Teams warming up for fastball season

VanJura Stadium at Pither’s Point Park will host a familiar battle this summer as the Sight & Sound Wolves head into another season in the Rainy River District Fastball League.
The Barwick Blue Knights have captured the RRDFL crown three seasons in a row, and will look to defend that mark against teams from across the district, including last year’s regular-season champ, the Big Grassy Lightning.
The Fort Frances squad will hit the field this week for practices, and will have to overcome the loss of long-time ace Bob Andy, who has moved to British Columbia.
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The real Chicago Blackhawks showed up Saturday night at GM Place and if you’re a Vancouver Canucks’ fan, there’s plenty of reason for concern.
The Canucks gave up just five goals in their first-round sweep of the St. Louis Blues, but the ’Hawks burst that bubble with five goals in the final two periods of their 6-3 win over the Canucks on the weekend.
To be fair, the Canucks are up against a far superior team than the one they faced in the first round, and that team flexed some serious muscle in Saturday’s come-from-behind beatdown.
I think the Canucks needed the wake-up call (they couldn’t expect to go 16-0 in the Stanley Cup playoffs anyway), but the way they came completely unravelled certainly is cause for concern.
In Game 1 against the Blackhawks, a 3-0 lead evaporated although Vancouver still recovered in time to escape with the win. But in Game 2, even Roberto Luongo looked human—and that’s not a good sign.
The Canucks lost their composure, their discipline, and looked genuinely downtrodden over the final 40 minutes.
To make matters worse, the team lost defenceman Sami Salo to an injury, who had scored twice in this series already—including the game-winner in the final minutes of the opener.
The question now is whether they can regroup in a hostile environment for Games 3 and 4? The Hawks dominated the Calgary Flames on home ice in their opening-round series, winning all three meetings at the United Centre.
If the Canucks hope to take the torch as “Canada’s team,” they’ll need to prove they can overcome adversity when the going gets tough.
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Headshots! Headshots! Read all about it!
A recurring theme in these NHL playoffs has been the debate of hits targeting the head, and whether or not they are worthy of suspensions.
A late hit from Donald Brashear on Blair Betts in the opening round warranted a six-game suspension for the hulking Washington Capitals’ forward, but a similar hit in Game 1 of the Red Wings-Ducks second-round series by Mike Brown on Jiri Hudler apparently didn’t warrant a similar judgment.
The referee deemed it a late hit, and a five-minute penalty for interference was called, but the league reviewed the incident and opted not to suspend Brown further.
The traditional view is keep your head up because late or not, if you’re the last guy to touch the puck, you’re fair game. The other view suggests a player doesn’t need to finish a check on a guy who is in a prone position away from the puck.
Hudler was admiring his pass and paid the price for it, and maybe the hit was a fraction of a second late, but not nearly as late as Brashear’s shot. Hudler drew some serious blood and looked dazed, but didn’t miss any significant time with the injury—coming back later in the game.
The Red Wings were not happy with the hit, suggesting it was a fourth-liner (Brown) targeting a skilled guy (Hudler) to send a message and take that player out of the game.
The Ducks, in contrast, said hockey’s a tough game and those things happen.
The difference between the offence committed by Brashear and the hit by Brown may have been the resulting injury or non-injury. Betts fractured an orbital bone and was lost for a crucial Game 7 two days later while Hudler was just left with a scratch.
Should the resulting injury play a factor in the league’s decision to suspend or not to suspend? A more severe-looking hit can sometimes not result in a serious injury, so where do you draw the line?
In Saturday’s Canucks-Blackhawks game, meanwhile, Ben Eager stepped up and drilled Rick Rypien with a very similar hit. Eager was assessed a two-minute minor.
Three similar hits with three drastically different calls.
These things happen at high speeds, and a referee doesn’t have the benefit of a slow-motion replay when making the call, but there needs to be some consistency so the players know where to draw the line.

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