1-Man’s Opinion on Sports-Friday “Gulls Hockey–AHL’s Flagship Franchise”

Posted by on October 18th, 2019  •  0 Comments  • 

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“Gulls Hockey–Flagship Franchise”
1-Man’s Opinion on Sports
by Lee ‘Hacksaw’ Hamilton

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They’ve come a long way to get to Opening Night.  They being the American Hockey League, and they being the San Diego Gulls.

The Gulls kick off the home schedule with this Friday night clash with the Stockton Heat, future Anaheim Ducks-vs-Calgary Flames prospects.

The 5th year is launched, quite a road travelled, considering the home opener in 2015 was within minutes of being cancelled by bad ice and 90-degree temperatures outside, and a building that struggled to get the temp into the 50s to maintain the ice.  The Sports Arena, the Old Gray Lady, like everyone else, needed lots of reps to get it right, but they have now.  And has the town responded.

And so they have, as the Gulls drop the home ice puck, they’ve gone (154-95) in the teams first four years, with an assortment of a few veteran AHL players, and a truckload of Ducks draft picks, college free agents and an influx of players from Europe.

San Diego of course has had an enormous hockey history, dating back to the old Ice Gardens, then the Sports Arena.  The mailing address was the Western Hockey League, the World Hockey Association, the IHL, the West Coast Hockey League and then after the merger, the East Coast Hockey League.  There were big name players coming thru here.  There were championship trophies.  There were name coaches and execs and brawls.  But nothing like we have tonite.

The American Hockey has arrived, thanks for foresight of NHL owners, and the imagination of a longtime General Manager.

The league that started in 1937 coming out of the depression, has had lots of members, lots of problems, and now is enjoying lots of success.  There’s only 1-of the original teams left, the Hershey Bears.  Franchises have come and gone, done in by economics, cost of operation, travel, the arrival of the World Hockey Association.

A league that some years stretched from St Johns, Newfoundland to Abbortsford, British Columbia, is now rock solid with working agreements with every franchise.  They hauled in teams from the North American Hockey League, the Southern Hockey League, the International Hockey League.

They devised a formula for each NHL team to help run, finance, operat an AHL franchise.  No more horror stories of Eddie Shore and the old Springfield Indians from back in the day.

Most all of the old arenas are gone, replaced by shiny new minor league structures.

The Gulls head onto the ice thanks to the creative energy of former NHL-General Manager Brian Burke, who envisioned a need to create a Pacific Division so NHL teams could have access to their top talent close-by, rather than trying to fly a player into Anaheim from Portland, Maine or Norfolk, Virginia or Syracuse, New York.  Burke had great success in the NHL with the Ducks-Leafs-Canucks-Calgary.  Part of his legacy is what he did to get this product on the ice in America’s Finest City.

There are 7-teams in the Pacific Division now, all linked to NHL teams out west, highlighted by this successful run the Gulls have had with the parent Anaheim Ducks.  In two years, another team will be joining, Palm Springs, the top farm club of the soon to be admitted Seattle expansion team.

All you need to know about this edition of Gulls hockey, is its short history of success developing players for the Ducks.  John Gibson was here for 3-weeks in year one and has gone onto stardom in goal in Anaheim.

At one point in the Ducks playoff runs there were 9-Gulls on the ice on game night, guys who started here-wound up there.  Brandon Montour, Shea Theodore, Marcus Peterson, Nick Ritchie, Ondrej Kane among others.

Up in Anaheim tonite is the Gulls leader, now the first year Ducks coach Dallas Eakins, who worked miracles with a revolving door roster of players, coming and going almost on a daily basis.  Think about a team that wound up 59-games over .500 in the Eakins Era, while having to use 50-plus players a year on the roster because of callups-trades-injuries.

Last year’s hot prospects, who played well in San Diego, are now at the Honda Center, youngster Max Comtois, Sam Steele, Troy Terry, Max Jones.

Young Swedish phenom Isac Lundestrom just came down, so did young defenseman gem Simon Benoit, and goalie Kevin Boyle seems on the brink of an NHL career.  Add to that, another batch of prospects has just arrived, Antoine Morand, Hunter Drew, Brent Gates and Scott Moldenhauer.

The history of the Ducks front office to sight, select and sign a strong cross section of young players has led to the success in San Diego, and likely the rebirth of wins in Anaheim.

San Diego is a melting pot of fans from everywhere.  If they ever had a ‘jersey night’ you’d see a huge cross section of fans wearing Maple Leafs-Canadiens-Red Wings-Penguins gear and more. Was always a good hockey town, became even better when the Ducks arrived.  Witness the skyrocketing attendance figures, including all those 12,000-crowds mid-winter and a league leading season attendance in excess of 9,000-a game.

It’s not ‘Slapshot’ anymore.  It’s a shiny new product.  A new season begins with typical Friday night minor league promotions, flags, banners, team jerseys, beers, babes in the stands, cheerleaders on the concourse, and a roster full of players, just 1-phone call away from the NHL.

Of course as I warned GM-Bob Ferguson and newly minted coach, former NHL goal scorer Kevin Dineen, “if your cell phone rings and the caller ID says Area Code 949, don’t answer it.  It’s probably the Ducks calling to take your top players up.”

But that’s what Flagship Franchises are there for, and the Gulls have done that well.

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1-Man’s Opinion on Sports-Thursday “Aztecs Football–What Should Be The Future?”

Posted by on October 17th, 2019  •  0 Comments  • 

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“The Future–Mountain West Conference-SDSU”

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I wonder where all these rumors are going to lead us to.

Boise State and San Diego State are the two best football teams in the Mountain West Conference.

You know the conference that gets very little respect nationwide.  The one  that has quality programs, which upset some big name teams, from Power 5-Conferences, but yet gets zero recognition.

Boise State won at Florida State.  The Aztecs beat down UCLA.  Wyoming nailed Missouri.  Air Force trashed Colorado.  San Jose State, of all people, won at Arkansas.  Hawaii took out Arizona.  Even UNLV won on the road, at Vanderbilt.

And yet it has cause no ripple at all in the football rankings, no conversation about any of these teams being the player in the Group of 5-nominee to play on New Year’s Day.  It’s like it never happened.

Is it time for San Diego State to consider doing something different with its football program.

I ask that a day after Air Force coach Troy Calhoun went public saying maybe the Falcons don’t need to be in the MWC, and they might be better served to be somewhere else, like Army, or maybe with Navy, or maybe an independent.

A new Aztecs Stadium is on line, with a target date of 2022.  A huge step forward in the image of a very good football program, led by a very good man.

SDSU’s football program is (76-36) under the leadership of Rocky Long.  It beats some of the big boys, wins tons of games, and goes to Bowl games each December.

But even in our football mad community of San Diego, it does not create electricity.

What to do, whee to go?

They cannot become an independent like Brigham Young, which has fallen off the national radar since they vacated the Mountain West-WAC years ago in the last massive conference shakeup.

They are not wanted in the PAC-12 Conference, who added Utah-Colorado when all the conferences in the country were cherry-picking teams.

The wildcard in all this might be what is happening in the Midlands.  The Big 12-Conference is privately talking expansion, adding two teams.  Does it make sense for either SDSU or the conference?

Expansion now is all about TV sets and ratings.

When the last shuffling took place, the Big 12 didn’t come out a winner.  They lost the historical flagship team, Nebraska, to the Big 10, then added West Virginia to replace them.  A strange geographical swap.

But if expansion these days is all about TV sets, why would Morgantown, and why would the Mountain State make any sense.

So now the Big 12 needs to catch up with the other Power Five leagues, and they need two teams to do it.

There has always been a hidden fear Boise State would leave the Mountain West.  Would Brigham Young’s national heritage be the perfect second team, or are there not enough TV sets in Utah to make it worthwhile, despite the BYU football legacy?

San Diego State brings the 16th biggest market in the country to the table as a negotiating chip.  The Aztecs bring a big recruiting base for Big 12-schools to concentrate on.  The Red & Black ‘s next door neighbor, the LA TV-market would be part of the lure for TV ratings and recruitment of talent.

The city of San Diego is a melting pot of sports fans.  The silent alumni, and the newly landed residents would get excited to see Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas and other quality programs come into town.  Better than anything they can see from Wyoming, USU, Nevada, Hawaii etc..etc.

Think a Big 12-calling card wouldn’t help open recruiting doors across Southern California?.

The Big 12-shares some 42M-in in TV pie right now per school.  The Mountain West check that arrives this fall is worth just 1.1M to San Diego State.  Those paydays make a big difference in operating Division 1-athletic programs.

Leadership at SDSU hopes to make this a 50,000 student enrollment university when the front porch campus construction is done by 2025 in Mission Valley..  Wouldn’t membership in the Big 12-drive fundraising, not only with football support, but in terms of campus-wide fund raising.

John David Wicker, the guiding light in the football stadium construction project, needs to shoot for the moon, a Big 12-affiliation, rather than keep his program in the sub-orbit of the small potatoes Mountain West.

Big 12-meet your expansion partners in the Mountains at Boise State, and on the beaches on the West Coast, San Diego State.

Why not?  Why not the Broncos and Aztecs?

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1-Man’s Opinion on Sports–Wednesday “Aztecs Football–Beware of Ambush”

Posted by on October 16th, 2019  •  0 Comments  • 

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“Aztecs-Beware of Ambush”

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The metrics say San Diego State should win this football game at San Jose State.

Their defense has led them to a (5-1) start this season, while the offense has run hot-and-cold.

But the Saturday game up in the Bay Area carries a scary theme to it.  San Jose State, a perennial doormat in the Mountain West Conference is a much improved (3-3), and that includes an amazing win at Arkansas against a legendary Razorbacks program.

SDSU faces big play throwing QB-Josh Love, a 3rd year starter, who is the difference between the Spartans being scary vs being roadkill.  Love is averaging (303YPG) passing, has thrown for (1,823Y) in six starts this year and has a (10TD-2Intc) ratio.  His wide receivers are averaging (13.3YPC), and they make big plays.

The Aztecs have shown disdain for all the quarterbacks they play.  Punch them in the mouth, slow them down, sack them, pressure them into mistakes..  SDSU’s stats are vintage Rocky Long football.  As of today, State is #1 in defense (270YPG)…#1-run defense (64YPG)..#1 in scoring defense in the league.

SDSU has 15-sacks…13-takeaways…45-tackles for loss…has given up just 4-TD passes this year…is allowing just (2.3) YPC against the run…has given up just 9-TDs this season.

Granted offense is a challenge, ranked last in the MWC (324YPG)…last in scoring offense (21PPG)….and 10th in rushing offense (132YPG)…places they have dominated in years past.

Coach Rocky Long’s comments heading to Saturday’s game.
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..On to the next one..complete contrast to who we just played-Wyoming.
..Now we play a team that throws it and doesn’t care to run it
..The most intriguing aspect of game, they are number 1-turnover ratio in nation.

..Josh Love throws on timing-very accurate.
..You can bring pressure and he will put the ball on the money
..He doesn’t hold the ball…doesn’t feel the pressure
..He is so hot-we have to change the coverages up-slow him down

..Coach Bran Brennan has done a great job-program was so low
..Winning at Arkansas was so impressive.
..He has taught the quarterback a lot over three years.
..Offense is all from the Air Raid passing tree..see same pass routes
..No matter what coverage you play-they get you in trouble
..Love wants to complete pass-gain 10-yards-not go for big play-just move ball
..Hitting quarterback makes a difference…he has been blitzed but gets rid of it

..Utah State’s Jordan Love was always looking for the play
..Josh Love much more controlled ..complete the ball…get first downs
..Love surprises you..thrown just 2-picks this year in some 240-passes this year.

..Teaching defense..don’t get beat deep-don’t get frustrated..QBs complete passes
..Don’t get bothered by giving up the big play..get ready for next one.

..Our number 1-goal is to play in conference championship game
..Bowl game is in the picture.
..I am critical of our program-goal to win all games..very few teams do that

..Offense last in lots of offensive categories..wish it was better
..New ideas-new formations-young receivers
..Only stat I care about is whether you win or lose
..Our offense keeps the ball a lot-which means Love does not get on field
..Turnovers can change momentum-we need to do that.

..Our offense played much better against Wyoming than Utah State
..QB made throws QBs don’t normally do…Ryan Agnew made big play.
..Can’t see how good QBs play till you look at video.
..Ryan Agnew can move the pocket, not lose accuracy..he’s been doing that forever.

..Agnew has no trouble with confidence and leadership..he’s easy going–
..When I played QB-if things don’t go right… you’d hear it from me

..Worry players burn off too much energy waiting around all day to play 7:30 or 8pm game…like playing at 1pm or 4pm.

..Biggest surprise…In year of upsets with MWC teams….San Jose at Arkansas was huge…beat a SEC team-best conference in country…When I saw the score, I thought it was the greatest thing to see.

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1-Man’s Opinion on Sports-Tuesday “Angels-Baseball’s Black Cloud”

Posted by on October 15th, 2019  •  0 Comments  • 

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“Storm Clouds-Baseball”

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It’s a horrible story we are revisiting.

And now the additional details make the tragedy even more horrific for baseball.

The death of Angels star pitcher Tyler Skaggs is back in the spotlight, and the glare on the shadows of baseball are worse than imagined.

The DEA report that Skaggs overdosed from his addiction to painkillers is bad enough.

Now even worse the revelation that an Angels staff member, former PR Director Eric Kay, was the drug runner, the liaison, the mule, who secured Oxycodone and Fentanyl, and even shared the drugs with the pitcher, before Skaggs death has shaken baseball’s foundation.

At this moment, nothing brings Skaggs back to life.  Kay, a 24-year employee, has been in rehab three times this year.

The revelations, obtained thru Skaggs cell phone, of text messages about drug purchases Kay made, and where the meetings took place to deliver the illegal meds to the pitcher, are staggering.

The Angels, owned and run by a man of enormous integrity, Arte Moreno, have been staggered by all this, that this could be happening in their stadium, in their clubhouse, in the team hotel, and yet no one noticed.

And now baseball’s leadership, Commissioner Rob Manfred and Union Chief Tony Clark, need to join hands and find a way to change the collective bargaining agreement.

Baseball needs to get its head out of the sand and realize that opioid drug abuse is everywhere.  Not just in Dayton, Ohio or Grand Rapids, Michigan.  Not in the back hills of West Virginia or Kentucky.  Not just in Harlem or Watts.

Now it’s on a roster, in the on-deck circle, hidden in dark shadows of the tunnel leading to the clubhouse.

Baseball needs to be proactive and create a drug testing program, random sampling anytime in season, for all rosters of all teams.

Do not walk about the stadium and think this is a problem that only has touched the Angels team.  Scary is the DEA information that Eric Kay told them he knew of 5-other players who have used these drugs, who are or were members of the roster.

If it’s in Anaheim, it’s probably on other teams rosters too.

Baseball continues to crack down on PED use in both the major leagues and the minors.  Reportedly 24-minor leaguers were hit with suspensions this season alone.

Baseball has stepped up discipline against players arrested for things like domestic abuse, alcohol issues and gun issues.

They monitor dispensing of those type of painkillers, but the blackmarket dealers are out there, on street corners and alleys.  Eric Kay found them and used them to access what he wanted and what his pitcher needed, and so did Tyler Skaggs.

The opioid world is part of our everyday society, and it obviously is part of the culture of some in major league baseball.

The heartache for the Angels family, and Skaggs’ family, will not go away.  Healing cannot start until baseball makes the moves to test its players for all type of painkiller meds.

It’s a black cloud that moved in and blotted out the sunshine of the Yankees-Astros…Nationals-Cardinals playoff series.

The Union and the Commissioner need to join hands, move quickly, and find a common ground to deal with this storm cloud.  There should be no quid-pro-quo, I give you drug testing, you give me something back.  Flat out finalize a new testing program as part of the collective bargaining agreement.

The death of a bright young Angels pitcher should not go in vain.  Something good has to come out of something so bad.

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1-Man’s Opinion on Sports-Monday “Chargers-Losses Pile Up…Piling On”

Posted by on October 14th, 2019  •  0 Comments  • 

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“Chargers–Losses Piling Up–Piling On the Bolts”

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It started early on Sunday night at the Chargers-Steelers game in Carson.

First play of the game…the chants went all around the Stadium…”Beat LA-Beat LA”.

The first possession, quarterback Philip Rivers took a huge hit.  Then 3-plays later, he collapsed under the weight of 3-pass rushers tagging him.

And then the Sunday Night broadcast crew, Al Michaels-Chris Collinsworth talked about the overwhelming numbers of fans wearing Black & Gold.

Michaels sounded off “75% of the fans here are rooting to the Steelers.  Chris Collinsworth added on “and the other 25% are thinking about converting.”

And it went from awful, to bad, to worse.  At one point there were more hits and sacks on the Chargers quarterback than they had first downs.

Then it became a (24-0) deficit, losing to a street free agent quarterback from a 1-AA school.

How gruesome it must be to be a member of the Chargers organization.  72,000-fans showed up, up the road to see the Rams play the 49ers in the Coliseum.

Steelers fans were everywhere at the Chargers futbol stadium watching their team beat up a Bolts team on the brink of collapse, as their record fell to (2-4).

Pick any category you want and there was a negative attached to the Bolts night.

..Rivers 2-interceptions and a fumble on a blown lateral pass.
..Rivers 1-sack, 7-hits, 7-pressures…Grounding penalty.
..Offensive line got beat 7X..allowed 7-hits..1-sack..took 2-penalites.
..Running backs had 14-carries for 32-yards.
..Offense, no touchdowns in the first half for the second week in a row.
..Desmond King dropped another punt-took taunting penalty
..Travis Benjamin dropped pass
..Mike Williams dropped pass
..Jatavis Brown missed tackle that led to TD
..Thomas Davis helmet hit penalty
..Bolts defense 8-missed tackles in first half alone
..Another missed field goal

It was a devastating beat-down against a club without its quarterbacks.

And yet rookie RB-Bennie Snell mashed his way to 75-yards rushing.  James Connor carried the ball 7-straight times and finished the night with 41-rushing and 78-in receptions.

And the kid quarterback, throwing short all night, wound up 132-yards passing and a critical 8-yard run when they needed a first down to blunt whatever thoughts the Chargers had of a comeback.  Some debut on the road for Duck Hodges.

And for the Bolts, they saw what real quality linebacking looked like, in TJ Watt-Devin Bush and friends.

So Dean Spanos’ team is (2-4) and they’ve compiled that record even with getting breaks not having to face the injured Andrew Luck or the surgically repaired Ben Roethlisberger.

Still to come on this schedule, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, two games with Patrick Mahomes and his Chiefs, a game with the Bears, a trip to Denver, 2-againts Jon Gruden’s team, and Kirk Cousins and Minnesota.  Up next, a road trip to play the snarky Tennessee Titans, who always make things a street fight in Nashville. How do you like those prospects?.

And if all the injuries and these losses weren’t enough, the report that the Rams have sold over 250M in PSL licenses and season tickets, heading into the new LA-NFL Stadium next year.  The Chargers have sold less than 50M, and those at discounted prices.

I imagine things will be pretty sullen at their facility in Costa Mesa.

If they’re fed up with all the cheering from Steelers fans in their yard, they’d be pretty upset knowing  the good feeling of Chargers fans in San Diego, watching and rooting on everytime something bad happened to the Dean Spanos family owned team.

Losses pile up.  Fans and media piling on.  It’s what the Chargers owner has brought on himself with the ill-advised move to Los Angeles three seasons ago.

I close my eyes, and I see the Steelers running backs running wide open in the flat on wheel passes.  I see all the Terrible Towels in the crowd.  I hear the bedlam and the din around that stadium.  I listen to the chant Beat LA-Beat LA that went on from start to finish.,

Sucks to be a Spanos these days, doesn’t it?

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