Monday, 18 May 2020

When Hockey And Politics Collide

You may not remember this guy's time in the NHL, but he had a pretty good run for one season with the Boston Bruins among the five NHL teams he played with in his NHL career. That's Brandon Bochenski wearing his familiar #27 with Barys Astana in the KHL where he was most effective in his career as he, Nigel Dawes, and Dustin Boyd ran roughshod over the KHL competition. Bochenski has since retired and returned home to Grand Forks where he spent his developmental years as a member of the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux, and that's where we pick this story up because it's honestly a little crazy. If you're not a fan of conspiracy theories in politics, this may not be the article for you, but you'll probably get a kick out of how a former pro hockey player is having his political career affected by where he played.

Full credit for this insanity goes to Sam Easter who works for the Grand Forks Herald. His work on this is exceptional, and I hope he gets some recognition for exposing this craziness that's been plaguing Bochenski beyond me talking about it. Reading his story today just made me shake my head.

Back on January 24, 2020, Joe Bowen of the Grand Forks Herald broke the news that Brandon Bochenski was planning on challenging longtime mayor of Grand Forks, North Dakota Mike Brown for the mayoral seat in the coming election for in June. Bochenski, a real estate developer in the Grand Forks area in his post-playing days, "said city leaders have been 'standoffish' with businesses, and that Grand Forks needs to be an easier place for firms to come to town or get going in the first place" as he outlined his key platform policies for the election.

With his election campaign officially launched on January 31, 2020, Bochenski continued to use his platform to work on a new economic plan for the North Dakota city that included a streamlined city budget with a promise to lower property taxes for residents. His robust online presence has seen him pick up ground on incumbent Mike Brown, and he's been doing his best during these uncertain times to get out and speak to residents as best he can.

"I think we had a really good rollout of our yard signs," Bochenski told Easter on May 13. "That's been kind of an interesting thing, because when I go to drop the yard signs off, I don't want to be knocking on people's doors. When I see someone in the house I'll wave and try to chat for a little bit. It's not the traditional door-knocking, but I manage to reach people that way."

While there have been a few missteps in his campaign, Bochenski has a strong following who seem to like his ideas for when he gets into office, and that's where we pick up Sam Easter's story from today because the absurd has now entered the mayoral race.

According to Easter's article today, mayoral candidate Robin David issued an apology to Brandon Bochenski after David's husband was involved in a smear campaign against Bochenski! As per Easter's reporting, "a series of conspiracy-minded emails... have circulated in Grand Forks in recent weeks" that "baselessly attempt to link Bochenski... to a corrupt financial past".

As you may be aware, Barys Astana is based in Kazakhstan, and the emails reportedly "claim Bochenski's foreign salary came from a hockey league entangled in corruption, and imply that any money he has used to fund his campaign must be similarly tainted". Bochenski, as far as I can tell, earned his annual salary through contracts he signed with Barys, not through some illegitimate means, so I have no idea where this crazy conspiracy would start other than the fact that he played in Kazakhstan where there is some known political corruption.

Easter writes,
"A lynchpin of the theory is that Bochenski has spent extraordinary sums on his campaign. But as of May 1, city elections documents only show about $13,000 in expenditures and more than $3,000 in itemized donations — far lower than a 'six-figure campaign' that the theory posits."
As noted, Ms. David apologized to Mr. Bochenski for her husband's forwarding of these inane emails to other people. It seems that Brandon has accepted the apology, and everyone will move on from this unfortunate incident.

While smear campaigns have plagued elections and politicians for years, it seems that the political system employed today across North America is one of wild speculations, baseless accusations, false statements, and uncorroborated lies towards political opponents. I get that an election is a competition to win votes, but I hope that people see that wallowing in crap only brings everyone down.

Here's hoping the remainder of this election in our neighbouring state to the south remains civil for the remainder of election period.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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