1) There’s a lot of weeping and gnashing of teeth (particularly at Sportsnet) over the fact that for the first time in forty-six years, and only the second time in the history of the league, there are no Canadian teams in the Stanley Cup playoffs. An Angus Reid poll suggests that the Chicago Black Hawks, with 46%, will be the favourite post-season team of Canadian hockey fans. Even though they didn’t get enough votes to be mentioned, I’m going to be cheering for the Florida Panthers. And, yes, it’s primarily because their coach, Gerard Gallant, is from Summerside, PEI. I’ve never met Gerard, but from what I hear he’s one of the good guys. Another reason I’d like to see the Panthers win is my respect for the Panthers’ general manager, Dale Tallon. A lot of people have forgotten that it was Tallon who largely built the overwhelming poll favourite Chicago Black Hawks team. And wouldn’t it be nice to see the seemingly ageless Jaromir Jagr win? The only time the Panthers have ever been in the Stanley Cup finals was twenty years ago. Their coach that year was Doug MacLean, who also happens to be from Summerside, PEI. In case you’re wondering, the Panthers have sixteen Canadians on their roster, the Hawks have ten.
2) Dave Agar, veteran news anchor on radio station CFRB in Toronto retired last week and the station asked a number of well-known people to record short tributes. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau began his by saying, “Dave Agar probably covered my birth.” I guess Trudeau was confused as to whom the tribute was supposed to be about.
3) Something really important was lost amid the completely out-of- proportion handwringing, bitching, whining and complaining following Jose Bautista’s slide interference with Tampa Ray second-baseman Logan Forsythe last Tuesday night. Bautista clearly reached out and grabbed Forsythe’s foot while the latter was pivoting to make his relay to first base in order to complete the double play. That would have been interference under the base-running rules as they existed before the so-called “Chase Utley” rule was instituted this season. So the right call was eventually made, but the wrong reason was given. The new rule didn’t even have to be considered.
4) My five favourite country singers are Johnny Cash, Marty Robbins, Merle Haggard, Hank Snow and Carl Smith. As I’m sure you know by now, Merle Haggard passed away last Wednesday from double pneumonia. Ironically it was his seventy-ninth birthday. Although I saw Merle perform a few times, to my lasting regret I never had the pleasure of meeting him. Those of you who have never seen him perform live may not know two things about him that helped set him apart from many other performers. First, he was a multi-talented musician. Most fans are aware that he could play guitar with the best of them, but he could also play bass and, although he didn’t take it up until fairly late in life, he was a particularly accomplished fiddle player; his rendition of The Orange Blossom Special being as good as I’ve ever heard. The second thing is that he could perfectly imitate almost any other singer. His impersonations of Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Hank Snow and Mary Robbins bordered on the supernatural; if you closed your eyes you’d swear you were listening to the actual artists. Not only did he have the voices down pat, but he also perfectly replicated all their stage mannerisms. I’ve heard that Johnny Cash, in reply to a question about how he felt about Merle’s impersonation, once said, “He does me better than I do.” Although, as I’ve already mentioned, I never met him, I have the feeling that Merle Haggard was a person who was completely comfortable in his own skin; and those that are have always been among my favourite people.
5) I don’t pretend to know exactly what the disease is that’s causing the death of the Republican Party in the U.S. But I’m pretty sure the first significant symptom was John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate in 2008. And when it comes to Trump and Cruz, decency has already died a painful death.