By HOWARD BERGER
TORONTO (Nov. 22) – I always enjoy the insight of my friend and mentor, Pierre McGuire, who has forgotten more about hockey than most will ever know. And, I agreed entirely with Pierre when he told viewers on TSN that the NHL and NHLPA “should never have gotten this far” in the labor dispute which is now more than nine weeks old. Problem is, the two sides hit V1 back in mid-September. Ask any airline pilot what it means when his first officer calls out “V1” and you’ll get the same answer: commitment to flight. On a takeoff roll, V1 indicates there is not enough runway available to abort the maneuver. The pilot must “rotate” the control-column and lift the plane off the ground. Once that is done, a decision can be made to either return for an emergency landing or carry on to destination. Unavoidably, it seems, the NHL got to V1 on Sep. 15. Gary Bettman ran out of pavement and had no choice but to lift off on a perilous flight – league owners camped directly behind him in Business Class (hawks first, doves second). Seated in Economy was Donald Fehr and members of the NHLPA (clearly, Bettman was flying an Airbus-380 to accommodate all passengers). Several hours into the flight, navigation equipment in the cockpit began to malfunction. Bettman and co-pilot Bill Daly could not accurately determine where they were. Fehr came up front and suggested a location; Bettman and Daly vehemently disagreed. Air Traffic Control sought a nearby runway for emergency landing capability but a controlled descent was impossible. With Fehr looking on, arms folded, Bettman and Daly put the jet into a world-record holding-pattern. Two months later – all aboard starving and ATC flat out of recommendation – it continues to circle aimlessly over parts-unknown. Fuel levels are dangerously low. Catastrophe beckons. The aircraft, though, is remarkably resilient. There is still an opportunity to recover but the ground is coming up fast. Both sides now wish they could have terminated the flight long before V1. Sadly, they became airborne. We all pray for a safe landing…
SECONDS AFTER CO-PILOT BILL DALY (BOTTOM-LEFT) CALLS OUT “V-1”, GARY BETTMAN (RIGHT) LIFTS WORLD’S LARGEST JETLINER (ABOVE) INTO THE AIR ON SEP. 15, 2012. INCREDIBLY, PLANE IS STILL IN FLIGHT – WITHOUT NAVIGATION – OVER PARTS-UNKNOWN.
Professional sports teams in Toronto have re-cycled coaches and managers with mixed results. The Leafs made a disastrous call to give Punch Imlach a second shot at managing the team in 1979. Though he won four Stanley Cups in six years as coach during the 1960s, Imlach tore apart a promising club and made arguably the worst trade in franchise history by sending future Hall-of-Famer Lanny McDonald to the Colorado Rockies. McDonald would later have a 66-goal season and win the Stanley Cup as a member of the Calgary Flames. Leafs would embark on their most calamitous decade – the 1980s – with Harold Ballard in full control. Cliff Fletcher came aboard in 1991 as GM of the Leafs; acquired Doug Gilmour in a mammoth trade; signed Pat Burns as coach, and took his club to consecutive appearances in the Stanley Cup semifinals (1993-94). Fletcher was fired in 1997 but returned as GM in January 2008 to replace John Ferguson. He baby-sat the club for 10 months before giving way to Brian Burke. The CFL Argonauts brought Leo Cahill back as coach in 1977, five years (and two ownership changes) after initially letting him go. Cahill could not re-capture the success of his first tenure, when he led the club to four winning seasons and a berth in the 1971 Grey Cup. When Cahill returned for a third time – as general manager – the Boatmen went back to the Grey Cup but blew a 24-10 lead in the 1987 match and lost to Edmonton. Don Matthews also had three terms with the Argos. In 1990, he coached the most explosive club in franchise history (Argos beat Calgary, 70-18, in a home game that year). Matthews came back in 1996 and won consecutive Grey Cup titles with quarterback Doug Flutie. He was then summoned in 2008 to guide a rudder-less team and got pounded with eight consecutive losses before moving on. Earlier this week, John Gibbons became the second Blue Jays manager to return. Cito Gaston replaced Gibbons during the 2008 season, having guided the Jays to consecutive World Series titles in 1992 and 1993. Two middling years followed and Gaston was let go after the 2010 season. We’ll see if Gibbons has better luck his second time around and can manage a clearly improved roster to the Major League playoffs for the first time in 20 years. I can’t help but wonder if Brendan Malone will return to the NBA Toronto Raptors, should Dwane Casey founder as coach … By the way, Imlach, Cahill, Matthews, Gaston and Fletcher combined for 12 championships in their coaching and/or managerial careers… Before heading to New York as part of the NHL bargaining committee this week, Burke engaged, as per his custom, in a noteworthy exercise. He slept outside on a downtown-Toronto street to raise awareness and financing for homeless youth. About the experience, Burke said: “They give you a piece of cardboard and a sleeping bag. To put this in perspective: I had a nice sleeping bag; nice warm clothes on; I didn’t suffer nearly [as much as] a typical homeless person that isn’t dressed in layers – and it was still cold, noisy and uncomfortable. I didn’t get a lot of sleep but it [was] a tiny, tiny frame in a movie for a homeless person; not even close to the agony and misery they feel in cold weather. I went to my office [later] and slept on the couch for a half-hour.” The initiative has raised more than $500,000 on behalf of Covenant House. If you’d like to contribute, log onto bit.ly/i3qSkK… Nick Kypreos of Sportsnet is a former NHL player and member of the 1994 Stanley Cup-champion New York Rangers. His passion for the game and his multi-dimensional viewpoint (player-to-TV-analyst) is always intriguing. Nick wrote a terrific blog on Sportsnet.ca after the fruitless negotiation Wednesday in New York between the NHL and NHLPA. You can read it here: bit.ly/WCjtH5… My goodness, how time flies. On U.S. Thanksgiving, one year ago, I covered a Leafs practice at the American Airlines Center in Dallas and then drove out to suburban Arlington with my long-time pal – Leafs radio voice Dan Dunleavy – for the Dallas Cowboys-Miami Dolphins NFL game. Dallas prevailed when Dan Bailey kicked a field goal on the final play. Cowboys Stadium is one of the most awesome structures I have ever seen… Speaking of Dallas, it was 49 years ago today – Nov. 22, 1963 – that U.S. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated…
PHOTOS I SNAPPED ON U.S. THANKSGIVING ONE YEAR AGO: BANGING OUT A STORY FOR NATIONAL POST AFTER LEAFS PRACTICE IN EMPTY AMERICAN AIRLINES CENTRE (TOP-LEFT) AND COWBOYS STADIUM IN ARLINGTON (TOP-RIGHT) FOR DALLAS-MIAMI NFL GAME (BELOW). WE HAD GREAT SEATS – IN UPPER-DECK NEAR MID-FIELD. VIDEO-BOARD WAS MIND-BLOWING.
During my years in the media business, I have experienced the elation of breaking a story (much easier in the pre-Internet era) and the misery of getting my ass kicked by a rival. As such, I was rather captivated by the the evolution of Tuesday’s announcement that Gibbons had been re-hired to manage the Blue Jays. Hall of Fame writer Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun broke the news in the wee hours of Tuesday morning. At dawn, it was being disseminated magnanimously by some; reluctantly by others. The story drew a banner-headline on the Sun’s website cover-page, a per image below:
Elliott began by writing: Everything old is new again. Again. It’s not Cito Gaston 2.0, but John Gibbons 2.0. Gibbons, who managed the Blue Jays for parts of five seasons from 2004 to 2008, will be introduced Tuesday morning as their next manager. At the general managers’ meeting in Indian Wells, Calif., Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos said he was “looking for someone he could work with, someone his staff could work with, someone who was good for the city, good for the whole country.” Anthopoulos and Gibbons were close friends, working well together. [They] were spotted dining in Yorkville Sunday night.
Here’s how other outlets were presenting the story at 8 a.m. Tuesday:
SPORTSNET (Shi Dividi): John Gibbons is once again manager of the Toronto Blue Jays. A source confirmed the hire, first reported by Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun, with the announcement expected Tuesday morning.
TSN (Staff): The Toronto Blue Jays are set to turn to a familiar face to manage their club in 2013. According to the Toronto Sun’s Bob Elliott, former Blue Jays manager John Gibbons will be introduced as the team’s new bench boss at a news conference this morning as they also announce their blockbuster trade with the Marlins and the signing of Melky Cabrera.
GLOBE AND MAIL (Robert MacLeod): John Gibbons, the fiery Texan who managed the Toronto Blue Jays for parts of five seasons earlier last decade, is slated to return to the American League club in the same position. According to a report in a Toronto newspaper, which has yet to be confirmed by the A.L. club, the 50-year-old Gibbons will be introduced as the team’s new manager Tuesday morning during a news conference at Rogers Centre.
NATIONAL POST (John Lott): One of John Gibbons’ favourite lines is “let’s get ‘er done.” It appears that the Toronto Blue Jays will do just that by announcing that Gibbons will return as their manager during a Tuesday morning news conference at the Rogers Centre. Gibbons compiled a 305-305 record as the Blue Jays’ skipper from mid-2004 to mid-2008. He replaced Carlos Tosca and was replaced by Cito Gaston, who also was making his second Toronto tour. The news of Gibbons’ hiring was first reported by Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun.
ESPN.COM (Staff): The Toronto Blue Jays are close to announcing their next manager less than a month after John Farrell left for the same position as part of a trade with the Boston Red Sox, sources have told ESPN The Magazine’s Buster Olney. Two of the final names being discussed were Jim Tracy and Jim Riggleman, the sources said. Tracy resigned from the Colorado Rockies last month after the team set a franchise record for losses with a 64-98 record.
MLB.COM (Gregor Chisholm): The Blue Jays reportedly have turned back the clock in their search for a new manager by hiring John Gibbons to replace the departed John Farrell. Gibbons spent parts of five seasons as Toronto’s manager from 2004-08 and will once again assume that role, according to a report in the Toronto Sun. The Blue Jays have not commented on the report.
TORONTO STAR was last to come on board – at 8:12 a.m. and with no mention of Elliott: The Toronto Blue Jays have reached back into their past and hired John Gibbons to be their manager again, according to various reports overnight. The official announcement is expected early Tuesday morning. Gibbons, 50, was Toronto’s manager from 2004 to 2008.
GREY CUP PREDICTION: Kudos to the Calgary Stampeders for pulling a colossal upset by downing the B.C. Lions at Vancouver in last Sunday’s CFL Western Final. Stamps knocked off the league’s top quarterback, Travis Lulay. They will not subdue the closest facsimile to Lulay in the championship match this Sunday. Ricky Ray will lead Toronto Argonauts to their first Grey Cup since 2004 with a 34-26 victory.
GREY CUP 2012 COACHES: JOHN HUFNAGEL (CALGARY); SCOTT MILANOVICH (TORONTO).
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