All posts by Jason Kurylo

Asia Muhammad of the United States returns a shot during qualifying rounds of the 2014 Vancouver Open. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

Hollyburn magic

It was another gorgeous day as qualifying matches wrapped up and the first round began at the 2014 Odlum Brown Vancouver Open. If you have even a passing interest in passing shots, you ought to pony up  a few bucks and go enjoy some damned fine tennis at the Hollyburn Country Club in West Vancouver. How fine, you ask? Last year’s men’s singles champ, Vasek Pospisil, went on to win the doubles title at this year’s Wimbledon, for goodness sake.

Asia Muhammad of the United States returns a shot during qualifying rounds of the 2014 Vancouver Open. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
Asia Muhammad of the United States returns a shot during the first round of the 2014 Vancouver Open. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

In first round action on Tuesday, American Asia Muhummad rallied to oust the eighth seed Urszula Radwanska of Poland,  6–7, 6–4, 6–3. Muhammad is ranked #363 in the world, and earned her way into the tournament as a wild card entry, but she used her height advantage and a strong first service game to outlast the heavily favoured Radwanska.

Muhammad now goes on to play the diminutive firebrand from Kazakhstan, Yulia Putintseva, in the second round. Putintseva dispatched Canadian WC Gloria Liang in straight sets on Tuesday, 7-5, 6-3.

Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan dispatched Canadian wild card entry Gloria Liang in straight sets to open the 2014 Vancouver Open. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan dispatched Canadian wild card entry Gloria Liang in straight sets to open the 2014 Vancouver Open. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

More pics to come later in the week.

 

At the Giro di Burnaby finish, Luke Keogh finishes ahead of teammate Ken Hanson. On the Podium, they're joined by Hilton Clarke (L). Photo by Chris Relke courtesy of BC Superweek.

The Giro Burnaby deserves

by Ross Arbo

2014 is the seventh year for the Giro di Burnaby. The 1.3Km race course in the heart of North Burnaby (better known as ‘The Heights’) covers three blocks of Hastings Street and one block of Gilmore, Albert, and MacDonald with a hairpin turn on Hastings at Madison. The race is well sponsored with a number of high-profile local and provincial sponsors, and the community openly supports the race.

This race is included in the BC Superweek race series that occurs all over the Lower Mainland, and includes a prize purse of over $15,000. This is a big draw for the racers entering the Giro di Burnaby.

At the Giro di Burnaby finish, Luke Keogh finishes ahead of teammate Ken Hanson. On the Podium, they're joined by Hilton Clarke (L). Photo by Chris Relke courtesy of BC Superweek.
At the Giro di Burnaby finish, Luke Keogh finishes ahead of teammate Ken Hanson. On the Podium, they’re joined by Hilton Clarke (L). Photo by Chris Relke courtesy of BC Superweek.

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2014 French Open - Day Ten

Genie and her Canadian Army

Our first-ever tennis article here at PITH was almost two years ago to the day, about Eugenie Bouchard becoming the first Canadian to win the Wimbledon Girls Championship.

Eugenie Bouchard is a typical 20-year-old gal -- she tweets, Facebooks, dances Gangnam Style on the Great Wall of China, and wins millions on the tennis court. Selfie from GB's own Instagram account.
Eugenie Bouchard is a typical 20-year-old gal — she tweets, Facebooks, dances Gangnam Style on the Great Wall of China, and wins millions on the tennis court. Selfie from GB’s own Instagram account.

North Van’s Filip Peliwo also brought home the boys’ trophy that year, but no one remembers because he’s not a remarkably photogenic blonde woman who has reached the final eight in three consecutive Grand Slam tournaments. This Bouchard gal, on the other hand, is entirely memorable. She may have lost the Wimbledon final, but the Montrealer was by far the biggest story on the women’s side. Her sense of humour is winning as many fans as her rapidly improving on-court arsenal, with everyone from TV nerd Jim Parsons to tennis legend Chris Evert admitting to being a part of Genie’s Army. She can fricking hit the ball, yo.

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The peloton negotiates a bend in the road during Sunday's Tour de Delta. Photo by Greg Descantes for BC Superweek.

Tour de Delta kicks off BC Superweek

Keep your eyes peeled over the next few days, my pithy friends — there are oodles of specimens of ultrafit humanity zipping around the Greater Vancouver region for BC Superweek. Folks unfamiliar with the sport just curse the temporary road closures. Those of us who know better are on the lookout for windswept hair, thighs of steel and aerodynamically ripped abs.

Rejoice, rubberneckers, and gawk away! It doesn’t even matter which way your preferences lean; both the men and women in this sport are cut from the cloth of the gods, and dress in skin-tight superhero tights.

Canadian National Champion Leah Kirchmann leans into a corner during the criterium  2014 Tour de Delta. Photo by Greg Descantes for BC Superweek.
Canadian National Champion Leah Kirchmann leans into a corner during the criterium  2014 Tour de Delta. Photo by Greg Descantes for BC Superweek.

The Tour de Delta was an especially big weekend for Winnipeg-born Leah Kirchmann, as she took first place in the first BC road race sanctioned by UCI, the Union Cycliste Inter-nationale.

Kirchmann (of Team Optum) is no stranger to winner’s circles, as she is the first rider to ever simultaneously hold Canadian national time trial, road race and criterium titles. The 24-year-old favourite delivered in the 40-km criterium on Saturday and the 96-km road race the following morning, topping the 59-rider field on both days. She drove a group sprint for an exciting finish, stopping the clock at two hours, 25 minutes and 8.7 seconds.

On the men’s side, Ryan Anderson of North Vancouver (also of Team Optum) came in second behind American teammate Jesse Anthony. Anderson averaged 43.66 klicks per hour over the 151.19-km men’s course, earning him a seven-second cushion for a winning time of 3:27:46.3.

Not sure what 43.66 km/h looks like? Take the Expo Line from Waterfront Station to King George and back. Four times.Team Optum just rode that same distance, and beat that SkyTrain to the finish.

The peloton negotiates a bend in the road during Sunday's Tour de Delta. Photo by Greg Descantes for BC Superweek.
The peloton, featuring the orange-helmeted women’s winner Leah Kirchmann (centre), negotiates a bend in the road during Sunday’s Tour de Delta. Photo by Greg Descantes for BC Superweek.

Monday is a day off for BC Superweek, which comprises nine races over ten days across the Lower Mainland between July 4–13. Next up is the UBC Grand Prix on Tuesday night, July 8.

The ever-popular Gastown Grand Prix goes July 9, followed by the Giro di Burnaby on July 10. The finale, the Tour de White Rock, is a three-day event taking place Friday, Saturday and Sunday of next week.

Check out www.bcsuperweek.ca for more details.

Ah, a nooner at the Nat. What better way to celebrate summer? Photo cribbed from the interweb.

Bring on the boys of summer

Update: Thursday night’s Vancouver Canadians contest vs the Spokane Indians was suspended in the top of the 2nd inning due to rain; the teams hit Nat Bailey for a Friday afternoon double header to make up the game.

It’s a good time to be a baseball fan in Vancouver. If you’re all about Canadian content, look east — the Toronto Blue Jays are doing what they should have done last year. They’re ten games over .500, and sit 3.5 games up on the hated New York Yankees in the American League East. Want something closer to home? Just down the road in Seattle, the Mariners are riding Felix Hernandez’s pitching and Robinson Cano’s superstar play to a damned fine seasons themselves.

Ah, a nooner at the Nat. What better way to celebrate summer? Photo cribbed from the interweb.
Ah, a nooner at the Nat. What better way to celebrate summer? Photo cribbed from the interweb.

But who says you can’t have CanCon and a short drive to the ball park? Nat Bailey Stadium opens business on the Vancouver Canadians 2014 summer season this week, as the three-time defending Single A champion hosts the Spokane Indians. Opening night (Wednesday) is sold out, but $12.50 grandstand seats remain for both Thursday evening and the Friday nooner in this series.

Want box seats? You’ll have to wait another week, when the Tri-City Dust Devils come to town for three games, quickly followed by a five-game set against the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes. Of special note is the July 2 appearance by Steve Garvey, who despite not making Cooperstown, has a gaudy list of Golden Gloves, Silver Slugger awards, National League and All-Star MVP nods, and impressive statistical achievements.

The Canadians started the season impressively, outscoring Salem-Keizer 20–4 in three straight road wins. The Volcanoes found their bats in the next two games, however, edging Vancouver 10–9 in 12 innings before taking the last game of the series 4–3. In the first loss, it was the bullpen that let the C’s down, but fielding errors were to blame for dropping the second.

Follow the Vancouver Canadians on Twitter here.

blackjersey14And if any of you have a few bucks to spare, feel free to get me one of these new Mounty the Mountie jerseys. They’re purty.

I’ll squeeze into a medium, or lounge in a large. Your choice.

Javier Hernandez chases a loose ball in monsoon rains during their opening game win over Cameroon. Photo stolen indiscriminately after a lazy Google search.

Ref, You Suck

Two days into the 2014 World Cup, and we’ve already been treated to some outstanding two-goal performances — most noticeably from Arjen Robben and Robin Van Persie in a 5–1 thrashing of the defending champion Spaniards. (Not to take anything away from the star player on the host team, but Neymar’s pair on opening day came on a mediocre grasscutter from distance and an awful penalty call.) But no matter how many acrobatic headers RVP knocked in, or how many impressive runs Robben put together, the most impressive brace came from Mexican youngster Giovani dos Santos — and neither goal was allowed.

Giovanni dos Santos (circled) was called offside twice to negate two goals in the first half against Cameroon. Image cribbed from ESPN.
Giovanni dos Santos (circled) was called offside twice to negate two goals in the first half against Cameroon. The Cameroonian defender is clearly back when the ball is struck; the linesman is visible at the bottom of the screen, in perfect position to… miss the call? Image cribbed from ESPN.

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Drew Doughty puts his obscenely well-paid proof in the pudding. Actual pudding during the off-season, and outrageously solid play from October to June. Photo gleaned from the interweb.

Congrats, Mr Doughty

Drew Doughty, that fella wearing number eight for the Los Angeles Kings is about to add ‘Conn Smythe winner’ to his resume. This will sit nicely beside ‘two-time Olympic gold medallist’, ‘two-time Stanley Cup champion’, ‘Norris trophy nominee’ and ‘filthy, stinkin’ rich cat who let’s face it ought to be able to afford better hair care’.

Drew Doughty puts his obscenely well-paid proof in the pudding. Actual pudding during the off-season, and outrageously solid play from October to June. Photo gleaned from the interweb.
Drew Doughty puts his obscenely well-paid proof in the pudding. Actual pudding during the off-season, and outrageously solid play from October to June. Photo gleaned from the interweb.

Godawful facial growth aside, Doughty is every bit the MVP, anchoring the back end of the most feared defense in the land. At just 24, he’s got credentials among active NHLers only rivalled by countrymen Jonathan Toews and Sidney Crosby. Barring injury, and assuming he doesn’t get bored, he’ll have built a Hall of Fame career long before he hits the traditional defenseman’s peak of 30 years old.

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408km

Bucket list check marks

I got to make a big, fat check mark on the ol’ bucket list last weekend. No, not the one involving four bronzed goddesses wielding skewers of barbequed Kobe beef, bottles of fine Belgian porter, dewey eyes and pouty lips; I’ll have to save that particular event for another life. Rather, I completed the Vancouver Half-Marathon on Saturday. Considering my downright anti-running attitude as little as a year ago — there may have been comments to the effect of, “unlike those gaunt, neon gear-laden freaks over there, I have absolutely no desire to voluntarily subject myself to jogging distances that have been known to kill people” — this is a major  personal accomplishment of both mind and body.

So far I’ve racked up just over 400km in 2014, well ahead of schedule for my goal of one thousand klicks, despite having several training setbacks for minor injuries (a mild ankle sprain) and illness (two bouts of the flu).

408kmSo what was the BMO event like?

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Manneh saves Whitecaps from pointlessness

The Vancouver Whitecaps made out like they’d been gutted by last week’s 1-nil loss at StubHub Center in Los Angeles, but let’s face it: after snatching a tie from the jaws of defeat this weekend, they were lucky to get a single point out of the possible six. A home-and-home against the most successful team in MLS history, still stacked with names like Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane, is a good recipe for an oh-fer.

Storylines begged for moral victories: case in point, the Caps managed to keep Donovan off the scoresheet for two consecutive weeks, and by doing so avoided having David Ousted’s name go down in infamy as the keeper who allowed the 135th and thus record-breaking goal of the diminutive star’s storied MLS career. Largely thanks to the defensive work of Russell Tiebert in LA and Matías Laba in Vancouver, Donovan was rendered inert; the little man had a few shots from distance, but never really threatened Ousted directly.

Also in the plus column: stretches of play in the Galaxy half of the pitch. The Caps were unlucky to score when a Pedro Morales shot ricocheted toward the far corner in the first half; Jaime Penedo made a wonderful reaction save that has rightly been tapped as an MLS Save of the Week nominee. But it was the second half, with subs Kekuta Manneh and Erik Hurtado, that saw extended forays goalward for the (mostly) young Caps squad.

Sadly, with their focus on Landovan, the blue & white were not able to shut Keane down — including the winner in LA and another at BC Place this past Saturday, the Irish forward now has goals in four straight games and “is partially made of magnesium.” (It says so on Wikipedia, so it must be true.)

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Heat forward Sven Baertschi chases OKC Barons defenseman Darnell Nurse during the last regular season AHL game to be held in Abbotsford. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

Abbotsford, we barely knew ya

Just as a handful of west coast NHL teams are making noise about establishing a Pacific Division with their respective AHL affiliates, the city of Abbotsford has elected to terminate their relationship with the Calgary Flames. April 13 saw the final regular season game at the AESC on King Road, a 5–4 overtime loss to the Oklahoma City Barons.

With the exception of four games during the NHL lockout, the Battle of Alberta had never managed to inspire box office success in the Fraser Valley. Last weekend saw a minor uptick, with the official attendance landing just north of 5,000. Sadly, the team’s average this year was nearly two grand fewer than that, which puts the City of Abbotsford on the hook for millions of dollars of guaranteed revenue support to the team. So yeah, instead of paying an uncertain sum at the end of each season for the next five years, Abbotsford will fork over $5.5 million here and now to have the team just… go away.

Defenseman Brett Kulak scored his first professional goal in a 5-4 OT loss to the OKC Barons. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
Defenseman Brett Kulak scored his first professional goal in the Abbotsford Heat’s final regular season game at the AESC, but it wasn’t enough. They went down swinging in a 5-4 OT loss to the OKC Barons. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

Does it matter that the Heat are on their way to the post-season? Is it important that blame can be thrown at everything from poor marketing to even worse public relations, from to smalltown politics to a bizarre, small-minded Canucks-or-nothing mindset in the Vancovuer area? No, nope, and nuh-uh. Sayonara, American Hockey League. Abbotsford City Council has homeless people to shame over here — they don’t have time for you any longer.

On the ice, the Heat have won eight of their last eleven, and hqve now tied their best-ever point total (92). With a tie or a win on Saturday, they’ll be saying adios after a franchise record under their belts. This despite sending record numbers of prospects up to the big club during a rash of injuries in the Calgary Flames locker room for extended periods this season.

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