Monday, 18 September 2017

An Unpopular Opinion Grows

With the NFL back in full swing once more and my Twitter timeline flooded with NFL tweets yesterday, I think I want to weigh in on something for which I've never really had much use. As seen to the left, Colin Kaepernick made a significant statement in being the first to kneel during the national anthem prior as a form of silent protest, but I'm not here to speak about his protest. I could be here for days or weeks with all the nuances of that argument. Instead, I may be in the minority here, but I truly would like the practice of having the national anthem sung prior to every sporting event ended sooner than later. Honestly, it's an archaic form of tribute built into today's society that really has no place being continued today.

I know I'm asking a lot here, so bear with me. I'll explain my stance fully after a little history.

This all starts with baseball as games as far back as the mid-1800s saw the Star-Spangled Banner sung prior to special games. Where it really caught on, though, was during the World Series of 1918 between the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs. This particular series saw a few notable events happen prior to the series starting that saw the anthem used as a way to unite the American people.

17 months prior to the 1918 World Series, the US had entered World War I and there were a number of ball players who had been drafted that summer to serve in the military during this war. The government, as a result of the strain on the economics and workforce, ordered baseball to end the regular season by Labor Day, marking the only time in baseball's illustrious history that the October Classic actually finished in September.

Another event took place on September 4, the day before the first game was scheduled to be played at Comiskey Park. According to reports, a bomb ripped through the Chicago Federal Building that killed four people and injured another 30. Needless to say, the mood was pretty sullen in Chicago when it came time to celebrate baseball's best two teams.

It was in Game One that Babe Ruth pitched a gem, but the 19,000 on-hand to witness the 1-0 Boston victory barely stirred. That is, until the seventh-inning stretch. The military band that was on-hand began playing the Star-Spangled Banner, and it seemed to stir the crowd. Playing in the game was third baseman Fred Thomas who was an active serviceman with the US Navy. While on furlough from the Navy, Thomas received permission to play in the World Series, and Thomas would stand and salute the flag on this day as the military band played the anthem. Seeing Thomas saluting, the remainder of the players on the field turned towards the flag and held their hands over their hearts as the anthem was proudly played by the military band. As the conclusion of the song, the sleepy crowd came alive with an ovation not heard at any point in the game.

The next two games, hosted by the Cubs, also featured the Star-Spangled Banner played during the seventh-inning stretch. Boston, not to be outdone by their rivals, decided to move the song to the pregame ceremonies while having injured servicemen attend the game for free. The crowd at Fenway Park was louder than it had been for most of the season, according to reports, and the Red Sox continued to play the anthem prior to the remaining three games with Boston winning the series four games to two.

As Luke Cyphers and Ethan Trex write on ESPN.com,
Other major league teams noticed the popular reaction to "The Star-Spangled Banner" in 1918, and over the next decade it became standard for World Series and holiday games. In subsequent years, through subsequent wars, it grew into the daily institution we know today.
What makes this funny, to me, is that Congress didn't officially adopt the "The Star-Spangled Banner" as the American National Anthem until 1931. What grew out of a way to honour the soldiers who put their lives on the line to protect freedoms and rights was finally adopted by the country as a way to do the same some 13 years later. Nice job, Congress.

Snide remarks about American politics aside, if we look at the history of the anthem being played before the game, it literally was a one-up by the Red Sox on the Cubs that started this silly tradition. As it was adopted by more sports across the land, it became commonplace to hear the anthem before any game is played. However, there are places such as the Olympics and various World Championships where the anthem is played after the game is concluded, and only the winning nation gets its anthem played.

Look, I have no problem with how the anthem was used at sporting events in the days of yesteryear when it sung and performed on special occasions like opening day, national holidays and championship games. I believe those days and games have special meaning to a wider section of the audience, and the performance of the anthem signifies the importance of those days and events. It makes much more sense than a midweek game between the Hurricanes and Coyotes in January.

It also makes no sense when you look at a few rosters of NHL teams. Why would nearly two-thirds of the Winnipeg Jets sing the Canadian national anthem when they're not from Canada? They stand out of respect for the team, the fans, and the country in which they work and live, but should we force players like Blake Wheeler, Patrik Laine, and Nikolai Ehlers to take part when they clearly have more national pride for their countries of origin? You can't make the claim that the anthem is being played for the fans to rouse their spirits like they did in 1918, so why do we continue to force this issue 82 games per year and more in the playoffs?

I get that I'm opening up a can of worms here in suggesting this, but I can't think of one good reason why this tradition should continue on a game-by-game basis outside of special occasions and championship games. Maybe you have one - no, your relative signing the anthem isn't a good one - but I'd need some concrete proof why we need to play the national anthems at each and every game when it was originally meant to bring the people of Chicago together during a difficult time and have the people of Boston honour the injured servicemen who fought in one of the worst wars in history.

If you're going to honour the accomplishments of the soldiers who ensured that we get to watch athletes entertain us, play the anthem on Remembrance Day and Veterans Day. But I'm not in favour of dragging it out at every sporting event held in North America. We don't do it at movie theatres when highly-paid actors and actresses are entertaining us. We don't do it at concerts where highly-paid musicians are entertaining us. In saying that, we shouldn't do it at sporting events either.

Have your take in the comments, folks.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 17 September 2017

The End Of The Season

We survived another crazy season of slo-pitch, laughter, and fun as the playoffs wound down today. The rain really did a number on the fields this weekend, so kudos to everyone who got out there and worked on them. As you can see from the image to the left, it didn't quite finish how we would have liked, but I gotta hand it to this team in that we overcame some tests this weekend to give ourselves a shot at defending our championship. In the end, we could have used some better luck through the playoffs to set us up in the final, but that's how the ball bounces sometimes.

There's something about being a weekend warrior that just brings out the fun in everyone. The nice part about the league is that teams that aren't playing usually crash at the community club where the league plays out of for refreshments and laughs. It's always a good time stopping by the club, and I have to admit that there was a rather intense game of Chase the Ace happening for one team. Regardless of what's happening at each team's table, everyone chats with everyone else and it's a great atmosphere.

After starting the weekend with a loss and a tie, there was a sense of dread that we might already be out of the running for a spot in the final. However, three straight wins pushed us to a 3-1-1 record - second-best in the pool and just ahead of another team that finished 3-2-0 (yes, we beat them). Without stating too much drama, we literally played for our championship lives after those two games, and everyone really came together to pull off three important wins to send us into the final.

The final didn't go so well for us. Whatever black magic we were using to hit so well in the earlier two games today dried up. Defensively, we played pretty well, but you rarely win slo-pitch games with single-digit scores. In the end, we just didn't score enough and didn't hit enough to defend the title, and now we'll watch others celebrate with the trophy at the year-end banquet. Which sucks.

Again, we overcame some adversity to make it to that spot for that opportunity, and I have to say that it was fun seeing everyone come together. Despite suffering an injury that prevented me from playing past the Saturday morning game, the loss of my bat in the lineup was hardly noticeable as everyone began hammering the ball and getting on base. To be fair, I'm not sure I would have disrupted the team even if I could have played with the way they were hitting and running. Everyone rallied when I went down, and that was a major part of the fun this weekend!

We also lost two players due to work midway through the season that were quite good. They made a strong middle infield pairing, and the fact that they were working two provinces away didn't make for easy commutes for Sunday evening games. There was hope that they could escape for the weekend to join us once more, but they couldn't get away. Having those two players back in the lineup would have really tightened up the defence while adding some much-needed offence, but those that filled in did an admirable job nonetheless.

Having those three bats in the lineup may have scored more runs in the final, but it also could have meant those that were playing well missed a chance to add their name to an incredible run. I would have loved to see this team win a second championship in back-to-back years, but it wasn't to be this season. I'm still damned proud of what this team accomplished, and nothing will replace that feeling of pride in battling back from an 0-1-1 record to advance to the championship final.

A great season was had, and I'm looking forward to next season already!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 16 September 2017

A Soggy Day Off The Grid

Welcome to slo-pitch in September. Today will see me and twelve-or-so teammates attempt to make something out of a windy and wet day on the ball diamonds as we look to defend the title won last season. With it being as rainy and windy as it is, I'm not sure why we're playing, but apparently we have to get the games in "one way or another". I guess that means umbrellas and rain ponchos for all? In any case, I'm gonna spend most of the day off the grid trying to stay warm in single-digit temperatures while we take down teams standing in front of us to repeat as champions!

Tonight, I have the privilege of attending the Bisons women's hockey social where they are raising money to offset costs this season. Honestly, I wish there was more I could do to support this team because they worked their butts off to make this happen, and I really want to see the social make a pile of money for the team. These women have dedicated themselves to the sport like no one I have seen, and they have come together this season with one goal in mind: London, Ontario. Specifically, the U Sports Women's Hockey National Championship at Western University from March 15-18. There will be challengers who want to stop that from happening, especially within the uber-competitive Canada West Conference, but the Bisons are determined to make it happen.

In saying the above, come down to Wayne Fleming Arena at the University of Manitoba and cheer these women on. There's an Olympian, a number of former NCAA players, a pile of talented Manitobans, and a few Saksatchewan- and Alberta-born players who have adopted this city as their own in helping the Bisons achieve their goals. All they need is some fan support as they seem to play twice as hard as they normally do when the stands are full!

The tickets? They're cheap. Like "you can afford a season pass" cheap. Tickets to get into the games are $10 for adults, and I guarantee it will be the best women's hockey action you'll see outside of the Olympics. If nothing else, come out and see how we do broadcasts for UMFM at the games. We occasionally speak about people in the crowd on broadcasts who wear unique clothing, are loud and boisterous, or who come as a group, so if you want a little free recognition for your efforts at the games via radio, you know what to do.

It's game time in about 90 minutes, so I'm out. Support your local hockey where ever you may be located, and get out and support your local U Sports teams when you can!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 15 September 2017

I Thought This Only Happened In Soccer

The uniforms, as seen to the left, are what Ukraine's national hockey teams wear. They actually look much better on the ice than they do in the graphic, but that's not why we're here today. The IIHF announced today that it has begun an investigation into two Ukraine players and has suspended them "from all ice hockey competitions or activities authorized and organized by the IIHF or any IIHF Member National Association as of 14 September 2017" as part of this investigation. If this seems like a heavy ruling while the investigation is on-going, the important thing to note is that this decision was made due to the two players' alleged match-fixing during the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A game between Korea and Ukraine on April 28, 2017. That's a pretty serious allegation.

According to the IIHF, "[t]he players were allegedly involved in a match-fixing attempt in which Ukraine should have lost with a margin of at least two goals. However, the game ended with a 2-1 win for Korea in shootout." Clearly, Ukraine did not lose with a margin of at least two goals, so one has to question what prompted the IIHF to investigate. Again, according to the IIHF, "[a]fter reviewing all available evidence and reports, including evidence of increased betting on a loss of the Ukrainian team by two or more goals, the IIHF has decided to open an investigation".

Varyvoda is a defenceman who recorded one assist in the five IIHF D1 games at the World Championship. The 22 year-old hasn't really been an impact player for Ukraine at any of the international tournament games in which he's participated.

Zakharchenko is a goaltender whose 2.23 GAA and .943 save percentage show more than the single point that Ukraine earned at the IIHF tournament. The 22 year-old was set to join the EIHL's Nottingham Panthers this season until these allegations derailed his hockey dreams.

According to a report on a site called International Hockey Lineal Championship, Zakharchenko and Varyvoda "were paid a sum of roughly $30,000 US by an as-yet unnamed source to help Korea win by a two-goal margin in their final on April 28 in Kiev, ensuring that Korea would clinch silver in the tournament and advance to the Championship Division with a goal differential tiebreaker over Kazakhstan". That, friends, is highly illegal, and now we see why the IIHF is investigating.

How they were caught in the bribery scandal is a little bit more bizarre, and the outcome of other investigations could be devastating to these two young players.
The players, who were exposed when signed letters from the day after the game that they provided, promising to refund the money as they failed to meet the goal differential, were made public. The Ukranian Hockey Federation has undergone the process to discipline the players, and the IIHF has confirmed that they are starting a separate investigation. Additionally, Ukrainian anti-corruption laws could see fines and potential imprisonment in the future for both Zakharchenko and Varivoda if found guilty.
Ouch. Risking suspension is one thing, but risking imprisonment is an entire other problem about which these two probably never even thought. I have never heard of anyone at the IIHF level committing match-fixing before, but, if the allegations are true, this would mark a serious blow to the efforts of Russian sport in having them clean up their acts. Unconfirmed reports indicate that one of the organizers of the bribery scheme is the former HC Vityaz head coach Alexei Lazarenko. Let's call that a double-Russian-whammy.

The letters below were written by the players, with Zakharchenko's letter on the left and Varyvoda's on the right.
The translation of Zakharchenko's letter reads as follows: "I am Zakharchenko Eduard. I play for the national team of Ukraine. I promise to return money, 60 thousand dollars (30 thousand myself) because I have promised to screw up the game Ukraine-South Korea for money. Also I asked to stake my money for our loss to South Korea in two pucks and I haven't managed to do that."

Oops.

If those smoking guns aren't enough to sink Zakharchenko and Varyvoda, I'm not sure what will. The only way I could see them getting out from this trouble is if they could produce evidence that shows they were coerced into taking the bribes. Clearly, they didn't follow through on what was asked of them in terms of fixing the score, so maybe there's some hope that they didn't accept the bribes on their own volition. Whatever the case may be, I'm guessing their next steps won't involve skates anytime soon.

Dummies.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 14 September 2017

The Hockey Show - Episode 260

The Hockey Show begins Season Six tonight, and it's nearly appropriate that we feature a number of people who could make the next five years as good as the previous five! It will be a little strange not having Beans in-studio to celebrate this occasion, but he's off conquering other parts of this planet and claiming them for the Teebz and Beans Nation. In having an empty seat, I decided to send out an invite to people we always enjoy having on the show as we get to meet the new kids who will don the brown-and-gold for the Manitoba Bisons women's team this season!

The new Stromtroopers recruits brought on by Lord Head Coach Jon Rempel are a diverse and skilled bunch. We already met Alison Sexton on a previous show, and she may drop in tonight, but there are more notable additions to meet! We won't get all the rookies, but we will meet some or all of Natasha Kostenko, Madison Cole, Emilie Massé, Brielle Dacquay-Neveux, and Lauren Warkentin this evening! Natasha's hockey career is very interesting in terms of where she has played. Madi hails from Lloydminster, Alberta and we'll get her take on attending school in a new province. Emilie has done some incredible things in her career as she looks to add more achievements with the Bisons. Brielle has all sorts of accolades attached to her name as well, and we'll hear about a summer job that made her somewhat famous. And Lauren's hockey career is filled with highlights and amazing moments about which we'll discuss. There will be our standard rapid-fire question period with the new recruits as well, so tune in to learn all about the new kids who will carry the torch for the Bisons!

So now you might be asking can you listen to the show, right? We suggest that you download the UMFM app on your phone or tablet. It's the easiest and most convenient way to listen to any of UMFM's great shows any time of the day, so go get it! Just follow this link on your iDevice or this link for your Android device and get the UMFM app! It's never been easier to tune into The Hockey Show or UMFM! Download the UMFM app today, and don't miss any of our great programming or shows!

If you prefer social media, we try to remain up-to-speed there as well! Email all show questions and comments to hockeyshow@umfm.com! Tweet me anytime with questions you may have by hitting me up at @TeebzHBIC on Twitter. You can also post some stuff to Facebook if you use the "Like" feature, and I always have crazy stuff posted there that doesn't make it to the blog or show.

Tonight, Teebz meets, greets, and quizzes the new Bisons women's hockey players on their own careers, who they are, and other fun stuff only on The Hockey Show found on 101.5 UMFM and on the UMFM app!

PODCAST: September 14, 2017: Episode 260

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!