Ex-Leaf Rosehill Relishing His Fresh Start in Scotland
It’s a midweek afternoon and former Maple Leafs tough guy Jay Rosehill is at home in Renfrew, Scotland, looking after his two young boys — three-year-old Ryatt and baby Rigden, who is four months.
As Rosehill chats on the phone about his new life in bonnie Scotland, Ryatt cranks up the rambunctious level.
“My three year old is about to have a meltdown,” said Rosehill, laughing.
He’s gone for a second but can be heard in the background saying: “OK, I’ll put on PAW Patrol.”
Apparently, Ryatt loves PAW Patrol. (What little guy doesn’t?) Rosehill may have been one of the NHL’s most feared enforcers, but at home, he is dad — the guy who turns on PAW Patrol.
It’s been three months since Rosehill’s family — his two boys and wife Dale — joined him in Scotland and everything so far is going, with respect to Rosehill’s specialty, smashingly. The Rosehill clan is enjoying its adventure overseas and the big winger is digging his time playing for the conference-leading Braehead Clan of the Elite Ice Hockey League, the top professional hockey league in Great Britain.
At 31, Rosehill certainly isn’t over the hill, but there were times playing in North America the past few seasons when the native of Olds, Alta., felt that his career was going nowhere. He was pigeon-holed as a fight-only player with fisticuffs on a downward trend. After talking to a couple of buddies who played overseas, Rosehill made some inquiries about playing in the EIHL and was soon talking to Clan head coach Ryan Finnerty, a fellow Albertan.
“The biggest thing with me being here is Ryan Finnerty,” said Rosehill. “He kind of told me everything I wanted to hear. Said he’d give me the opportunity to be one of the ‘go-to’ guys, which sounded appealing at the point I was at in my career.”
Finnerty said he didn’t expect Rosehill to fight all the time and he was going to give the him the chance to play a regular shift and actually play hockey. For Rosehill, it was a breath of fresh air.
“It just seemed like something that fit after a few sh–ty coaches I’ve had, guys who didn’t put any stock in me. And I was kind of tired of it,” said Rosehill. “(Finnerty) said he could see from looking at my rap sheet that when I am able to play, I have put up some points. And he said: ‘You can skate and I think this big ice is going to be the biggest help for you.’ Because that’s always been my thing, I can skate as good as anybody.”
And for the first time since his second year as a pro, Rosehill is playing some defence (he was drafted in the seventh round in 2003 by the Tampa Bay Lightning off the tier-2 junior Olds Grizzlys as a defenceman). In 20 games with Braehead, Rosehill has scored one goal — a game-winner — and collected nine assists to go along with 61 penalty minutes (third most in the EIHL), so he’s not exactly turned the other cheek to the rough stuff. Rosehill has had a couple of tussles since joining the EIHL, but he is playing a regular shift and gets the chance to make some plays and contribute regularly on defence. He also wears the ‘A’ as one of the team’s alternate captains.
During his time with the Leafs and Philadelphia Flyers, and with a slew of clubs in the AHL and ECHL, Rosehill dropped the gloves (according to HockeyFights.com) 146 times. He also delivered some bone-jarring hits. But the personable skater also collected (often with limited ice time) 34 goals (two with the Leafs) and 43 assists. The son of a cattle auctioneer, Rosehill always figured he had more to give. In the EIHL, he’s getting that chance.
“This big ice for me is unreal,” he said. “You can play that puck possession game, which in my opinion is so much more fun because you don’t have to take a few strides in a straight line and then dump it and chase it. You can make plays.”
Rosehill said he’s been surprised at the calibre of play in the EIHL and said the atmosphere at most arenas in the 10-team league is outstanding.
“Guys have said: ‘You played in the NHL in front of 18,000, what’s it like coming here and playing in front of 4,000?’ And it’s not a big letdown,” said Rosehill. “It’s exciting. (For home games) everyone is in purple, they’re on their feet. And it’s more a North American-style hockey. There are scrums after whistles, you can lay big hits and not get penalties.
“It’s fun to play. We’ve got great fans over here. We’re in a full building every night and they’ve got their drums going and their chants, different chants for every player”.
The 6-foot-3, 215-pound bruiser laughed thinking back to a recent game in Fife, when he was tossed after some rough stuff in front of the net and was spat on by a Fife Flyers fan as he walked to the dressing room.
“It’s hilarious,” he said. “There are some buildings where there’s no glass behind (the bench) and you can just get laid on (with vocal abuse). And if you get pissed off, you give it back to them. Honestly, it’s fun.”
Rosehill has already become a bit of a legend with the Braehead fan base for his all-out play and toughness. In only his second game with the Clan, he took a puck to the mouth and lost three teeth and suffered a broken palate and cuts that required 30 stitches to close.
There are gory pictures of his messed-up mush all over the internet. Fans in Braehead love that Rosehill popped right up, skated to the bench and was back for the next game.
“I guess they’re used to footballers laying down and milking every injury, so they took affection for me because of that,” he said.
Even the local media has taken notice of his arrival in Braehead. Talking about the injury, Rosehill told the Glasgow Evening Times: “I’ve been pretty lucky. I’ve been pretty good with my face, just a few cuts and bruises. I’ve torn my knee, separated my shoulder, broken my leg. I’ve only ever really broken my thumbs when fighting, I hope that continues.”
To which the reporter wrote: ‘Get your lucky white heather here, then.’
A line you don’t see in The Hockey News every day.
Part of the reason why Rosehill and his family have adjusted well to Scotland is that unlike other destinations in European hockey, there’s no major culture or language barrier … ‘major’ being the operative word.
“Sometimes the Scottish accent can be so thick, it’s hard to understand, especially if they’re talking to each other, and especially if they’ve had a few beers,” said Rosehill, with a laugh. “I was at the gym the other day and these old boys were talking to each other, I think, about a football game. I couldn’t understand a word, the (brogue) was so thick.”
Rosehill said he felt at home right away in the dressing room, which is understandable given that 12 of the Clan are Canadians, with some English, Scottish and Welsh players, as well. And one Swede and one American.
“The bulls–t is the same in any locker room,” he said. “Guys are hacking on each other and making fun of each other. They’re just hockey players. You hang out with the British guys, it’s like hanging out with any Canadian pretty much.”
Rosehill acknowledged that he’s “on the back nine” of his career, but believes he has a few years left, probably on the big ice in Europe. It’s ironic: A former NHL enforcer longing for larger ice.
And even though he wished he had played longer in the NHL (117 games, 72 with the Leafs between 2009-12), Rosehill is grateful for the time he did spend in the best league in the world. He also wishes he had a different role, perhaps as a hard-working third-liner instead of a fourth-line policeman. As for his time with the Leafs, he has many fond memories.
“I just wish we would have won more when I was there,” he said. “You go through little periods when you’re winning there, you can see the city start buzzing. It’s like nothing else. It was awesome. A wicked, wicked hockey city.”
Rosehill said he checks the NHL summaries regularly to see how the Leafs are doing and stays in touch with former teammates Luke Schenn, Keith Aulie, Tyler Bozak and a few others. It isn’t easy playing overseas with a young family, but Rosehill said as long as they’re happy, he’ll keep playing.
“There hasn’t been a second where I’ve regretted coming over here,” he said.
“Not that I wasn’t enjoying playing back (in North America) the last couple of years, but I wanted to get into the game a little bit more and feel like I’m more a part of it.”
Up and Coming Sports Stars to Look Out for in 2020
Every year, a raft of exciting new players come onto the scene across all of the major US sports. With the MLS season getting underway and the NFL and MLB drafts not too far away, now is a great time to look at the young sports stars that could have a very bright future ahead of them, and the ones that are already proving they are destined for greatness.
Theo Bair (MLS)
This MLS season is looking like it could be one of the best yet, with David Beckham’s Inter Miami team adding some extra dazzle to the league. Whilst Beckham might be able to attract a lot of new players to his MLS team, there are a lot of young stars on their way through such as Theo Bair at Vancouver Whitecaps. Bair has already made an impact on the first team and after impressing at under-20 and under-23 level for the national team, he has made two appearances for the senior team, well before his 21st birthday. This year could see Bair make a real name for himself in the MLS.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (MLB)
Montreal-born Vladimir Guerrero Jr has one MLB season under his belt but it looks like the best is still yet to come from him at the Blue Jays. He was heavily backed to take the league by storm but he failed to live up to the hype that surrounded him. Without the pressure of being the top-ranked prospect, this season could see Guerrero play with some weight lifted off his shoulders. He has been working very hard on his fitness over the offseason, something that his manager Montoyo has been quick to comment upon.
“Baseball” (CC BY 2.0) by andrewmalone
Connor McDavid (NHL)
McDavid has already established him as a top hockey player but at 23, he has the potential to go on to do so much more. The player was born in Ontario and was the first overall draft pick, showing how much expectation was already on him at that stage but he has gone on to prove that he is one of the best players in the NHL. McDavid could go on to be one the NHL’s best-ever hockey players and this season could be the year that he shows the world, not just the NHL.
Chuba Hubbard (College Football)
The Oklahoma State Cowboys running back has been making the headlines for several years now. He continues to improve and grab more attention for his impressive stats and performances. He was close to being a sprinter and nearly made the Canadian Olympic team before switching over to football. He is passing up the 2020 NFL draft to play his senior season at Cowboys. He should give them a good chance of winning the College Football Championship, though they’re trailing at the seventh spot in the latest American football odds at +2400.00, with Clemson as the current betting favorites.
2020 will definitely be a very exciting time with some of these young stars looking to breakthrough in their respective sports and show the world what they are capable of.
Bob Baffert is back at the Kentucky Derby – and looking to break the Curse of Apollo
Bob Baffert is back at the Kentucky Derby with early favourite Justify after watching the race from his sofa in Southern California last year.
The Hall of Fame trainer’s ability to produce Derby contenders year after year is an enviable feat and why his absence a year ago stood out. It was just his second since 2009 and occurred because his lone candidate got hurt.
Baffert will saddle Justify and 30-to-1 shot Solomini in Saturday’s Derby.
Justify is one of the greenest colts Baffert has brought to Churchill Downs. He’s won all three of his starts by a combined 19 lengths. If Justify wins, he’d be the first to do so since Apollo in 1882 without racing as a two-year-old.
“The thing about the Kentucky Derby, you have to have the right horse. It just happens. You can’t force it,” Baffert said. “All of a sudden, you have good horses and you’re there. So I’ve been really fortunate to have some really good horses.”
Baffert’s four victories are tied for second-most in Derby history. He’s finished second three times, too, including in 2012 with Bodemeister, also the last time he had two starters in the same year.
Like Justify, Bodemeister didn’t race as a two-year-old. He set a blistering pace and led the Derby until the final 150 yards when I’ll Have Another overtook him to win by 1 1/2 lengths.
Magnum Moon, the 6-to-1 third choice, also is unbeaten and didn’t run as a two-year-old.
“It’s going to happen,” Baffert said, referring to the curse being broken. “Whether it happens this year or whatever, but it will happen because Bodemeister almost got away with it. But I don’t really worry about that.”
Baffert almost had a third starter this year until McKinzie developed a hind-end issue that knocked him off the Derby trail.
“When McKinzie got hurt, I wanted to throw up,” he said. “I really think McKinzie would probably be second choice here. We’d really have a 1-2 here.”
Justify cleared the biggest pre-Derby hurdle by drawing the No. 7 post. Jockey Mike Smith can use the colt’s early speed to position him well for the long run to the chaotic first turn. Solomini ended up in the No. 17 post; no horse has ever won from there.
Baffert turned 65 in January, making him eligible for Medicare and retirement at most other jobs. However, he entertains no such thoughts.
“I work hard at it. I just don’t give up,” the white-haired trainer said. “I’m constantly meeting people. They’re sending me horses. If you don’t have success, you’re not going to get those opportunities.”
After a successful run in the quarter horse ranks, Baffert switched to thoroughbreds. He started with one horse.
“After 25 years, I’m finally getting horses that I don’t have to buy,” he said. “The big guys are sending me horses.”
None was bigger than American Pharoah in 2015. The colt swept the Derby, Preakness and Belmont to become racing’s first Triple Crown winner in 37 years.
Baffert has compared Justify to American Pharoah, citing the colt’s imposing physical presence and big stride. Still, Justify has yet to encounter the kind of traffic the Derby’s 20-horse stampede creates and the talent as he’ll run against on Saturday.
“I’d rather have a really talented horse than one who’s seasoned and just on par with the rest of them,” Baffert said.
Early on, Baffert knew Justify had the goods.
“The first time I worked him at Santa Anita, I knew he was a really good horse,” he said. “The track was really deep that morning, and he went around there effortlessly. His first race, he ran incredibly and showed how special he was.”
That kind of intuition is what separates Baffert from his rivals, fellow Hall of Famer trainer D. Wayne Lukas said.
“Bob’s got a great feel for it,” he said.
Matthews ready to return to Maple Leafs lineup after missing a month
NASHVILLE — The hurtin’ tune that Auston Matthews has been singing for the past four weeks finally can be put in the remainder bin in Music City.
The Maple Leafs’ top centre on Wednesday declared himself set to return to the lineup after recovering from a right shoulder injury.
Wonderful timing, of course, considering the Leafs will take on the No. 1 club in the National Hockey League, the Nashville Predators, on Thursday night.
“In my mind, I think I’m ready to go and taking it as I’m getting ready to play (Thursday),” Matthews said after resuming his normal role, between William Nylander and Zach Hyman, during practice at Bridgestone Arena.
“It felt good, nice to get in all the reps and everything. (Wednesday) was a good step forward in that process, going through the line rushes.”
It seemed probable that the Leafs also will have defenceman Nikita Zaitsev, who missed the past five games as he recovered from an illness, against Nashville. Zaitsev was paired with Jake Gardiner, his regular partner, at practice.
For Matthews, it has been 10 games as a spectator with his latest injury, his third of the 2017-18 regular season after he missed four games in November with a back issue and then sat for six in December because of a concussion.
Thursday will mark four weeks since Matthews was hurt when he was sandwiched by the New York Islanders’ Cal Clutterbuck and Adam Pelech in a game at the Air Canada Centre.
A major bonus for Matthews in his recovery has been the fact he has been able to skate though much of his recuperation. That was not the case when he was out with his previous two injuries.
It’s worth noting that Matthews scored two goals versus the Montreal Canadiens upon returning on Nov. 18 from his back injury; in his first two games upon coming back from a concussion, he scored a goal in each.
Mike Babcock said a final decision on the participation of Matthews and Zaitsev against the Predators would be made on Thursday morning, but the Leafs coach was talking as though it would be a rubber stamp.
“This is going to be the best opportunity for (Matthews) because he has been able to skate and compete,” Babcock said. “The other times he was not able to do anything.
“To get him back … it’s still going to be going way faster than he has been practising, so there is going to be an adjustment period, but he’s a good player and he will figure it out.”
Defenceman Morgan Rielly didn’t think Matthews will take long to find his footing. Rielly missed six games in late January/early February with an arm injury, so knows what Matthews could be feeling.
“You’re nervous and you just want to get back into it,” Rielly said. “You play your first shift a bit hesitant, but after that it’s important you get back to yourself.
“It’s never easy, but Auston is one of those guys that I will imagine it won’t take long for him to get back into a rhythm.”
And there’s the trickle-down effect through the forward lines with Matthews in uniform.
“Guys are used to playing with certain players and when everyone is healthy, I think you get better chemistry throughout the entire lineup,” centre Nazem Kadri said. “Certain guys don’t have to play with different guys constantly and it’s just more of a set group, so I think it’s going to help us.”