Monthly Archives: July 2015

Chasing The Hockey Holy Grail

Lou Lamoriello stunned the Devils and most of the hockey world with the announcement that he is leaving New Jersey for the role of GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Devils’ fans will be furious because Lou was their GM until he stepped down from that role a few months ago, but this move makes sense. Building a cup winner in Toronto would be the perfect cap to his career.

Of all the tortured fan bases in sports, the Maple Leafs’ are probably the saddest. That’s because they have been sold a bill of goods that says they were once a great, great franchise, and now they are a joke. Both parts are somewhat true, but there are two vital factors to remember about the NHL where Toronto won 13 cups.

1- There were almost always only six teams in the league when they won.

2- Territorial rights were in existence for a lot of the time they dominated.

Let’s start with the six teams. Yes, Toronto is part of the “Original Six” but that term should really be re-coined “Remaining Six”. The NHL as we know it got started at the end of WW1 with four teams, two in Montreal, one in Toronto (not the Leafs), and one in Ottawa. The Leafs showed up a few years later, the Bruins in 1924, and the Rangers, Blackhawks, and Red Wings in 1926. They were joined at various times by teams in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Hamilton, St. Louis, and a second team in New York. By 1942, only the “Original Six” remained and that is where the term came from.

But the Canadian teams had a second advantage besides a small number of opponents- territorial rights. Each team had an exclusive right to players within a 50-mile radius of their home. So, Montreal scooped up lots of talent in Quebec, Toronto got a lot of talent in Ontario, and the Rangers got to go looking in Trenton for their next great player. (Is it any wonder they didn’t win a lot? Seriously, draw a 50-mile line around any other Original Six city and you can come up with some hockey hotbeds. Around New York the only ice you found back then was in the drinks.)

And since 1967, when territorial rights disappeared and expansion came to the NHL, Toronto hasn’t won a Cup. Maybe that’s bad luck, you could argue that, but maybe it is also simply a reflection of a franchise that got way too caught up with a history that wasn’t as glorious as they would like to pretend it was.

But don’t try telling that to the people in Toronto. As far as they are concerned, they are waiting for the restoration of their dynasty. Lou is probably the perfect person to undertake that challenge. I hope he succeeds, after I see the Rangers hoist another Stanley Cup.

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TigerMania

I enjoy watching golf majors. I don’t watch week-to-week, but when a major is on I spend a big chunk of time watching it. So far this year we have had three majors, on three different networks, with one thing in common: a devotion to covering Tiger Woods that simply isn’t warranted.

It’s hard to believe, but it has now been seven years since Tiger won a major. In that span, 30 majors have been played and 21-different players have won them.Rory McIlroy has the most with four, with Bubba Watson, Jordan Speith, Martin Kaymer, Phil Mickelson, Padraig Harrington each winning two. In that timespan, Tiger has finished second once, when he blew the 54-hole lead in he PGA and in the top-10 9 times, but only three times in the last five years. He has also missed three of the last four cuts in majors that he has played in.

I have no clue if Tiger Woods is finished as a serious threat. The beauty of golf is that age is less of a handicap than in other sports. But, the calendar shows he is turning 40 this year and since 1960 only 10% of majors winners were 40 or older. It happens, especially at the Open Championship, but it doesn’t happen a lot.

Tiger may win another major, he may not, but I just wish the networks showing golf would stop treating him like the guy who dominated the sport in the early part of this century. That guy is gone. When Tiger is six-over it isn’t interesting to watch him and I would rather see other golfers get covered. Jordan Speith is 21 and just came about a foot away from making a putt that could have won him a third-straight major. Rory McIlroy is 25 and has four majors already. There are plenty of great stories out there, the networks should put the spotlight on them and only cover Tiger if his game warrants it.

I Love A Parade!

Very glad to see NYC throw a parade for our Womens’ World Cup champs. It’s been way too long since the city threw a parade for a non-local sports team. In fact, the last parade for someone other than the Yankees or Giants was in 1998 when John Glenn and the Space Shuttle astronauts were honored.

We used to have a lot of parades in this city. The first parade up the Canyon of Heroes was in 1886 to honor the Statue of Liberty. Today’s parade was the 205th. But since the 1960’s, the parades have dwindled.

Here are a few pieces of parade trivia I enjoyed:

First sports parade in NYC? The 1924 US Olympic team.

The Yankees have had 9 parades, but the first wasn’t until April of 1961- (honoring the 1960 AL pennant team of all things)  The New York Baseball Giants had a parade in 1954 honoring their NL pennant BEFORE the start of the World Series. (And no parade for the World Series)

Sammy Sosa had a parade in 1998 for his home runs and relief efforts in the Dominican Republic.

The New York Football Giants didn’t get a parade until 2008.

The Knicks have never gotten one. (I wouldn’t bet against that streak ending anytime soon!)

Anyway, I hope we have more sports parades and non-sports parades in the very near future.