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Thursday, May 29, 2014


No, Bob Cole does not take selfies, hash tag or use Instagram.  As far as I know there is no Twitter account run by Bob Cole, though there are a number of semi-amusing parodies.  However when Bob Cole calls a game, social media goes crazy.  It has become all the more of a frenzy with the speculation that Bob Cole's legendary broadcasting career may be riding off until the sunset.  As of this writing, Bob Cole has no contract for next year.  It should also be noted that no play by play or analysts have been named by Rogers as they embark on year one of an all encompassing 12 national agreement with the NHL.

The Fan590 debated the merits of Bob Cole on the Morning Show of Brady and Walker.  It was generally felt that the 80 year old still had a lot of game left, and they sited his call of last nights double OT game between Chicago and LA.  A couple of callers also trumpeted the legacy of Bob Cole and the continued excellence of his big game call, while one lamented the mistakes he makes during a broadcast.   Still, all this warm and fuzziness contrasted with views of last year who hated the fact that the "Leaf supporter" was calling Habs games. All the more puzzling, and this was noted by Brady and Walker, was the level of vitriol directed towards Jim Hughson, who is the best in Canada right now bar none.  A couple of years ago, Hughson was loved, and now he is heavily crticized on social media.  

I get it.  Play by play love/hate is all about what style works for you and for the individual fan, that can be different.    No one wants to see the end of Bob Cole's career, in much the same way, you do not want anyone who has achieved legendary status not be around anymore.   

For me, I love the way that Bob Cole calls a game, the rhythm, the cadence, the ability to strike the right tone on a big call have never gone away, regardless of age.  I can remember my Dad saying 20 years ago that Cole had his day, but was starting to lose it.   Yet here he is, still calling the games, still with the trademark phrases that be never duplicated.   It does not sound right for anyone else to say "Yessir!" "Oh Baby".  With Rogers focus on Hometown hockey, there is no one more hometown than Bob Cole.  My guess is that he will be offered several select games to do next year with historical value, and there will be a huge send off and good bye and a big feature on Cole in his native Newfoundland.  I'm not saying he would accept such a tribute, but I cannot see him quietly calling his last game this year and then leaving.   That might just be me and my own nostalgia driving my thoughts.   

One of the more polarizing subjects in sports media has been the tryout that has been offered former 102.1 The Edge morning man Dean Blundell on Sportsnet Radio The Fan 590.  Blundell, if you remember, was finally fired from Corus after an exchange with a producer in which Blundell seem equate gay men in prison with rape and the fact that they would enjoy it.  The fact that both Blundell and his producer were seriously undermining the legal system also played a role as was the fact that Blundell had run afoul of Corus and the CRTC on a number of occasions.  I cannot comment on how Blundell is as a sports talk radio host as I have not heard any of the broadcasts.   However, in a business driven by ratings and name factor, it Blundell seems to possess both, even if his name factor can be construed as for all the wrong reasons.   He was a star in Toronto morning radio , no matter what you thought of his "shock jock" antics. Whether he can re-invent himself as a credible sports radio voice is yet to be determined.  The Fan590 is serious though as they have devoted a couple of listener polls to Blundell.   

Tuesday, May 20, 2014


As a broadcaster of Junior hockey, I take more than a passing interest in the Memorial Cup, regardless of who is playing in it.  This years' tournament takes on a heightened interest as there are those currently revelling in the lack of success of the London Knights, arguably Ontario's most despised teams.  Fact of the matter is that few should be surprised that the London Knights have failed to impress so far.  This is a team that was inactive for over 50 days before the tournament began due to their 5 game ousting by the Guelph Storm, who are unsurprisingly odds on favourites and have already booked their place in the final on Sunday.  I know that prior hosts who did not make their league final have had success in the past, but man, it has be tough to find that necessary edge in your game after a month and a half lay off.  Give me a tired team in a play off rhythm any day of the week over a lethargic inactive team.  

The Memorial Cup is a curious format as 4 teams battle it out round robin style, and play in either a play in game, a semi final game and ultimately a final.  All this takes 10 days and often you can have games have absolutely no bearing on the standings, or an inordinate amount of time before playing meaningful games.  Again, take Guelph, whose game against London means absolutely nothing to them except the chance to excuse their rivals, London.   That means Guelph has to sit and wait for five days between games that actually mean something.  No other tournament I know has games that have no bearing on the proceedings at hands, let alone a national tournament like the Master Card Memorial Cup.  Freshening up the tournament, any tournament for that matter, is a calculated risk with the leagues in question and more importantly the sponsors.  That said, here are a couple of ways to freshen up and expand the playoff format of the Memorial Cup.  Heck, baseball, football and the NCAA have added teams recently, and hockey re-jigged the divisions to create more meaningful match-ups. Why not the CHL?

The teams would be the 3 league champs, the host team, the 3 league finalists and a wild card team selected.  Here you can rotate the league that gets the wild card, depending on the host.   Teams are seeded 1-8, and will play two games, total points series. with the tie breaker being "away goals" as you designate one team to be the home team for one game, and one to be the away team for another game.  This is what a lot of European soccer competitions do. If it is tied, then you go with a sudden death overtime .   When it gets to the Final 4, it becomes a one-off elimination.  Think of it, you can have two games each day for the first four days as 8 gets cut down to 4, and then a day off and then semi-finals and then finals.

The cons of the competition are the fact that you have two guaranteed games versus three right now.  There could be arguments, as there always are, about a nominated wild card team.  There would also be less emphasis on the league winners, as all it would net would be a higher seeding.   

Three league winners, and if the home team gets knocked out before the final, they have to play in a round robin tournament with the other three league finalists to determine the final spot in the final four.   In all likelihood, its not that dissimilar to the first suggestion, though it does not guarantee much pop for the hometown crowd whose team may not make the main tournament.  

I suppose if you really wanted to get radical, you would make it a 16 team tournament with the three league winners and a host team helming their own final four , with league finalists and semi-finalists comprising a regional sweet 16 much like the Sweet 16.  That might be too radical though. 

To be honest with you any suggestions would have to pass the smell test with Dave Branch, the CHL, the major tournament sponsors, and Sportsnet, who have the rights to the tournament for the next 12 years.   That is what drives the bus.  Still, right now it still seems to be too many days for too few meaningful games.   
Steve Clark- Niagara IceDogs TV Play by Play

Friday, May 16, 2014


Ray Shero and Dan Bylsma (Photo: Noah Graham/Getty Images)Embedded image permalink
  • Fair to say that mafia rat might have more job security than an NHL head coach or GM.  Ray Shero has been fired and the new GM will assess Dan Bylsma.   A 51-24-7 record and a .670 win percentage might not get you much these days.  That is Bylsma's track record in Pittsburgh. However playoff record is the currency in a hockey mad city like Pittsburgh and porous goaltending and Sidney Crosby's inconsistent play could prove to be the downfall for Byslma as it was for Shero.       Don't feel sorry for Shero though, as he will likely be snapped up in about two seconds.   
  • High profile out of work coaches now include Barry Trotz, John Torterella and Adam Oates.   Mike Babcock, coach to the stars says that he would rather not be a lame duck coach, and he has only one year left on his deal.    He and his luxurious red/brown flow that my wife gets lost in as she's got a major crush on the guy could be the sexy choice for any position should there be an impasse. 
  • San Jose said good bye to Dan Boyle rather quickly, which was kind of suprising considering San Jose's season ended very recently.  Imagine the hand wringing and debate if the Leafs suddenly announced a high profile player was not returning.  The speculation would be never-ending.  Even the casual mentioning that Dion Phaneuf might potentially be shopped causes a tempest in a tea pot!
  • the Ottawa 67's will have a new coach this year as Chris Byrne will choose to focus on his GM duties.  Byrne went on to say that the one man Coach/GM may be a thing of the past.   One wonders what Marty Williamson of Niagara's transition plan might be as he holds both posts.  While Joey and Billy Burke, the owners sons, are learning the family business, neither one is close to stepping into any sort of coach or GM role.   Also, one of the rumoured names to go to is former NHL D-Man Jeff Brown, whose son Logan was drafted by the IceDogs in the first round. Wonder if that will have any sort of effect going forward on whether the Dogs sign their first rounder.  
  • I'm a big Leaf fan, and have been for over 30 years.   Like any good Canadian, I usually root for Canadian teams who are in the playoffs.  Doesn't matter who, though it was a struggle to celebrate anything Ottawa related when they made their Stanley Cup run a few years back.  However, it was tough to cheer for the Habs when statements like "Unlike the Leafs, Boston didn't come back against us" appear.  Still,  I will cheer for PK Subban, Carey Price and the rest when they play the Rangers.   Go Habs Go!
  • I've always been a strong advocate of ditching the post-playoff celebration line.  I understand the showing respect thing, but it seems silly to beat the tar out of someone and then shake hands like its a PeeWee house league game.  Silliness like Milan Lucic's poor display of sportsmanship probably happens more than we think.  Sportsnet's Nick Kypreos had the best take when he said that Lucic had 7 games to bully, intimidate and do something to throw the Canadiens off their game.  He did not do it during the series, so he should not do it in the line up.  Plus, Billy Smith hated the post-game handshake.  If it was not good enough for "Battlin'" Billy, then it is not good enough for me.   
  • One of these days, I'd love to experience just part of the Memorial Cup either as a broadcaster or a fan. Seems like a blast, wherever its held.   I'd like to tweak the format so that every game is meaningful though.  The last game of the round robin can sometimes be redundant and that should never be the case in a winner take all format. For the record I am picking Guelph to win the whole thing.  I will aways remember the Oshawa/Kitchener 1990 3OT final from Copps Coliseum, won by the Eric Lindros led Generals.  It remains the best live event I have ever been a part of as either a fan or a broadcaster. 
  • I already hate baseball's instant replay.  Taking a three hour game and expanding it while a play that should not be debated sometimes is debated is just plain silly.  Last nights Jays/Indians was 4-2 and featured 10 pitching changes between the two teams, along with a 9th inning replay or something that should not have been reviewed. 
  • The broadcasting hot stove will be busy as we approach hockey off-season.   Rogers has a slew of on-air announcements to make as they have named hosts, but no analysts or play by play guys.  There are radio openings in Calgary for both play by play and colour commentator. Good luck to anyone who gets the Calgary job and has to follow Hall of Famer and local legend Peter Maher.  Peter only broadcasted over 3100 straight games and is the only radio voice the Calgary Flames have ever known! Speaking of Hall of Famers, one wonders if we are seeing the sun setting on Bob Cole's career.  The octogenarian still wants to broadcast, but that will be Rogers call.  Oh baby, what a tough call that will be..Yes Sir! For Sure!
Steve Clark