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Change of venue

Good morning!

Shelburne native Skip Smith has been hauling his television camera all over Florida and Puerto Rico televising various sporting events that include the World Baseball Classic, Grapefruit League, NHL and college hoops.

In San Juan for the WBC, Smith’s crew had to change hotels. “We went from the team hotel on the beach to a Best Western a block from the ocean. It had been remodeled but was not ready for re-opening. My room never had hot water, the hotel bar didn’t have its license and the fire alarm went off three times my first night. One of the elevators stopped a few times between floors and I avoided it after getting stuck on the 8th floor.

“We were also serenaded several mornings by a protester outside our window. He’d start around 4:30 and go for a solid hour. In fairness, the hotel did give us suites and we had some good times in San Juan. The baseball atmosphere simply can’t be any better there. They are passionate and show it.”

Considering the Connecticut River is freezing back over, Smith is indeed living the warm tropical dream. The only thing cold in his life is a frozen shoulder. “Everyone’s fear is that I will need surgery. I am keeping my fingers crossed, going under a blade means a long recovery period.”

If Smith does have surgery, the man holding the knife will be Dr. Koco Eaton, the team orthopedist of the Tampa Bay Rays.

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Trailing 5-0 in the second period of last week’s ECAC quarterfinals against Quinnipiac, Big Red coach Mike Schafer yanked starting goalie Andy Iles and put in third stringer Omar Kanji, a senior with 41 seconds of career playing time. Kanji gave up four goals on 10 shots and Schafer went back to Iles. The final score was 10-0.

Interestingly the other two games in the best-of-three series were nail biters, both 3-2 decisions, a win by Cornell in the opener and a double overtime win by Quinnipiac in Sunday’s finale.

Quinnipiac is the second-ranked hockey team in the country, which is amazing considering it didn’t move up to Division 1 until 1998. Last spring UMass tried to hire its head coach, Rand Pecknold, who turned down the offer.

Meanwhile, UMass hockey completed its housecleaning this week with the firing of assistant coach Len Quesnelle, whose contract wasn’t renewed after nine seasons, all but one under former coach Toot Cahoon. According to the state payroll database, Quesnelle was earning approximately $93,000 a year.

Head coach John Micheletto can now round out his staff with a person of his own choosing rather than be hamstrung by the dictates of AD John McCutcheon.

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It’s time to set the record straight, again. On Monday the sports department received an email from Dave Kaczenski of Northfield. It read, “A little blurb (in this column) about the Greenfield High School discus record is not correct. Jim Kaczenski threw 147-plus feet in 1970. It has been posted on the track and field record board forever.”

My apologies. Never assume anything. As the saying goes, “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.”

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Opening Day is two weeks from Monday at Yankee Stadium. A week later the Red Sox begin their home schedule against Baltimore and Ace Ticket has grandstand seats on the third base side for $125. Opening Day is always a big seller, but two days later a seat in the same section cost $25, and upper bleacher tickets to the April 25 game against Houston cost $10 apiece — $2 less than face value.

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The reason UMass didn’t make the NCAA tournament is because beating the likes of Elon, Eastern Michigan and East Carolina doesn’t cut it when you’re 0-6 versus the top 50. There’s March Madness and there’s the NIT, which stands for Not In Tournament. Only 2,173 fans showed up at the Mullins Center to see their dismal first-round performance against Stony Brook on Wednesday night, a 71-58 loss that dropped their final record to 21-12.

Wait till next year is the team’s mantra, the same as usual since 1998.

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A sports website called Grantland.com has listed the NHL’s “Top ten biggest dirt bags of all time.” First on author Sean McIndoe’s list was, of course, Sean Avery. Off the ice, Avery was suspended for comments he made about a former girlfriend that simply cannot be published in this newspaper, and on the ice he, “Dove. Hacked. Speared. Turtled. Dove More.”

McIndoe’s second biggest dirtbag is Ulf Samuelson, the Whaler defenseman who took out our beloved Cam Neely, followed by another Bruins antagonist, Montreal’s Claude Lemieux. Of Matthew Barnaby he wrote, “Played for Buffalo for years before going to Pittsburgh, at which point his ex-teammates couldn’t wait for a chance to fight him.”

Former Quebec Nordique Dale Hunter is fourth on the list. I’d have put him first. He was a cheap shot artist whom the usually taciturn Mike O’Connell once punched in the face so hard it knocked him down.

A few years ago in Worcester, I spotted O’Connell at the Centrum scouting a college game for the Bruins. He was leaning against a wall eating a box of popcorn. I walked over and told him, “That time you punched Dale Hunter. You did that for me.”

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Other than Opening Day, Patriots Day and the Fourth of July, the Red Sox didn’t schedule any weekday afternoon games this season, just a pair of 4:05 p.m. starts on Wednesday, April 24, and Wednesday, June 26 against the Athletics and Rockies.

All told, 57 games will be played under the lights this season, a bummer for fans that prefer to watch baseball played in daylight so they can get home at a decent hour.

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Oklahoma football fans are mourning the loss of Steve Davis, who died in a plane crash earlier this week. Davis was the Sooners’ quarterback from 1973 to 1975 and compiled a record of 32-1-1. He was an overachiever who received the last available scholarship to play at Oklahoma.

His former coach, Barry Switzer, told the Norman (Okla.) Transcript, “Back then I think we had about 250 kids on the roster, and I believe Steve was about eighth on the depth chart. He was surrounded by great talent but he was a truly exceptional leader.”

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Squibbers: The Braves beat the Phillies 17-10 on Monday, 27 runs, 36 hits, four errors and six walks yet the game took only two hours, 43 minutes. ... Former Eaglebrook and Deerfield Academy skater Malcolm Lyles laced ’em up for UMass-Lowell on Friday night in the Hockey East semifinals versus Providence. ... The Masters tees off three weeks from Thursday and Tiger Woods is the 4-1 favorite in Vegas, followed by Phil Mickelson at 10-1 and Rory McIlroy at 12-1. In Augusta, wearing the green jacket means everything. As runner-up David Duval said in 1998, “Finishing second at the Masters was like getting kicked in the head.”

Chip Ainsworth is an award-winning columnist who has penned his observations about sports for four decades in the Pioneer Valley.

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