Eh Game

  • Now that the long nightmare of ineptitude is over for Chicago Cubs fans, Cleveland supporters have inherited baseball’s "Loveable Losers" mantle. They haven’t won it all since 1948. How does that compare with the title droughts in other sports? Pretty bad.

    Every hockey fan knows the Toronto Maple Leafs haven’t won a Stanley Cup since 1967, but at least they had 13 before that. Their futility is almost rivalled by the St. Louis Blues. Things started well. Playing their first NHL game a few months after the Leafs’ last championship, the Blues made the finals in their first three seasons, losing every time. They haven’t been back since.

    Plenty of NFL teams, 13 of 32 in fact, have never won a Super Bowl. One name stands out, though, because they hadn’t won a title for 20 years when the first Super Bowl was played in 1967. When the NFL incorporated in 1920, one of the inaugural teams was the Chicago Cardinals. The team moved to St. Louis in 1960, then to the Phoenix area in 1988 and brought

    Read More »from Now that Cubs have won, who is sports' longest-running loser?
  • Bleeding Blue: Giving My All For the Game was released on Nov. 1. (Courtesy: Simon & Schuster)Bleeding Blue: Giving My All For the Game was released on Nov. 1. (Courtesy: Simon & Schuster)

    Like many former athletes yet to publish their autobiography, Wendel Clark had been approached many times with offers to put his life on the printed page. The beloved former Toronto Maple Leafs' captain is arguably the most popular player in team history. He entered the NHL like a freight train as an 18-year-old rookie in 1985, electrifying fans with his skill and physicality on the ice while maintaining modesty off of it. Injuries, brought on by his ferocious style of play, eventually caught up to Clark, forcing him to retire at 33 years old after 15 seasons.

    Last year, with his 50th birthday on the horizon and the Maple Leafs' centennial season approaching, Clark decided the time was right and teamed up with broadcaster/author Jim Lang to tell his story in Bleeding Blue: Giving My All For The Game

    The book was released on Tuesday and Clark has just embarked on a month-long publicity tour with 26 stops including his home province of Saskatchewan, as well as Alberta, Newfoundland,

    Read More »from Q&A: Former Maple Leaf Wendel Clark talks injuries, wrist shot and why Toronto shouldn't rush to name a captain
  • The atmosphere was raucous for TFC's 2-0 victory over the weekend, with parts of the stadium literally swaying as a result.The atmosphere was raucous for TFC's 2-0 victory over the weekend, with parts of the stadium literally swaying as a result.

    After a lifetime of languishing among the bottom feeders of the television world, this is a golden opportunity for the MLS to finally take centre stage.
    Whether it will or not depends on how Toronto FC and the Montreal Impact fare in the rest of the playoffs and how many Canadians actually care.
    So far, few have cared enough to turn their television sets to whichever channel has been showing the games. Ratings are dismal, with a capital D.
    They are so minute that Canada's MLS teams seldom crack the 100,000 mark and are often so low that the networks and teams don't even release comprehensive ratings information.

    But there is hope, at least based on what happened Sunday.

    Toronto FC's victory over New York City FC in the first game of the MLS conference semifinal averaged 238,000 viewers on TSN. While that pales in comparison with every other major sports regular season numbers, it's certainly a good start.

    Add in the fact that the game was up against some pretty stiff competition that

    Read More »from The Great Canadian Ratings Report: MLS could be on verge of a new era on TV
  • Among the seven luminaries brought together Tuesday in Toronto for induction day into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, it seemed only fitting that Michael Clemons – Pinball, to the world – would serve as unofficial valedictorian.

    The class of 2016 comprises men and women from across the spectrum in both official languages and a variety of pursuits – history makers and boundary breakers, from Clemons’ designated “captain” (Summer and Winter Olympian Sue Holloway), inspirational figure (Paralympian Stephanie Dixon) and humanitarian (Dr. Frank Hayden of Special Olympics renown), and on through hockey’s Bryan Trottier, speed skater Annie Perreault and curler Colleen Jones.

    Just where Clemons fits among such company, he didn’t say – the record suggests, practically demands head of the class. At mid-life (51) and nine years out of a locker room where he won three Grey Cups as a player and one as a head coach, he remains an organizer, a champion, a motivator for change – ever the activist,

    Read More »from Pinball Clemons: Head of the 2016 Canada's Sports Hall of Fame class
  • Raptors mascot goes all in with 21 Halloween costume changes in one night

    He's known as one of the best mascots in the NBA, thrilling fans north of the border with his deft acrobatics and quirky antics. But on Halloween, The Raptor takes the show to a whole new level.

    This year's performance, with the Denver Nuggets in town, was no different. In fact, The Raptor outdid himself in 2016, pulling off a plethora of costume changes that would make Lady Gaga proud.

    The Raptor got the night off to a strong start, channeling Michael Jackson with a costume from the King of Pop's 'Thriller' video. He even joined the Raptors Dance Pack for a quick performance.

    Read More »from Raptors mascot goes all in with 21 Halloween costume changes in one night
  • With 90 minutes between it and a spot in MLS’s final four, Toronto FC is in as good a position as it could be.

    Playing its third game in a week, it took all kinds of resiliency for TFC to shake off a number of missed opportunities and convert twice right at the end Sunday night to grab a 2-0 lead heading into the second leg of the MLS Eastern Conference semifinal next Sunday in New York.

    “At halftime, the message was to keep playing, to keep going,” said Jozy Altidore, whose 84th-minute goal prompted an eruption from Toronto FC faithful the likes of which have never before been previously seen.

    “We knew the chances would come, it was just a matter of putting them away and they fell for us with two great chances and we scored two goals.”

    Toronto FC forward Jozy Altidore (17), right, is grabbed by New York City FC defender Frederic Brillant (13) during first half MLS soccer playoff action in Toronto, Sunday, Oct. 30, 2016. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)Toronto FC forward Jozy Altidore (17), right, is grabbed by New York City FC defender Frederic Brillant (13) during first half MLS soccer playoff action in Toronto, Sunday, Oct. 30, 2016. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)

     

    There were those two late converted chances by Altidore and Canadian Tosaint Ricketts but there was a sense that earlier missed chances could come back to cost Toronto. Sebastian Giovinco had a chance saved by Eirik Johansen in the first half, Drew

    Read More »from Toronto FC shakes off misses, takes 2-0 lead into MLS playoff second leg at NYC
  • Team Flaxey with their trophy at the WFG Masters in Okotoks, Alta. L to R: Morgan Court, Lynn Kreviazuk, Clancy Grandy, Allison Flaxey.(Anil Mungal/Sportsnet)Team Flaxey with their trophy at the WFG Masters in Okotoks, Alta. L to R: Morgan Court, Lynn Kreviazuk, Clancy Grandy, Allison Flaxey.(Anil Mungal/Sportsnet)
    I guess that's what you'd call announcing your presence on the scene with authority. Winning the first Grand Slam event of the season, in your first ever Grand Slam finals appearance.

    Not that skip Allison Flaxey was an unknown in curling circles. But casual fans - those who would, despite not following the game closely, know the name Rachel Homan - might not have known just who Flaxey was before the 2016 Masters, in Okotoks, Alberta.

    Flaxey and her team - third Clancy Grandy, second Lynn Kreviazuk and lead Morgan Court are now really, really on the scene after beating Team Homan, the top-ranked women's rink in the world, 6-3, in Sunday's final.

    It's true that Homan's team wasn't exactly on fire for most of this one - a sizzling, tight port shot by third Emma Miskew was the foursome's big highlight of the final and that came in the first end - but you have to take advantage of your opportunities and that's exactly what Flaxey's team did. They did it as they stole one in the first,

    Read More »from Grand Slam of Curling: First-time champions Flaxey, Edin take The Masters
  • TORONTO — The last time LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers were in Toronto, it was loud. Following Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals, which the Cavs won to secure a trip to the NBA Finals, the crowd continued to chant, “Let’s go Raptors,” even as the game was all but decided.

    It was a continuation of how the fans of the North had performed all post-season long, and James — like many — had taken notice.

    First of all,” said James to ESPN’s Doris Burke in a post-game interview, “do you hear this? Do you hear this? Unbelievable respect and much respect to these fans, to this country. This is unbelievable. I’ve never been a part of something like this in my 13-year career. This is special.”

    Five months later, ahead of Friday’s night’s rematch between the top two seeds in the East last year, James again praised Toronto.

    “It was an amazing atmosphere. These fans, they’re great,” James told reporters Friday morning. “For one, they’re representing a whole country. All of their

    Read More »from Raptors fall to Cavaliers in Eastern Conference Final rematch
  • There has been little separating Toronto FC and New York City FC in the clubs’ respective regular season battles this year. Over the next two weeks, something is finally going to have to give.

    The MLS Eastern Conference semifinal that starts on Sunday at BMO Field (7 p.m.) is a perfect stage for two of the biggest scoring stars in the league with Sebastian Giovinco sharing the marquee with NYCFC’s David Villa. Given the history of games involving these two teams, it could very well be a series that dazzles the fans while giving nightmares to defenders.

    The two meetings this season came right at the start of the season with one ending 2-2 and the other ending 1-1 while last season’s 4-4 game at Yankee Stadium is certainly one to remember.

    New York City FC forward David Villa reacts after missing a shot against Real Salt Lake during the first half of an MLS soccer game, Thursday, June 2, 2016, in New York. Real Salt Lake won 3-2. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)New York City FC forward David Villa reacts after missing a shot against Real Salt Lake during the first half of an MLS soccer game, Thursday, June 2, 2016, in New York. Real Salt Lake won 3-2. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

    “It will be interesting,” said defender Nick Hagglund, who played in the 4-4 game last year. “Playoffs is different from the regular season. Teams are more willing to keep a shutout than score a bunch of goals but you never know. We’ve got Sebastian

    Read More »from Toronto FC, NYCFC a matchup of stars and varying vintages
  • You can’t outsmart a guy like William “Billy Goat” Sianis. When he bought the Lincoln Bar in Chicago in 1934, his $205 cheque bounced. When the previous owner dropped by with a cop two weeks later, Sianis paid him with cash from the till, and added a little extra so there would be no hard feelings. And when a goat wandered into the bar and caused a sensation, people started calling Sianis "Billy Goat"  so he grew a goatee, changed the name of the bar to the Billy Goat Tavern and bought a pet goat that he named Billy. And when the Republican convention came to town in 1944, he put a “No Republicans Allowed” sign in the front window. In minutes, the bar was packed with Republicans demanding to be served.

    When the Cubs made it to the 1945 World Series, the ever-sharp Sianis saw a golden marketing opportunity. It was the team’s seventh trip to the Series since they had last won in 1908. The whole city was alive with excitement, so Sianis took Billy to Game 4. But when some patrons

    Read More »from From Billy Goat to Billy Penn, sports' cursed lot span the globe
  • There's always shock and outrage, anger and finger-pointing after a high-profile incident. It takes nothing to jump on a bandwagon. For those up high, there's usually a microphone or TV camera close by and they can politick to their heart's content.

    But for the actual stakeholders – the ritualists – they know different. They know there's a dark undercurrent to attending Premier League games now, and its been that way for quite a while.

    The violent scenes at the London Stadium during Wednesday night's EFL Cup clash between local rivals West Ham and Chelsea may come as a shock to some. But this had been brewing.

    Even before West Ham's controversial and well-documented move from Upton Park, their fans had pushed the boundaries. In May, a section of the club's support attacked Manchester United's team bus as it made its way to the stadium. There was excess damage. One police officer and one member of the public picked up minor injuries.

    Football Soccer Britain - West Ham United v Chelsea - EFL Cup Fourth Round - London Stadium - 26/10/16 West Ham and Chelsea fans clash after the match  Reuters / Eddie Keogh Livepic EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 45 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.Football Soccer Britain - West Ham United v Chelsea - EFL Cup Fourth Round - London Stadium - 26/10/16 West Ham and Chelsea fans clash after the match Reuters / Eddie Keogh Livepic EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 45 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.It was the final top-flight game at the iconic

    Read More »from Premier League buries head in sand over fan violence
  • A quiet revolution is going on in figure skating, and it’s not about quads. Rather, it’s about hairy armpits.

    As Skate Canada International begins this week, there’s buzz about a sleeveless costume worn by U.S. champion Adam Rippon last week at Skate America, the first of the six Grand Prix events.

    The Hairy Armpit Rule, as I call it, has dominated men’s apparel in figure skating for almost three decades. During all those years men have skated to Pink Floyd, Elvis Presley and Jimi Hendrix, with rarely a hint of a shoulder to be seen - or an armpit, thanks to the late Heiko Fischer, a five-time West German champion.

    At the 1988 Calgary Olympics, Fischer pushed sartorial convention in his free program to “West Side Story.” People whispered when he came out in a sleeveless top, adorned with red sequins designed to look like blood dripping down his body. The reaction was: “Yikes. Too much information.”

    The International Skating Union would have none of the sight of hairy armpits, and

    Read More »from Along with sleeves, figure skating's 'Hairy Armpit Rule' on the retreat
  • RIP Vine: Remembering the best sports Vines

    It was announced on Thursday that the mobile app Vine will be ceasing operations in the coming months. The news struck a cord with people, who have been sharing their favourite Vines on Twitter with the caption, RIP Vine. In honour of the news about Vine, here's a rundown of some of the best sports loops out there:

    Read More »from RIP Vine: Remembering the best sports Vines
  • After a 2016 season that featured very few highs and far too many lows, No. 2 Canadian tennis player Vasek Pospisil has cleared the decks for a fresh start in 2017.

    And the first order of business was to find a new coach, after the 26-year-old from Vernon, B.C. parted ways with longtime mentor Frédéric Fontang last July.

    After considering a few options, Pospisil tells Eh Game that he has made a decision and settled upon Hall of Famer Mark Woodforde, a 51-year-old Australian based in the Palm Springs, Calif. area, as his coach for 2017.

    Woodforde arrives in Paris Friday to begin a two-week trial that is more a formality than anything else, one that offers Pospisil an opportunity to get a head start on the off-season training period.

    Pospisil and Mahut won the ATP 500 event in Rotterdam earlier this season. Mahut was working with Woodforde at the time; as of this week, he will be coaching Pospisil. Pospisil and Mahut won the ATP 500 event in Rotterdam earlier this season. Mahut was working with Woodforde at the time; as of this week, he will be coaching Pospisil. "I'm eager to have a specific focus and direction on where to take my game," said Pospisil, currently ranked No. 112 in singles and on the cusp of direct entry into January's Australian Open. That means he's also on the cusp of having to qualify for a major

    Read More »from Vasek Pospisil has a new coach - and he's a Hall of Famer
  • Given the way the MLS Cup playoffs are set up, it’s not so much the best team in the league that wins the championship, but rather the team peaking at the right moment.

    Toronto FC may not quite be peaking just yet but an assured performance in the club’s first playoff victory should turn a few heads among the teams still alive in the MLS Cup chase. Philadelphia wasn’t a world-beater by any stretch but with valuable contributions all over the field, Toronto put together one of its most complete performances of the year in a 3-1 victory Wednesday night at BMO Field.

    “They looked ready and a lot of guys were saying the right things in the locker room. You could tell that there was a different intensity,” said head coach Greg Vanney, whose side moves on to face New York City FC in Sunday’s first leg of the home-and-away eastern conference semifinal tie. “When I gave my final words to them that’s what it was about. It’s playoff time. It’s going to be a street fight. A soccer game may or may

    Read More »from Toronto FC moves on after assured playoff opener against Union
  • TORONTO — He’s been doing this for more than 20 years, but Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey still gets excited ahead of opening night of the NBA season. So much so that Tuesday night, he had trouble sleeping.

    “When I get nervous, and get upset and get a little edgy with the questions a little bit, I’m excited. So it’s a good sign. Yes, still do,” Casey said about getting pumped up for the Raptors' first game of the season on Wednesday night.

    It’s not only Casey, though. There is more buzz around this Raptors season than ever before, after a franchise-best run last spring to the Eastern Conference finals, where the eventual champion Cleveland Cavaliers defeated them in six games. The team's dynamic duo of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry are back and if all goes well, they look poised for another post-season run.

    Meantime, the Raptors are but one piece of a pro sports puzzle in Toronto that been fitting together nicely of late, after so many years of complete disarray: There were the

    Read More »from Raptors earn opening-night win thanks to big night from DeRozan, Valanciunas
  • The start of a new Toronto Raptors season is here, but it's an old question that still resonates strongest: what to make of Jonas Valanciunas?

    When the Raptors take the court for their first regular season game Wednesday at home against the Pistons, head coach Dwane Casey has a pretty good idea what to expect from his roster. Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are All-Star players in their primes with defined skill sets. Patrick Patterson, Cory Joseph and, assuming health, DeMarre Carroll are going to play hard on both ends of the floor. The Raptors are no longer in a place where they have to rely on Terrence Ross in a significant way, but any contributions from the enigmatic swingman will be taken as a sweet bonus.

    That leaves Valanciunas, whose role and presence looms even larger on the team after backup centre Bismack Biyombo left as a free agent. Entering his fifth season, the 24-year-old Valanciunas has made steady improvements in each of his first four years. 

    He's progressed as an

    Read More »from Jonas Valanciunas' improvement is the key to Raptors' season
  • The Toronto Raptors successful playoff run may not pay off in bigger TV ratings. (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)The Toronto Raptors successful playoff run may not pay off in bigger TV ratings. (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
    When the Toronto Blue Jays ended a 22-year playoff drought last year, television ratings soared.

    When the team opened the 2016 season, ratings continued to go up, as expected.

    Contrast that experience with the Toronto Raptors, who enjoyed a big bump in ratings during their playoff drive two seasons ago. When the next year started, they expected ratings to keep going up.

    Instead, they not only didn't rise, they actually dropped by double digits.

    Now, as the team opens its new season Wednesday night after a successful playoff run last spring that produced record ratings, there are hopes the Raptors can buck their odd trend and experience some of the love that surrounds the Blue Jays.

    Don't expect it to happen.

    ``I wouldn't expect any huge jump in regular-season ratings for the Raptors," says Kaan Yigit, president of Solutions Research Group Consultants. ``If the numbers are flat or five per cent up or down, the Raptors would likely be content with that."

    How can this be? How can a team

    Read More »from Raptors' success with young fans a big factor in struggling TV numbers
  •  

    Despite significant ratings declines in the U.S., the NFL is drawing big numbers in Canada. Steve Flynn-USA TODAY SportsDespite significant ratings declines in the U.S., the NFL is drawing big numbers in Canada. Steve Flynn-USA TODAY Sports
    There is panic south of the border. And not all of it is due to Donald Trump still having a statistical chance at gaining control of the nuclear weapons buttons.

    With the polls making it look like America may come to its senses, Trumpian panic is easing. But panic is tightening its grip on the NFL and its television co-dependents as, for the first time in memory, ratings are on the decline. 

    Ratings are down across the board, ranging from single to double digits as networks and the league scratch their collective heads in trying to figure out why. One explanation, outside some of the awful games that have disgraced our television sets in recent weeks (yeah, Sunday Night Football that's you), is that Americans are so caught up in the Trump madness they've forgotten about football.

    While that seems like some major straw-grasping, there may be some validity to it. Case in point, NFL ratings in Canada are on the rise.

    Sunday afternoon's games, for example, drew 16 per cent more viewers

    Read More »from The Great Canadian Ratings Report: NFL audiences bucking the trend in Canada
  • At least within the tight and unique confines of Major League Soccer, things are on the uptick for Toronto FC.

    Full house? Wednesday night against the Philadelphia Union, TFC hosts its first playoff game, so it’s safe to check that box.

    Superstar player? Sebastian Giovinco, the league’s MVP last year in his first MLS season, worked a full shift on the weekend for the second time after seven weeks away, and made an impact:

    Supporting cast? Behind Giovinco they have American internationals Michael Bradley (with rumours of a Serie A move ahead) and Jozy Altidore, having found a nice vein of goal-scoring form the second half of the season. Behind those two top-dollar players they have assembled a defence that’s light years ahead of last year’s shot-with-holes bunch, and an overall group that affords head coach Greg Vanney som tactical versatility.

    Championship contender? Here’s the riddle, though we really just answered that with Giovinco’s status, after time out with injury showed their

    Read More »from Toronto FC head into MLS playoffs with a little more than just winning at stake