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Bob McCown
Bob McCown

USUAL SUSPECTS

McCown stands by Crosby story Add to ...

Bob McCown, the host of Prime Time Sports, laid a broadside on the NHL BlackBerry brigade last weekend with his tweet about Sidney Crosby’s injury: “Sydney [sic]Crosby has injury to C1 and C2 vertebrae”.

As the hockey media swirled around Ottawa looking for the scoop on Crosby, McCown revealed on television that MRIs showed Crosby had a problem with neck vertebrae. After digesting that for a couple days, the Penguins and Crosby updated Tuesday, saying that a soft tissue neck problem rather than a vertebrae injury is responsible for Crosby's continued absence.

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Reached Wednesday, McCown stood by his story.

“I never reported it as a fracture to the C1 and C2,” McCown explained Wednesday. “I deliberately said it was an injury to the C1 and C2. But [Crosby's agent]Pat Brisson confirmed it as a fracture. So did Alex Guerrero and Dr. [Robert]Bray who both saw the fractures in the MRIs.

“Just because the Penguins now say there was no fracture, why should we believe them? Why are they the most credible source? They've had this file in front of them for months, and the story keeps changing. Are they saying Guerrero and Dr. Bray, who've worked with many top athletes and teams in the past, aren't accurate?

“Look, I'd be okay if someone could prove it one way or the other. But this idea that the Penguins and their doctors are the final word on this doesn't stand up after all that's happened in the past on this file.”

McCown [and New England quarterback Tom Brady]confirmed that Crosby was put in touch with Guerrero and Bray by Brady and his wife Giselle who've used them in the past. McCown also revealed that after he'd agreed to protect Brisson by not naming him in the tweet, but “next thing I know he's confirming the story on the record to CBC's Elliotte Friedman. I'm not happy.”

Whatever the accurate diagnosis, there's no doubt that McCown's story smoked out the Penguins and Crosby's representation from previous narratives about what was ailing the Pittsburgh star. This from a guy who never goes to the rink, rarely talks to players and watches hockey reluctantly unless it’s televised. Funny old world.

Gazette Withdraws Todd’s Accusation: Perhaps it’s because politics are so foreign to hockey folk. But Tim Thomas’s decision to take a pass on visiting the White House last week with his teammates has unhinged some of our domestic media. Suddenly, our typical civil discourse has become rather uncivil.

Columnist Jack Todd of The Gazette in Montreal belatedly weighed in late Sunday with his own screed against Glenn Beck’s biggest fan on the Bruins. Todd, an expatriate American whose autobiography was titled, The Taste of America: A Deserter's Story, posted this on The Gazette’s website:

“Look, if this cretin wants to stand outside the White House and spew his drivel, that’s free speech. But standing up the president? All that does is show that Thomas has the class of a swamp-rat. What’s worse, you know Thomas would not have done this with the liberal Democrat Bill Clinton in the White House. Truth is, he felt free to dis Barack Obama, because Obama is black.”

A-hem. It wasn’t long before Todd’s allegation of racism was making the rounds of social media. @nanceyboy “I don't agree w/ what Thomas did but saying it was racially motivated is ignorant. Thx for embarrassing Mtl, Jack Todd. #timthomas #jacktodd” Then this: Jaret Dicks @SoPoHab “For #JackTodd or anyone to suggest #TimThomas is a racist, I think they are just plain ignorant! #WillieORee means a lot to #Bruins and #NHL”.

Shortly after The Gazette realized it had a problem and deleted Todd’s allegation, Sports editor Stu Cowan emailed us this comment on Tuesday: “The Gazette's policy is not to post columns online until an editor has been through them. An error was made on that front on the weekend desk Sunday night. I only saw Jack's column after it had already been posted online and edited it myself, with the changes made in time for the first edition of print. We also ran a note online informing readers: “Note: The Gazette apologizes for previously posting an unedited version of this column.”

He added: “Anything concerning any discipline would be an internal matter for The Gazette,” he responded.

Previously, TSN’s Dave Hodge used the names of Thomas’s kids to imply that the Boston goalie was a member of the Ku Klux Klan. Hodge later apologized for his tweet and TSN declared his attempt at political humour “in bad taste”.

He Protests Too Much: A CBC spokesman tells Usual Suspects that, contrary to reports elsewhere, no protest has been received from Toronto GM Brian Burke over criticism from Don Cherry of Hockey Night In Canada. “I'm not aware of any protest from Brian regarding comments made by Don,” Chuck Thompson told us in an e-mail.

But don’t let that get in the way of a good story. Speaking of good stories, why is everyone in hockey so knocked out about Patrick Kane ripping off Dwight Howard's superman act? Right, they're hockey people... basketball doesn’t exist.

End of An Era: Former program director at The Fan 590, Nelson Millman, is leaving Rogers. Millman was in charge as the station (then owned by Telemedia) went to the all-sports format and then switched from the 1430 to the 590 frequency. He rode Bob McCown’s popularity to establish all-sports as a viable format in southern Ontario.

As an alumnus of the FAN stable, we can say Millman was loyal to his people. So much so that when new owners Rogers wanted change at the station, Millman was a reluctant camper. He moved onto the TV side allowing changes to the morning show and other features. This week, he left the company.

“It was a good run,” Millman told Usual Suspects in an e-mail, “and I was lucky enough to work with a lot of incredibly talented, passionate and dedicated people. We had a lot of fun, we did a lot of great radio and we built a brand and a business.”

Ratings Game: The NHL all-star contest was a pretty pallid affair, but it looked like Run Lola Run next to the NFL Pro Bowl later on Sunday. There have been pillow fights with more solid contact than the best NFL players exhibited in Hawaii. On one play Usual Suspects was sure we saw the AFC’s offensive line spread a blanket and break out a picnic basket. Then again, who can blame the NFL stars for not tearing up a knee or shoulder as they head into the offseason?

Oh, just the people in Honolulu who paid good money for the lei-strewn letdown and the TV audience expecting something more than patty-cake. And NFC QB Aaron Rodgers. “I was just surprised that some of the guys either didn't want to play or when they were in there didn't put any effort into it,” Rodgers said afterward.

Despite the non-aggression pact between the teams, the Pro Bowl still drew a 7.9 rating on NBC, down 8 per cent from last year. Nielsen says 12.5 million people watched Sunday’s Pro Bowl compared with 11 million for last year's MLB all-star game, 8.1 million for the NBA all-star game last year and 2.4 million for Sunday’s NHL All-Star Game.

More ratings News: The UFC's first full-length show on FOX was down from the debut last November, the numbers are still not tapped out. The show drew 4.37 million viewers, down 27 per cent from the 5.7 million viewers drawn in November for the Cain Velasquez/Junior dos Santos heavyweight fight. Still, the numbers will keep FOX happy as it won the night’s ratings in the U.S.

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