It’s Monday, February 1 and that means another week in sports has passed us by. It also means The Sports Cave has you covered with the goods in sports over said week. We’ve got some NHL, NBA, NFL and BELL content this time.
Thanks for checking it out!
The fourth edition of the Weekly Wrap is ready for consumption, so allow your eyes and earholes to feast away!
We’re hammering you with lots of good deeds from the world of tennis, one of which comes from a Canadian. We’re also talking a little more about John Scott and the NHL all-star game and Brian McGrattan who got a face-full of ice this week. All this and more, so grab a napkin and a seat, dinner is served!
Here’s our third edition of the weekly wrap. This week we’re talking about a Calgary Flames youngster who lit up the Panthers this week. We’re also discussing the NHL all-star game, Mike Ditka and the craziness that was the Packers/Cardinals. A little something special at the end awaits. Enjoy cave dwellers!
Hey all you fine sports loving people! Here’s our second instalment of the weekly wrap. This week it’s all about a few happenings around the NHL, some NFL playoff games and some Kobe mixed in as well. Enjoy!
Hey it’s a new segment we’re hoping you’ll enjoy at The Sports Cave and it’s called the Weekly Sports Wrap. Every Monday we’ll be taking a good, long look at the past week in sports. It’s always fun to focus on the lighter side of things, but expect content from across the spectrum.
We kick off week 1 with some college football banter, world junior talk and finish it with a side of Buffalo Bills business.
Toronto witnessed a wild sports year in 2015. From the highs of the Blue Jays incredible run to the ALCS, to the lows of the Raptors being swept in the first round of the NBA playoffs. The good news is that the College of Sports Media’s encapsulated it all right here, with 416 Rewind.
I was fortunate enough to host the show, and I’m really proud of the efforts of everyone involved. We hope you have as much fun watching it as we did putting it together.
Lance Phillips – The Sports Cave
The National Hockey League is failing its players with its laid-back stance when dealing with concussions and long-term cognitive problems. It’s been an ongoing issue for decades, but now players and their families are voicing their concerns in and out of court. Gary Leeman is one of over 100 players who now fight off the ice and in the courts after filing a lawsuit against the NHL. The lawsuit alleges that the league knowingly put players at risk despite decades of data connecting blows to the head with long-term neurological damage.
Over the last 10 years a handful of ex-NHL players with a history of concussion problems have passed away. The latest was Steve Montador, a 10-year veteran of the league who was found dead at his Toronto-area home in February. Montador played with six teams, engaged in 69 fights and had 15 documented concussions in the NHL. The key word in that last sentence is “documented” as it’s highly likely Montador
suffered more brain trauma than NHL paperwork shows. Montador’s family filed a lawsuit against the NHL in early December and in the suit stated Montador suffered “thousands of sub-concussive brain traumas” along with multiple concussions. Also in the 34-page complaint were allegations the NHL “failed to keep (Montador) reasonably safe during his career and utterly failed to provide him with crucial medical information on the permanent ramifications of brain trauma.” In 2010, Matt Cooke, a player who has served multiple suspensions for dirty hits, knocked Boston Bruins Forward Marc Savard nearly unconscious with a vicious head check. Savard never recovered from the concussion he suffered, and to this day deals with serious post-concussion issues like headaches and short-term memory problems. Ultimately, he was no longer able to play the game and he’s not the only one.
And herein lies the league’s ultimate problem.
The NHL’s reaction to head checks and dirty plays is not nearly harsh enough. Cooke wasn’t penalized or suspended by the league for his hit on Savard. If the NHL really wants to eliminate these types of hits, league bosses would establish penalties so stiff players wouldn’t even consider making them for fear of losing considerable amounts of money or worse. Leading up to the Savard hit, Cooke had missed a total of 10 games over five different suspensions. The NHL could have prevented the hit on Savard, thus saving his career, if they’d acted swiftly and harshly in punishing Cooke on any of the previous five occasions.
Until the NHL takes head checks, dirty hits and concussion problems seriously, it’s going to continually deal with lawsuits, constant scrutiny and fallout in the public eye. Most importantly, it may have to deal with the deaths of more of its most important asset—players.
Lance Phillips – The Sports Cave
Most kids involved in sport dream of playing professionally. For Michael O’Connor, his dream’s taken a significant turn, one that the Ottawa native certainly didn’t see coming.
At the age of 15, O’Connor led the Ashbury College Colts in Ottawa, ON to a 7-0 season, finishing with a Conference of Independent Schools of Ontario Athletic Association championship in 2011. Not long after, O’Connor left home to pursue his dream of becoming pro by attending Chattanooga, Tennessee’s Baylor school, followed by a one-year stint at Florida’s IMG Academy.
The plan seemed to work. In 2014 ESPN named O’Connor the number six high school quarterback prospect in the United States. Being one of the most coveted American high school quarterback’s meant O’Connor’s pro dream was going to take the next step in the form of a scholarship at a top-end U.S. division one university. That school ended up being one of the most storied in all of American college football, Penn State.
O’Connor was initially recruited to Penn State by Bill O’Brien, and two weeks before the Canadian was set to enroll, O’Brien left State College, PA for an NFL coaching job with the Houston Texans. O’Connor declined the opportunity to transfer after Penn State replaced O’Brien with James Franklin, Vanderbilt’s former coach. However, Franklin didn’t see the same potential in O’Connor, demoting him to redshirt status with the program. It was the beginning of the end for the Canadian at PSU.
Enter Blake Nill.
Nill, the man responsible for the Calgary Dinos rejuvenation, had taken a coaching position with the UBC Thunderbirds of the CIS and was in need of a quarterback. Upon hearing that O’Connor was looking to transfer, Nill contacted O’Connor through a universal portal, Facebook.
He eventually convinced O’Connor to come take a look at UBC and discuss its program. O’Connor, skeptical of how he could progress in Canadian football, looked at the opportunity in a different light. “It’s going to sound bad, and maybe I shouldn’t say this, but it was a free trip to Vancouver,” O’Connor would later say. Nill was able to prove to O’Connor that the CIS was a worthy training ground for a pro career and in an unexpected turn O’Connor left America, the perceived epicenter of football development, to play for a UBC program that hadn’t had a winning record since going 4-3 in 2004.
What transpired in O’Connor’s first year at UBC is exactly what coach Nill hoped for. O’Connor flourished under Nill’s tutelage, completing 250 of 414 pass attempts for 3,570 yards, throwing 22 touchdowns compared to 10 interceptions. More importantly, he was the catalyst that led UBC to a 6-2 record, a first round playoff upset against Nill’s old team, the undefeated Calgary Dino’s and a berth in the Vanier Cup (a first for UBC since 1997) after defeating St. Francis Xavier in last weekends Uteck Bowl.
Nill knows his offence is still a work-in-progress, one that relies heavily on O’Connor to produce. “MyCalgary and St. Mary’s programs were based on an ability to run the football, allowing you to open up the pass game. Hopefully in the future, we’ll be back to the traditional mould but we’re not right now and Michael is a big part of any success we’re going to have.”
Under Nill, O’Connor’s dream to play pro still exists, despite arguments that Canadian quarterbacks aren’t as prepared as their NCAA counterparts. O’Connor’s enjoyed his first year with UBC, “It’s been awesome. Such a great journey.” Considering the 19-year old’s in his first of potentially five years with the BC university, the journey’s just beginning. However, it can take a considerable step forward with a win over the Montreal Carabins in Saturday’s Vanier Cup.
It’s compelling to see how O’Connor’s focus has shifted from wanting to play in the U.S. to his new goal. “I want to win multiple Vanier Cups.” For Nill, O’Connor’s road to success is pretty simple. “If this kid lives up to his potential, I’m confident I can get him up to the level he aspires to.”
All that’s left now is for O’Connor to hold up his end of the bargain.
Here’s some fun. It’s Donald Trump….on The Sports Cave!
Yea, The Donald talked to us, but just for a minute, literally. Sixty seconds was all the time he could afford us.
It’s gold though, so have a listen!
For years CIS football’s been plagued with little to no parity. It’s as easy to pick the top teams, as it is to pick the bottom teams. Year after year, squads like the University of Western Ontario Mustangs (OUA), Laval University Rouge et Or (RSEQ) and the University of Calgary Dino’s (Canada West) feast on lower seeded teams. Program’s like Western’s are always going to be perennial winners. They’ve developed and fostered a culture of winning, solidifying it with top tier scouting, player development and coaching. Having a strong program such as Western’s is a plus for the CIS, but so is having parity. Something the CIS desperately needs.
This season the parity wave turned, ever so slightly. UBC finished the season 6-2, fully reversing their
2-6 2014 record, finishing with a winning record for the first time since 2004. Mainly due to standout quarterback Michael O’Connor, an Ottawa native who transferred from Penn State after one season with the Nittany Lions. St. Francis Xavier (AUS) finished with a winning record for the first time since 2009 and Carleton, Queens and Toronto each won more games than the year previous. Even the York University Lions earned a win this season, something they didn’t manage once during the 2014 campaign.
I know, it doesn’t sound like much, but they are small victories. However, even though the regular season saw some unlikely standings changes, the best was saved for this past weekend.
In a matter of hours Calgary, Western, and Laval all watched their seasons come to an early end. Calgary lost in the Hardy Cup to the aforementioned UBC Thunderbirds, 34-26. Western, without their top player, OUA MVP and Hec Crighton finalist, Quarterback Will Finch, were upset by Guelph 23-17 in the Yates Cup, and Montreal squeaked by Laval 18-16, winning the Dunsmore Cup on a blocked last-minute field goal attempt. To put that in perspective, the number 1, 2 and 3 ranked teams nationally, were beaten by the number 4, 5 and 6 ranked teams. Even an unranked St. Francis Xavier won the Loney Bowl on a dramatic last-minute field goal, 14-12 over Mount Allison.
What all that means is 4 teams not expected to be anywhere near the Vanier Cup, are in the CIS final four. It should be equally thrilling for the CIS as it is for fans of these schools. It allows each of these programs an opportunity to develop their own winning culture just like the ones they defeated. It also offers up the chance for a team not named Montreal to play for the Vanier Cup for the first time in over 18 years.
Change is good. And for a league faced with the dilemma of the same teams winning year after year, it’s the best kind of change.