of injuries. Even then, its on the 4th line. I think he and the team will agree that a change of scenery might help so he will be traded in the offseason.

Andy Wozniewski: Too slow and too error-prone although he could still develop into an NHLer. I just don't see the Leafs investing further in his development. He is an unrestricted free agent and will be given his walking papers this summer.

Nik Antropov: Although he is 2nd on the team in scoring, I can see the team trading him. He is having his first injury-free season and his size, contract and scoring ability will attract some decent offers. Considering his injury history and his lack of speed, a trade makes sense.

There is a remote possibility that Tucker might be moved this month though his injuy problems make it relatively remote. If he can't be physical he won't help a contender in the playoffs. Also Kubina has one of the team's worse contracts. No one will want to take on that contract so its interesting to see what the team will do if he can't be moved.

Right now the team has 17 players on contract for next season for a total of $42 million. If the above players are removed from the roster that will reduce the numbers to 11 players and $34 million. If they can dump Kubina that makes it $29 million on just 10 players. Sundin will be signed for about $6 million and the cap is projected to be $53 million. So the new GM will have $18 million to spend on 12 players. Half of those spots will be filled by young players at about $3 - $4 million. Still leaves $14 million for about 6 players.

Etobicoke Stopped by Storm

Another snow storm threatened a game between North York and Etobicoke but this one got played and produced a 1-0 win for the Storm. Last night was a rescheduled game after the December 23 match had been cancelled as a result of another snow storm. The win means the Storm now have a modest 3 game streak going with 4 games remaining in the season.

The only goal of the game was scored by Sheri who skated along the boards and cut in to the net jamming the puck past the Dolphin goalie. Bianca celebrated her birthday with a well deserved shutout, her second one of the season. The Dolphin team never gave up and forechecked agressively. It was a tense finish to the game as Mari and Lauren N took penalties 16 seconds apart and the Storm played the last 1:40 two men short. Etobicoke then pulled their goalie in attempt to get the tie. When the buzzer went off the puck was actually loose in front of the Storm net with the goalie down. Kudos to Jessica R, Jackie and Jessica B who did a terrific job killing off the penalty.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Cheeseburger in a Can

In my search for the worst junk food on the planet, I think I've stumbled upon it. Cheeseburger in a can. It is an abomination! Would you eat it? Can you imagine what it looks like when you pull it out of the tin? It couldn't possibly look anything like the picture below. And it costs about 4 Euros or $6.

When historians look back at the decline of mankind in future centuries, they will point to this as the turning point.

A review can be found here.

Leafs Falling for Stamkos

With Los Angeles and Tampa Bay winning last night, the Leafs are now just 4 points from last overall as their lottery draft pick keeps looking better and better. Steve Simmons of the Sun joked that the Leafs should play Raycroft the rest of the season to ensure they finish last.

Oh, did you hear the Leafs were blown out again last night. The 7th blow out of the season with the worst losses coming at home:
Oct. 9: 7-1 v. Carolina
Oct. 29: 7-1 v. Washington
Nov. 6: 5-1 at Ottawa
Nov. 24: 5-1 at Phoenix
Dec. 29: 6-1 v. NY Rangers
Jan. 9: 5-0 at Anaheim
Feb. 5: 8-0 v. Florida

I said at the start of the season that the Leafs have the worst defense in the league and have been proven correct over and over again. Ignore what these players are paid, just look at performance. In his post game interview Mats said, "Everyone who wore the sweater should be ashamed of the way we played." After a loss like this, they should also be ready to be traded. Fletcher may have to play the heavy and threaten any player who refuses a trade with being put on waivers and demoted to the Marlies. Playing for Carolina has to be better than bus trips to Albany and Binghampton.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

How has the NHL changed since the lockout?

It's been over 2 1/2 seasons since the NHL lockout ended and many people are wondering what has really changed. Remember coming out of the lost season everyone was talking about the new NHL with revamped rules, parity, shootouts, a faster game and more scoring. I've searched for relevant information and this is what conclusions I've made.

Parity through the salary cap
The salary cap (and salary minimun) was supposed to bridge the gap between the haves and the have nots and ensure more teams make money. Parity has in fact been achieved. No one can stock up on all the good players and therefore small market teams are bidding for and signing free agents. It's early February and few teams are out of contention for a playoff spot which is great for local fans. In baseball many teams are out of the pennant race well before the All Star break. However, the cap has been rising rapidly which means teams that were not making money before the lockout are still not making money. And the few wealth teams make even more money because their payroll has shrunk.

NHL is getting younger
The big stars are still making big money so the cap puts the squeeze on all the rest, especially the older players. To save money teams are forced to let go veterans and play younger and cheaper players. The average age of the top 30 NHL scorers was just over 30 in 2000-01. Currently it's 27.5. Daniel Alfredsson and Mats Sundin are the only senor citizens near the top of the league scoring. Instead, what we've got is players 25 or under: Ilya Kovalchuk, Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Ryan Getzlaf, Jason Spezza, Evgeni Malkin, Mike Richards, Paul Stastny, Eric Staal and Corey Perry. That's because the new rules favour speed and creativity and allow players still developing physcially to play at the NHL level. Chicago future star Patrick Kane is only 59" and 165 pounds.

NHL players are getting smaller
Before the lockout, the trend at draft day was to pick BIG kids. With all the obstruction,you needed to be a Todd Betuzzi to get to the net. In 2004, the average height and weight of a 1st round draft pick was 6'2 1/4" and 199 pounds. By 2007 that had dropped to 6'1/2" and 187 pounds. It's quite a contrast and too early to know if it will stick but it appears the rule changes have had an impact. And small players are going in higher rounds now. Where its most noticeable is at defense. When Ian White was drafted he was not expected to make the NHL because of size but his skating skills became more desirable post-lockout.

Scoring hasn't picked up much
There were numerous changes made to increase scoring including cracking down on obstruction, restricting goalies behind the net, moving the blue lines and eliminating 2-line offsides. There was a brief jump as a result of the number of powerplays as players adjusted to new rules. But as the league adjusted scoring has gotten back to close to where it was.

Penalty calls have changed a lot
There was a huge upswing in calls for hooking, holding and tripping after the lockout. The numbers have leveled off now but they are still the most common calls now. That was not the case before the lockout. The most common calls used to be roughing, slashing and highsticking. It didn't really improve the game that much because there were too many whistles. This year is the first year that the number of penalties per game is below the pre-lockout period. There have also been fewer fights because those 4th liners who like to mix it up rarely saw the ice since teams were so often either on the powerplay or penalty kill. The size of today's NHLers really tells the story on how the refereeing has changed the game. I think for the better.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Top Maple Leaf Prospects

Well the season is a right off and likely next year as well. Although the Leaf roster for the first time in years has lots of young players, none are franchise players in the mold of a Mats Sundin. The young Leafs are destined to be 2nd, 3rd or even 4th liners. But what prospects do the Leafs have that might make a difference? Here are what I consider the top 5 prospects. I didn't include Tlusty and Stralman since both have been up with the Leafs for a while. The prospects just don't look that strong.

1. Justin Pogge (3rd round 2004)
In his 1st year on the Marlies he had a rough start and finished with 19 wins and a 3.03 GAA. This year Pogge is doing much better and already has 17 wins and carrying a GAA of 2.26. He is a tall goalie (6'3") that moves around very well. He is projected to be a #1 goalie in the NHL. The question is will he be a average #1 or a very good one.

2. Nikolai Kulemin (2nd round 2006)
Kulemin is a 21 year old winger playing in the Russian League. As a 20-year-old last year he led his team in goal scoring with 27 goals. He is reported to be a good skater and strong defensive player who works very hard. He is not expected to become a scorer and will likely be a 3rd line checker.

3. Chris DiDomenic (6th round 2007)
DiDomenic was the third in rookie scoring last year in the Quebec Junior League. This season he is the leading scorer and was player of the month in September. He is an average skater and projected to be a 2nd or 3rd line player.

4. Tyler Ruegsegge (6th round 2006)
Ruegsegger is incredibly competitive, strong in both ends and can score consistently. His skating is below average, which could be a barrier to his reaching the NHL. He played for Team USA at the Junior Worlds and was their best player. He's called the Rubberband Man because of his great moves.

5. Robbie Earl (6th round 2004)
Earl has now played a game for the Leafs and looked alright. He finished his college career and played his first year as a pro with the Marlies last year. Earl is a tremendously gifted offensive player who is exciting watch. He is an excellent skater with explosive speed. He is not known to like physical play and is not that big. He is another potential 2nd line player.

Spice Girls in Town!

Yes the Spice Girls are back together, on tour and in TO tonight. I'm just glad I don't have to listen to them at home any more. I hear the tour hasn't been going that well and they have just cancelled a bunch of shows for "family and personal commitments". Yeah whatever.

So for those who are nostalgic for the girls here they are.

That's why you play the game

The Storm coaches have always been telling the team that they don't award wins to teams. You have to earn them. That's why you play the game. Yesterday's Super Bowl is a classic example. Everyone assumed it would be a New England Patriot win, except the Giant players. They believed that they could win and produced one of the most exciting finishes in Super Bowl history.

Looking forward over the next 3 weeks. We will be playing 12 games. We have to forget about our record over the past 29 games. There will be teams we will be playing with much better records than ours but that doesn't mean we can't and won't win. We have played well against everyone this season. And we can't go in with the attittude that teams with worse than ours can't beat us. They can and they will unless we play our best starting with Etobicoke on Wednesday.

Below is the play of the game in yesterday's Super Bowl. I can't believe that Manning got loose to get away that pass.

Friday, February 01, 2008

NHL Central Scouting Preliminary Rankings

Here are the mid-term rankings of players eligible for the 2008 NHL Draft by the NHL Central Scouting. The top 5 players look to be extremely strong so the current Maple Leaf slump and injuries will go a long way to help them in the future.

North American skaters

Steven Stamkos, C, Sarnia (OHL); 2. Drew Doughty, D, Guelph (OHL); 3. Zach Bogosian, D, Peterborough (OHL); 4. Kyle Beach, C, Everett (WHL); 5. Alex Pietrangelo, D, Niagara (OHL); 6. Tyler Myers, D, Kelowna (WHL); 7. Luke Schenn, D, Kelowna (WHL); 8. Colby Robak, D, Brandon (WHL); 9. Colin Wilson, C, Boston U. (Hockey East); 10. Cody Hodgson, C, Brampton (OHL).

European skaters

1. Nikita Filatov, LW, CSKA (Russia); 2. Evgeny Grachev, C, Yaroslavl 2 (Russia 2); 3. Mattias Tedenby, W, HV 71 Jr. (Sweden Jr.); 4. Vjateslav Voinov, D, Chelyabinsk (Russia); 5. Roman Josi, D, Bern (Switzerland); 6. Anton Gustafsson, C, Frolunda Jr. (Sweden Jr.); 7. Dimitri Kugryshev, RW, CSKA 2 (Russia 2); 8. Viktor Tikhonov, W, Cherepovets (Russia); 9. Kristoffer Berglund, D, Bjorkloven (Sweden); 10. Tomas Kundratek, D, Prostejov (Czech Div. 1).

Right Now Alex Ovechkin is the Best Player in the NHL

Ovechkin buried the Canadiens last night scoring 4 goals including the overtime winner. He is not only the most explosive scorer right now but a very physical player. During the game he was hit in the face with a stick and later broke his nose but it never slowed him down. You only get to draft players like this by finishing at the bottom of the league for a couple of years.