Canadians Expected to Compete in Every Sport

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A couple of observations from this past weekend. Abbotsford, British Columbia’s Adam Hadwin won the Valspar Championship, his first victory on the PGA TOUR. Meanwhile, Team Canada were winless at the World Baseball Classic. Two sporting moments, two different outcomes, but both had the same expectation: to win it all.

Maybe it is too much to say that the Canadian WBC team was expected to win it all or even advance to the next round. Even if you had every Canadian Major League Baseball player on the team, there are holes in a few positions, namely in middle infield, where they are lacking significantly. In the case with Hadwin, he has been close to winning before, most recently at the CareerBuilder Challenge where he shot a round of 59. It was simply a matter of time before he would eventually be in the winner’s circle. Next stop for him is the Masters in Augusta.

It used to be if a Canadian was in an event such as the Masters, or Wimbledon, or the Indianapolis 500, the notion is: “we are just glad to be here.” Not anymore. With the exception of perhaps soccer, Canadians are expected to compete, if not win, on a regular basis in every sport, not just hockey. That is a different mindset than say 10 years ago or even longer where we would settle for a participation medal. With better athletes and better training, Canadians are expected to take home the hardware when they take on the rest of the world.

The difference I believe is attitude. At one time, winning a championship was seen as too difficult of a task. Now it is looked at as a challenge everyone wants to face. To me, that is a good sign that Canadians have goals, some albeit lofty, that they expect to meet. The days of just hoping and praying are over. Today’s Canadian athletes are able to control their own fate more often.

Now, there is still a lot of work to do when it comes to actually winning championships. Canada’s baseball team needs a middle infield to go with the strong pitching and power hitting. Milos Raonic and Eugenie Bouchard will have to overcome their physical setbacks before they can compete in major tennis tournaments. Canada’s basketball team is one Center away before they become a serious threat to the dominating US team.

But one thing is for sure, athletes need to continue to aim high. That separates the participants from the contenders and it will bode well for Canada in producing not just great athletes, but champions.

Also see:

Do You Need International Success to be a Great Canadian Athlete?
Lessons From the World Juniors
Olympics are All About the Games

 

Olympics are All About the Games

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Olympics are All About the GamesThere have been a lot of concerns about the Summer games since they were awarded to Rio six years ago. But as I have seen in previous Olympic games, any issues about human rights, the environment, and the economy are put on the back burner once the cauldron is lit.

Penny Oleksiak made people forget about those concerns when the swimmer claimed Canada’s first medal at the Games. Then later won gold and finished with 4 medals. Andre De Grasse collected three medals at the Olympics: a bronze in 100 metres, silver in 200 metres, and anchored Canada to a bronze in the 4 by 100 metre men’s relay.

De Grasse’s success at his first Olympics were perhaps a surprise to no one. He won two gold medals at the recent Pan American Games in Toronto and was looking to make his mark in Rio. It was a tough task for the newest member of the Scarborough World Order to unseat Jamaica’s Usain Bolt. But De Grasse held his own proving he will be a force in future world track competitions.

On the other side, there is 16-year-old Toronto native Oleksiak. She was also a newcomer to the Olympics but, unlike De Grasse, she was not a household name, until now. Oleksiak’s performance in 4 swimming events earned her praise. Even rapper Drake chimed in to congratulate Oleksiak.

In total, Canada came home with 22 medals including 4 gold, placing 10th overall in the medal standings. Not all athletes ended up getting medals but nevertheless we were proud of their achievements. One in particular, Evan Dunfee, showed Canadians what we are made off after coming in 4th place in race walking, a decision that was appealed and later denied. He thought the Japanese runner (or should it be walker?) pushed him aside to pass him. And he did. But Dunfee to his credit handled the situation and the final result well.

Slowly but surely the focus of the Rio Olympics shifted from the social problems to the athletic performance. Not even American swimmer Ryan Lochte’s fishing story about an alleged armed robbery could spoil the spectacle and brilliance of the games. Do you remember the time the state-sponsored Russian doping scandal made headlines weeks before the start of the Rio Olympics? Or how about the Zika virus posing a threat to the games? Neither did I.

The games are what it is supposed to be: an arena to display great athleticism and sportsmanship. The best athletes in the world going head-to-head. And, for the most part, we saw that over the last two weeks.

Also see:

Canada has the Best Athletes… Period
Sports is Not a Platform for Activism
Lessons From the World Juniors

Sports is Not a Platform for Activism

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Smith Carlos OlympicsThe recent controversy over the Religious Freedom Act in Indiana has crept its way into the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament’s Final Four in Indianapolis. The people who are opposed to this legislation have attempted to use it to overshadow the tournament. They have no business being associated with this event, or any sport for that matter. It is not enough that there are post-secondary institutions everywhere infiltrated by this junk. Now it is being taken into the sporting arena. These groups are, to use a corporate term, looking to expand. Kind of ironic that this is happening on one of the most religious holidays on the calendar, Easter.

Why would these people get involved in this important event in the first place? Audience. Sporting events like the Final Four, Super Bowl, and Olympics attract millions of people to the host city and on television. So you have everyone in the world watching you raise your fist in the air or hold both your hands up high in a salute. All for what? Tommie Smith and John Carlos may as well have held waffles in their hands. Besides, what really is the difference whether you clench your hands into a fist or you have them open? The arm is still raised in the air. You can argue Tim Tebow has made kneeling down, putting his fist on his forehead a political gesture. But I’m guessing you are also comparing Jesus Christ to a Black Panther.

Whether it is racism, domestic violence, or gay rights, I can tell you none of them really care about these causes unless it fulfills their agenda. That being to settle a score at the expense of our sport. But the problem though is while it is a one-sided fight, it’s the ones advocating these so-called injustices that have an unfair advantage. You have Salon and the Huffington Post all trying to put more social matters into the sports discussion and yet people remain outraged. How empty can you get?

As I have said before, racism and homophobia are not restricted to white males. Women and other ethnic groups have also demonstrated these characteristics. Yet, it seems the proponents are keeping mum whenever minorities are involved. Nobody really cares about fixing the problem. All they like to do is make trouble. As the saying goes: what a joke!

It would be easy to say lets ban all political activities in sports including the playing of the national anthem. That to me is playing into the hands of the social justice crowd. I have a better idea. I’m more confident that the millions of people who attend these sporting events will see the political activism for what the really are: a publicity stunt. I would hope these folks can follow the advice of a political activist website and move on.

Also see:

Political Correctness has No Place in Sport
Racism Knows No Bounds
Michael Sam is on the Clock

Canada has the Best Athletes. Period.

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Canadian Athletes

25 medals, 10 of them gold. Need I say more about Canada’s Olympic athletes?

Say what you want about the Olympics and the politics behind it but the winter games in Sochi is showing how far Canada has come when it comes to sport. I remember the days when the talk in Canada was about how we are not supporting our amateur athletes. Medals of any colour were once hard to get. The recurring cry is government needs to pour in more money for our athletes.

Not a lot of credit, though, is being given to corporations for stepping up to the plate. They realize who their customers are, everyday Joes and Janes like you and me. Their financial assistance have allowed these athletes to train full-time in order to be their best.

We do like to get behind our athletes but they also have to live up to their end of the deal. Sport is a 2-way street. It is part of good sportsmanship. And right now, they have done more than their share.

The fantastic effort by our athletes at the Olympic games has been worth its weight in gold. This is going to bode well for Canada’s next generation of athletes. It is why Canada’s athletes are the best in the world.

International Rules in the NHL? No Thanks

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NHL Logo

We continue to hear how the NHL should be more like Olympic hockey or international hockey. They say there’s no fighting or dirty hits, and players can skate more freely leading to more goals. That will make for more exciting hockey. Really? First of all, if it were not for NHL players participating in the games, hockey would have been dead as an Olympic sport.

The international rules (aka: the rules being used in the Olympics) are designed for amateur participants. It’s basically beer-league hockey. I know of at least two leagues in Ontario that adopt similar rules to the international game. I can tell you those games are as fun to watch as paint drying. I can understand if these players had jobs and careers outside of hockey. But for guys like Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Toews, who are paid and trained to play hurt and get their nose dirty, this is well beneath them. Perhaps that is why those two are struggling to score for Team Canada in the tournament because they are not playing with that same edge you see in the NHL. To them, this is not how they play hockey.

The big ice surface at the Olympics is also not making things exciting. It is believed that the bigger ice would offer more room for players to skate. There have been plenty of long stretch passes but very little end-to-end action. Some are also under the impression that the bigger ice would neutralize the so-called neutral zone trap. I’ve got news for you people, the trap was developed in Europe using the 200 by 100 ice dimension. It is practically made for the Olympics. Crosby probably would not have carried the puck in and battled his way to score the “Golden Goal” in Vancouver if it happened on an international-sized rink like the one in Sochi.

As for fighting, many who follow me know I’m of mind that fighting keeps everyone on the ice honest. By threatening to eject players who fight, international rules basically protects the perpetrator and eliminates any fear of retaliation. It’s that fear that makes a player think twice about laying an elbow on an opposing player’s head if they have to fight. While fighting in the NHL does not lead to an ejection, there is a rule that further penalizes a player that initiates a fight. That has reduced fighting to WWE-style staged bouts. But that being said, I’ve seen no one walk out of an arena in disgust when a fight happens. Everyone is cheering their home player during a fight.

I have said it before, true hockey fans, and even those who don’t like the violent nature of the sport, are being turned off by these ongoing attempts to sanitize the game. But I don’t expect the detractors to stop anytime soon. So you still like the international game? Better bring a pillow and some coffee. Or better yet, Red Bull.