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David Stern did it his way, and it worked very well

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As commissioner of the NBA, Stern was like the membership chairman of an upscale country club. If you wanted to be part of his exclusive league, you had to do it on his terms, his way, his rules.

In the beginning, all Tanenbaum wanted was an NBA team for Toronto. At the time, it wasn’t something in great demand. Yet he wound up butting heads aggressively with the remarkable commissioner, who passed away on New Year’s Day at the age of 77.

Tanenbaum tried to buy the Denver Nuggets in 1991 and move them to Toronto. That didn’t work or go over well with Stern. He didn’t want to lose the franchise in Denver, where it remains to this day.

He told Tanenbaum the New Jersey Nets were for sale. That didn’t seem to work out either.
In the meantime, Tanenbaum pulled an end run of sorts on Stern. He tried to buy the San Antonio Spurs. He didn’t inform the commissioner of his actions. When he met in New York with Stern in 1992, to discuss the possible purchase, Tanenbaum didn’t realize he was walking into a storm.

“He was beside himself with anger,” Tanenbaum said years later. Stern was used to have troubled franchises in his league. He had problems in Cleveland, San Antonio, San Diego, Denver, Utah, Indiana, and Kansas City in his early years on the job. San Diego, the former Buffalo almost Toronto franchise, moved to Los Angeles. Kansas City wound up in Sacramento. Over time, the Spurs became one of the signature franchises of the NBA.
And after Tanenbaum and others knocked on the door of a number of NBA opportunities, including the Indiana Pacers, Stern decided it was time to expand to Canada. He awarded franchises to Vancouver and Toronto. But again, he did it his way.

He wouldn’t allow Pro-Line gambling on NBA games and made that an issue of acceptance. And when it seemed obvious that Tanenbaum would be awarded the franchise at least that was the conventional thinking at the time Stern passed on Tanenbaum and partners in favour of John Bitove Jr.

The message at the time was rather clear: You do business our way or you don’t do business with us at all.

David Stern ran a phenomenal league in a phenomenal and occasionally singular way. There has been no one else like him in professional sport. The NBA was paddling in circles, going nowhere, when he took over as commissioner in 1984 and over the next 30 years he built the most popular sporting entity in the world.

The NBA championship trophy may be in the name of Larry O’Brien, Stern’s predecessor, but realistically, it should be in Stern’s name. He built this league. He was a magician: He turned nothing into something.

As son of a New York deli owner, Stern had a personal flair and in the words of longtime NBA executive and author Pat Williams, he was “an innovator, a creator, a marketer, a visionary, a hustler, a salesman, and yet still a people person.”

He said that long before Stern passed away.

He was everything Gary Bettman, his old associate, hasn’t been able to be. Stern was never, it seemed, the voice of only the owners as Bettman happens to be. He was the voice of the game. He represented players, management, ownership, fans, in driving the NBA from a league that didn’t have its championship games broadcast live on television to one in which the biggest of stars are stars all around the globe.

Tom Brady may be the greatest quarterback to ever play, but he’s next to nobody in France or Germany or China or Africa. Stern’s NBA began to change when Larry Bird and Magic Johnson transported their collegiate rivalry and made it mandatory viewing in North America. From Bird and Magic, there was Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley and The Dream Team from the 1992 Summer Olympics and now LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard and Steph Curry and Kevin Durant.

The $125 million that Bitove apparently overpaid for the Raptors in 1994 is now an NBA championship franchise worth close to or maybe more than $2 billion U.S, which is more than $2.6 billion Canadian.

Not everything was perfect under Stern, who adopted similar league-think policy that Pete Rozelle had previously utilized in building the National Football League. He succeeded in Toronto and failed in Vancouver, which was always a regret of his. He lived through corrupt officials and corrupt ownership and drug issues and through Magic Johnson contacting HIV and yet found a way to never lose sight of the target. The negotiating he managed, doing the deal that brought Yao Ming to the NBA, changed the league’s business forever and made him a figure of envy for all of North American professional sport.

Bettman, the NHL commissioner, started in sports in the NBA front office. “I am extremely saddened at the passing of my mentor and long-time friend David Stern,” he said in a statement released Wednesday. “He was a man of great vision and energy who is responsible for the operational and business advancements that created the modern sports industry. David taught me how to be a commissioner and, more importantly, how to try to be a good person.”

In the early years of the Raptors, Bitove and broadcast billionaire partner Allan Slaight, could no longer work together and that’s where Tanenbaum and Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment came together in partnership to purchase the team. Tanenbaum has been the de-facto owner since then, even though he maintains a minority ownership to giant corporate partners Rogers and Bell.

The man Stern once read the riot act to later became a friend and respected and important colleague. On the passing of David Stern, the chairman of the board of the NBA just happens to be Larry Tanenbaum.

Tanenbaum released a statement:

“Canadians will not forget that it was David Stern who oversaw the expansion of the NBA to Canada, and that it was David Stern who declared that the Toronto franchise would be a success – we are grateful he was able to see our team thrive, and his prediction ultimately came true. David’s vision for our league was a global one, and we were among the very first beneficiaries of that vision. He set the tone for the modern NBA: focused on excellence, driven to exceed expectations, socially conscious, and determined to have an impact on and off the court. Masai has spoken about how everyone who loves the NBA owes David a debt of gratitude – I agree wholeheartedly. Over the 30 years that David and I spent working together, I came to rely on his intelligence, resolve, good humour and candor. We, and the Canadian basketball community, will miss him greatly.”

Raptors’ president Masai Ujiri released the following statement:

“It was rare to see a leader with such great vision, who then also executed it. Everyone who plays, works in or watches the NBA owes a debt of gratitude to Mr. Stern. The league that we know and love would not exist without his dedication, his hard work, and most especially his vision. He was transcendent. He oversaw the expansion of our league to Canada. He knew there was basketball talent around the world and he saw opportunity for players and fans everywhere – he is a great, global giant in sports. We are proud of what he did, and his death pains us. On behalf of our entire organization and all basketball fans across Canada, we send plenty blessings to his family.”

BY

ssimmons@postmedia.com

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What 2022 Holds for the Canadian Sports Betting Sector

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After years of confusing legislation, Canada finally achieved some clarity with regard to its sports betting laws earlier this year. The passing of Bill C-218 saw single event betting become legalized for the first time, paving the way for sportsbooks and online operators to begin serving Canadian customers all across the country.

Since then, the industry has gone from strength to strength. Unsurprisingly, Ontario has led the way in terms of online competition, with a wide array of options for punters to choose from. Home to some 15 million people, Ontario is the fifth biggest jurisdiction in the USA and Canada and is expected to rival the likes of New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Michigan in the coming years.

So with sports betting finally up and running in a more comprehensive format in Canada, what does the future hold? Here’s a quick look ahead to some of the biggest developments that are expected to occur in the next 12 months.

Mobile gaming

The ability to place bets on-the-go is something that customers have come to expect from their sportsbooks nowadays. Although the idea of sports betting on single events is still a relative novelty for many Canadians, it won’t be long before they begin to demand a truly mobile experience from their gambling provider, allowing them the freedom to lay wagers wherever, whenever and on whatever they please.

Thankfully, there is already a healthy infrastructure in place to deal with that demand. The list of sports betting apps in Canada is growing longer by the day, with sportsbook operators giving their customers round-the-clock access to better odds, up-to-the-minute stats and exclusive promotions and bonuses. There’s an app for everything these days – so it should come as no surprise that an increasing percentage of Canadians will choose to bet on their smartphone via the app in the coming months and years.

Greater competition

Even before the passing of Bill C-218 officially endorsed sports betting from a legal perspective, overseas operators had been serving a Canadian market for years. Although the practice was not legal prior to this summer, it wasn’t strictly illegal, either. This created a grey area which many foreign sportsbooks exploited, with some reports suggesting that billions of dollars were being funneled into them every year.

Now that the practice has become fair game for domestic operators, it should open the floodgates with regard to the number of available options. Early adopters and established names in the industry were quick to jump aboard the bandwagon, but more and more rivals will spring up as time goes on. This can only be good news for punters, since they will gain access to more lucrative incentives and better markets with the increased competition.

Booming popularity

As well as increased competition among operators, it’s also likely that this excess supply will be met by ballooning demand. Indeed, a particularly bullish report from Deloitte Canada speculated that the industry could be worth a massive $28 billion inside five years. Given that it isn’t projected to exceed $1 billion in its first 12 months of operation, that’s quite a seismic shift.

What that means for players is that sports betting is likely to become endorsed and advertised with greater frequency. Collaborations between teams and individual athletes will enhance the profile of the sector, while lucrative sponsorship deals will benefit both parties. And of course, the government itself is poised to cash in on a significant revenue stream, potentially swelling its coffers for reinvestment in other areas of policy.

Technological advances

Another exciting possibility is the increased incorporation of technological advances into the sports betting experience. Fans can already benefit from livestreams of their favorite matches, as well as real-time analysis and in-play betting opportunities. However, the sky is the limit when it comes to tech and sports betting, since there are a variety of tantalizing innovations currently on the horizon.

Chief among these is the possibility of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) becoming a more central pillar of sportsbooks. Imagine if it were possible to view a sporting event in 3D, as if you were in the stadium yourself, all from the comfort of your own home? That kind of tech breakthrough might seem lightyears away, yet similar software is already commonplace in the world of gaming. If it could be adapted to live sporting events, it would dramatically alter the way in which sport is consumed (and bet upon) all across Canada. Watch this space for news on potential developments of VR and AR in 2022.

Although sports betting is still in its infancy in Canada, it has already made quite a splash among punters, operators and regulators alike. As the practice becomes more and more mainstream, it’s to be expected that it will both deliver higher revenues and benefit from greater investment – potentially creating some exciting times ahead.

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Longtime NFL official Carl Madsen dies on way home from Chiefs-Titans – Yahoo Canada Sports

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Carl Madsen had worked for the NFL since 1997. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)

Carl Madsen, who had worked for the NFL as an official for more than 20 years, died on Sunday. He was 71.

According to NFL.com, Madsen died on his way home from Sunday’s game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tennessee Titans, where he was working as a replay official.

While details are hazy on Madsen’s death, the Nashville Police Department told TMZ that early signs indicate Madsen suffered “a medical emergency” while driving on I-65 North. A spokesperson reportedly said officers answered a call about a motorist blocking a traffic lane and found Madsen unconscious at the scene.

Chest compressions were immediately administered once Madsen was removed from the vehicle, per the report, but he ultimately died after being transported to a nearby hospital. His exact cause of death remains unknown.

An Air Force veteran, Madsen spent 12 years as an on-field official from 1997 to 2008 before transitioning to his replay official role. He was reportedly tied with Paul Weidner as the league’s most experienced replay official.

From NFL.com:

“Carl Madsen was an NFL officiating fixture for more than two decades, first as a highly respected on-field official before transitioning to a replay role beginning in 2009,” NFL senior VP of officiating training and development Walt Anderson said in a statement. “A terrific friend and colleague, Carl’s love of football and dedication to officiating was ever-present, as he generously shared his time to mentor young officials at clinics across the country. A veteran of the Air Force, Carl had a tremendous spirit and will be greatly missed.”

NFL Referees Association president Scott Green also released a statement to Pro Football Talk:

“Carl will be missed by those who worked with him on the field and in replay,” Green said. “He had a nickname among his fellow officials of “Big Country” which was not only related to his size but to his big personality as a warm and generous man.”

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Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Campbell, Spezza, Engvall, Calling Leaders – The Hockey Writers

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Where did Saturday’s game come from? In the three seasons that I’ve covered the Toronto Maple Leafs, it was one of the strangest games I watched. The team was overwhelmed. There was every chance to come in and play well against what should have been an under-manned Pittsburgh Penguins’ squad; but, a final score of 7-1 for the Penguins shows it didn’t happen. 

Related: Frederik Andersen’s Legacy: One of the Best Maple Leafs’ Goalies Ever

The question that remains for the Maple Leafs as a team is whether this current funk is a short one or whether it’s symptomatic of deeper issues. There’s a saying attributed to William Arthur Ward that “The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.”

The question now is what the Maple Leafs will do to adjust the sails. Although there’s great value in optimism, for as optimistic a face as head coach Sheldon Keefe shows the public, having watched him in the Amazon Prime Documentary “All or Nothing,” you have to know Keefe isn’t singing “Kum Ba Yah” behind the scenes when he’s not answering the media’s questions. 

Keefe’s a realist and is surrounded by realists. What will happen now? In this edition of Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors, I’ll take a look at Jack Campbell’s odd night. Second, I’ll look at Jason Spezza’s continuing contributions to the team. Finally, I’ll consider Maple Leafs’ current team leadership.

Item One: Time for a Jack Campbell Mulligan

The stats line shows that Maple Leafs’ starting goalie Jack Campbell let in five goals on 21 shots during Saturday’s 7-1 loss to the Penguins. That isn’t the Campbell we know from either last season or thus far this season. The second period did him in when he let in four goals in 20 minutes.

By the third, coach Keefe had enough and put in Michael Hutchinson to close out the obvious defeat. Given that the 29-year-old Campbell entered the game with a 2-0-1 season’s record, a goals-against-average of 1.18, and a save percentage of .953 in four games, he deserves a mulligan. 

Jack Campbell, Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

Honestly, it’s hard for me to lay a guilt trip on a goalie who had, until Saturday’s game, only given up two or fewer goals in each of his first four starts. Here’s hoping, although Campbell might have fallen in one game, that he can get up quickly.

Item Two: Jason Spezza Continues to Produce

No surprise, the one player whose game seemed unaffected by the circumstances was Jason Spezza. He scored a goal to tie the game early and gave Maple Leafs’ fans early hope that all was not lost. It was the last goal the team would score.

Related: Ron Francis’ 5 Best & Worst Moves as Hurricanes General Manager

Spezza continues to show up. In six games to start the 2021-22 campaign, he’s scored three goals and added two assists (for five points). Last season, he scored 10 goals and 20 assists (for 30 points) in 54 games. He shows no signs of a let-up.

Item Three: How Did Pierre Engvall Emerge with a Plus-One Rating?

One amazing scoresheet surprise has to be that Pierre Engvall emerged with a plus-one rating on the night. How does a player play 13:21 minutes during a 7-1 loss and come out on the positive side of the ledger? I have no comment on Engvall’s game because I didn’t notice the statistic until I looked at the box score after the game. 

Pierre Engvall Toronto Maple Leafs
Pierre Engvall, Toronto Maple Leafs (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Engvall had an assist on Spezza’s goal but was miraculously not on for any Penguins’ goals. That just seems amazing and was perhaps the only positive statistic the Maple Leafs can show for the game.

Item Four: Considering Team Leadership

Each offseason the team’s management gets together to talk about what moves it can make during the offseason to improve the team. Last season, the management decided to bring in outside players to provide leadership. Chief among those players was Joe Thornton. I believe he provided that aspect of leadership and the team was better for his presence. Even if his play was less than expected, he helped the team.

Related: 3 Takeaways From Maple Leafs’ 7-1 Loss to Penguins

During this offseason, I believe management thought it was time for the team’s internal leadership to take the next leadership step. Specifically, it was time for Jake Muzzin, Morgan Rielly, John Tavares, Auston Matthews, and Mitch Marner to take the reins. The team’s management reasoned that group had seasoned enough to do that job. In addition, Wayne Simmonds and Spezza remained to help.

As a result, this season, the team is different because management didn’t bring in outside players for leadership. That leadership now must come from within – starting with Matthews, Marner, and Tavares. The results on the ice suggest that it hasn’t happened yet. 

Auston Matthews John Tavares
Toronto Maple Leafs’ Auston Matthews celebrates with teammate John Tavares (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young)

As my sometimes collaborator and long-time Maple Leafs’ fan Stan Smith emailed me after the game, if these players are to lead they’ll have to do it by example. So far, it isn’t happening – not yet anyway, 

If this team is to come out of its current crisis, that leadership must emerge soon.

What’s Next for This Maple Leafs?

The Maple Leafs must try to shake off this blowout before they meet ex-teammate Frederik Andersen and the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday. You can only imagine that Andersen is waiting to exact some payback against his old team. 

Related: Frederik Andersen’s Unforgivable Sin According To Maple Leafs Fans

Winning in Carolina won’t be easy for the Maple Leafs. The Hurricanes are 4 – 0. Andersen’s only given up seven goals in four games, and he’ll be ready. It might be another disaster, or it could be a chance for redemption. That it’s the Maple Leafs’ third game in four nights, this one might take some lucky bounces or the immediate emergence of Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner.

Is it too naive for Maple Leafs’ fans to be optimistic?

The Old Prof (Jim Parsons, Sr.) taught for more than 40 years in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta. He’s a Canadian boy, who has two degrees from the University of Kentucky and a doctorate from the University of Texas. He is now retired on Vancouver Island, where he lives with his family. His hobbies include playing with his hockey cards and simply being a sports fan – hockey, the Toronto Raptors, and CFL football (thinks Ricky Ray personifies how a professional athlete should act).

If you wonder why he doesn’t use his real name, it’s because his son – who’s also Jim Parsons – wrote for The Hockey Writers first and asked Jim Sr. to use another name so readers wouldn’t confuse their work.

Because Jim Sr. had worked in China, he adopted the Mandarin word for teacher (老師). The first character lǎo (老) means “old,” and the second character shī (師) means “teacher.” The literal translation of lǎoshī is “old teacher.” That became his pen name. Today, other than writing for The Hockey Writers, he teaches graduate students research design at several Canadian universities.

He looks forward to sharing his insights about the Toronto Maple Leafs and about how sports engages life more fully. His Twitter address is https://twitter.com/TheOldProf

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