Thursday, December 20, 2007

Thursday roundup of the sporting world

Lots of news going on at the moment: here's the highlights.


Flapping in the breeze

The Dallas Stars apparently think Roberto Luongo's equipment is controversial. According to Grant Kerr of the Globe and Mail, Marty Turco and Mike Smith both took to the practice ice this morning wearing exaggerated cardboard flaps to question the flaps on Luongo's pads that supposedly extend wider than the maximum width permitted by the league. This surprised me a bit, as Luongo isn't one of the goalies regularly mentioned in the same paragraph as bulky equipment, unlike a certain Stanley Cup-winning netminder. It will be interesting to see if anyone at league HQ takes notice.

Related: Alanah's take on the issue.

Simon's attempt to save himself

According to a Roy MacGregor piece in today's Globe, Chris Simon is planning to appeal his 30-game suspension.
"I don't think it was fair," Simon told MacGregor. "I'm not a complainer. I've never complained before. I took my suspensions and moved on. But I don't think this one was fair." He went on to say that the act was unintentional.
"I wasn't trying to injure him," Simon said. "I tripped him and I was telling him to [expletive], and I did step on his foot. I pushed down on his skate, I don't deny that, but I wasn't trying to hurt him. I don't think a player has ever missed a game from one of my suspensions."
Simon brings up an interesting point here: is it the intent, the action itself, or the results that should be considered? For example, is Simon's act worthy of a longer suspension than Todd Bertuzzi's attack on Steve Moore because the intent and the action itself were worse, even though the results were nowhere near as bad? I think the NHL got this one about right, particularly given Simon's long history of suspensions: however, it is interesting to note that the legal system takes the opposite approach (for example, Simon and Jesse Boulerice aren't too likely to get in legal trouble over their suspendable activities as they didn't cause severe damage to anyone, whereas Bertuzzi and Marty McSorley did). The other possibility to consider is that the league recognizes it was too lenient in the McSorley/Bertuzzi days and would apply an even stricter penalty for such an incident today.

- Takes from James Mirtle, Eric Duhatschek, James Duthie, and The Puck Stops Here.
- The National Post has a story quoting Phil Fontaine, the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, as saying that Colin Campbell perpetuated a stereotype about First Nations people with his comments on Simon's suspension. Fontaine is demanding an apology.

The Moore-Bertuzzi saga continues to spiral...

Many people are all in a flutter about the latest testimony to come out of the Bertuzzi trial. It's nicely summarized in James Christie's Globe story here.
Basically, whether you believe Bertuzzi saying that Crawford told the team to get Moore during the intermission or Dave Nonis who said the conversation occured earlier in the day, it's pretty clear that the Canucks were out to get Moore. However, this isn't all that shocking, given the hit he laid on Naslund: retribution has been part of the hockey code for eons. As Ed Willes of the Vancouver Province points out, the case "isn't as cut and dried as Danson (Moore's lawyer) would lead you to believe." Willes adds that the evidence that has been introduced so far would lead to massive outrage and a summary conviction in any other arena, but in sports, it's tough to define what is and what isn't accepted: Bertuzzi's actions were certainly beyond the pale (which he was found criminally responsible for and served his sentence), but calling for someone to "pay the price" is a normal part of hockey and doesn't mean to go break his neck. As Willes writes, "The end result, of course, was terrible. But you can watch any hockey game and see something similar, or a lot worse, take place. There was Chris Simon's attack on Ryan Hollweg; Marty McSorley's attack on Donald Brashear; Steve Downie's hit on Dean McAmmond; Jesse Boulerice's cross-check to the face of Ryan Kesler. We could go on, but you get the picture. What Bertuzzi did was dangerous and mindless, but within the context of the game it wasn't that unusual. Maybe it's not the most admirable defence, but it's an effective one."

- Christie Blatchford at the Globe has a well-written piece along the same lines as Willes' column
- The take over at Orland Kurtenblog.
- The related court transcript from the Toronto Star: thanks to Zanstrom for the link

Other hockey links:

- James Mirtle on the Canadian franchises' contribution to NHL revenues
- Tom Benjamin on how league parity isn't such a good thing (including the following hilarious lines: "Is more parity really good for the hockey fan and good for the NHL coffers? Bettman thinks so, but he's incompetent and the incompetent are seldom right.")
- George Johnson has a great story in today's National Post about the Flames' recent 6 for 6 road trip (including memorable lines such as "Six out of six? C'mon. It's still hard to get the old head around the idea, much less the reality. Timothy Leary on his best trip couldn't come up with something that far out.")
- Neil Stevens of Canadian Press on the IIHF inducting three women (Angela James, Geraldine Heaney, and Cammi Granato) into their Hall of Fame
- The Edmonton Journal's David Staples on how the NHL should href="">strengthen its drug policy
- Alanah on Stephen Harper's promos for the World Juniors on TSN


Edu seeking bigger pastures?

According to a National Post story by Mark Masters, Toronto FC's rookie sensation Maurice Edu may soon be heading to the English Premier League. Manager Mo Johnston was quoted as saying, "There's a couple teams who have contacted us. You'll have interest any time you have a great young talent." British papers have Aston Villa (who saw him first-hand during their summer exhibition against TFC) making a strong play for Edu. It would be a shame to see him go, as he impressed me quite a bit in his debut season, but he's certainly very talented and would fit in well with the core of strong young players at Villa. Hopefully Mo will get enough cash to buy a capable replacement if he leaves.

Jonny Evans arrested
The Associated Press reports that Manchester United defender Jonny Evans has been arrested and released on bail in connection with a rape case, which allegedly took place at the club's Christmas party. Whether this particular allegation is true or not, it certainly gives the club a black eye in the public relations realm. Evans is only a fringe player, but he's one of the up-and-coming talents at the club, and has seen some first-team duty this year (including last week's meaningless Champions League match against Roma). It's definitely not the first or last time that athletes have been accused of rape: see Stephon Marbury, the Minnesota Vikings, and the Duke lacrosse team. Even in the case of those later proved innocent, such as the Duke players, questions need to be raised about the situation they put themselves into. I'm not advocating for all athletes to be upstanding moral citizens, but they need to at least try to be discreet and somewhat careful about their carousing so it doesn't hurt their own image and that of their club. The paparazzi make too much of many of these cases, but that doesn't mean that there is no problem.
Related: Football Corner's post on the story.

United going after Larsson again?

Still on the Manchester United front, Football Corner has them linked with another move to re-acquire Swedish star Henrik Larsson on a short-term loan. Larsson did very well in his short stint with United last year, and I think he'd be a great fit as a depth striker, particularly as fixture congestion tends to become an issue in the New Year. He's very capable of scoring off the bench, much in the way Ole Gunnar Solskjaer used to do, and he's familiar with the United team. On United's side, it's an obvious move, as they tried to get him to stay last year. The only question is if he can be persuaded to leave Sweden again.
Related: Richard Starnes has more on this proposed move.

Nick Dasovic becomes men's Olympic coach

The Canadian Press reports that Nick Dasovic has been named to coach the Canadian Olympic (U-23) men's soccer team. Dasovic had a great playing career with the full national team and several clubs including Croatian side Dynamo Zagreb and the Vancouver Whitecaps, where he served as a player-coach. He has recently been Dale Mitchell's assistant with the full national team.

Dasovic is a good choice in my books: I saw him play several times with the Whitecaps, and was impressed not only with his on-field play but with his direction of those around them. The Olympic side is important, as it's an area where we have a greater chance of success than we do with the full national team: players must be under 23, except for three over-agers per country, which allows some non-traditional football powers to excel (2004 saw Paraguay finish second and Iraq come in fourth). It also plays a key role in developing young players for the full national team. Dasovic should have the right blend of playing and coaching experience to succeed in this role. Kudos to the Canadian Soccer Association for getting one right.

Bayern advances with rout

Bayern Munich pulled off a stunning 6-0 defeat of Greek side Aris to advance to the next round of the UEFA Cup. Luca Toni recorded four goals, while Philipp Lahm and Christian Lell added the others. I bet the four-goal performance probably felt pretty good for Toni, after the recent criticisms of him by teammate (and captain) Oliver Kahn. Also, Lahm, who has recently been linked with a move to Manchester United, continued to impress with his offensive ability from the wingback slot.

Other soccer links of note:

Ben Knight on The Miracle of Castel di Sangro, which he calls "the best soccer book of the past decade – flat-out adored by every fan and writer I know who’s ever read it?"

Other fun sporting links:
- Matthew Sekeres of the Globe has a nice post on the From Deep basketball blog about the Raptors' game in Portland
- The Globe's Michael Grange has to write a post about the Trailblazers on an ESPN blog, due to losing a bet
- A great Sports Illustrated story by L. Jon Wertheim on Paul Allen, owner of the Seattle Seahawks and Portland Trailblazers
- Apparently Terrell Owens doesn't actually have a problem with Jessica Simpson watching Cowboys games
(includes the great TO quote "If I don't get the ball this week, then I am going to have to go to Hollywood and bake some cakes or something and find me a Hollywood star or something.").
- Jonathan Papelbon's dog ate his World Series ball
- Some more names using steroids come out of Jason Grimsley's affidavit

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