Category Archives: Hockey

The Boys and Girls are Back in Town

This weekend marked the return of the NHL and the start of the Stanley Cup playoffs.  Other major league sports teams have already returned are or are making their plans to return.   COVID-19 interrupted the NHL and the NBA, it stalled the return of baseball.

Sports is a huge part of our of our pastimes, we argue over it, we come together is moments of celebration and we play sports together.  With the return of the NHL I invited a Humber College Radio Alumni to answer a few questions about his views on big league sports returning to our social circles.

Steve Kee is the host of the #Kee2Travel podcast, is the Director of External Communications at the Insurance Bureau of Canada – but more importantly for the purposes of #RedHeartBlueSign readers, he is a sports fans and a great observer of sports.  Steve lives and breathes Toronto sports.  I asked Steve five questions about the return to action of big-league sports.

The NHL, MLB, NBA are all coming back from a COVID induced break in the season.  Who has managed this the best, the worst and why?

Steve Kee: Baseball has been a joke.  Unnecessary travel is just a recipe for disaster.  I’ll be surprised if the season ends.   As for the best, I have to say the NHL.  They chose Canadian hubs – areas with fewer cases than any of the major markets in North America. 

Red Heart Blue Sign: Though I haven’t mentioned it, the MLS soccer has done a good job in their return.  I’ve read a lot about the National Women’s Soccer League, they just wrapped up well run ‘Challenge Cup Tournament”.  I agree with the comments about MLB, I have high hopes for the NHL ‘City Hub’ return to play.

What can North American sports leagues learn from European and English soccer leagues who have just wrapped up their seasons after pausing their seasons?

SK: Appropriate social distancing….no fans….and a commitment to safety.  Also, the European markets seemed to have a head start on the recovery from Covid, something we are just starting to see trend better here in North America. 

RHBS: They has a couple of situations that almost ended the comeback, but the teams and league prevailed.  Our North American leagues will need to diligent and strict with the teams and the players if any of the big three will have a successful season.

After the Stanley Cup is (hopefully) handed out in October when can we expect to see hockey back?  Will the league have to take a break until 2021?

SK: You can’t wait too long.  So, if the league is back December 15 is that enough time for those players who have competed to recover.  I imagine 2020-2021 will be a strange year with more injuries as a result of the starts and stops of this season. 

RHBS: Can the league afford to have a shortened season in 2021?  Don’t even get me started on the sham about the NHL Draft and a playoff team getting the #1 selection.

Then there will be football, how can the NFL or CFL possibly play in an empty stadium?

SK: They would dress the stadium like they have done for NHL and NBA.  You shoot football for what’s on the field.  I can see the NFL starting…because of the TV money…but can the CFL really justify these costs?

RHBS: It would be like the Argos playing The Rogers Centre (before BMP Field was built. 

Which sports league may be in danger of not surviving 2020-2021?

SK: Of any, the CFL could be the one to die.  They aren’t in the best of financial shape…period.

RHBS: I am I agreement here, if the CFL can’t pull off the planned Winnipeg hub city season this fall they are in trouble.  Best case scenario is the league taking a year off.  Worst is the league folds. If the CFL folds, does that mean the NFL can finally make a shot at a team in Toronto or Montreal?

Which Toronto team walks away with a championship this year?  The Leafs, the Raptors or the Blue Jays? 

SK: Optimist in me says all of the above.  Pessimist says better luck next year. 

RHBS: Of the Toronto pro teams, The Raptors have the best opportunity to win and recapture the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

My thanks to Steve for taking some time to assist with this week’s post.  You can follow Steve on Twitter and Instagram at @Steve_Kee.  If you love and miss travelling, follow Steve and his wife Cynthia on the #Kee2Travel podcast, https://www.buzzsprout.com/790535.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post, it is the 296th post I have written for the blog since October 2011! 

Stay safe, wash your hands and protect your social circles. 

Back to the drawing board

 

After 260+ posts on #RedHeartBlueSign, this is my first sports specific post.

So what precipitated me taking such a step? The Ottawa Senators sell-off at the NHL trade deadline.  Fans are upset that Matt Duschene and Mark Stone were traded leaving a team with no where to go but staying at bottom of the league.  Normally finishing last gives the best shot at the best player in the NHL Draft, but in the case of the Ottawa Senators they traded their 1stRound pick in this years draft to the Colorado Avalache for, wait for it, Matt Duchene. Yep the same Matt Duchene the Senators recently traded.

I am at best a casual fan of the Ottawa Senators, I follow the scores and even have a copy of the Senators schedule posted in my office at work and have this on my bulletin board:

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As a casual fan, I have asked Billy Morrison, a writer for Full Press Coverage who writes exclusively on the Ottawa Senator.  I asked Billy five questions related to trades, the breakdown of the Lebreton Flats and the future of the Senators in Ottawa.  I’ve edited some of Billy’s responses for length, but they don’t take away from the content

RedHeartBlueSign: What should Senators fans take away from the loss of Duchene and Stone? 

Billy Morrison:On Mar. 1, 2018, Eugene Melnyk penned a letter to Sens fans preparing them to brace for a full scale rebuild. One year later, the loss of Stone, Duchene, and Dzingel before the 2019 NHL trade deadline is still part of the process of dismantling the ‘old’ team. They follow other names of that era who have already left, such as Erik Karlsson, Mike Hoffman, and Derick Brassard. The loss of these players is simply the continuation of the tear down. It is ironic that on Mar. 1, 2019, exactly one year later, the Senators fired head coach Guy Boucher. There is a good chance now that the tear down is nearly over, and the rebuild can officially begin.

RHBS: What are your impressions of what the Senators gained from the trades?

BM: It is always difficult to see skilled and talented players like Karlsson, Stone, Duchene, and Hoffman, amongst others, leave. With that said, GM Pierre Dorion has done a great job negotiating strong assets in return. The Senators are already loaded with prospects like Thomas Chabot, Brady Tkachuk, and Colin White, in addition to many others. That pool just got deeper with the additions of Erik Brannstrom and Vitaly Abramov. On top of their youth movement, the Sens are well stocked with draft picks for the next three NHL entry drafts. In total, Ottawa has at least 15 picks in the first three rounds over the next three years. Senator fans are absolutely allowed to be frustrated from how the last two years have gone for their team. However, they should also be optimistic and excited about this team’s future and it’s potential to be very bright.

RHBS: With the no deal to build a new arena, will Melnyk sell the team, is there a possibility it moves to Quebec City?

BM: If the Arizona Coyotes can survive in the desert all these years, there is zero chance the Ottawa Senators will be leaving the nation’s capital. Furthermore, the NHL fully supports the team remaining in Ottawa. Despite what the home attendance record shows, Ottawa is a strong hockey market. The part about location that makes little sense is having the team based in the far west end of the city. Reaching Kanata from Orleans, Gatineau, or the downtown core can be difficult and very inconvenient at the best of times, never mind in gridlock traffic on a weeknight in the middle of a winter snow storm. For successful businesses, location is everything. With no new arena deal downtown in the foreseeable future, the Senators will remain in Kanata- for now. It is highly likely they will continue their search for a more central location in the city.

RHBS: How long before the Senators are competitive and a playoff team?

BM: Talent is growing quickly in Ottawa. At only 21-years-old, Chabot was already named to his first All Star game. Tkachuk and White have also both been two of the most productive rookies in the NHL this year. Depending on the rate of development, the three-to-five-year timeline set by Melnyk should be accurate. However, five years at this rate seems generous, and may follow the strategic approach of under promising and over delivering. Five years might be playing it safe. Three to four years could be more accurate.

RHBS: What does the future of the Senators mean to you?

BM: The actions of Eugene Melnyk and the Senators have been unprecedented in the history of professional sports. The agony and pain that fans have endured these last two years is next to unbearable. This treatment strains fan relations and tests fan loyalty. With that said, Melnyk and the team have been very transparent about their future direction and intentions since Mar. 1, 2018. There is a plan being implemented, as witnessed by the trades, the stockpiling of assets, the dismissal of the head coach, and the development of prospects. There are also timelines in place (3-5 years) and money that has been verbally committed (Melnyk has said he will be spending to the cap by the time the rebuild is complete). The future of the Senators means integrity and accountability. The talk has been talked. It’s time to walk the walk. So far, Melnyk and the Sens have done what they said they would do one year ago.

Senators fans in Ottawa have had a tough season, and thankfully it is almost over. February was particularly difficult with a record of 3 wins and 11 losses.  I think I could handle a rebuild if it seems that the owner is sincere about spending the money “it takes” to have a team of championship caliber, the coaching is patient but firm in expecting the best performance of each player every time they hit the ice.

The next phase of the rebuild will be the NHL Draft taking place in Vancouver June 21 & 22, 2019.  I await the results of the draft and the commentary Billy Morrison would have on  the picks GM Dorion and his team settle on.

Until then it’s a very subtle #gosensgo

You can read more from Billy at Full Press Coverage

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress.  I can be found on Twitter @robertdekker&  @rdmediaottawaand on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97.  If you prefer email, please contact me at rdmedia@bell.net

Book Review: The ‘Red’ Kelly Story

Playing hockey in the National Hockey League and winning the Stanley Cup is the quintessential Canadian story of success. That is only when you win “the Cup” once. What do you call it when a boy from Simcoe/Port Dover Ontario plays for 20 years and wins the Stanley Cup eight times? You call it The ‘Red’ Kelly Story.

Hockey has changed over 100 years, a read of Stephen Harper’s A Great Game, Bobby Orr’s My Story or Wayne Gretzky’s 99: Stories of the Game demonstrate that evolution since the original six. In The Red Kelly Story, the doubling of the league following the Leaf’s Cup win in 1967 seems like eons ago compared to the recent expansion of the league with the addition of the Vegas Golden Knights.

red kellyLeonard ‘Red’ Kelly is the NHL’s original gentleman and winner of 8 Stanley Cups – that none were won with the Montreal Canadians is a testament to his ability to make a team better simply by stepping on the ice. There are few like him who as a player, team Captain, Coach and General Manager had the respect of almost everyone he played with and against.

But Kelly also knew what he stood for and took the consequences in stride. His banishment from Detroit following his decision to retire rather than to accept a trade to the New York Rangers is an example. Then GM Jack Adams and years later President Alex Delvecchio refused to retire his number 4. But for every instance of rejection there are dozens of rewards. His election to the Hockey Hall of Fame only two years after retiring for good and helping the Maple Leafs win their last Stanley Cup is recognition of his status in the NHL.

So consider what he accomplished and then add another full-time job to his duties that also included being a father of four. In 1962 he ran, at the request of Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson, and was elected as the Member of Parliament (MP) for the Toronto riding of York West, he was re-elected again 1963. He stepped down as the MP in 1965 following the debate and final vote creating a new Canadian flag.

The NHL was much simpler then with a fixed schedule which made it easier to be both in Ottawa on Parliament Hill and on the ice in Maple Leaf Gardens. In the three seasons he was serving in Ottawa, Kelly only missed 4 regular season games. Even Kelly was not aware of what the double duty was doing to him; he still dominated on the ice. Only going into the 1965-66 season when he was ‘only’ a hockey player was he able to see how being an MP had affected his game. Over a 20 year career as a player he only missed 64 games, and played 9 complete seasons.

However it’s also his post playing career that demonstrates his ability to understand the game and influence players to perform better. Through 10 years of coaching he made the playoffs, with teams that should not have been in them 8 times. Just as in his playing career where he missed the playoffs twice, he missed two post seasons coaching – one year, with the Pittsburgh Penguins, he was fired before the season ended. His coaching career is most memorable for the season of pyramid power while coaching the Maple Leafs during the 1976 playoffs against the Philadelphia Flyers.

There is not a lot of controversy in the life of Red Kelly, but that’s okay. The Red Kelly Story is one of determination that had a successful career as a tobacco farmer in Simcoe Ontario, as a Hall of Famer in the NHL and to have a family where his success and dedication as a Parliamentarian and father has turned each of his children into being strong and dedicated people in their own careers.

At times it is good to read about a life that works out alright and makes it through the struggles we all may face. Red Kelly was no angel and was not handed anything without having a work ethic that had him earn all he has. We all don’t have stories like The Red Kelly Story, so it’s good to read one like it, if only to reinforce that hard word, faith and family have its rewards.

The Red Kelly Story is a hockey story that cannot be replicated.  Hockey today at 100 years is not the same as it was when the NHL was a young 30 years old in 1947 when Red Kelly broke into the league.

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress. You can also see me on www.redheartbluelife.wordpress.com where I am celebrating #Canada150 with a daily post of an event celebrating our sesquicentennial in Canada.

I can be found Twitter @robertdekker, @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97. I can be reached at rdmedia@bell.net.