Trail Times file photo

First-round sweeps highlight world of hockey oddities

Sports ‘n’ Things with Dave Thompson

Strange days in the hockey world.

The record setting Tampa Bay Lightning, albeit with a couple of key injuries, have been swept out of the Stanley Cup playoffs by a team that only made it into those playoffs by the thinnest of margins (one less win down the stretch and the mediocre Montreal Canadians would have supplanted Columbus in the post season).

The New York Islanders, supposedly fated to dwindle away after their big gun, and captain, moved to Toronto, also got a sweep in the first round, against the almost always mighty Pittsburgh Penguins, no less.

AND, neither Canada nor America legitimately won the Women’s World Hockey Championship. Okay, the Yankettes were given the gold, given being the operative term here, despite what all the evidence shows to by Finland legitimately outplaying and beating the defending champs. C’mon, the American goaltender was scored on, while being assessed a tripping penalty. In what rational universe could that lead to the goal being disallowed for interference on that goaltender?

It makes sense only if the next World’s is being held in North America and a repeat defending champion would be a much better ticket draw than a deserved runner-up. Guess What?

• On the more predictable side, Prince George has continued as a dominant force throughout the playoffs, winning 15 of 16 games in the four rounds through Tuesday, with only two of those wins coming via overtime. The Game-4 score had not come through when this was done, but it will be a major shock if the Spruce Kings do not play the nationally top-ranked Brooks Bandits for the B.C/Alta Canadian Championship spot.

• On the local front, a bunch of former Smokies are getting a shot at the big time, although I am told Craig Martin has decided to wait till next year to fully exercise that option.

Better news is that, because they played Junior A rather than major junior, all were eligible for, and took advantage of, NCAA education/hockey opportunities, to the point that all have completed or are very near completion of university degrees.

So, however the pro hockey trials work out, the future looks bright for all of them.

• AND, baseball is back all over town, with all-star tryouts beginning Monday for the U16 and U19 groups hoping to make the travelling to Spokane elite leagues squads. U13s will hold their tryouts in another week.

Look out the window. If it isn’t raining too hard there is usually a local ball game that would love your company going on.

There is still a need for umpires. More players, more games, more officials needed. If you have a day or two at your disposal, and want to really learn the game better while helping out the kids, give Bill MacMillan a shout at bipamac@telus.net.

You may be surprised, a lot, by how much a little umpire training improves your appreciation, and enjoyment of, the game. Next best job to actually coaching or interacting with the players, too.

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