Category Archives: Sports

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. 

Hoop Dreams: Open Look by Jay Triano

Jay TrianoThe NBA playoffs are in full swing; the Toronto Raptors are in the second round and fans are hoping for a championship come June. Though this book was published November of 2018, the NBA playoffs are as good a time as ever to tell Jay Triano’s story and his rise through in the world of basketball, his dreams of playing for Canada’s Nationals team, winning championships and coaching in the NBA.

A quick read of Jay Triano’s Wikipedia page will give you the playing and coaching history of Triano, but it leaves out all the best parts; what drove him as a youth and the people who had influence on his character and how he became a world champion playing for Canada (1983) and coaching the American mens basketball team in 2010.

In Open Look, Triano describes his earliest of great experiences seeing the Canadian Mens National Team play in for the first time.  From that moment his fate is sealed, he will not be anything if not a member of the Canadian National Team.  But to do that Triano had to follow a trail that would lead him to meet people that would have an impact  that he could not have envisioned you can see where each of these experiences have led him to his dream.

Stan Stewardson recruited Triano to play at Simon Fraser University, a BC University that played Division I basketball in the USA.  Along with recruiting him, Stewardson guided the nineteen year through his first years living far away from home.  Stewardson also taught Triano what he needed to be a great player, team mate and eventually to where he would see his greatest success – as a coach.  But Stewardson also introduced Triano to a person who would have a profound effect on his life in in his early years at SFU, Terry Fox.

Terry Fox was a basketball player at SFU, the season before Triano arrived Fox blewout his leg playing, only his leg was weakened because of cancer.  When Triano met Fox, he was in a wheelchair having had his leg amputed.  Fox was to be Triano’s trainer in those weeks in his first summer at SFU in 1977.  That summer Fox was in training himself for he had already self-determined that he would run across Canada.  Triano notes that even then Fox had a charisma about him that you could never forget.

Of all the people in the career of Jay Triano Jack Donahue perhaps played the greatest role.  The American who was coaching Canadian Team, the coach that said the hotshot from Ontario was “no good”; little did he know that Triano went through the 9 day tryout with a taped up bad ankle. That first year player  from SFU would be remembered by Donahue and it would not be long before Triano would make his dream come true – he would wear the red and white of Canada’s National Team.  Jack Donahue would play a huge part in Triano’s for years.  Triano would honour him years later after his death.

It felt like that Triano’s story is only scratching the surface in Open Look; almost as if there are so many stories that he could tell that to get the most in details had to be left out.

But, what Open Look does is teach one thing, it’s a lesson that all young athletes should learn – have a goal, work at that goal and have all things your do be to realize your goal and do it all honestly.  Whether its basketball, baseball, hockey, football  or anyother sport Triano does noting if to say stay true to your goal.

Open Look is a must read for any athlete that wants or needs a role model. The only thing that could be better that reading Open Look wold be Jay Triano on the speaker circuit where he would tell these stories and add what the book can’t the emotion and personal perspective, how great would that be?

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 & @rdmediaottawa and 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.