All posts by Jason Kurylo

Photo gallery: Whitecaps FC 2 Crystal Palace FC 2

In mid-July, the Whitecaps hosted some jokers from a place called London, England — seriously, what kind of name for a football squad is Crystal Palace? Anyway, they tied the friendly 2-2,  in a game that wasn’t particularly exciting sport but gave locals a chance to see some Premier League footballers up close and personal.

Here’s a gallery of my best pics from the match. Enjoy.

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Slideshow: Salmonbellies vs Adanacs lacrosse

As a photographer, I’ve had the pleasure of capturing images of ATP Challenger tennis, football at MLS and FIFA international events, as well as puck from Timbits hockey and the beer leagues al the way up to the bigs. Somehow, though, I’d never shot Canada’s other national sport, lacrosse. Until last week, that is. Thanks to Jen and Erin at Tenth to the Fraser for encouraging me to try it out.

Here are my best pics from a nailbiter, a dramatic 10-9 win for the first-place New Westminster Salmonbellies on their home floor at Queen’s Park Arena.

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Morneau gives back

Our man John Stewart has given Pucked in the Head some much-appreciated content of late, so I thought I’d keep that ball rollin’. BASEBALL, Y’ALL.

The pride of New Westminster, four-time All-Star infielder Justin Morneau, has recently signed a one-year contract with the Chicago White Soxs. He’s hoping for a return to the bigs sometime next month — probably after the All-Star Game — but will probably see some action with the AAA Charlotte Knights quite soon to shake off the rust. With concussion problems and a wonky elbow, Morneau was limited to just 49 games last season for the Colorado Rockies, who declined the contract option for another year. Enter the ChiSox, who currently sit in the bottom third of the league in just about every hitting category you can imagine. This is a team that desperately needs Morneau to bring even half of his batting title form to the plate if they hope to make a run at a Wild Card spot.

Justin Morneau in a Team Canada jersey.
Justin Morneau suited up for Canada in the 2006 World Baseball Classic, hitting .308 over three games, including two doubles and three RBIs.

During the off-season, Morneau kept busy on a number of fronts. He had surgery to repair a tendon in that troublesome elbow, and focussed on continued recuperation from multiple concussions. Off the field, Morneau donated nearly $35,000 to KidSport in his hometown of New Westminster. KidSport is an organization that assists children of all backgrounds take part in registered sport. Morneau’s donation puts nearly 150 kids who might not otherwise be able to afford sign-up fees and equipment onto New Westminster fields, rinks and courts .

“Justin’s donation came at a time when we really needed it,” says Jen Arbo, KidSport New West Registrar. “KidSport New West has seen a significant rise in number of families applying for funding. In 2015, for example, we saw a 33% increase in total value of grants given out compared to 2014. So far this year, we are on track to see a similar increase. In January 2016 alone we gave out just under $6,000,” says Arbo.

KidSport New West Chair Sandon Fraser says the money is used for a variety of team and individual sports. “The only real limitations [for recipients] are that the sport be a full season, and that registration be with a provincial sport organization.”

For his part, Morneau downplays his donation, “I didn’t do this to receive attention,” he says, “but if it can inspire others to donate or help out with charitable causes then I guess it’s worth the media attention.”


Pucked in the Head was fortunate enough to trade email with the 2014 National League batting champion. Here is our chat with the man Vin Scully calls Big Butter Egg Man, Justin Morneau.

Pucked in the Head: We all know about your success on the baseball field, and hereabouts it’s quite well known that you were a pretty good goalie back in the day. What other sports had a role in your development, personally and professionally?
Justin Morneau: We played almost any sport we could growing up. We played a lot of wiffle ball in my back yard, a lot of street hockey, pick up basketball and whatever else we could make up in our minds. The games we played were not usually organized by parents. We usually just got together and figured out our own teams and what rules we would play by. I think this is something that really helped my development as an athlete because it wasn’t forced by parents. I was getting better athletically without even knowing I was doing it. I feel like this isn’t something that is done as much by kids today.
PITH: At the highest competitive levels, how similar are the roles of catcher and goaltender?
JM: I’ve been asked this question many times in my life and I don’t think I’ve ever really been able to come up with a solid answer. I don’t think there are too many similarities.
PITH: According to Wikipedia, your favourite players growing up included Ray Bourque — who is also my favourite hockey player of all time, by the way — and Cam Neely, as well as John Olerud and Larry Walker. Travelling in pro athlete circles, have you met them at all? Does a pro athlete get the same thrill meeting those childhood idols that we mere mortals do?
I haven’t had the chance to meet Ray Bourque or Cam Neeley yet. I played against Olerud quite a few times and had some short conversations with him at first base. I was also able to get him to sign a bat for me, which was very cool. I have gotten to know Larry Walker quite well. I played my first game in the big leagues against him and before the game he sent over a signed bat that said “to Justin, make Canada proud”. And that’s what I’ve been trying to do ever since.
rockies-bobblehead
Two accolades Jason forgot while introducing his email question: Justin Morneau’s 2014 NL Batting Title and being immortalized as a bobblehead. I mean, how cool is THAT?
They tell me winning isn’t everything, but you’ve won quite a few things in your career. MVP awards, Silver Sluggers, a Home Run Derby, a division title and even a Memorial Cup. What is your fondest sports memory outside of the formal accolades?
I think my favourite memories of sports are the relationships that I’ve built along the way. All the way back to when I was playing tyke hockey in New West, to my minor league roommates and then people like Larry Walker. I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Harmon Killebrew and Jim Thome. Not only are they two of the greatest baseball players of all time, but more importantly two of the most humble and genuinely nice people I’ve had the pleasure of knowing. 
We all know that team sports, and athletics in general, are amazing tools for developing responsible, healthy, able youth. However, the recent discussion around concussions has some parents thinking twice about just how active their kids should be. Obviously, you have a very personal experience with the issue. What’s your take?
While the risk of concussion is real, I still feel the odds of getting one are low. I think the most important thing is that kids aren’t afraid to let someone know when they’ve experienced concussion symptoms, but even more importantly the parents are able to make the right decisions for the health of the child including taking them to a doctor and not pushing them back on the field or the ice for whatever reason. I think we have come a long way in educating parents that true toughness isn’t playing through a concussion like the olden days of “getting your bell rung, and getting back out there”, but of doing what is right in terms of long term health of the child and their brain. 

Max Lajoie will always be my first

Max Lajoie trading card
My first trading card credit, Leaf Metal card #BA-ML1, defenseman Max Lajoie of the Swift Current Broncos.

Not so long ago, I was tapped by Leaf Trading Cards to shoot photos for their junior hockey series.

I have dozens of dynamic action shots I’m super proud of, but the first one that got picked up for a set is this rather pedestrian still shot of draft prospect defenseman Max Lajoie. There are three more pics that are coming in a subsequent set, including two of Vancouver Giants Ty Ronning and Ryan Kubic; this one, however, will always be my first trading card credit.

Thanks, Leaf, and thanks, Max Lajoie!

San Jose will win the Stanley Cup

The San Jose Sharks are going to win the 2016 Stanley Cup. Guaranteed.

Here’s why:

Sasquatch has gradually eaten Brent Burns since his entry to the NHL.
The evolution of Brent Burns, as documented by the makers of Making a Murderer.

1. Their beards are badass.

It all started with defenseman Brent Burns. When he entered the NHL a decade ago, he looked like any other surfer dude who learned that lettering in hockey meant a lifetime of babes, beer and ridiculous bling, dude. By 2013, well ahead of the hipster beard virus, he was a bloody X-File. Since coming to the Sharks, he’s found a new level for his game to go where he used to keep his shaving kit. Where his career high was previously 46 points (in 2010 with Minnesota), he’s racked up 48, 60 and 75 points in the last three seasons respectively. This guy has turned from a fair to middling blueliner with silly facial hair into a Norris Trophy candidate whose knowledge of beard oils and combs is sought out by superstars — like Joe freaking Thornton. Between the two of them and Joe Pavelski’s penchant for wearing his heart over the C on that uniform, the Sharks look like the American Civil War has risen again.

2. They know how to rebound from weird shit.

The Sharks may just have the oddest history in hockey. Remember, this is a league that features the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Down Goes Brown outlines it well here. Each individual playoff loss is all right; only one team wins it all each year, after all. But by the time the Sharks blew a 3-0 series lead against the Kings in 2014, they had dealt with own goals, traitorous stanchions and backroom deals that robbed them of first overall picks. (Canucks fans know about this feeling: imagine the 70s with Gilbert Perreault in the ol’ stink-in-rink jersey! Now give Eric Lindros to the Sharks in their inaugural season, and you get the idea.) After this collapse, Joe Thornton was stripped of his captaincy — which had been originally stripped from Patrick Marleau — and demoted to the rank and file.

This team has come back hungrier and hotter, bigger and badder from every single one of their misfortunes. Look for them to bounce off that Game One loss with a BONINOBONINOBONINO moment of their very own.

3. They’ve got a couple of milk hot dogs on their team.

Geno with a Thornton
Thornton’s beard is now a meme. That’s a good thing.

Kevin Bieksa famously referred to the Sharks with this colourful metaphor back in 2011. Frankly, he was right. From captain Pavelski, through beardsville, on down to Tommy Wingels and Brenden Dillon, this squad has proven to be a serious bag of dicks to opposition teams. It’s no surprise they’re the team to survive the shithot battles of California — they’re big, they’re bad and they have all the feels. Even Evgeni Malkin has grown a Thornton in honour of the Sharks first Cup final appearance.

It ain’t just chinrats and attitude. The Sharks play the wall as well as any team in the league. They have three lines that will eat up the boards and spit out scoring chances like SCA fanatics chewing organic, fair trade fake tobacky. Where Pittsburgh likes to skate and make things pretty, San Jose grinds you into paste, smears you into their beards and shoves your puck into the blue paint. They’ve got some genuine superstars in the mix as well. Thornton is an Art Ross winner. Marleau has over 1,000 points. Burns had 75 points this year. Pavelski is one of the most dangerous playoff performers of this generation.

Roll the Jaws soundtrack, boys and girls. Those Penguins are done for.

Prediction: Sharks in seven.

 

Last time: Pittsburgh will win the Stanley Cup.

Pittsburgh will win the Stanley Cup

Nick Bonino
Nick Bonino and his poor man’s beard will take the Cup. Guaranteed. Photo cribbed from the nest in Brent Burns’ face.

Don’t let the weather forecast fool you. There’s a cold wind blowing in Pennsylvania these days, and it’s guaranteed to land the Stanley Cup right into Pittsburgh for the fourth time in franchise history. Here’s why:

1. Well, duh. They won Game One.

If NHL.com can be believed, the team winning Game One of the final has gone on to win the Cup over 78% of the time.  To be exact, since the best-of-seven format was adopted in 1939, 54 of 69 teams have followed a Game One win with a championship parade.

 

The Pittsburgh Penguins create their own traditions, dang it.
May 26, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly (L) presents the Prince of Wales trophy to Pittsburgh Penguins left wing Chris Kunitz (14), center Sidney Crosby (C), and center Evgeni Malkin (71) after defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-1 to win the Eastern Conference Championship in game seven of the Eastern Conference Final of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the CONSOL Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

2. The Pens are bloody fearless.

When Pittsburgh waved buh-bye to the Tampa Bay Lightning after Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Finals, captain Sidney Crosby didn’t hesitate to touch the Prince of Wales trophy. Where others quail at the prospect of physical contact with a silver bowl not named Stanley, Sid skated right up to Bill Daly and grabbed hold of that bad boy and passed it around like a dog-eared copy of Atlas Shrugged at a young Republicans convention.. Don’t get me wrong: Crosby is hella superstitious; nobody on the team touched the Wales trophy when they advanced to the final in 2008. After losing to Detroit, however, they decided to switch it up the following year. In 2009, Crosby & Co. hoisted the bejesus out of ol’ man Wales, and that’s when they won their third Cup. A new tradition was born.

3. Nick Bonino

The Anaheim Ducks wrote him off, and the Canucks tossed him overboard. Hell, even  in Pittsburgh, Nick Bonino only had 29 points this season. But in the playoffs so far, he’s racked up nearly a point a game and ignited Phil Kessel on perhaps the best third line in this man’s NHL. His game-winner on Monday night wasn’t the prettiest goal you’ll ever see, but young Saint Nick picked a damned good time to put a dagger into the San Jose Sharks.

We’d be remiss if we didn’t include this outstanding call of that GOLAZO by Hockey Night in Canada’s Punjabi play-by-play crew:

He’s not known as a shooter, but he rifled a wicked wrister through Martin Jones with three minutes left in a tight contest. Bonino’s gone from also-ran to core player in a remarkably short period of time in Pittsburgh. Look for the man Raffi calls Boninophone to win whatever Unsung Hero award they give away in Pens land after the lift Lord Stanley’s greatest beer mug.

4. The Pens play a deadly north-south, firewagon brand of hockey.

Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are able to play on the wall — Glenn Healy is fond of running film that shows off Sid’s low centre of gravity and upper body strength — but they much prefer to skate the puck up the middle of the ice.  When they’re on, boys and girls, these two can create magic out there. Crosby is hungry right now. He knows a Cup this year will cement his legacy as one of the truly great leaders of this generation. It’s a banner that’s drooped since Jonathan Toews and Drew Doughty have put the Blackhawks and Kings on their backs over the past few years, so Sid is doing everything in his considerable power to shuck the “not a playoff performer” label he’s managed to acquire since consecutive final appearances in ’08 and ’09.

As long as the puck is moving back and forth, the Pens will scrub the Sharks into scoreboard submission.

Prediction: Pens in 6.

Coming up tomorrow: San Jose will win the Stanley Cup.

Is Mattocks gone at last?

Darren Mattocks has been as divisive a figure as they come in Whitecaps MLS history. Okay, not Donald Chump divisive — maybe not even as controversial as Camilo — but darn it, Mattocks is up there. With every midfield giveaway, ol’ Darren takes lumps like a mook in a Bugs Bunny cartoon. With every missed net, Southsiders scream at this guy with the relish usually reserved for casual fans who leave before the final whistle.

Darren Mattocks contemplates yet another lost opportunity during a 2-1 loss to the Colorado Rapids. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
Darren Mattocks contemplates yet another lost opportunity during a 2-1 loss to the Colorado Rapids. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

Mattocks has been linked to trade rumours and transfer talks ever since the 2013 off-season, when he announced on Jamaican TV that he would score 20 goals per season in the MLS, and that “every team in MLS wants me”. My favourite quote: “Vancouver don’t want Darren to leave as yet.”

Well, buddy has scored all of 12 goals since then — he’s never beaten his career high of seven, which he scored in his rookie season — and just about every Caps fan has begged Darren to get the hell outta Dodge at some point. He’s been collecting close to $300K every season to underperform, sulk about less playing time and miss golden chances when he is on the pitch. So, uh, yeah. Today’s rumour piece on VanCity Buzz is ripping up social media round these parts.

Now, he’s been on the block before, and supporters have wound up stunned to see him outlast better players and favourites, like Camilo and Gershon Koffie. Our own Russell Arbuthnot was among the levelheaded pundits who saw the acquisitions of Blas Pérez and Masato Kudo this off-season as a slam dunk reason to cut the fricking cord, already. If he does finally leave the blue and white behind, the club is rid of a player with delicious speed, but also of a drama queen whose attitude has been little but poison the past four years.

Darren Mattocks of Vancouver Whitecaps FC attempts to get round Portland Timbers defender Pa Modou Kah in MLS action. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
Darren Mattocks of Vancouver Whitecaps FC attempts to get round Portland Timbers defender Pa-Modou Kah in MLS action. If rumours be true, then they’ll have switched jerseys real soon. (Oh yeah, Kah came from PDX! Remember that?) Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

The only downside to Mattocks moving as per this rumour? We’ll still have to see him moping on the bench a couple of times a season with the Timbers-heavy schedule MLS gives the Caps every year. Worst case scenario, Mattocks finally finds the form he displays for the Jamaican national side, and lights it up against Vancouver whenever Portland comes to town.

This deal hasn’t been completed yet, but whoa Nellie, will there ever be some beer-flavoured sighs of relief in supporters groups if and when it gets done.

Okay, maybe not ALL the things…

If MLS pundits are to be believed, the 2016 iteration of the Vancouver Whitecaps FC is destined for great things. Our very own Chris Withers, who is actually a betting man and thus should not use the phrase “if I were a betting man” to introduce his prognosticatory prognostications, prognosticated that Vancouver “will win all the things” this season.

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Should they win many things? Probably. Manager Carl Robinson has done a masterful job of assembling a deep, talented roster. Will they? If they go on the attack as relentlessly as they did Sunday, quite possibly. This day, though, they died by the sword. The Caps, known for a deadly counterattack last year, carried much of the play on day one, but gave up multiple goals on the break to fall 3-2 to the dreaded Surrender Monkeys from Montreal.

As Carl Robinson said in the post-game presser, “We gifted Montreal these three points, if we’re to give an honest assessment.”

Continue reading Okay, maybe not ALL the things…

Giants drop three straight; LEC just a tactic

For the all the talk of what if and if only, there hasn’t been much hope of post-season hockey in Vancouver for some time now; high profile injuries and fair to middling rosters have plagued both the Giants and Canucks all season. At the Coliseum, the G-Men put up a generous fight during the middle part of the season, but a disastrous start has been mirrored by a terrible stretch run to put them a dozen points out of a playoff spot with only a handful of games remaining.

Brodan Salmon makes a save during his fourth WHL start.
Brodan Salmond makes a save during 2nd period WHL action. The first-place Kelowna Rockets held on for a 4-3 win over last-place Vancouver Giants at the Pacific Coliseum. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

At these high levels of sport, it’s hard to get in the right mindset to compete when the playoffs are off the table. That said, the Giants had given the Western Conference leading Kelowna Rockets all they could handle in back-to-back games just a week prior to Friday’s game. They led early and often in Kelowna before succumbing 6-5 to a late comeback, and were full marks for a 4-2 win over those same Rockets just 24 hours later here in Vancouver. Somehow, they rode Jake Morrissey to a shootout win over the Kamloops Blazers in their third game in three nights last Sunday.

Still, even after picking up four out of a possible six points on the weekend, the Giants sat a full nine points out of that final playoff spot.

Continue reading Giants drop three straight; LEC just a tactic

Giants get the win for Jake’s sake

It’s an all-too familiar story this season: the Vancouver Giants jump out to an early lead, only to see plucky opposition teams chip away and eventually win the game.

Tyler Benson of the Vancouver Giants.
Tyler Benson made a welcome return to the Vancouver Giants lineup in a 4-3 shootout win over the Kamloops Blazers. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

On Sunday, however, playing their third game in as many nights, Vancouver seemed determined to get Jake Morrissey his first win in Giants colours. It was Morrissey’s first start at the Pacific Coliseum; he’d made it into seven games in one form or another earlier in the season, but only been credited with three losses and had that big fat zero looming in the W column for some time.

Continue reading Giants get the win for Jake’s sake