Team North America Showing Bright Future At World Cup

Team North America Showing Bright Future At World Cup

 

When the World Cup of Hockey was announced, there was both optimism and skepticism about how the tournament showcasing stars would go. Fans who were craving hockey are excited that it is back, but analysts and writers worried about the amount of injuries to certain players would affect the teams heading into the NHL Season.   But with the formation of the super rookie team in Team North America – a team made up of some of the best young stars the hockey world has to offer – This tournament is showing just how impressive the future of the NHL really is.

They made an European team made up of some decent players look foolish in the couple of exhibition games, we saw their speed and skill front and center and made proven NHL goalies like Tuukka Rask look normal. At first it seemed a little weird in an international tournament that a team made up of multi-national players would be competing in it, but after a few games in they are the most favorite to watch for some, because in a game of speed young legs are a needed factor.

Injuries are always a scare with a tournament like this so close to the regular season. Players have already felt the injury bug and the official start has not even happened yet. If any team were to suffer with a player or two go down with injuries it would be Team North America. They have the skill to cover the scoring losses, but experience is a few with this team and if one key guy goes down it could be real hard for Team North America to find that extra push come to when the tournament starts and pressure starts to mount.

With the NHL season so close, teams that are rebuilding or are dependant on a young core of players will be watching extra carefully on how these young stars fare on the tournament.  It’s a gamble in general to have this event because of injuries, and if one of the young stars has a serious injury we could see the teams and owners wanting the World Cup to be a one time thing.

Still even with the backlash and the worry of injuries, the World Cup of Hockey will be a hockey event that will feature some of the best young talent the game has to offer. The amounts of skill and promise North America is showing is amazing and it really sets the next few years up real nicely.

The NHL is always trying to grow the game internationally, to try to find that budding of young stars that represent the future of the league and to be able to get international eyes watching. The World Cup focuses on that, and with such a talented core like North America running the event, it is leading the NHL in the right direction towards outside popularity and a bigger overall brand not just focused on Canada or the States. The World Cup is kinda silly, but it shows a purpose in putting their youngest and most promising players front and center for the world to see.

 

Country Strong: Can The Nashville Predators Finally Make That Big Push

Country Strong: Can The Nashville Predators Finally Make That Big Push

The Nashville Predators always seem like one of those teams that you think they have everything in a team that you would want, but get confused as to why they are never the teams like Chicago or the Kings that can build a masterpiece of a team and win the big one. After a tremendous 2014-15 season that saw them finish with a franchise best 104 points after only talling 88 the season before. It also saw the rise of young stud dman Roman Josi, who tallied his than personal best of 55 points only to raise it up to 60 the year later. Colin Wilson posted his best season of his career with 42 points, but failed to keep up only posting 24 points in 67 games. Pekka Rinne was supposed to be the Predators reliable backstop but had a real up and down last couple of years. In 2013 he posted only a .902 SV% but in 2014 he posted a much more respectable .923 Sv%, it dropped again though in 2015 as he posted a .9o8 SV% and really seemed to be out-of-place.

Overall it was a letdown season for the Preds as a team only posting 96 points and bouncing out of the second round to the cup finale bound San Jose Sharks. But with the addition of a superstar PK Subban to an already stacked d core makes the Preds as dangerous as ever to compete for a cup.

The Predators are too loaded with talented youth and skill to have another disappointing season. Fillip Forsberg just gets better and better every year, posting a career best 64 points and being the offensive leader for the Predators. At age 22 Fillip Forsberg is still growing and learning, and with solid vets like Mike Fisher around, Forsberg can be a lethal offensive weapon for the Preds come the season opener.

Ryan Johansen was acquired by the Preds last season and saw his numbers increase from 26 to 34 and it looked like the perfect fit with what the Preds are doing. Gather a group of young and talented players and build around making them good while also still competing. Ryan Johansen wanted a change out of Columbus and go to a winner, and if everything goes good Johansen could see himself become a winner sooner than later.

Roman Josi might be the most intriguing to watch, as he gets set to partner on the blueline with newly acquired PK Subban. Josi has gone from top young prospect to elite and reliable defenseman for the Predators. He was second on the team in points with 61  and really established himself as one the best defenseman in the game today. At age 26 he is just starting to find his form, and with Subban next to him on the blueline, the Predators will have a dangerous 1-2 punch on the backhand for years to come.

The Nashville Predators had an up and down last couple of years, but with a young and skilled blue line, a youth driven forward core and a really good coach in Peter Laviolette the Predators are ready to make the big jump and compete for a Stanley Cup.

 

3 Questions Facing the 2016-17 Toronto Raptors

3 Questions Facing the 2016-17 Toronto Raptors

 

The Toronto Raptors had one of if not the best season in franchise history last year, finishing with a team best record of 56-26 good for second in the east and a trip to the eastern conference finals before eventually bowing out to Cleveland in 6 games. But despite the loss the Raptors had an exceptional season that only raised the expectations of the team coming into the 2016-17 season. A revamped Eastern Conference that showed Boston getting Al Horford and the Bulls getting a veteran star in Dwayne Wade will provide a new set of challenges for the Dinos, and here are 3 key questions they face heading into the season.

  1. Can Demar Derozan Come Through And Prove His New Deal.  

Demar Derozan had a fantastic regular season that had him averaging 23.5 points per game while shooting 44% from the field. He also had his best season PER averaging 21.5, his usage meanwhile was also his career high due to the Raptors iso based offense. He made the All-Star team for the second time in his career and looked to have a great post-season, but unfortunately he struggled alongside Kyle Lowry for most of the post-season and was one of the factors in the Raptors struggling to have consistent offense.

Even after the struggles of the playoffs for Demar, there was no real doubt that he would leave Toronto, he wanted to stay with the team that gave him a chance to become a star. Like his fellow teammate and friend Kyle Lowry, he showed dedication and loyalty to a team that was known for past stars bouncing given the chance.

The Raptors followed through on their promise signing Derozan to a massive five-year 139 million dollar deal insuring the Raptors and Demar Derozan are both in this for the long haul. Demar now has a chip on his shoulder and has a big task of proving he is worth that much.

As much as a scorer Derozan is his game is only consistent inside the three-point line only shooting only 33% from behind the arc while he managed to take most of his shots from the mid range averaging 44% from 15 feet out. His shot is there he just needs to realize his best options and not give in to the open three point shot.

Derozan should again be a valuable asset to the Raptors, but the first season after a big contract is always the most looked at and a big question is whether he can produce in the post-season after years of disappointment. I think Demar has it in him and Demar can realize it if he works hard enough.

2.  Will Jonas Valanciunas Become An All Star. 

It was a coming out party for a couple of Raptors last season, one of them being center Jonas Valanciunas, who saw his greatest output offensively as well as on the glass averaging close to 13 points and 12 boards a game. He battled injuries and lack of touches to have a very productive season for the Raptors, he gave them a solid 1-2 punch with defensive specialist Bismack Biyombo captaining the second unit.

His pick and roll offense was a key set with Kyle lowry last year, and his post game got more and more consistent in the mid range elbow area being able to knock down open shots and not use the  pump fake to try to bait his opponent. If Jonas had not gotten hurt or if he would have gotten more touches in the Raptors offense who knows how good he would have gotten. The growth and the maturity grew with Jonas, while also thriving in a league that is getting more and more used to having smaller centers who can knock down 20 footers and even hit some threes.

the ability of Jonas to go from utility center to All-Star will heavily depend on his patience to make his old school game work in a game where more pick and pop is being used. His post game is getting better but still needs work, his footwork needs work and he needs to be able to do more than just a shoulder to your chest running hook. The pick and roll with Lowry was his best weapon, at times it was seldom used but when it did work it gave the Raptors two very lethal options. Have a big switch to Lowry and he would use his quickness to get into the lane, have a guard switch to jonas and it would be an easy matchup that Valanciunas would easily take advantage of.

If Jonas can continue to get better and keep in the work ethic; the Raptors realize the talent of JV and give him better touches as well as  looks at the basket he should be able to flourish and be a consideration for the Eastern Conference team down in New Orleans next year.

3. Will This Be Norman Powell’s Coming Out Party

The other Raptor who had a eye-opening year was rookie Norman Powell. He fit in right away with the club, giving them athleticism and stingy defense at the 3 that 4 year player Terrence Ross struggled to do. He was originally a slashing forward kind of reminiscent of the Joey Graham years, but Powell had more hunger and want to make this team permanently after spending time in the D-League down in Mississauga for the Raptors 905.

He showed how valuable a development team can be for a young player like Powell. He led the team in points, steals and minutes, and showed he was ready for the primetime. The Raptors agreed, calling him up and after eventually putting him in the starting lineup.  Powell was a key piece for the Raptors and they contributed better with Powell on the court than off, according to Basketball Reference

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Powell had a rough playoffs but for him it was all about experience, being able to see what the big time was like with a team that went so far and achieved so much for such little history. If another dominating summer league from Powell showed anything, is that he is ready to hit the NBA full-time and it is only a matter of patience and growth.

The Raptors saw their team grow and go farther than they ever saw any former incarnation of the team go, and despite losing to the future champ Cavs in a series they had no chance off, they still took two games from the champs. The Raptors are looking like they will repeat as the second seed in the Eastern Conference, The Cavs are a juggernaut and it will take a miracle on ice for the Raps to beat them. But this is about showing that they can again make it to the East Finals and presumably face off against the Cavs, and who knows maybe miracles do happen on the court.

 

Anxiety, Sports and Coping

I gotta be honest, I’m not sober while writing this – a few rum and cokes and buds will have that happen to someone-, but i am here at Camp Katrindo, a longstay of land which holds a number of cabins that have been occupied by numerous friends, family and others throughout the years and for some even decades. While listening to Car Seat Headrest, a band I just found out about a couple days ago while just searching punk music on Spotify I decide to talk about anxiety, something that I never really thought I had till I decided it was better for a wonderful professional to try and see if I indeed do have anxiety, and it turns out I do! Hey look at me. Anxiety I think is basically a constant worry and sometimes high energetic self doubt that goes on in my head. Heading to a big party? Scared to death of fitting in, what to say, and hell even why my shoes aren’t as cool as others. Kinda Fucked right? Yea it sure is, for most of the time I spend is mostly trying to convince myself things would or will be better than whatever garbage is going on in my head. Usually it is, but the amount of overthinking and stress I put on myself is far too tiring and I usually just end up crashing, far too tired to go on with the night and ready for some water and reruns of That 70s Show. I wish I was more outgoing, being able to not have a constant wonder or worry of what is going to happen and just kinda going with the flow. But I can’t because once again the fucking Anxiety kicks in like a punch in the nuts.

 

A kick that sometimes feels like a little kick, and sometimes feels like a god damn steele boot is ready to knock your nuts off. But yet the one place I feel home, the one place I feel comfortable and in my zone is during sporting events. Blue Jays games in the summer especially, and i’m not even really a Jays fan, maybe it is cuz Baseball just works that way, beer in one hand and hotdog in the other while yelling at Alex Rodriguez that he cheated or whatever, or maybe it is just easier to get along with people cuz the worries of life just float away for the 2-3 hours you sit on those bright blue chairs in the 500 level. I write about sports Try to write about sports as much as I can, with some unbias and with some sense of seriousness or fair judge of a player or event. With some emotion going in, but honestly i’m not screaming or booing a player while I write it, and I find that funny to me. Sports is a way out of life’s problems and escapes, to be able to say fuck it with the day and watch a overpaid pitcher threw a fastball down the pipe. No matter how bad or how shitty your day is you can turn the tv on and mostly find some form of fun game or fun sporting event happening that will get you excited at least. I try to use sports as an out, sometimes it works, sometimes the stress from whatever is happening in life is too much on my mind to even let a few hours of fun happen.

 

So i guess the question is how would be the best way to cope, or maybe the better question is how is there a way to talk about it and not feel like a complete dork. I guess the answer really is there is no way, the best way to really be open about this dumb thing called anxiety is to be excatly that. So i decided I needed help and i saw someone that was able to give me a way to vent, you can only keep this kinda stuff bottled in for so long. But even thinking of that idea and even going up to meet that person was a stressful time for me, the thought of allowing a stranger to know so much about you and the way you function is a huge thing to do let alone think about. But I needed to do that, I had a choice  to run,that was a path of no direction or thought, or do the very thing I am and was afraid of and that is to face my problem head on. It is now 2 am and I am writing this to you while johnny cash is playing, still don’t know why I am writing this, but this is how I cope i guess. Writing and speaking about it is a way I let things spill out, and who knows maybe someone else will speak about their anxiety as well.   

Buffalo Sabres Are Ready To Win

Buffalo Sabres Are Ready To Win

Last season was a bit of a disappointment for Buffalo, a lot of people expected them to be better than third last in the eastern conference. Their goaltending was a car wreck in no real starters and a bunch of back-ups, the offense was inconsistent which put them near dead last in the nhl, and the defense,while guys like Ristolainen and Jake McCabe showed promise, injuries to Cody Franson and Zach Bogosian really put a hurt on the effectiveness of the blue line last year. But a new year and some solid off-season additions in Justin Falk and Kyle Okposo brings in much-needed blue line depth and gives them some nice weapons offensively they didn’t have last season. If everyone stays healthy this team should be a real contender for a playoff spot for the first time in six years, and really anything short would be a big disappointment.

The Sabres were able to help stack up their offensive weapons at the draft by selecting swedish talent Alex Nylander, brother of Maple Leaf William Nylander and son of former NHL player Michael Nylander. Their draft record continues to impress over the last few years and by building skilled and young talent they don’t go into next year and years after with no solid foundation or plan, they want to win now but don’t want to risk trading the future for rental players.

Now mainly why the Sabres have gotten so many good picks in the last few drafts is because of futility. Prior management fumbles with foolish signings and lack of direction caused a change and forced the sabres into a rebuild, something fans and  the team want to not happen again for a long time.

The Sabres are not a cup contender by any means, at least not yet. Their Defense core is while upgraded, is lacking real structure  and the goaltending is not really set in stone. But the feeling of progress and the regained feel of hope has the fans really believing that this team can finally be taken seriously.

The Atlantic Division third spot  is ripe for the taking for Buffalo. The Leafs are just starting a rebuild and pose no real threat to the Sabres, the Senators seem to be drowning, the Bruins are a mess trying to remain with the Bruins style, Montreal just got rid of maybe their best offensive weapon with management spinning heads, and the Wings just lost pavel Datsyuk. The real threats to Buffalo are the two teams from Florida, the Panthers are young and have a promising core while the Lightning just re-signed their best player. In an Eastern Conference with only a few good teams the Sabres have a better chance than ever to really set their mark on the league and be recognized as a team not throwing in the towel come February or March. The time for Buffalo to win is now, and for the Sabres there is no better time to realize potential and begin to be taken seriously again.

 

 

 

 

Stamkos Staying Gives Tampa New Life

Stamkos Staying Gives Tampa New Life

 

It was not long ago that a somewhat healthy but defeated Steven Stamkos looked on as his first game since being sidelined with blood clots issues ended with the Pittsburgh Penguins moving on from the Eastern Conference Finals and getting a taste of something that was once so close for Stamkos and yet seemed unreachable. Now months have past and the focus was shifted to whether or not the superstar sniper will stay in Tampa or possibly start a different path in his celebrated but injured career.

Toronto seemed like the place where it would be the most exciting for Stamkos, the Leafs were hours off of drafting coveted super rookie Auston Matthews and with their talented young core coming together, having Stamkos with that team would have made a nice fit and it would have been a suitable replacement after trading away Phil Kessel. Stamkos is from Toronto and money would not be a problem for Toronto after getting rid of contracts like Dion Phaneuf and Phil Kessel, it could have been a match made in heaven.

The Red Wings seemed like the next candidate that would offer winning sooner rather than later for Stamkos. The Wings consistently make the playoffs even when some of their older players start to show their age and their production fall off. The Wings are well known for their terrific farm system down in Grand Rapids and players who are called up from there seem to make a positive impact. With Datsyuk returning to play in Russia it left a big void for the Wings offensively, they have talent but not too Datsyuk’s level. This is where having Stamkos would have been perfect for Detroit, they not only fill the void but have a much younger and fresher player in Steven Stamkos.

Then there were the Buffalo Sabres, who seem like the odd team but the money tree that is the Terry Pegula ownership made them a real thought for Stamkos. The Sabres were even willing in giving Stamkos 12 million a year of AAV which was 4 million more than the 8 million a year he made when signing back with Tampa.  It seemed odd but with Buffalo already stacked in forward talent like Eichel, Sam Reinhart and Ryan O’Rielly, adding Stamkos would bolster the depth of the Sabres who are just a few pieces away from competing again the in the Eastern Conference. Media wise it would be less of an adventure for Stamkos than in Toronto, but would also be somewhat close to home that off-season travel would not be an issue.

But given all the perks and pluses certain teams gave out to Stamkos he remained loyal and re-signed with the Lightning, he realized the situation and knew that staying in Tampa for less money than other teams would have forked out is beneficial to both the Lightning and Stamkos. The Lightning remain mostly with the same players as before and insure a (hopefully) healthy Steven Stamkos who is looking to have a big year after having to watch most of the games from home. It benefits Stamkos because it gives him a team that has shown it can play against the best and are just a few bounces away from lifting the cup, and as he enters his prime years he gives the Lightning a powerful boost. Stamkos has revenge on his mind after bitter loses and looks to prove that he can win and bring back the Cup to Tampa Bay.

The Lightning are a good young team with a lot of talent that are just finding their stride. Tyler Johnson is a budding superstar, Jonathan Drouin has gone from afterthought to offensive importance for Tampa, Nikita Kucherov is a young 23 year old who only seems to get better and better after having a career year, and Victor Hedman is proving himself to be one the best D man in the league. The Lightning would have been fine without Stamkos- they have too many weapons not to be- but it made too much sense to see Stamkos return to the team he began his career with and has gotten better pretty much every year he has been with them.

The Lightning got their man back and now looked more poised than ever to make a statement year and reach the cup finale for the second time in 3 years. Stamkos coming back to Tampa insures a chance to have that dream come true, to instead of being on the losing end back hunched on the boards, he can be the one lifting Lord Stanley and receiving the ring. The Lightning re-signing Stamkos gives them a win now opportunity and possibly their best one yet, and they have their leading man taking charge.

The Last At-Bat

The Last At-Bat

 

At the end of the 2016 MLB season a champion will be crowned and a hall of fame player would have left the game. David Ortiz is 40 years old and has made sure 2016 is the last year that he would step up to the plate for Major League Baseball, announcing his retirement prior to the start of the season. Ortiz is a legend for the Red Sox, having played the majority of his career in Boston after being traded from the Twins in 2002. Three World Series titles, 9 All Star Game appearances, 6 Silver Slugger awards, a ALCS and WS MVP later and all the sudden one of the games best players ever finally says quits, while playing one of his best season.

I’m still trying to learn more about the game of baseball, still trying to figure out the stats and the pitchers different styles of pitching. But I love the game, and that is all thanks to being able to watch my favorite player David Ortiz play baseball every day. It was a treat because I was watching someone who genuinely loved the game and always had a smile on his face when hitting home runs. But also knew that when it came down to his team needing a big hit to win a game in april or later in the fall, number 34 always seemed to deliver.

 

2004 is when I started paying attention to baseball, sure the jays were there but they never got me as excited to watch baseball as the Red Sox did. David Ortiz was having maybe his best season ever hitting .301/.603/.980 on a stacked Red Sox team, it was a special year and I realized how great Ortiz was and how few players were like him.

Players retire all the time, sometimes too soon and sometimes later than people wanted. But it’s part of sports and a part of life, but it hurts harder when a favorite player of yours is ready to leave the game you watched him play for so long, you begin to appreciate the game and person more than just the player. Always respected around the league and his accomplishments puts him up there with one of the best players in history.

 

It has been a blast watching #34 for so long through the fun times and more serious times of his fantastic career  He made me enjoy the game and made me want to know more and learn more about the game. He revolutionized the Designated Hitter spot and his clutch hitting in october put a mark on the game that very few players can replicate or match. Watching the game when he leaves won’t be the same, he meant so much to me when he played that seeing him leave will be bittersweet. But while playing one of his better seasons of his career on his last leg is fitting, and a beautiful send off to a real first class player. It is David Ortiz’s last at bat with Major League Baseball, and after all the years of enjoyment watching him it will be hard to let go, but it was a real fun time enjoying the moment.

 

Fresh Prince Of Canada: Kyle Lowry and Making History

Fresh Prince Of Canada: Kyle Lowry and Making History

It finally happened as the clock hit zero, and the Toronto Raptors defeated the Miami Heat 111-86 in an emotional and hard-fought game seven in which it saw Kyle Lowry forget the demons of past loses, forget his disastrous start to the post-season and most of all, have raptor nation for the first time ever say that they watched their beloved team advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. The Vince Carter fadeaway miss in 2001 was a dark mark on the city, and was always for so long felt unreachable and unbeatable. Chris Bosh couldn’t do it, Carter couldn’t go back to that point  and Andrea Bargani was laughed at for most of his career. Raptor fans never were given a true reason to think this team of misfits and stars who left as fast as they saw their contract end, could really give them a path and a consistent amount of years where playoffs was never a question. But their relevancy and need about being taken seriously was fading as they struggled to find leadership and star power, it was clear players were not ready to commit to going to Canada long-term.

Then the Raptors cleaned house thanks to a brief tenure by Tim Leiweke who brought in former Nuggets head boss Masai Ujiri. Ujiri traded Rudy Gay to the Kings for a package of players including Patrick Patterson. He re-signed Kyle Lowry to remain in Toronto, a star actually staying in Toronto was new grounds for fans, this never happened before. Carter left at the first sign of trouble, Bosh decided for a brighter future in Miami and Andrea Bargani played himself out of relevancy. But Kyle Lowry had a chip on his shoulder ever since getting drafted by Memphis. Problems with management in Houston and problems with his weight brought him to Toronto, and he decided to make a name for himself. Two All-Star games and Playoff births later and Kyle Lowry is the man in Toronto.

Still fighting to earn respect and notice as one of the best point guards today, Kyle is leading the Raptors to new and exciting territory, a date in the Eastern Conference Finale against Lebron in what really could be described as David vs Goliath. The raps are not given much of a chance and like always it gives them a reason to fight and a reason to show why Kyle and co won a team record 56 games.

The Raptors made new history and maybe the biggest moment in Canada Basketball history. Long years of suffering mediocrity and disappointment, terrible management and terrible coaches, players wanting out and players being yelled to get out and it all got to this point. Stress and anxiety turn to excitement and celebration. The Raptors are no longer that other team in Canada, “We The North” signs proudly and loudly throughout this great city. Kids are not wanting to pick up hockey, but pick up a basketball and a kyle lowry jersey at Real Sports. My old elementary school courts are being used more than ever. Drake effect or not the Raptors are lifting a nation like they never could before and like no one thought they would.

Win or lose this series against Cleveland Toronto is proud of what Masai and co have done with this team, and how Kyle Lowry has taken such an unusual task of being the man for the Raptors. Elevating his career to All NBA Satus, two all-star games in which one he started live from the city that he has given so much to, the city of Toronto. The Raptors have made history and made their own footprint, no matter what happens this team made the city of Toronto proud.

Sports Fandom and the Ridiculousness of It All

Sports Fandom and the Ridiculousness of It All

I was with my family last night, sitting around the tv as we do watching the decided event or show that was being broadcasted on day or night. Having dinner and beer while nervously and anxiously anticipating an event that is all to familiar to us. Watching a very close Toronto sports team in a high intensity win or lose game with stakes that really for me and my life mean very little, I am not being paid crazy amounts of money to participate in athletic and sometimes dangerous tasks being watched by millions of drunk, loud and obnoxious people. I certainly do not get awards for anything in the off-season, nor do I raise a trophy over my head and celebrate team achievements. Though i take time out of my night to sit in front of a 40 or so inch screen and give out my best appreciation for these athletes while drinking a plenty of miller lights and waters.

it is now mid to late April and the playoffs are well underway in Toronto for the basketball side. The Raptors have come off of a stellar franchise best 56 win campaign and to people of knowledge contenders to have a serious playoff run and be the main contenders to Lebron and the Cavs throne in the east. The Raptors who last year got schooled hard by the Washington Wizards in a sweep that really should not have been a sweep, and a year prior really starting this new era of Raptors basketball when they went seven to the Brooklyn Nets before eventually losing in seven thanks to a Kyle Lowry shot that just missed.

But this Raptors team felt not the same, like the real idea of a Toronto team that had created a movement in the city for basketball in the city and country felt possible, and yet the ACC and the cutely named “Jurassic Park” held outside Maple Leaf Square gathered around early Saturday morning to get ready to be loud and proud for their boys in white. Then Game one ended…..Another game one loss…..Another moment of question whether they can really do this, or if it is just another dream a kid had while shooting buckets at a nearby park.  Toronto Sports once again let down by events only a few select of people can determine, and yet so many affected as if a loss so massive has taken their heart and twisted it ever slightly. But as the days went on and the headlines came and went games 2 and 3 were followed, and hope and rejuvenation were restored in fans and players as the Raptors won 2 games in a row to take a 2-1 lead. The Pacers would tie it back up with a superstar performance by Paul George and the sudden disappearance of Demar Derozan.

Which lead me and hopefully whoever is still reading along, to a game 5 in Toronto. A game 5 that for mothers,daughters, fathers and sons felt like a game seven. Felt like that if they didn’t pull this off it would be one of the most depressing and disappointing losses in franchise history. Like twisting your heart, but instead taking it out and squashing it right in front of your eyes while all the same telling yourself you had a chance. If they didn’t win this, an empty feeling would soon take over your body. So of course I gathered with my family with lasagna (that I made i might add) in hand. All real too nervous to talk to one another, all too nervous not to be quiet. We had to yell we had to show emotion, because for some reason we cared, for some reason it felt personal to all of us. Before any of us could get real settled in the Pacers shot out of a cannon and took an early convincing lead. Excitement turn to anguish and hope turned to despair and worry.  Another first round disappointment, another reason to never hope and to never have expectations. We seen this before, and we knew all too well of the pattern of losses this team had piled on with first round exists. I turned sour, almost seemingly saying ” of course this team would not be able to show up when it mattered, of course”. But my family remained positive, they have seen all of the sadness that this team left us year after year, they have shared the same pain and sadness that brought upon every April. They continued to cheer though, I admire that so much, being able to consistently remain hopeful even though the inevitable seemed to be the ending.

The Fourth Quarter turned, and with foods in our belly and beers being enjoyed we remained tense and glued to the tv. I was trying to vent my emotions and feelings through “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia” images via my Twitter feed. Trying not to yell too much, but still feel like I need to see this game out to the last second, like I do all the time with this team during the playoffs. Through good and mostly bad try to see every chance I can so when I see that zero pop up on the screen I can take in every loss and every win, try to make this 3 or so hours spent watching a sport I enjoy so much worth it, to try to make it so it meant something to me even though it really shouldn’t. Then all the sudden Toronto Raptors rookie Norman Powell has risen and off of a steal and a dunk tied the game. Jubilation and stress lifted out of the ACC in one joined roar as the Raptors have all the sudden came back and made it even again, made it worth it again. A couple of threes and a Bismack dunk later the Raptors took the lead, and took the game 5 as if to say, we are still here Toronto, and we are going down swinging. One Toronto team had a game 5 miracle happen, it was time for the Raptors to make their footprint in Toronto playoff history. This may not have been Jose Bautista’s’ Bat Flip, but it was the closest thing to second for this city so starving for success.

Cheering loudly were my family and me just looking more shocked than excited, we both exclaimed how exciting and really kinda silly the game was said goodnight to each other and left for bed, well some of us anyway.  The roller-coaster feeling that Game 5 gave to me and everyone else in Toronto was excruciating and yet all too familiar. Sports in Toronto revels such a side of dangerous and bipolar fandom in everyone in this city, so much that a famous city rapper decided to appoint himself an “ambassador” to the Raptors. A position that really changed the franchise for better or worse. The game start of 6:00 seemed ridiculous yet fitting for a city nicknamed the 6. So fitting that Masai Ujiri created a personal letter of pass for workers and students who at first seemed to busy to catch the six o’clock start. The idea of gathering around with strangers, who would for a few hours would become your best friends and putting a game of athleticism ahead of any other chore or job of duty shows how much of an impact sports has on a city. Toronto or any other area in the world, sports brings us the ability to let go of any stresses and worries, and let them all out while watching professionals lay it all out for our enjoyment. Sports will never change who we are in our personal lives, but for a brief moment it lets us be inspired and remember to enjoy what is around us. We may yell and we may cry, or shake our head in disappointment, but that is because for some silly reason beyond me we care. As the clock turned six families gathered around and turned on the tv while giving life worries a break for worries of enjoyment, sadness and outright pandemonium, for no reason at all.

The New King Of New York

The New King Of New York

23 years is a long time for a playoff drought. 23 Years of pain, mediocrity and disappointing exists finally lifted off of Islanders players and fans shoulders when captain John Tavares grabbed a rebound off of Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo and wrapped it in for the series winner. He tied italthough it was not before a controversial no call was made as a Panthers player was tripped-  before putting on his proverbial cape and taking off.

You feel bad for the Panthers though, especially for Luongo and Jagr. Luongo because yet again he is faced with playoff exit earlier than he wanted, and Jagr because we may never see anyone like him again. But it had to be John Tavares, he has faced the highs and especially on the lows, being drafted in 2009 he knows futility and misplaced management.   The Islanders were real bad for real long, and when they drafted Tavares there was finally hope, the hope took a long time to come, but when Tavares went behind the net and put it past the red line he made the years of suffering worth it. He put his stamp on Brooklyn and made sure the Islanders are to be taken seriously.

New York now moves on to face Tampa in the second round, without Stamkos, so Tavares has the spotlight to himself as he has a chance to continue this dream ride although fans would be missing a potential superstar showdown in Stamkos vs Tavares.

Tavares has always had super talent, but never really got to be a guy non super fans say they like to watch. They like guys named Crosby, Ovechkin or Toews. But Tavares has always quietly been making noise and making an impact, at least in brooklyn/Long Island, and now he has the heart of the NHL’s fans in his pocket with his playoff performance. His teammates see his value in the league and realize the importance for him advancing in the post-season via a quote from Kyle Okposo from The Sporting News 

“He’s one of the best players in the league,” said Kyle Okposo, who assisted on the series-winning goal. “He works so hard, and he works for everything he has. It’s awesome to see him get rewarded.”

He has won Olympic Gold, World Junior and World Championship gold and Memorial Cups.  All is left is the Stanley Cup, the trophy that is the hardest to win to lift John Tavares into immortality. He shows that he can win everywhere he goes and now the Islanders are building blocks of developing talented players and a culture long forgotten of the old mismanagement give money forever for a goalie who always kinda sucked    given by a general manager who threw a shoe at a fan.  No one on that team deserves to win more than John Tavares, he has given his blood and tears to this team and made sure the Islanders are to be taken seriously.

Henrik Lundqvuist used to be the King of New York, and he was consistently carrying the rangers to conference finals and Stanley Cup finals while acquiring a bunch of individual awards, he was the runner of hockey in New York for a decade plus, but Lundqvuist is 34 and looks like he may never reach the holy grail, John Tavares is 25 and may be ready to take over the throne as the King of New York