It is the kind of news that would make the late Toronto Sun sports columnist and CFL supporter Jim Hunt roll over in his grave. The idea of some kind of work stoppage in the Canadian Football League whether it is the players going on strike or the league locking them out is a thought that many fans are finding hard to believe. But it may become a reality. I won’t go into the fact that money is the root of this dispute. Instead, I’ll tell you why the CFL is due for a work stoppage.
The CFL is no longer a league struggling to hold its head above water. Ever since TSN took over as the sole rights holder, more games are being seen on TV than ever before. Coupled that with great marketing and teams emphasising defence and ball possession in what was before a pass-happy league have resulted in more fans coming to games. There is a strong presence in Montreal and Vancouver, a new stadium in Hamilton and one coming in Regina, and a new team in Ottawa. Even in NFL-obsessed Toronto, there has been a lot of more talk about the Argonauts over the last decade. But popularity has its price. It was perhaps no coincidence that the NHL’s history of labour unrest began when the league got more exposure in the US after Wayne Gretzky’s arrival in Los Angeles in 1988. 3 years later, the NHL went through its first player’s strike.
People seem to forget that labour laws both in Canada and the US apply to everyone. It may not have been originally drafted for multi-millionaire athletes but that is the beauty of the rule of law, no one is exempt. Professional athletes are by definition employees. They can unionize and take advantage of the rules laid out by labour relations boards. People might find that hard to swallow but that is how business works.
There was a player’s strike in the CFL during training camp in 1974 but that did not result in any cancellation of regular season games. This one might be different. I was chatting with former Tiger-Cat Linebacker Lance Trumble one evening. He, like many CFL fans, are following this development closely. Trumble told me that he hopes there is a settlement but thinks the season may not start on time. Both sides are working hard to get an agreement in place but, like the game itself, they are at the mercy of the clock. And there is not much time left before the start of the season on June 26th.
The Memorial Cup tournament has been more than just determining the best major junior hockey team in Canada. It has been a showcase of the players on the four remaining teams and the cities who they play for.
The Canadian Hockey League has made the annual championship tournament into a hockey fan’s experience. If someone were to come in and did not know anything about hockey, they would have thought this was the Super Bowl. The tournament has become a marketing tool for the host city and those of the participating teams. The OHL’s Owen Sound Attack played in the Memorial Cup in 2011 in Mississauga. I spoke to a reporter who covers the team there and he told me that their appearance helped put Owen Sound — a city of over 22,000 located 2 1/2 hours northwest of Toronto — on the map and brought it more attention from people all over Canada.
London is hosting the 2014 edition. They last hosted the tournament in 2005. It was there that they won their only Memorial Cup championship. That Knights team featured future Stanley Cup winners in Corey Perry and Dave Bolland. It also had current NHLers Dan Girardi and Brandon Prust. The 3 other teams in that tournament also had some notable players. Kelowna had Shea Weber and Blake Comeau, Brian Bickell played for Ottawa, and Rimouski had some kid on their team named Sidney Crosby. Last year in Saskatoon, the tournament featured draft-eligible players Nathan McKinnon (Halifax), Seth Jones (Portland), Bo Horvat (London), and Max Domi (London). All were taken in the first round of the NHL Entry Draft that year.
This year’s tournament will have the likes of Matt Finn and Robbi Fabbri of Guelph, Edmonton’s Griffin Reinhart and Curtis Lazar, and Nick Aube-Kubel and Anthony Mantha of Val d’Or. Watch for these players and others to one day play in the NHL.
What I have learned about sports media over the years is that they often don’t like the moves a team makes. And more often than not, the moves turns out to be great in the end.
Take the Buds’ decision to bring back Randy Carlyse. Some in Toronto would say it was dumb on the management’s part. I would probably agree unless of course you take in account what kind of hockey they like to see. Then you’d think the Leafs are on to something. Carlyse is the kind of coach Brendan Shanahan likes. He wants players to pull their own weight. Plus, Carlyse is perhaps the only coach who can deal with the Toronto media. I don’t think you can say the same with John Tortorella.
I believe if sports writers panned a move, it is really a good one for the organization. I have witnessed it during the Blue Jays run at back-to-back World Series titles. Pundits criticized the moves made by then GM Pat Gillick whether it was the trade for Rickey Henderson, or the signing of Jack Morris, or keeping Cito Gaston as Manager. I can bet most if not all want to take that back. A few even thought Calgary got the better of the Doug Gilmour trade to the Maple Leafs in 1991. More recently, experts felt the Raptors have given up on the season after the Rudy Gay trade. I like to hear what Masai Ujiri has to say about that.
Don’t buy into the knee-jerk reactions. Instead, save their stories and check back later in the season. Then let’s hear them tell us what they thought about the move.
Am I the only one who is not convinced that the controversy surrounding Donald Sterling is over? Or that there is more to the story over his racially charged comments last week? There is a lot more talk about the Los Angeles Clippers owner even after NBA Commissioner Adam Silver banished Sterling from the league for life. There now seems to be criticism about the way Sterling is being treated over his comments to his ex-girlfriend, not the least of which was that the fact that he was being recorded. You’d think Sterling would have learned from Alec Baldwin and Mel Gibson about being set up. It will also be interesting to see how the NBA gets around US anti-trust laws in order to force him to sell the team against his will.
Recently, a lot of news has been made about the racial slurs being hurled towards Montreal Canadiens defenseman PK Subban after Game 1 of their playoff series against the Boston Bruins. To Subban’s credit, he took the high road on this one never giving any credence to the attacks in relation to the citizens of Boston. I, for one, would not be the least bit surprised if the perpetrators turn out to be from Quebec. It is often the ones in your circle who are the root of the problem.
Contrary to popular belief, racism is not limited to rich Caucasian men. I for one was hurled racial slurs from people of other ethnic groups. A black woman once angrily said to me: “why don’t you open your eyes?” after I bumped into her at a mall. I was rather taken by surprise by that remark. Even though I apologized she still continued to blame my ethnic background for the incident.
CNN’s Don Lemon once suggested that blacks should stop using the N-word and start acting more civilized as a way to ease racial tensions. He seems to know where the real problem lies. Lemon may not have been the first black figure to publicly condemn the use of the word by blacks but he got plenty of flack from blacks for doing so. I have never agreed with David Suzuki on any of his environmental causes but you won’t hear me resorting to using racial slurs towards him just because I too am a Japanese-Canadian.
If there is a moral to this Sterling saga is that people are willing to pass the buck. They need to find someone to blame in order to further their political agenda. Solving the issue is never on their mind. You don’t have to go further than the nearest mirror to see the face of racism. The same goes with sexism and homophobia. Perhaps people should start looking from within before moving on to other ethnic groups.