Category Archives: Canada

Toronto’s Olympic dream Canada’s nightmare

Why the people of Toronto continue to think that their collection of villages is the centre of the universe as we know it remains a sweet mystery.

Why many others across Canada seem to keep swallowing this nonsense hook, sink and line has become an enigma beyond belief, too.

On the heels of the Pan American Games, whose bill is yet to be revealed, so all of us learn how much this sham is going to cost us, there seems to be a growing sentiment abroad, insisting that Toronto should bid for the 2024 Olympic Games. Why, they say, it’s the ideal moment in history: the PanAm Games have been a resounding success (says who? Oh, they say so, which means that’s how it’s got to be!), and besides, the other potential North American suitor has just pulled out of the contest. A window of opportunity if there ever was one!

If only they listened to what Boston’s Mayor Martin S. Walsh had to say.

Announcing that he was asked to sign a contract that would guarantee that the city of Boston would be responsible for potential financial losses, Mayor Walsh said he couldn’t in good conscience do anything of the kind. He is of the view that this ought to be somebody else’s responsibility (read: the organizers ought to be responsible, not the taxpayers). Besides, he was asked to sign a document the precise language of which would be revealed to him some two months after he had signed on the dotted line. No option to negotiate, Mayor Walsh added, and that sealed it for him.

In that one sentence, Mayor Walsh revealed the criminality of the Olympic system as we’ve known it for decades.

Olala, Marcel!

Enter Marcel Aubut, head of the Canadian Olympic Committee.

To refresh everybody’s memory (in case it needs refreshing), that would be the same Marcel Aubut who drafted Eric Lindros first overall in 1991 even though he had been perfectly aware that Lindros would refuse to join the Quebec Nordiques no matter what. As a result, Lindros, considered by many Wayne Gretzky’s second coming, would lose an entire NHL season. That makes Aubut’s move even more unconscionable. As a hockey official of extensive experience Aubut must have known that professional players’ careers are limited.

And he crowned this sordid drama by trading Lindros a year later to two teams (the excuse that he and Pierre Page had no way of informing one another about their individual but separate talks does not hold water). The case had to be settled by an independent arbitrator, a scene that still makes the crowd at 1185 Avenue of the Americas in New York cringe.

To refresh everybody’s memory again (in case it still needs refreshing), that would be the same Marcel Aubut under whose personal and expert guidance the Quebec Nordiques were eventually forced to leave Quebec City in a financial shambles, only to resurface in Denver as the Colorado Avalanche and win the Stanley Cup within a year.

Of course, in fairness, who knows whether the Avalanche would have won anything without the presence of Patrick Roy in their net? It seems quite obvious that, had the Nordiques stayed put, theirs wouldn’t be the club the Montreal Canadiens would trade Roy to.

But that is hindsight. The fact that remains is that it was Marcel Aubut who caused the Lindros scandal, and that it was Marcel Aubut who helped bring the Nordiques to financial ruin and ignominious departure.

So, having this guy say that “It’s time to make it crystal clear, I am officially declaring that I will use the full power of my office to lead and advocate for Toronto’s candidacy to hold the 2024 Olympic Games,” that would be a clarion call for everybody concerned to run for cover.

Not so easy

Let them apply, so what? many might suggest.

Alas, that’s not how it works.

To put together a presentation for an Olympic Games bid costs money. There are firms that specialize in this kind of work. They charge their clients for every box of Kleenex they use when they happen to sneeze. With the deadline for bid submissions set for September 15, 2015, these consultants would have to work pretty hard and fast. Double (or triple) the original demand in order to account for the deadline pressure.

So, taxpayers would be shelling out their hard-earned loonies just so the International Olympic Committee (IOC) members have something to read in their leisure time. Without any guarantee whatsoever. Marcel Aubut might be presenting himself as a heavy hitter whose word spreads general fear in the IOC offices in Lausanne, Switzerland, but, in fact, he’s a featherweight so far as the Olympic poohbahs are concerned.

But, while the Olympians get set to gather to ponder on the individual bids by hicks who are willing to mortgage their citizens’ future for the chance they might appear on TV screens, bidding cities will have to prove they have sufficient facilities to host events on such scale.

No problem, the Toronto bid supporters will yell, we’ve just had the PanAm Games, and our facilities worked just fine.

First of all, they would be lying through their teeth. Track-and-field experts have been shocked by the small-country-county ambience of Toronto’s fields. Even Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium worked better during the track-and-field world championships in 2001.

Besides, the Olympic would-be royalty demands that their events happen in brand new facilities. They claim, as an excuse, that these facilities would then remain as legacy for future generations to use. Another bald-faced lie. There have been exceptions, to be sure. Some of the winter sports facilities in Calgary still remain in use. But going into more detail would reveal some horror stories that are better left for windy and rainy autumn nights. They are best shared by crowds that are sitting by the fireplace, with toddies all around. These stories are scarier than most of the Halloween costumes people could ever imagine.

In any case, even facilities built brand-new for the PanAm Games would be obsolete (in Olympians’ view) nine years hence.

Here’s what happens

Hordes of realtors, developers and sundry financiers will overwhelm all levels of government telling them this or that kind of work’s got to be done immediately, even before the Olympic crowd bothers to descend upon the bidding city. Whether it’s a conspiracy, as many Olympic watchers suspect, remains to be seen. But the fact is that, when asked, Olympic officials will nod in agreement: what, you didn’t read the fine print?

Interestingly enough, government officials proceed to spend like crazy sailors on shore leave. After all, it’s not their money they are spending. And there is a sufficient number of fools amongst their electorate who fall for the shamelessly idiotic propaganda about the Olympic Games. It’s the greatest sporting event on earth, and one that takes its responsibilities seriously, whether it’s the environment or the cleanliness of the athletes. We as citizens should be proud that the august Olympians decided that ours is the best spot on planet Earth to hold this event, that’s the motto.

And not even the fact that it took Montreal almost four decades to pay off its Olympic debt, and that it’s going to take Vancouver about that same amount of time to pay off its Olympic debt changes the hoopla.

If the Olympic Games were produced and paid for by private organizers and if they made money in the process, three cheers for them.

But since the Olympic Games are produced and paid for by taxpayers who have literally no say in what is going on, the picture changes.

There have been case studies during which analysts presented private entrepreneurs with Olympic budgets and accounting books, so far as they could lay their hands on them.

The private entrepreneurs were shocked both by the budgets and by the accounting that followed.

To use a most recent Canadian example, none of them would have thought of bringing snow (using trucks and helicopters) from Manning Park all the way to the mountains around Vancouver.

The more thoughtful people in the entrepreneurial crowd hated what they saw. Not because none of them got to hop on the gravy train. Because they saw where their taxes were going, and they didn’t like it one bit.

To be sure, by the way, this kind of megalomania is not limited to Canada.

During the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, alpine skiing events took place quite far from the sea shores, separated from the Black Sea by massive mountain ranges. The organizers, in an attempt to make access easier for the tourist hordes who would want to watch the break-neck artists hurtling down the slopes, broke through the mountains. One tunnel after another, one artificial pass after another. The result: the moist sea air made it all the way through to the alpine events areas. Tons of artificial snow and sundry chemicals made the slopes acceptable for the skiers. Not for the nature. The alpine meadows have been devastated beyond belief and it will take decades for the scientists to be able to say whether they would ever recover.

So much for the Olympians’ environmental responsibility.

But sports are good for your health!

Absolutely. But not sports as performed at highest-level events.

First and foremost, to even have a chance of becoming an Olympic-level athlete, you’d have to become a professional in your chosen field. Nobody can make it on talent alone any longer.

Becoming an Olympic athlete is no guarantee of success, either.

Now, if you decide you want to spend the rest of your productive life jumping over hurdles or throwing all kinds of stuff so far as they can fly, it’s your business. You may even think that what you’re doing is useful for society. It’s your right to have opinions.

The buck stops once you accept a cent of public funding. And getting money from sports federations equals exactly that. These bodies wouldn’t be able to survive a single season without getting government support.

As an athlete, you may claim that you are presenting yourself as a role model for the younger crowd so that they become hooked on sports, too.

There’s nothing easier to explode than this myth. If money various levels of governments grant to various sports federations, up to and including the Olympic committee, were spread among schools, so they can build and maintain sports facilities, hire and keep physical education teachers, and are able to keep physical education as a daily class on their schedules, that would be the proper way of engaging in sports.

The highly trained gladiators just don’t cut it. And that’s ignoring all their doping and other dirty shenanigans.

To sum this angle up: the federal government has, quite properly, resisted spending taxpayers’ money in support of professional hockey clubs.

It should tell the same thing to all those who come, caps in hands, asking for federal government support in staging events such as the Olympic Games. The government is not in the business of professional sports.

And if those would-be organizers start pushing their point by saying what an economic bonanza their event would turn out to be, the government should issue a collective smile and say: Is that so? So, go ahead, invest, and be successful. We’ll watch your progress with considerable interest.

And if the potential organizers, blackmailers, one and all, start crying, the answer should be even simpler. Let them eat cake.

Advertisements

Russians still don’t get it: their unsportsmanlike behaviour deserves punishment, not alibis

Russian sports minister Vitalyi Mutjko agrees Team Russia shouldn’t have left the ice after losing to Canada in last month’s world championship finals before O Canada was played. Still, he maintains, if the organizers didn’t open the gate, his country’s players would have never done that.

This seems to be a bit at odds with the latest news coming from Moscow: Russian hockey federation plans to punish a few people for the incident. General manager Andrei Safronov and head coach Oleg Znarok seem to be the targets. That, at least, is what Arkadi Rotenberg is saying. His word carries some weight: he sits on the board of the Russian hockey federation, and he also serves as Dinamo Moscow president.

“Yes, people will face consequences,” Rotenberg says, “and the general manager and head coach were right there to make sure our players stayed to hear Canada’s anthem.”

Of course, considering that International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) President René Fasel is on the record as saying the Russian federation will face a punishment meted out by his organization, Rotenberg’s next words were not surprising: “It wasn’t planned for our players to insult Team Canada, and it wasn’t planned ahead, either.”

Nobody’s talking about planning. Everybody’s talking about lacking sportsmanship and behaviour worthy of a butcher’s dog, to use the local lingo in translation. Besides, Fasel stood there, in shock, watching Team Russia captain Ilya Kovalchuk order his teammates to leave as soon as they collected their medals and shook the Canadian players by the hand. Only very few Russian players, led by superstars Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin, stayed, and Kovalchuk skated toward them and very forcefully insisted that they leave the ice before a live orchestra gathered to render the Canadian anthem.

There was no sign of either Safronov or Znarok, and it makes no difference, either: this was not Kovalchuk’s first international tournament, and he would be expected to know the rules.

Besides, ignorance is no excuse.

“Safronov and Znarok are aware of what they did wrong,” thus Rotenberg, “and I believe that this will never happen again.”

A nice change from sports minister Mytjko’s qualifier that, while wrong, Team Russia players were not to blame. If it weren’t for a gate opened by the organizers, they would have stayed. He simply echoed Russian hockey federation president Vladislav Tretiak’s assurances that it was the Czechs who were the guilty party. They could have kept his team on the ice if only they didn’t open the gate.

The only English-written newspaper published in Moscow, The Moscow Times, has come up with an interesting take. The paper described, tongue in cheek, what would happen if Canadian players left the ice before they heard Rossia Sviaschennaia Nasha Derzhava, formerly known as Soyuz Nerushimyi.

“The investigators find,” thus The Moscow Times spoof, “that Team Canada, by leaving the ice before hearing the Russian anthem, have committed a criminal act comparable to abuse of the national flag of Russia. If found guilty, they will have to install toilet seats in all of the KHL arenas all over Russia, as punishment.”

Fine and dandy as it goes.

But let’s cut to the chase: what punishment will Safronov and Znarok face? Any consequences for team captain Kovalchuk?

“First, we’ve got to see what the IIHF is going to do,” said Rotenberg. “We’ll make our decision based on that.”

In his land, they have an expression for this kind of behaviour. They call it alibism.

Team Russia shows no sense of decency

This is called sportsmanship at its best.

After Team Canada won the world championship 2015 title in the O2 Arena in Prague, Czech Republic, Sunday, it took the vanquished team quite some time to skate over and accept their silver medals from International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) President René Fasel.

In fact, Fasel had to keep waving at the Russians for almost a minute to convince them to come over and collect what was deservedly theirs.

But that wouldn’t be the end of it.

What happened then was even more shocking. Not surprising: something like that had happened in other, similar situations, too. And it always involved Russian teams in one shape or another. But one would have expected that the Russians would have learnt their lesson by now and not stoop to this kind of scandalous behaviour yet again. When Team Russia captain Ilya Kovalchuk saw the IIHF dignitaries began distributing gold medals to the winners from Canada, he ordered his teammates to leave the ice. He waited by the door to the bench to see that the entire squad leaves.

To their credit, a small group that included Team Russia’s brightest stars, Alexander Ovechkin and Yevgeni Malkin, remained at the blue line. Kovalchuk kept ordering them to leave forthwith, while Ovechkin was gesticulating back that good manners dictate they should stay there till the end of the ceremony. Or, at least, until Team Canada captain Sidney Crosby receives the championship cup and O Canada had been played.

It took about a minute of embarrassing exchanges. But when the fireworks started and the confetti were fired, Kovalchuk skated over and personally forced the remaining Russian players to leave immediately.

That no Russian player stayed to see Crosby and his teammates skating around with the cup is one thing; that they didn’t wait until an orchestra gathered to play O Canada, is another.

Fasel said he was very disappointed with Team Russia’s behaviour. He said he found it perfectly unacceptable and added that the IIHF is going to debate potential punishment. Team Russia’s behaviour showed profound lack of respect for the other team, and Russian Hockey Federation will be asked for an explanation, Fasel told the Russian TASS news agency, adding Team Russia’s behaviour showed not only lack of sportsmanship, it also broke the IIHF’s rules, and for that, the Russian Hockey Federation can expect proper punishment.

Fasel said some Russian players wanted to be sportsmanlike: “We saw Ovechkin and Malkin who tried to stay. It’s the team management and coaching staff who should have made sure nothing like this happened; they were right there, on the ice, at the time.”

Vladislav Tretyak, the former all-world goalie who now serves as Russian Hockey Federation’s president, said it was all a misunderstanding rather than lack of respect: his players even shook Canadian players’ hands, he said.

But former Czech goalie Petr Bříza, who served on the organizing committee, said wherever Team Russia showed up, difficulties would follow.

When they came to Ostrava, instead of staying in a hotel reserved for all teams that played there, the Russians demanded that they be accommodated in Kravaře, an Ostrava suburb. Then, when they saw it took them longer than it took others to get to the ČEZ Arena, they demanded that the organizers provide them with police escort, so their team bus can get to and from the arena breaking all traffic rules.

In fact, Team Russia was scandalized its team bus had to wait at a railway crossing for a train to pass. Organizers in Ostrava started asking publicly whether they should have made the railway change its schedule, and Team Russia dropped the subject.

And, Bříza added, “They brought a few problems with them to Prague, too, issues that hadn’t been here before their arrival. The eight teams that had been here were living side by side quite famously, but then the Russians came and the first thing they did was they blocked off a hallway in the arena and demanded to stay in a different hotel. That created serious security issues for us, and if anything had happened, it would have been linked to the championship, no question. And then, they topped it off with such lack of sportsmanship and respect for others, including the entire event,” Bříza concluded.

It seems it may be useful for the organizers of the forthcoming World Cup (NHL and NHLPA) to remind Team Russia management in advance that there are basic rules of decency and sportsmanship that one should keep in mind even following bitter defeat.

And if they can’t live with it, disinvite them, no matter the star power that the event would lose.

The clean-air report nothing but another “skies-are-falling” drivel

The air in Toronto is cleaner than the air in Edmonton.

Thus a study, dubbed “scientific” by Toronto-based national media.

We would have to adopt two wild assumptions in order to even begin considering it seriously, never mind accept it.

The first wild assumption: the study would have to be based on facts, not on so-called straight arithmetic averages; the data used would have to be verifiable and verified. And that would be just the basic requirements for judging the study.

The second wild assumption: we would have to assume that those who reported it knew whereof they spoke (wrote). Meaning, basically, that they were not guided one bit by the generally accepted misconception that a journalist’s job is to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable. Judging by the current mainstream media’s output, their instructors in sundry journalism schools never told the candidates of this craft that their job is to inform.

As a minor aside: why do these journalism schools exist in the first place? Story-telling and curiosity are the only two abilities a journalism candidate requires. Neither can be taught. The technology, laws, etc., these things change at least once between a journalism candidate’s first entrance into the hallowed halls of learning and her/his departure.

Equipped with a diploma, they are convinced that here they are, ready to change the world. They are nothing of the sort. Especially considering that changing the world is not their job.

Which brings us back to the clean air story.

To make it read or sound believable, our intrepid journalists started asking questions. Their selection of those they feel are fit to enlighten us is frightful. The usual suspects who claim (in the case of Edmonton, and Alberta in general) that it is the industry that is to blame, and the government is guilty for not doing anything about it, and, besides, car exhausts are a terrible culprit, as well, what with everybody and their dog riding around either in a pickup or, Heavens forbid, an SUV.

Short memories

It seems proponents of government-enforced radical change ought to remind themselves of several facts. These facts happen to complicate their simplified outlook somewhat, but, alas, that’s life.

Such as: even if we do accept the Toronto-based report and pretend it answered all the questions it was supposed to answer in order to be considered a serious scientific paper, there are a few unpleasant questions remaining. Not only about its methodology. About nature, as well.

First of all: oh, absolutely, we should not be abusing our environment, but mind telling, for example, the Russian taiga forests to stop burning?

It just so happens that for a number of decades running our atmosphere has been seriously damaged by smoke coming all the way across Santa’s North Pole condo, making the regions south of Edmonton within days.

Here’s what’s happening: the Russians let, on way too many occasions, the taiga forest fires burn out all by themselves. Forest fires, they say, with some justification, are a natural occurrence. They would only act if these fires came too close to forced-labour camps (yes, they still have them, and most of them are in Siberia). Russian authorities consider these camps a useful source of cheap labour, as they always have been. Might as well protect them.

There have been several other occasions, such as that the fires came too close to nuclear installations. That’s when the Russians would act.

Don’t expect for a moment that they would employ water bombing aircraft. But they would employ bombers. Russian (formerly Soviet) air force bombers stationed in those regions would practice carpet bombing. These bombing sorties would become part and parcel of military training, while creating buffer zones against the spread of the fires. What the fires do inside those zones, that, the Russians would tell you, was either God’s or nature’s decision, depending on that particular Russian’s religious inclination (or lack of same).

Compared to the inferno that keeps happening with regularity in Russia’s taiga, British Columbia’s (or Canada’s, in general) forest fires are nothing but small camp fires, used to roast meat, play the guitar or banjo, down a beer or two, sing a few songs and enjoy each other’s company. Not only that, we as Canadians feel we have the obligation toward both the forests and the wildlife that inhabit them. That’s why the best water bombers have been designed and built in Canada. They are used in civilized countries all over the world. Canada leads the field.

How about closer to home?

Now that winter seems to have left Edmonton for a few weeks, it took the city administration more than a month to wake up to the fact that a thorough clean-up job would be in order.

The system we have here borders on the insane. It may have even crossed that border.

If you, as a tax-paying citizen, have issues with too many potholes in your area, don’t expect city crews to be aware of them without you telling them. No, they are incredibly busy, and if you tell them, and are persistent enough to keep calling them every even (or odd) hour to remind them, chances are they will patch them up just as the leaves start falling and birds begin their journey southwards with the autumn coming in.

No, they will not fix them. They will only patch them up. Whether this is an attempt to create full employment in Edmonton remains to be seen. It looks like it.

The same goes, and now we come full circle back to clean air, for city roads.

After a few weeks went by without major blizzards, you could see city crews cleaning the roads. This is not to say they were doing a heck of a job of it, especially when they were watering the roads just as spring rains began hitting the place. Still, as a beginning it looked interesting. That, of course, didn’t mean that the debris left behind the watering cisterns would be swept away during that same operation. First, the water had to dry. Besides, you should give the debris a fair chance to enjoy the windy weather and do a bit of flying around, in order to see their neighbourhoods.

Then came the turn of sweeping away the debris from the grass along the roads. Where? Why, back to the road surfaces. Meaning: those surfaces that, allegedly, had just been cleaned.

Now what?

Now nothing.

When nothing had been happening for a week, an annoyed citizen called the city complaint centre, filed her or his concern, left her or his name and phone number, and got a call from someone in the city administration another three or four days later. Just don’t you worry, we’re going to get around to it.

When?

Ah, said the unnamed city employee (unnamed because he wasn’t told in advance he might be quoted for publication), anyhow, ah, said that employee, in a week or two. He sounded somewhat troubled when that citizen mentioned that, due (or thanks) to the last windy days it would make no sense for anyone to come to clean the road a week or two from now: the debris would be all in the air by then.

The city employee went on to explain that these things are the responsibility of two separate departments, as if two departments could not co-ordinate what they’re doing. And let’s not even mention the bold idea that cleaning roads in a city Edmonton’s size should not require two separate departments.

Feet on the ground

Of course, all this makes environmentalists’ cries sound somewhat ridiculous.

Get rid of coal-burning power stations. Stop using pickup trucks or SUVs. Solar or wind power stations are the answer. And so on.

It doesn’t take much research to establish that solar and wind power stations are one of the least effective (and efficient) sources of electricity. To put it simply: the energy these electric power sources create is way too expensive to even maintain the economic status quo.

Yes, the environmentalists would say, but if that’s the cost for healthy living, so be it. Is there anything to that argument? Turns out there isn’t. There would be more if these people were on record as saying that all of us should turn the lights off whenever we leave a room.

It just so happens that Canada is in the forefront of nations devising, building and using with spectacular effectiveness equipment to filter unwanted emissions from coal-fuelled and diesel-fuelled electric power plants. Except, it seems, the environmentalist crowd haven’t been made aware of it. Why they didn’t make the effort to find out themselves is another question.

How about nuclear power stations?

Well, they may be the song of the future. As soon as someone invents a way of safe disposal of radioactive waste.

How about power stations that use tide?

Another idea whose time might yet come. Perhaps as soon as someone develops a working plan how to control the tides so that the supply does not depend on the Moon’s mood alone.

The main issue

Here’s what the so-called environmentalist movement is all about: let the government decide what’s best for you. And you. And you. And, speaking of it, you, too.

Who guarantees that government knows best? Why, the government, of course!

There’s a world of difference between the science of ecology and the ideological movement of environmentalism. While it is a fine idea that all of us should contribute to keeping this planet clean, lying about the current state of affairs borders on the criminal.

Indeed, yes, lying.

How would you explain the cries that we’re entering yet another ice age just a few decades ago, to be followed by similarly loud cries (by the same people, too) that we’re going to burn, that’s how the planet is heating up.

And all that within just a few decades.

Of course, the real explanation is simple: none of these changes are new, and those yelling the loudest have obviously missed their high school science class when their teachers were explaining the basics of solar cycles.

What makes this even more dangerous is that mainstream media, ideologically blind and incapable of learning, ignores signs that what we’re dealing with here is frightful nonsense.

On top of it, mainstream media these days is unable (read: unwilling) to tolerate opposing views. It presents the terribly warped statements by climate alarmists as fact, while those same climate alarmists are laughing all the way to their banks, going to collect another set of grants for their more than questionable would-be research.

Speaking of which: how much have you learnt from mainstream media about the e-mail traffic within the East Anglia climatology institute? That would be the place that co-ordinates all of the worldwide climate alarmism.

Turns out a Russian hacker managed to break into the system and publish its content. Frank exchanges about falsifying basic data and conclusions galore. Has it made mainstream media’s front pages? Was it leading news broadcasts? And how about the fact that this doctored East Anglia drivel has remained the basis of the United Nations’ regular alarmist climate change reports?

An old fairy tale tells us about a boy who would shout in feigned horror that wolves were coming. He would have great fun watching his neighbouring villagers running out, their weapons at the ready, hoping to chase the wolves away before they got to the kid.

One day, as the boy was taking a herd of whatever domestic animals to pasture, a pack of wolves appeared.

The kid cried in horror. Nobody bothered to even look out of the windows. Next thing the kid knew, he was on the wolves menu.

Bon Appetit!

Hockey Unlimited offers impressive season finale

There are 30 NHL teams. They have 690 players on their active rosters.

A few thousand players in minor professional leagues are working their behinds off to join the anointed 690. And then there are tens of thousands players in all kinds of sundry competitions, from university level to any other kind of a league. Some of them are in North America, others play overseas. Many of them dream of making the NHL and, ultimately, lifting the Stanley Cup over their heads.

But the 30 NHL teams can only accommodate 690 players all told.

Selecting those few who might have what it takes to make the show is what NHL teams’ scouts’ jobs are all about.

With this being this season’s last installment of Hockey Unlimited, and this year’s NHL draft coming in just a couple of months, the Aquila Productions’ documentary took a behind-the-scenes look at the way NHL clubs search for new talent. With professional insiders leading the way, we get to see the many things that have to happen before a general manager, surrounded by his coaches and scouts, mounts the podium to announce his team’s selection.

Sportsnet aired this season’s Hockey Unlimited finale Thursday, and there are several repeat broadcasts scheduled (see below for additional information).

Finding the future NHL stars makes looking for a needle in a haystack an easy job. Remember, it’s not only the first-rounders who are expected to make an impact within a season or two. It’s the late bloomers who make this exercise so exciting. In fact, as Hockey Unlimited shows, not all first-rounders develop into bona fide NHL players, while quite a few players selected in later rounds of the draft end up becoming stars (Pavel Datsyuk comes to mind).

So what does it take? Analytics, of course, say the insiders, but gut feelings, too, and those are usually based on wealth of experience. Scouts gather this kind of experience through trial and error. They spend many years going from one arena to another in some God-forsaken places, looking for gems no other scouts have noticed. And, of course, talking to the coaches and to the players themselves helps reveal significant angles, also.

To sum up, it’s a tough job, but if a professional sports league such as the NHL wants to survive, somebody’s got to do it.

A visionary’s vision

A visionary Roman Catholic priest, Père (Father) James Athol Murray, loved God, Canada and hockey. Not necessarily (or not always) in that order. The founder of a high school now known as the Athol Murray College of Notre Dame of Wilcox, Saskatchewan, this learning institution has given the hockey world a number of stars, some of whom reminisce in the second segment of this episode of Hockey Unlimited about the time they spent in the community of fewer than 400, studying in the boarding school that earned international fame since its founding in 1927.

That the Notre Dame Hounds form a team most other hockey clubs respect, and very rightfully so, is one thing. The other is that the school educates its students academically and, perhaps most importantly, as human beings, too.

As students and alumni tell us, on top of it all, they form friendships that they expect to last them till death do them part.

It’s one part of what Hockey Unlimited does so well: it puts the game into perspective.

Fighting a frightful battle

Nowhere does Hockey Unlimited show it better (and with more understanding) than in telling the final story of this episode.

Here’s what it’s all about: Noah Fayad, a 14-year-old player on the St. Albert Sabres AAA Bantam team in the Edmonton Major Bantam Hockey League, was becoming more and more tired. His coaches noticed, and his dad asked his son. Alarmed and shocked by the answers, rounds of visits to medical people followed. The diagnosis that came back was overwhelmingly scary: leukemia.

It is quite possible that without young Noah’s active involvement in sports, nobody would have noticed. Or, they would consider the signs a part of the many changes people go through during puberty.

Except, Noah Fayad was physically very fit, indeed, one of the stars on his team. So, the decline in fitness and stamina was more noticeable than if he was a couch potato.

A physician interviewed for Hockey Unlimited said Noah’s prognosis seems encouraging. Not only because of his physical fitness, and not only because medical people detected (and started treating) the disease early enough. The friendship and support shown by his teammates and opposing players alike, must have been a boost, too.

Sabres’ young assistant coach Brady Reid lost his father John to the same disease when he was about Noah’s age. He understands what Noah’s family is going through. And he is proud of his players who wear a sticker with Noah’s initials and number (NF 12) on their helmets to show they are in the battle with their teammate.

And when players from other teams show up wearing similar stickers, or just plain stickers announcing they are trying to help find a cure for leukemia, no words can express how grateful Noah and his family must be.

And Hockey Unlimited, not a show known for too many words, is even quieter here. It lets the pictures do the talking.

As always, hockey coach Steve Serdachny offers a few tips: this time, on passing the puck. Fitness guru Simon Bennett makes sure we learn the seemingly easy exercise that would make our hips capable of withstanding the toughest tasks we confront them with.

Serving with distinction

Hockey Unlimited is a fine documentary. Yes, it helps that it covers Canadians’ national passion. What makes it so distinctive is the fact that it not only keeps looking for contexts, it also finds them. Its creators respect both their subjects and their audiences, and that shows, too.

Its tradecraft is impeccable, something we’ve got used to with Aquila Productions’ programming. But its ability in looking for and finding stories that would interest even those few Canadians who prefer anything to hockey, now, this is an ability that makes it extraordinary.

It seems that the timing is right, too. Television audiences are slowly but distinctly becoming bored with fast-paced shows that consist of furious factoid hits without giving the viewers any time to at least consider thinking about what they are seeing.

Hockey Unlimited gives their audiences as many facts as it can give them to let them think and form their opinions. It doesn’t force its own opinions on its viewers, either.

This is what great documentary making is all about, and here’s hoping Hockey Unlimited still has a few seasons ahead of it.

 

BROADCAST SCHEDULE:

 

Thurs. Apr. 9

3 PM ET SN One

Fri. Apr. 10

1 PM ET SN Pacific, West, Ontario, East
11:30 PM ET SN One

Tues. Apr. 14

5:30 PM ET SN Pacific, West, Ontario, East

 

 

The black art season is upon us, Hockey Unlimited promises

(Updated with detailed broadcast schedule below.)

Remember the Edmonton Oilers selecting Steve Kelly sixth overall in the 1995 NHL draft? The event took place in the Northlands Coliseum (remember THAT place? No? Would the name Rexall Place put it into context?). When then-Oilers’ president and general manager, Glen Sather, and the team’s then-chief scout, Barry Fraser, were mounting the podium, the audience went berserk, demanding the locals select one Shane Doan.

Doan went to the Winnipeg Jets who were selecting seventh. He’s been with them through thick and thin till this day, and he’s still their desert incarnation’s captain in Arizona.

Come to think of it, Edmonton native Jarome Iginla went 11th overall in that same draft, straight to the Dallas Stars, only to be traded to the Calgary Flames for Joe Nieuwendyk.

Where’s Steve Kelly now? Retired, that’s where, after achieving the unpleasant title “underachiever,” never playing more than a half of a season for any given NHL team, going through the German DEL hockey league all the way to the AHL, and ending his career there, following an injury.

Whether it was Kelly’s pure bad luck is irrelevant now. The only thing that matters is that, in hindsight, his selection in the first round was a mistake.

A mistake? After all, as we all know, hindsight is 20-20.

Again, it depends on your point of view.

In 1993, the Ottawa Senators have selected Alexandre Daigle first overall. They were so ecstatic to have landed him, they gave him an outrageous salary by the standards of the day, forcing the league to introduce more or less sensible limitations on rookie income (entry-level contract, as we know it now).

Daigle became famous right then and there. Not so much for his hockey prowess but, rather, for his frightfully idiotic statement that he’s happy to be picked first because, you know, who remembers the guy selected second.

Hartford Whalers (today’s Carolina Hurricanes, for the uninitiated) were selecting second. Chris Pronger was their choice.

Who of the two has achieved more? A rhetorical question.

This being its last installment for this season, Hockey Unlimited’s eighth episode opens with what it calls the science and black art of scouting.

Remember, the regular season will be almost over on the day Rogers Sportsnet airs this episode, Thursday, April 9. (See broadcast schedule below for further broadcast times.) The playoffs will be upon us, but so will be the draft lottery, and, ultimately, the draft itself.

Even with today’s use of advanced statistics and other hugely involved tools of what their priests call the analytics, teams are selecting real, living people, hoping they’re finding a series of gems in the rough. This, in and of itself, makes the draft a hit-and-miss proposition, easily comparable to guessing the sex in one-day-old chicken. Winning over one-armed bandits in casinos carries more probability than picking the right player.

And that even with the hoopla about the so-called “generational players,” such as Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel this season.

Teams that place first and second in the draft lottery should be very careful about what they wish for. Just to refresh your memory: the abovementioned Alexandre Daigle carried the same “generational” label.

Having an insider take us through the maze of trying to find big-league talent is going to make this an interesting segment, for sure.

It is quite logical that, following this insider look into the NHL draft, the second segment of Hockey Unlimited is going to concentrate on a school that has produced so many hockey stars.

It’s known as Athol Murray College of Notre Dame. Founded in 1927 by a visionary Roman Catholic priest, Père (Father) James Athol Murray, Notre Dame has given us stars like Curtis Joseph, Wendel Clark, Vincent Lecavalier, Tyler Myers and Jaden Schwartz, among many others. Located in the relatively small village of Wilcox, Saskatchewan, this high school academy has been developing the spirits, minds and bodies of its students since its inception.

The school’s alumni have remained “hounds for life,” as the second segment of the season’s final episode of Hockey Unlimited shows.

It wouldn’t be Aquila Productions if they didn’t find a hockey story that puts the whole thing into perspective.

Noah Fayad, a 14-year-old player on the St. Albert Sabres AAA Bantam team in the Edmonton Major Bantam Hockey League, has been stricken by leukemia. His quietly courageous battle against this disease has inspired both his teammates and his opponents alike.

Fayad’s battle has helped create a special bond between him and the Sabres’ young assistant coach Brady Reid, who lost his father John to the same disease when he was about Noah’s age. As has become the series’ tradition, Hockey Unlimited will again offer viewers valuable tips on hockey fitness from high-performance personal trainer Simon Bennett and on-ice skills from NHL instructor Steve Serdachny.

Episode eight of Hockey Unlimited will begin airing on multiple Sportsnet channels on April 9, with repeat broadcast at various times over the following week preceding the start of the Stanley Cup playoffs. (See broadcast schedule below for further broadcast times.)

 

BROADCAST SCHEDULE:

 

Thurs. Apr. 9

3 PM ET SN One

Fri. Apr. 10

1 PM ET SN Pacific, West, Ontario, East
11:30 PM ET SN One

Tues. Apr. 14

5:30 PM ET SN Pacific, West, Ontario, East

Give me smut and nothing but?

What is it that makes drivel such as the previously mentioned Fifty Grades of Shade successful? Have we all gone out of our minds?

Not really.

Before we continue, a couple of acknowledgements.

The headline is stolen from a Tom Lehrer song.

The inspiration for the earlier text on boycotting abusive pornography, and, come to think of it, for this follow-up, too, comes from my wonderful granddaughter, Michaela.

And now back to the topic.

Many might remember how the National Gallery of Canada went ahead and bought a sculpture from a certain Jana Sterbak. It was made of pieces of beef, which apparently was supposed to carry a deep thought, a message, indeed. The only message was that it began to stink within days and Ms. Sterbak had to replace the offending pieces of beef.

The general public were not amused. Some ventured so far as to suggest that instead of spending the money on this insult to human intelligence, the National Gallery could have spent it on buying beef in any shape or form for Canada’s Food Banks.

A bunch of hicks, snorted the artistic poohbahs whose way of working can be safely described as “I scratch your back, and you scratch mine.”

Jiří Menzel, an Oscar-winning film director, has more than once described this phenomenon thus: these so-called artists ignore the general population because they live in an incestuous world of mutually awarded grants and whatnot. The general public ignores them back. And so, they live side by side, ignoring each other. The only issue to observe here is that one of the two sides is productive, moving society ahead, while the other is not.

The unproductive group, a.k.a. so-called artists, can hardly care less about the basics, such as tradecraft. They are artists, God damn it, and they’ll have you know that tradecraft exists only for nincompoops whose only goal is to pander to the masses of the unwashed.

The result? Simple. Ms. Sterbak wins the Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts. Another proof of the incest that exists in the so-called pure artistic community.

Dr. Milena Sterbak, Jana Sterbak’s mother, was an honest physician who left her native Czechoslovakia in 1968, when Soviet tanks rolled in. When she was still alive, she wasn’t very comfortable with what her daughter was presenting as art. If only she knew where her daughter’s chutzpah would land her, she would strangle her with her own hands.

But how is it possible? Don’t the educated people whose opinions matter in these circles know any better?

It seems they don’t.

Many, if not most, correction, if not all of them, know not whereof they speak. They look at the garbage (quite literally, on occasion, too) that is presented to them as pure, unadulterated art. They don’t want to miss the train. They have no idea what it is they are looking at, but since everybody in their crowd is sighing in ecstasy, using all kinds of would-be intellectual words (mostly ending in –ism or –ist), they join the chorus. Little do they know that those whom they are joining are about as ignorant as they are.

Of course, all those would-be artists deserve the right to create whatever they please. Freedom of expression. Why taxpayers should be paying for this drivel is another question. If a private connoisseur wants to indulge (and has the money to do so), by all means.

Which brings us back to excrement known as avant-garde use of sadism and masochism in literature and movies. Fifty Shades of Grey is a frightful example of society gone berserk. Works that applaud abuse cannot be described any other way.

So, how and why is it possible that a publishing house of some renown picks up this turgid prose and publishes all of the more than 500 pages of it?

That Hollywood picks it up is not a surprise. These guys smell dough from the furthest of distances. Which brings us to the most important question: how is it possible that crowds that should know better spend their hard-earned currencies on this nonsense?

It would be difficult to believe that sado-masochism has reached such popularity within general population.

So what is it?

It would be interesting to see a breakdown of actual people who’d bought this insult to the meanest of intelligence. We won’t get that, of course, but still, it would be interesting to see something like that.

Meanwhile, boycott is the only line of defence we have. We should use it. We should use it now, before it’s too late.

Remember Larry Flynt? The guy who produced such smut as Hustler? The guy who fought for his freedom of expression and won?

We should fight for our freedom to be free of this would be creative, artistic, even, nonsense.

It’s our duty. If not to ourselves, then, at least, to our children and grandchildren.