I somehow hadn’t heard the senseless, tragic story of NHL player Brian Spencer and his father Roy until author Brian Cronin recounted their almost cartoonishly sad lives today in a relatively brief blog entry at LATimes.com. (The word “unbelievable” is probably the most overused word in our culture, but in this particular instance, it most certainly applies.)
(Canadians: Sadder life story than Terry Fox? Call it even.)
Future NHL player Brian Spencer grew up in rural British Columbia, son of hopelessly alcoholic father Roy. I know, you’ve heard this story before.
Spencer’s father, Roy Spencer, was a stern man. A skilled mechanic, he was the one who instilled in Brian the attitude and drive that would serve Brian in the NHL. On the other hand, he also most likely taught him anger and a weakness for alcohol. By his mid-teens, Brian was already a heavy drinker and had spent time in reform school. However, he was still a talented hockey player, so he had a way out of Fort St. James. One of the proudest days of his father’s life was when Brian was drafted. As it turned out, Roy was perhaps a bit too proud.
Brian was drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs in ‘69, and made the roster as a fulltime player for the ‘70-71 season. On Dec. 12, 1970, the Leafs-Boston Bruins game was aired nationally on Hockey Night In Canada. Unfortunately though for Roy Spencer, he was deprived of seeing his son play when the local B.C. outlet elected to air the Vancouver-Oakland Seals game instead.
Okay, now here’s the part you haven’t heard: Read more…
There’s nothing inherently wrong with fans of opposing teams co-mingling. Even sexing each other up, sometimes that’s okay. For example, just this past weekend, I wore this shirt to the Iowa-ISU game, even with an ISU alumna on my arm*. Hell, there are plenty of married couples who, for whatever reason, root for different sides of a rivalry. These things happen; fandom usually isn’t that important.
(”Canadiens”? Maple “Leafs”? Okay, as long as we’re taking liberties with spelling here, can we say they’re being joined in Hoaly Matremony?)
“Usually,” as you can probably figure out, is the operative word here. After all, if you’re so devoted to a team that you feel the need to wear their jersey to your wedding day, there’s probably some larger issues with your relationship with reality and the outside world at work here. Marrying someone wearing an opposing jersey, then, cannot be a good move.
It’s hard to fathom now, but there was once a major professional sport in North America called, if memory serves us right, “iced-hockey.” This sport had its games broadcast on real actual networks like FOX and ESPN, and expanded its reach all over the nation with teams in exotic non-icy locales like Tampa, Florida and Phoenix, Arizona. New arenas were built, new revenue streams were found, and the sky was the limit. “Move over basketball, football, and baseball”, said the “iced-hockey” executives, “we’re here to stay.” Yeah, well, they weren’t.
(How metaphorical of you, ‘Yotes.)
In 2004, the entire damn sport collapsed into a pile of rubble, never to be heard from again as a major threat to the existing players in the North American sports market. Obviously, the NHL came back, but it had been reduced to a niche sport, mostly ignored by the general populace and major networks. The bubble on hockey had burst, and both salaries and revenue reflected this sad fact. So why, then, is the NHL claiming that the purchase price of the moribund, bankrupt Phoenix Coyotes could reach the astronomical figure of $400 million freaking dollars? Because if there’s one thing commissioner Gary Bettman knows nothing about, it’s proper accounting.
Thanks to FANIQ, we now know about yet another attempt to bring yet another NHL team to the greater Toronto area. The Toronto Legacy would be an expansion franchise that would bring mixed-use building joy to Toronto (including a huge arena), donate 25% of its profits to charity, and price tickets cheaply for the common Canadian man.
However, the creators of the Legacy have zero backing from the NHL. In fact, you can probably hear Gary Bettman rolling his eyes from your current seat. It’s just one more headache in the southern Ontario region for the NHL, from trying to keep the Atlanta Thrashers from moving north to preventing a bankruptcy judge from encouraging a move for the Coyotes to Canada.
However, an immodest proposal: Gary Bettman should grasp onto these crazy Canadians and their kooky idea (The Legacy? Really?) because they might be his best last hope to keep the Coyotes in Phoenix.
Sad news out of Toronto today. Ex-NHL star Peter Zezel has been taken off of life support, as he will apparently succumb to a rare blood disorder that has plagued him for years. Zezel, only 44 years old, nearly died of hemolytic anemia in 2001 but recovered. This time, he’s not going to be so lucky.
Zezel scored 219 NHL goals, and was instrumental in helping the Flyers reach the Stanley Cup Finals in 1985 (as a 19-year-old) and 1987. He also played a key role for the Maple Leafs when they reached the conference finals in 1993 and 1994. Zezel famously retired from the NHL in 1999 when Canucks GM Brian Burke refused to trade him to an Eastern Conference team so he could be closer to his niece, who was dying of cancer. Burke shipped Zezel to Anaheim instead, prompting his retirement and setting off a ton of negative publicity toward Burke and the Canucks, who were not contenders at the time.
I’m sure all this is making Burke feel good about the way he treated Zezel.
You might remember earlier this year, when we helped highlight the budding career of Twitterer Brian Burke, who — even then — you could tell wasn’t the real Brian Burke, who happens to be the general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Well, it turns out that Burke noticed his fake self’s Twitter account, too, and he was none too pleased about the jokes it made at the expense of Burke’s predecessor, John Ferguson. How upset was he? So much so that he had his lawyer look into suing the impersonator.
(The man who would sue a blogger named Down Goes Brown.)
According to TORONTO STAR hockey columnist Damien Cox, Burke had his lawyer explore a lawsuit last month, discovering that the man producing the brianbuke feed is a Toronto-area blogger who posts under the name of Down Goes Brown. but a suit wasn’t deemed appropriate. Instead, Burke expected the account to simply be brought down, which, thanks to the power of the internet, it wasn’t. Instead, goold ‘ol twitter.com/brianburke is still up and tweeting, now with the modest admission “Yes, it’s a parody” in the bio space.
I’ll be blunt: End Times may be upon us. Sources have told ESPN.COM that the Clippers have had discussions with Isiah Thomas about bringing him into their front office. While the two sides have apparently only had “informal yet substantive” conversations, the thought of arguably the worst executive in NBA history joining forces with perhaps the most sad-sack franchise in all of pro sports should be enough to make anyone tremble in fear.
(A sign of things to come?)
One source within the Clippers organization (in between bouts of crying and failed suicide attempts, I’m sure) said that the discussion of bringing Thomas or Randy Pfund into the front office to “help” Mike Dunleavy is just “a smoke screen to defray the criticism of the franchise” about the lawsuit filed by former GM Elgin Baylor. I don’t know if that’s true or not; what I do know is that even throwing the idea of Thomas and the Clippers linking up is tempting fate.
(Why is this man smiling? Seriously, help me here - I have no idea.)
Because make no mistake, this is bad news on an apocalyptic scale - the Staples Center area might be turned into a giant vortex of suckage that it would collapse into itself, taking the majority of downtown LA with it. Those little yippy dogs that celebs like Paris Hilton carry in their purses would turn into blood-thirsty savages. Hollywood Boulevard might become a river of molten lava, carrying away the homeless and Japanese tourists there to see “Grease” starring Taylor Hicks to a fiery death.
I’m sure as hell leaving at once if this happens, and I’m bringing enough cyanide pills for the family in case we don’t get out in time. Perhaps I’m being a bit too panicky, but you have to plan for these things: I just have a feeling that more than the Clippers’ salary cap is going to explode if Isiah Thomas joins the Clippers.
Also making plans: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who is significantly more together than either Thomas or the Clippers. His latest plan, according to USA TODAY: expanding the regular season to 17 or 18 games, and eliminating one or two preseason games in the process. Imagine that…actually trying to give fans more meaningful games and eliminate season-ticket holders having to pay for lousy games featuring star players for one series and then a bunch of scrubs for the remainder of the game.
Of course, the union hasn’t approved the plan yet, and they are sure to not be pleased about their players having to play two more competitive games a season. (And if there’s an 18-game season, you can pretty much wipe out things like a 1,000-yard season as being any sort of benchmark for success.) And is certainly interesting that the league would consider putting the players through more wear and tear a day after announcing new rules to “protect” them.
Of course, Goodell has other things on his mind, like the fact that he might need to rule on Michael Vick’s status sooner rather than later. Vick left a federal prison yesterday for a bankruptcy hearing in Virginia, but the day was hardly successful. The AP reports that U.S. Department of Labor has filed complaints accusing Vick of illegally spending about $1.3 million in pension funds from one of his companies for personal reasons, including paying restitution in his dog fighting case.
This should close any debate about who the stupidest person in America is. I wonder if the Clippers have room on their staff for him?
Some other sports news from last night that you might have missed if you were in Brussels waiting in line to use the restroom…and waiting…and waiting…
Our economy might be going down a drain, but that doesn’t mean we as Americans are too broke to engage in the American Dream: going to a baseball game and eating a hamburger the size of a kitten. The GRAND RAPIDS PRESS reports that the West Michigan Whitecaps will be debuting The Fifth Third Burger, a 4,800-calorie, four-pound behemoth that includes a one-pound bun, five patties and five slices of cheese. And a cup of chili for good measure.
Los Angeles TV and radio personality John Ireland made a hasty bet with James Worthy: if his UCLA Bruins didn’t advance as far as Worthy’s North Carolina Tar Heels in the NCAA Tournament, Ireland would sing the UNC fight song on TV. Bad idea, after the Bruins tanked against Villanova. Here are the unfortunate results - it’s like the drunk guy at karaoke who gets pressured into singing by his friends and spends his whole time on stage planning ways to kill them.
Scary stuff for Olympic gymnastic hero Shawn Johnson: NEWSDAY reports that a nutjob armed with two guns and duct tape tried to break into the set of “Dancing with the Stars” and “get to” Johnson and her dancing partner. To be fair, if she wasn’t interested in him, she shouldn’t have been sending subliminal messages to him through the TV and through ESP. Women.
Of all the things I would think to impersonate in a scam, a youth soccer referee wouldn’t be one of them. But DIRTY TACKLE says that’s just what some fake ref did in Northern Ireland, convincing three teams to give him a “match fee” before games he never reffed.
Apparently the NHL doesn’t like it when a goaltender pushes a referee and then shoots a puck at him: the TORONTO GLOBE AND MAIL says that Martin Gerber of the Toronto Maple Leafs has been suspended three games after going nuts Tuesday against the Washington Captials.
The Boston Celtics death spiral continues as the BOSTON GLOBE reports the Magic beat them 84-82 to edge closer to the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. Is it too late to give last year’s MVP to Kevin Garnett since we know now just how much he means to this team?
I think it’s fair to say that the Dallas police officer who stopped Houston Texans RB Ryan Moats from being at his dying mother-in-law’s bedside - at the hospital parking lot, over a red light - should not just be suspended or fired, but drawn and quartered. SPORTS RUBBISH has the awful, infuriating details.
For some players, spring training is a chance to get in shape; for others, it’s a chance to hit the free buffet in the locker room every day. THE LOVE OF SPORTS looks at the Top 10 Overweight Baseball Players. Maybe they’ll win a free Fifth Third Burger for making it on the list?
WOOOO! YEAH! AMERICA ROCKS! OUR FOREIGN POLICY HAS JUST BEEN VINDICATED BECAUSE WE KICKED SOME ASS ON THE DIAMOND! YEAH!The score was USA 15, Venezuela 6 in first-round World Baseball Classic action last night, and with a 2-0 record in pool play, the Americans are assured of advancing to the next round. Your heroes are Chris Ianetta (3-run double in 6th inning) and Mark DeRosa (4 RBI). Wait, those guys are actually on America’s roster? Seriously?
(DeRosa, proving that refs totally listen to you when you say you’re safe.)
As to whether we can glean too much joy from beating the tar out of a team from a country with a GDP that’s roughly the same as the state of Iowa? (By the way, you’ve got to click that link; I don’t know if Alabama’s or Texas’ corollary is funnier or more offensive to their residents.) Sure. For as meh a country as Venezuela is on the global stage, their lineup was filled with starting-caliber talent. The meat of the Venezuela order, consisting of Bobby Abreu, Miguel Cabrera, Magglio Ordonez, and Carlos Guillen, is downright All-Star quality. If only their pitching wasn’t garbage.
In college basketball, we now know five teams that’ll be losing in the first round of the tournament, plus North Carolina smacked Duke down for the ACC regular season title, 79-71. The men of the match were Tyler Hansborough, giving the Dean Dome 17 points in his last home game, and Ty Lawson, who was doubtful to play (oh, please) with a sprained toe but poured in 13, 9, and 8 in the win.
UNC’s now 6 for their last 7 against the Blue Devils, who were beaten for the second seed in the ACC tourney by Wake Forest. Suddenly, even a 2 seed in the NCAAs doesn’t seem so assured for Coach K’s charges. FIRE THE BUM!
As for hockey (or as they call it in Europe, “football”), we do need to commend Washington Capitals fans with a spirited, to say the least, attack on Sidney Crosby’s worth as a hockey player and as a man. The singular fatal flaw in their plan, however, was the fact that Crosby’s still one of the five best players in the NHL. As it turns out, Crosby made Washington pay dearly: one goal, one assist, and the clinching goal in the shootout to give Pittsburgh the 4-3 victory. But hey… nice work on the signs, fans.
(And you can’t spell “Penguin” without “P-U-N!” Wakka wakka wakka!)
As for Alex Ovechkin, the Caps’ superstar, he had a magnificent performance of his own. No, it won’t show up in the stat sheet… but it will show up on TV and YouTube, because it’s incredible. Courtesy of the DC SPORTS BOG:
Did you ever watch that “Real Housewives of Atlanta” show? No? Us neither. But apparently the one who’s the ex-wife former Atlanta Falcon Bob Whitfield’s being sued by Whitfield for about $87,000. Honest mistake on her part, we’re sure.
Fat Ronaldo’s back from that horrific injury, and his first goal is a game-winner in injury time. Naturally, it comes replete with fans going completely ballistic and fences being torn down. Because hey, it’s soccer, and that’s just, y’know, what you do.
According to (scarcely SFW) BUSTED COVERAGE, this Ohio State cheerleader supposedly runs a 4.4 40 and might make the football team. Hey, you know what’s more fun than playing football at Ohio State? Grabbing cheerleaders’ asses in front of those same 100,000+ people while the football players are the ones getting hit all the time. If only there were a way for him to do that instead…
Maple Leafs General Manager Brian Burke arrived from Anaheim with a mandate: Make Toronto a winner at all costs, or get the heck out of town. Well, Burke is trying to transform the Maple Leafs, and he’s doing it while maintaining a remarkable amount of transparency, at least if the Twitterer named “Brian Burke” is actually the Leafs GM himself.
I already answered that in a “tweet”.
If that is the case, then this TWITTER feed is pretty amazing, as YAHOO!’s PUCK DADDY BLOG first discovered. In a span of just a few weeks — “BrianBurke” started shooting up “tweets” on Jan. 26 — Burke has had some gems. And of all the one-liners, none beats this one: “No, seriously, was the last full-time GM retarded or something?”