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A luger's tale; the sad story of The Fridge and the EPL finds Vancouver?

Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals and team mate Nicklas Backstrom retaliate after a trip on Ovechkin by Matt Cooke of the Pittsburgh Penguins during their NHL hockey game in Washington Feb. 6, 2011.


Another year, another omission from the Globe and Mail's sports power 50 list; it gets a little easier to take each time, but not much. Oh well, we've perservered and rounded up seven items of interest from around the sports universe to go with your coffee. If I just keep pecking away maybe one day …

1. Coming to terms with our joy and shame:

Is the death of Nodar Kumaritashvili a scandal, in the sense that there was some obvious negligence that has been purposefully covered or obscured by vested interests?

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I guess the answer is: we're not sure yet. My instinct is it's not. You would think the BC coroner would be above pressure to whitewash the circumstances that led to the accident that killed the Georgian luger, and they termed it an accident, just as the FIL did in their investigations. But things don't feel right, as we approach the anniversary of that fateful morning.

As Bruce Arthur writes: The problem is the answer we are given. VANOC talks about FIL, about changes to the track, about good intentions. Instead of admitting that the track could possibly be to blame, we get public relations.

Similarly Stephen Brunt is feeling uneasy about the whole thing. Did the time and place obscure our judgement?: For all of the solemn words, and the acknowledgment during the opening ceremonies, Kumaritashvili's death would become the asterisk attached, the speed bump before things kicked into high gear, the unexpected obstacle overcome, the challenge for organizers to surmount. The stories were written, the right questions were asked, the explanations challenged, the hands wrung. But then, the Olympics continued, a far more pleasing story unfolded, and by the time Sidney Crosby scored his golden goal, the cherry on top of Canada's sundae, Kumaritashvili was all but forgotten. That is not simply a function of the massive corporate and media interests (including this newspaper, which was part of the Olympic media consortium), which had a vested interest in the Games' success, but also of human nature. Swept away by happy thoughts and good feelings and a sense of national community, there would be no dwelling on an unpleasant moment past, on the tragedy of an obscure athlete in an obscure sport from a faraway nation.

Nodar Kumaritashvili deserved better than that, from a whole lot of people. And he sure didn't deserve to die.

2. They just don't make sports writing like this anymore -- an ode the Packers:

I got to know Dave Anderson from the New York Times a little bit when I covered golf a lot. He told an incredible story about covering a New York Rangers-Montreal Canadiens game and how he didn't have time to finish his story before the Rangers charter train was leaving, and how he typed out his copy and handed it out the winder to a wireless operator from a moving train in a blizzard at the station in Plattsburg or something. I have never complained about a slow Internet connection since; or at least I try stop myself when I do. Anyway, Anderson, 82, watched the Packers Super Bowl win with a little more perspective than just about anyone on the planet: I knew Lombardi when he was the Giants' offensive coach in the 1950s, but I never really heard his voice that could melt snow until the Packers' 1962 championship game against the Giants at Yankee Stadium. With my newspaper, The New York Journal-American, on strike, Jim Kensil of the N.F.L. office asked me to be his sideline spotter on the Packers' bench. Confirm which player had recovered a fumble, be aware of injuries. Early in the game, Jim Taylor, the Packers' fullback, wobbled to the bench. In a pileup, somehow his upper teeth had been driven into his tongue and now, sitting next to where I was standing, he was spitting blood as if he had opened an artery. Soon, with the Giants about to punt, Lombardi's booming voice penetrated the brutal cold with a wind that was blowing Giant quarterback Y. A. Tittle's passes this way and that. "Taylor!" Lombardi roared. "Taylor!" With another spit of blood, Taylor stood up, put on his green and gold helmet, turned and trotted onto the field with the offense. He went on to gain 85 yards on a record 31 carries for a championship game. The Packers won, 16-7.

3. The information/misinformation around Sidney Crosby in full-swing.

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Until Crosby is cleared to play and takes the ice, there will be a lot of speculation about when he'll be able cleared to play and take the ice. Here is an interesting sample of the back-and-forth - Crosby has begun working out; Crosby's still got symptoms etc. - coming out of Pittsburgh right now.

4. Whitecaps draft pick so good he might not play for the Whitecaps very long:

The Vancouver Whitecaps raised some eyebrows when they made Omar Salgado the No.1 pick in the MLS Super Draft last month - the kid is 17 and by FIFA rules can't play for them until he turns 18 in September. But soccer is a bit different in that you can sell players for big money, and Salgado has already got some attention from the likes of Arsenal, apparently. Could the the Whitecaps -- who have plenty of EPL ties among their management and technical staff -- be trying to pump up his transfer value a little bit?: Whitecaps' head coach Teitur Thordarson continued to heap praise on first-overall draft pick Omar Salgado on Tuesday as the 17-year-old scored the winning goal against the Columbus Crew. "The goal he scored today was fantastic and there's surely more to come," Thordarson said after a 2-1 win at the Reach 11 Sports Complex.

"People have been doubting why we picked him, but I think they will start to understand why soon." ... The choice of Salgado first overall has been questioned in many corners since the draft - he's been called raw, a long-term project, more of a risky pick than more polished college players - but all the evidence through two weeks of training camp is that the Whitecaps have a marvellous talent on their hands. An English report last week stating Arsenal was keeping tabs on the 6-foot-4 forward doesn't seem far-fetched, especially considering the Whitecaps strong ties to the Premier League club. Thordarson played under Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger at Cannes, and Caps' goalkeepers coach Mike Salmon came over from Arsenal. Salgado was a youth player with Chivas de Guadalajara but left the Mexican giant to play for the U.S. U-20s and sign a Generation Adidas contract with MLS.

5. Being a Matt Cooke fan: The shame:

Another night, another instance of Penguins forward Matt Cooke coming close to maiming somebody. Ho hum. But an interesting blog post here (via Puck Daddy and Twitter) by someone who owns a Cooke jersey and who remembers when he was a gritty, competitive player for the Vancouver Canucks who was easy to cheer for. Now what do you do?: Oh my, Matt, how things have changed. Cooke took a run at Fedor Tyutin last night. Straight as an arrow, Cooke flew from the blue line in and hit his target clean on the numbers in a vulnerable position. He couldn't have drawn it up any better in his mind. In his previous game, against Washington, Cooke took a run at one of Alex Ovechkin's knees. He took two 12 PIM games before that. Earlier this week, we received news that Marc Savard's season was shut down for the rest of the year due to concussion issues. He's been suffering on and off ever since Matt Cooke blindsided him and was left unpunished, despite having been suspended three times in his NHL career. There was a time, years and years ago, when Matt Cooke's play brought people to the stands. Can the same be said today? Matt Cooke has become an inexcusable hockey player. If this is the identity Dan Bylsma wants for his Penguin team without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, something is seriously wrong.

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6. William 'Refrigerator' Perry: Fall of a pop culture icon

He went from anonymous to famous in the space of about six months and he remains a name that most football fans over the age of 30 can recognize instantly. That kind of fame can occasionally make you, but often times it doesn't so much break you as give the world a reason to visit you when you're broken: The quiet, ugly duckling from Aiken was a sudden icon, and that was a little bit of an adjustment. Fortunately for Perry, Bears players convened every Thursday for a night of food and drink -- and more drink -- and the camaraderie felt a lot like Clemson. He got to be one of the guys again, which is all he ever wanted, and he blew off steam by drinking his usual two or three cases.

"I couldn't say no,'' he says.

7. The Milos Raonic train keeps rolling!

The thrill from Thornill knocked off the No.4 seed Xavier Malisse in the opening round of the San Jose Open, and gives credit to Pete Sampras:

I got to meet Pete Sampras yesterday. It was really amazing. It's two different things, growing up watching so much of one guy, then meeting the person behind the game. He was really nice. He gave me some well-thought out tips. For me, it was an unbelievable experience, especially when you're coming up and getting to the point where you meet your idols. It means a lot.

Speaking of players you grow up watching, my next match is against James Blake. It's nice playing these guys you used to watch. I think I'll have an advantage - I'll know him more than he'll know me! So I'll use that as much as I can. I know he'll go for his shots. I'll just take care of my serve and hopefully I'll get a few chances on the return. I look forward to it.

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