Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sunday Observations

Liverpool lost to West Ham United, a crippling loss for the Reds'  Champions League hopes.  Observation:  I still don't understand the interplay between the Premier League, Champions League, FA Cup, etc, etc, but I'm slowly working up to having a passing interest.

Watching the final match of the Match Play Championship between Martin Kaymer and Luke Donald but paying more attention to the consolation match between Matt Kuchar and Bubba Watson, Watson being another hard-hitting lefty like my fav Phil Mickelson.  Observation:  He needs to watch some of Phil's biggest ego-over-smarts moments and learn that being able to do magical things isn't a mandate to always press your luck.

Peeked in on the prerace show on Fox before the race today at Phoenix.  Observation:  Fox can't even be honest when they do sports telecasts.  A week after Trevor Bayne's win in the Daytona 500, Fox does a rundown of what Bayne's week has been like, conveniently and predictably leaving out the fact that his first day after winning the 500 was spent with ESPN.  They even went so far as to eliminate a dot on the map for Connecticut when they showed all the miles he'd put in.  The map shows Daytona, Chicago, San Fran and Phoenix but no Connecticut. 

Today's Nascar race in Phoenix:  Observations:  Two races into the season and Kasey Kahne has another good start in a car that heretofore almost never saw the front and finishes 6th.  A talented driver can make a difference.  The 43 car is in second place in the points.  I don't care that it's only two races into the season; it's been a tough past 15 plus years being a fan of the Petty organization.  So I'll take it and smile.  Go AJ!

Rest in peace, Duke Snider

I'd have an observation concerning the Celtics' trades this week, particularly the Kendrick Perkins trade, if I could decide how I feel about it.  I'm leaning towards bad idea and a crapshoot, except with Perkins' health issues it may not have mattered anyway.  Stay tuned.

My Bruins have looked strong on this roadtrip, beating the two hottest teams out west in back to back games.  Observation:  To me it comes down to Horton and Ryder playing up to their potential as to whether the Bruins could really challenge for the Stanley Cup.  The other pieces are in place.  Hopefully they don't sleepwalk through the rest of this roadtrip, which has easily-winnable games, including tonight's matchup in Edmonton.

Friday, February 25, 2011


Phil KesselWith 21 games left to play in what was considered a lost season only two weeks ago, guess which NHL team is within four points of the Carolina Hurricanes for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference? Did you guess the Toronto Maple Leafs? If it weren’t for the fact they’re my favorite team and I record all of their games on my DVR while I’m at the office I wouldn’t have guess them either.

How did this happen? In rookie James Reimer, the Leafs finally have solid goaltending for the first time since… well, that’s considered a trick trivia question so let’s move on before you answer Johnny Bower and Terry Sawchuk.

Since his promotion from the Toronto Marlies (AHL), Reimer has been nothing short of spectacular. In 16 career NHL games he has a 9-4-2 record, a 2.12 goals against average, a .930 save percentage and two shutouts. If you were to translate those stats into a full season he would be ranked as one of the top two or three goalies in the league, which is a far cry from the Vesa Toskala days when a 197-foot clearing pass out of the other team’s end would become a defensive misadventure.

It also helps to have a little offense, which was something the Leafs didn’t have much of at the beginning of the season. Mikhail Grabovski, Nikolai Kulemin and Phil Kessel all have a good chance of finishing the season with 30 or more goals, and Clarke MacArthur could also reach that plateau if he rediscovers his scoring touch.

Oddly enough, this team has overcome the deficiencies of Mike Komisarek and Brett Lebda on defense as well as the trades of Francois Beauchemin, Tomas Kaberle and Kris Versteeg to post a 8-2-2 record since the All-Star Break. You don’t post one of the best records during the stretch run to the Stanley Cup Playoffs by luck. You do that with effort, skill and a commitment to winning.

Will the Leafs make the playoffs? It’s hard to temper my enthusiasm for this late season run but the Leafs realistically need 88 points to make the playoffs. To get there, they will need to go 13-7-1 the rest of the way against the best the Eastern Conference has to offer. It’s not an impossible task, but you’re asking for Reimer to make at least 16 starts between now and the end of the season and to continue his stellar play.

I’ve seen the Leafs miss the playoffs by one point in 2005-06 and in 2006-07 but then again no players remain from those teams that came up short so anything is possible.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Recaping The Daytona 500

Yesterday, the Daytona 500 found itself a surprise winner in Trevor Bayne, a rookie in the Sprint Cup making only his 2nd start in the series.  The fact that he was in a Wood Brothers car makes it even more amazing.  The Wood Brothers haven't won a race since 2002.  And the team decided that they would race part-time this year going into the season.  Bet that they suddenly decide to be a full-time team.

Anyways, the way you race in Daytona changed with the repaving of the track.  No longer is it a race by freight train.  It has evolved into packs of 2 cars teaming up to go faster.  And while the changes caused the cars to go faster, it also caused drivers to have no chance of checking up if they were the back car of the tandem to slow down to avoid wrecking people.  Michael Waltrip was the big instigator causing 2 wreckes including the Big on on Lap 29 that claimed 17 cars. 

Childress racing lost 2 cars to Engine failure, the #29 of Kevin Harvick and the #31 of Jeff Burton.  That is something of an anomaly.  Childress hasn't lost 2 cars to engine failure in over 2 years if my memory serves me correctly.  The 3 Hendrick cars involved in the Lap 29 big one, the #24, #48, & #5, all had different results.  Mark Martin came home in 10th position, while Jimmie Johnson was 19 laps down and Jeff Gordon finished 35 laps down.  Michael Waltrip took out his #00 car driven by David Reutimann to start the melee.  After the crash the Big 3 that were thought to have the best chance to win the race are Jamie McMurray, Kurt Busch, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. 

Trevor Bayne is showing the power that the #21 has during this time.  He is pushing people to the front of the field.  It doesn't matter if it is a Ford, Chevy, Toyota, or Dodge.  He had planned to work with Jeff Gordon throughout the race, but with Gordon crashing, he is showing that he will work with anybody.  Junior had problems with lots of people trying to team with his car.  Truex Jr, and Kahne tried to help the 88, but Junior was trying to get away from them because the car wasn't responding favorably to those two being hooked up with him.

The final 15 laps were a dogfight.  You had 6 or 7 packs of tandems all racing to lead.  And they would fall back and have runs on each other.  The accident that took out many of them was done on lap 196.  Kurt Busch lost contact with Regan Smith.  Then Busch was pushed by Tony Stewart into the back of Regan Smith and spun him out.  That spinout collected Ryan Newman, Clint Bowyer and Denny Hamlin.  It also caused Junior to fall out of contention with a flat rear left tire.

Coming out of the wreck you have David Ragan in the #6 UPS car in the lead with Trevor Bayne in the #21 in second.  3rd:  #22 Kurt Busch, 4th:  #14 Tony Stewart and 5th:  #18 Kyle Busch.  Ragan and Bayne have been hooked up for a while and plan to have Ragan drop in front of Bayne at the restart to hook back up.  The Busch brothers are also planning to team up.  So that would leave Stewart out on his own for the final 2 laps.  Well, the plan for the #6 and #21 works well except that Ragan drops down into Bayne's lane before the start finish line which is a penalty.  But they are going and are starting to open up a lead and on the back stretch, somebody boots the #7 of Robby Gordon out of the field and as he is trying to get back into line bumps Junior who goes sliding into the outside retaining wall.  Ryan Newman and AJ Allmendinger wreck into each other.

The final 2 laps saw Trevor Bayne being pushed by Bobby LaBonte up front while the pair of Carl Edwards and David Gilliland came out of nowhere to challenge for the lead.  However, when Edwards got along side of LaBonte, Bayne came down and blocked the #99 and came home to finish the 2011 Daytona 500 as the winner.  Bayne claimed the $1.5 Million purse for winning and had to change his plans of driving back to North Carolina after the race.

This race had the most cautions, the most leaders, and the most lead changes for a Daytona 500.  It had teammates spinning each other out, the most popular driver in the sport in contention until the last 10 laps, and a black flag penalty on the driver that was leading the race into "overtime".  However, it wasn't an exciting race to me.  The drivers will learn from this race and have better strategies for next time.  The track will cure and change over time which will effect the racing.  I believe that until they can get Daytona racing where it can be a place where you can have a strategy and actually implement it, it will be one of those races that i truly don't like to watch on the television.  This was the luck of the draw basically.  But I will say this, it is better than the pack racing that was done here in the past.

As for the predictors on this blog, RJ won the predictions with his 6th place finish of the #42 Target car of Juan Pablo Montoya.  I came in 2nd with the finishing of Kyle Busch in 8th.  Zebster came in last with AJ Allmendinger finishing outside the Top 10 in 11th.  We will have recaps and prediction results throughout the NASCAR season on this blog, so keep checking back and see how bad we are in our predictions.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

February 18, 2001

In answer to Robbie's question in this linked post, I was at the    Daytona 500 on 2/18/01, the only time I've been to Daytona -- in fact, the only time I've been to Florida.  My brother and I had talked about going to Daytona and when he was given a couple of tickets, we decided to roadtrip on down that particular year, just by chance.
If you click the image to get a closer look, you'll see that we sat in the Lund Grandstand coming out of turn 2.  The Tony Stewart flipping accident that Robbie refers to happened right in front of us.  Also in the image of the ticket stub notice the car on the very bottom, the black #3.  What you may be unable to discern is the Daytona 500 logo in the bottom left quarter of the ticket stub is in actuality my event pin, which I placed on top of the ticket to take the picture.  The event pin is usually affixed to my official going-to-the-races hat, a corduroy Adam Petty Spree hat adorned with other event pins.
I'll try to make this brief.  The trip down to Daytona was uneventful, other than the fact that it was 50 degrees warmer in Orlando when we arrived than it'd been in Mass when we left the previous day.  We went to an Orlando Magic game the night we arrived, went to the Kennedy Space Center the following day and then to the 500 on the third and final day we were there.
If you've never been to Daytona, you must go once at least because no one can convey to you just how enormous and awesome this place is; and the first time you hear the air being moved by the 43 car freight train 3 to 5 seconds before the cars get to you is unreal...and loud.
The race itself was typical of the big pack Daytona races of the time, which was quite exciting being there for the first time.  The Big One, as I said, started right in front of us.  There was lots of drafting and lead changes, everyone in one big pack.  Coming to the finish it was exciting because of who was running near the front and had the strongest cars -- Mikey Waltrip, the eventual winner; Dale Jr and Dale Sr.
As for Dale's accident, I can't tell you much from a personal recollection standpoint because it happened nearly half a track away from us.  We were sitting maybe 100 yards down the back straight from turn 2 and the accident starts in turn 3.  Everyone was standing and looking to our right because that's where the pack was, so there were people kind of in our way when the accident happens; but even from our distant vantage point, it looked to be a typical, harmless Daytona accident, just like it looked on television.  Since we were leaving for Mass directly from the race, we left as the checkered flag flew and didn't see Ken Schrader or the ambulance or any of what you saw on TV; and I don't believe there were big screens there either.
What was eerie, surreal and ultimately sad was listening to the post race interviews and updates on the car radio as we're leaving Daytona.  I remember Bro and I basically looking at each other with a "no way" expression when we heard Dale was taken to the hospital and that things didn't "look good" and rather soon after that when it was announced that Dale Earnhardt had died.  Neither of us were fans of DE but I can tell you that was a quieter and sadder trip home than you would expect after doing something as exciting as attending your first Daytona 500.

After Ten Years, Closure

Michael Waltrip

NOTE: This entry was cross-posted at my new sports blog, Section LL19 – R.J.

On the ten-year anniversary of the death of Dale Earnhardt, there was a celebration in Victory Lane, albeit it was a muted one. Michael Waltrip, dressed in a blue Napa Auto Parts fire suit like he did that fateful day, crawled out of his ride still wearing his helmet with its visor concealing his eyes. After a brief moment of celebration for the fans in attendance, he removed his helmet and hugged his young daughter for what seemed like forever. Tears visibly dribbled down his cheeks as he struggled to keep his emotions in check, making it a challenge for the Speed HD pit reporter to conduct her compulsory Victory Lane interview.

I cried along with him when I realized the meaning of the moment – after ten years we finally had closure after Dale’s death.

Only a few minutes earlier the race looked like any other season opening Camping World Truck Series event at the 2.5-mile tri-oval. Waltrip, who was unable to enjoy his first Sprint Cup victory, was in the right place at the right time when the final caution flag waved. He found himself firmly among the leaders, one of only five trucks on the track that had not been damaged in two earlier wrecks that had decimated the field in this year’s NextEra’s Energy Resources 250. At worst, he was looking at a Top 5 finish but when the green flag waved with two laps to go Waltrip went for the win.

Waltrip maneuvered his #15 Chevrolet Silverado truck behind race leader Elliott Sadler, his front bumper firmly planted into the rear bumper of Sadler as they pulled away from the pack in a two-truck draft down the backstretch. Then as they exited the fourth turn on the final lap, at the same corner that claimed Earnhardt’s life, Waltrip pulled his truck alongside Sadler’s and won a drag race to the checkered flag as his brother Darrell Waltrip cheered him on from the announcer’s booth.

The scene looked all too familiar. The winning driver, the sponsor, the car number, and the color commentator calling the race were the same as they were ten years ago. Was it a coincidence? I’m 60% sure I don’t give a flip about ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser and his conspiracy theories. The Waltrips wanted closure. Race fans across the land wanted closure. I wanted closure and I didn’t care if the race was fixed or not.

Tonight we all got what we wanted and thankfully no Earnhardts were harmed in the making of this storybook ending. That’s all that really matters on this dark anniversary.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Kaberle Goes To Beantown

Tomas Kaberle

NOTE: This has been cross posted on my new sports blog Section LL19. Check it out by clicking here.

It seems like it’s been in the making for two seasons but today the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Boston Bruins finally consummated the deal that brings Tomas Kaberle to Beantown.

THE DETAILS: Kaberle goes to Boston for Providence Bruins (AHL) forward Joe Colborne, the Bruins first-round pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, and a conditional second-round draft pick.

WHO WON: This is one of those trades we need to sit back on and judge three years from now. Will Kaberle re-sign with the Bruins at the end of the season? Will Colborne become an impact player for the Leafs? Most importantly, what will happen with those draft picks?

QUICK ANALYSIS: The Bruins get the quarterback they need for their power play without sacrificing an every day player but they’re also on the hook for the remainder of Kaberle’s salary. Do the Bruins have the cap space to absorb that contract? Or is there another move in the works to create some breathing room?

Kaberle can play offense but he does have shortcomings. He doesn’t throw his weight around. More often than not he’s disinterested in playing defense. He doesn’t shoot enough. Bruins fans love hard-hitting and hard-working players, which is something I found lacking in Kaberle in recent seasons.

This is a risky move for the Bruins. Not only is Kaberle defensively-challenged but he’s still an unrestricted free agent on July 1st. Will he stay in Boston? Or will he go elsewhere?

THE X FACTOR: Brian Burke has done a wonderful job of acquiring assets during the past week. Not only does he have the Bruins 2011 first round pick, but he also has the Flyers 2011 first and third round picks from the Kris Versteeg deal. Will he bundle those picks to acquire a young top-six forward before the trade deadline? To move up in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft? Use as compensation if he signs Brad Richards as a free agent on July 1st? Stay tuned.

Ten Years Ago Today

I still can’t believe it’s been ten years since Dale Earnhardt passed away on the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500. I don’t know where the time went because it doesn’t feel like it’s been a decade since he, Kenny Irwin Jr., Tony Roper and Adam Petty all perished in racing accidents within a year of each other. What was I doing on the day Dale died? Believe it or not I didn’t see the wreck when it happened.

That afternoon I was at home watching the Daytona 500 live on Fox when halfway through the race a friend of mine called me to ask if I wanted to put in a few hours of overtime. Back then I had a very well paying retail sales job, so I couldn’t refuse the chance to make a quick hundred dollars or two for about four hours of work. At lap 120 I turned off the television and left my apartment well before Tony Stewart flipped and tumbled through the air on the backstretch.

While I was away from home I made sure I was in my own cone of silence. At work I was nowhere near a radio or a television, and on my way to and from the retail store I listened to some old CDs so I wouldn’t accidentally hear the results of the race.

When I got home that evening, I watched the final 79 laps and then the wreck that changed the racing world happened.

When I saw Ken Schrader climb out of his wrecked M&M’s Pontiac, approach Dale’s car and then frantically signal for safety crews to assist Dale, I knew he was in serious trouble. I had witnessed on live television the near-fatal wreck of Stanley Smith at Talladega eight years earlier and Smith collided with the unforgiving outside wall in an eerily similar fashion. Smith had suffered a severe head injury, the same type of injury that claimed the lives of Irwin Jr., Roper and Petty seven years later, and I was afraid that’s what had happened to Dale. When I watched footage of Dale’s ambulance drive to nearby Halifax Medical Center at a speed that made Al Cowlings look like he was speeding down Interstate 405 with a “police escort”, I already knew Dale and his aura of invincibility were gone forever.

QUESTION: Where were you when Dale died?

Monday, February 14, 2011

No longer a scotch virgin

Since this is a sports bar, we do occasionally offer up alcohol reviews; and since I was given a bottle of The Glenlivet for Valentines Day, I thought this would be the perfect occasion to write another review.  Keep in mind that I don't have the most discerning palate and rarely taste what reviewers describe in ales or alcohol.  "It's got a nice spice note" or "a floral or fruity finish"...okay, if you say so.
I had often thought about investigating scotch because I have heard many people talk about how much they like it; that it's their preferred daily decompress medicine.  But my tastes are more towards the sweet, and so would tend to order a cocktail out at dinner or make myself a bourbon and ginger ale at home.  While I like bourbon very much, I've never enjoyed it straight.  I've found it too strong alone; and the better quality the bourbon, the stronger I find it.
Well, that's not the case for me with scotch, certainly not this fine twelve-year-old single-malt.  It has a very smooth woodsy flavor throughout the mouth on the first drink, with a slight biting finish.  That biting finish is nowhere to be found on the second and subsequent sips.  I do drink it on the rocks and am finding that scotch is much more susceptible to the quality of the water used in the ice than your average cocktail.  As the ice melts, it's watering down the scotch, of course, which is fine, but whatever else is in the average tap water does not blend well at all.  And while I find ginger ale to be a perfect partner for Jim Beam, I cannot imagine it or any other mixer blending well with scotch.
Needless to say, I find The Glenlivet enjoyable sip after sip.  I can't give it a real high recommendation simply because I don't have much to compare it to, other than the "rail" scotch with which I was initiated by my good friends Rick and George.  Salud, fellas!  It is certainly superior to rail but I look forward to trying some other brands and higher qualities of The Glenlivet to compare.  I can certainly see myself regularly enjoying a Glenlivet on the rocks until the bottle is empty.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Happy Birthday: Strat-O-Matic

Strat-O-Matic HockeyI’m willing to bet very few of my regular blog readers know what Strat-O-Matic is, but for someone like me who grew up playing and watching sports it was a big part of my teenage years. Back before game console sports games were sophisticated enough to make players behave like their real-life counterparts, hard core gamers like me had Strat-O-Matic board games to pass the time.

I bought my first Strat-O-Matic hockey game in early 1985. That version depicted the 1983-84 NHL season and included the Stanley Cup champion Edmonton Oilers, which boasted three 50-goal scorers in Wayne Gretzky, Jari Kurri and Glenn Anderson. The game also included my then-favorite team the Los Angeles Kings, who were led by Bernie Nicholls, Charlie Simmer and Marcel Dionne but couldn’t hold an opponent under five goals if their lives depended on it. And I can never forget the Pittsburgh Penguins and New Jersey Devils, the two worst teams in the NHL at the time. Both of those teams were busy trying to out lose one another so they could earn the right to draft Mario Lemieux the following summer, and the Penguins prevailed with players like Gary Rissling, who amassed an astonishing 297 penalty minutes in 47 games.

What I loved about Strat-O-Matic hockey the most was the realism. It was played with a board, a pair of dice, two stacks of action cards, and a player card set. The top sixteen skaters and two goalies on every NHL team were included in the box, and you could order a set of additional player cards to fill out the rosters so you could choose which skaters to dress. A typical game could be played in about an hour, and I used to play about four to five games a week. I used my Los Angeles Kings team set and played a 40-game mini season, which was easy to do since the NHL only had twenty-one teams at the time.

How realistic was it? The Kings had a 23-44-13 record that season and I don’t think I won more than seven games in either twenty-game season I simulated.

By using those player cards on a near daily basis, I became quickly acquainted with just about every NHL player that participated in the 1984-85 season that was well underway, and I later bought the 1984-85 and 1985-86 season card sets to keep “current”. Sadly, I stopped buying the game after my first year of college. I didn’t have the time to play anymore.

Despite the evolution of video game consoles and sports games, the Strat-O-Matic game company not only survives but it turns fifty years old today.

Happy birthday, Strat-O-Matic. I may end up buying the computer version of your wonderful game someday, especially since you have the 1984-85 NHL season and the 1975-76 WHA season rosters available as an add-on.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Only in Red Sox Nation

Only in Red Sox Nation is it a "holiday" when the moving vans leave from Fenway to head south for spring training, fondly known as Truck Day.  Truck Day is even sponsored, by Jet Blue, just like seemingly everything now related to the Red Sox.  If you didn't know, there's practically a parade, with organized events to send them off.
If you don't believe me, check out this video, if for no other reason than to see Heidi Watney do The Dougie.  Make sure you see the kids on top of the snowbank, who've summed up perfectly how we all feel right now.

So for those of us who bleed Red Sox red, here's a nice NESN article to catch you up, fill you in or act as a primer for the uninitiated.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Marshall Faulk’s Going To Canton

Marshall FaulkI want to congratulate former San Diego State Aztecs running back Marshall Faulk for his election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame yesterday. But did you know there was one single event in his life that started him on his path from the Ninth Ward in New Orleans to the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio?

I wish I had kept a copy of The Daily Aztec, the school newspaper, to back this up but I remember sitting in my pickup truck in the bowels of the parking garage reading an interview Faulk did with the paper. In it he disclosed the reason why he chose to attend SDSU. We were the only college program in the nation that was willing to give him a shot at running back. Every other major college program that tried to recruit Faulk wanted to convert him into a defensive back.

I’m sure Faulk would have turned into a fine football player regardless, but can you imagine how different his life would have been if he never ran for a then-NCAA record 386 yards and scored seven touchdowns against the University of Pacific in his second collegiate game?

Like I said earlier, it’s the truth but I can’t prove it.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

A perfect team for an old-time hockey town

A Boston Bruins team that can fight and score in almost equal measure...priceless.

What follows in quotes are my Facebook status updates during the first two minutes of the Bruins/Stars game tonight, keeping in mind that there was already one face-off fight at the opening whistle between Campbell and Ott:
"Shawn Thornton rules!!" after he wins a face-off fight three seconds into the game
"And down goes another one! How's that for some old-time hockey, eh!?" after McQuaid almost takes a Stars' head off in another face-off fight six seconds into the game.
"‎3 fights in the first 6 seconds, and then Lucic scores 35 seconds in. The Big Bad Bruins are coming on!"
" And then Bergeron scores 45 seconds after that. woooooo!"
"Welcome back to Boston Andrew, take a freakin seat." after Raycroft was benched after seeing two shots, both of them finding the back of the net.
"Never seen a game like this one, at least not in a very long time. Another fight!"

Then I'll skip some back and forth with some sissy soccer fans until "Recchi to Marchand to Bergeron and he scores!!!!!" after Bergeron scores again to make it 3-zip Bruins halfway into the first period.

What's hysterical about this to me is the fact that immediately prior to tonight's game NESN replayed last year's game between the Bruins and Stars that took place in Boston, where the Stars were chippy and the Bruins made them pay with punches to the jaw and goals in the net.

SHAWN THORNTON RULES!!!!  Make that 4-0 Bruins, on a Thornton bomb into the back of the net immediately after another nice save by Tuukka Rask.  I figured Claude Julien started Rask instead of Tim Thomas because he was afraid Thomas would get into the midst of the fighting.

End of the first period, Bruins-4, that was beautiful!

UPDATE:  Final score Bruins-6 Stars-3 and Shawn Thornton was just an assist short of a Gordie Howe hat trick.

A Must Read

Have you read The Cranky Redskins Fan’s Guide To Dan Snyder yet? Please do so before it disappears from the Internet. The hit piece hit the mark because the Redskins owner may file legal action against The Washington Pages and Dave McKenna, the author of this excellent takedown.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Willie O’Ree: San Diego’s Hockey Legend

Willie O'ReeMany people know Willie O’Ree as the first black NHL player but did you know he was a very accomplished minor league forward? For those of us who grew up in San Diego with hockey in our blood, we were lucky to have O’Ree as our most popular player when the San Diego Gulls played in the Western Hockey League in the late sixties and into the mid-seventies.

O’Ree was one of the top scorers for the Gulls throughout his career, and in his final WHL season he scored 30 goals in 73 games. Five years later, O’Ree came out of retirement to play for the San Diego Hawks of the Pacific Coast League and scored 21 goals in 53 games – at the tender young age of 43. I had the privilege of watching many of O’Ree’s game that final season and even at his advanced age he was one of the PHL’s better players before the league folded in 1979.

When the San Diego Gulls were revived in the International Hockey League in 1990, and again in the West Coast Hockey League in 1996, both teams thought enough of O’Ree and his accomplishments to retire his #20. Even though we no longer have minor league hockey, Willie O’Ree will always be known around here as Mr. Gull and is as beloved in our community as Tony Gwynn.

Today O’Ree lives in the La Mesa area and is currently the director of diversity programs for the NHL.