Merry Christmas . . .
OK, this is it from here for a while folks. I’m taking some time away — Less time here, less time on social media . . . you know, just away . . . more time between some book covers . . . more time doing crosswords . . .
I have watched for almost two years as we have spun our wheels, like a gerbil on a running wheel, and gotten absolutely nowhere. This pandemic is almost two years old and where are we compared to March or April of 2020?
Restaurants open. Restaurants closed. Restaurants . . . uhh, not sure. . . . Capacity at the local arena is 50 per cent. Capacity is 100 per cent. Capacity is 50 per cent. . . . It just goes on and on and on . . .
Rinse . . . repeat . . . rinse . . . repeat . . . rinse . . . repeat. Over and over and over, again. And here we are, with 2021’s clock ticking down, starting to think about whether this will ever end. And all the while people are dying and healthcare workers are burning out and still we spin our wheels.
Rinse and repeat . . . rinse and repeat . . .
Hey, has there been anything more bizarre than watching the NBA and NHL trying to keep from pausing their seasons?
The answer to that is: Yes, the decision by the NFL to cut back on the testing of asymptomatic players and staff members. That move is right out of the orange guy’s playbook from May 2020. You might remember that proclamation: “If we don’t do any testing, we would have very few cases.”
While you think about that, take a minute to think about this from a thread tweeted by Dr. Katharine Smart (@KatharineSmart), a pediatrician from Whitehorse who is president of the Canadian Medical Association: “We need to get serious about vaccination, the consequences of choosing to be unvaccinated, third doses, proper masks, rapid tests and limiting contacts. I can’t state this strongly enough — our system is breaking and so are the people in it.”
The good doctor is absolutely correct. We are almost two years into this mess and we have people among us who still aren’t taking this serious.
Is it any wonder we’re still treading water?
I also will spend the next while searching for an NHL team for which to cheer. My lifelong love affair with the Detroit Red Wings — it started with Gordie Howe, Alex Delvecchio, Roger Crozier, Bill Gadsby et al — is over, broken beyond repair because their roster is home to the only unvaccinated player in the entire NHL. . . . For now, while I may no longer have a favourite team, I do have a favourite player. That would be Mason Geertsen, a product of the WHL’s Edmonton Oil Kings.
Jack Todd, in the Montreal Gazette:
“We are nearly two years into this miserable plague, caught in an ellipse of hope and despair that has left everyone drained and weary and cranky. Just when you thought you were free, it comes back again, like a drunken party guest who missed his cab and decided to spend the night snoring on your couch.
“Once respected people in the world of sports are making public fools of themselves, in such a way you wonder if the pandemic hasn’t affected their judgment.
“Our old friend Richard Pound, once a maverick who didn’t kowtow to anyone, now falls in with the IOC party line despite China’s abysmal record on human rights, calling China’s critics ‘silly.’
“Steve Yzerman, one of the brighter fellows in the NHL, betrays an understanding of this plague on par with an evangelical pastor in the Florida panhandle.”
Here’s Bruce Jenkins of the San Francisco Chronicle, making a point about the NBA schedule, a point that could easily be transferred to the WHL:
“The NBA often promises a more relaxed schedule but never really delivers. Back-to-back games remain far too prevalent in the league, and playing three road games in four nights — the workload the Warriors are facing right now — is simply inexcusable.
“Old-school players scoff at the complaints, recalling the days when the schedule and travel demands were far more taxing than today’s, but the scientists have made themselves known. Fatigue is a serious problem for overworked players, presenting health concerns and a less-than-energetic performances on the court. Owners’ greed will prevail, preventing something sensible — like a 58-game schedule, teams facing each opponent twice. So instead, we sometimes get lacklustre play and some grave disappointments, leaving fans a bit short of what they were expecting.”
Old friend Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, is a huge football fan, and he watched last Sunday’s Grey Cup game while comfortably ensconced in his home in the Washington, D.C., area. He actually spent Sunday watching NFL games, of course, while recording the Grey Cup game for Monday viewing. . . . He then took to the keyboard and provided some thoughts on what he had seen. All of that is right here. . . . There is a message for the CFL in his writing, too. He likes a whole lot of what he sees in the Canadian game, so leave it alone. . . . And if you aren’t already checking out his stuff, you should. He normally provides food for thought five days a week.
Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post, on Urban Meyer, one day before he was fired by the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars: “He’s as close to a legitimate head coach as a grackle is to an attack helicopter.”
Scott Ostler, in the San Francisco Chronicle: “In a dive bar somewhere, Jon Gruden and Urban Meyer are having a beer and drawing up plays on cocktail napkins, plotting their next gigs.”
Here’s the lede on Kurt Streeter’s Friday Sports of The Times column in The New York Times:
“In the midst of a new wave of coronavirus infections sweeping the globe, sports officials are scrambling to figure out how to keep their seasons going with schedules intact, to maintain the normal churn of competition and revenue.
“They shouldn’t dither with such foolishness.
“It’s time to press pause on games, matches and meets. If we’re genuinely interested in public health, genuinely invested in slowing the virus and saving lives, we need to look at the storm that has gathered and take shelter from it.
Come back in February, or later. By then, if we play this right and we’ve collectively worked to slow the spread and proliferation of variants, we can get back to the games. Only this time with a renewed sense of diligence and tighter restrictions.”
He’s not wrong, but, you know as well as I do that it’s the money. It always is.
Hockey Canada is expected to announce today (Monday) that it has pulled its entry from the Spengler Cup because of the pandemic situation. The Spengler Cup, which is held in Davos, Switzerland, runs from Dec. 26 through Dec. 31. Canada has won the tournament four of the last five times it has been held. . . . Michael Farber (@MichaelFarber3) tweeted Sunday afternoon that Canadian head coach Claude Julien had already returned home. Julien’s staff was to have included Nolan Baumgartner, Jeremy Colliton and Ben Cooper, all of them former WHL players and/or coaches. . . .
If you’re wondering about the World Junior Championship that is to open in Red Deer and Edmonton on Boxing Day, the teams all are in Alberta and there have been only negative tests to date.
The plan is to play all games with capacity crowds in both cities . . . although, as we have seen in so many instances, COVID-19 may have something to say about that.
The junior A Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League revealed Friday that five organizations have had to forfeit 30 games because of “utilizing ineligible players/staff who did not meet the requirements of the GOJHL Vaccination Policy. . . . From a news release: “The sanctions are issued in accordance with the GOJHL’s regulations for ineligible players along with Ontario Hockey Federation regulations. All games will revert to a 5-0 loss. In the cases where both teams had ineligible participants, no points will be awarded.” . . . The complete news release is right here.
Meanwhile, minor hockey associations in Brandon and Portage la Prairie say they will be cracking down on unvaccinated parents who manage to sneak into arenas to watch their children play. The associations have said that if an unvaccinated parent is found to be inside an arena, the child will be dropped from that team’s roster and there won’t be a refund issued. . . . I know. I know. You’re shocked to hear that minor hockey parents would act in such a fashion.
Dave Lowry, a former WHL player and coach, will be the head coach of the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets at least through the end of this season. He took over on Friday after Paul Maurice stepped down, saying the Jets needed to hear from a new voice. Maurice was in his ninth season as the club’s head coach. Lowry, 56, has been a WHL head coach with the Calgary Hitmen (2008-09), Victoria Royals (2012-17) and Brandon Wheat Kings (2019-20). He is in his third season on the Jets’ staff. . . . The Jets dropped a 5-2 decision to the Washington Capitals in Lowry’s debut as head coach later Friday, but he got his first victory on Sunday, 4-2 over the visiting St. Louis Blues.
The Saskatoon Entertainment Group, owners of the Saskatoon Blades and lacrosse’s Saskatchewan Rush, is taking on managing rights for events in the SaskTel Centre via a five-year deal that is effective Jan. 1. SEG, under owners Mike Priestner and his son, Colin, will pay the Saskatchewan Place Association “the greater of either $1.35 million, or a combination of 15 per cent of gross food and beverage profits, $2 from every ticket sold and half of all revenues from sponsorship, naming rights, parking and eligible gaming,” according to the Saskatoon StarPhoenix. According to the newspaper, “SEG will also put a maximum of $1 million into upgrades at the stadium, with SPA to match whatever money they invest.”
If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:
Living Kidney Donor Program
St. Paul’s Hospital
6A Providence Building
1081 Burrard Street
Vancouver, BC V6Z 1Y6
Toll free: 1-877-922-9822
Vancouver General Hospital Living Donor Program – Kidney
Gordon and Leslie Diamond Health Care Centre
Level 5, 2775 Laurel Street
Vancouver, BC V5Z 1M9
604-875-5182 or 1-855-875-5182
Or, for more information, visit right here.
Merry Christmas . . .