The Unlikely Path
You’ve already heard, but I have to talk about it. This is what sports are all about, stories like this remind us why we watch the games and they also create a tonne of new fans. I went to watch the Leafs ECHL affiliate Orlando Solar Bears last February and this tall, lanky looking fellow was in net for the Solar Bears. He looked solid, but if you had told me then that I would be watching him start a game for the Leafs before the calendar turned to 2016, I would have laughed right in your face. I mean I would’ve got right in your grill and called you an idiot. It’s a good thing nobody told me that because A) I would’ve been knocked out and B) I would’ve also looked like the idiot now. This video is from January at the ECHL all-star game. Ten months ago this guy was the intermission entertainment at the ECHL all-star game.
Right Time Right Place
Fast forward to the last night of November and a completely irrelevant “battle of the basement” game. Jonathan Bernier doesn’t even have a doghouse anymore. Mike Babcock tore down the doghouse and just tied Bernier up to a tree in the neighbour’s backyard. James Reimer is banged up and Antoine Bibeau has had a tough season to date. Enter Garret Sparks. Sparks stole the Marlies starting job from Bibeau earlier this month when Bernier was down and Bibeau had come up to the Leafs to back up Reimer. Now it’s Reimer with a bit of a nagging injury and he needs to rest. Sparks gets called up to the Leafs and everyone is assuming he will just sit on the bench for a couple games while Bernier plays while Reimer heals. Then Bernier had another bad game on Saturday. Like I said, Bernier doesn’t have a leg to stand on right now with Babcock due to his horrible play this season, so Babcock turns to the kid. The kid with the Kidd pads.
Trevor Kidd Garret Sparks
Back to that “battle of the basement” thing I mentioned earlier. The 28th place Leafs face off against the 30th place, and Connor McDavid-less, Oilers. Quite a sad sight, you would think. The two most incompetent franchises over the last decade face off on a Monday night in November. Why in the hell would you waste your time watching that game? GARRET SPARKS. That’s why. Not only did he earn a win in his debut, he became the first goalie in Leafs history to post a shutout in his debut. I don’t know if you know this, but the Leafs have been playing for a long time. A REALLY long time. The Leafs in-arena host, also my future wife, Lauren Howe informed Sparks of the history he had made after he was named first star. This information meant a lot to him.
This is my version of those videos that every girl on your Facebook shares of some elaborate wedding proposal or something that like that because it made them cry happy tears. I get the chills and get all choked up every time I watch this. This is a guy who has worked his entire life for this opportunity and just months ago must have felt like he was light years away. He didn’t give up when his chance came, he grabbed it. He’s already James Reimer 2.0 for Leafs fans. The kid from the East Coast League with the contagious personality who is pure determination, but always seems like he’s just happy to be there when you hear them talk.
Chances are Sparks will play on Wednesday in Winnipeg, but will soon be back to his starting role with the Marlies. Reimer will heal up and return to his starting role with Bernier riding the pine, but the Leafs are hoping this is a glimpse at the future of their crease. Goaltending is the one area people had been questioning in the Leafs prospect pool and Sparks had obviously heard the rumblings. He was also named AHL goaltender of the month today, so he has had a good 24 hours. Hopefully he is able to continue to play well while his stint with the Leafs lasts. If he continues his strong start to the season with the Marlies he will be given every opportunity to be the Leafs goaltender of the future and good for him. He deserves it.
The Oilers looked horrific, by the way. They need a trade to shake things up and they need it yesterday. I hope they are seriously looking into a Travis Hamonic trade because they need it and Hamonic requested a trade to Western Canada. Would something like Jordan Eberle and Justin Schultz be appealing to Garth Snow and the Islanders? Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle are reportedly in play, but I would try really hard to hold onto RNH. He is a great centreman in all aspects of the game and he is only going to improve. Although, the Oilers do have a couple other incredible centremen in Leon Draisaitl and some kid who goes by the name of Connor McDavid. So, if RNH is what it takes to get a deal done for Hamonic, I’m thinking long and hard about it. What do you do if you’re Peter Chiarelli and the Oilers?
The Cleveland Browns
On a completely irrelevant note the NFL had their own version of the Leafs vs Oilers last night and it was amazing. For some reason the Baltimore Ravens came into Cleveland to face the Browns for this week’s Monday night football game. I guess all you have to do is play in the same division for the NFL to decide this game deserves to be aired on prime-time. The Ravens recently lost their starting quarterback, Joe Flacco, and starting running back in Justin Forsett for the rest of the season. Johnny Manziel was riding the pine for the Browns because rehab didn’t work and when Josh McCown left the game with a broken collarbone the Browns were forced to turn to their third string quarterback in Austin Davis. What I’m getting at here is this was a horrible game but I decided to tune in after the Leafs game because I have no life. I then witnessed the Browniest of Browns thing to ever happen. Don’t feel so bad, Leafs and Oilers fans, you could be a Browns fan. In the unfortunate case that you are also a Browns fan, you’re in my prayers. I’m not religious at all but I will legitimately pray for you.