Sports

Around the Seawall: CFL camps 'open'; New York, MLS nab Villa; Is Sutter the NHL's best coach?

A worker paints a CFL logo in Montreal on November 20, 2010.  - THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
A worker paints a CFL logo in Montreal on November 20, 2010.
— image credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

"CFL camps open amid uncertainty"

That reads the headline on our website, a story plucked from The Canadian Press, and it's a little misleading. Well, it's accurate, but it's also conservative. Uncertainty is putting it mildly, as the league and its players' union (sorry, association) couldn't be further apart with their season's start only a blink away.

Meetings broke down last week and the old deal expired last Thursday, with CFL commish Mark Cohon describing the PA's wishes as the sort of demands that would set the league back years, even decades.

"I don't think we're too far away right now," said PA rep Eric Fraser, of the Ottawa RedBlacks, apparently disagreeing. "But tough decisions are going to have to be made on our end and their end and hopefully we can nail something out and everyone leaves the negotiating table a little upset because they think they gave up a little too much."

There is considerable health in the CFL right now, as long as the Argonauts aren't eventually flushed by an NFL franchise in Toronto. And, you know, as long as this strike doesn't wipe out their season... or even a game.

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David Villa to New York FC

(Photo: Wikimedia Commons, author Carlos Delgado)

Congrats to New York FC for scooping superstar David Villa from Spain – just when they also (reportedly) alley-ooped English national Frank Lampard from London's Chelsea – but perhaps the glass deserves to be raised not to the club, but to the MLS.

When the league brought David Beckham over in 2007, it was a coup – but it only mattered if North America could continue its trend, capitalize on the momentum.

And with two huge moves last weekend, it appears the New World's new world order is taking shape.

And congrats to Glen Johnson, the Vancouver Whitecaps' first-ever signing (back in 1974) who predicted something similar when I interviewed him in May:

"I think the league is solid. I think we're going to see more and more, some players are going to start ending up because the salaries are available and the clubs can afford to pay them."

Wow. Nailed it...

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Sticking with soccer, the Whitecaps will have one player in the World Cup, and that will be Iran's Steven Beitashour.

Fortunately for him, his underdog squad won't be in anything resembling a Group of Death. Iran will be in Rio in Group F, where the bracket's biggest threat is the always-awesome Argentina and Lionel Messi. Other than that, their competition comes in the form of Boznia & Herzegovina and Nigeria.

So... congrats, Stevie.

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Best wishes to Canucks' defenceman (soon a free agent) Andrew Alberts in his recovery from an apparently extremely detrimental concussion, which the 32-year-old suffered last season, just 10 games in.

Alberts was elbowed in the head by Calgary enforcer Brian McGrattan and says he still can't get through a day without feeling the effects.

"I think there should have been some supplemental discipline," he said, in an interview with The Province. "If I'm Sidney Crosby, it's probably a 15-game suspension. The frustrating part is I'm working my ass off trying to be on the team and get in the lineup, something like that happens and the guy gets off free and now here I am just hoping I can have one day without headaches.

"I've kind of just let it go because there's no point in dwelling on what happened. I just want to get healthy again to the point where I'm not having issues and can just have a normal day around the house. That's where my focus is right now.

Alberts also said he think the injury could be career-ending. Could be...

"If I can't play hockey again, I can't play hockey again.. But I'd rather have my health and be able to be with my family and feel like myself. I tend to think about hockey quite a bit because you worry about what you'll do afterwards."

Truth is, Canucks fans were pretty hard on Alberts when he joined the team during its 2008-2012 heyday. He isn't the fastest from the backend and he didn't seem to fit with the rest of the team's offensively dynamic model.

But he has worked his ass off for Vancouver for years now – always showing up ready for training camp, ready to earn a spot, even though he's definitely heard the criticism.

He's a warrior. We often toss around that promotional phrase The Heart of a Canuck, and we tend to slap the faces of Ryan Kesler or Alex Burrows with the words, but Alberts has truly embodied that motto in his time with Vancouver.

Let's hope he gets the chance to impress somebody else (other than myself) real soon.

And if the NHL needs a photo to stand for its whole anti-concussion crusade, this one below (copied from The Score's blog) kinda hits it right on the head...

Andrew Alberts concussion

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Watching last night's epic end to an epic Western Conference Final, a few things crossed my mind, and they probably crossed yours...

  • The Chicago Blackhawks and the L.A. Kings are the best two teams in the NHL, and it ain't even close. That's not to say New York can't best Los Angeles – the Kings have, after all, played three seven-game series on their route to the final fight, and no team in NHL history has ever done that. But I definitely wish last night's Game 7 was the Cup Final's Game 7. And now I'm ready for a let down when I should be preparing for better puck.
  • Jonathan Quick's a great goaltender. Drew Doughty's a terrific defenceman. The Chicago Blackhawks are a great team... but Corey Crawford deserves a world's worth of credit, and he never gets it. He's often called a good goalie on a great team, but anyone who says that clearly doesn't understand just how difficult it is to be that guy. Ryan Miller couldn't do it. Roberto Luongo could never do it. Tuukka Rask hasn't filled Timmy Thomas's (probably tiny) shoes yet, either. It's not easy to be the good goalie on a great team, and we should all appreciate Crawford more for how he does his job.
  • That was the best series of hockey I've ever seen. End of discussion.
  • Darryl Sutter is the best coach in the game, and I'd consider Mike Babcock his only competition. No other coach in the NHL appears to inspire his players or control his players like Sutter, but he's obviously not just a heartless dictator behind the bench (re: John Tortorella). Sutter gets the most out of his players and they all play a different style – you've got two-way Europeans (Kopitar), mobile d-men (Doughty), stay-at-home d-men (Mitchell, Greene), flashy scorers like Marian Gaborik, and all-around warriors like Justin Williams and Dustin Brown jiving with rookies Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson. Sutter gets the most from every one of them and he somehow meshes them so their efforts funnel into the same outcome. He's a true master of hockey.
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