Eberle starred in a classic
By Rob Vanstone, The Leader-Post
January 2, 2010
ROBSERVATIONS . . .
- I had the privilege of working alongside Michelle Lang during the two years she spent at the Leader-Post. Our desks were separated by a planter. I jokingly referred to her as the sports department's honorary agriculture reporter. At times, she jokingly referred to me as a sports columnist. Rare was the day in which our conversations did not induce laughter, given that Michelle was invariably cheerful. That is how I will always remember Michelle, who was killed Wednesday while covering the war in Afghanistan for Canwest News Service. It was not surprising to discover that Michelle would embrace such a dangerous assignment, given her passion for journalism, but it was a shock to hear of her tragic death. Michelle was an exceptional reporter -- a 2009 recipient of a National Newspaper Award -- and a wonderful friend to all.
- It was most disappointing to watch part of the preamble to Thursday's world junior hockey championship game between Canada and the United States. Appropriately, a moment of silence was held to honour Michelle and the four Canadian soldiers who were also killed by an improvised explosive device. It was sickening to hear several fans hooting and hollering when they should have been respectful.
- The game itself, which Canada won 5-4 in a shootout, was a classic. Once again, the Regina Pats' Jordan Eberle demonstrated why he is the premier junior hockey player in Canada. He is sparkling on an international stage for the second successive year.
- TSN's Pierre McGuire put it best when referring to Eberle early in the tournament: "He's a great player, but he's an even better human being. He's a fantastic young man.''
- The Pats should retire Eberle's jersey number (7) at season's end.
- Anyone who pokes holes in the 23 selections for Canada's Olympic men's hockey team is guilty of excessive nitpicking. This time around, there weren't any glaring omissions (see: Mark Messier, 1998) or forehead-slapping selections (see: Rob Zamuner, 1998; Todd Bertuzzi, 2006). Steve Yzerman and company got it right.
- The wisest move by Team Canada's brain trust was to bestow the captaincy upon the classy Scott Niedermayer.
- Recommended reading: The Catch -- Gary Myers' book about the Jan. 10, 1982 NFC final between the Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers, and impact of the game on both franchises and the NFL. San Francisco won the game on a last-minute touchdown pass from Joe Montana to Dwight Clark. Local content: The book even includes a reference to former Saskatchewan Roughriders quarterback Joe (747) Adams, who was drafted by the 49ers in 1981.
- Aside from drafting Adams and releasing the spectacular Joey Walters, 49ers boss Bill Walsh was deserving of the "genius'' label.
- Disclosure: In the first draft of this column, which is suitable for framing, I referred to Walsh as a "genuis.'' I am serouis! (Oops. Can we edit that out?)
- You may have read this before, but: We want ESPN! That plea is especially spirited at this time of year, when Canadians are unable to access all U.S. college bowl games. Really, is that too much to ask? I can watch a television network dedicated to gardening, but the same cannot be said of the world's pre-eminent sports television network.
- Thankfully, Canadians were able to watch Wednesday's Roady's Humanitarian Bowl, courtesy of The Score. You will not see five better football games in your lifetime. Idaho beat Bowling Green 43-42, thanks to a two-point conversion with four seconds remaining. Bowling Green had scored the go-ahead touchdown 29 seconds earlier.
- Free, unsolicited advice for the Canadian Football Hall of Fame selection committee: Consider the accomplishments of Kent Austin, Don Narcisse and the under-rated Daved Benefield.
- Nice people who deserve a plug: Jordan Eberle (repeat), Jeff Fairholm, Reid Quest, Alan Ford, Tim Kydd, Alex Pietrangelo, Kimberly Castle, Craig MacDonald, Joel Graham, Murray Knakoske, Richard Eisler, Donna Armstrong, Jeff Sastaunik, Don McPhee, Don Rice and, for all the Nordic combined fans in the audience, Bill Demong and Todd Lodwick.
- Happy New Year.
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