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Frat Pack Together Again

by Adnan Virk / Toronto Maple Leafs

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The Frat Pack Line of Tyler Bozak, Christian Hanson, and Viktor Stalberg are inseparable off the ice so perhaps it makes sense that on the ice they should be reunited. They love to go out to dinner since none of them are proficient in the kitchen and love going to the movies, estimating they’ve seen everything that’s been released this year, including romantic comedies (and really who wants to watch the Bounty Hunter unless it’s among wisecracking friends?)

With Bozak as the brains of the operation, setting the table, and Hanson using his size and strength and Stalberg’s speed leading to scoring chances, it makes perfect sense that head coach Ron Wilson would opt to stick with this trio to finish out the string. Chemistry is such an elusive issue in sports so if you find it, it’s best to stick with it. But ultimately this has been a bad season for the Maple Leafs. They were hoping to make the playoffs and will finish as one of the five worst teams in hockey. With a young nucleus of talent including my guy Nazem Kadri, they could make the playoffs as early as next season but have to hope that the recent optimism isn’t an aberration but a portent of things to come.


Mama said there’d be days like this. Chris Bosh was inconsolable after missing the potential winning bucket against the Warriors on Sunday but after a gargantuan performance, clearly he was the least responsible to blame. That play happened so quickly that unfortunately the ball didn’t drop but it was a bang-bang play.

Sadly, no such excuses exist for the rest of the starting lineup who were abysmal from the field. Andrea Bargnani 7 of 23, Sonny Weems an egregious 2 of 11, Antoine Wright 1 of 6, Jose Calderon 1 of 5. Despite a furious fourth quarter rally, the Raptors were also ultimately undone by poor perimeter defence. Allowing 13 three pointers, 50 percent from downtown overall, is clearly unacceptable. And if you watch every single one of them, you’ll see how many wide open looks the Warriors enjoyed as the Raptors failed to close out properly and contest the likes of Curry, et al. One can only hope that this loss on home court against a road team with five wins coming in, and with only nine healthy players and missing their best arguably in Monta Ellis will not cripple the Raptors two weeks from now.

Six games to go for both they and the Bulls with Toronto, nursing a one game lead. I predict the Raptors going 3-3 down the stretch (losses vs. Boston, Cleveland and Atlanta and wins versus Chicago, Detroit and New York Knicks) and Chicago the same .500 record. So the Raptors should get in. But next Sunday’s home showdown against Derrick Rose and company could very well determine if this inconsistent Raptors team hovering around mediocrity will return to the playoff dance floor.


- I only met the man once. He was leaving a sports bar in Toronto and I waited to shake his hand. I said something generic along the lines of, “I’m a big fan”, or “nice to meet you D-Mac”, he smiled, nodded and kept moving. It’s only appropriate that I would keep it short and sweet because I would need several hours to properly convey to Donovan McNabb how much I’ve loved following his career as the quarterback of my favourite NFL team and a person that I greatly respect and admire.

Booed when drafted since the notoriously volatile, and sometimes moronic, Philadelphia Eagle fans wanted Ricky Williams instead, McNabb always seemed to thrive under adversity. He was never fully appreciated en route to becoming the franchise leader in touchdowns, yards passing, completions, attempts etc. 92 wins, nine in the playoffs. Six-time pro bowler in 11 years. Unquestionably still a top ten quarterback in the league. I’ll never forget 4th and 26. That first NFC Championship game when we were double digit underdogs against the Rams and almost won. McNabb finishing second in MVP voting in only his second season. Those gorgeous deep bombs to that cancer T.O. and later Desean Jackson. That scramble on Monday Night Football against Dallas which lasted 14 seconds before a 50 yard completion that had John Madden beside himself. The scrambles, the jukes, the jives, the Michael Jackson moonwalk celebration. All of that will override the fact that unfortunately the Eagles could never win the big one with him at the controls and his fate to be blamed for all of it, even though football remains a 58 man team game.

His legacy for some will be consistently very good, sometimes great, but never able to win the big one. On some level, I suppose it’s fair. But when you consider the abysmal receiving corps he dealt with in the early part of his career or the non-existent running game he was saddled with recently, I don’t buy it. Lots of great quarterbacks don’t win a Super Bowl and it shouldn’t diminish their legacy in the way some try to with Donovan.

I haven’t even spoken about his class and character. Rush Limbaugh, Owens, Peter King saying he was finished after being benched (uh, Peter, another NFC Championship game followed so you were wrong again). Notoriously generous with charities in the same communities which never gave him enough adulation. More fully appreciated as a national talent (and great adman with his mom for Chunky’s) than in his own backyard where at times he was embraced but not like a Brian Dawkins was.

Andy Reid and company made the ultimate idiotic move of trading him within the division. I appreciate that they knew McNabb didn’t want to go to Oakland or Buffalo but now the stage is set for him to earn vengeance this season.

I hope when he plays the Eagles this season, the team of my youth that I’ve followed for 20 years, I pray that Donovan lights us up. A record-breaking historic performance for all his admirers and to shut up his incessant detractors. I hope we win the game but McNabb comes out on top. For a class act on and off the field, how could I hope for anything else.
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