Cavs vs Warriors NBA Final Preview

NBA Trophy

I have a confession. This is the most excited I’ve been for an NBA Final series since the late 1990s when the Chicago Bulls and Utah Jazz were involved in two classic series to determine the world champions. This final between Cleveland and Golden State has the potential of matching and even topping those great Bulls/Jazz series. I do believe this has a chance of being the best NBA Final of all time. (I hope I didn’t jinx it.) Continue reading

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RIP Pat Quinn

Pat Quinn 2

Pat Quinn was larger than life. Whenever he walked into a room, he commanded it. His large frame and charismatic personality could either charm, or intimidate anyone within eye contact. But he was also a solid hockey player and terrific coach, who reached success at the highest levels.

Quinn died after battling an illness this past week. He was 71 years old.

His first taste of success came in 1963 as a member of the Edmonton Oil Kings of the old Central Alberta Hockey League. Quinn helped the Oil Kings capture the Memorial Cup, emblematic of the top junior team in Canada.

However, Quinn would have to wait five more years before he suited up in the NHL. After plying his trade with the Tulsa Oilers of the CPHL, Quinn was called up by the Toronto Maple Leafs during the 1968-69 season.

The Leafs made the playoffs that year and faced the Boston Bruins in the first round. It was during that series that Quinn made himself famous.

Late in the first game with the Bruins ahead 10-0, Quinn delivered a vicious elbow to the head of superstar defenceman Bobby Orr. The Bruins famed #4 lay on the Boston Garden ice unconscious while his teammates tried to get after Quinn. A bench-clearing brawl ensued as even the fans tried to get after Quinn.

Pat Quinn

Quinn move on to the expansion Vancouver Canucks in 1970, where he established himself as a fan favourite.

Pat Quinn

But the Canucks left him unprotected in the 1972 expansion draft, when the Atlanta Flames claimed him. Quinn would play five seasons in Dixie, before announcing his retirement following the 1976-77 season, due to an ankle injury.

Quinn really made his mark in hockey behind the bench. He took an assistant coaching position with the Philadelphia Flyers, under the guidance of Fred Shero in 1977. He was named head coach of Philadelphia’s AHL affiliate, the Maine Mariners in time for the start of the 1978-79 season. Midway through the campaign, the Flyers made the rare move by moving Quinn to the big club while Bob McCammon, who was coaching the Flyers, was moved down to the farm team. The Flyers did eliminate Vancouver in the first round, but were ousted by the New York Rangers in the quarterfinals. Ironically, it was Shero who was coaching the Rangers as he knocked off his protegé.

Quinn Flyers

The 1979-80 season saw Quinn reach new heights. The Flyers set an NHL record by going 35 games without a loss. This despite the fact Hall of Fame goalie Bernie Parent was forced to retire due to an eye injury. Veterans such as Bobby Clarke, Bill Barber and Reggie Leach were instrumental for the Flyers, but Quinn made sure the young guys such as Pete Peeters, Ken Linseman and Brian Propp were put into key roles to help the Flyers go forward into the 1980s.

The Flyers finished with the best record in the NHL, going 48-12-20 over the 80 game season. Quinn won the Jack Adams Award as the coach of the year. During that season, Quinn was going to law school at Widener University.

After sweeping Wayne Gretzky and the Edmonton Oilers in the first round, Quinn met up with his mentor again in the quarterfinals. This time, the student bested the teacher as Quinn’s Flyers ousted Shero’s Rangers in five games. The Flyers had little trouble defeated Minnesota in five before facing the New York Islanders in the Finals.

It was in Game 6 where Quinn’s distrust of officials really began. With the game tied 1-1 late in the first period, the Islanders broke in on a 3-on-2 rush. Clark Gillies drop pass to Butch Goring went outside the blue line but linesman Leon Stickle waived it off. Goring fed Duane Sutter who scored giving the Islanders the lead. Bob Nystrom’s overtime winner gave the Islanders a 5-4 victory and their first Stanley Cup. Quinn was furious over the offside goal. Stickle admitted his error but the goal stood.

Quinn stayed in Philadelphia until late in the 1981-82 season when he was fired by the Flyers. The team had difficulty replicating the success from the 1979-80 season and it started to wear down Quinn. Even though the Flyers had a decent 34-29–9 record, they were behind the Islanders and Rangers in the Patrick Division.

Quinn took some time off to pursue his law degree until the Los Angeles Kings came calling. Quinn was named head coach of the Kings in time for the 1984-85 season. He also completed his law degree at nearby San Diego University. Quinn did lead the Kings to a playoff berth after the franchise missed the postseason the previous two seasons. However, the Kings were swept by Edmonton in the first round.

During the 1986-87 season, Quinn signed a deal with the Vancouver Canucks to become their general manager and president. The problem was Quinn was still under contract with the Kings. Quinn’s contention was that the Kings missed a deadline on an option in his contract thus allowing Quinn to negotiate with other teams. The case went to arbitration where Quinn’s put his legal skills to use. In the end, NHL president John Ziegler suspended Quinn for the rest of the season and didn’t allow Quinn to go to Vancouver until the end of the season. Quinn was also not allowed to coach the Canucks until the 1990-91 season. But Quinn did successfully defend himself against a tampering lawsuit brought about by the Kings.

Quinn Coach Canucks

When Quinn arrived in Vancouver, he took over a floundering franchise that needed a new direction. Sensing that some of the veterans were past their prime, Quinn started to make moves to help the club in the future. His most significant move in his first year was dealing Patrik Sundstrom to the New Jersey Devils in exchange for minor league goalie Kirk McLean and forward Greg Adams. Both McLean and Adams became integral parts of the Canucks rise in the 1990s.

Quinn also struck it rich at the draft as he selected Trevor Linden with the second overall pick in 1988. The next year, Quinn drafted Russian star Pavel Bure in the third round. But controversy reared its head yet again. Many teams thought that Bure was ineligible for the 1989 draft. However, Quinn and Canucks scout Mike Penny discovered that Bure had played enough games for the Central Red Army as exhibition games counted as games played in the Soviet Union. When the league realized this, they tipped their hat to Quinn and Penny for doing their homework. It showed the work and dedication Quinn had to make his team better by going the extra mile.

Quinn took over behind the bench midway through the 1990-91 season, and the Canucks started to trend upwards. After a playoff appearance that year, the Canucks improved greatly in 1991-92. The franchise captured its first division title in 17 seasons, topping the Smythe Division by 12 points over second place Los Angeles. The Canucks overcame a 3-1 deficit to eliminate the Winnipeg Jets in the first round, but fell in the second round to the Edmonton Oilers.

The Canucks repeated their division title the next year and once again faced the Jets in the first round. During the series, Quinn referred to atmosphere in the Winnipeg Arena akin to a game show. Needless to say, Jets fans weren’t happy about that. The Canucks won the series in six games. However, the second round was another disappointment as Vancouver were knocked out by Los Angeles.

The 1993-94 regular season was a down year for the Canucks. Vancouver just managed to make the playoffs as a seventh seed in the Western Conference. The first round was looking gloomy as well, as the Canucks fell behind 3-1 to the Calgary Flames. But Quinn wouldn’t let his charges die easily. The Canucks began a magical run as they won three straight overtime games including Bure’s dazzling series winner in the seventh and deciding game. The Canucks eliminated Dallas and Toronto to set up a Final matchup with the New York Rangers.

Once again, the Canucks found themselves in a 3-1 deficit. Once again, the Canucks came back to force a seventh game. Quinn was this close to winning his first Stanley Cup. Alas, the Canucks came up a tad short, losing 3-2. It was a heartbreaking loss for Quinn and the Canucks.

Quinn moved upstairs to the GM role following the 1993-94 season, but the Canucks couldn’t recapture the success they had. Quinn showed his feistiness during a national TV interview after Don Cherry ripped Bure for holding the Canucks for ransom prior to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. Quinn defended Bure in a memorable TV spot.


When the McCaw family took over ownership from the Griffiths family, Quinn could see the writing on the wall. Despite leading the Canucks on their most successful run in franchise history, Quinn was fired in November of 1997.

Quinn waited until the summer of 1998 until he landed his next job, the head coach and general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs. There isn’t a job in Canadian sports that has more pressure attached to it than being the bench boss of the Maple Leafs. But Quinn relished the opportunity.

The league at the time, was in the middle of the “dead puck era.” The neutral zone trap was dominating tactics and game plans as coaches used a defence first philosophy. Quinn went the opposite way, favouring an attack-first brand of hockey that was much more exciting. The Leafs showed a major improvement that season has they were 28 points better than the previous season. After playoff victories over Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, the Leafs were eliminated by the Buffalo Sabres in the Eastern Conference Final.

The Leafs continued their winning ways the following season by capturing the Northeast Division title. It also brought about a new rivalry with their provincial counterparts, the Ottawa Senators. In a bitterly contested first round series, the Leafs emerged triumphant, after six hard-fought games. That series also wore down the Leafs as they were disposed in the next round by the New Jersey Devils.

The rivalry with Ottawa grew more intense the following season. Even though the Senators swept the season series, the Leafs would get their revenge in the playoffs. Quinn played up the rivalry by saying he didn’t know the names of the Senator players. The Leafs swept the Senators in the first round. However, the Leafs were knocked by New Jersey for the second consecutive year in the second round.


That summer, Quinn was named head coach of Canada’s Olympic hockey team for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. If Quinn felt pressure coaching the Leafs, he would be under more scrutiny coaching Team Canada. The game is a religion in my country and many Canadians wanted to avenge a very disappointing fourth place finish in Nagano in 1998.

Quinn along with GM Wayne Gretzky had some difficult decisions to make. None more so then after the first game in which Canada lost 5-2 to Sweden. Canadian goalie Curtis Joseph was also the Leafs goalie at that time. Joseph struggled against the Swedes so Quinn made the decision by going with Martin Brodeur for the rest of the tournament. Joseph was upset and it caused some friction between the two.

But the moved paid dividends for Canada. Brodeur went undefeated the rest of the way and Canada claimed its first gold medal in hockey in 50 years.

Quinn returned to the Leafs and the charge of winning the gold medal seemed to inspire his club side. The Leafs defeated the New York Islanders in the first round, setting up another Battle of Ontario in the second round. In what would be the most intense series of the 2002 playoffs, the Leafs won in 7 games and advanced to the Eastern Conference Final. However the Leafs ran out of gas and were upset by the Carolina Hurricanes.

But the strains of hard playoff battles began to show on the Leafs. Joseph went to Detroit via free agency and the Leafs replaced him with Ed Belfour. Quinn retained his head coaching position but was replaced as GM by John Ferguson Jr. When Ferguson met Quinn for the first time, Quinn shook his hand and told him, “You’re not qualified for the job.” Despite a decent regular season, the Leafs lost in 7 games to Philadelphia in the first round.

The next season saw the Leafs win one more Battle of Ontario against the hated Senators. But the Flyers knocked out the Leafs for the second straight year, leaving Quinn and the city of Toronto apoplectic.

After the lockout, Quinn and the Leafs failed to reach the heights the fans were hoping for. When the team missed the playoffs following the 2005-06 season, Quinn was fired as the head coach. Quinn also experienced failure at the Olympics as Canada placed seventh in Turin.

Quinn stayed with the Canadian National program, this time coaching the future generation. In 2008, Quinn led Canada to a gold medal performance a the Under 18 World Championships. Then in 2009, Quinn’s last major triumph came at the World Junior Hockey Championships. The tournament was held in Ottawa where Quinn was public enemy #1 for many years. Now, he was the good guy, trying to coax a gold medal from this baby-faced youngsters. After a thrilling semifinal win over Russia, Canada easily defeated Sweden to capture its fifth straight gold medal at the tournament.

That tournament gave Quinn one more chance at the NHL as the Edmonton Oilers hired him to be their bench boss for the 2009-10 season. Quinn only spent one year at the job as the Oilers finished with the worst record in the NHL. Quinn moved to an advisory position with the Oilers until health problems forced him to retire.

Hockey was Quinn’s life. He was a teacher, negotiator, brawler, and a counsellor all in one. He didn’t back down from a fight, yet he had a soft side for those he cared about. The game won’t be the same without him.

You can follow me on Twitter @jstar1973

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How Far Will The NFL Fall?

NFL Slings And Arrows

To say the last couple of weeks haven’t been good to the NFL would be a gross understatement. It would be accurate to suggest the NFL is in the midst of one of the worst crisis in the league’s history. That includes the players strike in 1982 in which seven weeks of games were lost and the 1987 players strike which saw replacement players take the field.

Ray Rice

Most have seen the now infamous video of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice knocking out his then fiancée, now wife Janay Palmer inside an elevator of an Atlantic City casino. Rice was first suspended a mere 2 games by the NFL until the second video was made public by TMZ in which the NFL, under considerable public pressure suspended Rice indefinitely and the Ravens terminating his contract. Rice is currently appealing his suspension.

Greg Hardy

Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy has been convicted of assaulting his ex-girlfriend yet played in Carolina’s first game of the season. He was deactivated in Week 2 and has now been placed on the commissioner’s exempt list.

Adrian Peterson 3

Then there is the case of Adrian Peterson. The superstar running back of the Minnesota Vikings was indicted on charges of reckless or negligent injury to a his 4-year-old son. Peterson reportedly used a “switch” which is a thin tree branch to whip his son causing lacerations and bruises. Peterson was deactivated by the Vikings for their Week 2 matchup against New England. The Vikings then lifted the suspension but after more public pressure plus another child abuse charge against Peterson, the Vikings placed their superstar on the commissioner’s exempt list.

Ray McDonald

We can’t forget about Ray McDonald. The San Francisco 49ers defensive end was arrested on suspicion of felony domestic-abuse on his fiancée. Unlike Rice, Hardy and Peterson, McDonald has yet to miss any game action as the 49ers because he has yet to be charged.

Jonathan Dwyer

Finally there is the most recent incident as of this writing. Arizona Cardinals running back Jonathan Dwyer was arrested on charges of aggravated assault involving a 27-year-old woman and an 18-month-old child.

Now let’s get back to the Ray Rice case. Because this involves how badly NFL commissioner Roger Goodell screwed up. And believe me, he screwed up real bad! Firstly, as he admitted himself, his punishment on Rice was too light when the charges came to light. Granted, the second videotape hadn’t been released but Goodell damn well knew what was on that tape. He had to know. He’s the commissioner of the most powerful sports league in North America, possibly the world. How could he not know?

Roger Goodell trying to explain the mess he got into himself, and failing miserably.

Roger Goodell trying to explain the mess he got into himself, and failing miserably.

Goodell claimed he never saw the second video until TMZ released it to a horrified nationwide audience. I call bullshit. Again, YOU’RE THE COMMISSIONER OF THE NFL! HOW CAN YOU NOT HAVE SEEN THE VIDEO BEFOREHAND????

The criticism Goodell faced was unlike anything he or any previous NFL commissioner had heard before. Many were calling for his resignation. Goodell had to cancel his trip to San Francisco just before the 49ers were to play their first game at brand new Levis Stadium because of the heat that was on him.

Then there was that news conference. That oh-so-awful news conference. First off, Goodell was 17 minutes late for his meeting with the media. Then there was the usual corporate schtick of the NFL is still a great brand, it is a leader, we will do better, blah, blah, blah. And then there was his ducking of the hard questions with his double talk and stuttering. He sounded worse than a drunken Scotsman after the Scottish independence vote. (At least the Scots had a right to sound inebriated after that.) Should also add kudos to Rachel Nichols of ESPN for asking the tough questions that needed to be asked.

Oh and I haven’t mentioned concussions yet. Well now, there’s another crisis the NFL needs to get a grip on as well. And if anyone doesn’t think concussions are an issue, I strongly suggest to read League Of Denial, a stirring and somewhat tragic book of the battle ex-players have had to deal with head injuries and how football caused them. Some such as Mike Webster, Junior Seau and Dave Duerson lost their lives while dealing with the after effects of concussions caused by playing the sport we love.

Now before I go any further, let me stress this: The NFL won’t die. Football is still the most popular sport in the United States by a landslide. TV ratings are still large. In fact, Sunday Night Football on NBC is the most watched television program in America. To those who want the NFL to go away, you won’t get your wish.

However, if it isn’t careful, football may lose its hold as the number one sport in the land. If you don’t believe me, let’s take a trip back in time to a few decades ago.

In the 1950s, the three most popular sports in America were baseball, boxing and horse racing. No sport was bigger than baseball. In fact, it was (and arguably still is) The National Pastime. There was no bigger sporting event in America than the World Series. The country came to a virtual standstill when the best of the American League squared off against the best of the National League. The superstars of the sport were beloved. Mickey Mantle, Jackie Robinson, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Willie Mays, Warren Spahn. The list goes on and on.

Remember these two? Baseball fans would love to forget.

Remember these two? Baseball fans would love to forget.

But the warning signs were there for the downfall. It began in 1972 when the players went on strike over salary arbitration and pension funds. What began was a 22-year period of labour unrest that hurt the sport. A 50-day strike in 1981 saw 713 games cancelled which amounted to 38% of the season. The sport fell apart in 1994 when the players went on strike on August 12 of that year. Commissioner Bud Selig cancelled the rest of the season and the World Series due to the strike.

Since then, baseball has languished behind football and basketball in terms of popularity. The sport has also been hurt by drug scandals which many questioned the validity of the home run chases of Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds. All three have yet to be elected into the Hall of Fame because of the question of steroid use and whether they cheated or not.

Boxing has had its share of issues as well. At one time, the world heavyweight title was the biggest prize in all of sport. It didn’t matter if you followed the sweet science with a passion or didn’t care for the pugilists, you knew who the champion was. Joe Louis, ‘Jersey’ Joe Walcott, Rocky Marciano, Floyd Patterson and of course Muhammad Ali were household names in America and around the world.

Don King. The man who helped ruin pro boxing and it still hasn't recovered.

Don King. The man who helped ruin pro boxing and it still hasn’t recovered.

Then Don King entered the picture. King began to promote fights featuring Ali with great fanfare. It was King who came up with “The Rumble In The Jungle” that saw Ali win back the world heavyweight title from George Foreman. It was King who promoted “The Thrilla In Manila” that saw Ali fend off Joe Frazier in a brutal contest.

But the roof was falling in. The World Boxing Council stripped Leon Spinks of their World Heavyweight Title because Spinks signed a rematch against Ali, instead of taking on Ken Norton, who was being promoted by King. The WBC gave the title to Norton who defended it against Larry Holmes who was also part of King’s empire of boxers. Thus the world title was split.

Mike Tyson briefly unified the World Heavyweight Title in 1987, (which included the IBF as well) and he held that distinction for three years. When Tyson lost the title to Buster Douglas, the three boxing organizations, (WBA, WBC, IBF) were again at odds on who should be champion. Once again, the title was split. Lennox Lewis reunified the World Heavyweight championship in 1999 and the title stayed unified until Lewis retired in 2004.

As of this writing, and I had to look it up, Wladimir Klitschko is the WBA, IBF, WBO, Transnational Boxing Rankings Board and Ring Magazine’s World Heavyweight Champion. Bermane Stiverne is the current WBC World Heavyweight Champion. I’m Canadian. Bermane Stiverne is Canadian. That should be a big deal to me that a Canadian is a World Heavyweight Champion. I’ve never heard of him until I researched it for this piece.

Boxing has far too many organizations and promoters that only want what’s best for their fighters. Look at Floyd Mayweather. Arguably the best pound-for-pound fighter on the planet, Mayweather was accused (and rightly so) of ducking Manny Pacquiao in a potential fight to see who was the best pound-for-pound boxer in the world. Once again, lawyers and promoters bickered about the contract and possible drug testing that was to be included. The fight never happened and fans were left out in the cold.

Horse racing was very popular at one time. Not so much now.

Horse racing was very popular at one time. Not so much now.

Horse racing is a bit different. The main reason the sport of kings has fallen off in popularity is that there hasn’t been a Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978. That doesn’t mean there have been issues. Some horses have been destroyed thanks to injuries. Steroids and drugs have also been prevalent. Don’t forget fixing and the presence of gambling has also brought the sport down.

So as you can see, it is possible for football to fall off its perch as the number one sport in the land. It won’t happen immediately, but the effects of the off-field behaviour of its players, as well as the gross mishandling of the commissioner of such acts, is extremely detrimental to the league and the sport. With basketball and even soccer on the rise, football may have to look over its shoulder very soon. A change could be coming.

You can follow me on Twitter @jstar1973 

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