Category Archives: NHL and the rest of the world

A Canadian historian goes bonkers

A new joke has been making rounds in Russia, and, it seems, it has become wildly popular in that country. Here it is:

A guy who happens to be a foreign spy enters a pub somewhere in Russia. The regulars take one look at him and say: “You speak like a Russian, and you dress like a Russian, but you definitely aren’t Russian.”

So, the newcomer orders a glass (stakan, 100 grams they call it) of Stolichnaia vodka and downs it. The regulars shrug and say: “You speak like a Russian, you dress like a Russian, and you drink like a Russian, but you definitely aren’t Russian.”

Now desperate, the newcomer breaks into kazachok (a Russian dance). The regulars shrug and say: “You speak like a Russian, you dress like a Russian, you drink like a Russian, and you dance like a Russian, but you definitely aren’t Russian.”

The guy returns home to America, goes straight to his spy chief’s office and reports he failed.

“Hell,” the spy commander yells, “you Afro-Americans screw up everything you touch!”

Why all this?

The trickle of accusations that this or that equals cultural misappropriation has grown into a veritable flood.

Mostly, the cries deal with the names of sports organizations. Just as mostly, they come from people whose jobs should not exist, that’s how irrelevant they are.

Just a few examples: professor of Canadian and Indigenous history at the University of Manitoba, a Dr. Sean Carleton, posted a Twitter message on the subject of NHL club Vancouver Canucks’ logo. It shows a killer whale or orca. And Dr. Carleton, who obviously must be bored beyond humane limits, is upset. The logo, he says, uses elements of Coast Salish or Haida design.

This is not the first time in recent history that the Canucks got into hot water.

In an attempt to get better in goal, they hired Braden Holtby, a Stanley Cup winner with his previous team, the Washington Capitals. In order to show respect for the people of the area he was moving to, Holtby had his mask re-painted, using Indian (First Nations, in the politically correct lingo) motives.

Unfortunately, Holtby used the services of an artist who could not claim even an ounce of Indian blood.

Holtby committed an act of cultural misappropriation. Thus Dr. Carleton.

Instead of sending Dr. Carleton a request that he direct his steps into an area better not described in mixed company (or at the dinner table, your choice), Holtby apologized profusely, and commissioned a local Indian artist to paint him another mask.

Holtby must have realized that by signing with the Canucks he joined a world ruled mercilessly by idiots. The club’s owner, one Francesco Aquiini, had just fired the team’s anthem singer, Mark Donnelly. Poor Mark’s sin: he sang O Canada at a rally that protested the new mandatory facemask fashion.

If Dr. Carleton’s was a lone voice in the Sahara Desert, fine, we’re entitled to being idiots, this is a democracy, after all.

But if this becomes a new fashion, then, alas, something is desperately wrong.

And it has: most recently Major League Baseball’s (MLB) Cleveland Indians announced that they will be changing their name. Canadian Football League’s (CFL) Edmonton Eskimos and National Football League’s (NFL) Washington Redskins have already dropped their former names. They are nameless while this is being written. MLB’s Atlanta Braves, NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs, and NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks have yet to announce their plans, if any.

Of course, the Blackhawks have, for the time being, banned wearing your typical Indian attire, starting with warbonnets and sundry headbands, to their home games. People who would insist on wearing this kind of traditional attire without showing proof they are of 100-per-cent Indian blood would be asked to leave the arena forthwith. No word yet on whether they would be reimbursed for their tickets and parking fees. No word yet, either, on whether the Blackhawks would be demanding that other teams introduce this policy, too, whenever their club drops by for a road game.

Those who defend this example of perfectly clinical moronism point to the fact that, for example, the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes asked the Hopi tribe leaders for permission to use Kachina in their logo.

For the uninitiated: Kachina is a spirit being in the religious beliefs of the Indian cultures located in the south-western part of the United States.

Since the Arizona Coyotes’ current existence is closely (some would say too closely) linked to Indian gambling institutions in the area, their Kachina obedience is easily explained.

But the principle is not.

Step in different shoes

Is it cultural misappropriation when many Indians, chiefs included, wear trousers (with belts or suspenders, or both), white shirts with ties, and jackets, with polished shoes on their feet?

(To avoid any potential misunderstanding: ties worn around people’s necks are also known as cravats. Croatian soldiers who, a couple of centuries ago, lived in France, were wearing this kind of nonsense, the French, fashionistas as they always have been, adopted it, calling it croats, which quickly led to a mutation: cravats. Most Croats would become acquainted with the Indians only when some German filmmakers decided to change Karl May’s imagined stories into films about a noble savage named Winnetou. They filmed most of the Wild West sequences in Croatia. May was behind bars for some allegedly serious insurance swindle when he wrote his Indian stories. He had one fact right: Winnetou really existed. He was the chief of the Mescalero Apaches (and the Apaches in general, with the Navajo included). His father was Intschu-tschuna and he had a sister Nscho-tschi. Both of these names appear in the film series. Everything else was Karl May’s imagination, including the Germanic ways all of his characters – including the Indians – lived under.)

Or: is it cultural misappropriation when Louis Armstrong sings about Moses who heard from the Lord he should tell the Egyptian Pharaohs to let his people go? Are the gospels cultural misappropriation?

Of course not. And neither is Karl May’s Winnetou.

While useful, Canadian and Indigenous history studies should keep to studying history. Activism, such as that shown by Dr. Carleton, would seem to indicate there’s not much material to study. A wrong conclusion, by the way. Canada’s history is pretty rich, and a lot of it deserves to be discovered yet. Unable or unwilling to dig deeper, the activists have invented a brand new field for their efforts.

Except: this is no longer history. If they are sincere, they would stop collecting wages as historians and start fundraising for their activism.

Nothing less.

Hockey Diversity Association blackmails the NHL

In any normal grammar, the following Hockey Diversity Association statement would be viewed as blackmail with a lower-case b.

What the Hockey Diversity Association (HDA for short) would prefer is blackmail where the letter b is in capital case.

The top hockey league in the world, the National Hockey League (a.k.a. the NHL), decided not to stoop as low as the Hockey Diversity Association demanded, and the HDA is upset.

“The NHL,” thus the HDA in all seriousness, “focused on performative public relations efforts that seemed aimed at quickly moving past important conversations about race needed in the game.”

All that because a convicted criminal, apprehended by law enforcement officials while committing several more crimes, died, allegedly because of the arresting police officer’s actions.

(The reality seems to differ wildly from the accepted racial story-telling.)

What followed was an incredible wave of violent looting, with bands calling themselves Black Lives Matter and Antifa terrorizing innocent citizens and destroying local businesses, while putting American cities ablaze.

The NHL answered all this by making sure its fans, glued to their television sets during the so-called Return To Play, saw distinct signs such as We Play for Black Lives.

That the hockey players make their outrageous salaries thanks to the interest of fans of other skin colours, too, seemed to be perfectly irrelevant.

The NHL even responded in agreement to its Player Association’s (NHLPA) demand that it postpone for a day the proceedings, to get in line with what the richest athletes on earth, basketball’s NBA stars, called a boycott.

That they obviously are not aware of the real meaning of the word is another matter.

Defenceman Matt Dumba, one of the HDA founders, spoke eloquently during the opening broadcast of the NHL playoffs, saying, “We fight against justice.”

He caught himself in that Freudian slip, waited, just like a professional broadcaster would, a few seconds, and corrected himself: “We fight against injustice.”

Sure enough, subsequent replays of the touching scene hit the air without the howler.

(Technically speaking: where was the seven-second-delay button when Hockey Night in Canada needed it?)

Racist demands

The HDA has also asked the NHL to make sure a certain percentage of their management ranks (as well as a certain percentage of management ranks within individual clubs) be filled with what they call People Of Colour (it has already achieved a status symbol: it has got its own abbreviation, POC). Simply speaking, qualifications be damned. It’s the colour of your skin that matters.

There hasn’t been any official talk about quotas for dark-skinned players on NHL rosters (similar to Quebec nationalists’ demands for French-speaking players skating for Montreal Canadiens and, in the past, Quebec Nordiques). What hasn’t happened yet can easily happen in the future.

What the HDA has been demanding: have the NHL support young dark-skinned players so they can make the step into the top league ranks eventually. That it would be best to leave such decision to these kids (and their parents) somehow never struck the HDA as a most logical option. And never mind that the youth leagues are run by somebody else. The national hockey associations (Hockey Canada, USA Hockey), and their subsidiaries, such as the youth leagues, would certainly look askance at the NHL whenever it or its teams try to interfere with the programs in any shape or form.

Of course, the NHL hired Kim Davis, appointing her to the post of Executive Vice President, Social Impact, Growth Initiatives and Legislative Affairs. Based in the League’s New York office, she now reports directly to Commissioner Gary Bettman. She will also be in constant touch with what the league described as its clubs and stakeholders.

Top North American companies have been taking her advice on corporate responsibility and inclusive leadership practice, the NHL said.

That, of course, is not enough, so far as the HDA is concerned.

This is what the group said in its newest statement: “We have waited many months for a response to the common sense HDA pledge we proposed and it is clear that the NHL is not prepared to make any measurable commitments to end systemic racism in hockey.”

Where’s the beef?

Of course, the HDA has yet to define with any semblance of precision what it views as systemic racism. Judging by its co-founder Matt Dumba’s words during the infamous league re-opening, what we’re dealing with is systematic racism rather than systemic. The two expressions can hardly differ more, but let’s not be sticklers for detail. Neither the HDA nor the BLM (yes, even the Black Lives Matter have achieved the status of abbreviations) and nor the Antifa have yet come up with any kind of definition that couldn’t be successfully challenged, but that doesn’t matter, obviously.

So, the HDA informs all and sundry, “While we are disappointed, the HDA will operate separate and independent of the NHL and authentically implement necessary education programs and changes to the sport and seek to be role models for the youth in Black and Brown communities who want to play hockey.”

Former NHL player Akim Aliu, whose allegations that his former coach Bill Peters insulted him using a racist remark about the music he played in the locker room started the flood of “me-too” accusations, is one of the heads of the HDA. San Jose Sharks winger Evander Kane is the other one.

Founders of the group include players such as Trevor Daley, Anthony Duclair, the abovementioned Dumba, Nazem Kadri, Wayne Simmonds, Chris Stewart and Joel Ward.

The NHL has but one way to proceed: shrug the fierce HDA proclamation off and try to restore its business to make it a viable proposition again.

If the HDA has problems with it, the NHL should congratulate it: the HDA’s got something the NHL doesn’t.

And that should be the end of the story.

NHL obsessed with words, symbols, hiding the emptiness of political correctness

We fight against justice, said Matt Dumba during the opening ceremony of the tragic comedy a.k.a. NHL’s Stanley Cup playoffs 2020.

Ooopsie-daisy.

But not to worry. The Minnesota Wild defenceman, a Regina (Sask.) native, behaved like a broadcast professional he’s not yet (but it may be in his future, who knows). Dumba gave it a couple of seconds, and then returned to the proper script. We fight against injustice.

And, sure enough, his Freudian slip disappeared from subsequent showings of his speech as if by magic.

It wasn’t the only questionable mistake in young Mr. Dumba’s appearance. While Black Lives Matter’s ideologues claim with all seriousness that America suffers from systemic racism, Mr. Dumba mentioned systematic racism. Not once. Twice.

Systematic is an adjective that suggests there exists (or appears to exist) a system, a method, or a plan, or that whatever is happening involves any of these possibilities.

Systemic, on the other hand, is an adjective that means of or relating to a system. Phenomena affecting every part of an entire system (such as illnesses or social problems) can be described as systemic.

A seemingly minor difference, but of major importance.

The entire opening extravaganza bordered on the shocking, to say the least.

First of all, television screens lit up with words taken from an incendiary speech by the late Nelson Mandela, and to make sure everyone, even the illiterate among us, knew what it was all about, the former South African president’s voice filled the air.

Basically, Mr. Mandela’s speech was calling for an armed struggle, or else our children will hate us. In that particular clip, no reason for the armed struggle was mentioned, but it was expected that everyone and their dog would know.

What nobody from the NHL or Hockey Night in Canada bothered to mention was that Mr. Mandela was behind bars in South Africa because he was convicted of (and admitted to) terrorism.

Yes. Violent attacks against innocent and unsuspecting civilians, children included, are called terrorism by definition.

Not only that: one of Mr. Mandela’s chief advisers was a white-skinned man named Joe Slovo. Born as Yossel Mashel Slovo in Lithuania in 1926, he held the rank of full Colonel in the Soviet intelligence service, the KGB.

That the NHL and Hockey Night in Canada would choose a terror-driven Marxist-Leninist as a symbol of their fight against what they call social injustice is beyond comprehension.

The outrage happened on the 186th anniversary (to the day!) of the British Empire banning all forms of slavery (Canada was a part of the United Kingdom then, and still is).

A reminder: the United States followed suit 31 years later, in 1865.

Absolutely, racism did not end on that day so long ago, but it was a momentous start.

What else?

Can you imagine that powers that-be would tell a member of an Indian tribe he must not wear a three-piece suit, with a tie around the collar of his snow-white shirt, and his Gucci loafers shining like nobody’s business?

And wearing a, say, proper Fedora hat would be a no-no, as well?

Yes? No?

(For reasons known only to them, they call themselves First Nations in Canada.)

So why does nobody object to the recent decision of NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks according to which wearing Indian-style head-dresses to games is forbidden from now onwards into eternity? Fans entering United Center at 1901 West Madison Street in Chicago, Illinois, will be asked to remove the offending collection of feathers from their heads, and if they refuse, they will be removed from the premises.

No word yet whether they will be reimbursed for the cost of their tickets and parking stalls.

The Blackhawks management was inconsistent, by the way: why did they not ban moccasins, too, while they were at it?

Or: a sponsor demanded that the Canadian Football League’s Edmonton Eskimos drop the Eskimo part.

Instead of saying who needs such sponsors, going begging in the streets is more reputable than succumbing to such moronic blackmail, the Eskimos will have a new, preferably inoffensive, name soon.

Or take Yahoo. Originally a search engine, now a tragic attempt at a combination with a news source. This bunch of yahoos has removed a chess International Master from their site. (The International Master description indicates the player has achieved a pretty lofty level of play.) Yahoo’s censorship software did not like some of this International Master’s comments.

A few examples: he registered a move, and explained: “Black has totally screwed up here.” On another occasion, he wrote: “Black decided for the most violent continuation.” He dared use such outrageous remarks as: “… and after this move, white is deservedly winning.” Comments such as: “… and white dominates” didn’t help him much, either.

Illiteracy rules

The calls for so-called social justice have come close to Nazi shrieks of Sieg Heil (Hail to Victory). What actually constitutes social justice for the Black Lives Matter movement remains a closely guarded secret, hidden behind such seriously-looking expressions as systemic racism. This must sound seriously funny to anyone who watches black basketball players, multi-millionaires all, taking to their knees during their national anthem, mouthing platitudes that should make a mentally-challenged (it used to be called retarded) kindergarten kid blush.

And never mind the minor fact that the national anthem is a symbol of the country (and system) that has allowed them to become multi-millionaires in the first place.

Speaking of which, hockey’s Matt Dumba took the knee when they played the American anthem (with Chicago’s goaltender Malcolm Subban and Edmonton’s defenceman Darnell Nurse holding their hands on his shoulders to show their support). At least, he stood up for O Canada. Matt Dumba is not as rich as his basketball colleagues, but still, thus far, professional hockey has enhanced his bank account by about $19,656,668 (see CapFriendly.com). All that in about seven years.

Oh, and by the way, speaking of the seemingly innocent word retard, even that has experienced a bit of controversy of its own.

When an airliner is about to land (especially the Airbus aircraft are guilty of it), the pilot is controlling the process, but automatic devices check and announce such important data as altitude (in feet) above the ground and runway, and speed. If the plane is approaching faster than calculations permit (length of the runway, wind, temperature of the air right above the runway, whether the runway is dry or wet, etc.), the devices will say: retard, retard, and will continue saying it until the pilot manages to adjust the speed to the proper requirements.

The din this has created among the bleeding-heart do-gooders when they heard about it was unbelievable. It would take quite an effort for the airlines and their pilots to explain to those illiterates what the word really means, in particular when used as a French language verb. (Remember: Airbus aircraft are assembled in Toulouse, France.)

What an opening!

Visuals used by the NHL and Hockey Night in Canada during the opening ceremonies in Edmonton and Toronto used images of the convicted criminal George Floyd, whose violent death in the hands of a police officer in Minnesota has allegedly triggered the entire Black Lives Matter movement.

Nothing can be further from the truth: we have been hearing this perfectly racist slogan for quite a few years now.

Not only that: presenting a convicted violent criminal as a hero, as a role model, even, is as cynical a decision as cynical gets.

Racism exists, yes, that much is true. Whether it is systemic remains to be seen. Systematic it is not.

Yes, there may be fans who use racist epithets when they do not like a player, and see his skin colour as the only reason for hating him. This is not limited to black players: athletes of, for example, Asian origin can tell tales about treatment they have received from some morons who come to sports events to vent their frustrations rather than support their teams.

But: for the NHL (and, by extension Hockey Night in Canada) to proclaim slogans such as “We skate for black lives” is a sign of racism to end all racisms.

According to people who represent the newly established (and, at first glance, rather vigilant) Hockey Diversity Association, they want more people of colour (their own expression, even though some of them were more open: they said black) playing hockey.

The way they put it seemed next thing they would be demanding would be quotas. Something similar to Québec nationalists who from time to time demand that the Montréal Canadiens (of the former Québec Nordiques) have a certain number of French players on their rosters, or else.

How about letting kids decide for themselves whether hockey is the sport they love the most?

For the record: all lives matter. To be singling out some lives based on their race equals racism.

There are no ifs or buts about it.

Let’s hope even those who have been starving for NHL hockey will show the league their displeasure by not watching its renewed attempt to remain relevant. It’s the only way professional sports understand: they go where their pockets lead them.

My Stanley Cup winner prediction? One of the 24 teams still playing. Who cares?

Note to NHL: public money and private business do not mix

As gall goes, Gary Bettman has set new standards.

In a live interview on Hockey Night in Canada  the other day, Scott Oake apologized for even broaching the subject, and then he asked a logical question: what’s the NHL commissioner’s view of the City of Glendale’s decision to quit the agreement they had with the Arizona Coyotes?

Why did Oake feel he had to apologize? It was hot news of the moment, and he was speaking to the boss of the outfit that has had a keen interest in the matter.

Apologies or not, Bettman’s answer showed anger unbecoming of a person in his position. And it showed an arrogance that in just a couple of sentences displayed for everybody to see everything that’s wrong with professional sports on the business level.

Corporate welfare is the best description of what professional sports teams have been abusing. They’ve been getting away with public financing of new arenas, special deals, and whatever they could obtain, ripping off the (mostly unsuspecting) taxpayer all along. And, most surprising, shocking, even, they have felt they are entitled.

Which brings us to the outburst of anger one isn’t used to see in a Gary Bettman.

Unhappy council

The good members of the Glendale city council have had enough of the Arizona Coyotes shenanigans. They couldn’t get majority owner Andrew Barroway to talk to them. When they asked the minority owner, Anthony LeBlanc, about reports of some financial transactions that allegedly went against both the letter and the spirit of the deal the city had with the club, all they would get was incoherent obfuscations. Mr. Barroway, thus Mr. LeBlanc, is a busy man. He runs a hedge fund in New York, you see. The message was obvious: he hasn’t time to spare to talk to the hicks who run the city of Glendale.

So, council members decided to look for a hole that would get them out of the deal. They said so publicly that this was their plan. A few weeks later, Mr. Barroway and Mr. LeBlanc managed to find time in their preciously crowded schedules to meet with the mayor of Glendale, his deputy, and a few city officials. No coffee was served, no sandwiches were available. According to some reports, there were a couple bottles of water somewhere in the room.

That wasn’t the important part. The important part was that city representatives told Coyotes’ owners they were unhappy about the entire scenario and would like to open discussions about making a few changes here and there. The Coyotes’ owners said absolutely no way. To top it off, Mr. LeBlanc said they were ambushed. Either he’s illiterate and doesn’t know how to read regular newspapers (or their associated websites), and nobody read it to him, or he just doesn’t care what the city of Glendale has been saying rather publicly for quite some time.

If he wasn’t making it up and this was the first time Mr. LeBlanc had heard about the city’s distinct lack of happiness about the deal, it speaks volumes about his entrepreneurial incompetence.

In either case, ignorance is no excuse.

City in the poorhouse

The city of Glendale has been suffering for quite some time. It has had difficulties meeting its own financial obligations. Compared to just a few years ago, the city government’s workforce has been cut by almost 20 per cent. Enforced furloughs, vacant positions going unfilled, merging departments, you name it, the city has used all of these methods, and then some. Yet, it’s still unable to buy a new firetruck or open a new public library.

There might be studies that would find why this has been happening. There might be studies trying to figure out who or what is guilty of it all. But they are not relevant for the Arizona Coyotes soap opera. The city’s economic situation is what it is, and to be demanding $15 million annually for arena maintenance borders on the unconscionable.

That’s how simple it is.

In fact, for professional sports clubs to be asking for public handouts in the first place is unconscionable.

A bit of theory. Economy is divided into three basic spheres. They are described as core, public purpose, and business spheres. Some classify them as household, government, and business spheres. Names may differ, but other than that, it’s the same thing.

In economic theory, business sphere is strictly separated from the other two spheres. Government can (or may) use policies of economic stimuli to attract or keep an industry (a business, that is), but this just happens to be one of the must muddied areas of economics. Suffice it to say that pure economic theory frowns upon such relationships.

End of the bit of theory.

To be blunt: professional sports clubs do not create anything productive. Enthusiasm about a wicked wrist shot in hockey, or a curved (Beckham-like) shot in football (soccer, that is), or a new kind of kicking in free-style swimming, may (or may not) improve an individual’s mood. But that’s about it.

To limit an individual’s emotional well-being to watching extraordinary feats achieved by professional athletes is a dumbing-down proposition.

That’s one point of view.

To limit access to basic services that a government is supposed to provide just because said government is out of money as it had spent it on helping a professional sports club borders on the criminal.

To stay with Glendale, Arizona: what is more important to its citizens, a new firetruck, a new library, or an old and repeatedly failing hockey club? According to a recent public opinion poll, almost two thirds of Glendale’s citizens prefer the former to the latter.

Enough said?

Not according to the owners of the Coyotes, a hockey club that’s been losing money left, right and centre since the moment it landed in Phoenix in 1996. Please remember: it came to Phoenix from Winnipeg, a hockey-crazy community that had not been able to sustain it. And it came from Winnipeg to Phoenix, the place where they like their ice at the bottom of their glasses (filled with fire water, mostly), and where most of the locals can hardly care less about the fastest team game in the world.

Why Phoenix in the first place?

The strategic intent was easy to grasp: let’s have NHL hockey spread all over the Excited States. That’s the only way to get a national broadcasting contract and, thus, exposure. Alas, it seems (in hindsight) that Phoenix and environs have been doomed right from the start.

Not only that: blessed with one suspect owner after another, it seems NHL poohbahs would do well to look up in their dictionaries the real meaning of the expression: due diligence.

But the main point is simple: professional sports clubs should not be allowed to even approach governments, hats in hands, asking for taxpayer-subsidized handouts. If there is one industry where this should be forbidden by law, it’s the professional sports industry. (That, by the way, includes the Olympic Games and sundry international events, too.)

The rule should be: if you have the wherewithal to start a professional sports club, you would be logically expected to have enough money to pay for the re-zoning and building permits, for the construction itself, and for the running of the club, too. If one of these pre-conditions is not met, no permits would be forthcoming, and no taxpayer-funded subsidies, either.

And the word to such owners and leagues should be simple: no, you are NOT entitled to anything.

A minor legalistic observation: the Coyotes intend to claim that former city attorney Craig Tindall had nothing to do whatsoever with the contract between Glendale and the hockey club. That, they said they planned to say, makes the hole the city used to call the deal off null and void. They’ll have to convince a number of judges that they have a valid point. For the city, it would suffice to show that the text of the deal passed once (just once!) through said Mr. Tindall’s hands, even if it was for proof-reading purposes only.

Of course, it would be grasping at straws on the Coyotes’ part. And it would be missing two basic points.

First: the locals don’t want you. Stop behaving like a jilted lover who keeps telling her or his departing partner but you can’t leave me! Why not? Because I love you!

Instead, leave while the leaving is (still) good.

And the second point, even more important: grow up and realize that you are not entitled to anything from the public. Grow up and realize that public money and private business just do not mix. Remember that, eventually, if you persist in your attempts to blackmail the public, it may come back to haunt you.

And then, where will you be?

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 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

Hockey Unlimited: what makes Canada’s hockey tick

It’s all about telling it like it is.

The newest entry into the world of documentary films about hockey premiered on Sportsnet Monday afternoon. It’s going to see a few repeats before part two of Hockey Unlimited appears on the schedule (early December). Just watch for it.

Hockey Unlimited, without talking about it too much, probes into a question that is simple and complex at the same time: Canada is passionate about her hockey, and so are Canadians passionate about their hockey. There’s a world of difference between these two passions. And yet, one can’t exist without the other, and vice versa.

With the NHL game by EA selling like hot cakes, the first installment of Hockey Unlimited goes behind the scenes to find out what exactly it is that makes the game such a fan favourite.

The answer is simple and straightforward: it’s its creators’ passion that does it. The guys who have been creating it grew up on the good old black-and-white pong game. Something today’s young crowd has no idea whatsoever existed. The grown-up crowd might recall the vertical line dividing the screen, the two players represented by two shorter lines, with a ball represented by a roughly-edged dot, and, gee, what kind of progress that was! the score changing whenever either of the players missed.

Compare it to today’s game where they make sure that jerseys reflect the layers’ movements, that reflections in the helmets reflect the arena lighting and that the fans who are taking selfies during games do so using equipment that exists on the market today. And all that in high definition!

The second part is even more interesting.

Imagine a small village in rural Alberta, population just slightly over 300. Known also by its nickname (Home of the first last elevator row in Alberta), seat of Devil’s Coulee Dinosaur Heritage Museum, you can find it some 65 kilometres south of Lethbridge.

With farming becoming more and more industrialized, it’s villages like this that suffer the most. The good people of Warner were watching their future with apprehension. One thing they knew was that no matter what else goes, if their school goes, it’s the end. And that’s when they figured out a way. That’s when the Warner Hockey School, one of the premier girls’ hockey schools in Canada, was born.

It attracts girls from all over the place and the Warner Warriors, a part of the junior girls’ hockey league, have scored quite a few major wins. One of their biggest wins: some of its alumnae have gone on to the best schools on the continent on full hockey scholarships. One even helped her new alma mater win a national championship title by scoring the winning goal.

These girls help keep the Warner school alive. And, by extension, they help keep Warner itself alive.

The Warner Hockey School has Mikko Makela as its general manager and head coach. By the way, here’s the proper way of writing his last name: Mäkelä. But don’t worry, he doesn’t insist on that kind of convoluted spelling.

The name should sound familiar to NHL fans: named The Flying Finn, Makela has more than 400 NHL games on his resume. He also played in Finland and owned a team in his native country. Having married a girl from Lethbridge, he returned to her hometown with her, and – after a brief period of coaching a junior club – he made the move to Warner.

Both sides could have hardly been happier.

This part of Hockey Unlimited tells us more about Canadian hockey’s roots than huge tomes of university research. Including the difference between guys as hockey players and girls in that same role. When he tells guys to do this or that, Makela relates, they would just go and do it. Not so the girls. They would listen to the instruction and then ask a simply major question: why?

There are two more brief segments included in the show. One, narrated by fitness guru Simon Bennett explains how to increase the strength of some of the muscles hockey players need the most. The other shows power skating coach Steve Serdachny explain several hockey moves in detail.

All in all, hockey from all possible angles.

Add to it Aquila Productions’ traditionally sharp camera work, crisp editing and great music selections. On top of it, Sportsnet’s Chris Simpson appears as the show’s host. Chris Simpson has earned her credibility with hockey fans through the years of hard work and she’s very good. The creators have made sure that she doesn’t appear on the screen too often, either: they let their pictures do the talking.

Aquila Productions’ previous major project, Oil Change, has been a huge success. It developed a huge following.

Judging by the first episode, so will Hockey Unlimited.

Hockey knows no bounds: new Sportsnet series by Aquila set to open

Hockey is Canada’s passion.

Psychologists and anthropologists may debate the reasons for this strange phenomenon, but the fact remains (and is worth repeating): hockey is Canada’s passion.

And so, it’s not really a surprise that Edmonton’s own Aquila Productions has come up with a brand new hockey series that will begin airing on Sportsnet Monday, Nov. 24. Hosted by Chris Simpson, Hockey Unlimited will offer ten half-hour segments during this season.

Aquila gave us Oil Change, an award-winning series, that – the producers agreed – has run its course after five seasons. It was a series of behind-the-scenes looks at an NHL team in the throes of rebuilding. Oil Change has quite rightfully developed a following that borders on cult admiration. But you can be rebuilding a team only for so long. And that has been the limitation that the Aquila team has imposed upon themselves.

The new series will be going further and deeper than just the NHL. After all, the title (Hockey Unlimited) says it all. As the producers promise, they are going to follow hockey from its grassroots all the way up: minor, junior, college/university, recreational beer league, women’s, senior amateur, international and all levels of pro hockey.

Sportsnet has become the only guy in town to cover the NHL (with a few regional exceptions thrown in). This series is going to show that the network is seriously aware that without the grassroots, there wouldn’t be any grass. Good for them.

Many seem to think that only men between the ages of 18 and 49 are fanatic enough to spend most (if not all) of their spare time with or around hockey. Considering how many kids of both sexes love the excitement of actually playing the game, this series is bound to discover that hockey, indeed, knows no limitations. That’s how it is in Canada, and this is a Canadian show, aimed at Canadian audiences.

Here’s the plan: each episode of Hockey Unlimited (10 episodes in season one) will include two 8-12 minute documentaries about some significant issue, event, personality or other aspect of hockey. These features will be also accessible, once the show airs, online through live streaming off the Sportsnet site.

Check it out:

 

 

Station Date Start Series Episodes
SN Pacific Mon, 11/24/14 14:30 Hockey Unlimited 1
SN West Mon, 11/24/14 15:30 Hockey Unlimited 1
SN East Mon, 11/24/14 17:30 Hockey Unlimited 1
SN Ontario Mon, 11/24/14 17:30 Hockey Unlimited 1
SN Pacific Mon, 11/24/14 20:30 Hockey Unlimited 1
SN West Mon, 11/24/14 21:30 Hockey Unlimited 1
SN East Mon, 11/24/14 0:30 Hockey Unlimited 1
SN Ontario Mon, 11/24/14 0:30 Hockey Unlimited 1
SN Pacific Tue, 11/25/14 16:30 Hockey Unlimited 1
SN West Tue, 11/25/14 17:30 Hockey Unlimited 1
SN East Tue, 11/25/14 19:30 Hockey Unlimited 1
SN Ontario Tue, 11/25/14 19:30 Hockey Unlimited 1
SN Pacific Wed, 11/26/14 10:30 Hockey Unlimited 1
SN West Wed, 11/26/14 11:30 Hockey Unlimited 1
SN East Wed, 11/26/14 13:30 Hockey Unlimited 1
SN Ontario Wed, 11/26/14 13:30 Hockey Unlimited 1
SN One Wed, 11/26/14 23:30 Hockey Unlimited 1
SN Pacific Thu, 11/27/14 14:00 Hockey Unlimited 1
SN West Thu, 11/27/14 15:00 Hockey Unlimited 1
SN East Thu, 11/27/14 17:00 Hockey Unlimited 1
SN Ontario Thu, 11/27/14 17:00 Hockey Unlimited 1
SN One Fri, 11/28/14 22:30 Hockey Unlimited 1
SN One Sat, 11/29/14 22:00 Hockey Unlimited 1
SN One Sun, 11/30/14 18:30 Hockey Unlimited 1

 

 

Who says summer’s got to be boring?

The number of single female kindergarten teachers getting swallowed whole by sharks off the coast of the Adriatic grows exponentially every passing summer. They’ve become the usual front-page material for European newspapers, especially those whose countries have no sea coast.

After all, readers, listeners and viewers prefer lighter fare in their newscasts and news pages during summers. Don’t bore us with political situations and economic upheavals when the mercury is climbing north of 30 Celsius in the shade. Journalists are trying their darndest to oblige. This is true all over the world, North America happily included.

When there’s really nothing happening that the journalists could sink their teeth into, they use their imagination. And now that we have new media, rumours make their way around the globe with the speed of a summer thunderstorm lightning. Thanks to social media, journalists don’t even have to be the original authors any longer, even though membership in the profession helps.

Aliens, UFOs, new infections and whatnot still make the cut, but general population seems to be fed up with this kind of drivel. You can say that Hollywood’s fascination with stories based on the extravagant, combined with the sad decline in their ability to tell these tales coherently, if not convincingly, killed the genre.

Just as reality television, a scam to end all scams, pretends it exposes real stories of real people, the summer season in journalism is trying to pretend it’s based on reality, too.

Such as: have you heard yet Ilya Kovalchuk is on his way back to the NHL?

No?

Here’s the deal: the Russian-born forward who had retired from a huge NHL contract (and the New Jersey Devils) so he could return to Russia and play in the KHL has been talking to Devils’ chief poohbah Lou Lamoriello. Kovalchuk’s return is imminent.

Are you saying you do NOT believe Dino Costa, the slightly shocking radio host? Sure, Costa’s independent treatment of facts became too much even for the Sirius XM’s Mad Dog Radio. But are you saying he’s not worthy of your trust?

Mad Dogs fired Costa almost a year ago. You would think they were depriving his faithful audiences of an original voice that they all clamoured to hear. But not to worry. Enter social media. In this case, Twitter.

How do you get followers? You come up with something out of the ordinary. How do you keep followers? You repeat the routine with regularity not even daily use of strong doses of Metamucil can help you match.

So, anyhow, Kovalchuk’s on his way back. Thus spake Dino Costa. OOOPS: thus tweeted Dino Costa.

That would, of course, mean that Ilya Kovalchuk is a perfect moron.

He is not.

Kovalchuk retired from the NHL, walking away from a 12-year deal worth $77 million in greenbacks. That was the only way how he could leave and join the KHL legally.

As pointed out by NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly, to be able to return, Kovalchuk would have two basic options.

First, he would not be allowed to engage in professional hockey for one full year. Considering Kovalchuk came to Russia with a lucrative four-year deal awaiting him, it’s hard to imagine he’d do anything of the kind.

The other option would see all 30 NHL clubs grant him (and the Devils) a unanimous agreement to return. Can you see that happening?

Here are a few more details. If Kovalchuk missed the NHL that much that he would forego professional hockey for a year (and furnish a proof), he would be eligible to return only to the Devils, and he would have to stay there till the end of the 2018-19 season. Then, and only then, would the league remove him from the list of players who voluntarily retired, and – aged 36 – he would be able to sign with some other team.

And what are the chances that, say, the New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers or the Pittsburgh Penguins agree that the hated Devils bring back a reinforcement as potent as Ilya Kovalchuk?

Besides, sundry media (mostly Russian, to be sure) have quoted Kovalchuk as saying he’s frightfully happy in the KHL, the game is different but he’s getting used to it and everybody treats him like a king.

But: Dino Costa has got new followers on his Twitter account. That matters. At least, to him it does.

And he became famous all over the hockey-loving world. Or is it infamous?

Still, his “boring summer story” pales in comparison with the tragedy of the many single female kindergarten teachers swallowed whole by sharks off the coast of the Adriatic.

Dave King revives Lokomotiv Yaroslavl

This is how legends are born.

Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, the Russian KHL team that rose from the ashes of the aircraft crash that had wiped out the entire club, has made it all the way into conference finals of the KHL Gagarin Cup. The club rode over Dynamo Moscow and SKA St. Petersburg with a vengeance. It now faces Lev Praha.

Thanks to Canada’s Dave King.

Yaroslavl coach Pyotr Vorobyov resigned for health reasons in February, during the Olympic break. A day later, King got his leave from the Phoenix Coyotes and was on his way to Russia.

This isn’t King’s first coaching job in Russia. In fact, during the 2006-07 season, he became the fist Canadian coach in the KHL, guiding Metallurg Magnitogorsk. He opened the door for Barry Smith, Paul Maurice and Mike Keenan.

King’s arrival in Yaroslavl had some pretty emotional connotations. Brad McCrimmon, one of that fatal air crash victims, a former NHL defenceman and a Yaroslavl coach, used to be King’s personal friend. Both hailing from Saskatchewan, they’ve always been on the same wavelength.

King is very much aware that not even time will heal the terrible loss Lokomotiv has suffered. But he is also aware what a major victory can do to help the healing process.

One of Dave King’s advantages: he knows hockey inside-out on both sides of the Big Pond. He has coached in the NHL, he has coached for Canada internationally, even at Olympic level (Calgary, 1988, Albertville, 1992), he has coached in the KHL (Magnitogorsk), he has coached in other European countries in their elite leagues (Sweden, Germany). He has been a keen student of the game as such and of different approaches to it, recording things that he had learned in Russia in a book. Co-authored by veteran journalist Eric Duhatschek, King of Russia: A Year in the Russian Super League was published in 2007, becoming quite a success among hockey fans all over the world.

When King took over at Yaroslavl in February, Lokomotiv was out of the playoffs.

Now, it’s in conference finals, having beaten two clubs whose motto was “Cup or bust.”

Nobody expected that.

Should Lokomotiv win it all, Dave King can count on having a statue of him unveiled right at Yaroslavl’s central square.

And if he doesn’t? Well, he still got the team to a level that nobody had expected it to be just a few months ago.

And, irony of ironies: if Yaroslavl succeeds, and Metallurg Magnitogorsk wins the other conference, two Canadian coaches will be facing each other in the Gagarin Cup finals: King would be coaching against Mike Keenan.

Go Canada go!