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Ground zero for headshots; Heat drama and Frazier's hate for Ali

East All Star Dwyane Wade (R) of the Miami Heat suffered a sprained ankle in Sunday's NBA All-Star game but says the injury won't keep him out of action. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson


LIke many Canadians, March is one of my favourite months: there is the very tentative signs of spring to at least anticipate and -- if I can ever get around all the curling clogging up my television, there is some good college basketbail -- both CIS and NCAA variety -- coming down the pipe, which is always to be savoured.

Anyway, we'll get to some of that as the day goes along, but in the meantime we touch base with headshots, the Coyotes saga, some speculation about Pat Riley and the Miami Heat and the best pub ever.

1. Ground Zero for headshots?:

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It's amazing how quickly seven years can pass, I'll say that much. Al Maki does good work here getting up to speed on the Steve Moore-Todd Bertuzzi incident that is still winding through the court system. It's interesting to reflect on now in a sense, as NHL general managers get set to meet next week in Florida with the possibility of rule changes coming to limit concussions and blows to the head. There is no excusing Bertuzzi's attack on Moore, but the chain of events began with Moore trying to finish a check at high speed in the neutral zone; clipping Markus Naslund in the head and leaving the Canucks star with a concussion; a hit deemed legal at the time. Would different rules have prevented that first domino from falling? A question for another day, perhaps; in the meantime Bertuzzi's still playing; Steve Moore isn't: "We have the top neurosurgeons in the world on this case and we have reached the point where we can say Steve's brain injury is permanent," Timothy Danson [Moore's lawyer]said Monday. "Unfortunately for Steve Moore, he's not only dealing with the loss of his NHL career, he has to deal with the serious damage to his post-NHL career as a result of the brain injury."

When informed of those comments, Bertuzzi's lawyer, Geoffrey Adair, replied: "That's all Danson."

Moore suffered three fractured vertebrae, facial cuts and a concussion after being sucker-punched by Bertuzzi, then a member of the Vancouver Canucks. The former Colorado Avalanche forward was knocked unconscious and laid on the ice for roughly 10 minutes before being stretchered off and taken to a nearby hospital....In the seven years since the Bertuzzi-Moore incident: Bertuzzi was criminally charged, pled guilty to assault and received a conditional discharge; Moore and his parents filed a multi-million-dollar suit; Bertuzzi and the Canucks have filed counter-claims as have Bertuzzi and Crawford, the Canucks' former coach. Bertuzzi is claiming he was following Crawford's orders to make Moore "pay the price" for the hit on Naslund while Crawford has said Bertuzzi acted in "direct disobedience" for not coming off the ice before the attack occurred.

2. Arsenal-Barcelona: Lionel Messi predicting a wide-open return match

The two clubs meet Tuesday in the second half of a two-game set to determing who advances to the round-of-eight in Champions League. Arsenal leads 2-1 after the first game and would sensibly want to clog it up and preserve their lead; but Barcelona's Messi says the two team's basic philosophies will win out, working in Barcelona's favour: Both Barcelona and Arsenal have an attacking philosophy and play passing football, but Messi believes that this will only act in their favour. "We remain confident of progressing," said the 23-year-old, according to "Obviously we were bitterly disappointed to lose the first leg at the ­Emirates and felt we created more than enough chances to win the game."But it will be a different story in Spain. I'm not sure Arsenal are a side who can play to defend - and that will leave them very open."

3. With their superstars wavering, will the Miami Heat turn to a superstar coach?

As long as Pat Riley is the president and part-owner of the MIami Heat, and as long as the Heat are doing anything besides dominating the NBA, there will be questions about if-when-should the coaching legend return to the bench; the premise being that only somone with Riley's cache could could convince LeBron James to defer to Dwayne Wade -- or even Mike MIller -- at crunch time: So who will notify [James]when the time comes (if not now) to try someone or something else with the game on the line? Who will tell him to go be the league's richest decoy and crash the offensive boards? In his eight seasons, James has not had a coach with more clout than him. ... It is one thing to talk about holstering one's ego for the sake of the collective. Maybe James thought this would be easy because he assumed - correctly thus far - that the major sacrifices would be made by Wade. But if that must change, who has enough courtside juice on a nightly basis to help him grasp the axiomatic logic that everyone will eventually be better off when less of him becomes more?

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That would be Riley, the creator, who in most cases outranks the King.

4. How, exactly, is the Goldwater Institute saving taxpayers in Glendale?

First off, congratulations to the good people at Five MInutes for Howling; a blog devoted to the Phoenix Coyotes. If there was ever a line sure to wow the ladies in Arizona, it would be along the lines of: "I blog about hockey." Am I right? More importantly, they make an interesting point here when they question the motives of the Goldwater Institute, the agency contemplating suing the City of Glendale if they do indeed go through with the plan to issue a municipal bond to help Matthew Hulzsize buy the Coyotes from the NHL. It's expected the legal entanglements that would ensue would be the last straw and see the club returned to Winnipeg: Does that mean that the taxpayers themselves want to see a deal fall apart that would leave a big hole in the City of Glendale, no hockey team, and a multi-million dollar retail complex turn into a ghost-town? What kind of tax payer would actually want that?

... In reality the taxpayers GWI is "protecting" don't exist. That's because taxpayer money isn't going into this deal despite what keeps getting repeated. Parking fees will pay off the bonds. All GWI can say is "We don't think the money equals out" despite several studies saying that it will. GWI likes to cite one of the studies being biased, but hey that's why there are other ones. All GWI cares about is looking powerful and posturing. If they had a case, they'd have sued already because that's pretty much all they do.

5. In case you ever wondered, when Ali fought Frazier, it was personal:

From Stephen Brunt's fine piece on the eve of the 40th anniverary of the first meeting between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. Frazier on his feelings for his opponent in the buildup to the match: I used to sit back and watch him on television. I said 'Lord, I'm going next week or next month against this man. I'm not asking for something unworthy. I just want you to help me kill that scamboogah.' That's what I said to the Lord. I said, 'This guy ain't right. … What has the greatest ever done that's so great? What has he done so great for this world?' … Everything that he done was against this country. When are we going to open our eyes up and see? When are we going to start seeing? You all ask the Lord. Don't ask me."

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6. Brett Lawrie walking the talk for the Blue Jays:

It's only been 15 at bats and a few weeks of Spring Training, but the cocky kid from BC is making a case for himself to be with the big team on opening day, backing up his own talk with action; nice piece by John Lott here: The strapping 21-year-old from Langley, B.C., really does think he is ready to play in the big leagues. He said so, loud and proud, after coming to the Toronto Blue Jays in a December trade.These days, he is making his case without saying a word. Over the weekend he hit a three-run homer, a double and two singles and made a couple of nifty plays at third base in exhibition games.

"Everything that he needs to do, he's doing it," manager John Farrell said.

Which does not mean Lawrie has earned a roster spot after 15 at-bats in six spring games. But he has given Jays fans a stirring preview of the long-running show they can expect in the near future. By the time he arrived at spring training, Lawrie had toned down the bombast, filling his interviews with justglad-to-be-here clichés. He sounded almost humble at times.

[But]Try as he might, Lawrie does not do humble well. Press him just a tad on the subject of his December ego rant and he comes clean, calmly answering the blowback from critics who waxed indignant about the audacity of a kid who has spent a mere two years in professional baseball.

"No regrets," he said. "I still feel like I'm ready for the big leagues. As I move forward as a person and a baseball player, I know there's always some things to learn. But as far as the big leagues go, I think I'm ready."

7. This has nothing, really, to do with sports; but if you like drinking, read on:

The Toronto Raptors have another day off after their two-loss trip to London, leaving long-time Toronto Star beat writer Doug Smith with a hole in his notebook. He makes up for it with high praise for a pub -- and he's been to a few -- he discovered back 'ome:




Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese.

In an alley off Fleet Street - yes, that Fleet Street - built in 1667, a hang out of Charles Dickens, Alfred Tennyson, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and if that doesn't get my writing mojo going, I don't know what will.

Anyway, it was a must-see spot, it's like a rabbit warren of tiny rooms and small staircases and it just oozes old and something memorable.

Forget that it sells the beer that tops my list - Samuel Smith's Organic Lager and a new No. 2 in Samuel Smith's Pure Brewed Lager - it's the atmosphere and the people who make it.

I'm standing there by myself, soaking up the ambiance and talking to the bartender when a fine gentleman approaches the bar, orders for himself and his three cronies and looks over at me and says, "let me get you a pint, young man."

Of course.

And that's how I ended up being invited to the table to celebrate Derek's 75th birthday with him and John and Roger and Steve and our two new German friends Michaela and Jochan.

The stories are flowing, at one point John starts reciting "If" by Kipling, the old lads break out in song every now and then for no other reason than they wanted to and it turned into one of the great pub days of a life.

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