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).
The Whitecaps came away with a valuable trifecta of points this weekend but it was far from a perfect performance. After a remarkable first half, Carl Robinson’s squad continued searching for that elusive 90-minute effort.
There was plenty of pomp and circumstance pregame as the Caps were celebrating their 40th anniversary. Members of the original Whitecaps team from 1974 were introduced to a sellout crowd, who cheered while adorned in their finest 70’s attire.
Steve Nash was also in attendance and helped welcome Bob Lenarduzzi to the Whitecaps Ring of Honour. The blue and white kept the good times rolling with an electric first half that saw them jump out to a 3-0 lead.
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.)
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.
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.
Let me tell you a story about soccer, greed and spending outside your means.
Once upon a time, there was a league of soccer teams in North America called the North American Soccer League. (Nobody in 1968 had an imagination, more’s the pity. ) Despite a rocky start, the NASL accomplished quite a bit in a short time. In 1969, the league had only five teams, and an average attendance under 3,000. Only a decade later, the league’s heyday saw 24 teams compete before an average attendance of over 14,000. Vancouver fans saw a championship team in the midst of that heyday, as the Whitecaps won the NASL SoccerBowl in 1979 over the Tampa Bay Rowdies. Five seasons after that, however, in 1985, the league was dead.
Using techniques developed by my wife’s Mayan ancestors, including sacrificing several bulls under this week’s blood moon, I have determined beyond a reasonable doubt who will win the 2014 Stanley Cup. Unless the sun implodes and Stephen Harper finally reveals that he is now, and always has been, an Amway representative, the San Jose Sharks will leave greasy playoff beard residue on Lord Stanley’s mug.
Fans in Vancouver are predictably blasé about the NHL playoffs; the Canucks have missed the post-season for the first time since 2008, and YVR hockey fans aren’t exactly renowned for loving the game so much as their team. (Case in point: the Abbotsford Heat are shutting up shop at the conclusion of their playoff run after years of decreasing returns in the Valley. People out thisaway are so scared of Calgary Flames cooties they’ve refused to see professional puck for $20.)
We at Pucked in the Head believe in celebrating the game, even when our local team comes up lame. Here are Jason’s picks for this year’s post-season. He’s so concussed by the ascension of Zack Kassian and the retirements of Teemu Selanne and Ryan Smythe — not to mention the bizarre first-round matchups determined by the NHL’s new wild card system — that he’s thumbing for Stanley Cup supremacy… the San Jose Sharks (!?!?!?!)
Seattle Mariners move forth without Paxton by John Stewart
AL West: 2nd, a game behind Oakland
One of the nice things about growing up in a family with an affinity for baseball — my grandfather played in the Pacific Coast League in the 1920s — is having a mother who actually enjoys going to games. So, as an early Mother’s Day present, we made our way down to Safeco Field for the home opener.
The usual show ensued prior to the game, with fireworks, red carpets, and an insane amount of cheering for the Super Bowl champion Seahawks, who brought their tropy with them, posed for photos, and had quarterback Russell Wilson throw the ceremonial first pitch – caught by none other than King Felix behind the plate.
The book on Mariners starter James Paxton going into the game was, how will he handle the Angels hitters (who had seen him a week prior) adjusting to him? The first inning was…not a real happy place for the Safeco faithful. Paxton coughed up two HUGE home runs, over 400 feet each, and the home team was down 3-0. Those of us who have been Mariners fans for a long time sighed and hoped the offense could turn things around.
For the first time since I was a bloody teenager— and let’s be honest, I don’t even know if I did it back then — I ran 10 km in under 60 minutes. While I should probably be all happy about breaking that barrier, I can’t say I enjoyed it very much. It felt a little too much like… I don’t know, work.
I’m now at 309.6 km during this calendar year; that leaves me a shade under 31% complete on the 2014 goal of running 1,000 km. Some quick math tells me I’m about 30 km ahead of schedule despite having missed nearly two weeks with the flu in late March.
The Abbotsford Heat hold their final homestand of the regular season this weekend, with games against the Oklahoma City Barons on Friday night and Sunday afternoon.
The Heat are riding high at the moment, having clinched a playoff berth after sitting out last year’s post-season. They are also celebrating goaltender Joni Ortio’s nomination to the AHL All-Rookie Team for 2013-14; Ortio has been a revelation in the Heat crease, netting 24 wins and two shutouts in just 34 games played. As well, left winger Sven Baertschi has knotted seven points in two games against the Rockford Ice Hogs last week, earning AHL Player of the Week honours.
The Barons have just four wins in their past ten games, and have lost four of the last five meetings with Abbotsford. This weekend marks a return for former Heat forward Roman Horak, who is the Barons leading scorer this season.
With five games left, the Heat sit in fifth place in the Western Conference, and are almost guaranteed to open the post-season against the St Louis Blues affiliate Chicago Wolves.
For those interested in ye olde arena foode, Friday night’s game features 3-2-1 pricing on beer, hot dogs and soda; if prizes are your thing, Sunday’s home finale offers fan appreciation giveaways, including jerseys and a freaking car.