Sidney Crosby

Sydney CrosbyLets rewind for a moment back to my entry of October 6th, 2003 in which I stated the following about Sydney Crosby.

Sidney Crosby. Are you familiar with that name? You will be.

Sidney Crosby of the Rimouski Oceanic is the CHL Player of the Week. Crosby scored five goals and added four assists for nine points in four games last week. This 16-year-old native of Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia is being touted as "The Next One". Wayne Gretzky himself has stated that Crosby was the best player he'd seen since Mario Lemieux. Not eligible for the NHL entry draft until 2005, the legend of Sidney Crosby is already approaching epic proportions.

Crosby has just completed his first season in the QMJHL. Lets see how he did, shall we?

In three games during the final week, Crosby scored three goals and added eight assists for a total of 11 points, but those achievements were overshadowed by two greater accomplishments for the record books. In a 7-2 win against the Lewiston MAINEiacs, Crosby scored one goal and four assists for a total of five points. At the end of the game, Crosby totalled 129 points and beat the 125-point record held since 1973-1974 by a 16 year old player, Normand Dupont. In a 4-3 win against the Cape-Breton Screaming Eagles, Crosby got two assists and equalled the 79 assist record held since 1977-1978 by a 16 year old player, Denis Savard (Junior de Montreal). In the final regular season game against the Acadie-Bathurst Titan, Crosby tallied two goals and two helpers to eclipse Savard's assists record. Crosby ended his first season in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with 54 goals, 81 assists and 135 points in 59 games to win the regular season scoring title.

Not bad...

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America Doesn't Like Hockey

America Doesn't Like HockeyWe Canadians have always suffered from an inferiority complex. This is the result of sharing the world's longest undefended border with the most powerful nation in the world. We have more space but only a tenth of the populous. More often then not, we are only validated by our acceptance south of the border. Nothing is truly great unless it's embraced in America as well as our home and native land.

In Canada, we are blessed with a thoroughly entertaining sport that we love and follow closely. Saturday night's Maple Leaf-Canadiens match-up on CBC was watched by an average per-minute audience of 1,604,000. That was the largest regular-season audience for the show since March 15, 2003, when 1,689,000 watched the Toronto-Vancouver game. In a country of this size for a regular season game, that's a lot of people. Canada is madly in love with hockey. This is a great sport. Maybe it's time we accept reality...

The reality we need to accept is the simple fact America doesn't like hockey. The numbers don't lie. ABC's Saturday afternoon broadcast of three regional games scored a 1.2 rating, the lowest-rated sports event of the weekend, finishing behind NBC's U.S. curling championships and Sunday's Arena Football League games (1.3). That's right, curling and arena football attract more viewers south of the border than an NHL hockey game.

The numbers are pitiful. Outside of a few pockets of rabid hockey fans, Americans are generally disinterested. The sooner we accept this fact and move on, the better. ABC is in the final year of its five-year deal with the NHL. I don't know why they'd want a ratings loser, but I can certainly tell you they won't pay much for it. Throughout the years there have been moments when we hoped NHL hockey would take off in the United States. The miracle on ice, Wayne Gretzky's trade to Los Angeles, the USA's World Cup victory, all of these events could have sparked mass appeal for our beloved sport. Unfortunately, they didn't.

My point is this: the fact America doesn't like hockey shouldn't have an effect on our love of the game. We Canadians do love hockey, from coast to coast. This is an amazing sport and worthy of our love. America tunes out and it's their loss. They don't know what they're missing.

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March Madness

March MadnessMany consider it to be the greatest sporting tournament in North America. I have to admit, it's pure madness and as exciting as hell. The selections for the NCAA 2004 Division I Men's Basketball Championship tournament have been announced. Claiming the No. 1 seeds for each of the four regions were St. Joseph's, Stanford, Duke, and Kentucky, respectively.

For the complete tournament brackets and matchups in PDF, click here. To view the brackets and matchups online, click here.

I'd route for underdog Florida A&M because their roster includes junior forward Michael Ayodele of Toronto, but a better chance for success is #1 seed Kentucky. Kentucky's roster includes sophomore forward Bernard Cote of St. Lambert, Quebec.

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Todd Bertuzzi

Todd BertuzziA number of years ago, my brothers and I gathered around the television to watch an OHL playoff game. It was an elimination game between the Belleville Bulls and the Guelph Storm. Normally we don't make it a point to watch OHL playoff games, but our cousin Mark Gowan was between the pipes for the underdog Bulls and having a pretty good series. Unfortunately, the best player on the ice this game wasn't Mark but an opposing forward for the Storm who potted a couple of key goals. That forward was Todd Bertuzzi.

We've all seen that video replay of Bertuzzi's cheap shot against Colorado's Steve Moore at least a dozen time by now, and every time I see it it saddens me. There's no place in hockey for this type of action. I'm all for dropping the gloves face to face but pummeling him from behind face first into the ice and then driving him back into the ice with all of your 245 pounds has nothing to do with this glorious sport. This was obvious retribution for Moore's legal hit two weeks ago that sidelined Canucks' captain Markus Naslund for three games with a concussion. Moore is now in hospital with a concussion, neck fractures and other injuries.

The NHL has suspended Bertuzzi for the remainder of the season, including playoffs. Before he can return for the 2004-05 NHL season, Bertuzzi's "eligibility" will be determined by commissioner Gary Bettman prior to training camp. This penalty was severe but it had to be. A message had to be sent. Marty McSorley was in the twilight of his career and a role player on his team. Bertuzzi is a superstar, a key part of any success the Canucks can expect this season, and expectations were high. The NHL had to show it wasn't going to treat it's stars any differently than pugalists like Bob Probert, McSorely and Tie Domi. The NHL had to draw the line and let every player know that this kind of act is completely unacceptable. I found the punishment to be fair.

I still love the way Bertuzzi plays hockey. He's a menacing power forward who plays a style I respect. What makes me sad is that he should have known better. He should have had the sense to suppress his instinct to punch Moore from behind and he certainly should have had the sense to realize his error and not force his face into the ice a second time.

I fear one day actions like this will result in the death of a player. Hopefully, severe punishments such as this will cause players to pause and check their emotions before taking a cheap shot like this again. In the end, Canuck fans lose out, but we should all be grateful Moore didn't lose his life.

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Trade Deadline

Trade DeadlineToday at 15:00 EST is the NHL trade deadline. The entire staff will be manning the desk to report on any deals involving the Toronto Maple Leafs.

For updates on all the NHL trading action as we approach the trade deadline, visit TSN's Trade Deadline page or Sportsnet's Trade Tracker 2004.

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The Tweener

The TweenerI am a devout follower of the Toronto Maple Leafs. My favourite time of the year is the NHL playoffs, I watch every single Leaf game and religiously stay abreast of all the on and off ice action. Some would call me a diehard fan, but they would be wrong. I am not a diehard fan, I am a tweener.

Dr. Saul Miller, a psychologist out of Vancouver, wrote Hockey Tough and generalizes fans into three distinct categories.

The Diehard: These people are positive no matter what happens to the team. They're the true fanatics, and they're dedicated. Little kids tend to be devoted fans who believe in their team 100 per cent.

The Tweener: These people are realistic and objective about their team. They stick with the team no matter how it's doing but they have a sense of what's really going on.

The Pessimist: These are disgruntled, disappointed fans. If the team is winning the team is the greatest. If not, they're horrible. These fans jump on and off the bandwagon quickly.

The description of "The Tweener" fits me perfectly. I don't have time for the diehards or the pessimists. Only a tweener is a true fan.

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RewindWhen the Toronto Raptors took in on the chin yesterday against the Boston Celtics, it was their eighth loss in a row. Our beloved Maple Leafs themselves have lost three in a row. These are tough times in the big city.

Lets rewind back to my entry of December 7, 2003 / 20:34 EST, shall we? Here's an excerpt.

It's been a very long time since I've had to witness one of my teams on the losing end of a game. The Leafs have won eight in a row, the Raptors won their fourth in a row earlier today and the Bills won for the second week in a row.

It's easy to forget how high we were back in early December with both the Leafs and Raptors soaring. Today, we're in the doldrums experiencing the opposite end of the spectrum. During times like this I like to refer to the prophet of rage, Chuck D. "Cycles, cycles, life runs in cycles. New is old, no I'm not no psycho." - Public Enemy, Timebomb

Or perhaps an old favourite from the Five Stairsteps is just as apropriate. "Ooh, ooh, child, things are gonna get easier. Ooh, ooh, child, things'll get brighter."

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When I'll Watch Golf

When I'll WatchI'm not the world's biggest golf fan. In fact, I'll only watch when one of the following four instances is true.

  • It's one of the four majors: The Masters, the British Open, the US Open and the PGA Championship.
  • Mike Weir is among the leaders.
  • Tiger Woods is among the leaders.
  • There is an intriguing development (See John Daly).

When none of the preceding four situations apply, I simply don't care.

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Mike Weir Wins

Mike WeirMike Weir fought off a resilient Shigeki Maruyama this afternoon to win the Nissan Open for the second straight year. It was a nail biter with Weir blowing a 7 shot lead to win it on the final hole in the pouring rain. Check out the official leaderboard.

Now if Weir could only repeat as Masters champion that would really be something. The way he's playing, it's entirely possible.

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Mike Weir Tied For Lead

Mike WeirDon't look now, but local boy Mike Weir is tied for the lead at the Nissan Open after two rounds. Weir birdied five of his last seven holes Friday for a 7-under 64 that gave him a tie for the lead with Shigeki Maruyama, a share of the 36-hole record at the Nissan Open and hopes of becoming the first back-to-back winner at Riviera since Ben Hogan.

If you're following the Nissan Open this weekend to see if Weir can pull it off, here's the official leaderboard. If you want to close in on Weir's performance, here's how he scores.

Go Mike Go!

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