Sports Outside the Beltway

NY Islander Jack Hillen to miss 6-8 weeks due to a broken jaw

Anaheim Duck Teemu Selanne recently suffered a similar injury. From AP-

New York Islanders defenseman Jack Hillen will miss six to eight weeks with a broken jaw and damaged teeth caused by a slap shot from Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin.

The Islanders said on Wednesday that the 24-year-old Hillen remained hospitalized following surgery late Tuesday night into the morning. Hillen was injured in the first period of New York’s 7-2 home loss on Tuesday and is expected to be discharged from the hospital on Thursday.

It is the second major injury to the Islanders’ defense corps that lost veteran Radek Martinek to a season-ending knee injury in November.

Hillen was helping to protect the net when he was struck in the face by the puck. It is just one of those freak accidents that happen in hockey.

The Islanders have a record of 23-22-8 for the season and are in the midst of a wild tussle for the last 3 Eastern Conference playoff berths. The loss of Hillen probably won’t affect the team too adversely. As long as no other major injuries happen.


NCAA fines South Carolina for post game celebration

A Gamecock player urged students onto the court after South Carolina’s upset victory on Tuesday. From AP-

South Carolina’s first victory over a No. 1 team will cost $25,000.

The Southeastern Conference fined South Carolina that amount Wednesday for violating league rules against permitting fans on the playing area following a 68-62 victory over top-ranked Kentucky on Tuesday night.

As the game neared the end, security at the Colonial Life Arena held up a yellow rope to keep the people off the court. However, South Carolina guard Devan Downey urged students to join the players in celebration as time ran out. The Gamecocks had been 0-7 in the program’s history against No. 1 teams before the Wildcat win.

The scene was so crazy, Kentucky coach John Calipari headed straight for the locker room instead of walking to South Carolina’s bench for the traditional postgame handshake.

This was considered South Carolina’s second such violation, the first coming five years ago after another win over Kentucky.

The NCAA justifies the fine by saying it was done for safety purposes. As a person who remembers the wild celebrations that took place after the playoffs and World Series victories of the NY Mets in 1969, I really think this is another instance of the nanny state run wild. South Carolina’s upset was something to celebrate.

The policy went into effect on Dec. 1, 2004, less than two weeks after a brawl involving players and fans during a game between the NBA’s Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons at the Palace of Auburn Hills, and one day after another fight among players in a Clemson-South Carolina football game.

What happened in 2004 was outrageous but a mostly isolated instance. Angry athletes charging into the stands just doesn’t happen all that often. I can think of an incident at a NY Ranger hockey game. Anyone know other such disturbances in North American sports?


Running on fumes- Chicago beats Edmonton 4-2

After last night’s win, the Blackhawks stand just two points behind Western Conference frontrunners San Jose.

The Chicago Blackhawks needed 44 seconds to take the fight out of the Edmonton Oilers.Chi-edm

Jonathan Toews scored on Chicago’s first shot of the game and the Blackhawks added to Edmonton’s misery Tuesday night, beating the Oilers 4-2 and sending the NHL’s last-place team to their 11th straight loss.

Troy Brouwer, Dustin Byfuglien and Marian Hossa also scored for the Blackhawks, who are 4-2 through six games of a season-high eight-game road trip. Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith added two assists apiece for Chicago.

Chicago is the Western Conference’s version of the Washington Capitals. Both teams can score oodles of goals but are deficient at goaltender. I think the Huet-Niemi combo is better for Chicago than Theodore-Varlamov/Neuwirth is for Washington. The trouble is, San Jose appears strong enough to keep the Blackhawks out of the Stanley Cup finals. I am not sure there is a Eastern Conference team that can do the same to the Capitals.

As for Edmonton, they have fallen to 16-29-6 for the season. Not much was expected from the team this year, and they haven’t even met those low expectations.


Minnesota Twins sign 1B-DH Jim Thome

From the St. Paul Pioneer Press-

Jim Thome has 57 career home runs against the Minnesota Twins, more than any other player in team history. For the 2010 season, at least, that number will go static as the 39-year-old slugger works on the number of homers he can hit for the Twins.Twins White Sox Baseball

Thome, who turns 40 in August, agreed to a one-year, $1.5 million contract with the Twins on Tuesday, pending a physical he will undergo this weekend. The move came one day after White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen announced that Chicago would not re-sign the designated hitter. Thome also can earn up to $750,000 in incentives.

Thome said the Rays and White Sox were his other suitors. Guillen told reporters Chicago would not bring Thome back because the team would have trouble finding enough at-bats for him. Thome said neither Chicago nor Minnesota promised him a certain number of at-bats and that he decided on the Twins for two reasons — Minnesota showed the most interest and he wanted to return to the American League Central, where he is familiar with pitchers he’ll face.

What team guarantees what number of at-bats a player should get? If any do, they’re nuts. If a franchise is serious about winning, you use the players that can most help you do that. A veteran who can’t produce, will be benched by a well run team and in a worst case scenario, released out right.

That said, Thome can still be useful as a role player. He still has some pop in his bat, and that and the length of his contract make his signing look like a reasonable move by Minnesota IMHO.


Former NFL Punter Tom Whittum dead at age 60

He was also a talented baseball player and was selected in the 1968 draft by the Chicago White Sox.RIP.

Former San Francisco 49ers Pro Bowl punter Tom Wittum, who was drafted by the Chicago White Sox but opted for a standout baseball and football career at Northern Illinois, has died. He was 60.

Wittum died of cancer Friday at his home in the northern Chicago suburb of Antioch, his son, Matt Wittum, said Tuesday.

A fifth-round pick of the Chicago White Sox in 1968, Wittum instead chose to attend Northern Illinois. He set 10 school kicking records as a place kicker and punter, including the career, single-season and single-game records for punts, punting yards and punting average.

Equally skilled as a third baseman, Wittum helped lead Northern Illinois to a 24-8 record in 1972 — the first year the Huskies were invited to the NCAA baseball tournament.

Wittum was drafted by the 49ers in 1972. The two-time Pro Bowler played in 70 games with San Francisco from 1973-77, kicking 380 punts for 15,494 yards with a 40.8-yard gross average, according to the team.

He retired from the NFL after a serious car accident left him with several broken bones in 1978, but went on to teach driver’s education and coach for more than 30 years, most of it at Grayslake High School in Grayslake, Ill.


Shawn the Man- Florida beats Montreal 2-1

Tonight was just one more case of Tomas Vokoun carrying the team.(a Save percentage of .963 or only 12 goals allowed in the last 328 shots against him) For two plus periods he held Montreal to one goal. Unfortunately, Florida was its usual punchless self.

Then this happened at 3:01 of the third period.

Shawn ‘Keep your bags packed for Rochester’ Matthias scored on a penalty shot to tie the game at 1-1. Sorry about the video being in French.

Matthias who has been shuttling between Florida and the Panthers affiliate in Rochester New York all year, wasn’t through for the night. Almost nine minutes later, with assists by Michal Repik and Dominic Moore, Matthias put a goal in the net again. Florida was up 2-1 and that was all the team needed to win tonight.Shawn Matthias

I’ve been writing about Matthias for two years. He has put pucks in the net, not just tonight, but whenever he has gotten some support around him. Someone will point out he has just 5 goals this year and two in previous years. That’s seven goals in 46 games though.

He’s doing it in about 7 minutes of play a game. Also tonight wasn’t his first two goal game. He had one against Washington on Jan 19, 2008. It was only his second game ever. 19-year-olds who score two goals in a game isn’t impressive in Florida lala Panther land. It lands you in the AHL for the next season and a third with only 18 more NHL appearances scattered here and there.

Matthias has produced the numbers he has with the 4th line the Panthers have. Which consists of Nick Tarnasky or Victor Oreskovich and Kamil Kreps. Who have a combined 3 goals and 9 assists this year. Matthias has 5 goals and 2 assists in part-time play.

Florida has handled Matthias horribly. He has, with just one exception, been relegated to garbage duty but still scored goals. He even had a 3-game scoring streak in December. So what does Coach Peter DeBoer do? Ship him back to Rochester while players like Kreps, Gregory Campbell, Oreskovich, and Radek Dvorak continue to be punchless. Well Dvorak has two shorthanded goals on the year, and a hat trick night in early January. The rest of the time, he’s been shit on even strength or in power play situations, 9 goals and 12 assists or not for the year. In fact, Dvorak has had no more than one shot on goal in his last six games(and no points either I may add.)

Why is Matthias so misused? At least part of the problem is Coach Peter DeBoer’s preference for his ‘Kitchener boys’. Players like the mighty Gregory Campbell of 11 points for the year. I’ll bet anyone $20 that Matthias gets sent back to Rochester again before this season is over. There’s no way he can impress DeBoer enough to be kept in Florida. Just on this alone, if I could be Florida’s General Manager, I’d fire Peter DeBoer. Florida needs Matthias, with Horton out for a month at least and the team in a frenzied 6 to 8 team battle in the Eastern Conference for three playoff spots. Opening play tonight, Florida was 11th in the East, but only two points out of a tie for 6th!


Match play to return to LPGA Tour in 2010

A new tournament in 2010. From Randall Mell at the Shag Bag-

The LPGA announced Tuesday the debut of the Sybase Match Play Championship. The tournament will be held at Hamilton Farm Golf Club in Galdstone, N.J., May 20-23.

Sixty-four of the top players from around the world will compete for a $1.5 million purse, with the winner earning $375,000.

Hamilton Farm was the site of the 2005 and 2006 HSBC Women’s World Match Play event. This will be the first official match-play tournament contested since its demise after the 2007 season.

Seon Hwa Lee defeated Ai Miyazato in the finals of the last edition. The LPGA continues to get healthier under its new Commissioner, Michael Whan.


Former MLB Outfielder Curt Motton dead at 69

I remember Motton but not due to my watching him play. For one thing he was an American Leaguer and I was a NY Met fan. Sometimes I watched the Yankees on WPIX, but not all that often and Motton was a utility player who didn’t play all that much. His most prolific year was 1968 when he had 218 at-bats.

Why I recall Motton is because at Christmas in 1970 or 1971, I got a game called ‘Gil Hodges Pennant Fever‘. For a few years I played many games, mostly with the 69 NY Mets which GHPF attempted to recreate, but sometimes with the Baltimore Orioles. I used Motton as my primary pinch hitter and still remember that 35 plus years later. RIP.

Former Baltimore Orioles outfield Curt Motton has died after a long battle with stomach cancer.

Motton died Thursday at his Parkton home. He was 69.

Motton played for the Orioles from 1967-71, when he was traded to Milwaukee. He returned to Baltimore in 1973, and finished his playing career in 1974.

Motton also served as a bench coach for the team in 1991.


Denver Nuggets won’t suspend J.R. Smith

You got to hear why the team was considering discipline for the player. From AP-

The Denver Nuggets have decided not to suspend J.R. Smith over his behavior on the bench that rubbed management the wrong way.J.R. Smith

Smith will be allowed to play against Charlotte on Monday night, although Rex Chapman, vice president of player personnel, didn’t rule out some sort of punishment for the guard.

Smith, who has been mired in a prolonged shooting slump, sulked on the bench Saturday night, when he played a season-low 12 minutes and scored just three points in a win over New Orleans.

Nuggets coach George Karl said Smith will come off the bench, as usual, against the Bobcats.

Smith was drafted right out of high school. Your average 18-year-old isn’t very mature, and neither are many basketball players. The behavior by Smith, who is earning 3 million a year from the Nuggets, isn’t untypical or surprising. If he can’t handle contributing from the bench, Smith may have to learn basketball is a team sport and not all about him. By going to play in Europe.


MLB Infielder Mark Loretta announces his retirement

He is taking a job in the front office of the San Diego Padres. From ESPN-

Mark Loretta has announced his retirement as a player and has been hired by the San Diego Padres as special assistant to baseball operations.

Loretta’s playing career spanned 15 big league seasons. He played with the Padres from 2003-05. Loretta most recently was with the Los Angeles Dodgers.


A two-time All-Star, Loretta finished his career with a .295 batting average with a .360 on-base percentage. His best season came in 2004 for the Padres when he set career highs in batting average (.335), homers (16) and RBIs (76).

Loretta originally came up with Milwaukee. He was a good player, more valuable with the bat than with the glove. Last year he had a very poor year by his standards, so it was probably a good time for him to retire.


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