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Archive for November, 2017

Nov. 30, 2017 — The extra dimension

It hasn’t escaped my notice in recent years that the children of some professional ice hockey players have made the skilled transition to turf. Amongst the best single-season scorers in Pennsylvania history is Kelly Fitzpatrick, who scored 66 goals for Palmyra (Pa.). Her father, Ross, had three 40-goal seasons and raised one Calder Cup in 1988 as a member of the Hershey Bears.

This year, a couple more made immense contributions to winning teams. Annabelle Brodeur of Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.) was a major late-season contributor to her side’s Tournament of Champions win, and Taryn Tkachuk of St. Louis Villa Duchesne (Mo.), as a freshman, joined the 30-30 club for goals and assists in a career, helping the Saints win the postseason tournament for St. Louis-area teams.

Both their fathers have had Hall-of-Fame careers on the ice. Annabele Brodeur’s father, Martin, needs little introduction except for the fact that he played on three Stanley Cup teams and won four Vezina Trophies for being the league’s best goalie. He is likely to be a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer in a couple of years.

Taryn Tkachuk’s father, Keith, is one of the highest-scoring Americans in pro hockey history, playing 19 seasons before retiring with the St. Louis Blues. He is a member of the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame.

It will be highly interesting to see how well these two develop as players and as people over the next few years. They’ve got the athletic genes, certainly.


Nov. 29, 2017 — A well-traveled (and successful) coach packs his suitcase again

Daan Polders, who is one of only two known scholastic field hockey coaches ever to win state championships in more than one state, is on his way to a third.

According to a report in PA Prep Live, Polders, coach of the PIAA Class AA state champions from Malvern Villa Maria (Pa.), is leaving to join his wife in North Carolina.

Polders has won two state championships with the Hurricanes and has also won two state titles with Denver Colorado Academy (Colo.) from 2012-13. Previously, he was an assistant coach with Michigan State and with Wake Forest.

Polders returns to a changed field hockey climate in North Carolina, with a burgeoning club culture as well as a raft of new public-school field hockey programs scattered across the state.

Somehow, I get the feeling he’s going to be at the head of a successful program next fall and will be responsible for getting the team headed in a winning effort.

Nov. 28, 2017 — Four groups, four personalities for the FIH Women’s World Cup

It may be a little early to guess how the new format of the FIH Women’s World Cup will affect competition amongst the 16 teams which have already qualified.

That’s because a team’s run of form between now and next July 21st won’t be reflected in a team’s world rankings, and, therefore, not reflected in the serpentine assignment of teams in their groups.

The assignments are a bit different this time around. For the first time, the league portion of the Hockey World Cup will feature four groups rather than two, and teams will play just three group matches, meaning that a quick start is absolutely essential for a team wishing to make an impact.

The four groups have distinct personalities. Group A has Holland, Japan, and Korea along with Italy. Amongst the first three, anyone of these side could win the tournament, so I believe this is the Group of Death.

Group B features England and Ireland, plus the United States and India, two nations who fought for their independence from England in the last quarter-millenium. England will have plenty of stars from the Team GB side which won last year’s Olympics, and should be looking to bounce back from a fourth-place finish at the World League.

Group C has two challengers from the Southern Hemisphere in South Africa and Argentina, as well as Germany and Spain. Argentina, depending on the side it fields next summer, should handle up this group, given the Albicelestes’ dominant 4-1 and 4-0 wins over the Germans earlier this month at World League.

Group D is all about Oceania, as New Zealand and Australia should top the group. Vying for semifinal placement from this group will be Japan and Belgium.

But a lot can happen in the next eight months. Let’s see what the competitive landscape looks like when the teams assemble in London.


Nov. 27, 2017 — The unintended consequence of a scandal

Charlie Rose, to my mind, is one of the five greatest interviewers in the history of media. Indeed, when I taped my first episode of Inside The Circle back in 2012, I modeled the segment on his PBS long-form interview show.

Rose, however, has been swept up by a widening tornado of scandal which has befallen public figures over the last several months when it comes to sexual harassment and sexual abuse.

These kinds of scandals have taken on various degrees of magnitude over the years. There have been charges leveled at some day care centers, the Roman Catholic Church, the football coaching staff at Penn State University, and at least nine people in the American field hockey community.

But this most recent boomlet of scandals has dealt with powerful people — exclusively men — who have developed a sense of invincibility because of stature and access to capital.

Harvey Weinstein, for example, was the single biggest entertainment mogul for the last 20 years in Hollywood. But his world collapsed under the weight of numerous sexual harassment allegations.

Recent scandal has also has befallen politicians such as Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, Minnesota Senator Al Franklin, and Michigan Congressman John Conyers, amongst others.

Rose was supposed to be above all of this, as a respected journalist who was hired five years ago to bring back hard news to the 7-9 a.m. broadcast window. That is, until his name was brought up by nearly a dozen women as a harasser.

Decades of hard work, undone in less than two days since the original story broke in The Washington Post. Rose was not only fired from the morning news, but two other networks cut ties with him.

This very morning, the third story on his former news program was about the announcement of the engagement of Prince Harry of England to an American actress. It was the kind of tabloid fodder which was blissfully absent when Rose was with the program.

I weep for the profession.

Nov. 26, 2017 — A radioactive marketplace?

Until this year, no major professional sports league would even harbor the idea of having a franchise in Las Vegas, Nev.

That is, until the Oakland Raiders signed an agreement to move its team into the desert, the NHL agreed to add the Las Vegas Golden Knights, and the WNBA sold the San Antonio Stars to MGM, allowing the team to move to The Strip.

The clamor of pro sports leagues to one of the world’s gambling capitals is some time in coming. There have been rumors of various teams, notable the Sacramento Kings, moving operations to Las Vegas because of the booming growth of the city. Between 1990 and 2000, the city doubled in population and its attractions became a lot more garish. And today, the city sits at 28th in population in the United States, meaning that the city should have a place in a league 28 teams or greater.

But something has happened this year that should give pause. The Golden Knights were brought into the National Hockey League as the league’s 31st franchise, which breaks the pattern of expansion in pairs. In addition, scheduling 31 teams for an 82-game season requires a lot of compromise in order to have a balanced schedule.

What’s more, expansion teams in any sport are a collection of castoffs, rookies, journeymen, ne’er-do-wells, has-beens, and never-will-bes.

And yet. And yet, as of this morning, the Las Vegas Golden Knights are leading the NHL’s Pacific Division of the Western Conference.

It’s an unusual occurrence, one which should be questioned as to the integrity of competition. In other words, the winning ways of the Knights are, I think, too good to be true.

Now, I understand that it’s entirely possible that gambling interests have not yanked their tendrils into professional hockey. After all, a hallmark of today’s pro sports economy is pay over and above the average working person’s wage and provide a good-enough lifestyle so that an athlete wouldn’t be tempted by bribes offered by gamblers. It was argued, for example, that the 1919 Chicago White Sox (as well as any other pro baseball player of that age) were so underpaid for their entertainment value that the players on that team were easy for gamblers to influence. Hence, the Black Sox.

But there have been gambling scandals in recent years. Point-shaving in college basketball, rigged results on a massive scale in soccer.

Somehow, I don’t think pro sports’ entry into Las Vegas is going to end well.

Nov. 25, 2017 — Potential, unrealized

We haven’t spoken much on this blog on the United States women’s national team’s campaign at the FIH World League final, which finished this morning with a 6-4 win over China in the seventh-place match.

It was a match that the United States were consigned to, rather than placed by virtue of a single game result. The Americans were one of four losing quarterfinalists in this competition (China, Argentina, and Germany were the others), and were the third-ranked when it came to pool play, so while Argentina and Germany played for fifth, the Americans faced China for seventh, rather than playing a consolation semifinal for a chance to play for fifth.

The States were put in this situation during a wild quarterfinal round which saw defending World League winner Argentina lose to the host New Zealand, and saw the States being unluckily drawn against an England team which had a number of players from last year’s Olympic gold medalists from Team GB.

It’s good to know that the States have earned some Top 8 points from the World League, given the fact that hockey nations like Australia, Spain, Japan, and South Africa did not even qualify for the World League final.

But the Americans’ performance in the tournament was one where you were waiting for someone to light the match to get the team going on offense. That didn’t really happen until the consigned seventh-place game.

Still the United States is moving forward into the 2018 World Cup with a very young team, especially on defense. And it will be interesting to see how the team bonds together before London in July.


BULLETIN: Nov. 24, 2017 — A megastar chooses to land in Columbus

Mackenzie Allessie, the Mount Joy Donegal (Pa.) junior who led the nation in goals and assists and has already had a truly special scholastic field hockey career, has made her commitment to The Ohio State University, according to social media.

Ohio State has been one of her last two choices, according to sources. The Buckeyes, under head coach Jarred Martin, posted a 10-9 record, the program’s best since 2012. The program has only been to once Final Four, back in 2010, and will have a much different team by the time she walks onto campus, as this year’s team had 10 seniors.

Allessie, in 2017, scored 91 goals and set up 38 others, while becoming one of only a handful of scholastic field hockey players to have at least 100 goals and 100 assists in their careers. She heads into the 2018 season second all-time in goals scored, as a member of the U-19 national team, and as a player from Donegal’s 2016 state championship team.