Tagged: Hockey

Boxing and football make for a winning movie box office combination

Recently, I read an article on TSN’s BarDown website that talks about Darren Rovell’s list that he posted of the top ten-grossing sports movies of all time — in today’s dollars might I add. As it turns out, the top movies he listed are mainly football or boxing related. 

At the top: Rocky and Rocky III, followed by The Blind Side. Then it is Rocky IV and Rocky II. The Waterboy, The Longest Yard, Talladega Nights, Creed, and Remember the Titans round out the list. So, basically, it’s all Rocky or football movies, and one NASCAR movie. 

We shouldn’t be surprised these are up there. The Rocky franchise starring Sylvester Stallone is one that transcends sports, and football seems to be the one sport that translates the best to the big screen in terms of drama and action. Of course, there have been numerous iconic auto racing movies made. But I guess the surprise for me is that of all the racing movies, the one that landed in the Top 10 was Talladega Nights, the comedy with Will Ferrell as Ricky Bobby. Not that it’s a terrible movie, but I’m surprised.

Now, here is my big rant about that BarDown article I just linked to. You can tell it was a Canadian article, because they made a huge deal out of the fact that there was no hockey movies in the top 10. And I’m going, good grief, man, can’t anyone in Canada run a story about the sports movie box office without using hockey as a point of reference?! It’s almost as if they are all offended that hockey did not make the list! As if the sport was being slighted! 

Guys, guess what: the reason no hockey movies made the list is because hardly any hockey movies get made! The only two that anyone has ever really heard of was Slap Shot and The Mighty Ducks, and that’s it!

The folks at the sports nets in Toronto need to realize the world does not revolve around their beloved hockey. Deal with it, Canada.

Frankly, though, the real surprise for me is not that there are no hockey movies on Rovell’s list — it’s the lack of any baseball and basketball movies. 

Think of the multitude of baseball movies ever made (Pride of the Yankees, The Natural, Major League, Moneyball, A League of Their Own etc.) and the number of basketball movies (Hoosiers, Space Jam, White Men Can’t Jump etc.) and it really is amazing neither sport made it into Rovell’s top 10 list. 

In fact, I’m thinking maybe this list of Rovell’s might not even be accurate, because I can’t believe some of these movies that were left off the top ten (ie Space Jam and A League of Their Own in particular) given the amount of money they made back in the day. I’m thinking maybe these are just the domestic grosses Rovell’s referring to? (If that’s the case, no wonder football movies did so well!) Anyway, I ought to look into it a bit further.

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There’s just something right about Ron MacLean hosting HNIC

It’s already a great start to this NHL season, and not just because Auston Matthews had a four-goal night in his first game for the Leafs a few nights back.

It is Saturday night, and Hockey Night in Canada is back. Or more particularly, the Hockey Night in Canada we’ve known is back — not the imposter version that fans had to put up with over the last two seasons. 

Welcome back to the host’s chair, Ron MacLean.

It’s that time of year, folks: it’s finally hockey season!

Yes, folks, at long last hockey season is upon us! Tonight, the SJHL season begins with five games on the schedule. 

My press pass is here, and while I’m not going to be covering the game tonight here in the Battlefords against Kindersley, I’m looking forward to following the games on the radio and maybe even getting out to cover one in the coming weeks, in between municipal election coverage.

And may I just say that if there was ever a year in which Saskatchewan sports fans are looking forward to the return of hockey, it is this season! Usually, the return of hockey depresses the heck out of people because it means winter’s coming. But I think fans simply want something to get their minds off the Canadian Football League.

Honestly, the entire CFL product — and I’m not just referring to the terrible 1 win-10 loss Saskatchewan Roughriders — has been awful this season. Lousy officiating, endless senseless penalties, and too many delaying video reviews and decisions by league officials at head office have made the whole sport unwatchable, and the TV ratings reflect it. The CFL is getting killed in the TV ratings by the Blue Jays and by the NFL, and even by World Cup of Hockey pre-tournament games! And it’s all because the product is lousy.

The Riders in particular have been a gong show, due to rules violations and bizarre player moves (ie. signing notorious anti-Semitic social media troll Khalif Mitchell, and now letting him go). If it wasn’t for the fact that this was the last season for the beloved old stadium, with everyone wanting to see the place before they tear it down, attendance would be far worse than it is. This team is so far out of the race now that it’s a waste of time tuning in, and there are still seven more games to go. Seven utterly meaningless joke contests – the season ticket holders won’t be impressed.

As for the fan mood in Saskatchewan, people here are just plain depressed and want this season over with. It’s a contrast to last season, where anger prevailed and everyone wanted everyone fired. Most don’t even have the energy to be mad at coach/GM Chris Jones anymore for all his roster moves — they’re just exhausted. Lately, the press has been trying to drum up interest in whether or not QB Darian Durant should be re-signed or traded, but people are too exhausted for that whole issue, too.

I think there will be interest in the final CFL game in old Mosaic Stadium as well as the “trial run” game at the new stadium between the University of Saskatchewan and the University of Regina. Beyond that, fans are spent. They simply want to see this football season hauled to the dump, finally.

But hockey season offers new and fresh hope. I think sports fans in Regina are actually more enthused about the Regina Pats right now than the ‘Riders, because of all the predictions about how good a team they’re going to have in the WHL. The bottom line is a lot of people are looking forward to hockey season, not just myself.

Also starting up very quickly is the World Cup of Hockeyand for some reason I’m pumped up about this tournament. Maybe it’s because I’m feeling nostalgic for those Summit Series and those Canada Cup tournaments that had taken place years before. It has been a long time since we’ve had a tournament like this happen in the month of September, going back all the way to 2004. 

You may recall what happened back then: Canada indeed won the World Cup of Hockey, and then the very next day the lockout started that ended up wiping out the entire NHL season. So that kind of killed the fans’ enthusiasm for this tournament right there.

Of course, the main complaint out here in the West is that all the World Cup games will be going on in Toronto, at Air Canada Centre, with no games being hosted outside of there at all (except for these meaningless pre-tournament “friendlies”). 

It seems strange that organizers would set it up this way. Then again, many aspects of this tournament are strange (under-23 squads, etc.). 

Anyway, the bottom line is hockey is back, and for suffering Canadian football fans it cannot come back soon enough.

Hey TSN, this would’ve been the day for nonstop “FireCentre” coverage of the Toronto Maple Leafs!!! 

 

The Toronto Maple Leafs are a national embarrassment. In a year when five out of seven Canadian-based teams made the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Leafs were part of the “two of seven”, and as a result changes are being made. GM Dave Nonis, interim coach Peter Horachek, and a whole bunch of other people were fired. 

Well, look on the bright side. At least the Leafs won’t be littering our TV screens anymore with their lousy hockey. 

Oh, and in other hockey firing news, Ted Nolan was fired as coach of the Sabres.

For those of you who are sick of hoops on TV, the hockey NCAAs are also on

Last word from me on my latest recent hockey coverage

 

And now, the sports. 

For the past couple of nights I was back on the hockey beat covering the Sask Prairie league finals. On Friday, I was at the Civic Centre where the Meota Combines beat the Hafford Hawks 5-4 in overtime to force Game 5. Then last night at Battleford Arena, the Hawks’ temporary home for the finals, it was Hafford who won the deciding game 2-1 and won the Cup, as you can see here. 

I should also note the teams lined up and shook hands at centre ice after this game, which is not a given in this league. A couple of years ago in the Finals, teams erupted into a huge bench clearing brawl at the end of the game before the Cup was presented, and they didn’t bother shaking hands! 

No doubt, this league is not high-level hockey. But it is “home-town hockey” and it is entertaining, and there were big crowds and lots of people interested in this series and in coverage of it. 

I anticipate that is it for my hockey coverage this season, as the Battlefords North Stars were swept by Kindersley in the SJHL playoffs, and it will be our main sports reporter who is covering the Midget AAA finals between Battlefords Stars and Regina Pat Canadians. 

As for me, maybe some sanity can finally return to my life over the coming weeks. 

Now, here are the links to my hockey stories from the weekend

My stories are now up from my hockey coverage from the weekend. I filed stories from the North Stars-Bruins series in the SJHL, the Stars-Contacts series in midget AAA hockey, and the Sharks-Bears series in female midget AAA hockey. 

Honestly, I’m completely exhausted. Maybe I should do what Conan O’Brien did and book a trip to Cuba.

I should point out the photo that ran with the Sharks story is not mine. For some reason they gave me credit for it, but the paper must have used a photo submitted from the game in Prince Albert, instead of any I took at the game on Saturday night in Battleford (during the brief time I ducked out of the North Stars-Bruins game during their intermission.) So I’m going to have to get that fixed, for no other reason than because people will look at that photo and think I was in PA. I was nowhere near the Sharks game in PA, I was at the midget Stars game at the Civic Centre instead on Sunday.

Anyway, that’s that, coverage from five home hockey games in four nights. As a bonus, I also took pictures of curling on Friday night as well.

That ought to be it for hockey coverage from me, at least for the next couple of weeks. Unfortunately, I still don’t get a night off, because tonight is city council meeting night. Come to think of it, I’d rather watch hockey.

It’s still hockey season! I’ll be covering the SJHL playoffs this weekend



Just want to let people know that I am yet again on assignment, covering hockey. In fact, by the end of this weekend I will have covered so much hockey that I may not want to cover a hockey game ever again.

  • This is my weekend to work, which means tonight and tomorrow I am at the Civic Centre to cover the first round Survivor Series between the Battlefords North Stars and Estevan Bruins. 
  • On Sunday, I will cover the Midget AAA playoff game three between the Battlefords Stars and Saskatoon Contacts. Last night was game one at the Civic Centre and the Contacts won 5-4 in the second overtime, in a game in which they were badly outshot and in which they were down 3-0 at one point. Sometimes playoff hockey is not fair, and this was one of those nights.
  • As well, I am supposed to find the time to cover the Midget female AAA playoff game between the Battlefords Sharks and the PA Bears. The problem is that game runs up right against the North Stars and the Bruins, plus there’s some other event going on the same evening that I am meant to cover as well. Anyway, I’ll simply need to figure out a way to be in three places at once. No big deal.

The king of Saudi Arabia is dead, Deflategate, and other News from Nowhere

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It is time for another News from Nowhere on this boring, largely football-free weekend.

The only interruption to that has been yet another Bill Belichick press conference today on Deflategate, which I tuned into. This is proving to be a big distraction for the team’s Super Bowl efforts.

I gotta say, Belichick looked supremely ticked off at this presser today. He looked ready to punch a sportswriter out. He absolutely insisted they followed the rules 100 percent. Anyway, I know even less about footballs than Belichick does now, so I don’t know what is going to happen with this NFL investigation. There may be fines and the like, but these sports pundits and talk show hosts are going to continue to have a field day with this, forever. Anyway, that is that, and now on to the rest of the news.

The big story of this week is that King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has died and his half-brother Salman has replaced him as the new King. The burial has already taken place and the mourning is under way. I spent time watching the Arab news channels from the Middle East after the news broke, and they have been showing lots of live non-stop coverage of people walking around in mourning at Mecca.

Other news of the week– the world’s leaders have been in Davos this week for the World Economic Forum. Story here.

Also this week, the US diplomats were busy negotiating with Cuba on reopening formal relations.

And here is a big surprise — apparently Cuba’s government fully intends to remain Communist.

In American politics, there was a big summit meeting in Utah between potential presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush. Apparently, nothing of interest happened.

And Disneyland has the measles. Worse, it’s spreading.

It must have been a slow news week in England, because the story there was that the Sun newspaper had caved to their critics and ended the topless Page 3 girls in the paper.

The feminists, politicians, and British media declared victory and called this a turning point for society, and went on about how no one was interested in Page 3 anymore — although I notice not everyone agreed.

Then on Thursday the Sun brought the Page 3 girls back. So much for that.

In hockey, the World Cup of Hockey has been announced for 2016, and unfortunately the format looks like a joke.

Among the eight teams involved will be a so-called “Team Europe”, plus an all-star under-23 team. Guys, get it right! If you want to hold a World Cup, fine, but make it a real World Cup and not some glorified all-star contest like what you’re doing this weekend!

While on the topic of hockey, a hockey-themed costume won raves for Miss Canada at the Miss Universe Pageant this week! Story here. Could this be the year Canada brings back another Miss Universe title? The pageant goes tomorrow night in Doral, Florida on NBC.

That is about it for this week. Back to watching the rest of the boring sporting events on TV for me.

Work update: busy weekend covering sports in the Northwest region again

Uh, hi, folks. The reason I have been MIA for the past few days has been because I have been busy covering sports, mostly hockey.

Tonight, I am writing the story on the Battlefords North Stars road trip to the southeast, which means listening to the radio and looking at the score sheets online while I write something up. Tonight they are playing Estevan Bruins and the game is boring so far, with no scoring.

On Friday I covered a game in the Saskatchewan Prairie Hockey League, or SPHL. It’s senior hockey, but I like to call it the Good Ol’ Boys League because that’s what it really is — rough and tumble hockey with plenty of fights. Anyway, Meota beat Spiritwood 11-3.

Then on Saturday I was totally busy. Not only did I cover the Midget AAA female hockey game between Battleford Sharks and the Prince Albert A&W Bears at Battleford Arena, but earlier in the day I drove out to Cut Knife to cover the nomination meeting for the federal Liberals in Battlefords-Lloydminster. You can read that story here.

So anyway, the bottom line is I have been busy, but I have been able to catch the NFL games today, including that crazy finish in Seattle. Now fans of the Green Bay Packers know exactly what life is like for Saskatchewan Roughriders fans, because that was bad, folks.

That is it for now, I have an SJHL hockey story to finish.

Okay, now I’m mad — no Fiesta Bowl on Canadian TV, bumped for hockey again #fail

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I know this Canada-USA game is important at the World Juniors and a marquee matchup and so on — but seriously, TSN?! You have five channels now. Surely you could have used one of them, just one, to show a football game.

And not just any Bowl game, but the Fiesta Bowl!! It’s Boise State versus Arizona, two top teams! And we aren’t seeing it!

Seriously, folks, this a major bowl game, a game that was part of the BCS a year ago and which has settled a number of national championships over the past several years. And it is being bumped for world junior hockey on four channels, while the fifth one is showing the Winnipeg Jets. And no one else is picking up the game, either.

This, I respectfully say, is an absolute outrage. We’ve been putting up with one bowl game after another getting bumped from TV for days, but this is the most egregious example yet. Surely, I’m not the only sports fan in this country who’s mad about this, but I guess the views of the football fans do not count because we live in Canada.

Happy New Year, Canada. Enjoy spending New Year’s Bowl Day watching the NHL Winter Classic tomorrow, too.

Once more, I’m on assignment as “temporary interim sports reporter” again

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Work update: as you can no doubt tell from reading that piece on the Roughriders, I have been filling in on the sports desk for the last several days, and this situation will go on for another week after this.

To that end, I am pleased to announce that, for now, I am covering the SJHL again!

I wrote this piece on the North Stars-Humboldt game and must also brave the cold to go to the games between Battlefords and Weyburn tonight and on Sunday at the Civic Centre. A week ago, I also covered the infamous “Friday Night Fights” game versus Yorkton which saw players and coaches suspended due to all the fighting that happened.

Also, I should point out I have no life and will be on assignment next week for three nights in a row, and I really hope the weather warms up at least a little because I am sick of having to remove snow from the top of my car all the time. Ideas about cheap sun vacation deals are welcome. Anyway, that is all for now.

New era of Hockey Night in Canada begins tonight

Yes indeed, the new era with Rogers in charge of the new-look, new-host Hockey Night in Canada begins tonight with NHL games tonight not just on CBC but on multiple channels all over the dial:

Tonight on CBC, it’s Pittsburgh at Toronto, followed by Edmonton at Vancouver.
On City, it is Montreal at Philadelphia.
On SN1, it is Ottawa at Tampa Bay.
On SN360, it is Calgary at St. Louis, followed by Winnipeg at San Jose.
And on FX Canada, of all places, it is Washington at Boston.
For more about the games, check this Sportsnet preview here.

Conspicuous by their absence from this lineup, though, is the main Sportsnet feed covering all the regions of Canada. “What the heck, why don’t they have on hockey?!” you are asking.

Here’s why: they are showing a baseball game. Not just any game, too, but it’s San Francisco Giants at St. Louis Cardinals. That’s right, the playoffs. Which, by the way, is probably a bigger deal to St. Louis folks than the game between the Blues and the Flames tonight.

The bottom line is that it doesn’t matter whether you prefer to watch baseball or hockey. Either way, Rogers wins.

(Oh, and for those looking for “alternative programming”, TSN has the NASCAR race from Charlotte on one feed and a CFL game between Ottawa and BC on the other. This means while TSN will surely be crushed in the ratings across Canada tonight, they stand a chance of winning my household, at least.)

Hockey season wraps up in the Northwest region, life is now officially boring

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For a while it looked like the hockey season was going to last quite a bit longer around here. But the midget Stars lost in the league finals to Notre Dame a week ago, so they’re out; then on Friday the North Stars lost to Melville in the SJHL playoff semifinals, so they’re out.

Last night, I went down to Wilkie to see the Outlaws win the North Saskatchewan River Hockey League title in game 7 over St. Walburg in a wild game. At least that is some good hockey news for the area. Look for some good photos from that one in the paper.

That Wilkie game was basically the last hurrah, the last gasp, for hockey season around here. A lot of people were not ready for the season to end this suddenly for the top teams and leagues in the Battlefords. There were a lot of high hopes in this area for the two Stars teams, but that is the way things go a lot of the time.

Now we enter the annual “black hole” of life in Saskatchewan where people are reduced to sitting at home waiting for the Riders to come back. This is what happens, folks, when you are in a place with no MLB team. It is, no doubt, the biggest downside to living here.

Usually, this is also the time of year when fans are supposed to get excited about the coming NHL Stanley Cup playoffs, but it sure looks like enthusiasm is muted for that, too. The only Canadian team that is in the playoffs is the Montreal Canadiens, and it sure looks like that will be it, just one team from Canada, given the latest Leafs woes. And the closest NHL team to this area, the Edmonton Oilers, are a shambles.

Anyway, that is the only big time hockey we can look forward to around here — the TV kind. Life has turned boring in a big hurry.

Battlefords North Stars take on Melville in two important road playoff games in the SJHL

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It is once again Hockey Night in Saskatchewan! Tonight and tomorrow night, the Battlefords North Stars are in Melville up against the Millionaires in SJHL semifinal action. The Mils are up two games to none and tonight’s game is basically a must-win for the North Stars. So far, the story of the series has been Melville netminder Isaiah Plett, who has stood on his head.

The North Stars have this big reputation, though, for being an awesome road team and a great comeback team, so we shall see if that holds up.

This series, plus the Yorkton-Humboldt matchup, represent the highest level of junior hockey still going on in Saskatchewan after all our WHL teams bowed out of the first round. In fact, it was an epic disaster as the division champion Regina Pats went down in four games.

So the SJHL is basically all that is left. We can say this about the North Stars; no matter what happens, they outlasted the Swift Current Broncos and that means a lot to people here.

As usual I will be on Twitter, tweeting the final scores again as I have been doing all playoffs. That is it for now.

Sorry, all the other sports: hockey is the best part of the Winter Olympics, bar none!

molsonI may not be a big Olympics fan in general, but I am a hockey fan and the Olympics have set the global standard for showcasing that sport, again.

The games have seen plenty of drama this week — Cinderella stories such as Slovenia and Latvia, stunning upsets like the Finland victory over the Russians (prompting social media to go nuts over this photo of the despondent Sochi bear mascot), and dramatic games such as the USA 3-2 shootout game over Russia last week, not to mention Canada’s 1-0 win today on the strength of goaltender Carey Price.

Not to be outdone, the women’s game was also dynamite this week with Canada coming back in the dying minutes to tie, and then beat the Americans in OT for the gold medal 3-2.  

The level of play this week has been excellent. One person at the office today noted how much better the international game is without any of the fighting and the goonery we have come to expect. Personally, I think these matches cannot be topped for drama and excitement. The level of interest has been through the roof. The TV ratings for Olympic hockey in the USA have again outdone their NHL brethren this week, proving once again that Olympic hockey is the most popular hockey on American TV. And here in Canada, well, it’s a similar story.

Basically the whole country has shut down during the noon hours the past two days while Canada has battled the United States in women’s and men’s hockey. We’ve heard stories about Internet providers having a very hard time keeping up with all the stress on the system because so many people were live-streaming games online and Tweeting and doing all that stuff.

The game between Canada and Sweden on Sunday for the gold medal promises to be another ratings blockbuster, despite the fact it is on early in the morning. Watering holes across the country have been busy all week getting their permits to be open that early in the morning. Personally, I don’t know why anyone would want to be drinking that early in the day. It seems a good way to get sick, but that is what is going to happen.

Many people are now ranting in the media about how the focus is all on hockey and not on any of the other sports at the Games. Well, what do you expect? Do you really expect us to be interested in figure skating instead, especially given how corrupt that sport is? Let’s face it, folks, the real reason there is so much interest in hockey is because it is the best part of the Olympics — though I notice that even the Americans on Wall Street have a soft spot for curling, so that sport ranks second.

At least when hockey is on you get to see Don Cherry on TV spouting off to Ron MacLean in his multi-coloured suits. That’s worth it right there.

Moreover, Olympic hockey and international hockey is the best hockey out there today. It is international hockey that has provided fans with the most historic and dramatic moments the game has ever seen (the Henderson goal in 1972, the Miracle on Ice, Gretzky to Lemieux in the Canada Cup, Sidney Crosby’s goal in Vancouver, and so on). Nothing the NHL has ever come up with has ranked as highly in terms of drama or the public imagination.

Frankly, I think that’s a big problem for the NHL. Sunday’s game promises to be the hockey version of the Super Bowl, but that will do nothing for the NHL except make their own product look dull by comparison. Here in Canada, a country that hasn’t seen a Stanley Cup winning team in two decades, there has been nothing at the championship level to cheer about in the NHL. This Sunday, the entire country will be shut down to watch the big Olympic hockey game. When was the last time the NHL was able to say that about any of their big games?

Oh yeah, that’s right — that infamous night in 2011 that Vancouver lost Game 7 to Boston, prompting riots in the streets.

Well, let’s hope we don’t see a repeat of that on Sunday, especially since people will be liquored-up a lot earlier in the day than usual.

Apart from the fact that the Olympics makes the NHL product look second-rate in comparison, the league cannot be happy about the prospect of shutting down their season for two weeks in 2018 while their players are in South Korea, where the games will be played in the middle of the night in North American time.  On top of that, look at how many players were getting injured this year alone. Look at what happened to Henrik Zetterberg. The Detroit Red Wings cannot be thrilled about that. I’m sure the struggling New York Islanders cannot be happy about losing John Tavares for the season with a knee injury. That is their entire season officially down the tubes.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the NHL says to heck with the Olympics in 2018 for all these reasons. It would be too bad for the fans, though. I know fans like to get mad at Gary Bettman over the whole notion of the NHL pulling out of the Olympics, but if you look at it from their side of things you really couldn’t blame them.

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Oh, and as an aside to my comments earlier about the Olympics commercials, I will say this: thank God for Molson Canadian.

Their “beer fridge” that they put up in Sochi, for Canadians to open with their passports, was hilarious. At least their ideas for ads have been funny and original, which cannot be said for most other Olympics advertisers. That’s all for now.

TODAY IS HOCKEY DAY IN CANADA IN LLOYDMINSTER!

Well, today is a BIG DAY for hockey fans on the Saskatchewan-Alberta border as CBC takes Hockey Day in Canada to Lloydminster! Fans there can enjoy all the hockey-related activities including sightings of Don Cherry, Ron MacLean, and of course the Stanley Cup.

A blog is going at the Hockey Day in Canada site about all the day’s activities, so be sure to check it out. That is all for now.

ROUGHRIDERS FOOTBALL WITHDRAWAL DOMINATES SASKATCHEWAN

saskatchewan-roughridersMy newspaper column this month is about Saskatchewan Roughriders withdrawal, now that football season is over in the land of wheat and potash. 

Basically, the main thing we’ve got going here now is the junior hockey season, which is great, but it’s definitely not the same as I point out in my column.

I will say, though, the dropoff from football season to junior hockey is mild compared to what happens when hockey season ends in the province. There, it drops off from hockey to basically nothing. Really, there is usually nothing to do in Saskatchewan except be bored silly once hockey is over.

Still, the end of Riders football season is nevertheless always a big shock to the system. Some people on the Riderfans.com forum page have compared it to postpartum depression.

Really? How can you be depressed at all about the Riders? Still, it is an adjustment to get out from the routine of being psyched every weekend for a Riders home game. Personally, though, I’m glad Roughriders season is over because it frees me up full-time to follow college and NFL football on the weekends, not to mention the other sports. I really don’t feel too much of a post-CFL season letdown, given the amount of other football options still out there. (I will have more to say on college football later.)

I will say, even though CFL season is now over, ‘Riders talk never really goes away. Just wait until the Ottawa RedBlacks expansion draft happens and the Riders lose a few players. Then Rider Nation will be back to their usual selves, ranting and raving. Such is life in Saskatchewan.

THE NHL NEEDS TO WRAP IT UP. HOCKEY IS NOT A SUMMER SPORT — I DON’T CARE HOW GOOD THE GAMES ARE!!!

Seriously, folks, this is ridiculous. We are officially into summer, according to the calendar. But even though it’s June 23, we still are playing NHL playoff hockey with Game 6 set for tomorrow. nhl

Now, granted, the games between Chicago and Boston have been dynamite, with three overtime games in the Stanley Cup finals. It’s been great hockey. But honestly, folks, the last thing I want to do when it is sunny and warm out is watch a hockey game.

It’s also the last thing I want to see when it’s raining, or even storming. Game One in Chicago was actually played with a raging severe thunderstorm going on outside the arena, with massive hail! In fact, an AHL playoff hockey game was scheduled in Oklahoma City on the night of May 31 when that tornado hit, and the players had to hide in the basement instead!

Then you have places like Alberta that are getting massive floods. Even the Saddledome has been hit by flooding. Do you think folks in southern Alberta care about hockey today? Of course not! Yet the NHL insists on running a never-ending season right into the summer!

These NHL games are diverting attention from major league baseball, CFL football, auto racing, and the other sports that should be commanding our interest at this time of year. I’m sick of tuning in the sports shows hoping to see Blue Jays or Roughriders news, only to get NHL news instead. Personally, I’m more enthusiastic about the CFL season starting up than I am about the NHL at the moment. These guys in the NHL should wrap it up already and shave off their ridiculous playoff beards, and allow the summertime sports to take over.

The Blackhawks could raise the Stanley Cup with a Game 6 victory tomorrow night in Boston. It’s past time for this season to end, folks.

HOCKEY THOUGHTS, INCLUDING A FEW WORDS ABOUT THE BRAMPTON BATTALION

We are officially into the dead season as far as hockey is concerned where I am. The playoffs have been over for the local teams here for a long time. Both the local SJHL and AAA midget teams exited the first round, and then the Saskatoon Blades down the highway made life even more miserable for their WHL fans by collapsing in the first round to Medicine Hat. Now they are waiting for the Memorial Cup to start and that won’t happen until May. 

The only top-level hockey going on right now in the province at the junior level are the SJHL Canalta Cup finals between the Humboldt Broncos and Yorkton Terriers, but is it ever news when Humboldt is in a league final? They seem to be there every year.

Driving everyone crazy in the meantime is the weather. We were snowed under again yesterday and that wreaked havoc on the province’s roads. Plus, the minus temperatures continue. By comparison, Las Vegas is 24 C, Phoenix is 27 C, and beautiful balmy Cancun, Mexico is 28 C.

So here we are in Saskatchewan, where hockey has been over for several weeks in a lot of places, and we are getting hockey weather: cold and snow. I guess we should look on the bright side, because we aren’t getting floods. Yet.

It’s days like the last two that have me thinking about southern Ontario yet again and how much better life was there, because they rarely see this sort of mayhem in April. But then I keep on reminding myself about how things have changed and how a lot of familiar places are no longerbattalion there.  

On that note…

Heard the bad news a while ago about the Brampton Battalion in the OHL. They announced their move to North Bay some time ago and last week was their last game in Brampton, as they lost in overtime 1-0 to Sudbury in the playoffs. My connection to the Battalion is from the days when I used to cover games for Rogers Television when I was reporting for their local news. I was in the press box many times at what is now Powerade Centre, aka “the Bunker”, covering the team.

I remember interviewing such players as Rostislav Klesla and Raffi Torres back in the day — I am really going back in time here.

Oddly enough, both those guys ended up playing for the Phoenix Coyotes. I noticed that just this week Torres was traded again for the umpteenth time to San Jose. 

As for the Battalion moving, it’s great for North Bay, but it’s really too bad for the hockey fans in Brampton. The writing was on the wall for a long time, though. Even when I covered them, few people outside the city limits cared, which was a shame because they had a pretty exciting team to watch. It’s yet another junior hockey failure in the GTA, which is too bad for OHL fans who live there — and there are some fans.

Brampton fans will still have a local team to cheer for when the Central Hockey League arrives next season, and the OHL’s Mississauga Steelheads play at the Hershey Centre just down the road, but it will be a big change for the fans because they just aren’t the Battalion.

Here’s a piece written for Yahoo! Sports by one of the Battalion’s biggest fans, and I link to it mainly because I personally know some of the people he mentioned in the piece. Also, here’s another piece written in tribute to the team.

Good luck in North Bay, guys, and thanks for the memories.

NORTH STARS ARE OUT, NOW SUFFERING FROM TERMINAL BOREDOM SYNDROME

ENJOY GETTING UP FOR THE WORLD JUNIORS

IT’S STILL HOCKEY NIGHT IN SASKATCHEWAN, NOT SO MUCH EVERYWHERE ELSE

Hi, again. With our resident sports guy down in Mexico, I am doing the SJHL beat this week. Tonight, I’m covering the Battlefords North Stars versus the Nipawin Hawks. Saturday, the North Stars host Weyburn. sjhlI’ve also been writing a few stories this week for the sports pages on SJHL and other hockey happenings. There is never a dull moment covering this sport.

Meanwhile, folks in the national sports media in this country, assigned to cover a certain league that I absolutely refuse to mention by name because I am so annoyed with them, continue to waste their time reporting on fruitless negotiations. Can you imagine these big-league hockey reporters with these networks, stuck tracking down the negotiators and following them to these hotels where they haggle it out behind closed doors? Then, at the end of the day, these reporters get a grand total of one minute of comment from somebody important as he walks out the door!! What a life!

Seriously, I am not missing the ^^^ season at all. I am having way too much fun following the SJHL and sitting in the press box at the Civic Centre, drinking hot chocolate and taking lots of pictures for the newspaper. Occasionally, I’m able to get good photos of someone moving in on net and scoring a big goal.

Also, remind me to rant and rave soon about the World Junior Hockey Championships coming up in Ufa, Russia. I have a few choice words to say about the ungodly hours in which we are asked to get up in the morning to watch Team Canada play on TSN. That, of course, is assuming you even bother to wake up so early at all. Whoever made up the schedule really has a sense of humor, not. That’s all.

UPDATE: For those wondering what the final score was on tonight’s game, the North Stars came back from a 1-0 first-period deficit to beat the Hawks, 3-1.

ESPN IS SHOWING KHL HOCKEY GAMES. I KID YOU NOT!

Today was a historic day for hockey fans. That’s right, for the first time ESPN2 in the USA was showing a live Kontinental Hockey League game. It was Alex Ovechkin and Moscow Dynamo taking on HC Lev. Then they repeated the game later that night!

Here’s a live blog of what went down. From what I gather, a lot of the fans were not impressed with commentators Steve Levy and Barry Melrose. In any event, American fans had better put up with it because this is about all the big-time hockey you’re going to get for a while.

It is odd, really odd, for ESPN to make this deal for the KHL. To me, this seems like the ultimate stick-it-to-the-NHL type of move (since the NHL’s TV deal is with a rival organization), as well as a fine way to rub it in to the folks at NBC Sports whose cable and TV networks are all left holding the bag by the NHL shutdown. The Worldwide Leader in Sports is showing hockey, all right, while NBC’s not. It’s just more world domination on their behalf, and more rubbing of NBC’s noses in it.

I’m actually surprised that ESPN even picked up the KHL, given their recent history. I was under the impression that they could care less about the sport — that all they really care for is the Big Three of baseball, football and basketball. As a bonus, they’ll show NASCAR and a few other things, but it’s obvious that’s what these folks care most about.

At one time that wasn’t the case. This network used to be the place to go to see all the funky non-traditional sports, like Aussie Rules football, the USFL, yacht racing, and stuff like that. It was great! And in those days the NHL fit right in.

I guess ESPN figured they could throw a bone to the hockey fans and get some of them tuning to ESPN instead of NBC. In any event, it worked, because it created a lot of buzz in the hockey blogosphere. 

The coverage must have brought back memories for folks down in the ‘States who remember the old ESPN coverage of hockey that lasted up until the big 2004-05 NHL shutdown — coverage that included names like Gary Thorne, and Tom Mees, and others. Of course, the coverage brought back no memories for Canadian fans used to Ron MacLean and Don Cherry. Because CBC and the cable channels always produced their own packages in Canada, we hardly ever saw ESPN’s hockey coverage. Oddly, though, we’ve seen more than enough ESPN basketball, ESPN football and ESPN baseball coverage up here on TV. Strange.

Incidentally, today’s KHL game wasn’t even shown in Canada at all. I don’t know why the networks up here won’t want to touch the KHL.

Seriously, these games would be far better than the international hockey reruns we have been getting from TSN lately. The latest one TSN wants to rehash again is the 2009 World Juniors matchup between Canada and Russia, and I can tell you right now, fans at home are sick and tired of watching this nonsense. Any live sport is better than this junk, INCLUDING the KHL.

Hey guys, instead of showing us old international hockey, why not show us some new international hockey, for a change? Seriously, I just don’t get it!

In a way, though, rerun hockey games are not all bad. Word is now that Hockey Night in Canada is going to show reruns on Saturday night of classic games, at least for the time being, and are even inviting fans to vote on which games they want shown.

Well, that’s a better idea than the “Movie Night in Canada” debacle we got stuck with during the last lockout. It’ll also help those of us Hockey Night in Canada addicts get over the lack of NHL games and keep up some semblance of a Saturday night hockey routine. Believe me, this attempt to fill the void for fans disgusted with both sides of this labour dispute is welcome indeed.