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Tuesday, October 30, 2012


Very, very random stuff today on some of the things that caught my attention the past week, 
So fans and followers of the Niagara IceDogs, and owners Bill and Denise Burke can finally breathe a collective sigh of relief as the motion to pass the start of construction of a new spectator facility became a reality on Monday night by a decisive 11-2 vote.   It did not take a genius to figure out that had there no blueprint for a new spectator facility, fans of the IceDogs could have likely kissed their team good bye.  The Burkes, though deeply ingrained in the Niagara Region, are business people at heart and could ill afford to keep going at the antiquated Gatorade Garden City Complex.  The revenue streams, as well as the seating capacity were severely limited, and although many enjoy the intimate experience of an IceDogs game, for economic sustainability, well, there was none.   Now with 4 500 hundred seats to play with, along with all the modern amenities that $45M can buy, the IceDogs will be the anchor tenant, and now the potential arises to attract both hockey and non-hockey ventures.   Tires were kicked from the NBL of Canada, and it would not surprise me to see minor league basketball in the area in the next couple of years.  

My hope is that the arena resembles Sarnia's RBC Centre.  It seats around 4 300 people has ample concourse room, oval seating and an in-arena restaurant.  I'm not a huge fan of the U-Shaped arena, much like the one that Brampton has.  It has some very limited bench seating behind one of the nets and has a sort of "unfinished" look.   about it.  Regardless, the building is scheduled to open in September 2014, so IceDog fans will have endure two more years at the Gatorade Garden City Complex.  Good for the City of St Catharines for recognizing the need for the facility, and good for the Burke's who have worked tirelessly to ensure that the IceDogs have a regional focus, but with an eye on St Catharines as its home.  Good for Ed Burkholder and I, whose broadcast booth is quite generously a broom closet, and makes us look like the old guys from the Muppets heckling from the balcony when we are in it! 
I cannot say I'm truly upset to see Ivor Wynne Stadium close down.  After all, the stadiums' best before date had long past.   Now the city turns its eyes to the future and burning questions like where the Tiger Cats will play next year must be answered.  With McMasters' Ron Joyce Stadium seemingly out of the mix, options are limited to being Road Warriors for the whole year, or neutral sites such as the Rogers Centre, TD Waterhouse Stadium in London are also in the mix.  None of the options are particularly enticing.  Of course had Hamilton city council gone out on a limb and not built the new stadium where the old one was, we would not be in this dilemma. 

As for Ivor Wynne memories, I'm not sure I want to stroll down memory lane and talk about the guy who passed out in his own vomit during a game, or when I got a full cup of soda thrown at me.  My best memory was my first Ivor Wynne Stadium memory.  We got free tickets courtesy of 900 CHML's "Fun Zone", and also got lovely yellow and red toques to boot!  As we were new immigrants to the country from England, we thought that this was part of our "Welcome to Canada" gift package.  Though having no clue about the rules of Canadian football, a good time was had by all
The less said about the John Farrell affair the better.  I cannot be too impressed with a mine who pines away for another job for most of his tenure with the Blue Jays, and that is what John Farrell did.  He was a manager of middling skills, did not have much control of his clubhouse, and for a pitching coach did little to further the development of the Blue Jays young pitchers.  I would not say he mailed in his time with the Blue Jays.  That designation is reserved for the Detroit Tigers, whose effort and attitude on the grandest stage was deplorable and baffling to say the least.  When Game 4 ended, the team had the attitude of one that had dropped a mid-June contest versus the Kansas City Royals.   No wonder Jim Leyland went right down the tunnel as soon as the final out was recorded, and likely fired up a Marlboro light to ease the stress that clearly his own team did not feel


Sportsnet, who announced that they had purchased The Score a while back,  started dotting the "I's and crossing the "T's and have reached the home stretch on the sale.  The next question is what Sportsnet will do with the channel that they have acquired.  Conventional wisdom would suggest that with the new English Premier League deal struck by Sportsnet, that some of the games would be carried on the former Score.  They could also simulcast some of their radio programming there.    What I would like, and it likely would not happen due to production costs, is see the channel be something of an outlet for amateur sports such as the CHL, the CIS and CCAA. It would give university and college sport a much needed boost as it would be placed alongside the already high profile CHL.  Of course it's easy for me to spend other people's money and the production costs would be somewhat exorbitant for a venture like this and the advertising costs would not guarantee a profit.  Still, a man can dream...

'Til next time
Steve Clark

Monday, October 22, 2012


Deviating from the normal ramblings, it's time to focus on my hometown, which is actually Waterdown, though the exorbitant taxes go to Hamilton, and oh, it was a busy weekend if you were a supporter of Hamilton sports, fraught with both success, and a dash of frustration.    Hey, it would not be Hamilton if there was not a little frustration mixed in. Whenever I'm asked if I want the good news or the bad news, I always start with the good news.  So with that caveat in mind, here we go!

On the heels of their Vanier Cup last year, the McMaster Marauder football team completed an unbeaten regular season in the OUA as they dismantled the playoff bound Laurier Golden Hawks 43-0 at Ron Joyce Stadium.  Make no mistake about it, this was a score that flattered the visitors as the Marauders marched out to a 33-0 Halftime lead before letttng the second stringers usher home the victory.  The Marauders get a much coveted bye as they await their next opponent, which will be an OUA Semi-Final match at home. 

On a side note, kudos to my alma mater at McMaster, 93.3 CFMU-FM.   I do not know who the broadcasters are for the football game, but they are damn entertaining.  They are not the most polished broadcasters, but they took a good minute or two to make fun of The Score's on-air personnel and their dress code. I'm pretty sure they were associated with the team at one point, because they do know their football vernacular.  Oh sure CHML has the polished broadcasters, but give me the irreverence of CFMU-FM any day of the week!

Although the Hamilton Bulldogs only split their home and home versus the Marlies this weekend, their home opener drew a sellout crowd in excess of 9 000, and it was great to see a buzz around the Bulldogs again.   Hopefully the team can continue the momentum both during and when the NHL Lockout ends.   The team had a chance to strut their stuff during a Sportsnet broadcast on Saturday and will return home again this weekend.  The crowds this Friday and Sunday will be telling factors in momentum sustainability.  Another nod to the alternative broadcasters, as Cable 14 delivered a home opener on par with a network broadcast. This was no more evident than a rollicking beginning featuring the outstanding All About Maggie who delivered a very worthy opening, in the vain of Monday Night and Sunday Night Football who used to open with the now disgraced Hank Williams.  After that it was on to the smooth professionalism of Todd Crocker, Mike Fortune and Norm Miller whose presentation was "Easy Like Sunday Morning" to listen to.

Oh those Tiger Cats.  How can I lose thee game, let me count the ways?  In Henry Burris' return to Calgary, it was set up for a Tabby victory, with a chip shot field goal, all be it in less than stellar conditions.  However, sure-handed Andy Fantuz flubbed the hold, and the Stamps pretty much extinguished the play off hopes of the Cats with one that will fall under the category of "We'll take it!"   I feel bad for Fantuz, who is one of the best Canadians in the league, but unfortunately in my mind, he's become an adjective, as in "He really Fantuzed that up"   Ivor Wynne Stadium will host their last regular season game this weekend, and I cannot wait to see what the "Box J Boys" have planned. 

Steve Clark
Proud Waterdown-ite, and Hamiltonian

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


As the NHL Lockout lurches into its 3rd week, the punchlines are becoming more plentiful, the players are scattering for greener pastures, and what the NHLPA and the Owners are calling negotiations, others are calling a colossal waste of time and energy being devoted to such subjects as drug testing payment plans.  Man, even the elephant in the room has gone for a snooze.  

Meanwhile, as the NHL will learn, fans will find meaningful things to do with their time in the absence of NHL hockey.  Junior, AHL, and ECHL hockey will get a boost in live gate and eyeballs and earlobes watching and listening to their games.    Plus, other sports already more popular than hockey will help pick up the slack. The NFL, already a marketing machine, and the NBA, another hype built product, will gladly take their places on TV and in sports bars around North American.  Those leagues have already deftly negotiated collective agreements no one thought could be finalized in the time it took to put the old John Hancock on the contract and the NFL has already worked around a potential PR disaster with replacement officials.   

That said there is a surplus of people who are dependant on NHL hockey for their main source of revenue.  Sports bars will not fill up on Marlie game night the same way it would on a Leaf game night, so your favourite bartender and server will see a significant reduction in tips.  That friendly usher who greets you in Section 211 will see his hours cut, same for the concession worker who gets your beer and hot dog.  Those hardworking people who are behind the scenes have been laid off, or seen their hours cut.  This includes the likes of the Florida Panthers mascot, and what could be worse than a lonely mascot on a street corner looking for someone to entertain.  

For junior hockey, the era of uncertainty has begun.  Teams like the Niagara IceDogs do not know how long they will have the likes of Dougie Hamilton and Ryan Strome playing for them.  Those guys could be valuable  trade chips down the road, or valuable pieces as the IceDogs gun for a deep post-season run.   Other teams are in the same boat with their young talent.  Sure the game will be more star-driven and a little better, but these are athletes whose goals remain firmly on the NHL.  They can be forgiven if the shine has come off their game for a little bit.   

Meanwhile the hawkish owners under the guidance of their tiny mentor try and squeeze the maximum that they can out the players, despite the fact that the salary cap system they have in place was supposed to regulate the outlandish salaries.  Funny thing is, once these teams and owners agreed to the salary cap, they went out to hire a "Capologist" whose main goal was to manage, and apparantly circumvent the cap.  While the players have some of my sympathy, those who have selfishly gone off over seas and pushed a player away from a job, appear to want to have their cake and eat it too.  Brotherhood, it seems, is only good until there is gainful employment to be made in the KHL, or other European leagues.    

A third lengthy lockout in 20 odd years is well on its way to becoming the legacy of Gary Bettman.   The NHL sadly, cannot see the forest for the trees, and has failed to realize that leagues far more entrenched and successful than they are have managed to avoid major labour strife and have become better for it. 

The NHL, already on fragile ground, and with a tenuous fan base in some markets, risk the worst of all emotional responses, that being indifference.  Billionaires and millionaires fighting over profit do not seem to engage the average fan. 

Steve Clark