Summer sports madness
Here’s what happened with the Big Four
It was a two-team race for first place in the north division of the North American Baseball League between the Vipers and the Edmonton Capitals. It came down to the last day of the regular season before the Capitals finally clinched first place.
However, the Vipers fell victim to some hot batters for the Capitals, eventually losing the best of seven series 4-2. Pitcher Mark Michael was the squad’s ace in the regular season, going 8-2 with an ERA of 4.17, and pitched phenomenally in game three against the Capitals, tossing 6 2/3 innings of only three-hit ball.
On offence, it was a three-headed monster of Jimmy Roan, Wilver Perez and Jonny Kaplan who led the way, all batting over .360 for the season. C.J. Ziegler, a mid-season acquisition following the demise of the Lake County Fielders, led the team in homers, swatting 24.
Despite their cheap tickets and good game experience, the Vipers struggled at the box office in the intense Calgary sport market. In the NABL, the Vipers finished middle of the pack with 1,520 average viewers a game.
In one of the worst-kept secrets of the year, the Flames saved the Roughnecks from extinction, purchasing the team away from old owner Brad Banister for an undisclosed price in June. It was widely believed that if the Flames hadn’t stepped up then Calgary’s lacrosse team would have folded.
The new owners have decided to retain the coaching staff of Dave Pym, Curt Malawsky and Bob McMahon, with the only change being Banister ousted as general manager. He was replaced by Mike Board, formerly of the Flames’ online web team.
The team is coming off a wildly successful season, tying a team record with 12 wins and ending the season within one game of the NLL final.
Board previously said he expects that team to remain unchanged heading into their 11th season, with goaltender Mike Poulin and stalwart defenseman Mike Carnegie re-upping with the squad.
Board has a few chips to work with by having the number seven selection in the Boston Blazers dispersal draft followed by two first round draft picks in the NLL entry draft on Sept. 21 in Toronto.
General Manager Jay Feaster offered the biggest paycheck to star free-agent centreman Brad Richards, who in turn took less money with the New York Rangers, a reunion with old coach John Tortorella.
As well, Feaster decided to shed some salary, trading away veteran defenceman Robyn Regher and greybeard Daymond Langkow, while locking up Alex Tanguay long term.
At the 2011 Entry Draft, the selections had a distinct Portland Winterhawk feel with the first two of their first three picks, left winger Sven Baertschi (13th overall) and defenseman Tyler Wotherspoon (57th overall) both from the Western Hockey League squad. Neither is expected to make an impact this year.
On the coaching side, the Flames return the majority of the staff with the exception of Clint Malarchuk replacing outgoing goalie coach Jamie McLennan. Malarchuk is known as the man who got his jugular slashed by an errant skate back in 1989.
However, they’ve reeled off six wins in seven games since then to take sole command of first place in the west division.
Along the way, they dominated their arch nemesis, the Saskatchewan Roughriders, twice – both games in Regina to boot.
After struggling early with control, tossing four interceptions in his first two games, quarterback Henry Burris has rounded into form, only throwing one more in the next games, compared to 10 interceptions.
As of press time, he sits second behind only Anthony Calvillo of the Montreal Alouettes in terms of passing yards with 2,462 yards.
Burris fell back to his old ways with four turnovers in the Labour Day Classic, which helped the Edmonton Eskimos win 35-7.
Also, the Roughriders come to town twice in October with a new old-head coach Ken Miller, and the likely return of all-Canadian wide receiver Andy Fantuz.