[originally post for www.betonhockey.com on May 30/2012 ]
There’s a big fuss being made over the fact that, for only the second time ever, an American captain will be hoisting the Stanley Cup for his team first at the conclusion of this year’s playoffs. While it is an interesting statistic, it seems that the same people that are so concerned with captaincy nationality are uninterested in discussing the birthplaces of each of Dustin Brown and Zach Parise’s teammates that they are leading into battle; and less interested in talking about where the coaches that these captains are taking orders from, originate.
We should examine the origins of the remainder of each team’s roster to see exactly where our nationalistic allegiances should be strewn. Let’s do that now.
LOS ANGELES KINGS
The active roster of the Los Angeles Kings features 25 players – 15 of them are Canadian, 7 are American, 2 are Russian, and 1 is Slovenian. Add 1 Canadian if you count head coach Darryl Sutter. The Kings have more Canadians in their lineup than the Ottawa Senators, and as many as the Vancouver Canucks – the only two teams based in Canadian cities that made this year’s playoffs.
Representing Canada (60%): Jeff Carter, Kyle Clifford, Colin Fraser, Simon Gagne, Dwight King, Jordan Nolan, Dustin Penner, Mike Richards, Brad Richardson, Jarret Stoll, Kevin Westgarth, Justin Williams, Drew Doughty, Willie Mitchell, Jonathan Bernier (Darryl Sutter).
Representing the USA (28%): Dustin Brown, Trevor Lewis, Scott Parse, Matt Greene, Alec Martinez, Rob Scuderi, Jonathan Quick.
Representing Europe (12%): Slava Voynov, Andrei Loktionov, Anze Kopitar.
Assessment: Predominantly CANADIAN.
NEW JERSEY DEVILS
The active roster of the New Jersey Devils also includes 25 players – 7 of them are Canadian, 7 are American, 4 are Swedish, 3 are Czech, 2 are Russian, 1 is Ukranian, and 1 is Lithuanian. Add 1 Canadian if you count head coach Peter DeBoer.
Representing Canada (28%): Steve Bernier, Eric Boulton, David Clarkson, Adam Henrique, Travis Zajac, Bryce Salvador, Martin Brodeur (Peter DeBoer)
Representing the USA (28%): Ryan Carter, Stephen Gionta, Cam Janssen, Zach Parise, Mark Fayne, Andy Greene, Peter Harrold.
Representing Europe (44%): Patrick Elias, Jacob Josefson, Ilya Kovalchuk, Alexei Ponikarovsky, Petr Sykora, Dainius Zubrus, Adam Larsson, Henrik Tallinder, Anton Volchenkov, Marek Zidlicky, Johan Hedberg.
Assessment: Predominantly EUROPEAN.
If you’re basing your team allegiances upon the nationality content of each team, here’s how you should focus your cheering:
If you are Canadian, and want to cheer for Canadian players, you should be cheering for the LA Kings in the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals.
If you are American cheering for Americans, it’s your choice.
If you’re European cheering for Europeans, you should side with New Jersey.
Hockey Talkie: Bobrovsky, Skinner, Worlds, Chi-Van for Winter Classic, Quiet Room Exploit, Coyotes, and Thornton in Flip Flops.
I love TSN analyst Jay Onrait’s comparisons of Sergei Bobrovsky’s pulls and starts to a cop being pulled off a case, surrendering his gun and badge/getting them back & being reinstated on the case. The frequency of his being “hired” and “fired” from the “force” is comparable to George Steinbrenner’s yo-yo’ing of Billy Martin. It’s a classic tale of guy who’s dug himself a hole with a shot at redemption; but instead of realizing that potential, blows it and finds further condemnation, constantly restarting the cycle. For all we know, he could be living out a real-life hockey player/fictional cop version of Groundhog Day; having to get it right to proceed in life. The vids will clutter the blog up, but below are some links if you ‘re totally lost on what I’m talking about:
Also, why do Philadelphia and Washington refuse to spend money on a dependable goaltender?
Some perspective food-for thought…. With 63 pts this season, Jeff Skinner entered himself into the all-time-leading-scorer-as –an-18-yr-old conversation. As remarkable as it was for him (while simultaneously nullifying the Taylor/Tyler debate), that total still put him behind Sidney Crosby’s mark as an 18 year old…trailing him by 39 points (102); and also behind Wayne Gretzky (110 in WHA, 137 in NHL). As good as Skinner’s numbers were, they’re barely halfway to the best ever.
BUT consider this too: Skinner and Ilya Kovalchuk both had 31 goals this year, and Skinner ended up with 3 more total points than Kovy. The fiscal difference between them? $97.3 million in salary. So there’s that side of the coin as well.
Now Skinner’s competing for Canada at the 2011 IIHF World Hockey Championships, and doing just fine for himself. I may have touched on this before, but this tournament just isn’t a fair portrayal of the world’s talent in the game; and I maintain that the Olympic tournament should be the measuring stick in world rankings. Currently, Canada is ranked #2 behind Russia. But why? Because Russia does better in tournaments where the world’s best talent is still competing for NHL teams? In a tournament where rosters are seemingly allowed to change as frequently as teams desire? Canada destroyed Russia in the Olympic tournament where the world’s best players were ALL playing for their respective country. A true world championship should be contested by the world’s best players; the IIHF Tournament does not offer this. Why do they refuse to hold the tournament at a time where all players are available? The potential for credibility is right there, but it seems more like pride that is holding the IIHF back from changing more than anything else. In the meantime, Canada will continue to send the best they have available at the time and on short notice to top up their roster as best they can.
And a little further on Worlds rosters…. Toronto Maple Leafs’ Dion Phaneuf, James Reimer, and Luke Schenn were all good to go for Canada at the Worlds, but Phil Kessel said he was too tired to play for the US. Feel free to insert your own American joke. On the one hand, I think Kessel deserves the lambaste for this, but on the other, I think it speaks at least a little to how unimportant some players view this tournament. Playing for your country is an absolute privilege; it’s too bad that the IIHF refuses to present a tournament that all players wouldn’t waste a second thought on whether they would join their country’s roster or not.
Can the NHL go ahead and book the Chicago Blackhawks/Vancouver Canucks for next year’s Winter Classic? Great rivalry that has developed there; would make an entertaining HBO 24/7 special too. They’d need to do it in Chi-town though, unless they’re prepared to deal with hockey’s first ever rain delay.
Glen Healy is approaching Pierre McGuire-level ridiculousness in some of his HNIC on-air commentary. Though I hate the Vancouver Canucks, and a high-percentage of their fans, I do at least respect the Green Men. Healy has, for whatever reason, decided to make it his mission to slag these guys at every on-air opportunity he gets. Truth is, as annoying as they are, the Greenies are just fans who have paid their ticket money, are excited about and supportive of their team, and aren’t hurting anyone around them. If Glen Healy has a problem with fans, he might want to remind himself of who paid him his 14 years worth of NHL salary.
I thought about this when Brent Seabrook got concussed by Raffi Torres in the first round….The NHL’s new “quiet room” rule (a player that receives a headshot has to sit in a quiet room for 15 minutes and be evaluated by a doctor, good idea) seems easy for a team to exploit to get an opposing team’s good player off the ice for 15 solid minutes. I don’t know that any player/team would stoop that low, but when you think about it, if you can get a dangerous scoring threat or an impossible to beat defenceman off the ice for nearly an entire period, that doesn’t hurt your chances of winning the game.
It’d be too bad if the Phoenix Coyotes ceased to exist; I do like their red and white howling coyote jerseys. It’d be a shame to have to ditch them. Also, how unfair was it to the Coyotes that the media decided to talk about their pending relocation the entire time they were in the playoffs? They never had a chance this year. Oh, Glendale’s going to bail them out again next season now? Wow, glad we had to go through that unnecessary hype and conversation a few weeks ago.
Everytime the San Jose Sharks lose a game in the playoffs, I’m pretty sure Joe Thornton thinks to himself about how much more comfortable his flip-flops and boardshorts are than his hockey equipment at that moment.
Ahhh…. the first blog of 2011. Let me start off by thanking all you readers out there; viewership and interaction continues to climb every month, so thanks for tuning in! It’s been fun trying to keep your brains entertained and your interests’ piqued; I hope you’ve been enjoying new things like the video blogs, and with any luck you’ll keep coming back for more and bring your friends with you.
Anyways, enough mushy stuff. Some big hockey related events to chime in on, so lets get ‘er goin…
Obviously the World Juniors ended in disappointment for Canada. It kinda bugs me a little that even at the U20 level, Canadian hockey players have nothing-less-than-the-best expectations placed on them. Now with 2 consecutive silver medal finishes, you know that Hockey Canada is going to re-evaluate the entire Canadian development program, and cue up some ridiculous overhaul project that is far from necessary, to see what it’s going to take to get back on top of the world.
It’s too bad that losing at this game sends our country into such a panic about the state of “our” game. The more that we do this, the more I inch to agreeing with the notion that we do have a bit of a status/superiority complex about this game of ours; if we’re not the best in the world at hockey, then Canadians from all walks of life seem shaken to our foundations, and our stumble is all any of us can talk about until we eventually redeem ourselves with another victory down the road (see: 2010 Olympics). The NHL has spent the better part of this decade trying to sell our game to the US television audience, as well as the global one; and the pace at which the world has caught up to us has been well documented since at least a decade prior to the 21st century. We really shouldn’t be astounded that other countries are good at hockey (or at least, that we’re not always going to be the best), and that other countries winning once in a while is probably a good thing for the game of hockey as a whole.
Perhaps if we had more sports that we as a country laid deep claims and dominance to, we wouldn’t be sent into such a tailspin everytime losses like this happen (much like the way the US and Germany generally dominate most of the events at Olympics, win a majority of them, and don’t bat an eyelash at slip-ups because there’s enough victory to go around). But then again, you’ll think I’m a bad Canadian if I suggest that notion, so disregard the last two paragraphs.
I mean, 2nd in the world just really ain’t that bad from any other perspective than the one of the nation that holds claim to inventing the game, and coined catch phrases like “The drive for 5”, and other catchy rhymes related to winning championships a whole bunch of times, often in sequences. But as Major Junior hockey gets more and more exposure every year, and specifically the players who compete in this tournament, you begin to see that a good percentage of these players are indeed NHL bound (Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, John Tavares, Shea Weber, Marc-Andre Fleury, etc etc…), and maybe the increased pressure of having a planet-sized microscope on them isn’t such a bad thing from a preparation standpoint, as it’s likely pretty close to what they’ll continue to experience in the next phase of their hockey careers.
This year specifically, I think of Brayden Schenn. As always, Nike made a commercial campaign that stirred me like no other company can, and pretty well made me want to buy all the training gear that was being used in the commercial because of the emotional connection made to the players and the game. They had Luke Schenn speaking about how he and his brother, Brayden, have been neck and neck in accomplishments all their lives, with the exclusion of Brayden winning a gold medal at the WJC’s. And now, all we have left to assume is that Brayden has failed; which is insane, considering the fact that during this tournament, he tied a personal record set by Mario Lemieux for most goals in a game by a Canadian player (4), and surpassed Wayne Gretzky’s most points by a Canadian player record (18). I’d say anytime you can draw even or pass guys of that magnitude, failure is far from a correct descriptive term for you. Though as a big brother myself, it’s always good to have a leg-up when you can get one, especially with siblings that competitive
On a comedic-interlude side note, I loved the Gord Miller-Pierre McGuire back-and-forth that saw Gord Miller getting what sounded to be genuinely frustrated with McGuire’s stubbornly ludicrous commentary; in particular after an icing call that neither couldn’t let go of their differing opinions of for a number of whistles worth of banter. People who know me know that I think Pierre needs to have his microphone “malfunction” more often than it does; most of me wished that Gord had finally snapped once and for all, and gave Pierre a good throttling right there in the booth. The audio would have been priceless.
For Canadians to be proud of: We have the best fans in the world. Have you ever seen a road team’s fans fill an opposing team’s home arena like the Canadians did? Particularily astounding was the overbearing amount of Canadian fans present for the US-Canada game. The team I played for in college regularly had more fans in opposing rinks than the home team did; and to have that 7th man support at anytime, especially on the road though, is a priceless,special kind of x-factor momentum swinger that truly can make the difference by the end of the game. Of course, I never played in front of a supportive road crowd of the magnitude that Canada had, but I’d like to think I had a parallel experience on a much smaller-scale . The States should be embarassed; that’s their house, they should have supported their team better. Also, we beat the US, which is always good, and it was nice to avenge last year’s loss to them.
In the end though, you just can’t give up 5 goals in a period, especially in the third period, and double especially if you go into that third with a 3-0 lead. I mean, that’s just inexcusable. It’s tough to say it was unexpected, considering how many come from behind victories they put up through the tourney. Hats off to them for doing it though. If Canadians can take any solace, maybe it’s that the Russians are stuck in Buffalo until they sober up.
Though a lot of us probably don’t support the actual combat that takes place in the wars that have seen our family members, friends, and fellow countrymen & women fight in, I think we can all agree that we have nothing but the utmost respect for those who fought and either survived or didn’t, so that we could maintain our freedom. Whether you agree or disagree with the rationale of which the governments have deployed their soldiers for, it is those soldiers who deserve all the praise they get for putting their lives on the line for us.
I went to a local Remembrance Day ceremony in Kelowna City Park this year. I can’t remember who the quote was from, but one of the speakers read a quote saying, “War is one of man’s least creative ways devised of resolving conflict”. And that’s completely true. Unfortunately, whether it’s a dispute on government, religion, land claim, or whatever else, ultimately if it can’t be resolved diplomatically, we humans just decide to shoot or blow the other guys up to either get our way, or simply defend ourselves from having the same thing happen to us.
And even that brings a whole other element into play: who’s right? Who are the good guys and who are the bad guys? The ceremony featured a lot of prayers, which obviously ties in a religious angle to war. Whether we thank God for helping our soldiers survive, for giving them courage, ask His blessing as they ship out and enter the battlefield, ask Him to thwart our enemies, ask Him for peace, or whatever else we choose to pray for in terms of war, you do have to consider that the “bad guys” are probably doing the exact same thing, and feel very justified in their stance on the situation; hence the decision to fight for their side as well. Democracy seems correct (to us in our culture at least), but to some it is a very foreign, perhaps evil, concept, worth fighting against as to not have it imposed upon them.
Along the way I have been privileged to meet some veterans and hear their stories. One of the most interesting stories I’ve heard was the one from a neighbour I had some years ago who was actually a soldier in the German army. You know, the “bad guys”. He’s now got a nice little condo, been married for 60 years, a family, and participates actively in Strata rule enforcement. He’s a regular guy, and a nice one at that. But once upon a time, anybody on this side of the planet would have recognized him as evil. And of course, this isn’t to condone any of the actions that Hitler and the German army instigated, but this was a guy that was considered every bit as honourable to his fellow countrymen as our soldiers are to us. To hear him describe returning home to the pile of rubble that used to be his dwelling, and hear that side of the story made him a lot more mortal and a lot less villainous. But I think that’s the beauty of today, the day of digital media and endless information sharing; it used to be that only the civilizations that won wars dictated how history was written. Now we really have the opportunity to hear ALL sides, and decide for ourselves what’s justified, what’s worth fighting for, and what maybe needs a little further examination before risking human life. I also have a friend who I played college hockey with that recently served with the US Army in Iraq. While many oppose(d) the Iraq war, when you know someone in it, it makes you want that mission to be completed, if only for your friend to come home safe.
Prime Minister Harper announced today that Canadian soldiers would be staying in Afghanistan until 2014, but that after 2011 their mission would be exclusively non-combat, and only to train domestic forces. As much as I (and most of us) would like all our troops home immediately and out of danger, at least there is a commitment to ending the combat. A quote from the PM said,
“We do want to make sure that as we leave, what we leave behind is a situation where the sacrifices Canadians have made — and they have made a lot of sacrifices there — that those sacrifices are appropriately honoured and we leave something of lasting benefit,”
And I think in the end, that’s what it has to be all about: recognizing the efforts of those who have fought, and making sure those sacrifices were not in vain. I may not “Remember” it all year ‘round, but I am truly thankful to have had my freedom defended and fought for by so many brave people that never met me; it’s a very humbling notion to see old people marching in Remembrance Day parades, know what they did, and know that a sliver of it was in fact for me (divided equally amongst all of us of course), despite that when they were on the battlefield they’d never even heard of me, and that I’ll probably never even speak to them personally.
And because of this, for at least one day in a year, I actually, really, think about the idea of freedom. The notion that we can truly choose to do pretty well whatever we want to do, pursue, or stand for in our lives. Of course, you naturally want to point to all the good and noble things you have or you’re going to do with your life; but really, people have every bit as much of a right to become a complete jackass, and do some appalling, atrocious, or possibly just non-eventful and anti-climatic things with their remaining existence. I think that’s the dangerous part of freedom, and of fighting for and earning it, so it can be given to others. While many will indeed do remarkable and noteworthy things with their freedom that was paid for by human sacrifice, many will either do a lot of not-so-great things, and many may just do nothing at all (which may be worse in the end). I think the latter two concepts seem to cheapen that ultimate sacrifice that was made, which is sad, but at the same time, and unavoidable bi-product of an open-ended gift. While I admittedly probably don’t make the best of my freedom, I hope there’s been at least a glimmer here and/or there that wouldn’t make a veteran upset if I told him or her what I had been doing with myself.
Anyone who tunes into Coach’s Corner during Hockey Night in Canada on CBC knows that Don Cherry is a huge supporter of our country’s veterans, and he actually had a decent quote after showing a video montage and appearing from a military cemetary for British and Canadian soldiers with their crosses lined row on row. He said while pointing to the memorials, “These people gave their lives, the least you can do is buy a poppy.”
I’m pretty sure I’m going to need some Olympic detox. Withdrawals are surely on their way. I was hyper-tweeting on twitter, and my blogs reached record outputs (and hits!). A few of my readers were concerned I’d never return from Olympic themed blogs. So, with the intention of moving back to various topics, here is my last Olympic blog… for now.
Sidney. Freaking. Crosby. I could watch that “Golden Goal” (as announcer Chris Cuthbert called it) on loop for, probably ever. I heard one comparison already of that goal to the likes of the Paul Henderson goal in the ’72 Summit Series, and the Gretzky-to-Lemieux Canada Cup goal, and I have to say I agree with the alignment. It really was one of those goals that you’re going to always remember where you were and who you were with when it happened. It didn’t matter if you were a hockey fan, or even ever played hockey once in your life – if you are Canadian, you were excited.
And wasn’t that the spectacle of Vancouver 2010? All of us Canadians were excited, everywhere; seemingly all the time. Not just in Vancouver; not even just in Canada. Every living room, every pub, bar, airport, restaurant, Tim Hortons’, basement suite, townhouse, apartment, mobile home, rancher, bus, plane, car, city street, or any other dwelling place across the globe that displaced Canadians were currently occupying went absolutely bananas when they saw on their TV or computer, or heard on their radio or phone that Crosby’s shot went in. And it wasn’t just during that game; the jubilation and camaraderie really lasted throughout the entirety of the 17 days that were the 2010 Winter Olympics. There was video evidence from various cities from the East Coast all the way across the country to the West Coast of Canada; from Kandahar, Afghanistan to LAX; of Canadians loving every moment. I got to experience a few events, and even sported car flags on my vehicle (2 lost due to accidental window roll-downs, and one to manufacturers defect). And who could forget the red Olympic mittens? I had my pair.
We cheered and applauded, and/or got a little teary every time a Canadian earned a medal. Was there a better back-story than Alexandre Bilodeau drawing inspiration from his disabled brother and winning Canada’s first gold medal at home? We loved seeing giddy Marianne St-Gelais and Charles Hamelin win their medals and embrace. Who could keep their composure after Joannie Rochette won her bronze just days after the death of her mother? Canadian males everywhere grunted as Jon Montgomery screamed in victory, and guzzled a pitcher of beer. We couldn’t stop from singing “O Canada” in the curling rink, and causing non-traditional delays. The stories go on and on. And as I referenced already, when Crosby went five-hole on Miller, silenced the fear of loss, and Canada triumphed over the US, and took the overall gold medal lead and set the all-time Winter Olympic record, well, is it of any surprise that IOC President Jacques Rogge was “boo’ed” when he announced the games were officially closed?
Our hearts broke every time one of our athletes told us they felt like they let us down. Skeleton’ist Mellisa Hollingsworth, and cross-country skiier Devon Kershaw both broke down in tears as they fell short of the medal podium, and Jeremy Wotherspoon capped is career off still without an Olympic gold medal. Through them wearing their hearts, pride, and passion on the sleeves of their Canadian uniforms, we not only forgave them (we were never mad at them), but we embraced them.
We rallied together anytime negative and irrelevant criticism was thrown our way, and retaliated in a civil way, if necessary. We defended ourselves in, probably, a most unexpected manner. When foreign newspapers and other media outlets tried to point out all our shortcomings as hosts, we accented our strengths, did our best to clean up our messes, and kept on waving the Maple Leaf and breaking into spontaneous street-hockey games anywhere and everywhere, with anyone who wanted to join in. From the time the torch reached our shores from Greece and paraded to every corner of our country, to the time the flame was extinguished and started its journey to the next host, we were a team out there. Even our Prime Minister placed bets on u
IOC President, Jacques Rogge, assessed Vancouver 2010 as “excellent and most friendly”. Perhaps in part from being Canadian and watching Canadian broadcasts, my spectrum of the games were quite partisan. But in all honesty, compared to any other Olympics I’ve seen from any previous year, Vancouver’s 2010 Olympic Games were the best. Games. Ever. Many have said Canada forged itself a new identity, and put some swagger in our step. Some say it was there all along. Whatever it is that we’ve become as far as a united nation, I hope we never forget it.
Olympic Quips: Quality Over Quantity, Happy With Harper, Big Kid Pictograms, and More Hockey Thoughts.
Our country, and the world, has certainly been critical of our little “Own The Podium” program that we developed. Now, the goal was to win more medals than any other country, and the likelihood of that happening is fading. But do consider the following: We’ve won more gold medals than anyone else, meaning we’re the best in the world at more sports than any other country, INCLUDING the first place US. We tied the all-time Winter Olympic record for most gold medals at 13. If a country had 32 bronze medals for coming in third every time, and another had a fraction of that amount in gold first place medals, wouldn’t you give the nod to the country with the gold’s? Also, we’ve set another Canadian record for our medal count in Torino, which also was up from the previous record. And thirdly, our female athletes are destroying our male athletes in medal winnings.
I think it’s pretty cool that our Prime Minister, Stephen Harper is attending so many Olympic events. Apparently he’s been paying his own way for tickets (as he should be), so he must have some deep pockets; tickets for medal events like he’s attended are all in the multiple hundreds of dollars range. That aside, you likely wouldn’t see US President Barack Obama, or certainly not our old friend George W Bush, amongst the common people at such a largely populated public event. Harper’s high-fiving Wayne Gretzky, and hugging athletes as they win medals. I like it.
Who did Pepsi think they were kidding when they tried to make us chant “Eh Oh Canada Go” because they had a contest and awarded a prize to someone
who came up with, what they believed to be, the best original chant? I’m sure the entrant meant well, but come on. Chants are as spontaneous as the wave, or events depicted in Bacardi commercials; like throwing a lot of rocks in the water, building an island, and having an insane party, all on a whim. Our standard “Go Canada Go” chant is fine the way it is. Also, I’ve enjoyed “WE WANT RUS-SIA CLAP, CLAP, CLAP-CLAP-CLAP”; also sub-in SWE-DEN and U-S-A at the sight of inevitable Team Canada hockey wins as my favourites so far.
What’s the deal with the presentation of flowers after the medals? I know in Roman times, the flowers were quite coveted by the winners. Surely, it’s a tip of the cap to that tradition, today. But I mean, I’m sure the athletes are like, “WOW THIS IS AWESOME I’M THE BEST THIS MEDAL RULES… oh, and thanks for the flowers… hold on, I gotta put these in some water… for something that’s gonna die fairly soon, these seem like something that we could’ve saved spending money on for something for necessary.” Here’s a little quip about where the bouquets are made.
I’m glad Vancouver 2010 decided to use pictograms to visually interpret the events that don’t look like kindergarten scrawls, as has been done consistently for like, ever. These ones are well drawn, and actually look like what they are supposed to depict.
Team Canada’s Women’s hockey team prrrrrobably shouldn’t have been drinking champagne and smoking cigars in the public eye after their gold medal victory, especially with an underaged player on the team participating. But you’re kidding yourselves if you think these things weren’t happening anyways in the dressing room. They just got caught. Oops. Add this to the IOC’s list of reasons that will be reviewed to support women’s hockey remaining as an Olympic event… hmm, probably should’ve kept it in the room. Well, they are the best in the world, again. And they beat the Americans. On those fronts, nice going girls!
Finally, after squeaking by Slovakia, CANADA IS GOING TO DESTROY THE US IN HOCKEY AND WIN THE GOLD MEDAL AND AVENGE THEIR ROUND ROBIN LOSS AND SETTLE THE PSYCHE OF ALL CANADIANS. Given, the US has a great team, a hot goalie, and it would be good for the business of hockey for them to win, but my allegiances are unquestioned. I have a friend who is a die-hard Calgary Flames fan/Vancouver Canucks hater, so much so that the mere thought of Roberto Luongo being credited for Canada’s success spurs on thoughts of “Lu” assassination, and instead wants Iginla to be credited for all triumphs. I’ve got another (American) friend who only gets interested in hockey when the US plays Canada. After some back and forth text-taunting since the first game, I NEED Canada to win for my own pride. Is it interesting to anyone else that North American teams only make it to the Olympic finals when the games are played on NHL sized ice instead of Olympic sized ice (an insane stat; what other reason is there to have Olympic sized ice if not to be used AT THE OLYMPICS?) I think we can all agree, it’s going to be one heck of a game. Lets go Salt Lake City on ‘em!
GO CANADA GO!!!
***Heading into their Olympic quarter-final showdown both touted as their respective country’s top players, I thought I’d relaunch my Sid vs. Ovie blog that I previously posted for another site. While the latest chapter may not be have the gold medal on the line, for Canadian fans, it might as well be in the “do or die” situation we’ve found ourselves in. Enjoy!*** -SDC
There are battles of Alberta, Summit Series’, and “Magnificence” vs “Greatness”; but is there an NHL rivalry greater than the current individualistic battle between Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin?
The two phenoms entered the league as at least respectful rivals of each other. Prior to their simultaneous NHL arrivals, they had only ever competed against each other on the international stage, playing for Canada and Russia, respectively. With cameras and tape recorders rolling, making campy NHL commercials and delivering birthday cakes at the NHL All-Star game together slowly morphed into on-ice physicality and off-ice verbal sparring. Welcome to the business of “selling” the new NHL to the American market.
It’s a protagonist-antagonist scenario that seems to be inspired by Vince McMahon himself. In one corner, you have the abrasive, exciting, inimical Ovechkin; equipped with infinite energy and a talent level he must have exchanged his soul for, hailing from Mother Russia, a country that, according to Hollywood, produces more bad guys than perogies. His opposition, the humble, hard-working, and traditional Crosby; hailing from Canada, playing and interviewing the way the Canadian hockey heroes of the past did before him. Of course, as the NHL panders to the North American market, it’s easy to portray Crosby as the “good guy”, though Ovechkin, Federov, and every other Russian NHL star has been adorned in their homeland. Most Canadian fans would likely admit that there’s Russian NHL’ers that are better than Canadian NHL’ers, but they’d feel like they were betraying their country if they ever uttered it publicly.
Forget all the media hoopla; shouldn’t the NHL be sending royalties to the parents of Sidney and Alexander for deciding to have children that grew up to capture the attention of their entire audience? In the ongoing battle to
procure American advertisers and cable network broadcasters, the NHL can count on at least Penguins and Capitals games as easy ratings sells; providing that Crosby and Ovechkin are in the lineup. Did anyone care about the Capitals before Alexander the Great? A team with no Stanley Cups, and nothing more than a conference championship in 1997-98, former Hart and Art Ross Trophy Winner Jaromir Jagr couldn’t even make hockey exciting in Washington. All of a sudden, the Verizon Center has sell-out crowds, and the team is a contender. Ovechkin plays with a wreckless abandon that has resulted in a kneeing suspension, but what is coach Bruce Boudreau going to do with his star, bench him? Tell him to ease up? Come on. The Penguins at least got to pair Lemieux and Crosby together in 2006, but the Steel-Town had been pretty dismal since the back-to-back Stanley Cup championships in 1990-92. Sure hockey’s a team game, but to suggest that the individual ability and rivalry of Crosby and Ovechkin isn’t largely responsible for the teams’ success and the league’s rising interest, is naive.
The 2008-09 playoffs were an absolute treat to watch, and many people would point to the Pens/Caps Eastern Conference showdown as a highlight, as well as an indication of who would/did become the eventual Cup winner. Fans got to see Sid and Ovie go at each other for seven consecutive games rather than once a season, and they got to see both players at the top of their respective games; Game 2 featured both players notching hat tricks, and Sid’s 13 series’ points and Ovie’s 14 equaled the highest single-series point total since the 1995 NHL playoffs. It was awesome.
Penguins win the series 4-3, and the “evil” Ovechkin, was banished back to Russia (well, Washington), screaming promises of revenge (actually he wished that the Pens win the Cup, but just work with me) while he was being dragged away. Meanwhile, the “heroic” Crosby was adorned on a mountain top, cape waving, a dark curl dangling from mid-brow (just above his perv-stache), all while giving an interview where he characteristically puts over his opponents, commenting on how well they played, and not giving himself any selfish credit. Wouldn’t it have been great/justified if he had finally just snapped, either after that series or after winning the Cup, and said, “YOU SEE?!?! I AM BETTER THAN HIM!!”
Ovechkin wins rookie of the year, Sid’s named the youngest captain in history. Sid wins the Art Ross and the Hart, Ovie wins the Richard and Pearson awards. And so they dance. We’re still waiting to see what Ovechkin’s equal to Sid’s Cup win will be. Alexander’s pursuit of a championship, Sidney’s defence of his, and their continued rivalry will continually be fun to watch, and is easily the best rivalry in the NHL today. It’s Canada vs. Russia, tradition vs. new school, team vs. team, and man vs. man, all wrapped into one ongoing showdown. Their 2010 Olympic showdown will be the latest chapter, and perhaps the most exciting for fans thus far. It’s one thing to have the hopes of a whole city on your back in the case of an NHL team, but entire countries? If the NHL can’t sell that to Americans, then tearing fans away from the baseball diamond and football field for the hockey rink is a fruitless endeavor anyways.
So many Olympic thoughts running through my brain. After watching it on TV EVERYday so far, and even going to Vancouver to see a few events, I gotta say I’m really enjoying the Olympics overall. I don’t think I’d be
wrong to say that most Canadians are as well. Have you ever seen spontaneous jubilation in streets, or random outbursts of “O Canada” at curling matches before? Unreal. Truly something special; whether you’re viewing from afar, or are there to experience it in person.
Most people internationally would likely say the same thing as well. Unfortunately, there are a few members of the American and British press who want to rain on everyone’s parade by labelling Vancouver 2010 as the “worst games ever”.
Sure, the weather hasn’t been ideal; but events have continued, and medals have been awarded. Sorry we forgot to import the weather machine that does our meteorological bidding. Our courses are too hard? The competitors are the best in the world at their sports, right? Should we make
them easier for everyone? Sorry for training on our own tracks a lot; didn’t know that was such a bad thing. The world doesn’t like our “Own The Podium” program, where we give more money and training opportunities than we historically have to our Olympic athletes in hopes of them winning a lot of medals? Oh, sorry, should we just go back to being a mediocre sporting nation for everyone else to roll over like they used to? What we gave our competitors is still nowhere near that of other nations, and hey, it’s not even working out THAT well for us so far, so chill. We’re doing alright though, and no one here is going to be less proud of our athletes for any reason.
A malfunction in the Opening Ceremonies? Um… whoops. We swear they were working in practice. Some people thought the flaming icicles looked like male genitalia, or drug paraphernalia? Well, think what you want, but be careful what indigenous people you vocalize those opinions around. No one can get close to the flame? Hey, they’re working on it. I got a few good pics; I’m not complaining. The US beating Canada in men’s hockey? Wait, that’s Canada’s complaint. Blame it on the goalies when things go squirrely, right?
And the death of Georgian luger, Nodar Kumaritashvili; well that was simply a tragedy, nothing else. That track has been ridden countless times safely, and it’s a very unfortunate and sobering example of just how dangerous that sport is.
So England and America, oh yee dwelling in glass houses and flats; how did your prior Olympic Games hostings turn out?
London’s Olympic Games in 1908 saw England piss off the Finnish, Swedish, and USA by not displaying their flags at the Opening Ceremonies. Finland decided not to march, and Sweden left all together. The Americans were then asked to “dip” their flag to the Royals, which they outright refused. Solid international relations, England.
The USA’s Games hosting tenures haven’t been “squeaky clean” either.
Atlanta’s 1996’s Summer Games were considered over-commercialized, had a highly criticized Olympic Village and Opening Ceremonies by spectators and athletes alike, and… what else, what else…. OH YEAH, there was a BOMBING that killed 2 people and injured 111 others.
Salt Lake City’s Winter Games of 2002 were marred by a bribery scandal (all-expense-paid ski trips, scholarships, Super Bowl trips, plastic surgery, deals on real estate, jobs for family members, and cash for IOC delegates from the Utah bid committee) to bring the Olympics to Utah which saw several IOC members expelled, and others resign. Allegations of foul play in figure skating judging saw scores and results reviewed and medals re-awarded. Suspect refereeing in speed skating DQ’ed a Korean, and angered that entire country to the point that the Olympic website crashed from the overload of threatening emails sent to them over the result. Russians threatened to go home after they felt they were unfairly accused of doping in cross-country skiing.
Los Angeles’ Games of 1984 were boycotted by 16 countries. In LA’s 1932 Games, President Hoover became the first head of state in Olympic history not to even show up at the event. The 1904 Games in St. Louis became a sideshow of The World’s Fair, and lasted four and a half months.
Now, all that to say to the critics look, we know things have been going wrong. We’re working on it. No one said Vancouver 2010 was going to be perfect. And let’s be honest, everyone throwing stones at us right now has got plenty of skeletons in their own closets from when they tried to host the Olympic Games previously. Can we at least agree that it’s a rather dubious task? And London, you get them again in 2012, so you better be expecting an earful the second after the first thing goes wrong. I’ll take a few unseasonably warm days in Whistler over any of those other issues any day. There’s just so much good to be taken from these Games, maybe we can all just quit pointing fingers at our follies and just enjoy our athletes rising above the childish media behavior?
I think US Men’s Hockey Team GM, Brian Burke, said it best with this earlier quote in response to the criticisms of Vancouver 2010:
“I think that’s bullshit. I’ve been to four Winter Olympics. This is the best one I’ve been to in terms of organization. You’re going to have glitches in an event this size. With this many people, logistical things with multiple venues, you’re going to have glitches. I don’t know why people are whining about it. I think it’s been extraordinarily well run — again, this is my fourth one so it’s not like I’m a novice. I think they’ve done a marvellous job here. I wish people would quit bitching about it.”
Man, for a million reasons, I wish Brian Burke was Canadian.
From the 2:30 mark, “The International Olympic Committee has the honor of announcing that the 21st Olympic games in 2010 are awarded to the city of….(dramatic pause)….Vancouver.”
I still remember ducking out of my hated construction labor job for 20 minutes in July of 2003; strategically hiding from my boss, taking refuge in my car which I parked out of plain view, reclining the seat and turning up the radio to hear the announcement being broadcast on a local station. My hair stood straight up and chills ran down my spine when IOC President Jacques Rogge finally said “Vancouver.” Unfortunately I had to go back to hating my job and life prompty after that, but they were 20 minutes I’ll never forget. I still get those same chills even when I remember back to it now. For seven years, I’ve been excited for Vancouver, and Canada, to host these winter Olympics. I know I’m not the only one either.
An event like the Olympics effects not only one entire nation, but the entire world. Anytime things of that magnitude occur, opposition naturally follows. And that’s part of the beauty of our democratic societies; that we allow free speech, and people have the right to balk at things they believe are worth standing against. Are there bad things that will come out of Canada hosting the games? Surely. The $500 million+ dollars pumped into these games could’ve been spent a lot of other ways; especially amongst a recovering economic recession. Would we have ended homelessness in our country with that money? Tough to say. Were we not careful enough with the environment when constructing facilities? Did we not represent the Indigenous people of Canada, and our other cultural origins correctly? Did we go overboard on security in an attempt to keep terrorism and other threats to peace out of the picture? Are there another 100 things that were not done to the liking of our 30 million residents? Probably. Is anyone actually making the case that we did things perfect? Not likely. Sometimes athletes cheat, sometimes there’s corruption in the IOC. Sometimes they get away with it, sometimes they don’t. Some countries get more money to train, and some have to just make due. Personally, I don’t like the fact that our politicans and corporate sponsors ALL managed to get prime tickets to ALL the events, and the public was subject to an inane online lottery system. Oh, and that some of those tickets cost $1000 or more. Athletes get hurt, and probably more unfortunate than anything else, sometimes athletes are fatally injured; as in the case of Georgian Luger, Nodar Kumaritashvili. So yeah, there’s a lot of imperfect things that the Olympics bring.
But can we think positively for at least 2 weeks? If anyone who watched the opening ceremonies that saw the 60,000 Canadians packed into BC Place draped in red and white, waving the Maple Leaf, and resounding in excitement, thinks that Canadians aren’t pleased as punch to be hosting these games, well they couldn’t be more wrong. For every stick in the mud, there’s an entire tree full of green, growing branches, reaching for the sky and enjoying their time in the sun. And that’s exactly what Canada has before it; 2+ weeks to shine in international light.
Canadians love sport, and we love our athletes that compete for us as well. The thing about athletics is it has the ability to transcend even the thickest cultural and international disagreements in the name of sportsmanlike competition. If you need any proof of that, look at the nations of Iran and North Korea; absolutely scorned by the Western world as being on the brink of nuclear war with us. But through all that justified tension, North Korea has sent a speed-skater, and Iran’s sent 2 skiers to compete in the Games; and to, if only briefly, join and be welcomed by the international community. Even Israel and Lebanon will put aside differences to be a part of the Olympiad. That’s powerful stuff.
Look at Ghana, Ethiopia, Nepal, and other impoverished countries that may or may not even see a flake of snow in their countries, but come to the Games with the support of their governments and train between full-time jobs to earn spots on their national rosters to compete because they believe that the Olympics are worth the effort and sacrifice necessary to get to them. And really, that’s exactly what the Olympics are all about in their purest form; the best amateur athletes in the world, putting aside barriers, competing cleanly, for their country, to showcase the best that their human abilities have to offer in terms of their unique sport.
The thing is, there’s so much good to be harvested out of such a criticized event. We ran a little flicker of a flame from Greece, around the entire planet, and through the streets and neighborhoods of nearly every city in our own country. In Kelowna, we had a kid with cancer cut out a few days of his chemotherapy treatments so he could be a local torchbearer. Many similarly touching stories laced our national torch relay as well.
We’ve come together as 6 continents to show that there’s at least one thing we can all be civil and peaceful about, if only for a short time. The world of sport blends together with art and culture to put on a show unlike any other. Our troops fighting for our freedom overseas gather around a TV, dressed in Canada clothing and sipping Tim Hortons’ coffee to watch the proceedings of Canadian icons Rick Hansen, Nancy Green, Betty Fox, Wayne Gretzky, and others completing the Olympic opening ceremonies. We bought pairs of red mittens, various apparel, grocery items, and pretty well anything we could get our hands on that we either knew would support Canadian athletes financially, or just emblazoned “Canada” on them to show our support.
So, through all the things there are to protest against, there are plenty of others that Canadians are rightfully excited about. How bananas are we going to all go when a Canadian wins our first gold medal that we’ve ever won on home soil? Our when our hockey team(s) (hopefully) strike gold as well? Between the Olympics and Paralympics, it’s going to be an exciting few weeks, and a historical moment for our country. I hope you choose to enjoy them with the rest of us. Go Canada go!
From time to time, I get people who write me ideas to blog about, so I’ve decided to start a “mailbag” section. Our first one deals with the emergency and relief in Haiti, after the recent earthquake.
We all send money in an instant when a disaster strikes somewhere. Well what about our own people? They live on hard cold concrete yearly and they all have mental problems and need something more than what our government is doing. Our government sends millions of dollars over there [to Haiti], and ships other supplies, and we hear about it on the news. It breaks my heart to hear [that the earthquake happened], and it sucks, but it is a natural disaster, and we should be looking at why we didn’t help them [with other situations] before this happened and you started hearing all kinds of cool things that are going on there now.
Great, but what did these people do before the disaster who are giving [their] money and time? Did they wake up and have a brain fart and go, “I’m [just] going to send money.” ? That’s great, but do they help our Canadians who are in need? I don’t mean the food banks that are helping single parents on income assistance and such; [but] here in Canada people charge money to their cell phones [to donate to Haiti relief], but why don’t they do the same for the people who are in dire need here at home? Same with the government, who do nothing for them.
Lots of celebrities like to make a big deal about how much they are donating, but I say the people that count are the people that do it and say nothing at all.
An interesting point of few, that reminds me of a similar story in recent media. On January 14, controversial Florida-based radio DJ, “Bubba The Love Sponge” (whose show is broadcast on Howard Stern’s Sirius/XM Satellite Radio channel), made the following comment via his Twitter account:
“I say fuck Haiti. Why do we have to take care of everybody [else], our country is in shambles.”
He then clarified his controversial statement in a series of “tweets” three days later:
“When we don’t have kids that are on the streets here in America, and we have a surplus of money, and we have paid China the 60 or so trillion we owe them, and we are no longer losing American troops’ lives over a religious war that has been going on longer than we have been a country, and we have most of our own working again (unemployement is over 10% now btw), then we can start worrying about other countries and natural acts beyond our control. Where were all these people we are helping when we had the Midwest floods, or the 5 Hurricanes in ‘05 that hit Florida, or Huricane Andrew or Katrina? Take the money you want to send to Haiti and go to a Big Brothers or Big Sisters and mentor a child that doesn’t have a dad or mom; and give that little boy or girl a chance and a hope of being something great that would benefit our country more than Haiti relief. Bubba.”
Surprisingly, I’ve heard other opposition to Haiti relief as well, and people are entitled to their opinion on the matter. A lot of people have concerns about if the money actually makes it to Haiti (or any country that is in need of relief), or whether their money is making someone on the other end richer than before, and not at all helping the people it was intended for. If that is something stopping you from sending money, the Government of Canada has provided a searchable database of registered charities that are sending money and supplies to Haiti that you can lookup any charity that you are questioning legitimacy. Sure, there are scammers out there; but there are people and organizations genuinely trying to help as well, and they shouldn’t be overlooked.
Our Government has also announced it will match all donations made by Canadians to the effort. AND you may not know that they also forgave Haiti’s entire monetary debt to us last July. Check out that little tidbit here. Let’s just hope that other countries are that generous to us if we find ourselves in a similar situation in the future.
I think both Adrian and Bubba raise an interesting point though; which is that there are plenty of people at home that are in desperate need of assistance as well for altogether different reasons. I just can’t say that giving money to help Haiti is a bad idea; but maybe if you are still considering making a donation, or can still afford to give more, why not match or give a little to a local homeless shelter, or food bank, or something in your own city? Not everyone can afford to give money, and that’s fine. Lots of people think of creative ways to raise money, and there’s always different ways besides giving money to get involved in this charity and others. If you are able to, you should get involved.
“Give to the poor.”
-Jesus: Matthew 19:21; Mark 10:21; Luke 12:33
Also, on behalf of Christians everywhere, I’d like to apologize for tele-evangelist, Pat Robertson’s comments on January 13 that insinuated that the earthquake was a result of Haiti being under a curse from making a pact with The Devil to oust the French from their country in the 1700′s. Even if there was someway to actually prove that, the comment was untimely and out of line at best. He should’ve kept his mouth shut; making that comment served no positve or reasonable purpose imaginable. Sorry.