Items that may grow up to be columns, Vol. XVII, Chapter 11:
Humans don’t come much more complex than Mike Keenan, who could charm and smarm and infuriate and mystify, in any of his NHL incarnations. But his latest career episode — getting fired as coach of Metallurg Magnitogorsk in the KHL last week even as he was applying for Russian citizenship … having just played the part of Vladimir Lenin in a bizarre promotional video for the league — may top his greatest hits list.
Metallurg, previously coached by two other Canadians, Dave King and Paul Maurice, won the Gagarin Cup under Keenan in 2014.
A true hockey iconoclast whom several of us journos observed standing on a table in Grumpy’s bar in Montreal, singing old-time rock ’n’ roll tunes on a night off from coaching the Canada Cup team in 1987 (he had once been in a band called Nick and the Nice Guys), Iron Mike would make a fascinating TV movie, if anyone ever got the whole story. I nominate Jay Greenberg, the former Philly Daily News/Sports Illustrated/Toronto Sun/New York Post scribe, to write the screenplay.
SPEAKING OF … American writers who always aced their hockey pieces, former Boston Herald columnist Charlie Pierce, now writing bitingly on politics for Esquire and everything for Grantland, penned a beauty after the Indianapolis Colts self-immolated against the New England Patriots on Sunday night.
The Colts’ third-quarter fake punt, with a snapper and a “quarterback” in the middle of the field and nine other players flanked out wide right, not only didn’t fool anyone, it was an illegal formation and begged the question: “Has Indy coach Chuck Pagano lost his mind?”
Pats coach Bill Belichick should be sending Pagano a thank-you note after the play, which made absolutely no sense, handed the ball to Tom Brady who promptly turned a nail-biter into a 13-point New England lead that was never challenged.
LOWER THOSE SIGHTS: People who have heard that Edmonton’s Connor McDavid is a “generational player,” and who may be expecting him to start scoring like Wayne Gretzky, are in for a letdown.
The kid is terrific, but Gretzky separated himself from his peers by such a wide margin, it was like the opposition was in awe, or fear, of what he could do, or might do to them. No player today will ever be able to escape the bonds of coaching systems and defence-first thinking to the point where he can put himself head and shoulders above the pack. That ship has sailed.
That doesn’t mean McDavid can’t still be a great player, and it sure looks as though he’s headed in that direction.
CRUISE CONTROL: The world’s top-ranked amateur golfer is a Stanford junior named Maverick McNealy. Seriously. He is just three wins shy of matching the school’s record for most intercollegiate victories, co-held by some guy named Tiger.
At this rate, the next player to challenge the record will be named Batman.
Presumably, McNealy’s parents — his father Scott co-founded Sun Microsystems — named him after Tom Cruise’s fighter pilot character in Top Gun. Maverick has three brothers: Dakota, Colt and Scout.
As the great former Toronto Star raconteur Frank Orr used to say of three-time world figure skating champ Elvis Stojko: “Good thing his dad wasn’t a Bo Diddley fan.”
ROGERS, OVER AND OUT: If you ever are tempted to think you have the world’s worst landlord, spare a thought for the Toronto Argonauts, who on Friday will play their fourth “home” date of the season away from home. Rogers won’t transition the field back to football configuration even though the Blue Jays’ last possible home game in the ALCS is Wednesday night.
The Argos, who had to start the season in Fort McMurray, Alta., because of the Pan Am Games, have since played home dates in Ottawa and Hamilton — only 3,401 attended their weekend loss to Calgary at Tim Hortons Field — and they’ll play in Hamilton again Friday.
And yet they’re 9-6, tied for second with Ottawa, despite No. 1 quarterback Ricky Ray having not played a down all season.
Scott Milanovich for coach of the year? Yup. He or RedBlacks’ Rick Campbell. No one else is close.
THE STADIUM GAME: Forget players and coaches. Nothing in the CFL is going to have more pressure on it in 2016 than BMO Field, which is going to be asked to bring the Argos out from a pit of despair the size of an asteroid crater.
And even if it succeeds, the league, which has all but approved Toronto as host city for the 2016 Grey Cup, may decide to hold it in the climate-controlled, 47,000-seat Rogers Centre in order to maximize profits, just as the Montreal Alouettes did, using Olympic Stadium for playoffs even after moving to Percival Molson Stadium.
Source: nationalpost golf news