Tragedy Strikes the Vancouver Canucks

The dreams, blossoming potential and young life of Vancouver Canucks defenceman Luc Bourdon came to a tragic end on a highway in northern New Brunswick just after noon on Thursday.

Bourdon, who was an important part of the 2006 gold medal winning World Junior Hockey Championship team was selected 10th overall by the Canucks in 2005, and had a tremendous NHL future in front of him that was suddenly taken away when he died in a motorcycle accident. “Luc was a warrior, he was a competitor,” said his agent Kent Hughes. “There was no quit in him. He persevered through a lot. He was a great guy and a great teammate.”

At what is deemed to be the most exciting time for hockey with the NHL finals, the tight hockey community that is the NHL are all feeling the effects of a player gone way to soon at only 21 years-old. “Luc was an extremely talented player with a bright future,” said Canucks new general manager Mike Gillis. “He brought great passion to the game and was a valued team member on and off the ice.” “He will be greatly missed.”

After being drafted, Bourdon spent some time playing in the QMJHL (Quebec Major Junior Hockey League), before going back and forth last year from the Vancouver Canucks and their farm team the Manitoba Moose. In 27 games in Vancouver, this blue liner was a plus seven and added two goals.

Apparently, his agent had no idea that Bourdon, who many will remember for scoring six points in six games for Canada in the 2006 Junior Championships, was riding motorcycles. He found out about the new hobby from another one of his client, Kris Letang who was a close friend. “Kris Letang said Luc let him know he was riding his dad’s motorcycle with some friends a week or two ago,” said Hughes. “I have since been told though I don’t know that he actually bought a motorcycle two days ago.” According to the police reports, Bourdon lost control of his motorcycle just after noon- time and collided with a tractor- trailer. 

While the juniors are getting ready to impress scouts at the upcoming combine, and the Stanley Cup can be rewarded as early as tomorrow, this tragedy serves as a strong reminder that there is more important things in life then winning the Stanley Cup and making the NHL.

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Pete Rose Betting on Baseball

The all time major league baseball hits leader Pete Rose made his way back into the news recently when he admitted in a Tuesday afternoon interview on the Dan Patrick show that he bet an estimated $2,000 per game when he managed the Cincinnati Reds from 1984-89. Rose, who accumulated 4,256 hits during his illustrious career, continuously denied betting on baseball during the late 1980’s even though evidence of the contrary grew. When he didn’t show up for a meeting with then commissioner Bart Giamatti in September 1989, he was given the ultimate penalty of being banned from major league baseball.  Rose, who won various on field awards such as the 1963 Rookie Of The Year and in 1973 National League Most Valuable Player, continued to preach that he did nothing wrong until finally in 2004, he came clean in a biography entitled My Prison Without Bars. In that book, Rose told a different story then the one last Tuesday on the radio. Charlie Hustle as he was known as in his playing days wrote in his book that he bet only $1,000 per baseball game on the Reds when he was managing, and up to 2,000 on football games.

“It was like $2,000 and that’s it,” Rose said in changing his story during the interview this week. “I just made it easy for the guys making the bets and just bet this much every game and that’s the way we did it.”

Even though, Rose changed his story once again in the amount he met, one thing that is pretty obvious is that he never cheated himself, fans or the game by giving less than one hundred percent on the field. Being the all time hits leader, it’s clear- cut that Rose’s ability should land him in the Hall Of Fame. I don’t know Rose personally but what I’ve read and seen of him on television, he is not always honest, but the one thing that can’t be argued is he has tremendous respect for the game. At times deemed a showboat for his all out efforts, Rose once said that he doesn’t want to disappoint the fans by not giving them their money’s worth and that he wouldn’t want to let any kids down who are attending their first game. Throughout sports there are various athletes and builders enshrined in their respective sports hall of fame, who have made mistakes off the placing field. Ty Cobb who Rose passed on the hit’s list, was known as a racist and even came close to pistol whipping someone to death. In the sport of hockey, former Toronto Maple Leafs owner Harold Ballard was elected in the Hall despite spending time in jail for fraud. Both these crimes are more serious for Rose who said that he’s been living in a private hell since being banned in ’89 from any type of major league baseball activity. Even though he gave a different amount of what he bet per game in his radio interview, I believe it is time to enshrine Rose for what he did on the field.

Theo Fleury to Try Baseball

Former NHL player Theo Fleury has cleared his first hurdle in chasing that elusive boyhood dream of playing high caliber professional baseball.

Though it’s not the major leagues, Fleury whose hockey career was cut short due to alcohol and substance abuse problems has recently taken his first round of batting practice for the minor league professional team he is trying to stick with in the Calgary Vipers. “I learned a lot in a short time what an art it is to hit a ball,” said Fleury after hitting practice. “Within a matter of five minutes, he (hitting coach) had my swing picked apart and had me do what you guys saw out there.”

Fleury, who is a two- time Stanley Cup winner (Calgary Flames and Colorado Avalanche), smacked several sharp line drives but never reached the warning track at Foothills Stadium.

Scheduled to throw out the ceremonial pitch on Thursday’s Vipers game, Fleury who now operates a concrete operation in Calgary, will in fact get an opportunity to play a few innings somewhere down the line. “He’s a pro athlete and he’s not likely to make a fool of himself,” said Peter Young, president of the Calgary Vipers. “It’s not like Billy Crystal standing out there who has played in a couple of celebrity games in his life.” “This guy played pro sports.”

Never one to be modest, Fleury admitted that at age 14 he was a pretty good player in Manitoba with the Birtle Blue Jays. His story is very similar to former NBA star Michael Jordan who after retiring for the first time with the Chicago Bills signed a minor league contract with the Chicago White Sox. Jordan wisely gave up baseball a short time later and eventually found his way back to the NBA.

According to Young, the Vipers have the blessing of the league to use this former NHL star who played with the Calgary Flames, Colorado Avalanche, New York Rangers, and the Chicago Blackhawks. “The league has said any time we want to use him we can and not go against our roster,” he said.

The Boys Are Back In Hockey Town!

Reminiscing on what life was like during his playing days, former NHL star Ted Lindsay recalled that if he was coming out of let’s say Maple Leaf Gardens after a game, he would automatically cross the street if he saw a Leaf player walking on the same sidewalk. “In those days we never spoke to players on the other team,” said Lindsay who in the 1950’s when staring with the Detroit Red Wings started what was deemed at the time the controversial NHL Players Association. This attempt was frowned on by management around the league and led to the hall of famer being shipped to the Chicago Black hawks. “I had a Red Wing tattooed over my heart but I’d still do the same thing today as much as it changed my life.”

Lindsay, along with his long time Red Wings line mate and fellow hall of famer Gordie Howe were in attendance at Joe Louis Arena along with two other former Red Wings in Red Kelly and Alex Delvecchio who a day earlier at an NHL banquet were all reminiscing about the NHL in their era.

“Rocket Richard from the blue line in is still the greatest hockey player who has ever played in the world,” said the 82 year-old Lindsay who had many memorable battles through the years. “I don’t care if they play hockey for 100 years, nobody will ever be better then the Rocket.”

Delvecchio, who is a young 76 years-old, called today’s athletes better conditioned then in his playing days because unlike back then, these athletes get to scrimmage and train throughout the summer and arrive in shape at training camp. In the 1950’s, athletes had to get a second job and did not train during the summer months. “From the last game of the season, we never touched skates against until training camp in September,” he said. “The team kept all the skates and equipment.” In those days, athletes didn’t have the luxury of having the available funds to buy extra skates. 

Gordie Howe, who is now 80 years-old had some lavish praise for Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby who has been shutout in back to back games in the finals. Showing what kind of classy person he is and how much he cares for today’s stars, Howe also gave the star some advice. “I told him do me a favor and don’t change anything,” Howe said. “Just be the kid you are and the player you are.” “Unless you put two guys on him, he’ll kill you in a game.” Howe did level some criticism when it comes to the strict infractions that are being called in today’s game. “Just touching a guy with a stick, that’s ridiculous,” said Howe.

A former Toronto Maple Leaf, Kelly reminisced with a laugh about what happened when the Leafs won the cup in 1964. At that time, Leafs owner Harold Ballard took the Stanley Cup and bottles of champagne to Kelly’s house where they posed for pictures with the cup. According to Kelly, who also played for the Wings, Conn, who was Kelly’s newborn- son was sitting in the cup where he ended up to have a big movement. “When my kids see players drinking out of the cup, now they all roar,” Kelly said. “They all have a great laugh.”  

Detroit too Much for Lifeless Penguins

 

On Wednesday night, the Pittsburgh Penguins will be hoping to take that first giant step towards defying the odds in making that long shot attempt at capturing their first Stanley Cup since 1992.

Even though the all time championship series record of a team winning their first two games at home like the Detroit Red Wings did on Monday night, is 30-1 (Chicago Blackhawks in 1971 only team to blow a 2-0 series lead), the Penguins aren’t conceding anything just yet. 

Despite being shut out in games one and two of the finals at Joe Louis Arena, Pittsburgh, who hasn’t scored in 135 minutes and 57 seconds, will get the key advantage of last change in game three and four at Mellon Arena. The Penguins who are 8-0 at home this post season, will be able to get captain Sidney Crosby away from the likes of Chris Draper and the Henrik Zetterberg line which has frustrated not only Crosby but also sophomore Evgeni Malkin who has uncharacteristically caused a few costly turnovers.

The first thing the Penguins must do is to solve the wall of Detroit Red Wings goalie Chris Osgood who might be getting into the Penguins heads. “I don’t like bragging about myself very much,” said the modest Osgood who in winning game two racked up his 50th career playoff win. “I’ve played some good games in my career and I feel pretty good about myself right now.” Besides for that advantage of last change of home and that perfect record, it won’t mean much if the Penguins continue to play undisciplined and take costly penalties. Frustration set in during game two as Penguins veteran Gary Roberts racked up 14 minutes in penalties and rugged Ryan Malone took quite a few penalties.

“I know my players are frustrated right now,” said Penguins coach Michel Therrien.

Detroit, who won the first two games 4-0 and 3-0 got some welcoming news for that second game as their leading goal scorer Johan Franzen came back from concussion like symptoms to make a difference and create lots of chances.

Pittsburgh, who hasn’t lost two games in a row since February 2003, didn’t manage a shot for the first half of the second period as they were checked every time they touched the puck. “Sometimes we get lulled into just standing around a bit, and they play well positionally,” said Crosby who had five shots on net. “When we’re not at our best, we’re just kind of playing a chess match with them.”

This series is starting to get a little heated as Therrien called out Osgood after he fell to the ice after what looked like a Petr Sykora elbow. “He’s a good actor,” said the coach. “He goes to players and he’s diving.”

Heading into Wednesdays game, Therrien has better things to concern himself with such as getting Malkin, who hasn’t had a shot on goal in five periods, producing.

Geremi Gonzalez Killed by Lightning

Tragedy rocked the baseball world on Monday when it was learned that former major league pitcher Geremi Gonzalez was killed this weekend by a bolt of lightning in his native country of Venezuela.

This journey- man pitcher who put together an overall record of 30-35, was apparently on the beach when this tragic incident occurred made a lot of close friends during his years from 1997-2006 in the majors. “It’s a tragic thing,” said current Cubs manager Lou Piniella who was the bench boss of Tampa Bay Rays when Gonzalez was with the team. “He was a nice young man, and a competitive kid who was really good natured. It’s a shame it really is. I liked him a lot.”

Besides for the Rays, Gonzalez also played for the Boston Red Sox, New York Mets and the Milwaukee Brewers. In total, this right-hander who had his best season in 1997 with 11 wins for the Cubs, played a grand total of 131 major league games. “He was so much fun to be around,” said Brewers manager Ned Yost. “He was always happy, always smiling.” “When he saw you, he always had a smile on his face.”

Last year during spring training, Gonzalez tried to make the Toronto Blue Jays but was cut before venturing to Japan where he pitched only five games for the Yomiuri Giants. While the details at this time are sketchy into his death, one thing for sure is that it has left a lot of baseball people in a state of shock that such a  gentleman is now gone.

“The Chicago Cubs are very saddened today to learn of Geremi Gonzalez sudden passing,” said Cubs general manager Jim Hendry.” 

Omar Vizquel Sets Milestone

 

On Sunday afternoon in Miami Florida, baseball fans were given the opportunity to stand up and show their appreciation for a future first ballot hall of famer in Omar Vizquel. This Venezuelan native who has always been bashful when the subject turns to his accomplishments, passed Luis Aparicio for the all time major league lead in games played at shortstop. “I feel fortunate more then anything to have been able to stay healthy and have the talent to play for so long,” said San Francisco Giants Vizquel who set the record in game two of a double header against the Florida Marlins in playing his 2,584th game. “It’s a historic moment,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said about this 20 -year veteran who ranks second among shortstops with 11 gold gloves. (Ozzie Smith is first with 13). “He’s excited and we are too. I’m proud of Omar and I’m proud to say I’m here for” (the record).

Showing incredible respect, Vizquel’s teammates stayed in the dugout during the bottom of the sixth so that he can take his infield position and have the spotlight to himself for a few minutes, so the fans could give him a standing ovation before finally being joined on the field by his teammates. “I felt very emotional out there,” said Vizquel. “My teammates didn’t want to come out, and I didn’t know what was going on.” “I was very happy when they finally did.”

When his teammates did run out on the field to congratulate the 41 year-old legend, fellow Venezuelan native Jose Castillo was first to congratulate Vizquel by giving him a congratulatory hug. “He deserves it,” Castillo said. “He’s a companion who is always there if you need him.” “I know he will be in the Hall Of fame one day.”

Over the years, this defensive wizard has been involved in turning an all time high of 1,658 double plays while posting an impressive 984 fielding percentage. “I just thank god he was able to keep me healthy enough to (set the record),” said Vizquel who hasn’t thought about how long he wants to keep playing.