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XP PSP s01e12: Justin Bourne debriefs Sochi 2014 hockey

March 3, 2014 Leave a comment

In episode 12 of XP PSP, Justin Bourne from The Score dropped by to debrief the Sochi 2014 Olympic hockey tournament with me, and discuss it’s implications on the NHL moving forward. We talked about Canada’s route to gold, USA’s fall from grace, Backstrom’s Olympic suspension, how it affected Sweden’s outcome and why team doctors weren’t regulating his intake better, whether Canada’s win justifies all the heavily critcised roster adjustments the coaching staff made, who steps into Steve Yzerman’s role next Olympics, who Canada would send if the NHL chose not to participate in the 2018 Olympics, what the alternative to the Olympics as a best-on-best tournament would be, how John Tavares’ Olympic injury affects the decision for the NHL to return or not, how it affects the Islanders going forward this season, how Olympic performances affect NHL players finishing their NHL season, and more.

Click here for the XP PSP audio podcast at Podbean

Download_on_iTunes_Badge_US-UK_110x40_1004https://itunes.apple.com/ca/podcast/xppsp/id643817929

Sports Shorts: Brian Burke Getting Trump-ed, Hometown Hockey Allegiances Query, Basketball Beaks, Marion Jones, and more.

December 1, 2010 5 comments

Sometimes while watching late-night hockey highlights, I’ll zone out and come to again right in the middle of NBA highlights.  As I shake the cobwebs, it’s always a mad dash to get that channel changed asap to something more worthy of my attention (so, pretty much anything else on any other channel, except more NBA highlights).  So, here are some recent sports observations…

Does Brian Burke not ever have 5 minutes to comb his hair and freshen up?  Can we give this guy a 10 minute break for a shower so he can clean up and make himself presentable?  I know it’s a hair-tearing-out environment in Toronto these days, but come on Burkey, you’re getting a little Donald Trump-ish.  I’m sure the potential pending sale of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment isn’t helping either. 

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So the Canucks were the heavy pre-season prediction favourite to win the Stanley Cup, then they lost a few, won a few, lost a few more, and now the discussion is that this may be Alain Vigneault’s last season as Canucks coach if they don’t deliver.  Oh, predictable Vancouver bandwagon dumpings…

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If a team moves, and then a new team starts in the same city, should fans cheer for the team that used to be there (which is inherently the same group of people that left), or stay true to the city and cheer for the new one?  Example: Atlanta Flames move to Calgary, become the Calgary Flames.  Atlanta eventually incarnates the Thrashers; so should those original Atlanta Flames fans now return to the homeland and cheer for the Thrashers, or are they justified in staying Calgary fans?  Same scenario in Minnesota (North Stars to Dallas, Wild now in Minny), and Colorado (Rockies to NJ in ’82, Avalanche sprout up) in recent history.

Mitch Pollock is the inspiration for the "Mitch Pollock Made Me Hate The Calgary Flames" facebook group.

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Based purely on talent and consistency, the Detroit Red Wings are the most overall dominant team of the modern age of hockey, agreed?  From the Yzerman and Federov era to the current Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Franzen et al generation, all mixed in with a handful of Stanley Cup wins, it’s tough to argue this isn’t hockey’s version of the New York Yankees.

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The people who broke into Pat Burns’ widow’s car and stole his stuff booked themselves a one-way, non-refundable ticket to hell, did they not?  I’m still rattled at the Hall of Fame that they couldn’t do that guy the favour of waiving his mandatory waiting period or whatever so he could enter the Hall of Fame WHILE HE WAS ALIVE.  3 Jack Adams Trophies for coach of the year honors (on three different teams), and a Stanley Cup; are there deeper pre-requisites for HOF entrance? 

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I recently saw Marion Jones’ ESPN 30 for 30 special… does it say more about Marion Jones and her athletic ability that she walked on to a WNBA with very little previous basketball experience (played with UNC); or less about the WNBA, a league that is supposed to boast the best female basketball players in the world, yet people can just walk on and make their teams, as Jones has done with the Tulsa Shock?

The Captain’s C: The Heaviest Letter to Wear in Sports.

September 20, 2010 3 comments

 

So the “C” has officially been removed from Roberto Luongo’s che… err, chin.

“Lu” cited that carrying the title of team captain was a “precarious position to be in”, and perhaps “a little bit of distraction”; which are not exactly traits a person with the job description of stopping 100mph slap-shots needs to be worrying about while trying to catch a glimpse of the next slap-bomb coming from the point off of a wound-up one-timer through the 8 pairs of legs in front of him.  That plus an entire hockey culture scrutinizing his selection as captain, and nit-picking all the pros and cons of it every night, maybe he’s better off without it.

Here’s the thing about being the captain of a team.  Though the only literal privilege that comes with wearing it is being able to converse with the referees, it is a constant mental distraction.

In my minor hockey days, I had the “C” voted on my jersey for three consecutive seasons, and an “A” in my senior year at college.  Every team has their own similar-but-different criteria for a captain to meet – skill, dedication, respect, inspiration, and plenty of other admirable traits.  Sometimes it’s done by a team vote, sometimes it’s appointed by the coaching staff, and sometimes it’s a mix of both.  Our college team had a neat tradition of having the current team’s captain choose a successor for the following season at the conclusion of the current one.  Personally, I prefer the team vote – I think in the end, those are the guys that the captain is really leading, and I think that the players should be able to select who does that the best, in their opinion.  I don’t like having the coaches pick the captain – I think that can create an unnecessary divide between team and coaches.  Obviously there is a natural divide there already as coaches don’t compete on the ice (they just yell and tell players what to do), but when the captain is selected by them, and the assistants by the team, a we-chose-them-but-not-you mentality can develop, which can threaten the integrity of the captain, who may then be viewed as being a bit of a coaches puppet and remove some of the team’s respect that he desperately needs.  But then again, none of that can happen as well, and everyone can get along just fine.  It’s just a precarious selection process is all I’m saying.

There’s something very empowering about that letter “C” when it’s stitched on your jersey; it just makes you feel a cut-above – not in a pompous way, but in a humble way, as you know you’ve been entrusted with a very deep responsibility.  You now have the task of not only being (and being expected to be) the best player you can be individually, but also getting the best out of your teammates every night in hopes of success.  And you also have the duty of carrying yourself with class and respect off the ice.  While you do your best to emulate the leadership characteristics of great captains like Gretzky, Lemieux, Yzerman, Messier (while you know you’re not as good as them, it’s cool to consider that you do share one thing in common with them), and perhaps former captain teammates as well, everyone else is busy scrutinizing your leadership style, and how effective (or not) it is.  People who know me (or knew me during those days) know that I’m a pretty mild-mannered guy; so especially when I was younger, I constantly heard things like I was “too quiet” as a captain, and I took my share of heat.  In the end I didn’t care what they said too much.  I just did my best to do my job, which was mainly to produce on the ice and hope my teammates would follow by example, which I believe I did well.

After my third consecutive run as team captain, I didn’t receive another letter until my 4th year in college.  To be honest, it hurt not having it, and my jersey always felt just a little naked without something sewn on the front left shoulder; it made me a little jealous of the guys who did get it instead.  I spent a lot of time over the following years wondering what changed, what I had done wrong, and what I would have to do to get it back someday, some year.  I heard a lot of the same “you don’t need a letter to be a leader” rhetoric over the years, which is true.  I was always hopeful that my teammates would see me as a leader when it came to team voting time again though.  At some point, I did just say “the hell with it” and tried to focus on my game, though it never really left the back of my mind.  I think not having a letter and not caring about it did afford me the opportunity to focus on simple, individual tasks as a player, instead of a broad spectrum of responsibility that comes with worrying about leading everyone else as well.  By my third year at college, and 8th year without a letter, I was my team’s leading scorer,

proud of that "A".

and probably playing the best hockey I ever had.  By my fourth, I had an “A” voted onto my jersey, which meant a lot more to me than surely any of my teammates realized.  To me, their scribbles of my name on a torn-off piece of paper pulled out of a hat, was them saying, “yeah, we do want you to lead us, we do think you’re worthy of it,” which, although it wasn’t the “C”, it was the recognition I know I  had been looking for for such a long time.  Our captain that year did a great job, but when I looked back on it, I much prefer being voted a leader by the boys than having it as an appointment.  I always had the romantic idea of wearing that “C” just one more time in my career, and perhaps having that team be the last I would play for; but alas that opportunity hasn’t come yet.

tough to justify their replacement, in my opinion.

So whether you’re 15 years old, or an Olympic gold medalist; if you don’t have thick enough skin to separate the mental battle from the actual game, then being a captain may not be for you.  It’s something that can really mess with your head, if you allow it to.  It’s not a responsibility that just any player can handle either.  Franchise players like Mike Modano and Brett Hull were given the “C” for only a few seasons until they were replaced by other players in the role, as their coaches felt their leadership style didn’t “jive”, let’s say, which the coaches expectations (click the links to read the rabbit hole stories about them).  I played with one player (who is probably the most skilled player I ever played with) who outright requested not to be given a letter at all.  As much as I hate the Vancouver Canucks, I do respect and empathize with Luongo for enduring as long as he did, and all the other great captains who take their share of abuse for not leading their team to the Stanley Cup every year.  Roberto did what was best for the team, which may be the best move he made as captain.  Like most scenarios, critics seem to know exactly what a captain is doing wrong and all the things he should be doing in order to be a better captain; without a doubt, putting those same people in that same role would yield further incompetence in the eyes of other critics.  Everyone seems to know how to do something better than the person they’re criticizing, and that’s just a fact of life.  The best leaders find a way to lead despite all the negativity.  Unless you’ve had a “C” on your jersey, there’s a lot more to it than you likely realize, so keep that in mind next time you think it’s such an easy job!

 

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