I have feared (as a fan, not as a citizen of the earth) nights like last night since a very specific date: May 18, 2011.
That was the night that Vancouver beat San Jose 7-3 and opened up a 2-0 series lead in the Western Conference Finals. It was also the night that Ben Eager -- the bushman goon of the Sharks who, when he choses a wiser route, is actually a pretty skilled player -- threw Daniel Sedin into the boards from behind, a good two feet off the wall and not far from the penalty box that Eager would inhabit moments later.
Daniel was unhurt, remarkably.
Eager got two minutes or something cheap and post-coitus like that, then challenged everyone in blue to a fight from behind the glass he put himself in. Eager went out and scored a late goal, cutting the lead to four.
Before the next match, all the talk was about whether Eager would play. His temper had cost San Jose a chance to contend in Game 2, they said, and Canucks fans gloated loudly that, "Hey, let him play! Our boys will just go around that talent-less sack and score!"
But I was in fear, as a fan. Daniel could have easily been carted off that night, like he was on Sunday when Calgary's Paul Byron -- an everyday AHLer who wanted to show the hockey world he existed in Game 82, a meaningless affair between two teams who collapsed long before the league's season season -- completed his check in the worst way possible, planting each of his hands on Daniel's 22 and slamming the two-goal twin into the end boards.
(And what if it wasn't Game 82 for Vancouver... what if they actually were heading to the playoffs? Wouldn't you be even more pissed off then, Canucks fans, if Sedin had to miss another first round or more because of a conscious cheap shot to your star player?)
I feared, way back in 2011, that the league's castoffs had figured out what they apparently now have: it doesn't matter if you do anything illegal in the NHL.
You'll get a refreshing, short suspension and the other team you just crippled will still be suffering from it when you get back.
Byron claimed he wasn't trying to hurt Sedin and I, of course, believe him.
Any other day, it's a pretty routine collision. But it wasn't any other day -- it was the last game of the season and Byron should know better.
If Byron expects to be an actual, 24-7 professional hockey player and not just a 5'7" on-loan mite from Abbotsford, he better learn to know better.
Then again, who says he has to?
That hit by Byron last night was a perfect showcase of the problems Brendan Shanahan has created and then left for this league going forward.
I realize being the NHL's disciplinarian is a thankless job, blah blah blah... But don't all of us have thankless jobs?
Under Shanahan's watch, the memo basically went out that the only way to take out star players was to do it illegally, and your repercussions were minor and temporary.
Like when Zdeno Chara slammed Max Pacioretty into the bench's stanchion in 2011 and then claimed it was a freak accident, like somehow the big Slovakian -- who had been playing hockey all his life, for 30-or so years -- didn't know where the benches were or what the danger was.
Like when Duncan Keith -- the dirtiest star playing the NHL -- savagely elbowed the same Sedin in the head a month out of the 2012 playoffs.
Keith got two games, which is a pretty typical length for the Shanahan regime - uninterested and unwilling to punish anyone who's last name isn't Torres. (That guy has been serving everyone else's suspensions since 2010.)
Pretty much the same thing happened with Keith in last year's playoffs, when he slashed Jeff Carter in the face in the Western Conference Final and got one game. I repeat... he slashed Jeff Carter in the face and got ONE game.
The fallout from that was minimal, because Carter wasn't hurt. I mean, I'm sure the slash in the teeth hurt, but he didn't miss any action. But still... Duncan Keith slashed another player in the head, with a full around-the-world swing, and he pled guilty for a shorter sentence, doing it all like he was the victim.
That stick was half an inch from things going a lot worse for Keith's soon-to-be Canadian Olympic teammate.
How about when Shea Weber slammed Henrik Zetterberg's head into the boards in their quarterfinal series in 2012? Zetterberg's helmet broke -- again, only chance kept him from spending months without the lights on. But Weber didn't receive a game, just because he had never been suspended before, and because Shanahan didn't feel like stepping up.
Does the league really care about concussions, or does it just care about them when somebody else is watching?
That is the danger, of course, with idolizing and then canonizing guys like Shanahan... terrific, Hall of Fame players who themselves had a hard-nosed edge to their style, who would have made the hit Byron made last night or would have tossed some guy's head into the glass when given the chance, and then they would have pled out the Canadian way - "I didn't mean it... I hope he's okay... I really didn't mean it..."
My favourite excuse is one that Byron gave last night: "You never like to see that stuff."
You never like to see that stuff?
Then why'd you do it?
But the league has always been careless about its priorities. It's not the United States or Sunrise, Florida that spoiled its brand, it was the NHL on its own. And when CONCUSSION reared its head as the newest PR buzzword for the league to pretend to cater to, the NHL went all Joe McCarthy on it and they witch-hunted the easy targets and left the Keiths and the Charas to feast on the finer things.
The league pulled itself up from its own mess and then blamed it on the janitor.
Like when Bud Selig watched baseball's biceps balloon and then pitchforked steroid users to save his own tush.
And so when I hear that Byron won't have a hearing for last night's hit, I know Canucks fans will be upset, but I don't care anymore.
What are they going to do? What if they gave Byron a hyperbolic 82-game suspension? What would that even do?
Byron's absence wouldn't hurt Calgary, it would only hurt Abbotsford. Bob Hartley would just have more to whine about. And Daniel Sedin still would have aged five years in half a second. Pundits will say the twins are getting older, that the best Canucks are past their primes, and maybe they are. But we'll never know if that's true, just like we'll never know what Paul Kariya could have been if Gary Suter hadn't rammed the Anaheim star's brain into 1936.
(*This was originally published on White Cover Magazine...)
That's the NHL right now. And it won't change until the players...
It was, honestly, a bittersweet symphony.
Because the Vancouver Canucks have plenty to crow about. Their comeback win over the Winnipeg Jets -- a comeback that didn't just continue but somehow picked up steam after Ryan Kesler collided with Jim Slater and left the game, possibly left his season, with a limp -- was as inspiring as any of their late-game collapses have been depressing.
On a night that Winnipeg poured it on when it could and nearly ended it at least twice -- an Andrew Ladd backhand that trickled through Eddie Lack's crease in overtime and an Evander Kane penalty shot that just barely whistled over the goalie's glove hand and protective post -- it was these Canucks that finally celebrated a "double-you."
This win was a little more fulfilling than their Saturday trumping of Calgary, somehow.
This win perhaps comes a lot too little, much too late. The playoffs are a dream now, not a chance... Vancouver making the playoffs is, at this point, as much of a mathematical possibility as you hitting snake eyes on the roulette table tonight.
This win comes with John Tortorella softer and quite likeable, even if his debut year coaching in Canada has gone as well as one of his interviews with Brooksie.
This win comes off the hands of Chris Higgins, of course, who is second to Ryan Kesler in the team's goal-scoring race. Higgy, as he'll be affectionately known for one night, put the winner away in the shootout, on a beautiful little, Patrick Kane-ish move that the easily confusable Ondrej Pavelec was quite clearly confused on.
This win comes off the persistence of Alex Burrows, the former go-to goal guy who somehow went 35 games without a marker until tonight, when he potted two and did so quite pretty-like -- one in his typical Burrows fashion, driving for a rebound he then flicked home like it was ball hockey, and the other by baseball-ing it past Pavelec at the side of the net.
It truly is incredible that Burr could go half a season squandering so many empty nets, so many decent efforts and one-timer from the slot, and then end up putting this goal in:
It was a vintage Burrows performance tonight in Manitoba, and it was a vintage Henrik performance, too.
Captain Sedin had enough to celebrate, with his 1,000th game and all. (He'll surely get a warm reception and some sort of shiny stick when he gets to Vancouver, along with a trip to Whistler for two or something.)
But Henrik the Hart was flying tonight. He sliced through the Jets in overtime, turning their teal and blue into some sort of bubble gum-like Picasso. You couldn't knock Henrik off the puck tonight, just like you couldn't through 40 minutes on Monday.
But the Canucks blew that one, as you know. Seven third-periods goals, inexplicably surrendered to a New York Islanders team that just as inexplicably scored them.
A 3-0 lead evaporated like Vitamin C on a stove. The hard-fought two-thirds from Henrik, Kesler, and Lack didn't matter when it mattered most, and Vancouver threw away their season -- for the final time -- in front of a home crowd that just wanted to get out of the building before traffic swelled.
That, really, is how it's gone this year in Vancouver. One night to symbolize them all.
And our fans' reaction to everything -- including their early flee for the inPark lots around Rogers Arena -- makes me think, regardless of how much you've hated the move of GM Mike Gillis or the style of coach John Tortorella, that firing them is a consequence and not a solution. It's all knee-jerk right now, because there's no way any of this was planned.
The fans have checked out. They're angry, but they've checked out. Hell, they checked out in June 2011, just after they put down the Molotov cocktails.
The players have checked out, and they look exhausted. It's not Tortorella's ice time that's killing them... it's the Luongo deal, the Schneider deal, and everything that's happened in the past three seasons.
They're chewing old gum, pretending they're still sucking sugar.
Kesler wants out, either reportedly or very realistically. Injuries have taken their toll and the players haven't paid the fee. The Canucks themselves are as much to blame for their downfall as Martin Hanzal is.
But there was life tonight. There was something that didn't let them bag that third period when it would have been -- finally -- understandable.
The Canucks haven't surprised anyone all season, but they've shocked them.
And on Wednesday, it was nice to see them playing hockey. It was nice to see them win one for themselves -- for Burrows, for their coach, and for that ugly Orca on the front of their sweaters.
Originally published on White Cover...
Here's the problem.
Everyone's talking about Sochi. It's mostly negative. But nobody's really there... including me. All I have to go on are the testimonials of a few privileged -- well, maybe not, if you've seen the photos or heard the tales --journalists, jet set super...
Full marks to Los Angeles, full marks to its fans, and full marks to the NHL.
We've only seen two Stadium Series games so far, and they're easily my favourite. Sure, I get a kick out of the Winter Classic and I'll enjoy the Heritage game when it comes to...
In my younger and more vulnerable years, I spent my summers in Manitoba, at our small cottage on Lake Winnipeg. Our summers were quiet. They were especially quiet when you were a kid, because you didn't have a lot besides arts and crafts and video games. Of course,...
I'll be that guy. I'm the wet blanket.
Sunday was probably just great for Saskatchewan. Just grrrreeeeaaaaaaat. I'm sure they were really happy. I know they want the Grey Cup every year. (But don't we all?) I know we have to celebrate them because they celebrate our Canadian game unlike...
I watched Kill Bill twice last weekend. I was sick and in bed the whole time and I didn't have a lot to do but drink green tea and hide my eyes.
Kill Bill came out in 2003 (on October 10, so this isn't exactly a "to the day" type...
I stumbled across an interesting piece of hyperventilated literature this week. It's the typical blog post: someone with a poor grasp of punctuation rambles on, finally getting something off his or her chest, something they just couldn't possibly leave alone. Until the next day, of course, when they're onto something...
Last Sunday, I spent Jesus's apparent day -- for the first time in nine weeks -- without Breaking Bad. Without Walter White or any of his tics, tendencies, or tacky style.
It was always that style -- that nerdy, so middle aged, so reluctant soccer dad style -- that I...
Think of that much-overused (and sometimes incorrect) line, "It's not personal. It's business."
Well, the Edmonton Oilers could learn a lot from it. Both Alberta teams, really. It's always seemed like the Flames and the Oil believe the only ones to hire are the ones from their backyard, from their past, or from their families. To hold onto your job as a coach, general manager, or player of either one of the Wild Rose Country's only NHL clubs, you have to have won a Cup in either city.
How else can you explain the firing of now-former general manager Steve Tambellini, especially since Kevin Lowe still holds his position as president of hockey operations?
They replaced Tamby with former Oilers player and coach Craig MacTavish, of course. MacT's been in Edmonton before, and for a long time. He won a few Cups, like, 20 or 30 years ago.
The Oilers knew what they were doing then. They don't anymore.
Just listen to this trade of Q & A between Edmonton Journal columnist John MacKinnon and Lowe from Monday's press conference, courtesy of the EJ:
Kevin Lowe: "We have two types of fans. We have paying customers and we have people that watch the game that we still care about, but certainly the people who go to the games and support, we spend a lot of time talking to them, delivering our message. I would, uh, I think it's safe to say that half the general managers in the National Hockey League would trade their roster for our roster right now. And in terms of the group that messed things up (voice rising) you're talking about the group that had the team one period away from winning the Stanley Cup."
John MacKinnon: "Seven years ago."
Lowe: "And you know the cycle of that. You know we chased the dream a few years for our fanbase. Like a lot of teams do. And then at some point in that time frame we realized that's a bad plan and we made a change. We're finishing year three of that plan. Now you say to me you're getting impatient after three years?"
MacKinnon: "It's not me. It's the fans that are getting impatient."
Lowe: "And lastly (talking loudly now) I'll say that there's one other guy in hockey today that is still working in the game that has won more Stanley Cups than me. So I think I know a little bit about winning, if there's ever a concern."
Have you ever seen a more imposing example of industrial-grade denial? In Lowe's world, dissent does equal disloyalty.
Even in the video above, listen to MacTavish blubber on about how the Oilers are still paying for the five Stanley Cups the Oilers won. He alludes to the cyclical nature of the sport and how you always follow a lot of winning with a little bit of losing.
It's as if the entire management group forgets just how long ago their glory days were. It's been 23 years since the Oilers last won the Stanley Cup. It's been 25 years since Gretzky was last an Oiler. It's been a very long time since either Lowe or MacTavish played in the NHL, and even longer since they were a part of that Oiler dynasty.
If I'm an Oiler fan -- and, I really don't mind them at all -- I got even more worried watching that farce of a press conference today. I've just realized that everyone in charge of my favourite hockey team has as much value as Tim McGraw's character from Friday Night Lights.
Lowe and MacT aren't just getting jobs because of something they did a quarter century ago. They actually believe in themselves because of it.
These guys talk about hockey like daily newspaper columnists talk about print journalism.
This is a team that still has Ryan Smyth and Shawn Horcoff on its books. Lowe has his job seemingly because he's always been an Oiler -- except for all those years when he wasn't, which kind of makes him the Michael Ignatieff of hockey -- even though he no doubt had a hand in or approved in every move Tambellini made as general manager.
Lowe also bobbled two successive offer sheets to then-restricted free agents Dustin Penner and Thomas Vanek. One worked out, and it was a terrible experiment. The second didn't work out, and Lowe got lucky with that one. Without Vanek, the Oilers saved themselves some very vital draft picks and prospects -- draft picks and prospects who are now the only reason this team has a heart beat, even if it's restricted to life support and a hospital bed.
In fact, Lowe's been around for all of Edmonton's recent years, and don't go thinking he's some kind of mad genius because of a flukey playoff run in 2006 (even if he does). I don't see the Canucks bringing back anyone from 1982 -- or 1994 -- and I don't remember the Habs hanging onto Guy Carbonneau for longer than they needed to.
The Flames, for their part, have just stopped turning to anyone with the last name Sutter. They seem to think everyone from Alberta should be a Flame, and they've been playing pre-Lockout hockey ever since the Lockout.
(And, I'm talking about the 2005 lockout.)
Say what you will about the Leafs, the Canucks, the Senators, or the Jets, but at least they seem to draft and sign players because of how well they play hockey, not because of where their birth certificate was issued.
Even the Habs have finally gotten over drafting players just based on whether they're bilingual -- a tactic that hasn't worked out since before Guy LaFleur was a Viagra spokesperson -- and now they're finally in contention for a Stanley Cup. Their captain (Brian Gionta) is American, their best two rookies are British Columbian and the Belarussian-American (Brendan Gallagher and Alex Galchenyuk) and their goaltender is from a small town in Western Canada (Carey Price).
The Habs have also finally stopped listening to their fans, at last realizing that democracy isn't at its best when it's truly a democracy.
The Oilers and Flames, meanwhile, continue to talk about their futures without any concept of what a future is (although I'll give Calgary a lot of credit for finally trading Jarome Iginla and Jay Bouwmeester).
Sure, Edmonton's had some success lately with No. 1 picks like Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Nail Yakupov, and Lowe is no doubt pretty proud of himself ("I think it's safe to say that half the general managers in the National Hockey League would trade their roster for our roster right now").
Of course, they had to finish last -- or second last -- every year to get those picks, and all three of them were consensus Number Ones.
That's not called skill. It's a silver lining.
When this season's over, both Calgary and Edmonton will have gone playoff-less since 2009.
That's not Tambellini's fault. It's Alberta's.
This was originally posted on White Cover...
RIP Roger Ebert. There was nobody better.
What more can you say about someone who's story was summed up so well by his own words?
His own prose. His own opinions. His own critical look at everything, even himself. His fairness. His love for movies, and for their viewers.
His own thumbs, whether they were up or down.
Roger Ebert was a taken-for-granted staple. At least, for most of my life he was. He was well-established before I was born, and his TV shows with Gene Siskel and Richard Roeper were a given to be there for me if I was sick from school, or faking sick from school (and, most of the time, it was the latter). Of course, I never made an intentional attempt to watch it. It was just on, like most of TV.
But, everybody knew Roger Ebert.
Something about him was more familiar and more popular than his co-hosts. Something about his opinion mattered to you. How great was it when he'd love an under-appreciated movie you also loved when nobody else did?
He was like that. Heat. Crash. Syriana. He thought they should have all won Best Picture, and only one of them did. (It's no surprise, then, that Crash is also perhaps the most hated Best Picture winner of all-time.)
He stood up for films like Somewhere, the Chateau Marmont passion piece from Sofia Coppola. While most folks with a few inches in a newspaper called the film a snooze fest, and they weren't alone, Ebert wrote, "Coppola is a fascinating director. She sees, and we see exactly what she sees."
He defended films he cared about and they often had taken an unnecessary beating from other critics.
Of course, he could be nasty, too. All film critics should, from time to time.
The important thing about Ebert, though, was that he didn't waste his praise on films that didn't deserve it and he didn't crop dust his disgust onto anything he felt was equally opposite.
When I was 21, I had to write a paper on a Czech film by a young Milos Forman for my Political Science class. The movie was called The Fireman's Ball. It's about an elderly community of Czech public servants who are celebrating the retirement of one of their peers. We were supposed to explain how Forman used this collection of clumsy elders to explain the political and social conventions of those who lived -- and were trapped -- behind the Iron Curtain.
We all pulled off decent marks, but we all read Ebert's now-old review first.
"I'm trying to write it like Roger Ebert's review," my buddy Nick said. "But it's too damn good."
Roger Ebert was an honest critic. He was there for the movies.
How many others can say the same? (Myself included.)
At the end, he became as big as the actors and directors he profiled. He was the Trailer before all the trailers. He was the Internet before the web. He was TV when it was still television.
So, I'll say it again, because I really mean it...RIP Roger Ebert. Nobody was better.
This was originally posted on White Cover Magazine.
I believe in discovery and technology and innovation and science. My profession -- whether you would call me a journalist or just a human being in the 21st century -- is to question. It's to be skeptical. It's to not believe everything I'm told right away.
I believe this is healthy for all of us, not just myself.
So, on the occasion of the much-covered announcement of a new pope, I'll just come out and say it: I hate the Catholic church.
I don't hate Catholics, of course; but I find it impossible to believe things that we thought of as certainties 2,000 years ago but have since disproven, and I hate the Catholic church itself because its goal seems to be to repress us, oppress and hold us all under its gigantic thumb.
I don't think a talking snake told a naked chick to eat an apple which then corrupted society forever. I don't think Joseph's dad was somehow able to find the resources to knit him a technicolo(u)r dreamcoat in the middle of Ancient Egypt. I don't think Jonah lived inside a whale.
But, most of all, I don't want these stories told as fact. I don't want them institutionalized. I don't want them to be read once and accepted forever.
I don't think Pinocchio lived inside a whale, either. I don't think Hogwarts is real, even though I'd like it to be. I don't think Darth Vader really existed in a galaxy a long time ago and far, far away.
So, where am I going with this?
Well, I'm going straight to the front door of the CBC.
The Corporation is supposed to represent all Canadians and, if you disagree, read its damn mandate. With the resigning of Pope Benedict now in the past -- and with the Catholics having just unveiled their next Palpatine -- the CBC has sucked itself up in the anti-educational turbine that is the Roman Catholic Church.
As with all things religious, they don't question the Church, because to question it would somehow infringe on our right to religion and (probably) our right to free speech. (I don't believe this. I'm just trying to think like an evolution-denying man of the cloth.) They don't dare shine a light on the hypocrisy and the blatant middle finger to common sense that is the Church and all its beliefs and -- worse -- its practices.
The Catholic church has not only committed crimes, but it's also covered them up. I'm not talking about that fluffy "Tobacco companies know they're killing you" stuff. I mean, full-on child sexual abuse. I mean, like, going to Africa and telling the most AIDS-infected continent on the planet that they couldn't use condoms because it wasn't in the Heffe's original plan some 2,000 years ago. (Or, was it a billion years ago? 5,000 years ago? I don't know, I have a hard time keeping track of the Catholic church's most recent revision of history.)
But, for the CBC -- and other news corporations like it -- that's in the past. They turn their hands up and say, "It's not our place."
Right. Lance Armstrong? That jerk was guilty. Let's fry him. The Catholic Church? Can't touch it. Religious freedom.
The CBC is supposed to stand for all of us as Canadians. It's supposed to be a megaphone for the voices of the 35 million or so people in this country, and it's supposed to be different than the United States. It's supposed to reflect our sentiments. It's supposed to have talent. It's supposed to be bold and brave.
That's a tough job, but it has to be.
The CBC is supposed to stand on its own. It should reflect us, but it shouldn't pander to us. It also shouldn't pander to the Catholic church, and it does.
We don't believe the Earth is flat, and we have no problem treating that issue like the case is finally closed. But, the Catholic Church? That archaic, rapidly crumbling tomb of dead ideas with a history of unmatched oppression and violence? Nope. Off limits.
(If it was Scientology, then by all means go nuts. That one is crazy, right?)
Only, this now-concluded quest to find a new Pontiff doesn't sit right with me, or with many Canadians who belong to many communities. And, yes, I'd consider "Non-Religious" to be a community, too.
I got the idea to write this post from a friend of mine, Jesse Brown, who works for YouthCO AIDS Society. He wrote this on Facebook, on Monday night:
"Dear CBC National,
"I'm a 26 year old white male in Vancouver BC and a faithful viewer of The National. The large amount of time you have been consistently spending on the selection of the new Pope and the Catholic Church disturbs me and makes me want to tune out from your news cast -- for good. This is a dark and criminal institution based on the oppression of those it deems unworthy. Its current establishment should be (and is) morally reprehensible to anyone with a critical eye and could be better examined by a reputable news agency such as the CBC.
"Political fluff stories such as the selection of a new benevolent pontiff are pathetically benign and leave the audience, many of whom are consistently abused and discredited by this mafia, undermined. As an openly gay man it greatly disturbs me to see over-coverage of this conclave of closeted old sexually repressed men who cover up pedophilia and engage in clandestine sex rings, all while promoting misogyny and repression. An excellent example of their disgusting hypocrisy is the recent photo-op of Pope Benedict XVI blessing Rebecca Kadaga, the politician behind the Ugandan "Kill the Gays" bill.
"Your news cast is tax payer-funded and should speak to the majority of reasonable and progressive thinking Canadians. The CBC is founded on the principal of social equality of opportunity and should present to young people a reflection of Canadian values that uplift and inspire. We could care less whether or not the anti-women, anti-gay hater Cardinal Ouellet of Quebec is in the running for Pope. Shame on him and shame on you for giving him a platform. I respectfully ask that you please reconsider the air time you spend pandering to no one."
To me, the most shocking part of this is that somebody from Vancouver watches The National.
But, really, the CBC needs to take this kind of letter seriously, because Canadians take it seriously.
Canadians like to say they care about gay rights, and I believe the majority really do. This is a first step, but it only matters to a point.
We can no longer accept our Canadian Broadcast Corporation to stand idly by while its news reports itself. They don't need stenographers. They need reporters who have their own minds and their own voices.
They need to go at the Catholic Church like they went at Graham James. To many Canadians, hockey is a religion, and a hockey coach has as much power over his players as a priest does over his choir boys. Power of any kind corrupts most of the time. Religious power corrupts all of the time.
Canada is a 21st century nation, but the CBC needs to become a 21st century network.
This was originally posted on White Cover...
We get it, hockey people (myself included). We know you like to act tougher than your players' dress code suggests. We know everything is a tradition for you. We know we can't tell you what a good ol' Canadian boy would do. Before you can say anything, just know this: we know.
But, please, please, please... Everybody in the NHL, for the love of whatever imaginary friend in the sky you believe in, WEAR A GODDAMN VISOR!
On Tuesday night, young gun defenceman Marc Staal took a blast to the face. The image -- when slowed down, as it has been -- is disturbing, because the puck hits Staal just above his right face and it looks like his face concaves on itself before he falls to the ice in what can only have been an absurd amount of pain chased with fear.
Fear for his future. Fear for the right now.
Take another look:
OK, now, here's what's worse...
In the last two years, several other players have been hit in the eye/forehead/middle of the face (you know, where all the important stuff is?) with a puck.
Two of them aren't playing and their careers are in jeopardy. One of them -- Vancouver's Manny Malhotra -- suffered his injury in March of 2011, then came back and played a full season, and was then shut down after a handful of matches this year.
The other -- Philly's Chris Pronger -- can barely walk around his own house without getting a Jimmy Stewart form of vertigo.
And, let's not forget about Detroit's Steve Yzerman.
All three of those videos are below:
Seriously, how dumb is this?
How many more guys have to have this kind of sh*t happen to them before they put aside their pride and their temporary comfort for their long-term safety and just for common sense in general?
On the Canucks, several guys who watched Malhotra either take that rather light deflection to the face and then have his life ruined are still going rogue.
Kevin Bieksa doesn't wear a visor. Raffi Torres (who now plays for Phoenix) doesn't wear a visor. Andrew Alberts doesn't wear a visor, and both he and Bieksa are defencemen, just like Marc Staal and Chris Pronger.
Five players on the Canucks who joined after Malhotra's injury -- but were present when his coach and general manager shut him down for the 2013 NHL season -- still don't wear visors: Zach Kassian, Jason Garrison, Tom Sestito, Cam Barker, and Dale Weise.
(Recently dealt Canuck Aaron Volpatti also doesn't wear one.)
Now, visor haters will be quick to point out that a puck to the head is a puck to the head... is a puck to the head.
But, take a look at Philadelphia's Sean Couturier. He was hit in the head by a puck in the fall of 2011. He missed a few games with a concussion, but that's it.
Watch that one right here:
Or, how about a far more gruesome one?
Here's Montreal's Josh Gorges taking a clapper to the face. Pretty brutal, right? Yeah, well, he's far better off than Malhotra, Pronger, or (I'm going to assume) Marc Staal.
The puck hits him in the helmet, but his eyes and his future are intact.
Take a look:
Fact is, visors don't save you from everything. They're not supposed to. But, they can still save your career. They can save you from something far worse.
As we've seen over and over and over, it's the EYES. It's that part of the face right in the front that has been left completely unprotected and open to obliteration.
Watching those videos above of Malhotra, Pronger, and Yzerman, it becomes just so painfully obvious (pun intended) that those are all completely preventable. Those aren't separated shoulders or broken ankles or even concussions. All of those injuries could be written off as occupational hazards.
But, the eye?
No way, man.
If the NHL continues to ignore this massive epidemic, and if its players are still stupid enough to carry on without sich a simple and basic level of protection... well, then I guess it's only their fault, isn't it?
This article was originally posted on White Cover...
It doesn't really matter what happens or how the standings change. For the foreseeable future, the Vancouver Canucks and Chicago Blackhawks are semi-permanently linked (*I'm aware that 'semi-permanently' makes little sense). Every loss for one team is echoed with a win by the other. Each highlight...
Finally somebody said it. Finally somebody defended the innocent actions of Evander Kane, and finally somebody said those words we all knew we'd finally hear a hockey player say, one day. It's just too bad it had to be Kane, himself, who said them.
"I think a good portion of (the criticism of me) is because I'm black and I'm not afraid to say that," the left winger told The Hockey News. (*The story is set to come out on March 4, said The Sporting News.)
He then clarified his statements with a solid one-line just after.
"I don't feel like a victim and I don't want to be perceived as one."
Now, the defenders of the realm will be quick to throw up their arms and roll back their eyes. Oh, please, they'll say. Not everything is a racial issue. Just because he's black doesn't mean that's why he's been criticized.
They'll be quick to point out that he's been flagged for a number of off-ice indiscretions and misconducts. They'll tell you he's overreacting. They'll say it's another case of a young player with a big mouth. After all, it's easier to say that than it is to admit the truth, and the truth is not something normally uncovered by sports journalists.
It's odd, though, that people now seem to be more afraid of being politically correct than they are of being racist.
The fact is, hockey is and has always been a whites-only sport. Okay, maybe not whites-only. More, like 95-per cent-white-and-the-rest-just-whatever. Hockey is inherently a white sport, and a white Canadian one, at that. Hockey Night in Canada and its post-20-minute patriotic terrier praise good ol' Canadian boys and the way they play the sport we love.
But, take a minute and think about what the words good ol' Canadian boy mean. What's the image that comes to your mind? Who do you see, and what does he look like?
Sure, it doesn't have the word "white" in it, but neither does the word "Jesus", and I think it's fair to say he's always been depicted as rather pale for someone supposedly born in the Middle East.
Think of the things Kane has been criticized for.
It was rumoured he skipped out of a restaurant bill or two. Okay. So, that's not great and it's nothing to admire, but it's hardly a case for Scotland Yard. Patrick Kane physically assaulted a cab driver in 2008, and I don't remember Chicago ever wondering whether he was a problem for their organization.
And, besides, the Kane/Dine-n-Dash thing was a rumour.
Someone held up a sign suggesting it in another team's rink. That was literally the whole story. Kane laughed about it, and so did the Jets.
Then, Kane was caught in the offseason posting an image of him in Las Vegas flashing two stacks of dollar bills. The photo was taken during the NHL lockout and while many normal people who aren't paid into the millions per year are still struggling to find employment in the wake of the 2008 global economic recession.
Okay, it was a meathead moment. It was a little silly, and it made him look a little immature (which is fair, since Kane is 21 freakin' years old).
But, it wasn't a crime. It was nothing of note. It wasn't a DUI or an assault. It was a personal moment of indulgence and it shouldn't have been aired on social media. Boo hoo.
The fact is, hockey has never had to confront its race issues because, well, it hasn't always had them. Sure, some of us know that Willie O'Ree was the first black player in the NHL, but he's hardly a celebrity in the realm of Jackie Robinson (who broke his barrier 11 years before O'Ree) or even Roberto Clemente.
In fact, O'Ree is barely known.
And, yes, there are only a handful of black players in the league at any given moment -- Joel Ward, Jarome Iginla, P.K. Subban, Wayne Simmonds, and Devante Smith-Pelley, just to name a few -- but that doesn't mean we're not racist. It just means we're not inclusive.
Canadians have always lived with the false notion that they are morally superior when it comes to race issues than our neighbours to the south. Amistad, a hundred years (and more) of slavery, the Ku Klux Clan, Jim Crow, and the Civil Rights Movement? Those are all American things, but it doesn't mean we get to wash our hands clean and call ourselves pure from the womb out.
Our treatment of our aboriginal people (historically and still today) is deplorable. We have a history with the Clan, and we casually try to distance ourselves from phrases like "Komagata Maru" and "Japanese Internment".
And, let's not forget hockey.
In the last year and a half, Wayne Simmonds (a black player for the Philadelphia Flyers) has had a banana thrown at him, and Joel Ward (Washington) and Malcolm Subban (the OHL's Belleville Bulls) have been called the n-word by hateful waves of people on Twitter.
Does this sound like an enlightened country, or like the chorus of "Strange Fruit"?
In the video above, CBC anchor Diana Swain calls the Joel Ward affair a "low for the sport," but is it? It seems like it's status quo.
"I'm not surprised," said Ward's mother, Celia, at the time. "He grew up with it."
As a hockey nation, we also tend to completely dismiss the character and toughness of European players and, specifically, Russian players. (And, yes, French-Canadian players, too.) We call this analysis, but that's not really true. Russian players are treated from their draft day like they have to prove something over and above their Canadian counterparts, or like they have to atone for previous players from Moscow and the surrounding area who were viewed as soft or fragile or Prima Donnas, despite any evidence to the contrary.
Is there really much difference between Henrik Sedin and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins? What about Sergei Fedorov and Steve Yzerman? Or, Teemu Selanne and Ryan Getzlaf? Gretzky and Kurri?
Let's face it: hockey is an extension of us, and we all still have a lot of work to do.
These are tough times for the soon-to-be-departed Pope Benedict XVI. Not only are people all around the world voluntarily using condoms, but his "effort" to "apologize" to a large number of sexually abused (OK, raped) children went largely scoffed at and he's now retiring at the end of...
I know you're busy, but I couldn't let you go without saying something.
You were always by my side, even when I didn't want you to be. Weighing down my pockets. Making my palms smell like pissed-on copper. When I held you, my mitts got all clammy and ugly. It was like I could taste you just by looking at you, and it always made me cringe. It always gave me that cold tooth feeling I get when I'm force-fed fluoride at the dentist or when I hear chalk streak across a black board.
I always tried to get away from you, but there was no getting rid of you, was there?
You'd always find your way back. Every time I'd accidentally drop you, I'd look at you on the street and on the sidewalk and I'd think to myself, "Somebody else would really need that. You shouldn't waste money." And so, I'd pick you up. I felt guilty, so I kept you. I'd hate it, because I didn't want you, you filthy penny.
But, of course, some sense of I've done good would come over me. Maybe it was this completely idiotic thought that I was doing you a favour. This is ridiculous, of course. You're a freaking coin. But -- much like that Ikea lamp left out in the cold or that pencil I always lose -- I treated you like a human. All of you pennies.
I'd make sure you found good homes. When I had no use for you -- and, really, who had any use for you? -- I'd give you over to the next best thing. Maybe it was one of those charity bins with the coin slot at Tim Horton's or McDonald's. Yeah, if I could help build a Ronald McDonald House in Regina, I knew my pennies were going to the rest place... to the right home.
I will admit it, Penny. I hated you. Oh, did I hate you.
You weren't even round, were you? No, you were this damn ugly little orangey-brown mess with a sort-of square border. You were the disappointment we always saw when we fumbled to awkwardly pull coins out of our pockets -- whether we were in the Drive Thru, trying to buy bus tickets, or paying for another one of those delicious double doubles at said Horton's coffeeshop. We always wanted dimes or nickels, and we especially wanted quarters. But, no. We always pulled out pennies. Those damn little pennies.
You, Penny. We always pulled out you, even though we had tried so hard to get rid of you.
I will admit, there were times when I thought, "Please. Just go away. Leave me alone. Take the hint and disappear so I don't have to tell you to your face."
And then, the Canadian government decided to wipe you off the face of the earth... like you were as indispensable as the Dodo Bird or a daily newspaper.
At first, I thought it would be great. Sure, my cost of things would go up, because I'd assume vendors and store owners would take this as a nice excuse to round up all their costs to the nearest $0.05. It would be worth it, I thought. I'll be rid of that bi*ch forever. I need to move on, anyway. More nickels. More dimes. And, especially more quarters. Maybe even more bills.
And then, I started thinking...
Without you, Penny, I would lose a friend I always took for granted. Maybe you were comforting me while my mind was somewhere else, like the dog at my feet or the alphabet in my soup.
There were all those times when I'd buy something from a corner store, and the total cost would come to $4.96. I'd tell the guy behind the counter, "Don't worry about it" and I'd leave him with his four cents. But then, when they'd owe me $0.74, they'd toss me two quarters, two dimes, and four goddamn pennies.
Do you remember that?
Boy, I hated you. I really wanted to get rid of you. But, you were actually there with me, weren't you? You and I were alone against those evil, cheap little business owners along the highway who were so gracious to receive and too petty to give back. You needed a friend, and you needed a home, and I certainly couldn't leave you there.
I realize that now.
And so, on Monday, the government will take you back and melt you and fuse you and put you to use in some other way.
Goodbye, Race Horse. Hello, Elmer's.
It'll be like you never existed. Our bills will go unfolded into our pockets and we'll keep our change in our wallets again, because you won't be there to weigh us down or bulk up the crotch in our jeans.
Everyone else will talk about you like a cold they once had and then got rid of, but I'll remember, Penny.
Thank you for your years of service. I will miss you. But, at least my hands won't smell or stick quite as much as they did when you were around....
That's the title of ESPN's Jayston Stark's latest little ditty, detailing how Cooperstown failed to induct anyone on Wednesday for its literally famed annals. (No, not anals. Sicko.) That's right. Zero. Nobody will be going to the Hall of...
I know the NHL is really happy with itself right now, and I can't stand for that.
The lockout may be ending -- pending approval and some seriously important paperwork -- but the NHL still has to answer for the past few months, and the years before that.
The NHL can't hide from the fact that it betrayed millions of its own fans and its product.
The league deserves to pay for the lax approach it took to this lockout, and to its own business. The owners suddenly got all Socialist Obama when they realized they'd signed underwhelming players to intensely overpaid and bloated contracts. One day, they're a ruthless executive. The next day, they're Jamie Dimon begging for more buyout cash in front of Congress.
Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr were eerily similar to nine-year-olds fighting on the playground. They thought they were both right, and nobody else could understand.
The players, meanwhile, launched their greatest-ever assault on fans' intelligence.
They actually tried to swing our emotions by donning jerseys tattooed with "#ThePlayers" on it. They actually released YouTube videos informing us that the owners were locking them out, not the other way around. The players actually tried to handle billions of dollars in revenue with about as much grace as the side of a building handles a cannonball.
The players think like blunt instruments because the players are paid to be blunt instruments.
The owners think like corrupt businessmen because, well, they are corrupt businessmen. Unfortunately for them, however, their jargon is too far above their employees' uneducated minds.
This was a battle of Cheese and Cheddar, and neither one realized how much they had in common. Neither one realized their fans were the ones grading them. Neither one gave each other -- or their viewers -- any modicum of respect.
They didn't learn anything and they won't learn anything because they won't pay for their sins like the rest of us do.
It was a damn shame this had to happen. It's even more of a shame it will happen again when this new agreement inevitably expires.
(This article was originally posted on White Cover Magazine.)
I don't believe Donald Fehr, the executive director for the National Hockey League Players Association (NHLPA), is that bad. I don't believe Bob Goodenow or Ted Saskin, former NHLPA executive directors, were either. The fact is, these guys work in a field that demands turnover. That's because the players will...