March 4, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 80  

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Outside the Western Gates

By James Hayes
Gazette Staff

Gazette File Photo
“NO, I WANT TO HELP THE LEAFS BEAT OFF THE SENATORS.” Fellow tailors of the tangled twine, Olaf Kolzig and Byron Dafoe, get into a rhubarb while Dafoe sports a vintage Bruins jersey. It’s OK, Leafs fans — you can always point to 1967.

Below are the highlights from the world of professional sports this past week:

The Indianapolis Colts’ Peyton Manning became the highest paid player in NFL history this week, signing a seven-year deal with Indy for US$99.2 million that includes a staggering $34.5 million signing bonus. Former Denver Broncos running back Clinton Portis became the highest paid running back in NFL history as well, signing a multi-year deal worth $50.5 million in a trade to the Washington Redskins. The trade will see Portis go to Washington in exchange for Pro Bowl cornerback Champ Bailey and a second round pick.

The NHL trade deadline is fast approaching, and the trade rumour mill is swirling. The Leafs are interested in a defenseman and possibly a backup goalie, and with the Rangers’ Brian Leetch, the Mighty Ducks’ Keith Carney and the Washington Capitals’ Brendan Witt on the table, one wonders whether the blue and white will make a move. The free-spending New York Rangers are actually looking to dump salary this year, meaning that big-name players Matthew Barnaby and even lifer Leetch are available at the right price (Ranger Alexei Kovalev was traded to the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday night). In recent news, the Capitals’ Sergei Gonchar was traded to the Boston Bruins on Wednesday morning.

Reports say the Toronto Raptors are interested in signing forward Vin Baker. Baker, who has struggled lately in his battle with alcoholism, was released by the Boston Celtics for violating clauses in his contract. Despite his personal demons, Baker is a strong talent and would help a team sputtering with injuries to stars Vince Carter and Jalen Rose. The Raptors won Tuesday night, but are barely holding on to the seventh spot in the NBA’s lowly Eastern Conference after a current nine-game losing skid.

The Saint Joseph’s Hawks NCAA men’s basketball team is looking to be the first team in 13 years to go undefeated in a season. St. Joe’s was 26-0 going into a Tuesday night tilt with St. Bonaventure. The All-American backcourt of Jameer Nelson and Delonte West have the Hawks surging this season, and a win over St. Bonaventure will cap a perfect season and a high seed in the NCAA Tournament.

NCAA Football’s Bowl Championship Series (BCS) system has received criticism over the last few seasons, with a computerized formula for success impossible to understand and a system that frequently spurns deserving schools. In response, the NCAA has announced this week it will add a fifth BCS bowl game (in addition to the Fiesta Bowl, Orange Bowl, Citrus Bowl and Rose Bowl) to Bowl Week by 2007. This will allow more schools to have an opportunity at monstrous BCS revenue, and will also broaden the national championship picture considerably in college football. This season, the national championship was shared by the LSU Tigers and the USC Trojans, with the inability to name a definitive champion further clouding the BCS issue.

Toronto Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi has put together a young, promising, competitive team in baseball’s toughest division — the American League East. The 2004 Jays roster will have a third of the payroll of baseball giants such as the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. In an interview with The Score this week, Riccardi said he would make fans proud to be Blue Jays’ fans. Spring training is currently underway and the regular season starts soon.



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