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Penguins acceptance of Trump’s White House invitation odd, but opportune.

September 25, 2017 Leave a comment

At the beginning of June, Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the Paris Climate Agreement, stating that he was acting on the grounds that he represents the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris. Now at the end of September of the same year, mirroring the US election results in which Hillary Clinton received 75% of the Steel City’s vote, the actual people who reside in Pittsburgh have again made it clear that they don’t all agree with President Trump’s sentiments.

Trump’s incendiary comments at a rally speech on September 22nd regarding NFL players following Colin Kaepernick’s lead in taking a knee during the American national anthem, and subsequent withdrawing of Stephen Curry’s invitation to visit the White House (along with the rest of the Golden State Warriors) to recognize his team’s NBA championship win due to Curry’s “hesitation” to accept the invitation, sparked a torrent of social media based backlash from many professional athletes from across North America’s “Big 4” sports leagues (for starters, see: Blake Wheeler, NHL; LeBron James, NBA; Bruce Maxwell, MLB) as well as press releases in the media, and public displays prior to games from team owners, management, and players all standing together in solidarity against Trump, and the larger narrative of racism in America. The Pittsburgh Steelers (followed in kind by the Tennessee Titans and Seattle Seahawks) opted to not be present on the field during the national anthem in direct protest to Trump’s stance – though the Steelers’ offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva did come out to salute the flag and sing along against the wishes of his head coach.

While representatives of the NFL, MLB, and NBA all made statements and took different degrees of action, the NHL also responded, though not in sync with everyone else.

The Steelers’ city mates, the Pittsburgh Penguins, who are the NHL’s most recent Stanley Cup champions, took the road less travelled, releasing a statement on September 24th in acceptance of the President’s invitation to bring their trophy to the White House, give him a jersey, and pose for pictures, confirming Trump’s tweet on the same day about their pending visit. No date is set, however, which hints this statement release was anything but coincidental, and suggests very odd and questionable support for Trump and his recent words.

“Any agreement or disagreement with a president’s politics, policies or agenda can be expressed in other ways. However, we very much respect the rights of other individuals and groups to express themselves as they see fit,” reads the latter half of the Penguins’ media release.

There are keywords in that paragraph to hone in on – firstly, the notion that the Penguins respect other people’s rights to free speech and expression, just not those of their own personnel, apparently. Secondly, that a political disagreement can be expressed in a way other than declining an invitation to visit the White House, and rub shoulders with a demonstrably terrible human being and even worse world leader. What exactly could that alternative angle be?

Penguins’ captain, Sidney Crosby, ran further with that same idea in a later interview, scratching the surface of something quite tangible, if you let the concept breathe for a moment.

“I still feel like we look at it as an opportunity. We respect the office of the White House. People have that right to not go, too. Nobody’s saying they have to go. As a group, we decided to go,” Crosby told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on September 24th.

If what Crosby says about none of the Penguins being forced to go is true, we’ll have to see if any of them decide to pull a 2012 Tim Thomas and skip out on the event due to political disagreement (or other pro athletes who have done the same in the past) while his whole team still goes – if that were to be any of them, some might suggest it be Ryan Reaves, the only black player on Pittsburgh’s roster, though Reaves was born in Winnipeg, Canada. But they also have 16 American born players in their lineup, and an owner in Ron Burkle who knows Donald Trump personally, who all could take that opportunity of a public audience with the President that others are either declining or being disqualified from possessing – the opportunity to have an open, visible discourse with Trump, to air grievances in a diplomatic fashion, have their voice heard, and simply hear what he has to say in response. Every player will surely get the chance to look Trump in the eye and shake his hand if only for a moment – what they do with those precious few seconds could go a long way in either direction, or absolutely nowhere at all.

It would be the perfect opportunity for the NHL to start practicing what they recently started preaching, in accordance to excerpts from the league’s recently developed and published official Declaration of Principles:

We Believe: The game of hockey is a powerful platform for participants to build character, foster positive values and develop important life skills. These benefits are available to all players, desirable to every family and transcend the game. Hockey’s greatest value is the role it plays in the development of character and life skills. We believe in our ability to improve lives and strengthen communities globally through hockey.  

All hockey programs should provide a safe, positive, and inclusive environment for players and families regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, and socio-economic status.

Integrity: We do the right thing, not the easy thing. We have courage on and off the ice.

Wouldn’t it be something to see someone outside of Trump’s inner circle, or the hosts of Fox and Friends, try to talk some sense into him face-to-face, rather than through TV or Twitter? We’ve all seen how well Trump remotely dialogues with his fellow Americans and foreign leaders alike through his preferred social media vehicle of Twitter. While the statements all professional athletes have been making thus far are valid and meaningful, none of them have been channeled directly at Trump’s face, not transmitted through a screen. As juvenile as it would be, Trump basically can basically still say, “Oh yeah? Why don’t you say that to my face?” to it all. And this seems to be the opportunity that the Penguins truly have, as I hope Crosby was eluding to. Might then a hockey player, generally considered fair, conservative and level-headed, be the perfect person to bring a slant of reason to this president? Trump may not listen to any of it, but at the very least someone from the Penguins could convey a message. Hopefully the team makes the most of the chance their captain already knows they have. Either they tap into the character they have developed through hockey, use courage and their powerful platform to transcend the game and do the right thing in helping all families feel included regardless of their minority status, or they instead do the easy thing that would be just showing up to smile for the cameras, nod when spoken to, and give classic canned answers to reporters while they tour the oval office and admire the furniture. I know which option I would prefer.

***UPDATE***
On October 10, 2017, the Pittsburgh Penguins visited Donald Trump at the White House, and did and said nothing. 😦

Anti-Canucks Assessment, Gretzky’s Gall, and a Lebron/Heat chime-in.

June 12, 2011 2 comments

This year’s Stanley Cup Final is just so incredibly polarizing in terms of how valuable home-ice advantage is, it’s amazing.  Name another series where you’ve seen one team lose on the road either by shutout, or only by 1 goal (and not score more than 2), but then upon returning home absolutely obliterate their opponents by scores more fitting of low-scoring football games.  I’ve never been much a believer in home-ice advantage affecting the outcome of games – obviously it’s nice to play in your own digs, not have to travel, have extra prep time, the comfort of your own dressing room, and the support of your home fans – but in the end, all those things are only small advantages, not game outcome determiners; and all those things can go right out the window if the visiting team gets up a goal or two.  But to see the home team’s scores in each game; it’s enough to think that those little advantages have added up somehow.  Besides the fact that the Stanley Cup will be awarded in the next 2 games, it’ll be interesting to see if the winner claims victory on the road or at home.  As I’ve written about before, for the winner’s sake, I hope it’s on their home turf (which now, can only be Vancouver).

Speaking of which, I’ve been contemplating my storied anti-Vancouver Canucks stance more and more as the Canucks have pushed the envelope as far as they have this season.  If I had to whittle down to the root of my hatred, it’s always come down to 2 ultimate factors:  1) The Canucks are always heavily favoured to win by local fans and media, always choke, and have never won the Cup; and therefore 2) their crazy, rabid riot-prone fans cannot accurately claim them to be the best (though they have always continued to do so) without having done just that.  You may or may not hate the Oilers, Flames, Leafs, Habs, Ducks, Bruins, Hawks, Avalanche, Stars, Wings, Devils, Islanders, Rangers, Flyers, or Penguins; but the fact remains that those teams have all got it done (at least once), and they and their fans will always have that to hang over Vancouver and their fans until they win. 

I guess it comes down to your fandom rooting – I respect a fan that has been cheering for their team from the start, through the dark times, and finally has their cheering rewarded; but I also respect cheering for a team that is rooted in success.  Both Finals teams offer desirable conclusions to both scenarios. 

My latest thought on my personal stance is that if indeed the Canucks were to finally win their first Stanley Cup, I would have to at least reconsider my policy on cheering against this seemingly cursed-to-lose franchise, and perhaps even motion to enter fandom of said team.  Geographically, I should be on board as a resident of BC (though I’m from Kelowna, not Vancouver; a city that prides itself on not being Vancouver), but truth be told I’ve always been an “against-the-grain” kind of guy, and have no problem cheering for or aligning with the less popular.  This is a whole other ball of wax too; as it’s come to my attention that the Canucks are the object of many people’s hate throughout this continent (outside of BC of course); and that in itself, is oddly attractive to me.

I can’t say I care for bangwagoners, and I would be afraid of being viewed as such.  If I were a current Canucks fan that learned someone like me was considering jumping ship to their side, I probably wouldn’t welcome me with open arms after the deserved slogging I’ve given them since I was aware they existed.  Hey, if Wayne Gretzky can jump ship from endorsing Coke to Pepsi, and Bret Hart can come back to WWE, then maybe I can come around on the Canucks.  I have to admit, I love the U2 game-entrance music, and the Vancouver fans are probably the best at singing O Canada as a group.   

I’m not saying this will actually happen (they have to win first, of course), but it’s running through my mind.  I think in the end I’m most likely too far gone, but it may be a very brief window to rid some hate from my brain.  Maybe I’m just proving myself a poor anti-fan. 

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And lastly, the Miami Heat.  I don’t have much to say other than wow, that sure didn’t work out like it was supposed to.  Quite frankly, I think Lebron deserved the negative attention he drew, but I can’t say I wanted to see such an incredible athlete lose.  They probably should have paid more attention to the Mavericks though, who apparently also really wanted to win.  One other thought I had was of Gretzky and the Oilers’ dynasty days – they didn’t win the Cup the first time they made it to the Finals either (I know the Heat have won before, I am comparing the current roster to that roster), and we all know what ended up following.  I’d be very surprised if Lebron James wasn’t an NBA Champion at some point.  

"You F*$& promised me we were gonna win if I came here, dude."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crap, even Wayne's wearing a Vancouver jersey.

Sports Shorts: MJ-Favre, Shootout Trophy, Kings Colors, Goalie Chirps, and the Commonwealth Games Snub.

October 27, 2010 9 comments

 

 

Before (good) & after (not as good)

To me, it seems that the most recent incarnation of Brett Favre (that is, the Minnesota Vikings version) seems a lot like the most recent playing incarnation of Michael Jordan (Washington Wizards edition); both former superstars in their prime (Jordan best basketball player ever, Favre arguably one of the better quarterbacks in recent history), now playing in/beyond the twilight of their career, playing for an obscure team not likely of much success, putting up decent enough numbers to say that they’re contributing, but not in a “championship contender” kind of way.  Oh, and they both danced the retired/unretired/retired/unretired-legacy endangering sonata, with Mike finally bowing out, and Brett (supposedly) finally winding down after this year as well.  I know it’s gotta be hard to leave the game for a lot of different/mostly selfish reasons; it’s all they’ve ever done, all their friends are doing it, what else would they do, they’re really good at it, winning championships is fun, self-worth and identification, etc.  But I think the mark of a really great player in any sport is being good enough at it, and earned enough respect through the years to be granted the ability to leave their game on their terms.  Too many players who’ve had good careers abuse this right, lose the privilege, and are eventually told there’s no longer room for them (Mike Modano), or are told just to leave altogether (Chris Chelios).   Not that Modano nor Chelios possess the legacy in hockey that Jordan or Favre do in basketball or football, but you get the point.       

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How is there still not a side points bracket for shootout goals/saves in the NHL?  With such a pivotal interlude in the game that literally wins or loses games, you’d think the people responsible for the results could get some sort of recognition.  Their stats don’t need to count towards Rocket Richard or Vezina Trophy balloting, but why shouldn’t there be a trophy for most shootout goals in a season?  Or shootout saves for that matter?  The best rookie (Calder), defenceman (Norris)/ a forward ”being good at defensive aspects” (Selke), and most gentlemanly player (Lady Byng) all get one and have their acheivements recognized; you’re telling me the guy responsible for winning the most games in the season shouldn’t get something?

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Before (underrated) & After (looking sharp)

I have to admit, I like the retro LA Kings jerseys; they might even be my favourite throw-back uniform so far.  I think the purple and gold look better than they get credit for, and I also think they got way too much heat for looking bad back when they were the starting jerseys.  Also, nice work on the brown pads, glove and blocker.

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A few goalie chirps… how many 2nd chances on how many different teams is Jose Theodore going to get to be good again?  How long before the lustre/protection of a Vezina/Hart Trophy win in 2002 wears off? 10 years max?

Can you imagine if Cory Schnieder bumped $64 mil Roberto Luongo out of the Canucks’ starting goalie spot?  Lu should be careful with his “the team decided to give Schneids the night off” comments, they might just come back to haunt him, pemanently. 

I’m secretly cheering for Carey Price (not the Habs, just Price) to have an awesome year and shut everyone in Montreal up.  He’s got it rough playing in front of that kind of heat (Habs fans).  Obviously the fans wanted Halak to stay, and no one blames them.  Price getting traded probably would have been the best thing for him, but alas here he is.

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Speaking of heat, with all the hubbub about Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh over the summer, the Miami Heat pretty well have to win the NBA title this year if they’re going to show their faces in the league after this season, right?  Ok, good talk. 

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Do the Commonwealth Games seem a little snooty to anyone else?  54 countries are invited to participate, while at the Olympics, 200 are invited.  Do the results not seem a little skewed when you only compete against ¼ of the world’s sporting community?  Sure it’s nice to win stuff and be better than other people at sports, but I wouldn’t have too long of a parade when I get home for winning one of those medals.  Tough to brag much about winning when athletes from countries like China, Russia, Germany, and the USA aren’t invited or anywhere near the premises.  Congratulations, you beat competitors from a bunch of other average nations at this event….        


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