The past few days for the 2013 SEC Co-Defensive Player of the year in the form of University of Missouri defensive End Michael Sam have been very interesting.
Last week, he came out publicly and talked about being gay to ESPN’s Chris Connelly and the New York Times’ John Branch.
Many of us are happy for Sam to come out and fully show who he is a person. Last season for the Tigers he led SEC in sacks with 11.5 sacks and had 19 tackles as Mizzou went on to knock off Oklahoma St in the Cotton Bowl 41-31.
Sam may not go in the first round, and has been projected to go in possibly the third or the fifth round of this year’s draft in May but there are some that see him not even being drafted at all.
Some NFL GM’s who spoke to SI’s Peter King under anonymity said that he is “over rated and too small”. It’s interesting because he is a game-breaker that is able to make up for his lack of size at defensive end and has such an incredible ability in getting to a ball carrier that should make teams all across the NFL drool for the chance to have him on their team.
Will odds be stacked against him solely based on him being under sized? Yes there will be. But lets not kid ourselves his draft projection took a massive hit after his announcement, his sexual orientation still stands out to those in NFL front offices.
Some see Sam being gay as potentially being a distraction which truly is silly. No matter your sexual orientation, beliefs or colour if you have the ability to contribute to a team on every single down then really, what does it matter, how will it be a “distraction” for a team?
The GM that takes Sam will be praised and will be seen as a pioneer for giving Sam a chance in the league just as Sam will be one for being the first openly gay player, it’s 2014 and not 1960, this is change that should have happened a long time ago.
I honestly find it funny how the resistance comes from the front offices and not as much from the players themselves.
Players at Missouri stood behind Sam and truly did not care about the fact that he was gay when he came out to them.
Being apart of that team he became like family, and they had his back 100% of the way.
Players past and present in the form of Deion Sanders, Tom Crabtree, Kirk Morrison and Shannon Sharpe have given their support for Sam on Twitter.
Yes there will be opposition to him in the NFL, Sam’s father Michael Sam Sr is proud of his boy but did say that he was uncomfortable at the idea of a gay NFL player and that the late Deacon Jones (Hall of Fame defensive end for the LA Rams and creator of the term “Quarterback sack”) would be rolling in his grave at the idea of it.
Sam will play in the NFL, since the creation of the SEC’s Defensive Player of the year award in 2003, every player that has won it has at least been drafted.
There is no way that he goes through all 7 rounds without a team walking up to the podium and saying his name at Radio City Music Hall in May.
The question now remains, who dips their toe into that water and forever changes the history of the NFL? Who wants to become football’s version of Branch Rickey when it comes to openly gay athletes and becomes synonymous with equality in sports?
The Toronto Marlies are currently in the middle of a 10 game home stand at Ricoh Coliseum and it has been smooth sailing for the team after their first two games.
On Wednesday afternoon the Marlies knocked off the San Antonio Rampage 5-4 in a shootout. The game was a back and forth affair with neither team being able to get more than a one goal lead at any point in the game.
Jerry D’Amigo would be the main catalyst to propel the Marlies to the win as he had two goals on the day.
Korbanian Holzer, and Brad Ross would also get onto the scoresheet in this one for Toronto.
San Antonio in this one throughout regulation had an answer for everything the Marlies threw at them, getting goals of their own from Drew Shore, Matt Gilroy, John McFarland, and Ryan Martindale.
In the shootout, D’Amigo also stepped up big with the game winning goal as the Toronto shooters (Spencer Abbot would score the first Toronto goal in the shootout) beat Jacob Markstrom twice while only John McFarlane was able to score for the Rampage.
On Friday the Grand Rapids Grffins were in town and even though they had a tremendous shot advantage over the Marlies of 42-27 they would go down 4-1 with the lone goal for the Griffins coming from Landon Ferraro.
Toronto’s TJ Brennan became the first defenceman in the AHL since 2008-09 to score 20 goals in a season, showing why he was named to the AHL All Star team for the All Star Classic in St.John’s.
Josh Leivo, Brandon Kozun and Jerry D’Amigo would round out the Toronto scoring as they helped out their netminder Drew MacInytre who made 41 saves for his 21st win of the season.
The Marlies are back at it again on Sunday afternoon to take on the Hamilton Bulldogs at 3PM Eastern time.
As we’ve all learned by now Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steve Stamkos’s broken right leg has not recovered enough for him to receive medical clearance to return to the Tampa Bay line up or to play in Sochi at the Winter Olympics for Team Canada.
It must be truly crushing for #91, this very well may have been his only shot at playing in the Olympics since the NHL appears to not be in favour of sending players to the Olympics beyond 2014.
The sentiment from the league is that they would rather revive the World Cup of Hockey in the summer instead of taking a weeks long break in the middle of the season.
The question now goes to, who replaces Stamkos? I believe that the only option for Hockey Canada is Tampa Bay Lightning captain Martin St.Louis.
With the way that St.Louis has been playing this year he should have been a lock for this roster, in 2013-14 he has 25 goals, 29 assists for 54 points and he also leads Tampa Bay in scoring. He is also coming off a season where he was the oldest scoring champ in NHL history at 37 years old.
There certainly are other players that may get the call, Claude Giroux is one, after starting this season slow he’s currently leading the Philadelphia Flyers in scoring with 55 points (17 of them came after he was left off of Team Canada). Giroux is a versatile player and could be used either at Centre or on the wing on Team Canada.
Taylor Hall of the Edmonton Oilers is another player who’s name has come up at replacing Stamkos on the Team Canada roster.
Hall this year has set career highs in goals, assists and points for the Orange and Blue, with the speed that he has playing on international ice could take him to another level that we have never seen him play at before.
I still believe that the choice has to be St.Louis because over players like Hall or Giroux since he does have Olympic experience over both men. St.Louis was apart of that incredible 2010 team that knocked off the Americans in the gold medal game in Vancouver.
St Louis also has the hardware which include….
-A Stanley Cup with Tampa Bay in 2004.
-Hart Memorial Trophy winner in 2003-04
-Lester B Pearson Trophy winner in 2003-04.
-2 time winner of the Lady Byng Trophy in 2009-10 and again in 2010-11.
The respect for St.Louis around the NHL is incredibly high, David Perron of the Edmonton Oilers even tweeted out that he hopes that he is named to replace Stamkos.
People on twitter did ask why he did not say his teammate Taylor Hall but Perron did say he would “absolutely” love to see him named he believes that “Hallsy will be at many Olympics”.
If the NHL does continue to send it’s players to the Olympics beyond 2014 then what Perron said will be very true, Hall’s time to represent Canada on the highest stage possible will come soon enough.
I could not imagine the situation in the Lightning locker room if Hockey Canada and Steve Yzerman passed on St.Louis again, he deserves to be on this team once again so he can continue to show that age is nothing but a number.
Another trip to the Olympics would just add to legacy of one of the hardest working players in hockey.