Thinking out loud … while wondering why we don’t have birthday cake on the Fourth of July.
— OK, so it’s summertime. I’ve only been to the beach a couple of times, and we’re already talking hockey? But it was cool — and somewhat timely — to get the announcement this week that the Providence Friars would get the chance to skate again at Fenway Park (aka Frozen Fenway) next season against Boston College.
— PC first took part in the outdoor rink phenomenon that launched at Fenway in 2014, in a 1-1 tie with Hockey East rival Merrimack. Next year, there will be two weekends of outdoor doubleheaders at the Fens, with Jan. 7 featuring the Friars and Eagles along with BU facing UMass. The following Saturday (Jan. 14) will have Maine-UConn and UNH-Northeastern games.
— Great exposure for Hockey East perhaps, and maybe fun for hockey krishnas. If you like freezing. Personally, I’m a little past the novelty and nostalgia of staged pond hockey, whether it’s at Fenway or not. Just sayin’.
— A total of four future and current Friars were selected in the recently completed NHL draft. Vincent Desharnais, a 6-foot-6, 210-pound sophomore, was picked in the seventh round by Edmonton, while Friars-to-be Kasper Bjorkqvist (Finland), Brandon Duhaime (Florida) and Jake Ryczek (Ludlow, Mass.) were taken by Pittsburgh (2nd round), Minnesota (4th round) and Chicago (7th round).
— Not for nuthin’, but it’s the first time since 2000 that PC has had as many as four players selected in a single NHL draft — they had five picked back in ’00. Providence should have plenty of talent on the roster this fall, with seven NHL draft picks ready to suit up.
— Congrats to PC grad Ryan Breen, who is joining the scouting staff of the New Jersey Devils. Breen was director of hockey operations for PC, and followed that up with a scouting role for the USHL’s Bloomington Thunder, and a hockey ops/video coordinator position with the Providence Bruins before earning the NHL gig.
— In case you missed it, former Friar Bryce Cotton has been added to the Atlanta Hawks’ roster for the Las Vegas Summer League. Cotton appeared in eight games for Phoenix and Memphis last season, and spent the majority of his year with the D-League’s Austin Toros. The Hawks are looking for shooting, and Cotton is a career 45 percent shooter from 3 in the NBADL.
— Ben Bentil’s decision to stay in the NBA draft and not return to school continues to have some fallout, and not just over his selection by Boston. Was his decision shortsighted? Yes, but then again, what 20-something man-child has the veteran savvy necessary to make a well-thought-out decision like this? Right. No one, and it doesn’t matter how much information he had beforehand. So, he’ll go about things the way all of us do — by learning. We’ll support him just the same as our parents once supported us.
— As it appears, Providence will be somewhat shorthanded in the scoring department next season. But if Rodney Bullock and Jalen Lindsey can improve their combined numbers from last year (about 17 points per game) to 25 points or more this year, the Friars will still score on teams. Stopping them, however, will be a key to success.
— This week, the Big East joined the officiating alliance established by the ACC, Atlantic-10 and Colonial Athletic Association a year ago, ostensibly to keep officiating crews well-rested and better equipped to handle the grind of a season. Look, goodness knows we’d all like to see more consistency in college basketball officiating — if not better officiating overall. Anything that can put the emphasis of the game back on the players, and not the whistles, is welcome.
— The Big East’s supervisor of officials, John Cahill, will team up with the ACC’s Bryan Kersey to orchestrate this alliance. One of the primary complaints from these eyes (and that of Joe Hassett’s) is to see a senior ref work a game in the Big East or ACC one night, then jet off to the Big Ten, Big 12 or even Pac-12 the next night, often working four, five or even six games in a given week. NBA players and refs don’t work that kind of a schedule, and neither should college officials — no matter what they’re paid. It isn’t good for the game.
— And in case you needed a reminder, there were 32 officials in this past March’s Madness who had Big East experience from this season. No matter how bad you think you have it, someone else always has it worse than you do.
— There’s just something a little yeeeesh in the Big East having an alliance of any kind with the ACC, however. Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer?
— Saw a little preseason prognostication this week on potential Big East Player of the Year candidates. Start and stop with two — Josh Hart of Villanova and Trevon Bluiett of Xavier. Those are the two players who have the ability to make their teams better, and the only two, until we see someone else do it.
— This being said, don’t underestimate the abilities of Creighton’s Maurice Watson. He doesn’t shoot like Bryce Cotton once did, but he could be a Cotton-like leader on the floor for a Blue Jays team that should be in position to bounce back squarely into the upper half of the league next year.
— Even with Boston allegedly “in the mix” to lure Kevin Durant from Oklahoma City, I’m a realist. But does Danny Ainge need to make a splash in summer free agency just for the sake of making that splash? Seems to me he could have done that during the draft but couldn’t close anything of note.
— Dwight Howard? No thanks. His back and knee injuries simply don’t allow him to be the rim-protector or rebounder the Celtics can really use. He’s been on three teams in the past five years. Whatever you’d have to pay him, increased salary cap notwithstanding, would be overpaying him at this stage of his career.
— If you’re asking me, and going to spend money anyway, I would have thrown some Hassan Whiteside’s way to see if he’d be willing to trade South Beach for some frozen tundra and TD Garden. Money has a way of making people do silly things, doesn’t it? But he’s staying in Miami.
— Pat Summitt’s death this past week gave me a moment for some reflective thoughts — not just on her Hall of Fame career, but on how everyday life touches all of us. Summitt’s career as a basketball coach is unmatched right now, but a disease that many of us have had within our own families (Alzheimer’s) struck her down without regard to her stature or status in the sports world.
— It’s a sad, cruel reminder that the real world is always around. Sports is but a brief timeout in our game of life.
— Buddy Ryan’s ’85 Chicago Bears defense was the greatest single-season effort I’ve ever had the privilege to watch play in my lifetime. And I’ve seen some pretty good ones — Dallas’ Doomsday Defense, Pittsburgh’s Steel Curtain, Minnesota’s Purple People Eaters and the Los Angeles Rams’ Fearsome Foursome.
— That Bears defense in ’85 was so good, it didn’t need a nickname or a marketing gimmick to make fans take notice. Patriots fans of this era surely won’t disagree, after the 46-10 pounding suffered in Super Bowl XX. I’ll argue that when you think of all-time great NFL defenses, Ryan’s unit will always lead the conversation. For that alone, Buddy Ryan deserves Hall of Fame status.
— Besides, a lot of what Ryan did throughout his career is reflected now not just in Bill Belichick’s coaching, but in modern-day defenses throughout the NFL. Ryan demanded that every player knew what everyone else was doing, and that’s now a trait you see being developed on every team in the league — especially in New England.
— The trick is, however, remembering to “do your job.” The Patriots do that better than most.
— 2016 is liable to equate to a true last stand for the Ryan family. With their father Buddy’s passing, sons Rex and Rob in Buffalo undoubtedly will have an emotional edge to their game plans this coming season — defending their famous father’s legacy as well as trying to establish their own. With Rex already on the coaching hot seat, storylines won’t be hard to find in the Buff.
— We’re in the midst of the quietest time of the year on the NFL calendar, with training camps getting started in another four weeks. Until then, it’s a veritable news blackout. Stinks, doesn’t it?
— The down time probably also means we’re due for some TB12 news coming soon. Still think he’ll find a way to be on the field in September.
— Andrew Luck’s new deal makes him the highest-paid player in NFL history. Big deal. It also puts an enormous amount of pressure on his shoulders, and on the shoulders belonging to the Colts franchise. He now will forever be trying to live up to the legacy that a $140 million, six-year contract brings with it, and $87 million of that deal fully guaranteed. Whoa.
— For a guy who never seems to take care of the football like a QB should, that’s a remarkable amount of money. It will make watching that division — with Houston and an improved Jacksonville team also taking a step up — more fun than usual.
— Did you see where the New York Giants’ Jason Pierre-Paul is appearing in a rather-graphic public service announcement promoting fireworks safety this Fourth of July? Well, duh. Dude just about blew off his right hand last summer in a fireworks mishap that certainly cost him more than just a couple of fingers.
— Said this last week, and let’s say it again. There will be/should be little tolerance for a third straight summer of Bad Baseball in Boston. I never thought the Red Sox were as good as they appeared, nor are they as bad as they may appear to be right now, at midseason. But it’s time to hold some folks accountable.
— David Price? Not getting what was paid for, and that’s to be the ace. Clay Buchholz? Please. Craig Kimbrel? Seemingly only cares about saves and not keeping his team in games they can win later. The rest of the bullpen? As up-and-down as the NYSE. What am I missing here?
— Just raw talent, maybe. Picked up this little tidbit from our friend Jim Donaldson at the ProJo: Boston is 2-7-2 in series play against teams in the American League East this season. It doesn’t seem like the rest of the East is that much better, but they’re sure handling the Sox like they are. Right, Tampa?
— But because other teams are in the same boat, the challenge here is to improve enough — perhaps just with the offense — to keep outscoring other teams without having to rely on shutdown pitching. I’d hate to see the farm mortgaged for another arm somewhere that won’t last past 2016, too.
— Nine games in a row at Fenway leading into the All-Star break should tell us what we can expect from these Red Sox. Chasing John Farrell away isn’t a cure-all. Dave Dombrowski has some building and retooling to do.
— Before chastising anyone for a bad trade or a bad move made with the trade deadline approaching at the end of the month, we should all remember the significance of what July 1 really means on the calendar. Former New York Met Bobby Bonilla collects his $1 million check every year on this day, and he hasn’t played as much as a minute of baseball in almost 5,400 days. Bonilla will be owed his money every year through 2035.
— It’s really incredible to think about, when you also realize that the young pitchers on the current Mets roster — like Noah Syndergaard and Jacob DeGrom — make less than $610K per year. Bonilla still makes more than they do, per annum. Stupid is as stupid does.
— My buddy Statbeast sez Statbeast Junior was asked a math question in class by his teacher recently. “If you had $5 and asked your father for $3 more, how much money would you have?” Junior replied, “$5.” The teacher replied that was incorrect, and scolded Junior for not knowing his math. “Maybe I don’t know my math,” Junior replied, “but you don’t know my father.”
— The International League has elected PawSox first baseman Chris Marrero and pitcher Sean O’Sullivan to the Triple-A All-Star Game, which will be played in Charlotte, North Carolina, on July 13. Marrero leads the team in home runs and RBIs, while O’Sullivan leads the team in wins and possesses an ERA (2.79) that stands eighth best in the IL. O’Sullivan made a couple of starts in Boston in May — anyone remember? He won one of them.
— If we celebrate America’s birthday on the Fourth of July, shouldn’t we bake a cake to eat? The tradition of baking cakes for birthdays began as far back as ancient Rome, but the elaborate cakes (with layers and icing) were usually reserved for only the very rich. Birthday cakes for everyone became more common toward the industrial revolution, extending into Western culture by the 19th century. Candles on the cake, of which there would be 240 this year, are considered in most cultures to be a sign of good fortune and celebration for each year lived. Happy birthday, America!
— Sean from Providence posted on Facebook this week, concerning the criticism pointed toward Ben Bentil’s decision to stay in the NBA draft, following his second-round selection: Let’s focus on supporting Ben at this point! Sean: No one, to my knowledge, is really implying anything but support. But Ben is a big boy now, and regardless of any decision he has made for himself, part of the learning process includes dealing with all decisions — good and not so good. Only time will really tell us if his decision to leave Providence early was a good one. Most who may appear to be critical only have experience to lean on (from God Shammgod’s and Ricky Ledo’s examples), so it’s only natural for some to feel he’s made a mistake. As a Friar, you absolutely should support his efforts. But as a friend, you should also take the time to point out the pitfalls of making such a decision. I’m quite certain he’s had plenty from both sides.
— Interested in having your questions on local Rhode Island sports (and yes, that includes the Patriots, Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics) answered in a somewhat timely fashion? Send ’em to me! It’s your chance to “think out loud,” so send your questions, comments and local stories to email@example.com. We’ll share mailbag comments/Facebook posts/tweets right here! Follow me on Twitter, @JRbroadcaster, and on Facebook, www.facebook.com/john.rooke.
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