Saturday, July 7, 2018

Brewers Keon Broxton Talks Tigertown

BY SCOTT MORGANTROTH
PHOTOS BY CANDICE EBLING

What a difference a year makes.

During the 2017 season, Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Keon Broxton was the starting center fielder.

But things changed in the off season as the Brewers signed Lorenzo Cain as a free agent and obtained Christian Yelich in a trade with the Miami Marlins.

In 2017, Broxton hit .220 in 143 games, 414 at bats with 66 runs, 91 hits, 21 stolen bases, 40 walks and struck out 175 times.

With these acquisitions, Broxton was the odd man out and started the season playing for the Brewers AAA team the Colorado Springs Sky Sox.

The injury bug hit the Brewers as Broxton was promoted to Milwaukee on June 26 as he replaced Cain in the line-up.

As of this post, Milwaukee has a 53-36 record and Broxton is a spark plug and his energy has been felt in many ways.

Despite a .172 average and 29 at bats, he has two homers, three stolen bases and four defensive gems.

He's had game saving catches and in a Brewers 8-2 win over the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ballpark, he had a snow cone catch that earned him the Top Play Honor on ESPN's Sports Center.

There is somewhat of a Detroit connection to Broxton.

He was born in Lakeland FL, the Spring Home of the Tigers.

Prior to the Brewers March 10th game against the Colorado Rockies, we had an interesting conversation about his time growing up in Lakeland and how much he followed the Tigers.

Throughout the years, I've interviewed a lot of athletes and I must say that Broxton is one of the most charismatic and enjoyable to talk to.

Broxton is 6'3" and weighs 200 pounds, is a speedy outfielder and is an excellent defensive player.

In a spacious, let alone any ballpark it's a treat to watch some of the incredible plays he makes, plus seeing him make nice plays when leaping over the wall.

On this day at the Brewers Spring Training Maryvale Stadium in Phoenix AZ, it was a blast talking to Broxton even though we arrived in Phoenix in the early hours of the morning from Orlando FL, then had to be at the game six hours later.

Ironically both of us graduated from Lakeland High School but his school was in Florida while mine was in Milford MI.

My school was the Lakeland Eagles while Broxton's was the Lakeland Dreadnaughts.

Broxton was a wide receiver for his high school squad and was recruited by Florida Atlantic University, but he decided to stick to baseball.

I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I had fun talking to the 27-year old.

Q:  What was it like to be born in Lakeland?

A:  Lakeland is kind of a big, but little town where everyone knows everyone around there.  But there is 13 lakes there.  It's a pretty big populated town but it's a nice place to grow up, family-oriented.  I had a lot of friends that lived in my same neighborhood.  Going to schools around there are awesome and I went to the Lakeland Dreadnaughts, who are the most dominant school around there right now.  I also went to Mulberry High School and that's a good place down there as well.  Lakeland is a nice quiet country town.

Q:  Have you every heard of Joker Marchant Stadium?

A:  No. Everyone from Lakeland calls it Tigertown.  I don't think anyone in Lakeland knows the name of the stadium (laughing).

Q:  Have you ever been to Tigertown?

A:  I have been to Tigertown a couple of times.  I went there for a showcase in 2014.  I've also worked there a couple of times in the off-season.  I'm somewhat familiar with the complex.  I know they have the dorms.  I'm not sure they're still there but whenever I went to the showcase, the dorms were very convenient for all the players that don't have places to live.  It's a decent facility to go and work on your game.

Q:  No interview would be complete if I wouldn't ask you, have you seen any Detroit Tigers games at Tigertown?

A:  I should feel bad because I'm from Lakeland and I have not been to a Detroit Tigers game at all.  I don't know why or how I haven't especially with a guy in the same profession, but I never made my way over there, and I had my own plans going on.

Q:  Have you ever heard of Tigers Hall of Famer Al Kaline?

A:  Never.  (I said really and Keon started laughing).  Am I supposed to know this (smiling)?  I'm not a big name guy.  I'm kind of in the present and a right now guy.  Things that happen back in the day, I'm not too familiar unless they're like a big star right now.  I'm not too familiar besides like big name guys like Ken Griffey or big name Hall of Famers.

But I guess I need to do my study on baseball history since I'm playing a game I should realize and know what's going on back in the day and present right now.

Although Broxton never saw the Tigers play in person in Lakeland, FL, he'll have an opportunity to see them and their Olde-English "D" play first hand when Detroit travels to Milwaukee's Miller Park for the season ending series from September 28-30.

You can rest assure this will be a lot of fun for Keon playing against the Tigers and figures to be a big series for the Brewers with playoff implications on the line.

Scott Morganroth is a member of the Detroit Sports Media.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

The Best Reliever!!

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

When sports people look for relievers, they tend to look at baseball pitchers like Rollie Fingers, Trevor Hoffman, Rich Gossage, Dennis Eckersley, Bruce Sutter, John Smoltz, Sparky Lyle, Lee Smith, Billy Wagner, Tug McGraw, John Hiller, Willie Hernandez, Dan Quisenberry and Hoyt Wilhelm.

In the NFL, some of the best back-up QB's of All-Time include Frank Reich, Earl Morrall, Nick Foles, Vince Ferragamo, Jeff Hostetler, Craig Morton, Doug Flutie and Kurt Warner.

During that past 10 weeks, I have a Reliever that tops them all.

Her name is Candy Ebling.

After I had eye surgery that kept me off the computer for 10 weeks, Ebling has done an outstanding job keeping this website going as I've had to dictate my thoughts and she's been typing in the information.

During this period, it's been neat coming up with ideas which enable her knowledge of sports to shine. And boy, did it shine!

Of all the females I've ever had interactions with through the years, Ebling is undoubtedly the best I've ever dealt with!

I always knew she was an outstanding sports photographer, but what I've seen in a pair of stories, was quite impressive.

During the past 10 weeks, she's been a savior in putting in the tons of drops I've needed in both eyes, as my recovery has been quite slow due to the nature of the surgery.

At the moment, I'm currently using temporary readers so I'm still a bit limited in what I can do until I get my new prescription glasses in three weeks.

But Ebling has been a huge help in managing my LinkedIn and Facebook Accounts as well as checking my email.

During the month of July, August and September, I will be working hard on getting caught up with the many baseball stories from Spring Training while we prepare for football season.

I'm sure she'll be glad to resume her photographers role and deliver her fantastic photos.

But as she's filled in for me, Candy has gained a greater amount of respect for what a Sports Writer does knowing what it's like to have traded places temporarily.

I am very happy that I could view her as the best reliever that I've ever had!!

So when you think of what relievers you enjoy in and out of sports, I hope you take the time to appreciate them as much I have appreciated Candy!

Candy is a Hall of Fame Person and The Ultimate Team Player!

Let Your Reliever know what a blessing they are to have in your life.

Have a great Fourth of July!!

Scott Morganroth is a member of Detroit Sports Media.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Football Stories To Follow In 2018

BY  SCOTT MORGANROTH

It's hard to believe that in a matter of weeks that training camp will open for the NFL.  

It's been an interesting spring for myself, since I've had to deal with eye surgeries and now with shoulder injuries.  I'm probably the one sports writer that has more injuries then the athletes that I write about.  

I'm just hoping that I'll be feeling up to covering the Detroit Lions vs the Tampa Bay Buccaneers here in Florida on August 24th at Raymond James Stadium.


    What we are going to do in this story is talk about four interesting story lines leading up to opening week.

    1) Dez Bryant - The Dallas Cowboys cut him after three non-productive seasons and have revamped their receiver core through free agency and the draft. 

Where will the unemployed Bryant subsequently land? 

Bryant had an opportunity to land with the Baltimore Ravens but passed on a contract offer. 

Initially Bryant wanted to stay in the NFC East but there was no interest in him. 

The only three places that make sense for me are the Green Bay Packers, the New Orleans Saints, and the Jacksonville Jaguars. 

Bryant would actually be an ideal fit in Green Bay because you have a championship and future hall of fame quarterback in Aaron Rodgers throwing spirals to him. 

With the Cowboys, Bryant was known for his tirades with the teams quarterback as well as the coaching staff.

With Rodgers, I couldn't see any of that occurring because Aaron would definitely put him in his place.  If a receiver can't produce with Rodgers then he should be out of the league.  I still find it hard to believe that Jordy Nelson was let go during the off season. 

In New Orleans, Drew Brees is running the show, and like Rodgers has a championship pedigree and would be no nonsense towards Bryant antics.  With Green Bay and New Orleans, Mike McCarthy and Sean Payton would be able to tame Bryant's temper and if he was non-productive, Dez would be looking for another job immediately.

In Jacksonville, under the leadership of Tom Coughlin and Doug Marrone once again they're no nonsense disciplinarians who would also put Bryant in his place. 

Coughlin is a two time Super Bowl winning coach and is actually a God in Jacksonville because of the teams most successful years have occurred with him calling the shots.

Quarterback Blake Bortles is a most inexperienced of these quarterbacks and is long as Blake can accurately throw Dez the football, this could be a productive tandem and give Bryant an opportunity to resurrect his career,  in hopes of securing a longer term contract in 2019. 

2)  Blake Bortles - During the off season the Jags gave Bortles a contract extension for leading the team to the AFC Championship game against the New England Patriots.  The Jags came up a little short in the fourth quarter and were unable to reach their first Super Bowl.

Bortles will have a tough road to get back to the post season as he faces Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles the Pittsburgh Steelers, New England Patriots, and a healthy DeShaun Watson of the Houston Texans.  The Tennessee Titans, led by QB Marcus Mariota always give the Jags a battle.

Will the Jaguars regret giving Bortles a contract extension? 

Time will tell.  If Jacksonville doesn't reach the post season then the critics will be like great white sharks and for a team that a year ago thought about acquiring New York Giants QB Eli Manning it will be interesting to see whether there are enough good options in free agency or whether to develop another signal caller through the 2019 draft. 

I will say this, if Bortles notching two playoff wins there are a lot of excellent quarterbacks who haven't even won a playoff game a couple that come to mind Andy Dalton, Mathew Stafford.  It will be interesting to see how this unfolds.

3) Jameis Winston - We are going to stay in the State Of Florida and talk about the signal caller for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. 

Winston is a very lucky young man. 

Normally the NFL's suspension for violating the personal conduct policy is six games, instead he received a three game suspension for groping an Uber driver.  He was smart taking the suspension this year instead of next year where his contract is going to be much higher.

I have always found it to be a risky proposition when you draft a player at the top of the first round especially No. 1 overall when he has had a track record for personal conduct issues as he did at Florida State University.

Aside from the fact that he is a talented player, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers wanted to draft an in state kid who they thought would have success on the field ad who would put fans in the stands. 

Winston has played for Lovie Smith and Dirk Koetter.

Being absent for the first three games missing the Saints, Eagles and Steelers is a huge loss for Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers could start the season 0-3 and have their work cut out for them, unless Koetter can get a win or two out of experience backup Ryan Fitzpatrick. Koetter could very well be on the hot seat if the Buccaneers don't reach the payoffs.

I have friends in Tampa Bay that have told me that the local media and fan base would love to see the Buccaneers cut Winston and feel that is was a mistake that the team should have drafted Mariota. 

If the Buccaneers were to cut Winston, the 24 year old signal caller would easily get picked up by another team therefore, the Bucs are in a catch 22 situation.  They are damned if they do and damned if they don't.

One can only hope that Winston stays out of trouble because if he doesn't the NFL will permanently ban him and he will go down as a talented quarterback that became a BIG BUST.



New England Tom Brady Spotlight 8" x 10" Football Photo4) Tom Brady - The former University of Michigan Quarterback will turn 41 by the time the regular season starts in September. 

One thing is for certain, he'll be inducted into the Pro Football Hall Of Fame during his first year of eligibility after he retires when the five year waiting period is over. 

Brady is 5-3 in the Super Bowl and the three Super Bowl losses were tight contests twice against the New York Giants and once to the Philadelphia Eagles. 

 How long will Brady play until?  He seems to think he can play until he's 45.

But there is perception and there is reality. The most recent report indicated that Brady will play one more year. 

During the off-season, Brady did not train with the team and didn't attend off season training activities and voluntary workouts. 

Whether he was pondering retirement this year is something that he'll never admit to the public. 

During his career, Brady did once suffer a season ending injury and I can only imagine if he sustains another major injury whether father time will expedite his retirement. 

During this off-season, the Patriots had significant roster and coaching turnover.  Is there a sixth Super Bowl left for the former Wolverine or does the AFC have another team that will play in the biggest game on the planet in February?

Do the Patriots have Brady's replacement on their roster right now? 

I don't think so and that is the only way that I think he will stay as long as he can. 

But his waffling during the off-season makes me wonder whether he will ride off into the sunset like Peyton Manning and John Elway did, going out on top.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Scott Morganroth is a member of Detroit Spots Media. Candy Ebling contributed to this story.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

LeBron James vs. Michael Jordan, Who Would You Choose? The Tale Of The Tape.

By Scott Morganroth
and Candy Ebling

When I initially thought about comparing these two legendary basketball players I was thinking about combining it with other NBA subjects.

However, after seeing a lot of Sports/Debate Shows I felt this comparison could stand alone.  And who better to get into such a discussion than my sports colleague Candy Ebling and I. 

During the course of this story each of us are going to exchange our viewpoints about these incredible players.

When Ebling was in middle school, I was at the New Orleans Superdome in 1982 watching Michael Jordan lead the North Carolina Tarheels to a National Championship win over the Georgetown Hoyas giving Dean Smith his first National Title in front of over 60,000 people and millions of viewers on CBS sports.

Are there any right answers as to which one of these players is better? 

I would say No because it's a generational difference in the eras from which they competed.  Candy will lead off with her comments and I will follow with mine.

Candy's Comments:

How do you compare these two players that played in very different eras? 

When comparing two players, the first thing that I look at is stats.  So lets compare them.  Michael Jordan played 1985 - 2003 and LeBron James started in the league in 2004 and is still playing.

                                                                                         Lebron                              Jordan
Appearances on NBA All-Defensive Team                               6                                      9
Career free-throw percentage                                                73.9%                             83.5%
Dunk Contest Wins                                                                 0                                       2
Playoff points per game                                                         28.5                                 33.4
League leader in steals                                                            0                                      3
Points per game                                                                    27.5                                 30.1
NBA Finals MVP                                                                    3                                      6
NBA Scoring Champ                                                              1                                      10
NBA MVP                                                                              4                                       5
NBA Titles                                                                             3                                       6
All-Star Games                                                                      14                                     14
Total Points                                                                       31,038                              32,292
Total Rebounds                                                                   8,415                                6,672
Total Assists                                                                       8,208                                5,633
Total Steals                                                                         1,865                                2,514
Total Blocks                                                                         888                                   893
Total Games                                                                        1,143                                1,072

As you can see, by comparing the numbers they are pretty even.

Let's be honest, the game has changed over the years.  One of the changes is the three-point line. The NBA moved the three-point line during the 1994-95, 95-96, and 96-97 season from 23 ft 9 in to 22 ft.  They moved it back to the original line in 1997-98. 

In the NBA, the three-point field goals have become increasingly more frequent over the years with effectiveness increasing slightly. 

During the 1979-80 season the league had an average 2.2 three-point goals per game and 6.6 attempts (28% effectiveness). In 1989-90 the league had an average of 4.8 three-point goals and 13.7 attempts (35% effectiveness).  In 2009-10 season had an average of 6.4 three-point goals per game and 18.1 attempts (36% effectiveness).  During the 2016-17 season, the league had an average of 9.7 three-point goals per game and 27 attempts (36% effectiveness).

There also have been numerous (too many to list here) rule changes over the years that have impacted the game over the course of these two careers.

Let's compare them size wise.   James is 6'8" at 250 lbs, while Jordan is 6'6" at 215 lbs..  So James is taller, but also weighs more.

If I was comprising My All-Star Team, these two would be my first two picks. 

They are both great players, who excelled in the era in which they played the game. 

But as far as who is my No.1, I can't. 

To me they played in such different era's it's too hard to pick one over they other. 

What stat do you rank the highest to pick a #1.  Is it who scored the most points in their career? Who has the most titles? Who did the most with the least amount of supporting cast?  Who had more talent? Who had more skill?  Who had more discipline? Who played defense better?  Too many questions.  They are both greats of their respective eras. 

Everyone has a right to their opinion on who is the best.  How do we compare when one has finished playing his career and the other is still going?  No matter what your opinion is, we can all agree that they are both Basketball Greats!

One final note.  I consider myself lucky to have been able to enjoy watching both of them share their talents on the basketball court.

Scott's Comments:

If I had to choose between these two athletes, I would definitely pick Michael Jordan.  First of all, Jordan was a six-time NBA champion.  In six final appearances, Jordan is 6-0.  Its amazing that he won six NBA Finals MVP awards. 

During his era, the NBA was a lot more physical as hand checking, elbowing, grabbing jerseys led to more physical play. 

His Chicago Bulls teams ended the Detroit Bad Boys two-year Championship run and he beat the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA finals.

If Jordan hadn't of taken a two year hiatus to play minor league baseball with the Chicago White Sox Organization, he could of very well won eight titles in a row.

After Magic Johnsons and Larry Birds careers came to a conclusion the NBA needed Jordan to carry the torch until the next generation of super stars came into the league.

As I mentioned before the league has changed from being a physical league to now it's a shooters game.  It seems like every team is trying to take a lot of three-point shots, whereas when I was growing up, your three-point play was a two point shot and a foul.

As for James, he's 3-6 in the NBA Finals and despite his eight straight finals appearances. 

He's played in the weaker Eastern Conference. 

I will say this much about James, he is an incredible athlete that could have played in any era. 

He's quick, strong, basketball smart, and an incredible leader on and off the court.  I'm impressed with his ability to carry a team on his back, particularly in the post season. 

This season he played in all of his teams games and logged a ton of minutes.   There is no reason to think that at of the age of 33, that he should easily be able to reach the 40,000 point plateau providing he stays healthy. 

The only questions are:  How many NBA titles will he end up with? Where will James finish his Hall of Fame career? Stay tuned.

But in the end, I still judge a player by how many championships they have won and that's where Jordan has the edge.

Scott Morganroth is a member of Detroit Sports Media.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Wisconsin Cheesehead Sport Shorts

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH & CANDICE EBLING
Photos by Candice Ebling

I've add a new feature that will appear from time to time but in different formats.  Candy and I are going to talk about different sports subjects and provide some in depths commentary.

In this story we are going to talk about some key sports topics in Candy's home state of Wisconsin.

1) The Milwaukee Brewers early season success, is it a surprise?

Candy's response
The Milwaukee Brewers are leading their division and it's not a surprise at this the 1/3 point of the season, at least to me it's not.  The Milwaukee Brewers have been in a rebuilding phase for a couple of years now.  Being a small market team, but a market that is loyal and strong, keeps them at a disadvantage.  The Brewers have one of the best Bullpens to date, but lack real strong starting pitching and have been shut out 9 times already, when all of last year that number for the whole season was only 8.  If the Brewers are going to keep on top, they need their starting pitching to take it to the next level, while the bullpen stays strong, as well as the bats continuing to hit and score runs.  The hitters need a little more discipline as well as they lead in strikeouts and have the past two years.  They need to play smart ball, no mental mistakes.  But I could probably say this for every team out there.  Craig Counsel needs to keep his team healthy and keep managing them smartly.  Every team is different and needs to be managed a little differently.  I like Craig as he seems to get his guys to perform, and if they don't he has no problem sitting them or sending them down to the minors.  He had the guts and smarts to send Orlando Arcia down to the minors, even though he's been great defensively, his bat leaves something to be desired, at least right now.  This is a wait and see kind of team that is still pretty young.  Hopefully they can continue on their winning ways and stay on top.



Scott's response
The Milwaukee Brewers record is currently 35-20 and they have reached this plateau the fastest in their franchise history.  During spring training we saw 5 games and this was an exciting team to watch because of the close games and late run rallies to win ballgames.  Much of that has carried over into the regular season as they've validated hall of fame Yogi Berra's famous line "It's not over till it's over".

I've said all along that Counsel is one of the best young managers in baseball and figures to be for a long time.  Let's not forget that he was a role player and a key contributor for the Arizona Diamondbacks and Florida Marlins, helping them both win World Series Championships. I really believe that he is an intelligent young skipper who will become more well known as the Brewers continue to be on National Television, especially if they make it to the playoffs.

The Brewers were one game away from getting into the post season in 2017 and they took those experiences into this season and hopefully have learned as to what it takes to get them to the next level.  I was impressed with the moves they made during the off-season to bolster their outfield and in landing Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich.  Unfortunately for Keon Broxton he was the victim of a crowded outfield which found him a man out and down in the minors.  In July, we will post a story written about him regarding an interview we had with him this spring,  I wouldn't be surprised to see him playing for the Brewers at some point this season.

I am definitely looking forward to the Detroit Tigers finishing the regular season playing against these Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park.  I hated when the Brewers switched leagues as I enjoyed watching this rivalry over the years.  Hears hoping that both teams will be playing into the post season.


2) Should the Green Bay Packers go after Dez Bryant after letting Jordy Nelson go?


Candy's response:
The Green Bay Packers let a long time veteran and favorite target of Aaron Rodgers go this off season.  They did this for a reason.  They were trying to get younger and to give them more salary space as some off season mega contracts were given out to other quarterbacks around the league and they know they needed to REDO Rodgers contract.  In my opinion, they should not go after Dez, that would be more of a slap to fan favorite Jordy.  Dez is looking for more money than most young guys.  If Aaron truly at 35 figures he will play into his 40s, there is no reason to believe that he wont have a lot of success with young players as long as they both are on the same page.  The problem that they have had in past years is when the top couple of receivers go down, the reserve receivers aren't on the same page and take too much time learning the routes.

Scott's response
I agree with Candy that Dez Bryant doesn't need to be wearing packer attire.  I do believe that if he was a Packer, he would do well with Aaron Rodgers as his quarterback.  Bryant needs to go to a team that has a star quaterback who has a strong personality that won't tolerate his outrageously strong personality if things don't go his way.

During the past three years, Bryant's production declined due to injury and ineffective play.  If Cowboys owner Jerry Jones thought he could be a good contributor, he wouldn't have cut him in the first place.  Jones doesn't give up on good players that fast.  He's a very loyal owner and will pay you if you're deserving.

I like the moves the Packers made acquiring young wide receivers in the draft and I'll be curious how many more they will add before training camp.

3) Can Milwaukee Support a NHL franchise?


Candy's response:
No.  The Milwaukee Admirals play in the American Hockey League and had a total attendance for 2017-18 of 241,073, an average of 6,027 fans per game, which was good for 8th place in attendance.  Now I will admit that they moved this year to The UW-Milwaukee Panther's Arena which is smaller than the Bradley Center where they played.  The Bradley Center is being torn down and a new home for the Milwaukee Bucks is almost done.  But the Admirals were never invited to play at the new Bucks home, despite being built to host ice events.  They are hoping to invite a frozen four and NHL exhibition game.  The Admirals sign a 10 year lease and are committing $2 million to upgrade their new home.  Being a small market and the price of NHL games, I believe the fans are just as happy cheering on the Admirals.  I know the Milwaukee Market backs their teams but......at what cost.  I don't think they would draw the crowds that they would need to sustain an NHL team.

Scott's response
Yes.  From what I've noticed about the Milwaukee Market like most Midwest cities, if you play hard and are competitive you will get good crowds.  Despite the fact that they are a small market there would be 3 natural rivalries with Minnesota, Chicago, and St Louis.  The NHL is a league which has grown immensely the past several years and has incredible star power.  With the amount of stars that this league has I would see no reason to believe that the Milwaukee Market couldn't draw 17,000 - 18,000 fans on a regular basis.  Furthermore, the Wisconsin Badgers hockey team has always been very elite.  And as I've seen in Detroit, when you have excellent college programs like Michigan, Michigan State, and Michigan Tech and the Detroit Red Wings NHL team, that's a great recipe for hockey growth in the state.  The Vegas Golden Knights are a small market team and if Milwaukee Expansion squad had committed ownership and a excellent front office there is no reason to think that a Milwaukee Expansion franchise couldn't be competitive from the outset.  I also believe that the crowds would be large when you have the Original Six Teams in town such as the Detroit Red Wings, Chicago Blackhawks, Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins, New York Rangers, and the Montreal Canadiens.





Wednesday, March 7, 2018

My Highlight of NHL Season, The NHL All-Star Game

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
PHOTOS BY CANDICE EBLING

As the 2017-2018 season winds down, I want to take a moment and reflect on one of the biggest highlights of the year that we experienced just a short couple months ago.

When it comes to experimenting with their All-Star Game, I give the NHL a lot of credit for attempting to create interest amongst it's fan base.

As I was researching this, I couldn't believe how many formats the league has used throughout the years.

The only thing that hasn't changed is every team has at least one representative.

Back in the 1940's, the defending Stanley Cup Champions faced All-Stars from the five other teams during The Original Six Era.

In 1969, the format was geographic as the NHL went to four divisions with the Wales Conference taking on the Campbell Conference.

The first team was voted in by the fans while the remainder of the teams' roster were chosen by the NHL's Hockey Operations Department in consultation with the teams general managers.

In the 1980's the Wales Conference faced the Campbell Conference but what changed was the Eastern teams faced the Western squads.

The 1990's saw the Skills Competition and the Heroes of Hockey get introduced.

In 1994, The Eastern Conference faced the Western Conference.

One of the more interesting concepts occurred from 1998-2002 when the North American All-Stars squared off against the World All-Stars.

On three occasions, there would be a fantasy format which saw two captains pick teams, and this concept was also utilized in the NFL and NBA.

The most recent format change occurred in 2016 with a three-on-three tournament that consisted of four separate All-Star Teams--each representing one of the leagues divisions.

There are three separate 20 minute mini-games in a round robin format. Each team has three skaters and a goaltender on the ice.

The third period is considered the championship game.

Throughout the years, the All-Star Game has been canceled to promote international competition.

In 1979, The Challenge Cup saw the NHL All-Stars play the Soviet Union.

In 1987, Rendez-vous once again featured the NHL All-Stars play the Soviet Union.

Lastly, NHL Players would participate in The Olympics.

Who knows what other changes could occur in the coming years.

I have actually been to three All-Star Games, two as a writer and out of all of them, there is no doubt the most recent change is the best.

My father took me to the NHL All-Star Game at Joe Louis Arena which featured "Mr. Hockey" Gordie Howe in 1980.

Seeing the Skills Competition in person impressed me of the athletic ability of hockey players.

During this story, we spoke to many people not only at the game, but when the Detroit Red Wings visited the Florida Panthers on February 3, 2018, to get their opinions on the three skaters and one goaltender format.

Before talking to players, I asked Commissioner Gary Bettman whether he foresees participation in the Olympics.

"The fact is we find, the clubs find, the owners find that the Olympics are very disruptive on our season, and for that and a whole host of reasons we've been over repeatedly over the last year or so, it didn't make sense for us to attend. Could that circumstance change at some point in the future? I suppose so. But it's not something that we're currently contemplating."

From a management standpoint, there is no better person to speak to other than Detroit Red Wings Senior Vice President and Alternate Governor Jim Devellano.

Devellano is in his 36th season with the Red Wings and has been in the NHL for 51 years.

His tenure with the Red Wings makes him the longest serving hockey employee in the history of the team.

"I think it's very good in an All-Star Game because you have the world's best players and they're all skilled. When you get them open ice like that, they're going to put on a great display, stick handling, scoring and skating.

"The other good thing about it is, you hate to have players hurt in an All-Star Game, and with the open ice, and fewer players, there is less chance of injuries. I think it's good all-around."

What does Devellano think of other formats and is this the best one?

"It is because it got to the point where the players didn't really try very hard. They didn't want to get hurt, hurt other players, so they played soft. But with the three-on-three, there isn't a lot of body checking and it's all skill. So I think it worked out to be a good format."

Here is what some current players had to say about the current format.

Forward Josh Bailey, New York Islanders, formerly Windsor Spitfires.

"I like it. It's good for the All-Star Game, good for the fans to really see the skill and speed. You could see before with the four-on-four, five-on-five, obviously no one wants to get hurt out there, no one wants to run around and hit people. It's a good way to kind of meet in the middle to see the talent of what the league has to offer. So I think it's a good format."

Defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis Blues.

"I think it's fun. Part of the All-Star Game is to showcase the skills of the players. I'm sitting on the bench and I'm like it's hard to score goals. You realize how good these goalies are right. It's just the shot or it's a breakaway. Boy, you realize how hard it is to score. It's good. Not only good for us, but to showcase how good the reserves are."

Forward Rickard Rakell, Anaheim Ducks. His Pacific Division defeated the Atlantic Division 5-2 in the Finals.

"I really had a good time and it was fun winning the whole event. I really enjoyed the three-on-three format. After the first game, it was slow paced, but it was nice to pull through."

Forward Aleksander Barkov, Florida Panthers said it was awesome to play in his first All-Star Game and provided interesting perspectives about the regular reason.

"In real games, you have to defend even harder than you do in these games. But still, you get tired when you run around those guys like (Edmonton Oilers, Connor) McDavid, (Calgary Flames, Johnny) Gaudreau and guys like that. If you lose the side of them, they'll make you pay. Three-on-three is fun to play when you have the puck, but when you don't have the puck, it's not fun."

Goaltender Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens.

"I think it's much better personally. I think the flow of the game is a little bit better because there aren't so many guys standing around. The guys are skating more and there is more room out there. It kind of open things up a little bit, guys not standing still as much. There is more skating room and as a goaltender, it's nice I can play with the puck to get a couple touches in and get an assist or two."

The two former players I spoke to were from the Florida Panthers and Detroit Red Wings at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, FL.

I'm speaking of Bill Lindsay and Paul Woods of the Red Wings.

Lindsay played in the NHL for 14-years and was a member of the 1996 Panthers Eastern Conference Championship team.

He's in his third year as the radio color analyst, and previously spent six seasons as a team television analyst, after spending two years as the club's radio color commentator.

Lindsay has played in more than 750 NHL contests. So he's seen plenty of hockey.

Like everyone in this story, he was impressed with the three skaters and goaltender format.

"It's exciting. I think the players like it and the fans. The All-Star Week you want a celebration and you want a bit of competition. They're playing for some money so that puts a little bit of an edge into it.

"Plus, the three-on-three can show the skill that's in this league. The NHL in my opinion has never had more skill or talent than it has now. There is no better way to showcase it than with the three-on-three. It's absolutely fabulous. It's a great way to showcase the premier players and show how legitimately talented our athletes are.

"I'm not sure the goaltenders love the three-on-three. But you can get exposed. This kind of stuff is magical. The way the players can do it now with this kind of hockey at the pace at which it's played is fun to watch."

Detroit Red Wings General Manager Ken Holland was an advocate for the three-on-three to be played in the regular season in overtime to replace four-on-four.

The NHL took Holland's recommendation and added it to the All-Star Game which has worked so well with the excitement level drastically increasing.

Woods is another player that has seen a lot of hockey.

He played seven seasons with Detroit from 1977-1984 and his career was cut short because of a hip injury.

He has been a radio analyst since the late 1980's.

Woods, 62, is one of the nicest people you'll ever meet and he's quite colorful.

He definitely enjoys the three-on-three format.


"I like it for sure. It's way better than the five-on-five. In the five-on-five, sometimes in games like that, you can hide a little bit. In three-on-three hockey, you're naked out there. You just have to keep up all the time, offensively, defensively otherwise you let your team down. It's a much better format. Again, players get to show their skill more in three-on-three so it's a good idea for the NHL."

When I asked Woods what he thought about the NHL changing formats through the years, he responded, "The thing I like about this is it becomes real competitive because they have some money on the line. So each team or each guy on the winning team can make a $100,000 so there is a reason why to win those hockey games. So it's important and again back to the three-on-three, and the skills competition, there are a lot of good ideas.

"The NHL is a well run league and have made a lot of good decisions on going back to setting the salary cap. They just keep getting better and better, and the All-Star Game is an example of that."

Woods was gleaming about the skills competition and even had some ideas on how to make it better.

"To watch the players in the games all the time, they can't use all those skills. But when you do see the guys and what they can actually do with the puck, with a stick in practice, it's amazing the hand and eye coordination that NHL players have.

"The one thing I would like to see in the fastest skater competition is an actual race. Instead of having a timed race, one guy skating one way, the other guy going the other way, I would like to see a two lap race. The fastest guy around and manage those turns.

"Connor McDavid is a very fast guy, but we have two with Dylan Larkin and Andreas Athanasiou. It would be a very exciting format for the fans."
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It remains to be seen if the NHL continues to make more changes to make the All-Star Game more entertaining.

But I do agree with Woods that fastest skaters competition would be a great change.

When you think of horse and auto racing, track and field, there is nothing like a competition with combative speed.

I give the league a tremendous amount of credit for trying many things until we've reached this point.

The other major sports have also made changes based on poor ratings, lack of intensity, and at one point the NFL nearly eliminated the Pro Bowl.

After this experience in Tampa Bay, watching the skills competition, it's easier to gain a deeper appreciation of the talent these players do possess.

I look forward to returning to another one when the situation presents itself, but will  enjoy it more when I watch it on TV as well.

It will be interesting to see with the Red Wings influx of young, athletic, skilled speedsters which ones will appear in the NHL's mid-season big stage.

The Red Wings have been stockpiling draft choices for the next two seasons, so it will be interesting to see what new talent they acquire as the organizational skill level improves.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com and is a member of Detroit Sports Media. Candy Ebling also contributed to this story.

Monday, March 5, 2018

The Trade That Wasn't Made

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
PHOTOS BY CANDICE EBLING

During NHL All-Star Weekend in Tampa Bay from January 27-28, Detroit Red Wings Defenseman Mike Green found himself answering a lot of questions about where he could find himself at the trade deadline at the end of February.

Would he be happy to return to the Washington Capitals?

Green politely answered every question in a 25 minute media session.

But one thing remained consistent during his questioning.

He kept telling the media how much he enjoyed playing for the Detroit Red Wings and really never wanted to leave.

Green does have a full trade clause in his contract and would later indicate that the only teams he would waive it for were the Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning.

But there was one major thing which prevented a possible trade.

Green sustained an upper body injury which caused him to miss games, therefore, teams wouldn't trade picks for an unrestricted free agent rental which could be damaged goods.

Red Wings GM Ken Holland still managed to trade Goaltender Petr Mrazek and Forward Tomas Tatar as he stockpiled draft choices for the next two seasons.

During Green's Press Conference, I did manage to slip in some questions as he provided some insightful thoughts about different subjects.

Q: Do you relish the opportunity that you can be a veteran player to mentor and teach a lot of these kids since you've been a Red Wing?

A: I just think it's a matter of understanding the game. I don't think you can teach these guys much because they're so skilled and talented. My approach is getting them to understand how to be consistent. To be honest, I've learned a lot from them too. This next generation of young guys is incredibly talented, incredibly focused and it's great to see.

Q: The one thing I've noticed with these young guys is they play with an incredible amount of energy. Do you draw from that energy?

A: It's definitely helped me. It's caused me to change my workout routines and approach because these guys are so fast now that I have to keep up. But playing with guys like Dylan Larkin create so much energy the way he skates, moves the puck up the ice, along with Andreas Athanasiou, Anthony Mantha and some of the other kids coming up. So it does create a lot of energy. I think that's what's exciting about Detroit is that they have a lot of the great energy young players coming up and will be good.

Q: In the new NHL, enforcers are not as common but the Red Wings have one in Luke Witkowski. When he does play, how would you describe what he's meant to the Red Wings this year?

A: I think immeasurably. At times, when we come out and have played with high energy, it's because Luke's in the line-up. He creates that sort of energy for us when he is there. Not only that, he's an utterly great teammate and player. It's been a pleasure playing with him so far.

Q: When you look at the banners in the rafters and all the great players who have played for Detroit, and the town itself, how does it feel to be playing in "Hockeytown" compared to other cities?

A: I don't know if you can compare it when you're with an "Original Six" team. Obviously, I've played on a different team. You can't compare it with Detroit. Walking in the dressing room, all the pictures of all these old players, captains, and obviously the amount of Stanley Cups they've won on the walls. It's pretty special. You have to take a moment to kind of respect and appreciate what that organization has done.

Q: Tell me what it's like to play in Little Caesars Arena (LCA) and give me your thoughts about Joe Louis Arena?

A: It's been great. The facility is incredible. We're fortunate as players that we have this incredible work out facility and spoiled in that sense.

Comparing to "The Joe," it's different and interesting starting the season at LCA. We wondered what kind of energy it would bring knowing what Joe Louis had and represented, which with it's history in itself and you could feel it. It's about creating the energy now here at Little Caesars Arena and building a legacy there.

Q: Do you know much about the old Olympia Stadium?

A: I respect it because when I first got to Detroit, I read this book on the history of all the buildings, and the history of the Olympia building at the time was creative and was pretty cool. When you're in Detroit, it's a pretty incredible city and what's transpired over a long period of time.

Whether the 32-year Green gets a contract remains to be seen. He definitely does embrace the history of Detroit Red Wings Hockey. Anybody that researches previous stadiums comes across as a traditionalist which is tough to find nowadays.

When you're rebuilding, it's vital to have veterans to provide a positive influence on the younger players that demonstrate leadership, plus lead by example.

But as we stand right now, The Trade That Wasn't Made could pay dividends in the immediate and foreseeable future.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com and is a member of Detroit Sports Media.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

A Must See!

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
PHOTOS BY CANDICE EBLING

During my last trip to Detroit in early December there was one major sports priority, and that was seeing Little Caesars Arena (LCA) in "The District."


On December 5, 2017, George Eichorn, Myself and Candice Ebling worked the Red Wings vs the Winnipeg Jets.

We arrived at the venue around 4 pm and Red Wings Public Relations Assistant Kyle Kujawa was really super about giving Myself, Eichorn and Ebling a tour of this Magnificent Crown Jewel.

What made this trip neat was Kujawa took us down to the Red Wings practice rink (pictured below)
on a different floor and when I saw this, the only question which came to mind is how can anybody not come across impressed?

Not only do the Red Wings use this for practice but it's used for youth hockey.

To try to dig this deep underground for a venue in Florida, one would go on a date with a shark.

Kujawa gave us the personalized tour of everything in the arena.

If he ever leaves the Red Wings for a job in the hospitality field as a tour guide, he would easily get my recommendation.

All of us were able to walk around before the game and took some neat pictures.

Even Eichorn, who had covered a couple of games before our visit got to see some new things.

Eichorn and I sparred and even though Don King Productions wasn't paying us money for a main event, it was neat taking this type of photo.

I was truly amazed at all the restaurants at the arena as well as the souvenir stores.

But what floored me the most were the man holes of all the names which have been a part of Detroit Sports History.

As you can see in the photo on the left, the man hole of late Red Wing Owner Mike Ilitch, is the reason why this arena is standing as he's been the true catalyst as to why Detroit has made an incredible comeback.

He's the main reason the Red Wings won four Stanley Cups and reached the playoffs 25-consecutive seasons.

To embrace Gordie Howe, Joe Louis, the great Pistons teams, LCA was like walking into an actual Sports Hall Of Fame.

When we were there, there was work being done on the office space. The area around the stadium is still being developed.

Being around the Red Wings my entire life, first as a fan than as a member of the media, it was great to see Olympia Stadium's letters on display in this "New Gem."

While I enjoyed Joe Louis Arena, to me, Olympia will always rank amongst the best stadiums I've ever witnessed a sporting event in.

When you go into a new arena, you expect the media lounge, locker rooms, and press box to be first class, therefore, I will not spend much time talking about this.

For the media people complaining about how high the press box is above the ice, those comments will be heard on deaf ears.

As long as I have sufficient space to connect my computer, spread out, and go over my notes, I'm happy with that.


I have to admit that it was neat hearing an Organist at LCA.


But the Red Wings finally caught up with the
times having an attractive female interacting with the fans as visualized on the big scoreboard. I've seen that for years at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, FL., covering the Panthers.

What was different about this Red Wings home game was not hearing a tape recording of late PA Announcer Budd Lynch talking at the end of the period.

But I understood that it was in with the new and out with the old indicating a new building and era of Red Wings Hockey.

At least the Red Wings had Karen Newman singing the National Anthem.

Over the years, I've traveled to some of the newer arenas around the USA.

Some of the impressive ones include: Staples Center (Los Angeles, CA), America West Arena (Phoenix, AZ), United Center (Chicago, ILL), Bradley Center (Milwaukee, WI) which will be replaced next season, Target Center (Minneapolis, MN), Nationwide Arena (Columbus, Ohio), AT&T Center (San Antonio, TX) Amalie Arena (Tampa, FL), American Airlines Arena (Miami, FL) and as aforementioned the BB&T Center in Sunrise, FL.


Some of these venues had practice facilities right next to or connected to the stadium. I was impressed with what I saw in Phoenix and Columbus.

Each are different and special in their own way whether they're part of a downtown revitalization or near water.

But the one thing that stands out about Little Caesars Arena is it's located within a half a mile from Ford Field and Comerica Park.

It's unheard of to have all four major sports teams play in that close of a proximity.

If Major League Soccer passes on Detroit as a future expansion area, playing at Ford Field, not only will it miss on three billionaire owners and an excellent fan base, they'll lose a large TV Market and a chance to be part of a downtown area making a huge comeback.

You won't find a more sound ownership group than Tom Gores, The Ford Family and Dan Gilbert.

But let's face it, for $862.9 million dollars to construct, you're going to build an arena for the ages.

To use the word potential for not only the arena's finished product and surrounding areas describes what Detroit has to bring me back wanting more when I return home.

Seeing this place figures to be an annual opportunity to cover the Red Wings.

I guarantee that by the time LCA gets outdated many decades later, I will be long deceased and never see its replacement.

There are some cities which will tear down buildings inside of 30-years old.

It will be unfortunate to see the Palace of Auburn Hills give way to the wrecking ball.

I'm still puzzled as to why a State Of The Art Building such as this one can't be utilized for some purposes especially since it's paid off.

There are other metropolitan areas which have multiple arenas in use.


Los Angeles has Staples Center, and The Lakers former home The Forum, New York has Madison Square Garden and The Barclays Center.

In Minnesota, the Wild play in St. Paul while the Timberwolves play in downtown Minneapolis.

My home area is the best example.

In Downtown Miami, The NBA's Heat play at The American Airlines Arena meanwhile in the suburbs, the Florida Panthers of the NHL, play in the BB&T Center in Sunrise, and therefore, there are enough events to hold in each building.

I love the BB&T Center! This place is more centrally located to Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties and the Miami Marlins should have built their new stadium in Sunrise, FL.


Nonetheless, in an age where every city is trying to out do each other with their State Of The Art Creations, objectively speaking, it will be tough to top LCA, especially with the
underground practice facility.

For youngsters to be able to practice, play hockey games, tournaments on a rink for which its own NHL team uses creates its own "Ice Of Dreams."

As of this post, the prospects don't look good for either the Red Wings or Pistons making the playoffs.

From what I've been told, there have been a fair amount of empty seats at their games.

Whether that's attributed to each teams' struggles or the newness of the arena where fans want to check out the numerous things to do, restaurants, etc... is subject to ones opinion.

I have a feeling that the louder crowds will come in time when the honeymoon phase of the arena wears off and these teams are winning.

By the way, the Detroit Red Wings defeated the Winnipeg Jets 5-1 in my only and initial trip to the arena.

Yes, there was a game played and what was even more special was seeing many old friends again that I haven't seen in a long time since I don't get home as often as I like.

Health permitting, I expect that to change.

I look forward to covering the Red Wings in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the not so distant future.


I do spend money on the NHL Center Ice Package and these guys have been involved in a lot of one goal games, but are fun to watch.

It will be interesting to see how this team grows together with a nucleus of Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, Tyler Bertuzzi, and then the eventual retired jersey of Henrik Zetterberg when it gets eventually raised into the rafters.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com and is a member of Detroit Sports Media.

Monday, January 22, 2018

A Nostalgic Return

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

After our recent trip to Metro Detroit I wrote a post called  "The Ageless Wonders", which I hope you enjoyed reading as much as I enjoyed writing it.

There is another story that I will write after this one about My return home and I hope you enjoy this Three-Part Series.

Today's theme is a Special One.

It features two incredible places.

The Pontiac Silverdome and The Highland House Restaurant.

We'll begin with the former home of the Detroit Lions, the Pontiac Silverdome.

I really believe the City of Pontiac, MI, really blew it when Lions Owner William Clay Ford wanted to renegotiate the lease and they failed to do this.

You can say what you want about the Lions success on the field or lack there of, but nobody will ever accuse Ford of threatening to move the team out of Michigan if he didn't get a stadium.

I've covered enough football throughout the years and have seen it happen.

A couple areas that stand out are Houston, Texas, where the Houston Oilers eventually moved to Nashville, Tennessee.

Art Modell moved his Cleveland Browns to Baltimore.

Both cities would eventually get NFL teams, but they paid a steep price to get them back by building new stadiums.

But Ford was looking to get a better lease and bring it up to NFL revenue standards so he could eventually pay for a franchise QB like Matthew Stafford.

When Pontiac failed to come through, Ford moved his team back to Detroit and the Lions play in a dynamite facility, Ford Field.

When I took my wife to Michigan, we drove by the Pontiac Silverdome.

This is a building that was eventually sold for pennies on the dollar and deteriorated over time. It was an eyesore when you drive down M-59. It took two attempts to implode it because that's how well built the Silverdome was.

Every time I would drive by the Pontiac Silverdome, I would ask myself, "What If" Pontiac had done the right thing for the dome which had many big events and a capacity of 80,000?

This is a facility that I had lots of memories not only as a fan early in my childhood, but as a member of the media.

I saw a lot of football in this venue plus some Detroit Pistons games.

When I was living in Michigan, I knew where My Sundays were being spent.

The Monday Night Football games were great.

Covering the Thanksgiving Games was an event I looked forward to doing.

Whether the Lions won or lost, I had my permanent seat in the press box and the parking for the media was a breeze.

My football ritual would be arriving around 3-4 hours early and then preparing for the game.

Whether I was talking to other media members, coaches or other prominent people that I could plug into my stories, there was never a dull moment.

There would be the game and then post-game interviews.

My game days at pretty much any sporting event range between 7-10 hours.

I enjoyed watching Barry Sanders run his way into the Pro Football Hall Of Fame, taking a photo of Gordie Howe when I was in a sling, plus watching a lot of explosive Lions football. There would be the career ending injuries of Mike Utley and Reggie Brown.

The photo with Howe was taken in the media dining area and I was also with long-time Lions Broadcaster Bob Reynolds.

I once did an interview with former CBS Pro Football Hall of Fame Sideline Reporter Lesley Visser, who was one of the pioneers for women in Sports Media.

She was an absolute sweetheart. I wish there were camera phones back then because that would have been a photo for the ages.

The NFL Draft was interesting as we'd spend 10-12 hours at the Lions offices on Saturdays and Sundays watching the ESPN Broadcast, flushing through the countless media notes, talking to not only the head coach but the assistants.

There would be a press conference after every pick or trade with the head coach.

I have to admit that by talking to the coaches, I learned a lot about football.

The Lions made sure we were well fed as there was no shortage of food.

But aside from the memories on the field, I met and worked with a lot of great people within the Lions organization.

A few that stand out were Bill Keenist, Mike Murray and James Petrylka Sr.

I see Bill when I cover the Lions on the road.

James moved to Tampa, FL, and I see him when our paths cross at football games in the state.

The photo with Petrylka Sr. was at a recent Jacksonville Jaguars game in Northern Florida.

I value all of these three people as real great friends.

From The Pontiac Silverdome to The Highland House.

These two places are a 30 minute drive on M-59 and for many years there were not many restaurants on this thoroughfare.

Thus the Highland House would gain customers on Sundays especially those that took this route back to cities en route to Lansing, MI, which is Michigan's capital.

I have an incredible history with the Highland House.

My cousin Ron Kroll introduced me to one of the Owners Elia Nicholas.

I've known Elia for over 40 years. He's like an older brother to me and has a heart of gold! He would give a person the shirt off his back if they needed it.

I love this guy!

I became very familiar with this restaurant when my parents, who lived in Southfield, MI, at the time used to take a 45 minute trek to Highland when they owned and rode horses.

They eventually moved us out to Highland, MI. Before we moved, we always ate at the Highland House.


In 1978, Elia hired me to be a Salad Maker.

In this photo, I couldn't resist the opportunity to take a photo in the Salad Area to hold a salad like the good old days. On this day, I wouldn't ruin my clothes with the Highland House's incredible house dressing.

Elia did give me two bottles to take with me but they'll never be opened and are in my trophy case at home completely sealed.

Elia and I have had lots of memories through the years.

When I would come into the Highland House, his first question with me with a smile was, "Are You Hungry instead of asking, How Are You?"

This was neat because he's a guy in the food business and his job is to feed people.

When he had a restaurant in West Bloomfield, MI, called E.G. Nicks, we'd spend time together there as well.

I worked at the Highland House through High School and I would come back from college to earn extra spending money. The Highland House was my first job.

They threw me a going away party when I moved to Florida in 1981 to continue my education and it was an incredible experience.

I would later work at the Highland House as an interim manager in the kitchen in late 1986 then as a consultant from 1987-1999.

When you talk about the restaurant business, this family has it figured out down to a science.

In 1976, the Highland House, which is located at 2630 Highland Rd, in Highland MI, opened it's doors.


Tom Nicholas, Elia, Steve Ryeson and his brother Gene were the owners.

Tom's lovely wife Despina was the hostess and her heart was bigger than the Good-Year Blimp!

Elia's sister Elizabeth was involved before she would move on to another family restaurant.

On our trip to the Highland House, Elizabeth's daughter Despina Nevells joined the team to work in the marketing department.

I had the good pleasure of working with Elia's late younger brother Greg, who died at 49 because of Cancer.

To this day, it kills me internally that Michigan never had the Clean Air Act like we have in Florida which prohibited smoking in a restaurant. After Greg's passing, Michigan did add the Clean Air Act.

There were other people that I enjoyed seeing and working with through the years. Abraham Ryeson was Steve's and Gene's father and his sense of humor was off the charts.

I always enjoyed working with Jeff Ryeson.

His brother Gregg Ryeson is one of my best friends!

Gregg actually lives in South Florida and last year, his beautiful Wife Michelle and My Princess Candy got together at Duffy's in Boynton Beach, FL.

Gregg and I reminisced about the incredible memories we shared at this Iconic 42-year old Restaurant that opened in 1976.

Our wives really had fun listening to the good old days and the four of us made a goal to see one another more since we live in the same area.

On our visit, there was one familiar face in the kitchen.

Chris Burke (on the left), who I am in the photo with has been working with daytime preparation dating back to my days in the kitchen. He says the job never gets old, is comfortable working with ownership and knows he'll always be taken care of. Chris looks fantastic.

Gene recently relinquished ownership to his son Rob (on the right) and this guy is like a younger brother to me. Like his dad, he's an unbelievable person and will be counted on to continue the Highland House's magnificent tradition for years to come.

There is no question that Rob and Elia will make an excellent one-two punch!

One of my favorite stories which draws laughs is the time I grabbed an extra time card to record my hours and Tom Nicholas saw me doing this in the break room.

In his ruffled voice, he says "those time cards cost me six cents apiece." I pulled the six cents out of my pocket, put it on the table and he grabbed it.

I told Elia and Gene about this and we started to laugh so hard that we nearly started to cry. I swear, this was the best monetary laugh I've ever had in my life!

Nothing even comes close.

Even Gregg and I talked about this to our wives at Duffy's.

To date, we still couldn't believe it happened.

For years, Steve Ryeson would have some of my sports photos in his Sports Room so his customers could see them.

But when I return to The Highland House, the majority of the time I spend is with Gene and Elia.

When Gene's wife Diane was alive, no trip would be complete with her as we exchanged hugs and talked. She's a polished diamond of a person!

I'm glad that Candy has spent time in The Original Highland House and won't depend on my own memories as to what it was like.

Like the Silverdome, the Original Highland House will have a date with the wrecking ball. It will become a parking lot.

This building is actually 100 years old.

It was once a truck stop, then became The White Duck Restaurant, Nick's Big Platter and then the Highland House.

When I return, it will be different because I'll have to get used to a totally different atmosphere.

A State Of The Art Atmosphere.

This happens all the time in sports when older arenas get torn down and the new ones are built.

But one thing will always be consistent about the Highland House.

When I tell you that these people have the restaurant business down to a science, I really mean this!

This restaurant reminds me of Cheers, where everybody knows your name.

At the Highland House, you'll always see that familiar bartender as turnover at this position is very rare. In this photo of Elia and I, John Brodie is listed as a bartender that's been with the company several years. He is a great person and it was unfortunate that we didn't see him on this visit.

The original owners were always present and they knew there regular customers by name.

When I sent them customers and told them to look for a particular person, these individuals were there on their specific days.

Elia is a workaholic and never goes out of town.

Then again, when you love what you're doing for a living and making a good living and are comfortable, then he doesn't consider it work.

For years, Elia used to have business interests with former Detroit Red Wings Owner Mike Ilitch, who was the founder of Little Caesars Pizza. Ilitch died on February 10, 2017.

These owners go out of there way to sit with there customers and make the experience and food right.

They're known for their Ribs, Garlic Bread, Pizza and Greek Salad with the Special Dressing. It can be ordered online.

The Highland House owners and staff have treated every vendor, customer and employee as an extension of their family.


As for Myself, Elia and Gene are Gold To Me!

Their love, friendship and my growth as an individual is something that is unforgettable!

Elia and Gene are extended members of my family!

As I've mentioned before and am proud to say it again, Elia is the older brother I never had while Gene is a Jewel of an Uncle!

I'm glad that Candy had an opportunity to spend time with Elia and Gene!

I've made other friends through them such as Gus Pantelides and Mike Pantel.

Both of them live in Clearwater, FL, and I see them periodically when we go to the Tampa Bay Area.

But if you want to open up a restaurant, The Highland House is the model you want to follow!

These people have gotten right for years and the future has never looked brighter!

I'll miss the Pontiac Silverdome and Original Highland House, but what a Nostalgic Return on a chilly but dry December 7, 2017 in Southeastern Michigan.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com and is a member of Detroit Sports Media.

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