Moves allows time for the kids play on rebuilding club
CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – The Charlottetown Islanders and the Island Storm are on the road this weekend, with the hockey club in Halifax tonight to meet the Mooseheads and the basketball squad in St. John’s, N.L., Sunday afternoon to conclude its two-game series on The Rock with a very good Edge club.
The void in the local action has allowed the Toronto Blue Jays to jump into the winter sports picture ever so briefly with the decision to release veteran shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. Tulo, who never did live up to the lofty offensive numbers he posted in Colorado, is owed something like $38 million during the next two years and that's a pile of money.
The Jays are deep in young talent like middle infielders Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Richard Urena plus third baseman Vlad Guerrero Jr., so releasing Tulowitzki now was the right thing to do. In my view, it's also time to unload catcher Russell Martin as it was obvious last summer he is no longer a strong defensive catcher and his less than .200 batting average suggests his days as a starter are over. Factor in his eye-popping $20-million salary this season, in the final year of his five-year contract, and the decision to send him on his way should be an easy one.
Blue Jays fans stayed away in droves last summer with the club averaging 11,000 fans less every night compared to 2015 and 2016, but the club has quality kids which should help at the box office this summer.
Right now, the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Toronto Raptors are the darlings of T.O. and both are positioned for deep playoff runs. There's still a long way to go in the NHL and NBA schedule but right now the Maple Leafs and Raptors are elite teams loaded with talent. If you're a parent with young kids or a long-suffering Leafs fan, the safest gift from Santa is a Toronto jersey or another wearable item. Are you listening Santa?
On the Santa and a Christmas theme, the ideal stocking stuffer for local sports fan George Halliwell could be a discount travel card. Halliwell, who is a familiar figure at both Charlottetown Islanders and UPEI games, just got back from a weekend in Chicago where he took in the L.A. Rams and Chicago Bears NFL game as well as a Chicago Bulls NBA game. In the past seven months, George has been at NHL games in Boston, Montreal, Toronto, Las Vegas and Philadelphia; and let's not forget, baseball games at Fenway Park and Toronto.
Live harness racing continues this afternoon with a 15-dash card starting at 12:30 p.m.
The $2,400 feature has attracted a field of seven with Winter Blast and Rollwwithitharry on the outside. The mares open at $2,350 has the likes of Killean Finale, Prettyndangerous, Collective Wisdom and five others.
The Stable.Ca open house last Sunday at Tomiko Centre in Ontario drew a big crowd with owners from 10 different US states among the 300 in attendance as well as 6,000 fans online.
Bill O'Donnell and myself handled the pedigrees and public relations while Kelly Spencer, who has joined The Stable full-time as director of business development, had the show running smoothly.
It looked like Old Home Week with so many Islanders and Cape Bretoners, including blacksmith Tim MacKinnon, trainers Harry Poulton, Ricky MacPhee, George McGuigan, Georgie Dalziel (Wally's wife), Kirby and Jason MacInnis, Kevin MacMaster, Danny O'Brien from Saint John, N.B., and a contingent from Blue Bonnets led by Mario Baillargeon.
Prominent trainer Greg Peck, who won the Hambletonian with Muscle Hill, is also stabled at Tomiko Training Centre along with the 150 head from The Stable.
Summerside’s Sugar Doyle, who calls the races at Western Fair, sent along word yesterday Ryan Desroche, who previously worked with Marc Campbell, won his first race Sunday at Flamboro with Bravado Seelster in 1:57:2 in a $6,000 pace. The Flamboro drivers room – led by J. Harris and Bob McClure – welcomed Ryan back with a bucket of cold water over the head to celebrate the event – all in good fun, of course.
At Woodbine tonight, James MacDonald has Regal Son in the $34,000 top class in between Maritime-connected Rockin In Heaven and Physically Inclined in a tough 10-horse field that includes Easy Lover Hanover.
At Yonkers last Saturday, Proven Desire was seventh in 1:53:3 while Y's Locus was also seventh in a $29,000 conditioned pace.
The NFL heads into a crucial weekend and the standings are so tight today's contest between visiting Cleveland and Denver is a must-win game for both clubs. Last week I called for a Miami upset of New England and I received texts and calls on my forecast. As usual, the Prophet was correct. Let's take a closer look at meaningful games this weekend.
Cleveland Browns (5-7-1) at Denver Broncos (6-7) – The Browns can win out and could make the post season with a 8-7-1 record but they need help. I love Browns QB Baker Mayfield and they can get past Denver, so jump aboard.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-8) at Baltimore Ravens (7-6) – The Ravens should have beaten Kansas City last week; they deserved a better fate. Baltimore is a real tough club and will smother the Bucs.
Dallas Cowboys (8-5) at Indianapolis Colts (7-6) – Dallas can clinch the NFC East with a win but not Sunday. The Colts, behind QB Andrew Luck, upset Houston on the road and now they are at home versus a surprising Cowboys club. Colts by a field goal.
New England Patriots (9-4) at Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5-1) – I am not sold on either of these two clubs making the AFC final. The Steelers are banged up with running back James Conner questionable. He did not practise Wednesday. I like the Pats over a fading Steelers club.
Green Bay Packers (5-7-1) at Chicago Bears (9-4) – The Bears are playoff bound while Green Bay hasn't beaten any contenders thus far. The Bears defence will smother Aaron Rodgers. Bears by at least a TD.
Fred MacDonald's column appears every Saturday in The Guardian. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.