Keeping Score: Latvian audition

Published: 5/14/2021 7:35:20 PM

Good morning!

Bernardston’s Doug Weiss will be the team doctor for the U.S. National Men’s Hockey Team at the World Championships in Riga, Latvia starting next week. Weiss is a veteran of USA Hockey’s foray into world tournaments, but this year he’ll be suturing and mending amidst a backdrop of administrative turmoil.

On Monday, USA Hockey GM Chris Drury named Jack Capuano to coach the U.S. team. It was an ominous sign for New York Rangers coach Dave Quinn, who had been expected to get the job.

The paradigm changed when Rangers owner James Dolan fired team president John Davidson and GM Jeff Gorton and promoted Drury, and on Wednesday Drury fired Quinn.

These three hockey lifers grew up less than 100 miles from each other in southern New England. Drury was raised in Trumbull, Conn., and played four years at BU. Drafted by the Quebec Nordiques the year they moved to Colorado he scored 255 goals in 892 games with the Avalanche, Calgary, Buffalo and the Rangers.

The 54-year-old Quinn, a Cranston, R.I. native, played at BU and was a first round pick of the Minnesota North Stars. In the minors he was diagnosed with hemophilia and had to retire from playing. He became a journeyman coach in the college and AHL ranks until BU hired him to succeed the legendary Jack Parker.

The Rangers subsequently hired him to develop the club’s young talent. He was 96-87-25 in three years but got swept by Carolina in the first round of his only coaching foray into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Capuano, also from Cranston, scored 50 points and racked up 87 penalty minutes his last season at Maine. He was drafted by the Maple Leafs and his career was a travelogue of AHL cities including Springfield, where he played 14 games in 1990.

The New York media thinks Drury will hire a veteran NHL coach like former Vegas Knights mentor Gerard Gallant, but for now Capuano has the inside track. Currently he’s in Ottawa, which is to the NHL what Fargo is to the FBI.

He’d love to return to the northeast where he coached the Islanders for seven seasons, and he’ll have his chance halfway around the world in northern Europe. The best players want to stay home after a grueling NHL season, and consequently the U.S. has just four third-place finishes in World Hockey competition this century.

If Capuano can crack the code he might wind up in the Big Apple.

The 16-team tournament is composed of four groups playing a round robin format. The U.S. is in with Canada, Germany and Finland, and the winner advances to the semifinals. The puck drops May 22 against the Fins at 9:15 a.m. ET.

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Thoroughbred trainer Bob Baffert caters to millionaires who expect to win no matter what. He’s accommodated them by winning 17 Breeders’ Cup races, seven Kentucky Derbies and two Triple Crowns.

Most of his horses are burned out before they turn four. The lucky ones, the winners, are sold to syndicates who use them as sires. Triple Crown winner Justified sold for $60 million.

The unlucky ones? In 2013, BloodHorse reported that seven Baffert horses died in 16 months. Cardiac arrest was ruled as the cause in most of the deaths but Baffert was cleared of wrongdoing by the California Racing Board.

Over two dozen of Baffert’s horses have tested dirty after a race, including Justified after he won the Arkansas Derby en route to the Triple Crown year. Two of his other horses, Gamine and Charlatan, both tested positive for lidocaine at Oaklawn, but Baffert got a slap on the wrist after 13 1/2 hours of testimony from 14 witnesses.

This year his Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit tested positive for betamethasone and Baffert blamed it on an anti-fungal ointment. “I don’t feel embarrassed, I feel like I was wronged,” Baffert told the media.

None of this comes as shocking news. In April, Sports Illustrated published an expose by L. Jon Wertheim called “Most Unpleasant Story” about Pleasant Colony’s failed bid to win the Triple Crown in 1981 when he raced third in the Belmont Stakes at 4/5 odds. 

Wertheim wrote that the going rate to fix a race in those days was $10,000. Asked what happened if the jockey screwed up, Anthony “Big Tony” Ciulla testified in court, “I smacked him every which way but loose.”

At the Three County Fair in Northampton, I saw a jockey jump off his horse before the finish line. Maybe he was afraid of Big Tony. At the Great Barrington Fair, turf writer Andy Beyer said a sign should be posted outside the track: “Warning. Larceny in Progress.”

Pimlico officials will let Medina Spirit run in today’s Preakness Stakes. They’d be dumb if they didn’t, the television ratings will be off the charts. As for Baffert, “Our shallow media mostly chases celebrity and Baffert is one,” wrote LA Times columnist Bill Dwyre. “Racing needs Baffert because he sells tickets and gets the sport on the front page. The public has neither the time nor inclination to look much deeper than that.” 

Dwyre wrote those words in 2014, and they are as true now as they were then.

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Phil Corrinet guesses this week’s Kiwanis/Sheriff’s golf outing netted about $20,000 for Camp Keewanee, GHS scholarships and other charities. Rick Macdonald, the son of the late sheriff Fred Macdonald was part of the winning team that included Nick Mulvaney, Mike Waidlich and Mat Ainsworth. Yes my son the golfer. I taught him everything he knows.

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NOTES & QUOTES: Tigers broadcaster Jim Price: “I spoke with the great Willie Horton today. He talked about these hitters with their softball swings and how they don’t attack the ball in the zone.” … Max Scherzer’s left eye is brown and his right eye is blue. It’s called heterochromia iridis. Two of his four adopted dogs have the same condition. … ESPN’s seven year deal with the NHL might signal Mike Milbury’s return to the analyst’s chair. Milbury was waxed by wokesters after he said of playing inside a quarantined bubble: “Not even any women here to disrupt your concentration.”

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This Week in Baseball: Giancarlo Stanton hit a ground ball 113.5 mph off the bat to Rays third baseman Kevin Padlo, who backhanded it and threw Stanton out by 10 feet. … Rays catcher Mike Zunino cranked a first-pitch fastball 472 feet into the centerfield camera pit on Tuesday, the second longest home run ever hit at Tropicana Field. … The Rays released Yoshi Tsutsugo who simply couldn’t get it going like he did in Japan where he hit 255 home runs in 10seasons for the Yokohama BayStars. Tsutsugo had no home runs in 78 at-bats and was hitting .167.. … Through Wednesday the Senior Circuit was 30-29 in interleague play. … Red Sox hitters won’t face Shohei Ohtani during the Angels’ three-game series in Boston this weekend, but his 10 home runs leads the team. Speaking of pitchers who can hit, Don Drysdale batted .300 in 138 at-bats for the ’65 Dodgers. … Miller Huggins, scrappy 5-foot-7 skipper of the 1927 Yankees: “A good catcher is the quarterback, the carburetor, the lead dog, the pulse taker, the traffic cop and sometimes a lot of unprintable things, but no team gets very far without one.”

SQUIBBERS: Frontier quarterback Jake Dodge will be joining his brother Kyle on the gridiron at Westfield State this fall, making them the Tiki and Ronde Barber of WMass ballers. … The NY Post’s Larry Brooks ranks Jonathan Quick as the fifth-best American born goaltender in NHL history, behind Ryan Miller (Sabres), Mike Richter (Rangers), Tom Barrasso (Penguins) and No. 1 Frank Brimsek, aka Mr. Zero, who played for the Bruins from 1938-49. … Also per Mr. Brooks, if World Hockey Association stats were included with NHL stats Gordie Howe would eclipse Wayne Gretzky in all-time goals, 975-940, and Bobby Hull would move from 18th place up to third with 913. … ESPN football analyst Matt Miller thinks Carson Strong’s “huge arm” makes him a potential first overall pick in next year’s draft. The 6-4, 220-pound Strong has thrown for 5,193 yards, 38 TDs and 11 interceptions in three years at the University of Nevada. … Despite missing 12 games in December, Cale Makar finished with the second most assists (35) for the Avalanche. … NFL insider Greg Cosell calls Mac Jones,  “…a pure system player. They’re used to that style of player. He’s a smart kid but he’ll need to have a functional knowledge of the defense and that takes some time.” … Greg Carvel to Brock Hines on the passing of University of Maine coach Red Gendron: “He was inclusive. He made you feel accepted. He made me feel part of the group. And when you played Maine you knew you weren’t going to worry about players diving or gamesmanship.” … Signups for the UMass hockey team’s golf outing at Crumpin-Fox next month sold out in 48 hours. … Red Smith asked trainer Charlie Hatton how fast his great racehorse Secretariat had run in his morning workout. “The trees swayed,” said Hatton.

Chip Ainsworth is an award-winning columnist who has penned his observations about sports for four decades in the Pioneer Valley. He can be reached at chipjet95@yahoo.com


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