Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Original Six Success

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

While NBC would have loved to have had an Original Six Showdown in the NHL Finals, the network won't complain about the success these teams have had in winning three championships since 2008.

When one talks about the Original Six, if you're a Hockey Traditionalist or Junkie like I am, there is no way that a fan cannot appreciate the history of the NHL.

Names like Gordie Howe, Alex Delvecchio, Mickey Redmond (Detroit Red Wings), Phil Esposito, John Bucyk, Bobby Orr (Boston Bruins), Bobby Hull, Tony Esposito, Stan Mikita (Chicago Black Hawks), Dave Keon, Ron Ellis, Bob Baun, (Toronto Maple Leafs), Ed Giacomin, Jean Ratelle, Rod Gilbert (New York Rangers), Guy Lafleur, Yvan Cournoyer, Jacques Lemaire (Montreal Canadiens were players that stood out when I was growing up.

When the Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup last week, the pressure shifted to the Toronto Maple Leafs to win the prize trophy.

They now have the longest drought of the Original Six teams winning the Stanley Cup in 1967 as they were led by Goaltender Johnny Bower and Coach Punch Imlach. Toronto defeated the Montreal Canadiens 4-2.

Speaking of the Canadiens, their last championship occurred in 1993 as Coach Jacques Demers defeated the Wayne Gretzky led Los Angeles Kings 4-1. Patrick Roy was the MVP for Montreal, and this was the last time that Gretzky played in the NHL Finals. It was the high point of Kings Coach Barry Melrose coaching career. Melrose is now an analyst for ESPN. This was also the only appearance for the Kings in the NHL Finals. Since Montreal's win, no other Canadian based team has won the Stanley Cup.

In 1994, the New York Rangers snapped a championship drought that lasted 54 years as Captain Mark Messier was a hit on Broadway, while Mike Richter was iron between the pipes. Brian Leetch took home the MVP trophy while Coach Mike Keenan made all the right moves behind the bench. The Rangers defeated the Vancouver Canucks 4-3 and this series made everyone forget that the last time the Big Apple was home to the Stanley Cup was in 1940.

Another big dry spell came to an end as the Detroit Red Wings began a run of four championships that started in 1997. Hall of Fame Coach Scotty Bowman has won a record nine Stanley Cups and three were with the Detroit Red Wings.

In 1997, Wings Goaltender Mike Vernon was the MVP and Hall of Fame Captain Steve Yzerman was rewarded for being the franchise player who transformed the "Dead Wings" into a "Model Franchise." The Red Wings defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 4-0. Their latest title occurred in 2008 under Coach Mike Babcock as Nicklas Lidstrom became the first European Born Captain to win the coveted trophy.

The cities of Detroit and Chicago share Michigan Avenue, I-94 and the Second City Comedy Club. The Red Wings and the Blackhawks also broke their long droughts against the same team.

In 2010, the Blackhawks defeated the Flyers 4-2 to win their first title since 1961. Coach Joel Quenneville and departed Goaltender Antti Niemi will go down as the Dynamic Duo that made sports history in the "Windy City."

Like the Rangers, the Boston Bruins went to the Pacific Northwest and used the Vancouver Canucks to snap their dry spell. The Bruins won their last Stanley Cup in 1972. This year, Coach Claude Julien and MVP Goaltender Tim Thomas put the New England fans out of their hockey misery while leaving the Canucks title-less in their 40 years in the league with a 4-3 series win.

Vancouver Goaltender Roberto Luongo was unable to play consistent hockey in the series known as the "Drought Bowl." When it was over, Vancouver had to deal with the bad publicity of losing a Game 7 at home as riots would occur afterwards while the Bruins would have a parade days later.

Who are the people that you remember during a Stanley Cup run? I've always referred to the coach and the goaltender because they are the most noticeable individuals for whom the cameras shine the most.

But now it's Toronto's turn and as the droughts drop, don't think there isn't enough pressure on the Maple Leafs and their fan base to celebrate soon. They have never reached the Stanley Cup Finals during the Expansion Era and their last appearance was in 1967. The Maple Leafs have been to the Stanley Cup Finals 21 times and have Won 13 Championships, losing eight times. Is 13 lucky or unlucky? It depends how you look at it.

All I can say is they're due and it would be nice to see the Maple Leafs reach the Stanley Cup Finals against the Red Wings or Blackhawks. Yet, Toronto fans will disagree with me because they want to see their beloved Maple Leafs just face anyone and finally end this embarrassment in one of the best hockey cities in the world.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com and his blog can be seen at www.scottsports33.com.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Grinch Denied Again

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

There was only one team that could do what the entire country wanted to see and as it turns out, the Dallas Mavericks didn't let us down.

I've always known that Mavericks Coach Rick Carlisle would be a great coach and I enjoyed working with him the two years he was with the Detroit Pistons from 2001-2003.

Now Pistons President Joe Dumars must have woken up this morning with thoughts about "The One That Got Away."

During Carlisle's coaching career, the 51-year old has posted a record of 443-295 regular season and 53-46 playoff record including a 16-5 mark this postseason. Carlisle is 11-3 in close out games.

What makes the low-keyed Carlisle so unique?

He played college ball at the University of Maine for the Black Bears from 1979-1981 and then for the Virginia Cavaliers from 1982-84. He was drafted in the third round by the Boston Celtics in the 1984 draft and was the 70th player overall. I haven't been aware of many Maine players in the NBA.

Carlisle did win an NBA Championship as a Player in 1986 playing with Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, the late Dennis Johnson and Robert Parish. Now he's in a Unique Club to also win one as a Coach. He become the 11th person to to pull it off joining Heat President Pat Riley, retired Los Angeles Lakers/ Chicago Bulls Coach Phil Jackson and his mentor K.C. Jones.

His Mavericks played excellent defense against the Miami Heat and denied former Cleveland Cavalier LeBron James his chance to win a title after his Classless Exit from Ohio a year ago.

When I heard Cavaliers Owner Dan Gilbert congratulate Mavericks Boss Mark Cuban through his Twitter account 15 minutes after the game, I wonder what took him so long to do it. I thought Gilbert would do the deed much quicker.

But Carlisle will be an excellent coach for years to come. He preaches defense and is just getting better with age. He learned his lessons well from his stops in Detroit and Indiana. I truly believe that Dallas will be his last stop and he's found a home with the Grateful Cuban.

Although I live in the Miami Metropolitan area, I was definitely pulling for the Mavericks to win this championship.

There is no doubt that I truly hate LeBron James! I will hammer him at every opportunity that I get and I hope he never wins a championship!

"The Decision" and the way he left Cleveland may be old news and I'm sure that Cavaliers fans will be grateful to Carlisle and Company.

I actually wonder if James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh will be playing together next year. We'll find out. But if they don't and the Heat decide to move one of them for a dominant low post player and improve themselves, this won't make up for the fact that these three clowns predicted that they would win multiple championships but choked badly trying to get their first.

We should rename the franchise the Miami Hype!

I feel bad that Hall of Famers Charles Barkley, Karl Malone and John Stockton never won rings. But last night, justice was served when Dirk Nowitzki (32), Jason Kidd (38) Jason Terry (33) and Shawn Marion (33) saw their careers become complete winning their first championship.

James poor fourth quarter performances earned him the nickname LeBrick and I doubt we'll see the American Airlines Arena packed this summer with these Three Stooges singing and dancing on stage as to what they'll do on the court.

Last night, the Mavericks celebrated on the Hype's floor, much to the dismay of Wade, James and Bosh. My only advice to these three clowns is to spend a lot of time this summer working out and working on their game so there will be chemistry together so they can understand the real meaning of "Team."

While this will be a tough summer for the Miami Hype, I'm glad that the Dallas Mavericks won their first title.

When Cuban gave the first owner of the team Don Carter the Championship Trophy, the Mavericks first coach and my friend Dick Motta (79), who lives in Dallas during the winter but spends his summers operating a Bed and Breakfast in Fish Haven, Idaho., must be smiling that he was alive to see his baby finally grow up. The Mavericks grew up in a big away against the most hyped player (James) and trio (Wade, James and Bosh) in NBA history.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com and his blog can be seen at www.scottsports33.com.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Coach In Waiting Trend

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

The NCAA's newest trend has swallowed up another head coach.

A year ago, legendary Florida State University Coach Bobby Bowden was replaced by his "Coach In Waiting" Jimbo Fisher. In Bowden's case, for all he meant to the Seminoles and College Football, he should have been able to retire on his own terms!

Friday, the time frame for West Virginia's "Coach In Waiting" Dana Holgorsen was moved up a year. In December of 2010, the Moutaineers hired him to replace Bill Stewart (59) in 2012. Holgorsen would serve as the team's offensive coordinator in 2011.

But that didn't happen. Instead of allowing Stewart to finish the final season of a four-year contract, the move to replace him accelerated and he resigned under pressure.

Even though Stewart compiled a 28-12 record in three seasons, he failed to lead West Virginia to a Bowl Championship Series Berth, therefore costing the university millions of dollars in lost revenue. Season ticket sales declined under Stewart's regime and West Virginia sold out only one home game in 2010. There were almost 12,000 empty seats in the regular season finale against Rutgers.

Although these numbers do work against Stewart, he did have a tough act to follow when former West Virginia Coach Rich Rodriguez departed for the Michigan Wolverines. I still believe that Stewart should have finished the final year of his contract. That's what contracts are for is to be honored by both sides.

Yet, we all know that in this day and age that doesn't happen these days especially with all of the movement from the smaller schools to the larger universities with lots of cash on the line particularly in large revenue sports such as football and basketball.

What bothers me about the "Coach In Waiting Trend" are a couple things.

First, how long will it take for that person to eventually land that job and how big are the shoes of his successor?

The University of Texas hired Will Muschamp as Co-Defensive Coordinator on January 3, 2008 and paid him $425,000, making him the highest paid assistant coach in the Big 12.

On November 18, 2008, Texas announced he would eventually succeed Mack Brown as head football coach. They agreed in principle to increase Muschamp's salary to $900,000. There was no timetable set for Brown's departure. Brown and UT expected him to stay for a long time.

The 59-year-old Brown is under contract as head coach through 2016. After Brown would retire, Muschamp would get a five-year contract as head coach to follow the legendary Brown.

But this was one situation that wasn't meant to happen. Muschamp was mentioned as a head coaching candidate at Clemson, Tennessee, Washington and Auburn, but those situations never materialized.

He grew up in Gainesville, Florida, and being a Rome, Georgia native, it became apparent that the only way he'd leave Austin is by returning to the Southeast.

That became a reality on December 11, 2010 when Muschamp was hired to replace the retired Urban Meyer as the Florida Gators head coach, allowing him to return home to Gainesville.

That was the only way that Muschamp was going to leave Texas and the Longhorns lost their "Coach In Waiting" as he lost his patience waiting to be the head man in Austin. Still replacing a legend, there is nothing better than returning home.

Another thing that bothers me about this "Coach In Waiting Trend" is are the best available candidates being interviewed from across the country and are minority coaches going to get consideration?

That's one topic that is explosive and since there are over 120 Division I Bowl Subdivision Head Coaching Positions, there is a small percentage of minorities roaming the sidelines.

It remains to be seen what will happen with the Penn State Nittany Lions because it's inevitable that Joe Paterno won't be there forever. But I just hope things are handled much better in Happy Valley than they were in Tallahassee, Florida and in West Virginia, which is where Bowden ironically had his first head coaching job.

I'm not worried about the "Coach In Waiting Trend" backfiring on Florida Atlantic University Head Coach Howard Schnellenberger because knowing the way FAU's administration works, Schnellenberger will likely pick his successor and still over see the program he built from scratch.

But will anyone view an NCAA Football Division I job as an equal opportunity employer?

No Way, as the lack of African Americans roaming the sidelines and the "Coach In Waiting Trend" now indicates.

For some crazy reason however, I wouldn't be surprised to see Stewart on another sideline within the next couple of years. A coach with a winning record should get another opportunity and I believe he'll be back.

With all of the corruption in NCAA Athletics, there should be a Rooney Rule in the NFL that requires that a Minority Candidate get an interview before a hire is made.

But then again, there are tons of things that need to get fixed by the NCAA including the biggest of them all and that's determine its National Championship on the Field, not with computer rankings, polls, etc.

That's for another day. The Sport of Division I College Football is just a Corrupt Mess and that's only good for all aspects of the Media and Politicians to satirize.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com and his blog can be seen at www.scottsports33.com.

Worth The Trouble?

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

I have never seen an amateur athlete stir up this much controversy before he ever reached the pros more than former Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor, who will turn 22 years-old on June 20.

During his stormy tenure at Ohio State (2008-2010), his off the field actions led to the departure of a Head Coach Jim Tressel, who was 9-1 against the Michigan Wolverines, led the Buckeyes a National Championship in 2002, was 106-22 and 66-14 in the Big 10. Tressel's career record is 241-79-2.

As I look back, it's hard to believe that Pryor was very close to signing with the Michigan Wolverines and playing for former U-M Coach Rich Rodriguez. But he took his talents to Columbus instead of Ann Arbor and the Wolverines have struggled the past few years.

Are Wolverines fans upset that they didn't land Pryor now? Their consolation prize was a youngster out of Deerfield Beach, Florida., named Denard Robinson. All Robinson is doing is breaking longstanding Wolverines rushing and other offensive records.

But now the question remains? Is Pryor going to be more trouble than he's worth in the NFL?

I don't care that he has 2,164 rushing yards, 6,177 passing yards, 57 touchdown passes and two BCS Bowl Game MVP Awards. I don't care that he was 31-4 as a starter for the Buckeyes. Neither will the experienced NFL linebackers, defensive ends and linemen that are looking to knock his head off every week. These MEN are much bigger and stronger and will hammer and punish his 6-6, 233 pound frame.

If they're former Buckeyes, they'll be mad because Ohio State is going to be handed some severe penalties because he traded autographs and memorabilia for cash and discounted tattoos. The NCAA is looking into the cars Pryor has owned or was loaned while at Ohio State.

I understand him leaving knowing that he would have served his five game suspension if Tressel had remained the coach.

While I do believe there will be an NFL season, there are more questions that remain?

1. Is he a franchise quarterback? I'm not convinced right now but go ahead and prove me wrong.

2. Would the CFL have been a better move and use that league as a stepping stone to get to the NFL? If you ask Warren Moon and Doug Flutie, they'll say YES! The wider field will give Pryor plenty of room to run.

3. Could Pryor gain valuable coaching from Jim Fassel or Dennis Green in the UFL? These guys are excellent offensive minds and have done real well in the NFL. But Pryor has such a big ego that he probably figures he's too big for this young league and all he'd do is be brought there to sell tickets.

But in the end, is Pryor "Worth The Trouble?"

This question has so many different answers. I have a feeling they'll be saying NO at Ohio State pretty soon since he didn't deliver a National Championship and their coach is gone.

In the NFL, they'll probably say YES because despite all of his baggage, his price tag will be much lower and he'll likely play quarterback and have some offensive packages to use his athleticism at wide receiver therefore, his explosiveness could cause major headaches for defensive coaches.

At Michigan, hindsight will tell you NO because of Robinson and all of the NCAA violations they avoided.

I'll be curious to see how all of this plays out for both Pryor and Ohio State. But I have a feeling there will be some tough times ahead at Ohio State as the NCAA is about to sack the Buckeyes for all of the wrong reasons.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com and his blog can be seen at www.scottsports33.com.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Bad Boys Reunion?

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

When I heard reports on ESPN that former Bad Boys Isiah Thomas and Bill Laimbeer were being considered as possible replacements for the fired John Kuester, as I was tossing and turning in bed, I warmed up to the idea.

When the Pistons won their titles in 1989-90, these two policed the locker-room and made sure that there would be no distractions to reach their goal. Just ask Thomas' best friend Mark Aguirre, who was acquired in a trade that sent Adrian Dantley to the Dallas Mavericks. Aquirre had a track record for being outspoken in the locker-room but Thomas and Laimbeer made sure that wouldn't occur in Detroit.

As executive of the New York Knicks, Thomas thought about the possibility of hiring Laimbeer as his head coach, but wound up luring Larry Brown to coach in Madison Square Garden. This move turned out to be a major disaster.

But if either of these guys gets selected as coach, lets make it clear that it should be based on their performance on the sidelines.

Thomas did a fine job as head coach of the Indiana Pacers from 2000-2003 by leading the franchise to three consecutive playoff appearances. He helped develop Jermaine O' Neal, Jalen Rose and Ron Artest into stars.

The 50-year old Hall of Famer, who is regarded as the greatest player in Pistons history, has done a solid job the past two years with Florida International University. I have watched Thomas' teams the past couple years and his records of 7-25 and 11-19 are very deceiving.  Last season, the Golden Panthers lost several close games due to poor free throw shooting and Thomas quipped during his press conferences that he'll take suggestions from the media to fix the problem.

FAU Coach Mike Jarvis told me that the Golden Panthers are loaded with talent and if Thomas returns for a third season at FIU, they'll be one of the best teams in the Sun Belt Conference.

As for Laimbeer (54), he is responsible for five of the six championships at the Palace of Auburn Hills. He won two as a player and three more as head coach of the Detroit Shock of the WNBA. He was WNBA Coach of the Year in 2003 and took a franchise that was on the brink of extinction and talked late owner William Davidson into allowing him to save it.

Three titles later, it's safe to say the move worked out. I don't care what level of sports you're in. To win a championship is something to be proud of so Laimbeer can take pride in that. On the court, he was a hard-nosed player that was hated by all.

Yet one of his biggest rivals Charles Barkley has always endorsed him as a possible head coach and went on ESPN's Outside The Lines and expressed his support wondering why the former Bad Boy never received more consideration for other positions. This attention enabled Laimbeer to land an assistant coaching job with former Los Angeles Lakers rival Kurt Rambis of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Laimbeer has been instrumental in the development of Kevin Love and is working with Pistons draft choice bust Darko Milicic to make him a better player.

The commonality between Thomas and Laimbeer is the fact that they have worked with younger players and the Pistons are indeed a young team. When these players look up in the rafters and see their jersey's retired, they'll know the men teaching them to be professionals have excellent credentials.

Even if one were to get hired, the other should be the lead assistant.

In Arizona, former Tiger Kirk Gibson has led to the revitalization of the Diamondbacks. The fiery Gibson reminds me so much of Laimbeer. Both were hated by the media in their playing days but I remember seeing Gibson as a coach during spring training and he toned down and was enjoyable to deal with. I hope for Laimbeer's sake, he's mellowed because he needs the media to put people in the stands.

Nonetheless, Gibson has his Diamondbacks in second place in the National League West a game behind the World Series champions the San Francisco Giants with a 33-28 record. His bench coach is former Tigers Manager Alan Trammell. The roles were reversed when Tramnell and Gibson were running the Tigers earlier this decade. Yet, the lessons learned by Trammell working with Lou Piniella had to only enhance Alan's development in the dugout. Now the two have fans in cactus country talking about a return to the post-season. The Diamondback players know that their manager has two memorable World Series home runs and titles on his resume.

There is no reason that a Thomas and Laimbeer reunion can't produce similar results. Do you think Pistons Owner Tom Gores was a passionate fan during the Bad Boys era? Gores does live in Los Angeles and has watched the Pistons defeat the Lakers in the NBA Finals on two occasions.

If Thomas didn't burn his bridges with Davidson, who knows, perhaps we could have seen this tandem together much sooner. But Dumars did manage to win an NBA title on his own and is smart enough to know that the slate is clean between Thomas and Gores. Dumars sees there are some intriguing possibilities here. Dumars also knows that his next hire better be a good one because he know longer has the safety net of the Davidson's to cushion his next fall. Even though he was retained by Gores doesn't mean that he won't be under a more intense microscope that falls under the category, what have you done for me lately?

With the Pistons set to pick eighth in this month's draft, Greg Monroe, Austin Daye and Jonas Jerebko are a good foundation, but there is little margin of error to make more roster mistakes. It's time to get it right so that the team can finally work it's way back into the playoffs.

More importantly, with the NBA heading towards a hard salary cap, Detroit could land a player or two in free agency because there will be more available as Commissioner David Stern watches his league become more balanced. There is talk that a hard salary cap could force the Miami Heat to break up their big three of Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh. If that happens, one of these players is going somewhere.

With Gores in charge, I'll be curious to see what indeed transpires with the Pistons. If Thomas and Laimbeer don't return to the Palace either together or individually, at least the thought of it happening was enough to get me out of bed during the middle of the night to just examine the possibilities based on the developments in Arizona with Gibson and Trammell.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com and his blog can be seen at www.scottsports33.com.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Tribute To Tom McEwen

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

When I heard the news that My Former Boss Tom McEwen died on Sunday Night, there were several things that entered my mind.

I am glad that I can write this story electronically and not worry if an editor would cut out a very important point. It would be sad to not give McEwen the tribute he rightfully deserves.

Over the years, I've had the privilege of working with some of the greatest people on the planet.

It began in 1979 when George Eichorn of the Detroit Monitor and WXYZ Radio and I began a friendship and brotherhood that's lasted a lifetime.

In 1982, I was fortunate enough to come across the late Peter Bluesten of the Hallandale Digest, who was the publisher of a weekly newspaper, but his staff sold so many ads that the publication was the size of a daily newspaper.

I had so many wonderful times with Peter and as I've written time and time again, you'll never meet a nicer and more loyal person to work with. He was a father to me and treated me like his son.

The only downfall of my experience working for the Digest was the typesetting of the newspaper and production occurred at the Hollywood Sun Tattler.

Therefore, when you're a young aspiring writer trying to get experience, I had to go to the paper and re-check my work to minimize the mistakes that would make me look bad. Peter was fine with this but his son Dan and I had numerous problems. If Peter didn't buffer the conflicts between his son and I, then I was prepared to move on to another newspaper that cared about my work.

My old Journalism instructor David Merves at Broward Community College was also critical of the Digest finished product and saw it every week since he lived in Hallandale.

Thankfully, I had enough good clips and in 1984 and I landed a job at the Tampa Tribune. On weekends off and holidays, I would return to South Florida and visit the Bluesten's. I would do some free-lance writing for events that took place in Central Florida and the Tampa Bay Area.

It would take me awhile to get established at the Tampa Tribune.

Once I got established, then I was able to land work with the heads of the respected bureaus. I would go downtown and work the desk with the rest of the staff especially during football and basketball seasons.

When I met Tom McEwen, he was very nice to me. Whether you were a full-time writer or a part-time correspondent, he treated you with class and always offered pointers and gave advice if you needed it. I stayed at the Tribune until 1986 and nearly landed a spot working for the Lakeland office. But unfortunately, I couldn't survive on their offer and decided to move back to Detroit where I would eventually work for My Father's Home Improvement Company.

Back in 1989, I began covering the Detroit Lions on a regular basis and at the time, they would play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers twice a year because they were in the same division. It was neat seeing McEwen twice a year and on several occasions. We would talk about my returning to the newspaper again. By then, however, I had found my niche in the Home Improvement Industry and the writing was more of a hobby and passion.

Yet, every time we spoke, there were times that I pondered the possibility and wanted to return to the Tampa Tribune. When I did travel with the Lions, I used to eat lunch with McEwen before the game. We would talk about what was wrong with the Bucs and Hall of Fame Running Back Barry Sanders used to have some of his best games against Tampa Bay, including one contest where he ran for a pair of touchdowns that were both over 80 yards and had the press box cheering.

But as I mentioned before while our relationship was good, it was even better when I began covering the NFL because now we were both in the big leagues. We continued to remain close over the years. I'll never forget the time when the Lions were routing the Bucs and there was talk that if the Bucs didn't build a new stadium, the team would move. We were on the Tampa Stadium field near the end of the game wondering what would happen.

For awhile, things didn't look good because the Bucs were perennial losers and the crowds were in major decline. McEwen was actually nervous that the team would indeed leave town, but thankfully, things did work out. When the Bucs left the Lions division, this stung because I used to enjoy returning to Tampa at least once a year.

But thanks to the man upstairs, on December 19, 2010, the Lions took an NFL record 26-game road losing to Raymond James Stadium. For myself, there were a lot of highlights this afternoon.

Once again, I had the chance to talk about old times with McEwen.

But this time, I took things a step further and introduced my good friend and colleague Jennifer Hammond to meet him. She had a smile on her pretty face that would burn through rubber. The two enjoyed a couple nice minutes.

The Lions snapped their losing streak with a 23-20 overtime win and that would be a major step toward their season ending four-game winning streak.

But as I spent time with my former boss, this was a much different feeling. He seemed like he was in declining health and I had a real weird feeling that this would be the last time I'd ever see him again.

That feeling became a reality when he died on Sunday Morning at the age of 88 at 3 a.m. at his Davis Island home. The Lions were supposed to play the Tampa Bay Bucs on September 11 if the NFL season started on schedule.

I was hoping to see McEwen again. Now I know that will never happen.

According to his wife Linda of 41 years, McEwen had been battling an aggressive form of Cancer with chemotherapy. He had suffered several strokes, most recently in May of 2002. He had a pacemaker implanted in May of 1999 and had a leg amputated that confined him to a wheel chair and lost the sight of his eye.

It was tough seeing him like this.

While I was working at the Hallandale Digest, I was gaining great experience working with all kinds of major sporting events and features despite horrible editing.

The Tampa Tribune editing staff was excellent. I loved the deadline pressure and felt that I became a much better, disciplined writer. To this date, I am extremely proud of my time at the Tribune because I grew in so many ways covering a lot of high school sports, the Florida State League plus different human interest stories. The professionalism at that place was tremendous and I know that was attributed to the Sports Editor.

McEwen was a Sports Editor for at least 25 years. His Column "The Morning After" was must read material. He won the Red Smith Award in 1993. He was a Florida Sports Writer of the Year 19 times---a record.

He wrote more than 10,000 columns and supervised a sports staff that grew from seven to 61 at one point. It earned numerous national and state awards. His Final Column in the Tampa Tribune appeared on February 4, 2001.

He set the example for every writer that worked there to follow and if you didn't leave the paper better than you were when you started, there was something wrong with you.

I once joked around with McEwen that one of my fellow correspondents named David Kaminski told me on a Friday Night during football season that I had won an award in 1984 where I finished in second place for in the State of Florida for a USFL story that I wrote.

As it turns out, when I contacted my Department Head of Journalism Betty Owen at BCC, she said that I finished first and not second. I went back to South Florida during that Thanksgiving and she presented the award to me. I reecived the award six weeks after the Detroit Tigers defeated the San Diego Padres to win the World Series.

McEwen said to me that all the writers were pleased with my hard working attitude and he was pleased to have me on his staff. He did smile when he felt it was a coincidence that I found out at his newspaper, but hugged me and shook my hand.

Coming from a man whose accolades are endless, that made me feel real good.

The Press Box at the St.Pete Times Forum bears his name as did the Press Box at the old Tampa Stadium. After the Bucs new home was built, Raymond James Stadium, the street just south of the new venue was renamed "Tom McEwen Boulevard."

Rightfully so, because McEwen was the driving force in the Tampa Bay Bucs landing a franchise in 1976. At least he can say that he was alive to see them win a Super Bowl as well especially since he had to write a lot of columns during the Bucs lean years that looked more like obituaries.

This is a real sad day for me but like Peter Bluesten, Tom McEwen was a mentor for me as well and I'm proud of the association with these classy individuals.

When I do return to see the Lions and the Bucs, there will be a real void when I step in that press box again, especially when I see my old colleagues from the Tampa Tribune.

But Tom, it was a privilege to work with you over the years and thanks for the memories. When I see all the health problems that you experienced, I hope you do indeed, rest in peace.

Because of  you and the rest of your outstanding staff, I will always be grateful of the experience, knowledge and kindness you gave me that I proudly use everyday in so many ways.

Thanks for the memories and God Bless.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com and his blog can be seen at http://www.scottsports33.com/.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

NHL Border Wars

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

The Borders Wars in hockey are getting hot and heavy as Canada has a chance to jam it to the United States twice in the month of June.

Should the Vancouver Canucks defeat the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup Finals, it will be the first championship for a Canadian based team since the Montreal Canadiens defeated the Los Angeles Kings in 1993.

The City of Winnipeg, Manitoba., failed in its efforts to get back the Phoenix Coyotes, who were formerly the Jets, but NHL Hockey will be played in their new MTS Arena (15,015) and I'll bet this will be an Expensive Ticket.

While NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has fought hard to keep teams from moving out of Major USA Cities, there was no way he could stop this one from happening.

The Atlanta Spirit claimed that they have lost $130 million and the team ranked 28th in attendance drawing less than 14,000 fans a game. There was no serious local owner that came forward to keep the team in Georgia.

So who are the winners in this decision and will Winnipeg see a Stanley Cup Championship anytime soon?

Now that Bettman has seen his league lose the Atlanta Metro Area of more than 5 Million, plus a large TV Market, to a city with a population of less than 700,000, the only gain is the $60 Million relocation fee which gets split for the rest of the teams.

The Thrashers were sold for $110 Million and the only time you'll see them on NBC is during the Stanley Cup Finals.

But I have to admit that history works well for the new Winnipeg team. Five of the last six teams that relocated did eventually win Stanley Cup Championships in their new homes.

Ironically, the first team that won a title was when the Atlanta Flames moved to Calgary in 1980-81 and celebrated their title in Canada. You can bet after two failed attempts at NHL Hockey,  Atlanta won't ever get a third chance!

In 1981-82, the Colorado Rockies became the New Jersey Devils and this franchise has won multiple titles.

In 1993-94, the Minnesota North Stars moved to Dallas and the Stars won the championship. The Stars were the second major sports team to win a championship in what is known as Dallas Cowboys territory.

In 1995-96, the Quebec Nordiques moved to Colorado and Denver made the most of its second chance as the Avalanche took over a football town and led by goaltender Patrick Roy, then won two Stanley Cup titles. The Avalanche won their first in 1996 before legendary Broncos Quarterback John Elway won his first Super Bowl.

Finally, the Hartford Whalers departed Connecticut in 1997-98 and the Carolina Hurricanes would give their region their first major league sports championship by hoisting the Stanley Cup in 2006 when they defeated the tradition rich Edmonton Oilers.

While there will be no realignment next season, there is talk that Winnipeg is headed to the Western Conference in two years. The likely teams that could headed to the Eastern Conference are the Nashville Predators, Columbus Blue Jackets or the Detroit Red Wings.

The Detroit Red Wings want to join their Original Six rivals the Boston Bruins, Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs and New York Rangers because it would be less demanding with their travel schedule in the regular and post-seasons.

For some reason, I have a feeling they will get shafted because there are too many Red and White Winged Wheel Jersey's in California, Arizona, Texas and Tennessee. The NHL will want to keep one Original Six rivalry intact when these two I-94 squads meet.

While I'm glad that the folks in Phoenix won't have Winnipeg hanging over their heads, unless the Coyotes solidify their ownership situation, markets like Kansas City which has a new arena without a winter tenant, Las Vegas and if Seattle ever builds a first class facility could be future NHL homes.

Bettman has worked diligently to keep NHL Hockey in Phoenix but even Morris only had Nine Lives.

As I wished My Friend Bettman a Happy Birthday on Facebook, I wonder if his cake had a sour taste to it because of the failed Atlanta debacle.

Losing Big Markets is a tough pill to swallow but he knows his hands were tied.

But for future Canadian markets like Hamilton, Ontario, Quebec City and others that may emerge, he won't be an easy sell the next time North of the Border.

The only way I could see Canada adding another team is if Toronto gets a second one.

I wouldn't be surprised if he's watching other cities struggle so he can find a reason to move them to the USA to make up for Atlanta's loss.

But for now, the fans of Winnipeg can be pleased that the past moves have turned out to be Greener Pastures.

According to an ESPN SportsNation Poll that had 18,606 voters, there were 79% that said the move was going to be a success while 21% said it wasn't going to work out. You can rest assure that the diehard Atlanta Thrashers fans contrubuted to that 21%.

As for Atlanta, I've never thought highly of that area as a SportsTown and now that it has been reduced to three major sports teams, the Hawks now own the winter sports market. Good Riddance to Atlanta on the Frozen Pond.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com and his blog can be seen at http://www.scottsports33.com/.

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