John Chidley A blog about reading, writing, pop culture and sports.


Top 10 Sports Movies of All Time

As I mentioned yesterday, my Top 10 sports books was so popular that I’ve decided to make similar lists a regular feature on this blog. I was challenged by a few people to come up with the ten best sports movies.

Like last week’s effort, I decided to limit myself. I chose to not include any documentaries – When We Were Kings, Ken Burns’ Baseball and half of ESPN’s 30-for-30 series would force aside some very worthy films – but it should be noted that most of these are based on real people or events.

So, roughly in order of preference, here we go:

Jerry Maguire – This movie stands apart from the other entries on the list because its protagonist isn’t about an athlete or a coach. In fact, there’s hardly any football in the entire film, even if one of the main characters is a professional football player. Instead, Jerry Maguire looks at the culture surrounding sports. Whether it’s Jay Mohr’s conniving agent or Cuba Gooding Jr.’s selfish prima donna wide receiver, this movie does a better job than most of exposing the greedy and egotistical culture that’s developed around modern sports.

The Replacements – Gene Hackman makes the first of two appearances on this list as Jimmy McGinty, the coach of the fictional Washington Sentinels. As the unnamed professional football league that the Sentinels are a part of goes on strike, the owners decide to hire scab players to replace their regular players. Just like every sports movie ever, McGinty puts together a group of ragtag athletes. His replacements are led by dreamboat quarterback Shane Falco (played by real-life dreamboat Keanu Reeves). Hilarity ensues as the Sentinels come together as a team. There’s lots of memorable scenes, including Falco’s big speech in the climactic game, and when the twin offensive linemen shoot a rivals car full of holes. My favourite, however, is the dance scene:

Mighty Ducks – Quack! Quack! Quack! Many of these selections spawned their own franchises. Slap Shot, Rocky, Friday Night Lights, all have sequels or spin-offs. But Mighty Ducks is the only one on this list that was so successful that it earned its own professional sports teams. Yeah, it’s a typical kids’ movie with Emilio Estevez teaching his group of misfit hockey players important life lessons while he learns from them. But it’s still a great movie, even if the flying V is a ridiculous strategy.

A League of Their Own – Based on the real life experiences of veterans of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, Penny Marshall’s dramedy sheds some light on a chapter of baseball history that is often overlooked. Tom Hanks excels as Jim Dugan, a thinly veiled stand-in for Boston Red Sox great Jimmie Foxx, the alcoholic and acerbic manager of the Rockford Peaches. Even terrible actresses like Madonna and Rosie O’Donnell can’t slow this movie down, and, of course, it gave birth to one of the best lines ever uttered about baseball:

Rocky – Critically acclaimed when it came out in 1976 – winning the Academy Award for Best Picture that year – Sylvester Stallone’s masterpiece is surprisingly resilient. Although some of the lustre was rubbed off thanks to too many sequels, watched by itself Rocky is incredible. Although a lot of Stallone’s iconic scenes have become cliché, his screenplay still stands as a classic. Fortunately, the sixth and final entry in the series, Rocky Balboa, added some polish to the series and capped one of the most iconic stories in film history.

Slap Shot – When I was travelling regularly with the University of Toronto Varsity Blues lacrosse team Slap Shot was a staple of every bus ride. Literally every other movie we’d watch was Slap Shot. Other films were just used to raise our appreciation of this Paul Newman vehicle, the best hockey movie ever made. Slap Shot is filled with hilarious vignettes of life as a professional hockey player, but to me it’s the interactions between the players on the Charlestown Chiefs that make this movie. Director George Roy Hill perfectly captures what the downtime is like on any high-level sports team.

Hoosiers – The story of the 1951-52 Hickory High basketball team and their journey to the Indiana state championship is loosely based on the 1954 Milan High School basketball team that managed the exact same feat, despite the school’s small enrolment of 191. Gene Hackman is excellent as Coach Dale, the controversial coach of the team. His lessons about consistency and focusing on fundamentals is inspiring and the movie eminently watchable. One of the best things about this movie, however, is how subtle some of the character work is. In particular, star player Jimmy Chitwood’s narrative is handled with great  restraint.

Friday Night Lights – Last week I wrote about the incredible book by H.G. Bissinger that inspired this movie. The film is also excellent and stays remarkably close to the source material. Billy Bob Thornton’s performance, in particular his speech about perfection, is magnificent. Director Peter Berg’s decision to use the soundtrack by Explosions in the Sky and moody, washed-out video creates an almost unbearable tension throughout the movie as the young football players of Permian High School struggle under the pressure of their small town’s expectations.

Any Given Sunday – Another artsy football movie, Oliver Stone’s Any Given Sunday follows a season with the fictional Miami Sharks. Although it relies heavily on pretentious cinematography – including silhouetted cheerleaders dancing in front of a lightning storm – the writing and acting are as tight as a drum. Al Pacino’s penultimate speech about life being a game of inches is, hands down, the best motivational speech in movie history. Stone handles the themes of mortality and morality with incredible aplomb, despite the heavy-handed camera work.

Bull Durham – Another classic baseball movie, Bull Durham is the first, and best, piece of the Kevin Costner baseball trilogy - sorry folks, For the Love of the Game isn’t as strong and Fields of Dreams is overly sentimental. Bull Durham, however, is just about perfect. From the characters on the team and their superstitions to Crash Davis’ words of wisdom, this film expresses the aura of baseball better than anything short of the game itself. There are few movies that can be watched again and again without losing any magic, and Bull Durham is in that select number.

As always, I'd love to know what your top 10 is, and why. Please, go ahead and comment below. Also, if there's a top 10 list you'd like me to write, shoot me an email or post a comment.


State of the Blog

I ran a Google Image Search for "website" to get this generic graphic. I was also directed to not one, but two pictures of naked women. Thanks, Internet!

A few days ago reader Badmash commented on my post "My weekend in junior hockey Oct. 8-10" to say: "I just signed up to your blogs rss feed. Will you post more on this subject?"

I already answered "Yes" to Badmash, but it reminded me that I should post a reminder of what my writing schedule looks like:

Mondays - I will be posting "My Weekend in junior hockey" articles every Monday for the duration of the Canadian Hockey League season.

Those posts have links to all of the round-ups I write and edit for the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, the Ontario Hockey League and the Western Hockey League. I also write a small column on top that summarizes the other articles or highlights something that interested me that weekend.

For those of you unfamiliar with these posts, you can read the latest one here.

Tuesdays - Just a good ol' fashioned blog post. Today's is taken up by this site administration post, but otherwise it'd be a book review, post about sports or some other well-considered rant.

Wednesdays - Last week's Top 10 Sports Books was so popular that I've decided to make it a regular feature of this blog. Reader suggestions are welcome. The sooner the better, since this is a Tuesday and I've got no ideas for tomorrow!

Thursdays - Just like Tuesdays I'll have a regular ol' post in this spot.

Fridays - Sorry folks, this is one of my days off. I need this time to align my chi for my junior hockey work. If you want to see the results of that deep meditation then go to search for "QMJHL" at approximately 11 p.m., "OHL" at 1 a.m. and "WHL" the next morning at 9. (All times Eastern)

Saturdays - Don't come to this site! Instead, head over to and look at the Northeast Notebook that I wrote just for you. It usually goes up late on Saturday, although sometimes it shows up late Sunday.

Also, will have my junior hockey work from the Canadian Press. Check out Fridays' instructions to see how to find that work.

Sundays - I'm usually somewhat zombie-ish by this point, so this is my other day of the week off. QMJHL and OHL round-ups will be available at at about 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., respectively.

Of course, for little bite-sized pieces of my writing you should start following me on Twitter. My handle is @jchidleyhill. Typically, I use Twitter to point out interesting articles I've found and spread my alleged humour around.

25Oct/100 – Northeast Notebook

Nathan Horton has been an impact player for the Boston Bruins so far this season.

I'll be talking about this more tomorrow, but I wanted to remind all of you that every Saturday night I write an article on the comings and goings of the National Hockey League's Northeast Division for Follow the block quote to read the piece from two days ago.

The Maple Leafs have been one of the biggest surprises this season. The question is whether or not they can maintain that pace, especially with the Bruins closing in fast. This weekend will go a long way to separating the wheat from the chaff in the Northeast.

- Northeast Notebook: Behind their offense, Bruins beginning to break out


My weekend in junior hockey Oct. 22-24

Cape Breton's Taylor MacDougall in action against the Halifax Mooseheads

This probably goes without saying, but, one of the crucial aspects of journalism is timing. People want their news to be delivered as quickly as possible.

Sports reporters are fortunate because they can guess – usually with some accuracy – when a game is going to end. A baseball game is usually three hours long, hockey two and a half hours, etc.

This is particularly important when covering three leagues across the world’s second largest country, as I do.

See, my junior hockey games end in waves. Thanks to six teams being in the Atlantic time zone, the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League starts to wrap up between 8:30 and 9 most nights. The rest of the Q and the entire Ontario Hockey League follow suit between 9:30 and 10.

Out west is a little more complicated as the Western Hockey League stretches across three time zones. Games in Manitoba and Saskatchewan (and often Edmonton) usually finish between 11 and 11:30. British Columbia, Washington and Oregon check in between 12:30 and 1 in the morning.

Obviously, if one of these waves is delayed, they start to crash into each other. If writing the QMJHL round-up takes me past 11 at night, the OHL stories will be late, and so on. Even the WHL can run into another deadline: my ability to stay conscious.

More often than not, the cause of a delay is a slow game. And what is the cause of a lethargic game? More often than not, it’s because of fights.

Think about it: Each fight eats up about two minutes of play time. Between the scrapping itself, picking up all the loose equipment and sorting out penalties, it adds up to about 120 lost seconds that don’t count toward the game’s run time.

Not bad in isolated instances, but if there’s a handful of fights during a game, it can mean tacking on an entire period’s worth of time.

Further, fights often mean more work. I need to investigate if anyone was injured, what the cause was, and if it’s a particularly rough game I have to find a way to describe the melee.

A perfect example of a game that caused massive back up in my shift was Friday night when the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles and Halifax Mooseheads mixed it up in a fight-filled match.

Fortunately for me, the Halifax Chronicle-Herald’s Willy Palov was in attendance and he forwarded me his game story for inclusion in the nightly QMJHL round up. He saved me a lot of time and added a lot of detail to my story, but even then, some time was eaten up getting in touch with him and then editing his story to suit my needs.

I don’t mean for this to be a commentary on the role of fighting in hockey, I just wanted to share the practical ramifications of when your two favourite hockey teams start throwing down.

BONUS: Here’s a link to Mr. Palov’s original story on the Screaming Eagles 7-2 win over the Mooseheads. You’ll be able to see the different angles we took on the game (his local, mine broader) and also what parts were thanks to his hard work. Also, big ups to CP Sports editor Josh Clipperton who, like all my editors, made my copy much sharper.

Friday, Oct. 23rd 2010
The Nova Scotia rivalry in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League erupted in spectacular fashion Friday.

Taylor MacDougall had a hat trick for Cape Breton as the Screaming Eagles cruised to a physical 7-2 win over the Halifax Mooseheads.

The Brampton Battalion went to Ottawa with revenge on their minds Friday night.

Ian Watters had a goal and an assist as the Battalion avenged themselves with a 3-1 win over the 67's in Ontario Hockey League play.

Damien Ketlo recorded his first win of the season with a shutout as the Regina Pats blanked the Swift Current Broncos 2-0 in Western Hockey League action Friday night.

Mark Schneider scored the only goal the Pats would need just 54 seconds into the game. It was the defenceman's first of the year with a slap shot from the point.

Saturday, Oct. 24th 2010
It was supposed to be a night of celebration in Rouyn-Noranda, but the Val-d'Or Foreurs had other ideas.

Jonathan Hazen had a hat trick as the Foreurs crushed the Huskies 9-4 in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League action Saturday.

Home ice advantage finally meant something for the Barrie Colts on Saturday night.

Taylor Carnevale scored twice as the Colts knocked off the Niagara IceDogs 5-2 in Ontario Hockey League action.

Mark Friesen posted his eighth win of the season to backstop the Swift Current Broncos to a 3-2 win over the visiting Moose Jaw Warriors in Western Hockey League action Saturday night.

Friesen turned aside 33 shots to post the win, and he was beaten for only a single goal in a third period where Moose Jaw held an 11-0 edge in shots.

Sunday, Oct. 25th 2010
Goaltender Olivier Roy joined an exclusive club Sunday afternoon.

Roy made 23 saves to lead the Acadie-Bathurst Titan to a 3-2 win against the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League action.

Captain Thomas Nesbitt led his Ottawa 67's by example Sunday afternoon.

Nesbitt was the only scorer in the shootout as the 67's were 4-3 winners over the Oshawa Generals in Ontario Hockey League action.


My Top 10 Essential Sports Books

My friend Justin asked me to write a blog post of my top 10 essential sports books, and, well, who am I to deny my faithful readers?

Justin didn’t give me much of an outline beyond the fact that they should be non-fiction and that they’re books that would be essential for starting anyone looking to start a personal sports library.

I decided to interpret “essential” as a book that is timeless, has a broad scope that makes it accessible and, of course, features strong writing.

Variety was also a watchword when I put this together. When it comes to writing not all sports are created equal – coming up with a list of 10 baseball books is a snap, while naming even five essential hockey books can be tricky.

However, I did manage to get a decent spread of sports. Baseball, hockey, soccer, football, professional wrestling and other combat sports are all well represented.

I should also add that this list is designed to be taken as a whole. Many of these books are meant to dovetail with each other, provide contrast or compliment other entries.

They don’t need to be read in any particular order and none of them stand out as the best of the lot. But taken altogether all ten fit together nicely, giving the reader a reasonably broad understanding of sports and athletics, even if some specific sports are left out.

Of course, I’ll also point out that I’ve read all of these books (titles that have a link will take you to my earlier, full reviews of the book). Since I haven’t read every sports book ever there are, I’m sure, some gaps in my selections.

Now, in no particular order of preference:

Ball Four by Jim Bouton

The grand daddy of ‘em all, Ball Four is Jim Bouton’s memoir of a year as a major league pitcher with the Seattle Pilots and later the Houston Astros. This book is the first real, hard-hitting look at the world of baseball – or any sport for that matter. Incendiary when it was released in 1969, Bouton’s book remains funny and insightful. Context will help you enjoy it, but 75% of the book can stand on its own. Admitedly, some of its power has been lost to time, but definitely worth reading, particularly the sections on some of Bouton’s more famous colleagues like Mickey Mantle and Ted Williams.

Bullpen Gospels by Dirk Hayhurst

Another relief pitcher’s memoirs, Bullpen Gospels comes from a more sincere and self-deprecating perspective. Dirk Hayhurst’s book on his year in the San Diego Padres’ minor league system is less about baseball and more about finding himself and trying to make some sense of the mess that is his life. Bullpen Gospels’ introspective narrative gives the reader a glimpse inside the surprisingly fragile psyche of a professional athlete and stands in contrast with Bouton’s groundbreaking work. It’s amazing to see how things have changed in the 50 years between the two memoirs. That said, some things never change – like baseball players womanizing ways.

Living on the Black by John Feinstein

My third pick also features professional baseball pitchers, but  manages to be completely different from the earlier entries. John Feinstein’s tome (it’s a hefty 508 pages) follows the 2007 seasons of soft-tossers Tom Glavine and Mike Mussina. Living on the Black discusses the history of the players association and explains the ongoing evolution of the pitcher. Reading this book gave me a much stronger understanding of the importance of every pitch and every at bat of baseball. This book comes as close to explaining the art of big league pitching as anyone can without actually suiting up.

Searching for Bobby Orr by Stephen Brunt

Stephen Brunt’s biography of Bobby Orr – certainly the best defenceman of all time, and arguably the best hockey player ever – is marked by the fact that it was totally unauthorized. The seasoned Globe and Mail columnist had to dig deep for years to find anyone willing to speak to him about the very private Orr. All that hard work paid off as Brunt paints a rich portrait of a complicated man who revolutionized the sport of hockey on and off the ice. Searching for Bobby Orr is worth reading if just to be immersed in Brunt’s breathless description of Orr’s trademark end-to-end rushes. A must read for understanding the modern National Hockey League.

Hitman by Bret Hart

Although professional wrestling isn’t really a sport, there’s no denying the athleticism of the performers. Bret Hart’s upbringing as the most prominent member of the Hart family of wrestlers puts him in a unique position to describe the crazy lifestyle of the World Wrestling Federation. At the same time, Hart’s incredibly violent home life, coupled with his constant marital infidelity is engrossing and makes this the grittiest of all the entries on this list. This autobiography is, in a word, jarring. There is no book that is so open and honest about the sex and violence that pervades the lives of professional athletes.

A Fighter’s Heart by Sam Sheridan

The only sport that comes close to baseball’s massive catalogue of books is boxing. Unfortunately, the sweet science is only one corner of the world of combat sport. Therefore, I chose Sam Sheridan’s survey of all sports where athletes fight – from boxing to Brazilian Jiu Jitsiu to mixed martial arts and, yes, even cock fighting – to try and encompass one of the more literary sports.  Sheridan tries valiantly to understand the role that organized combat has in society and what it is about prizefighting that attracts competitors and spectators alike. An intersting and thought-provoking read that provides insight into the fringes of professional sport.

How Soccer Explains the World by Franklin Foer

Like A Fighter’s Heart, Franklin Foer’s How Soccer Explains the World tries to figure out the role of sport in a greater socio-political context. Foer’s theories are a little over-simplistic and he’s not without his biases, but nonetheless it’s an excellent book that successfully draws connections between political movements, sectarianism and nationhood with soccer teams around the world. An excellent sports book for the non-fan, and enjoyable and informative for anyone who believes that sport is an integral part of society.

Friday Night Lights by Buzz Bissinger

You’ve probably seen the movie or the TV show, but as good as they are, they just don’t do justice to Buzz Bissinger’s original examination of high school football in the oil town of Odessa, Texas. Although he  doesn’t draw conclusions like Sheridan or Foer, Bissinger goes into greater depth than the other two books. Dark, sure, but Friday Night Lights does an incredible job of showing, at least on a small scale, how important sports can be to a community. By the final chapter you might not feel like a Permian Panther, but you’ll definitely sympathize with these young men.

Moneyball by Michael Lewis

Possibly the most influential book on this list, Michael Lewis’ Moneyball is often misunderstood as being a kind of baseball strategy guide. Really, it’s all about Oakland Athletics’ general manager Billy Beane squeezing the potential out of undervalued properties – in this case, baseball players. It’s a philosophy that goes well beyond the world of baseball, and the book’s become popular in many business circles. There’s lots to learn from Lewis’ most popular book: the intricacies of baseball trades, the importance of walks and the rigidity of old school baseball. Stay ahead of the curve by picking it up before Brad Pitts’ film adaptation comes out.

Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby

Speaking of books being ruined by movie adaptations – please ignore the romantic comedy starring Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore loosely based off of Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch. It’s barely related to the original. Few books capture the agony of cheering for a team that just never gets it together. You can sustitute any number of clubs for Hornby’s Arsenal. The Chicago Cubs, Detroit Lions and Toronto Maples Leafs will all do fine. This is what fandom is all about: not the highs of winning a championship but the agonizing lows where every bounce goes for the other side, where every home game gets rained on and every draft pick is a bust. Hornby captures that pain perfectly.


Great Debate: Team Rest-of-Canada v. Équipe Québec

As I’ve alluded to before, I used to work at a Very Large Bookstore in downtown Toronto and my co-workers and I often devised games to entertain ourselves on slow days.

A popular one amongst the hockey fans on staff was: Who would win in a best-of-seven series between an all-time all-star lineup of players from Quebec and the Rest of Canada?

I mean, let’s not kid ourselves. If you pit an all-time Canadian team against an all-time from any other country team it’s a pretty straight forward answer: the guys with the maple leaf on their chest. Seriously, only an all-Soviet/Russian team would avoid the sweep.

But pitting Canadians against Canadiens? That is a tough call. At first glace, you've got to give the advantage to Quebec's goaltenders. Jacques Plante. Patrick Roy. Martin Brodeur. Roberto Luongo. La Belle Provence has a sterling history of producing world-class goalies.

Naturally, defence appears to favour the Rest of Canada. Naming off the National Hockey League's best defencemen of all time reads a lot like the bench of Team ROC.

Up front is where things get tricky. Gretzky against Lemieux. The Rocket versus Stevie Y. It's a dead heat.

The rules are simple:

  1. Each team gets four lines of forwards, six defencemen and three goaltenders.
  2. Any player from the National Hockey League’s history is eligible.
  3. These theoretical rosters are composed of the players in their primes. Bobby Orr's knees are in perfect shape and Michel Goulet hasn't been concussed.
  4. It’s Rest-of-Canada versus Quebec, not French Canada versus English Canada. For example, Dion Phaneuf, a Francophone, could theoretically play for Rest-of-Canada, as he’s from Edmonton. Similarly, Doug Harvey is from Montreal so he’d play for Quebec, even if he is maudit anglais.Of course, English against French can be a fun exercize as well, but we’re trying to keep things politically sensitive on this blog.
  5. No, Brett Hull doesn’t count.

I want to know who you think would win, and why. If you’re feeling ambitious, post your rosters as well.

Here are my picks for the rosters, as well as the winner

Team Rest-of-Canada

C - Wayne Gretzky
Steve Yzerman
Gordie Howe
Sidney Crosby
Mark Messier
Bobby Hull
Phil Esposito
Ron Francis
Joe Sakic
Mark Recchi
Doug Gilmour
Adam Oates

Bobby Orr
Larry Robinson
Larry Murphy
Paul Coffey
Scott Stevens
Chris Pronger

Terry Sawchuck
Ken Dryden
Glenn Hall

Équipe Québec
C-Maurice Richard
Henri Richard
Mario Lemieux
Marcel Dionne
Guy Lafleur
Luc Robitaille
Denis Savard
Pierre Turgeon
Gilbert Perrault
Jean Ratelle
Jean Beliveau
Michel Goulet

Ray Bourque
Doug Harvey
Denis Potvin
Serge Savard
Guy Lapointe
Jacques Laperriere

Patrick Roy
Martin Brodeur
Jacques Plante

Winner: Team Rest-of-Canada in seven games.

Led by captain Wayne Gretzky, Team Rest-of-Canada would win because they would abuse their biggest advantage: defence.

With goalies and forward pretty even, the largest disparity is clearly at the blue line. Yes, Bourque and Harvey are two of the best defenders of all time, but they aren’t the best.

Bobby Orr is the best offensive-defenceman of all time and Larry Robinson is the best defensive-defenceman ever. That one-two punch, coupled with the depth of their rearguard corps gives ROC a real advantage.

Rest-of-Canada’s defence is also much bigger than the average forward for Équipe Québec. Although the Richards might be able to slip by the likes of Paul Coffey and Larry Murphy a few times, they’d be exhausted when it comes time to lace ‘em up for Game 7.

Also, ROC's defence would be able to jump up into the attack. Obviously, Orr was capable of scoring just as many points as any forward for Quebec, and Coffey would be able to keep La Belle Provence's defence honest too.

One of the big surprises is that ROC is actually pretty good between the pipes. Yes, the case can be made that one of Roy, Brodeur or Plante are the greatest goaltender of all time - but the same can be said of Sawchuk. Further, Dryden and Hall aren't exactly slouches. Sawchuk, coupled with the reliable defence in front of him, would be more than enough to stop the best that Quebec has to offer.

Up front would still be a dead heat. The Rest-of-Canada couldn't possibly match the flair and play-making ability of Quebec, but with talented and tough forwards like Howe, Gilmour and Recchi bearing down on them on the forecheck, the blue-and-white would feel rushed and pressured on most of their shifts.


Sandwich Review: KFC’s Double Down

Inviting, isn't it?

It took months to make it possible, but yesterday I finally ate a Double Down from KFC.

Normally, reviwing a sandwich is not my bag. After all, my good friend and neighbour John already does a bang-up job over at In Search of a Sandwich. Why would I want to compete?

But the Double Down - KFC’s bacon, sauce and cheese sandwich that substitutes the bread for pieces of deep-fried chicken - transcends a normal sandwich.  Just as the Double Down pushes the envelope of sandwich technology, I must expand my blogging horizons for this fast food delicacy.

Not since the Earl of Sandwich put meat between two pieces of bread has a sandwich created so much buzz.

The novelty of the breadless sandwich coupled with the thrilling sense of danger that accompanies each sodium-filled bite has made the Double Down into something of a pop culture phenomenon, with people proudly announcing on Facebook or Twitter their desire to consume the grease-laden treat, often accompanied by photo galleries shortly thereafter.

Diana Mehta, my colleague at the Canadian Press, wrote an excellent feature story on the Canadian debut of the Double Down, including the many health risks associated with downing one of these bad boys.

I’ll skip all the warnings from nutritionists though, since I’d like to think my readers are smart enough to know that two pieces of fried chicken with bacon, cheese and special sauce stuck between them isn’t good for you, and move on to the review.

I travelled up to York University campus for my Double Down, purchasing my lunch from the combination KFC/Taco Bell at the school’s food court.

My eating companions were my fiancé Katy and her co-workers Andrew and Rachel. It was clear that we weren’t the only ones feeling adventurous that day: the outlet had the longest line in the entire food court.

After a pretty lengthy wait each of us sat down to our Double Downs and Pepsis.

 The first bite was, predictably, very greasy and hot although it really did taste good. After the second bite though, the overwhelming saltiness of the Double Down became a problem.

A necessity when eating the Double Down

Fortunately, Katy had picked up some hot sauce for us to dip our sandwiches into and the spice really helped cut through the savouriness of the sandwich. I’d definitely recommend having some hot sauce to anyone trying the Double Down for the first time. The added heat makes it much more palatable.

About three-quarters of the way through my sandwich I had a gut-check. Was I going to make it through? My body was already starting to feel uncomfortable with the mess I was forcing it to digest. But I looked at the wad of meat in my hand and decided that although I might regret it, I was still hungry and could easily put the rest of the chicken and bacon away.

I was right. In fact, when Katy struggled to finish hers, I was able to eat that too.

This sampling had been a long time coming. Katy and I actually had “Eat a Double Down” on our itinerary during our road trip to New York City and Boston this past summer. Unfortunately, we could not find a KFC, and so we had to wait for the Canadian release.

That delay probably created an unfair sense of expectation, but we came to an inescapable conclusion: the Double Down is a bit of a disappointment.

Don’t get me wrong, it really is quite tasty, if a bit too salty. But when I was done my sandwich I was actually still hungry. I regretted the fact that I didn’t order a combo. I could’ve used the fries to complete the job started by the Double Down.

Further, it’s really expensive. The sandwich by itself is $6.99 before tax. I can get a more filling – and healthier – meal from countless fast food chains, so why would I eat the Double Down, aside from the novelty?

I’m sure I’ll have it a few more times, undoubtedly as part of a full combo meal with some hot sauce to dip the sandwich into, but I can’t imagine that the Double Down is going to be a success in Canada.


My weekend in junior hockey, Oct. 15-17 2010

There’s a lot to love about hockey, but I think all fans can agree is the unpredicatability of the game.

Hockey, and its befooted cousin lacrosse, is made up of a series of broken plays.

Yes, there are tactics and strategies that teams employ, but every minute of every game is completely different then the last. No lead is safe, and often the game is decided in the span of a few minutes of play.

The video above is a classic – if extreme – example of that unpredictability. What other sport offers a seemingly surefire score, then and incredible last-second tally in the span of 30 seconds? Only hockey.

Junior hockey was all about that kind of crazy drama this weekend, with several big games being decided in a quick burst.

Friday night started with a bang as the Quebec Remparts, the best team in the Canadian Hockey League, won their 10th game of the season with less than 20 seconds on the clock.

The Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors, the second-best team in the CHL, also had some last second heroics on Friday as Jordan Mayer scored in the last minute of overtime.

Fans of the Calgary Hitmen were treated to the same kind of action on Saturday night when Jaynen Rissling jumped out of the penalty box to corral an outlet pass and put away the winner in overtime.

Finally, back in the QMJHL the Val-d’Or Foreurs reeled off three goals in quick succession to top the Montreal Junior 4-2 on Sunday afternoon.

It’s just another reason to love hockey.

Friday, October 15th 2010
The Quebec Remparts are still the hottest team in Canadian junior hockey.

Alex Wall scored the winner with seconds to spare as Quebec edged the Shawinigan Cataractes 3-2 in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League action Friday night.

A timely power play made all the difference for the Mississauga St. Michael's Majors on Friday night.

Veteran centre Jordan Mayer scored with the man advantage in the dying seconds of overtime as Mississauga rallied to a 4-3 victory over the Sault St. Marie Greyhounds in Ontario Hockey League action.

The Kelowna Rockets success overshadowed a landmark for Ryan Howse of the Chilliwack Bruins Friday night.

Colton Sissons' goal with 30 seconds left in the second period was the difference maker as the Rockets toppled the Bruins 4-3 in Western Hockey League action.

Saturday, October 16th 2010
Some personnel changes weren't enough to right the Baie-Comeau Drakkar's ship.

Jess Tanguy had back-to-back goals, including the eventual winner Saturday, as the Lewiston Maineiacs sank the Drakkar 4-1 in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League play.

Robbie Czarnik had a goal and an assist to lead the Plymouth Whalers past the Windsor Spitfires 4-1 in Ontario Hockey League action Saturday night.

"(Rickard) Rakell got in hard on the forecheck," Czarnik said about his goal. "He got to the puck before everybody else and got it to me and I snuck it by (Jack) Campbell."

Jaynen Rissling went from goat to great in a two-minute span Saturday night.

Rissling was the overtime hero by scoring an unassisted power-play goal to lift the Calgary Hitmen to a 3-2 win over the Seattle Thunderbirds in Western Hockey League action.

Sunday, October 17th 2010
It took less than two minutes for the Val-d'Or Foreurs to drop their division rivals Sunday afternoon.

Guillaume Naud had back-to-back markers, including the winner, as the Foreurs scored three quick goals in a 4-2 win over the Montreal Junior in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League action.

Thomas Nesbitt scored twice and added an assist and Petr Mrazek made 41 saves as the Ottawa 67's defeated the Brampton Battalion 5-1 in Ontario Hockey League play Sunday afternoon.

Nesbitt was very effective on special teams, scoring on the power play and short-handed.


My weekend in junior hockey Oct. 8-10

Saturday's victory might be one of the few times I'll have a reason to mention the Kelowna Rockets this season.

One of the hardest things about writing junior hockey copy night after night is choosing what story should be at the top of the league round up. What merits consideration?

If I based it solely on the performance of a team people would get sick of hearing about the top 10 clubs all the time.

What about if I wrote based off of population size or team popularity? Then the Halifax Mooseheads, Montreal Junior, Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors, Ottawa 67’s, Edmonton Oil Kings, Calgary Hitmen and Vancouver Giants would dominate the stories.

Instead, I try to pick the game situations that are the most unique.

That’s why Nicolas Chouinard’s five-goal night led the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League round up on Friday night. The sock trick (as it’s called in lacrosse circles) is a rare occurrence at all levels of hockey.

The dominant play of Vancouver’s special teams also caught my eye on Friday. It’s not often tthat a team can kill nine penalties while going 50-50 on the power play. It just had to be given top billing.

Saturday night had three different unique or special games, one in each league.

In the QMJHL, goaltender Olivier Roy was given a shutout by official scorers, despite the fact that he let a goal in during the shootout.

In the Ontario Hockey League, the once-dominant Barrie Colts continued to struggle, particularly at home. Worse yet, it was on the same night that they raised last year’s Eastern Conference championship banner to the rafters.

Out west, the Kelowna Rockets finally won a game, the last Canadian Hockey League team to accomplish this rather basic feat this season.

I’m sure that these stories aren’t the most significant in terms of the final standings, and they’re certainly not a showcase for prospective National Hockey League draftees. But they are interesting or quirky stories, and I think that that is what draws the most people in, week after week.

Friday October 8th 2010
Captain Nicolas Chouinard decided to lead by example on Friday night.

Chouinard scored five times as the Montreal Junior downed the Halifax Mooseheads 6-3 in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League action.

The Mississauga St. Michael's Majors got down to business in the third period Friday night.

Casey Cizikas and Joe Cramarossa scored 32 seconds apart early in the final period and goaltender JP Anderson had his first shutout of the season as the Majors blanked the struggling Peterborough Petes 3-0 in the Ontario Hockey League play.

The Vancouver Giants are relying on their special teams to get wins this season.

Vancouver reeled off three unanswered power-play goals to snuff the Kelowna Rockets 4-1 in Western Hockey League play Friday night.

Saturday October 9th 2010
Even though he let the puck into the net on Saturday night, goaltender Olivier Roy earned a shutout.

Roy made 32 saves as the Acadie-Bathurst Titan downed the Drummondville Voltigeurs 1-0 in a shootout in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League play.

Last season playing against the Colts in Barrie was one of the toughest draws in the Ontario Hockey League, but no longer.

Andrew Agozzino scored the game-winning goal 6:10 into the third period as the Niagara IceDogs defeated Barrie 4-1 in OHL action Saturday night.

It took an extra period but the Kelowna Rockets finally won a game.

Brett Bulmer scored the overtime winner for Kelowna, as the Rockets beat the Prince Albert Raiders 3-2 in Western Hockey League action Saturday night.

Sunday, October 10th 2010
Philip-Michael Devos' small output was just enough to make him the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's top scorer.

Devos had two assists as the Victoriaville Tigres beat the Lewiston Maineiacs 4-2 in QMJHL play Sunday afternoon.

Robbie Czarnik scored twice, including the overtime winner, as the Plymouth Whalers toppled the Kingston Frontenacs 6-5 in Ontario Hockey League action Sunday afternoon.

Stefan Noesen had two goals and one assist for Plymouth (3-4-1), while Scott Wedgewood made 32 saves. Tyler Brown and Austin Levi added singles for the Whalers. Czarnik also had two assists.


For the record: NHL predictions 2010-11

Will Jordan Eberle, formerly of the Regina Pats, win the Calder Trophy? I think so.

I'm usually not one for predictions since, well, I've got a terrible track record. Just look at my Memorial Cup picks from last season. I went 1-for-4. Yikes. Similarly, I was rocked in this year's March Madness.

But when J.P. Hoornstra, my editor at, asked me to chime in with my picks for the 2010-11 National Hockey League season, well, how could I say no?

You can see all of the picks from the staff right here. It's interesting to see that none of us agree on everything, although we come close to a consensus on a few select issues, like Alex Ovechkin winning the Rocket Richard Trophy or the Washington Capitals winning the Eastern Conference championship.

There are also some picks where I stand alone, like tabbing Tuuka Rask to win the Vezina or Jordan Eberle to go home with the Calder. But hey, there's the distinct possibility that we'll all be wrong. That's why you play the games.

But anyway, I figure that I'd share all of my picks right here so that you, the fan, can mock my poor decisions in about nine months time.

Western Conference champion: Vancouver Canucks
Eastern Conference champion: Washington Capitals
Stanley Cup champion: Vancouver Canucks
Hart Trophy: Henrik Sedin, Vancouver Canucks
Calder Trophy: Jordan Eberle, Edmonton Oilers
Norris Trophy: Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit Red Wings
Selke Trophy: Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings
Vezina Trophy: Tuuka Rask, Boston Bruins
Rocket Richard Trophy: Alexander Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
Jack Adams Trophy: Joel Quenneville, Chicago Blackhawks
Executive of the Year: Rick Dudley of the Atlanta Thrashers
Comeback player of the Year: Mike Modano, Detroit Red Wings
Surprise playoff team: Atlanta Thrashers
Surprise non-playoff team: Montreal Canadiens

Agree? Disagree? Want an explanation? Go ahead and ask, I'll be happy to answer.