I covered Andrew Ference at the 1999 world junior hockey tournament in Winnipeg and came away thinking he was one bright kid. It was one of the best conclusions I've made, based on his calling-out of rock-headed Boston Bruins teammate Daniel Paille following Paille's head shot on Dallas Stars winger Raymond Sawada.
In what passes for NHL justice, Paille received a four-game suspension. Now, Ference - a rare original thinker among the NHL player ranks - will have to put up with being hammered in the mouth-breathing universe peopled by the likes of Don Cherry and Mike Milbury.
Cherry and Milbury say Ference defiled some code of locker-room conduct, which ought to make Ference a hero going forward. The Bruins are all too familiar with whack-jobs leaving good players with concussions: Think Marc Savard and Patrice Bergeron. It would be hypocritical for a member of that team to act as if Paille's stupidity was just one of those things and move on. The Bruins, frankly, need to be better, and Ference has called them to account. If the hockey code deems it necessary that he be traded, that says more about the game than it does about Ference. Hockey has a long history of scandal caused by players not having the stones to speak out. Good on Ference for manning up.
CLEVELAND CADAVERS PART II
"The next game, hopefully. I mean, that's how we have to keep looking at it." ~ Daniel Gibson
The Cleveland Cavaliers guard didn't need to reach rhetorical heights when asked when the Cavs would end their NBA single-season record losing string. The Cavaliers, who play the Dallas Mavericks on Monday, Detroit Pistons on Wednesday, Los Angeles Clippers on Friday and Washington Wizards next Sunday, have lost 24 games in a row. Losing their 25th game would give them the longest NBA losing stretch in league history - single season or multiseason. The Cavs also lost 24 games spread over the end of the 1981-82 season and the beginning of the 1982-83 season.
- the last 18 games of 1981-82, beating Golden State in overtime in the seventh game of the 82-83 season, then losing 11 of their next 12.
We've got controversy with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Turns out that Phil Kessel, for whom general manager Brian Burke has traded away all those draft picks, isn't all that thrilled with being a third-liner. And any takers on whether his "Me and Ron don't really talk" line will have any traction ahead of Toronto's game with the Atlanta Thrashers on Monday? Seriously, even his detractors must note that head coach Ron Wilson, despite his sharp tongue, has usually managed to avoid throwing out the babies with the bathwater - Luke Schenn and Mikhail Grabovski, in particular. Wilson's likely fired after this season anyhow, but in the meantime: How much fun would it be to see Phil The Thrill ask for a trade? Discuss.
Baseball's attention will be focused on St. Louis this week, with continuing indications that negotiations between Albert Pujols and the Cardinals have been fruitless. Pujols, who has set a Feb. 15 deadline to reach a deal, is eligible for free agency after the 2011 season. The sticking point is length of contract, not dollar figures, which are expected to be between $25-million and $30-million (all currency U.S.) a season. … It's never too late to start planning for the future. New York Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano is now represented by agent Scott Boras. The 28-year-old is a free agent after 2013. … The Colorado Rockies and Texas Rangers are trying to finish up a trade that would send third baseman Michael Young to the Rockies, but Colorado's insistence on the Rangers kicking in $20-million toward the $48-million remaining on Young's contract have held the trade up. The Toronto Blue Jays, for one, are watching this play out with interest. … Pitchers and catchers report for several teams - including the Blue Jays - on Sunday. That is all.
BY THE NUMBERS
Philadelphia Flyers wins this season, the most in the NHL.
Shutouts for the Flyers this season.
Teams that have won a Stanley Cup without a regular-season shutout: the 1981-82 New York Islanders and 1986-87 Edmonton Oilers