The battle of Ontario’s newest subplot: Tale of the 2 B’s

   Since the infamous lockout, one of the NHL’s greatest rivalries has evidently lost its edge. The Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators would always entertain regardless of when they played. For years the battle of Ontario filled up bars across the province, it was the highlight of Hockey Night in Canada. Whenever these two teams crossed paths, it was an all out war creating a playoff vibe in both arenas. Unfortunately, in a few seasons it all disappeared. The days of Mats Sundin, Tie Domi, Gary Roberts, Curtis Joseph, Wade Redden, Rob Ray, Zdeno Chara and Patrick Lalime are gone. The “glory days” are all but over. Both teams were victims of the new NHL, leading to massive overhauls. Besides all the roster and personnel changes, the two new faces rejuvenating the battle of Ontario have a history with each other.

Bryan Murray changed the Anaheim Ducks organization both on and off the ice. Murray began Anaheim’s transition from laughing-stock of the NHL, to league champions. Following a trip to the Stanley Cup finals, Murray left Anaheim for a chance to coach the Senators and move back home. His departure sparked Burke’s reign as head of the Ducks. Many fans and critics believe Burke rode the coattails of Murray to his success in California. In 2007 Murray and Burke would meet in the Stanley Cup final. The Senators would eventually lose in five games, leading many to believe that Murray lost to the team he helped build. Anaheim’s winning team was based on his blueprint, Burke just added the final pieces (Scott Niedermayer, Chris Pronger, and Teemu Selanne). Niedermayer was one of Burke’s biggest acquisitions while in Anaheim, all because of Murray. Niedermayer signed with the Ducks in 2005 for a chance to play with his brother Rob, whom Murray acquired in 2003.

Fast forward five years and they’re at it again. Both Burke and Murray are the lead architects of two teams trying to rejoin the leagues elite. For the first time in seven years, Toronto is in the middle of the playoff race in the East. What’s even more surprising, is the Senators situation. Ottawa has completely bypassed a rebuild year, becoming a contender once again. Tuesday’s game between the two teams could potentially have playoff implications, something fans haven’t seen in years.

The turnaround trend both teams are experiencing is good for the organizations. Fans are being reminded of the good days when their beloved teams would square off in the playoffs. What once was a thought of the past, could possibly happen again and whether they like it or not, the 2 B’s (Brian and Bryan) are a new subplot for the battle of Ontario.


The Making Of England’s Brett Favre?

On Sunday, January 8th, Manchester United fans received a “boost” entering the third round of the FA Cup. United still recovering from back to back losses, including the boxing day upset against bottom feeders Blackburn Rovers, got some much-needed injury relief. Having four injuries in the midfield, United announced in a shockingly fashion Paul Scholes would be returning to the lineup. Scholes spent his entire 17 year career with United, undoubtedly earning a legendary status among fans. His return definitely reignites a fire with United faithful after recent lackluster performances, but it definitely brings to light some bigger issues.

Scholes’ return will benefit the squad with his experience and creativity with the ball, if he can stay healthy. The former England international is no spring chicken at 37 years old and an injury will set United further back in the Premier League title race. With the addition of Scholes, United gets even older. Ryan Giggs, Park Ji-Sung Michael Carrick are all over the age of 30, and have been given extensive playing time due to the number of injuries. Sir Alex Ferguson has proven year after year that he is one of the greatest managers of all time, keeping Manchester United competitive throughout England and Europe. Allowing a player to return to the lineup after 8 months of retirement is a move the legendary manager should have avoided.

After Scholes’ retirement in May of last year, Ferguson relished about his effect on United and the importance of his ball distribution, but during the summer transfer window he refused to find his replacement. Wesley Sneijder was deemed as the heir to Scholes’ throne in the midfield and was made available through transfer by Inter Milan. Sneijder’s hefty price tag discouraged Ferguson and United’s Chief Executive and Accountant David Gill from making an offer, leading to a crucial question. Is United’s debt situation that troubling?

As of May 29th 2011, Manchester United’s debt was a staggering £478 million ($737 US). With today’s economic crisis looming throughout Europe and Internationally, can Manchester United no longer afford the worlds’ best players. Ferguson was given money to spend this summer on “future” players, but it’s clear he can no longer afford a world-class player.

Scholes’ return to Manchester will benefit the team in the short run, providing an experienced presence on the field. With Scholes quarterbacking United’s offense, the chances of a consecutive Premiership title have increased. Although United are second in the Premier League, Ferguson failed to improve his team. Scholes is no longer the same player he used to be, and unlike every other 37-year-old athlete, his game has limits. Ferguson’s loyalty to his veteran players has set United back. Scholes’ roster spot should have been used on an academy player to further his development. Ferguson is infallible when it comes to executives and fans, even though he made the wrong decision for the future of Manchester United.


Instant Replay (or lack of) Always Helps One Team

  Besides making millions and sometimes billions of dollars from ticket sales, production rights, and advertising, the majority of professional leagues have one thing in common. The NHL, NBA, NFL and MLB (to some extent) have incorporated instant replay throughout the game.

  How many times do you find yourself sitting at home (Being the awesome couch coach/referee that you know you are) watching the game and automatically you’re able to spot a offside or any possible infraction. Jumping to your feet right away in agony, until the instant replay kicks in. Replay has allowed ref’s to examine close calls, making the game as balanced as it can be. Another thing replay has done is, its allowed fans to keep their sanity during games, that is unless you’re an avid soccer fan.

  This past Sunday, any premier league fan wouldn’t hesitate to admit they would have given their left leg to watch Manchester United and Chelsea square off at Old Trafford. The end resulted in United maintaining its perfect start to the season with a 3-1 win (If you’re a Manchester City or Chelsea fan I know you’re cringing after reading that). Besides the big victory, another factor stole the limelight. A debate which seems to have been going on forever now, has once again been brought back to life. Two of the Manchester goals were deemed offside by everybody, but the linesman. Even though it’s only five games into the season, any coach and fan knows the early season points are the most important. Soccer leagues around the world have been circling around the idea of instant replay for years and Sundays game has once again shown its importance. With replay, Chelsea would’ve earned a point and more importantly trimmed Manchester’s lead to four points.

  As a fan of nearly every sport, instant replay is crucial in every game. Adding it throughout the leagues around the world has the potential to be the make it or break it factor for teams looking to win a game, or even a title. There’s no denying that replay has been a revolutionary technology among sports. Controversial goals occur in soccer games weekly, I think it’s time FIFA hops on the instant replay bandwagon and adopts the North American way.

Lingerie…No Longer Just In The Bedroom

What started out as an alternative to the 2003 Superbowl halftime show has developed into North America’s newest professional sports league (if you can even call it that). The Lingerie Football League (LFL) in eight short years has expanded into an actual league playing in major sports cities such as; Los Angeles, Chicago, Toronto (2011-12 season) and the entertainment capital of the world; Las Vegas. It’s not hard to see that expectations have been exceeded but the league is showing no signs of slowing down with nearly eleven new expansion teams being discussed for 2012.

The League has experienced heavy criticism in its short existence,  including a political backlash in Oklahoma. Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett rejected a possible LFL expansion team while he’s in office, claiming the league is an act of degradation towards women. The main viewers, and attendees of games has and most likely will always be men. Founder Mitchell Mortaza has stated the leagues target audience is “mostly beer-drinking college students aged 21 and up”. Mortaza’s statement only added fuel to the criticism fire, but luckily his players have defended the league’s existence. Players appreciate the chance to play football and have been quoted saying they would play in anything, the lingerie attire is more comfortable than traditional uniforms. The LFL has taken cities by storm grasping the one concept advertising and marketing companies exploit to the maximum; sex sells.

The thought of women running half-naked down a field, playing one of North Americas most recognizable sports is intriguing to almost all men. Attendance garners approximately 2000 fans a night across the league, as popularity and fame spreads attendance and exposure is expected to rise. Fans not only get to witness former models in scandalous attire, but famous football heavyweights such as Lawrence Taylor and Mike Ditka have been involved with the league. With NFL influence being spread across the league the game action has been on-par with the Arena Football League. Willie Gault, Eric Dickerson, and Jim McMahon have also spent time with different teams adding credibility to the style of play and competitive nature of the league.

The lingerie football league is an experience that men across the continent will probably add to their bucket list, in no way is it a mainstay league such as the MLB, NFL, or NHL (only in Canada and select American cities). Most girlfriends or wives might not approve of such an “experience”, but it’s like a bachelor party, it may be frowned upon but that doesn’t stop every guy from knowing that it’s mandatory.

The current situation of the league is similar to the early days of the UFC. Many states refused to host MMA events due to the violence and vulgarity of the sport. As public demand and exposure grew, numerous governments had no choice but too accept the organizations existence. The league adds excitement to the world of female sports. The WNBA and other female leagues haven’t experienced much success in a male dominated industry. LFL is the first sign of success for female athletics, and just because of its different nature doesn’t mean the league should be boycotted or criticized by those who do not agree with its existence. It’s not hard to see that Mitchell Mortaza has stumbled upon a money-maker, and everyone knows when it comes to something that’s working “don’t fix it unless it’s broken”. One thing is certain, lingerie no longer applies just to Victoria Secret.


The Rise And Stalemate Of Tottenham

Heading into 2010, the sky seemed to be the limit for Tottenham. After a few rough seasons and tough times, Tottenham began to make a name for itself as a top-flight club and European powerhouse, finishing fourth in the Premiership, and qualifying for the UEFA Champions League for the first time since 1984. Unfortunately for the Hotspur’s they became the poster boys for the well-known saying: “what goes up must come down”. The fans at White Hart Lane would soon witness the fall of their up and coming club quicker than they expected or would’ve liked. Currently sitting in fourth place, two points ahead of defending champions Chelsea, manager Harry Redknapp has admitted it would take a miracle for Tottenham to duplicate last seasons success and finish within the top four.

Offense and Defense were key components to last years success, after scoring sixty-seven goals and allowing forty-one, Tottenham has struggled in both departments. After Tuesday’s shock defeat against twelfth placed Blackpool, the teams’ strikers have accounted for only seven of their thirty-eight goals. Redknapp and Tottenham faithful were all psyched up for 2010, the English manager secured the services of Netherlands star Rafael Van der Vaart, William Gallas, and Sandro. The signing of Gallas was intended to shore up an already stellar defense, it has been the opposite for the Spurs. The back four has allowed thirty-one goals through 27 games, with eleven games remaining, last years mark of 41 will most likely be surpassed. Although Van der Vaart has excelled in England with ten goals and seven assists, he hasn’t been able to help out the teams’ top three strikers; Jermain Defoe, Peter Crouch, Niko Kranjar, and the departed Robbie Keane (on loan to West Ham). Crouch, Kranjar, and Keane have each struggled but neither of their troubles compare to Defoe’s. The England international marks the biggest drop off on the goal front from a year ago. The twenty-eight year old has yet to score this season, but managed to find the back of the net 18 times in 2009. Despite the teams current mishaps, the development of Gareth Bale and success in Europe has been the teams only bright spot in a dark season.

In the months leading up to the January transfer window Bale played his way to the top of every managers wish list. After putting in a string of strong performances, opposing managers found themselves abandoning their current game plans and revamping them in order to prepare for the Welshman. Only twenty-one years old, Bale has developed into a game changer with lightning quick speed, incredible vision, pace, and a rocket of a shot that has made him seem unstoppable. Playing in Europe’s toughest competition has allowed Bale to improve on all aspects, and he has undoubtedly become Redknapps most lethal weapon, and prized asset. In such a shot time the young defender has become a prominent figure in European football.

After twenty-six years from their last appearance in the Champions League, the Hotspur’s showed no signs of stage fright. The premiership squad advanced past the playoff round with ease, proceeding to the group stage for the first time in club history. Tottenham continued it’s European dominance leading the group with eighteen points, well ahead of defending champions Inter Milan. Before falling to Blackpool in league action, Crouch led the Spurs passed AC Milan in the first leg of the knockout stages. Regrettably for fans and the squad itself, Tottenham’s European success hasn’t transferred to the domestic stage. For the Hotspur’s to remain in the Champions League they must put aside their troubles and finish ahead of Chelsea for fourth place in the premiership. This might be Tottenham’s last chance to remove itself from the mediocrity label under Harry Redknapp. The manager has been dubbed as a potential possibility to take control of the English squad once Fabio Capello’s reign is over.

Sports Den – Episode Four

Fourth episode of the Sports Den podcast. Today’s segment includes the Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Raptors, Toronto Blue Jays, San Antonio Spurs, Ottawa Senators, Cleveland Cavaliers, NHL, MLB, and NBA.

Check back on Friday for episode five.


Sports Den Episode Four

Twitter’s Changing Sports…And Everything Else

  Before the technological bubble and the uprising of social media and social networks there was only three sources for gathering information; radio, television, and newspaper. Games, shows, stories were either watched on television, read in the newspaper or magazines, and heard on the radio. Over the last five years the dynamic of how we gather information has drastically changed. With Twitter, Facebook, MSN, Blackberry Messenger (BBM), and even text messaging anyone who has an opinion or information is able to share it instantly. To some extent the instant messaging, and social networking has been beneficial with information being available quicker, but the amount of false or questionable material has increased. Opinions, comments, and analysis of a sporting event was either before or after a game. With the multiple sources, commentary is made during the event, and everyone’s opinion is made available from either a regular fan, an athlete, coach, or broadcaster.

I don’t mind the accessibility of Twitter, Facebook or any other source being made to everyone, I just disagree with the level of opinions, or comments which others deem appropriate. People’s opinions on certain topics have been skewed due to an individuals comments, even if he/she doesn’t have the appropriate sources to make such a statement. Especially in sports, fans are constantly insulting, degrading, and expressing their thoughts on certain scenarios that are biased. Social Media has changed the landscape of watching, commenting, and reading about sports. You can catch game recaps on Twitter, Facebook, or the Internet. You can watch a game on television, cellphone, computer, i-Pad or any other device. Anything you want regarding a certain event can be accessible by your fingertips, literally. There are numerous outlets in which anyone can either watch, read, or even put their own opinion out there for everyone to see.

Twitter has erupted within any industry, especially sports. Athletes, broadcasters, coaches are able to share their thoughts and anything else they feel like sharing with their followers, giving their fans that “insider” type of feeling. Today’s society has become information hoarders, even addicted to some extent, and social networking/media allows them to fill their needs. It’s amazing that in such a short time Twitter, Facebook, and the Internet was able to become the “new media” dubbing television, radio, and newspaper “old media”. It’s the “new media” takeover, have you hopped on board yet?




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