Quotulatiousness

March 3, 2014

QotD: The triad of distinctively Canadian sports

Filed under: Cancon, Football, Sports — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:54

We have a triad of distinctively Canadian sports: Canadian football, hockey and curling. Football, from its origins to the present, has remained a collegiate game, a game of the ruling class. College kids invented gridiron football; McGill undergrads taught Americans what a “touchdown” was. Today, football is, notoriously, the shortest path to becoming a partner in a law firm, with golf a close second. Peter Lougheed and Rob Ford were football players, rich kids who, in different ways, leveraged the social connectivity of the game.

Hockey is the most popular sport in the triad because it is the game of the Canadian middle class, a game that requires a family to have something of a surplus and, ideally, to live near a town of some size. The typical sponsor for a minor hockey team has always been some kind of small business — a plumber, a restaurant, a trucking company. There are still plenty of kids in families too broke to afford hockey. In Canada, it is the first way one might learn that one is poor.

This is where curling fits in: It is a farmer’s game, a peasant tradition. There are still many villages in the West that cannot afford hockey rinks, but that faithfully lay down two curling sheets in a long, narrow shack every fall. In those towns, an agriculture society’s community investment in two sets of stones will serve all for decades. Where hockey requires every child to have skates and pads and sticks, the traditional equipment for curling amounts to two ordinary household brooms for every four players.

Colby Cosh, “Curling will never be ruined”, Maclean’s, 2014-03-02

August 8, 2013

The dismal economics of professional hockey in Arizona

Filed under: Economics, Sports, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:15

I don’t follow hockey at all, so I had to be reminded that there already was an NHL team in Phoenix. The fact that the team is bleeding money all over is not a surprise — that they’re determined to stay in Arizona and continue losing lots of money? That’s just dumb:

As you probably know by now, the Phoenix Coyotes are staying in Glendale, but they’ll be changing their name to the Arizona Coyotes to reflect the fact they aren’t in Phoenix.

Now anyone with a modicum of common sense knows that this is a venture that is almost certain to fail, given how much money the team has lost over the years, the bankruptcy process, attendance, etc. This is all made worse by the fact there are several viable markets itching to get a team (Quebec City and Southern Ontario spring to mind).

If you’re a Coyotes fan, you might be thinking, “what does this clown know? He’s just some idiot with a blog. Hey, he was probably a diehard Jets supporter and watched, ashen-faced, as his team played its last game on his 15th birthday before leaving for the desert bwahahahahaha.” To which I would respond, “hey, are you a stalker or something?”

Okay, so I’m not a fancy economist or anything and perhaps I’ll never let the departure of the original Jets go.

The guy who wrote the following IS an fancy economist though, and his opinion, which was submitted as part of legal wrangling between the league and former Coyotes owner Jerry Moyes over ex-RIM CEO Jim Balsillie’s brazen attempt to acquire the team without the NHL’s consent, is pretty clear. Leaving the Coyotes to founder Glendale is a terrible move on many levels.

H/T to Colby Cosh for the link.

May 28, 2013

Breaking new (legal) trails

Filed under: Cancon, Law, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:10

Colby Cosh on the fascinating attempt by former Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke to sue his alleged defamers on the internet:

Question: if you can defame someone on the internet, should they be able to sue you over the internet? Grouchy former Leafs GM Brian Burke intends to find out. His lawyers are set to appear in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver today, where they will argue that Burke should be able to serve notice of his defamation lawsuit against pseudonymous members of various internet forums by means of those forums themselves. “Ding! You’ve… got… mail.”

Early commentary on Burke’s lawsuit over claims he had an affair with a broadcaster was focused on the difficulty of tracking down internet anonymice and serving them with the right papers. The established pathway is to go through internet service providers to get them to disclose the identities behind IP addresses — but privacy-conscious tech firms don’t like to give up that info without a court order, and if Johnny Flapgums did not happen to post from home or work, a plaintiff is more or less out of luck anyway. In an unforeseen development, Burke is now asking the court to let him sue internet usernames as usernames, notifying the users of the action through the personal-messaging apparatus of the sites on which they posted their allegedly scurrilous comments.

If Burke succeeds with today’s motion, defendants such as “CamBarkerFan” and “Slobberface” will be forced into a tricky choice between fighting the lawsuit, and thus exposing themselves to a verdict, or laying low and allowing a default judgment to be entered against them, thus exposing themselves to the risk of being identified and penalized later without any chance of a defence.

March 23, 2013

Cherie Piper hangs up the skates

Filed under: Cancon, Sports — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:56

It might seem a little odd for me to post an item about a hockey player retiring — given the overall lack of hockey coverage you might find on the blog — but we actually have a connection here: Cherie is Elizabeth’s god-daughter.

One of Scarborough’s most decorated Olympians is set to call it a career.

Cherie Piper, an Albert Campbell Collegiate grad who helped Canada win three Olympic gold medals in women’s hockey, announced her retirement from competitive hockey prior to the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) regular season finale which her longtime club team, the Brampton Thunder, won 7-0 over the Toronto Furies.

[. . .]

Her tally for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics was 10 points (five goals, five assists) in five games — fifth on the team.

At the 2006 Turin Olympics, her seven goals and eights assists was good enough for second place amongst all point-getters and tied for tops for goals.

She is in the top-10 all-time scorers for the Canadian women’s team.


Photo by Julie Jacobson

February 8, 2013

PM’s long awaited (ghostwritten) book on hockey to be published in the US due to Canadian publishing regulations

Filed under: Cancon, Media, Sports — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:47

A double-whammy from the Globe and Mail‘s John Barber: due to protectionist media rules brought in during the Mulroney years, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s book on hockey — ghostwritten by G&M columnist Roy MacGregor — will have to be published outside the country. Inline Update: The G&M has retracted the claim that the book was ghostwritten. Thanks to commenter Dwayne for the update.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s upcoming book on the history of professional hockey will be published in the United States rather than Canada because of prohibitions embedded in the government’s own cultural policy.

Simon & Schuster, the U.S.-based company chosen to publish the English-language edition of the Prime Minister’s book, is banned from publishing books in Canada under the Investment Canada Act. But the act does permit foreign-owned companies to distribute titles they have published in their home territories.

A single edition edited and printed in the U.S. will likely appear simultaneously in both markets, so Canadians will not have to wait to buy a copy.

“It’s ironic that he is publishing with a company that is forbidden by his government to have a Canadian publishing program,” Toronto literary agent Denise Bukowksi said. “But if North American rights are contracted in the U.S.A., they can get away with it.”

Three years ago, the Harper government announced a review of the policy, which the government of Brian Mulroney adopted to promote the growth of Canadian publishers at the expense of the multinational companies that then dominated the domestic market. The government has yet to announce changes.

Update: Hmmm. The story gets a bit more confused, as Roy MacGregor is quoted in this story denying any involvement:

Roy MacGregor, who has written 40 books, including the popular Screech Owl series, has talked with the prime minister about the book and describes him as “fanatically” knowledgeable.

MacGregor, who has worked as a ghost writer, says Harper hasn’t employed one.

“I can guarantee you there’s no ghost,” he said. “I’m sure it would come up. The reason it would come up is I know of his stated determination that no matter how long it took, he wanted to be the one that did it. He had research help but it was going to be him plucking away at the computer keys.”

H/T to Colby Cosh for that URL.

January 15, 2013

Don Cherry: Canadian … icon?

Filed under: Americas, Cancon, Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:34

In an article designed to stir up controversy over aid to Haiti, Kathy Shaidle provides a neat thumbnail portrait of Don Cherry:

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) says taxpayers must keep funding this great unwatched billion-dollar behemoth because the network has a never-hear-the-end-of-it “mandate” to “reflect Canadian values.”

Which “the Corpse” does indeed, but for just about nine minutes every Saturday night, and only during hockey season, and by accident rather than design.

That’s when Don Cherry’s red light goes on and the former Boston Bruins coach begins bellowing about the fruitcakes and foreigners destroying his beloved game.

He’s old, white, loud, and uneducated. He’s bigoted, mawkishly patriotic, and he dresses like an Edwardian time traveler stuck in 1970s Detroit trying to pass himself off as a pimp — and Don Cherry’s Coach’s Corner has also been the CBC’s highest rated… thing for generations. It’s not even a show, you see, just a segment — possibly the only “intermission” in history that prompts people to run to their seats instead of away from them.

By lucky chance, “shhhh!” is the same “word” in both official languages, and that’s the sound heard in sports bars and rec rooms across Quebec and the ROC (Rest of Canada) as the show’s familiar intro gallops into millions of ears.

To the countless Canucks who can’t stand him, however, Cherry is a perpetual outrage machine. The coach doesn’t make “Kinsley gaffes,” either — those “controversial” statements which accidentally reveal some embarrassing truth. Cherry tells embarrassing truths on purpose. His only “crime” is saying things lots of his countrymen agree with but aren’t allowed to say — or even let themselves think — anymore.

September 28, 2011

Toronto: paradise of the high-profit, cellar-dwelling sports franchise

Filed under: Cancon, Economics, Sports — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 00:11

Last year, I posted a bit of Toronto-baiting, referring to the town as the place “where professional sports go to be embalmed”. In the comment thread to that post, “Lickmuffin” set me straight about just why Toronto teams are so bad — the answer is that Toronto fans expect no more of them, and are happy to pay for mediocrity. Stephen Marche goes a few steps further on that line (largely proving Lickmuffin’s point):

It’s a given that the true fan goes to games not for the necessarily occasional thrill of winning, but for the quotidian experience of losing — a truth articulated originally and beautifully by Nick Hornby in Fever Pitch. Losing in Toronto, however, is an unremitting condition. The CFL team, the Argonauts, is so bad that when I recently found a friend of mine betting on it, I immediately wondered if it was time for an intervention about his gambling addiction. As it stands, the Argonauts are 2 and 6 3 and 9. The Blue Jays this year aren’t completely terrible, but when you’ve said that, you’ve said everything. They may be a rising power in the East, as many claim, but they sure haven’t risen yet. The Raptors are still in their post-Bosh wilderness (not that the Bosh period was a golden age), and Toronto FC currently rests at the bottom of the Eastern Conference. The Leafs, who matter to Torontonians more than all the other teams combined, have not won the Stanley Cup since 1967, and they haven’t made the playoffs in a franchise-record six seasons. The only team with a longer dry spell is the Florida Panthers. The Leafs’ major source of hope seems to be Brian Burke himself, but when the major source of your dreams is a front-office guy, you are in a dark place. Cheering a GM, to me, is hitting rock bottom.

And this in Canada’s biggest city, where hockey matters more than baseball in Boston or basketball in Indiana or football in Texas. The only other places where sports dwell so near the most profound and abiding national questions are rugby in New Zealand, which recoups the warrior culture of the Maori, and football in Buenos Aires, where the slumdog Boca Juniors battle the uptown Millonarios in a never-ending class war. Maybe Real Madrid against Barcelona could be added to that list, but nobody else. People who were surprised that Vancouver burned after the Stanley Cup playoffs last year are unaware of the history of the sport in Canada. Of the 10 biggest riots in Canadian history, six began at hockey games.

[. . .]

So who can blame Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment, the business that controls the Leafs and the Raptors, for following that oldest and truest of rules: Never give a sucker an even break? The most recently released financial reports, published by the Toronto Star in 2007 and which were neither confirmed nor denied by the privately held MLSE, suggest they run a profit margin of more than 20 percent. Before we start hacking away at the irresponsible evil-capitalist angle, however, we should recognize that the majority shareholder in MLSE is the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Fund (although they are currently looking to sell); the profits of MLSE have paid for the retirement of a lot of hardworking people, so it’s good that they’re good at business. And they are excellent business people.

August 19, 2011

Excellent news for players of impact sports

Filed under: Football, Health, Technology — Tags: , — Nicholas Russon @ 12:04

It’s becoming more a topic of concern for players (and especially for the parents of younger players) in sports which feature significant amounts of contact: detecting when a player has suffered a concussion. Football and hockey players are often determined to prove how tough they are by “playing through” injury, but concussions are not like bruises or other injuries — they can have long-term dangerous side-effects. There’s now a product available at the retail level that may help:

Over the next few weeks, a U.S. company called Battle Sports Science is making its Impact Indicator available throughout Canada and the United States. It is a sensor that is fastened to a helmet chin strap and detects when the user’s head undergoes an impact likely to cause a concussion.

Football versions of this device should be on the way to Canada in two weeks, said Battle Sports CEO Chris Circo, and one for hockey is expected to be available in late September or early October.

When attached and operating, a green light will be illuminated at the player’s chin. If the light turns red, it’s indicating that the player has been hit hard and should be evaluated before returning to play.

Once the technology is widely available, the professional leagues and the college and university teams should adopt them as standard equipment. Junior players would have less reason to resist using the device if all the top-level players were seen to be using them. It’ll take longer to retrain sports announcers to stop glorify big hits and featuring them on slo-mo playbacks while saying things like “He got jacked-up”, “They blew him up” and “He got his bell rung on that hit”.

July 12, 2011

An amusing copyright tale (for a change)

Filed under: Cancon, Law, Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 16:06

Jesse Brown has the most entertaining copyright story I’ve read in quite a while:

But some of the hooligans exposed on Youtube found a clever way to get the video removed—copyright claims. Under Youtube’s “Notice and Takedown” policy, all you need to do is claim you own the rights to a video and demand that it be removed, and Youtube will remove it. The video’s uploader will be informed of the allegation and then have a chance to challenge it.

But here’s the rub: in order to claim ownership of a video’s copyright, you have to identify yourself. And when Youtube informs the uploader that they’re being accused of a copyright violation, they have to tell them who their accuser is. So rioters are indirectly handing their names over to the very people who were trying to identify them.

June 16, 2011

Welcome to Vancouver. Please ignore the rioters

Filed under: Cancon, Sports — Tags: , , , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:02

Lord Stanley’s Cup won’t be coming back to Canada this year, but as Brian Hutchison points out, that’s only one of the losses sustained by Vancouver last night:

The season ends, and the worst does come to pass. Vancouver, you have lost. Twice. But the game hardly matters now, does it? The score? Who cares? As I write this, my eyes are stinging, my is throat sore, having breathed in some sort of dispersal chemical that police deployed — in desperation, and perhaps too late. There could be some residual effect from having inhaled acrid, toxic smoke from burning cars, exploding cars, destroyed by lunatics still running crazy on the city’s downtown streets.

Blood in our streets. I saw people on the ground, bleeding. Shattered glass everywhere. Police cars set alight. Major bridges are now closed, preventing public access into the downtown core. Transit is plugged up, there’s no way out. More police and fire crews are arriving, from the suburbs, but again, it seems too late.

And as I write this, the sun has just set. Vancouver, what a disgrace.

Update: A Tumblr page posting photos of the rioters and looters:

The National Post has more photos of the aftermath.

Update: Joey “Accordion Guy” deVilla points out that one of these riots is not like the others. Oh, and a commentary on the most famous photo of the riots (so far).

December 1, 2010

Toronto: where professional sports go to be embalmed

Filed under: Cancon, Economics, Soccer, Sports — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 12:51

Scott Stinson looks at the less-than-impressive results turned in by Toronto’s various sport teams:

It makes business sense, of course, since Rogers, which already owns television networks and other content platforms devoted to sports, would own almost all the city’s sports properties, too. But would Toronto fans be any closer to a winner? Fans in this city have long lamented the inability of the bottom-line oriented current owners, dominated by the giant Ontario teachers’ pension plan and assorted business types, to build winners on the ice and the field. The franchises have been hugely successful in terms of making money, but woefully unsuccessful in the pursuit of championships.

Leafs: Zero playoff appearance since the NHL lockout of 2005. No Stanley Cups since 1967.

Raptors: In 15 years, they have won 11 playoff games. And lost three franchise players.

Toronto FC: Zero playoff appearance since club was formed in 2006.

[. . .]

So maybe Rogers would be different. Maybe it would want winners, since winners drive ratings. But the Jays haven’t sniffed the playoffs since Rogers bought them in 2000 (admittedly a tall order in a division that includes New York and Boston), and Rogers’ other sporting venture, the lease of eight Buffalo Bills games over five seasons, is thought to be a financial disaster.

It’s a pretty stark example of how disconnected the financial success of the business is from the sporting success of the team, isn’t it?

Update: Do check the comments, where “Lickmuffin” is holding forth about the iniquities of professional sports in general. It’s good, entertaining reading.

November 13, 2010

Some music just doesn’t belong in commercials

Filed under: Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:44

By way of @muskrat_john (John Kovalic), who wrote “Love the Pogues. Love my Subaru Forrester. Saw Forrester commercial use Pogues song. Surprisingly, I died a little inside.”:

June 29, 2010

QotD: Canada’s ongoing self-esteem binge

Filed under: Cancon, Law, Quotations, Sports — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 13:48

In light of Thursday’s Canada Day celebrations, pointing out that efforts to outlaw hurt feelings is now a regular part of this country’s modus operandi may make me a party-pooper. But waiting for another time won’t make the truth any easier to bear: From human rights commissions to hate crime laws to civil law suits, Canada has made an art of punishing otherwise perfectly legal behaviour simply because it happens to make someone feel bad. We’ve become a nation of petty grievance-hoarders and tip-toers terrified of offending.

The big problem with this state of affairs (besides how generally unbecoming it is)? It’s slowly making us a spiritless, brittle people. The ability to navigate the ups and downs of life — with a particular emphasis on the downs — is what fosters resilience and flexibility.

If you never have to face the consequences of getting cut from a team, or turned down for a job, or insulted by a heartless idiot, you never develop the sense of perspective (or sense of humour) that it takes to be a well-rounded and capable individual who has the confidence to handle defeat. That’s something parents have to teach their kids, and countries have to teach their citizens. Losing hurts, but you can’t expect mom and dad or a human rights commission to shield you from everything but sunshine and roses.

Marni Soupcoff, “Hockey dads need to grow up”, National Post, 2010-06-29

June 15, 2010

Instead of “Car!” they yell “Bylaw Officer!”

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Sports — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 18:25

Did you know that it’s against Toronto bylaws to play road hockey?

Ball hockey is played on streets across the city, but many people may be surprised to learn it’s not allowed.

Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker certainly was. He looked around the room today at the public works and infrastructure committee, which he chairs, and pointed out that he was likely surrounded by “bylaw violators”.

He said banning the sport on roads is “just plain silly”.

“I don’t want to fill up our jails with ten and 11-year-old children whose great crime was to run around with hockey sticks and orange balls, yelling the word car all the time,” he said. “Kids can play hockey on the Internet but then they stay inside by themselves and eat marshmallows.” Violating the city bylaw won’t get you thrown in jail, but it could net you a $55 fine.

The only good news about the bylaw is that it (to date) has never been enforced.

March 11, 2010

Colby Cosh tries to introduce physics into hockey debate

Filed under: Health, Sports — Tags: , — Nicholas Russon @ 07:37

Aside from women’s hockey at the Olympics, I don’t follow the sport, so I’m happy to depend on the educated opinions of those who do. Colby Cosh points out that the debate over blows to the head in hockey should concentrate on a simple, clearly defined rule:

A memo to those who are concerned with (hitherto) legal checks to the head in the NHL: I sure hope you’re not just fighting physics. Because you’ll lose.

I see nothing wrong with the proposed new rule against blind-side hits to the head. I’d be willing to take it even further, and adopt an easy-to-apply strict-liability standard; if you hit somebody in a way that induces unconsciousness, or causes a concussion, you sit out the next n games. This would spare us from adopting hard-to-apply rules whose enforcement might ebb and crest, vary between personalities, and differ between leagues and regions. (It would occasionally lead, like all strict-liability rules, to unfair-seeming results and punishments for actions that didn’t look unjust or vicious aside from the outcome. But almost anything is better, at least to my mind, than a rule defined by excessively complex language, taught by means of intuitive references to a mass of individual cases, and left to evolve so that everybody thinks he knows the offence when he sees it.)

[. . .]

It’s sometimes observed, for example, that the players are bigger and the game faster than 20 or 30 years ago. But nobody ever sorts out the relative importance of these effects; a player whose mass is 5% bigger has 5% more kinetic energy in open ice, but if his velocity is increased 5%, the energy varies according to the square, and thus increases by more than 10%. If you watch early ’80s hockey, what immediately strikes you, once you get past the sheer horribleness of the goaltending, is the relative slowness of the game. There’s no one reason for this: plenty of things have changed just a little bit, from the quality of icemaking to skate technology to the way skaters are trained. And the change isn’t that extreme, or else Chris Chelios, who actually played early ’80s hockey in the early ’80s, would be unable to draw a paycheque in his weak-bladder years. Still, it’s a factor with exponential weight.

Chris Chelios is nearly as ancient as I am . . . it’s utterly amazing that he’s still able to play at a professional level.

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