Gary Shelton - SaintPetersBlog

Gary Shelton

Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit garysheltonsports@gmail.com.

Things had been going so well. Perhaps a game like this was due.

On the other hand, yuck.

The Tampa Bay Lightning offered little competition in a 3-2 loss to Calgary Thursday night, letting a game that coach Jon Cooper called “ripe for the taking” slide through their fingers. It ended seven straight games with a least a point end.

“You know what, I’m pinning that game on us,” Cooper said. “If I thought there was a game we weren’t going to have the energy for, I thought it would be the Edmonton game. I did not think tonight was going to be the game. So that was a little unfortunate. It happens.

“In games we’ve been finding our way to get to the net. We’ve been shooting pucks. To have 22 shot attempts after two periods in games that we’re getting 70-plus, it’s hard to win. We couldn’t get our way through the neutral zone because we weren’t executing. A lot of things why we’ve had success here in the last month or so, we didn’t do tonight. 82 game season, that’s going to happen, but the problem is we’ve already used up our gimmes. We don’t have anymore. That’s what makes this one tough because this game was right for the taking, even if we weren’t at our best tonight, it was still right for the taking and we couldn’t do it.”

The Lightning took a 1-0 lead on a goal by Vlad Namestnikov,but Calgary scored three straight to win. Nikita Kucherov scored his 23rd with 1:13 to play to make it closer.

“We just didn’t shoot pucks,” Cooper said. “That was it. We had 22 shot attempts after two periods. You should have that after ten minutes, 15 minutes in a game. There wasn’t that urgency to score. It was an easy night for their goaltender tonight.”

The Bolts are home on Monday night against Ottawa.

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Tampa Bay Bucs release highly paid cornerback Alteraunn Verner

Alteraunn Verner was still getting paid like star.

His performance, however, was that of a backup.

The two could not be reconsiled, and so Verner was released by the Tampa Bay Bucs on Thursday.

Verner, 28, signed a four-year, $25.5 million contract in 2014, but his play didn’t measure up. The last two seasons, Verner started only nine games, including three in 2016. However, he was due to make $6.5 million in the coming year, even thought he had been essentially replaced by free agent Brent Grimes and No. 1 draft pick Vernon Hargreaves. Verner was scheduled to be the fifth-highest paid Buc on the team’s salary cap list.

Verner’s most memorable moment of the last year came in the Seattle game, two days after his father died. Verner had a key interception in the Bucs’ victory.

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Should Jameis Winston be hammered for clumsy statement?

Now that he has fumbled, are we to hammer Jamies Winston?

Now that he has said the wrong thing, does it matter if he was doing the right one?

Winston, the quarterback with the troubled past for the Tampa Bay Bucs, had good intentions. Really he did. On an off-day, he chose to speak to the children at Melrose Elementary School. He said later that he noticed one small boy who wasn’t paying attention, and he tried to get him involved.

At that point, Winston said something inappropriate. And, from the reports, there are those who will not forgive him.

“All my young boys, stand up. The ladies, sit down,” Winston said, as quoted by the Tampa Bay Times and others. “But all my boys, stand up. We strong, right? We strong! We strong, right? All my boys, tell me one time: I can do anything I put my mind to. Now a lot of boys aren’t supposed to be soft-spoken. You know what I’m saying? One day y’all are going to have a very deep voice like this (in deep voice). One day, you’ll have a very, very deep voice.

“But the ladies, they’re supposed to be silent, polite, gentle. My men, my men (are) supposed to be strong. I want y’all to tell me what the third rule of life is: I can do anything I put my mind to. Scream it!”

It should go without saying that no one should tell girls to be silent, or to suggest that they are not strong. For that clumsy wording, Winston was wrong.

On the other hand, he was at Melrose to deliver a positive message. Should he be roasted for it?

Yes, Winston had his problems while at FSU, being accused of domestic violence, singing a rap song that was crude. But this was merely saying something the wrong way, wasn’t it? No one should defend what Winston said. Still, you get the feeling that Winston was trying to fire up the boys rather than put down the girls. Don’t you?

ESPN — which defended Winston in a video — did bring up his sexual assault reports in its report.

“I was making an effort to interact with a young male in the audience who didn’t seem to be paying attention, and I didn’t want to single him out so I asked all the boys to stand up,” Winston said. “During my talk, I used a poor word choice that may have overshadowed that positive message for some.”

On the other hand, Winston just turned 23. He will get smoother in his messages. He will be all-inclusive.

And, yes, he’ll learn that girls are strong, too.

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St. Pete Yacht Club ready to resume historic Havana Regatta

An historic race resumes Tuesday after a 58-year hiatus.

Once again, boats are daydreaming about Havana. For most of the existence of the 107-year-old St. Petersburg Yacht Club, the Regatta was an annual event. It was suspended after the 1959 competition, however, due to the political strife in Cuba.

The race has drawn a tremendous response. All 80 available entries were filled within the first week of its announcement on August 1, 2016. Over 550 sailors will descend upon St. Petersburg this weekend to enjoy preliminary events that include a race history dinner on Sunday, safety seminars and a bon voyage party on Monday evening for the race contestants.

The race launches in Tampa Bay near downtown St. Petersburg off the downtown St. Pete waterfront at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 28. The waterfront will be quite a sight, as the dozens of sailboats make preparations in the early morning, then gather in the basin for the official start. They will head toward the Skyway Bridge and out into the open seas.

Boats will sail one to two days and arrive in Havana on Thursday.

Once there, the sailors will enjoy the country’s hospitality at the Hemingway Marina through Sunday, March 5. The activities include a separate, 16 mile regatta with the locals that runs from Hemingway Marina to the Morro Castle.

“All of us at this Yacht Club are looking forward to seeing the historic race re-launch next week, and solidifying the exchange of fellowship between the St. Petersburg Yacht Club, Pinellas County and the City of St. Petersburg, along with the Cuban government and the yachting world,” said the St. Petersburg Yacht Club’s former Commodore, Richard Winning, whose father was Commodore when the race last sailed in 1959.

The St. Petersburg-Habana race was first conceived in the late 1920s by George S. “Gidge” Gandy as a promotional event sorely needed with St. Petersburg mired in a housing bust brought on by the Great Depression. Eleven boats competed in the inaugural regatta, which started on March 30, 1930 at the St. Petersburg Municipal Pier. The winner finished in 41 hours, 42 minutes.

The race, which became one of St. Petersburg’s signature events, was suspended in 1942 due to WWII, and resumed in 1946. Military and political unrest in Cuba threatened the event in the latter 1950s, and it was last run in 1959, as gun-wielding revolutionaries patrolled the streets of Havana. Recent breakthroughs in U.S.-Cuba relations prompted club officials to re-institute one of its most historically significant events.

The Mission of St. Petersburg Yacht Club is to encourage and support yachting, and provide a comfortable social environment for our members and guests, while preserving and enhancing the Club’s traditions and prestige.  The St. Petersburg Yacht Club is located at 11 Central Avenue in downtown St. Petersburg.

 

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Dolphins re-sign six of their greats, includng quarterback Dan Marino

Good news for Miami fans.

The Miami Dolphins have signed Dan Marino all over again.

And if that isn’t enough, the Dolphins signed Bob Griese. And Larry Little. And Nat Moore and Kim Bokamper and Sam Madison.

The Dolphins re-signed six of their former icons, in fact, who promptly retired as Dolphins. They did it, they said, to emphasize the bond between the organization and the team’s alumni. The six combined for 25 Pro Bowls, three Hall of Fame selections and two MVPs.

The team did not explain why it didn’t re-sign and retire Larry Csonka, Mercury MorrisMark Duper, Mark Clayton, Nick Buoniconti, JackeScott or A.J. Duhe, among others.

“I’m enthusiastic about being a part of this team and trying to help create something special,” Marino said. “I love being a Miami Dolphins even if it’s for one more day. I’m proud to be a part of the franchise.”

Marino joked that he had been a free agent for 16 years and no team had called.

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Triplets reunited as Tampa Bay Lightning continues playing well

Once again, they were magic.

Once again, they were so electric you could almost see sparks on the ice. Nikita Kucherov. Ondrej Palat. Tyler Johnson.

The Triplets.

Stop them if you can.

You remember the Lightning’s Triplets, don’t you? In 2014-15, they were the most amazing line in the National Hockey League. They led the NHL in scoring that year, and given their tender ages, it seemed they would be a success for years to come.

Ah, but injuries happened, and the line was split up, and they appeared as a trio only every now and then.

Have you looked lately? The Tampa Bay Lightning line is clicking again, a one-two-three punch that can still take over games. They were solid in Colorado, getting off 13 shots. Then, in a keeper of a win against Edmonton, they were good again in a 4-1 victory.

Palat scored two goals. Kucherov scored one and had three assists. Johnson had two assists. And the Lightning pointed for the seventh straight game. At what may be their last chance, the Bolts are finally playing well again.

“It’s not that you put them together and all of the sudden the magic starts,” said coach Jon Cooper. “It’s playing the right way before that happens. Everyone had been defending really well. All of the sudden, you have the puck more, you have the puck in the right places more.”

Tuesday night’s game was an answer as to why the team had been spinning its wheels. The Bolts need more Triplets.

“It’s fun,” said defenseman Anton Stralman. “I’ve got the best seat in the house to watch it. They have that something extra and tonight they really brought it.”

Said Johnson: “It’s been great. We haven’t had much opportunity to play together the last couple of years. Maybe a period or two here or there. There haven’t been too many times (we played together) the entire game. Last game, we played well. We had a lot of chances to score, but it just didn’t go in for us. Now they’ve started to go in and we even had more opportunities.”

So will the Triplets stay together?

“It’s getting results, so I hope so,” Johnson said. “I like playing with those guys. They’re fun to play with. They make the game a lot better.”

Palat scored the first two goals for Tampa Bay. But Edmonton came back on goal by Iiro Pakarinen, then had another goal disallowed on an off-sides. It was a rare challenge won by Tampa Bay.

Kucherov added a third goal, and Vlad Namestikov was awarded a goal when he was hooked on an empty netter with one second to play.

Tampa Bay is home Thursday night against Calgary.

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FSU has tough schedule to contend with in 2017 football season

If FSU is indeed going back to the college football playoffs this season, it will have to walk across broken glass to get there.

According to Bleacherreport.com, the Seminoles will play the fifth-toughest schedule in America in 2017, including an opening game against Alabama in Atlanta.

Jimbo Fisher’s Seminoles also play Miami, at Clemson, Florida and Louisville (with Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson.) Even with 16 returning starters and quarterback Deondre Francois, that’s tough duty.

Florida isn’t far behind. The Gators play the 7th-hardest schedule, starting with a neutral site game against Michigan. They play Tennessee, LSU and Georgia.

According the report, Michigan will play the toughest schedule in America, followed by Alabama, Ohio State and Rutgers.

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Is the Hall of Fame overlooking former Buc Simeon Rice?

John Lynch, who has missed as a finalist for four straight seasons, deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.

Ronde Barber, who becomes eligible this year, deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.

Simeon Rice?

I’m not so sure.

Oh, Rice — the former Tampa Bay Buc who is currently banging his own drum for Hall entry, was a marvelous talent. He would turn the corner in a rush, and he would reach out with those incredibly long arms of his — I used to call him Inspector Gadget — and down would go another quarterback. At times, Rice could take over a football game, constantly embarrassing an offensive tackle, constantly harassing a quarterback. On those afternoons, Rice certainly looked like a Hall of Famer.

And, while he was in Tampa Bay Bay, Rice played the run better than most people suspect. That’s been a knock on him over the years, that he was a one-trick pony who didn’t care about the run, but it isn’t really accurate. Not while he was a member of the Bucs, anyway.

But the problem with Rice is that he worked so hard to give off the impression that he wasn’t working hard. Can you name another player who was sent home from the Pro Bowl? I can’t. And it can’t sit well when the voters gather, not when there are more deserving players on his own team.

Rice was also shipped home from San Francisco on a Bucs’ trip to the West Coast. I remember writing that day that Rice needed to be contrite, that he had let down his team and he needed to stand up and assure them that he cared as much about winning as any of them.

Instead, Rice came out with a huge smile, and he talked about how nice the flight was, and how comfy first class was, and how he had a men’s magazine just like the one he was flipping through at the moment. In other words, he wasn’t exactly repentant that he missed the game. He was Mr. Cool, and he let everyone know that.

For some reason, that’s a hard image to shake when you’re talking about the Hall of Fame.

Granted, Rice has some numbers. He had 122 sacks in his career with 28 forced fumbles. But his claim that he was the fastest to 100 sacks — he wasn’t; he was ninth — can’t help him when voters repeat his statistics. He’s 19th on the all-time sack list.

Rice was a very good football player, to be sure. He was a player that opponents had to game plan against.

Was he a Hall of Famer?

You decide.

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Tampa Bay Bucs increase ticket prices for the second straight season

The Tampa Bay Bucs played better football in 2016.

In 2017, fans will pay for it.

The Bucs have announced a rise in ticket prices for the second straight season, even though they again failed to make the playoffs. This year, the Bucs will play against New England and Atlanta at home, the two Super Bowl teams from a year ago. Carolina, who made it two years ago, will also come to town.

Other teams include New Orleans, the Giants, the Jets, the Lions and the Bears.  The Bucs have a strong nucleus with Jameis Winston and Mike Evans.

“Feeding off the tremendous energy and excitement of the recently completed 2016 season, we know that our fans are already looking forward to what should be one of the most anticipated seasons in recent memory,” said Bucs’ COO Brian Ford. “The upcoming 2017 season marks only the second time in the past nine years that we have had to increase (ticket prices). Our focus is always on providing our fans with a world-class atmosphere when they visit Raymond James Stadium and we are proud that we have been able to continue enhancing the game day experience while still maintaining one of the most affordable ticket prices in the NFL.”

The Bucs say that two-thirds of their increased seats will bre five dollars or less a game. The Bucs are still expected to be among the lowest third of the league.

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This time, Lightning rallies after blowing two-goal lead and wins in OT

Forget that the opponent was in last-place. Forget that the Tampa Bay Lightning blew a two-goal lead for the second straight night. Forget that it took until overtime to complete the task.

The Lightning won.

What else matters?

The Lightning, getting points in its sixth straight game, is starting to show signs of life in the Eastern Conference Wild-card race. Sunday night, Tampa Bay launched 40 shots at Colorado, and came away with a 3-2 overtime victory.

The winning goal was scored when Jonathan Drouin stole the puck, then scored with at 2:27 of the overtime period.

“That’s what he does,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. “He’s a gifted, gifted player. You get him that close to the net with the puck and a little bit of time and space and he can do some magical things.”

For the second straight night, the Lightning seemed to be in good shape after Braydon Point and Vladislav Namestikov scored. But the Avs came back to force overtime when Matt Duchene scored the tying goal with 41.9 seconds to play on a shot that deflected off two players.

“Give Colorado credit for not quitting down 2-0 going into the third,” Cooper said, “but we needed to win one of those. Regardless of how this game’s going to turn out or how we’re going to get to 3-2, we needed it.”

The Lightning could have iced the game when Tyler Johnson scored in the third period, but the goal was disallowed. It spoiled a good night for the Triplets.

“Yeah, they were our best line tonight.” Cooper said. “They were a factor every time they hit the ice. Like I said, you feel for those guys. They get that one goal called back as well as they had played. There was a little contact. The ref saw it one way. We see it the other. That’s how it goes.”

Tampa Bay now returns home for four straight games, including Tuesday against Edmonton.

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