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I Would Like Some Pro-Toronto Bias Please – Pension Plan Puppets

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When the Toronto Maple Leafs Hockey Club & Sadness Factory plays another team, sometimes there will be a goal that is subject to the plague of video review. Video review, if you are new to the league, is a process by which a goal is looked at from nine angles, none of which are clear, and is either overturned because a player was offside three games earlier or sustained because the goalie interference rule is just a copy of that Salvador Dali painting with the melting clocks. And if said call happens to go in favour of the Leafs, some fan of the team injured by this decision will inevitably remark bitterly: “We’re never going to get a fair call out of Toronto. They have the league offices there.”

It is no use to point out that the Leafs were the only team to lose every single coach’s challenge last year, or that currently the Leafs are 28th in the NHL in power play opportunities despite being one of the league’s fastest teams. It does not do any good to observe that in the last three seasons only one player has been suspended one game for an offence against a Leaf player while the Leafs have taken four suspensions for doing things to other people. It doesn’t even help to suggest that if the league were shaving the dice in favour of Toronto that maybe the Leafs wouldn’t have spent the last fifty years suffering every imaginable misfortune except relocation, and even then at least relocation would have saved us from the fucking Bruins. The league offices are in Toronto, you see.

Now, there actually is a bias in the media in favour of the Leafs, which is that a lot of people are (foolishly, if you ask me) fans of this woebegone franchise and so they get talked about more than teams that do not have as many fans. I don’t know why it’s a huge shock that private media companies like Sportsnet (which shares ownership with the Leafs, for Christ’s sake) or TSN would report more on things that more people would like to hear about, but apparently it is, to judge by the angry “too many Leaf stories!” comments that one balding guy with Oakley shades puts in under every article. I also don’t know that it’s all that enviable to be talked about more when you realize the substance of this unending Leaf content mill is

  • Is it time to trade Nylander?
  • Is it time get an awful third-pair defenceman your uncle likes by trading Nylander?
  • Is Auston Matthews’ mustache a mistake that’s hurting the team?*
  • You know who the Leafs should trade? Nylander

*The answer is actually yes to this one.

But that aside, the league has shown a distinct unwillingness to benefit its largest franchise. Hell, even things like the salary cap, revenue sharing and so on clearly benefit other teams to the detriment of Toronto.

So I would like to say: it’s time for the league to start tipping the scales a little.

Let’s be honest, everyone will be mad at the Leafs anyway. Nobody likes rich kids and those fans, ugh, amirite? So let’s lean in a bit. Start tilting the calls here and there. Give the Leafs an extra powerplay once in a while. Actually give a suspension when Kyle Okposo tries to shatter Travis Dermott’s spinal column with a hit from behind. Call goalie interference anytime an opposing player breathes on Frederik Andersen (you don’t have to do this for Michael Hutchinson, we recognize there are limits and it’s not like that’s gonna save him.) You’ll help an enormous market get some key playoff games—but there’s an important benefit for the rest of the league.

Now that every movie in existence is a superhero movie, it’s worth noting what differentiates the good ones from the bad ones, besides the fact that all the ones with Superman in them suck. You know what made Black Panther cool? It had a really good villain. You know why Tom Hiddleston is in eighteen Marvel movies despite dying at the end of like nine of them? Because he’s a really good villain. It’s no fun if the heroes just triumph over some nameless goon.

Beating the Toronto Maple Leafs hasn’t even been that hard lately. Boston makes a big show of it and then inevitably crucifies them in Game 7. The rest of the time the Leafs tend to miss the playoffs. If the Big Bad Franchise is just a stooge tripping over his skate laces, where’s the fun in that? The story is David and Goliath, not David and Mr. Bean.

So the league should give the Leafs a leg up. Make them a real villain, with all sorts of unfair advantages. It would give fans a better reason to hate them than the fact they’re from a big city and boo, big cities bad. When a team upsets the Leafs despite having played three-quarters of a series short handed, isn’t that a way better achievement than winning just because the Leafs are playing Cody fucking Ceci twenty minutes a night? Of course, this process might also end in Toronto winning a few Cups here and there, which frankly I think is fine too. They don’t engrave asterisks on the trophy.

The alternative, of course, would be to note that NHL officiating isn’t intentionally biased any one way but that it favours even-out makeup calls regardless of what happens on the ice; that the league’s Department of Player Safety is run by a former brawler who literally has a clothing brand with “violent” in the name; that the NHL has added more and more review without making anyone happier about the actual goal calls; that dangerous hits are thrown constantly and that the league responds unevenly because it won’t accept that major changes to the game would be what was required to actually get rid of them.

And honestly dealing with all that stuff sounds super hard. So if we’re going to have a messy, trainwreck system, I vote we at least skew it in a fun way.

Start some pro-Leafs bias.

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Hockey Canada's strategy of deflecting serves no one but its disgraced leadership – The Globe and Mail

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Witnesses Scott Smith, Hockey Canada President and Chief Operating Officer, left, and Hockey Canada Chief Financial Officer Brian Cairo, appear at the standing committee on Canadian Heritage in Ottawa on Wednesday, July 27, 2022.Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

A while back, I had a job in a movie theatre. The theatre at the foot of an atrium in an open-plan tower. We plebs could look up at the offices and hallways above, where the corporation’s big wigs worked.

The biggest wig in our world would often lean over a balcony and stare down at us, like a gargoyle in pinstripes. If you were caught loafing, a call would be made and you’d hear about it.

One day, there was a commotion from several floors above – a lot of screaming and banging. The biggest wig had been fired. His reaction was to go back to his office and barricade himself inside it.

The banging was security kicking in the door. The screaming was him being dragged to the elevators. It was a different time.

But the lesson therein is timeless. Nobody likes being canned. But people in charge take it particularly hard.

Right now, 2½ months into Hockey Canada’s sex-abuse scandal, we’re at the barricade stage.

In any other country, this would be over now. Through a combination of popular outrage and political panic, the Hockey Canada edifice would have been burned to the ground.

But in this country we continue to believe shame will do the job for us. That the people in charge of this world-class gong show will get the message and slink off home.

But Hockey Canada’s leadership is not operating on Canadian rules. They’re pulling from the American handbook on how to survive a scandal. Shamelessness is a prerequisite.

Their first job was deflecting.

In terms of an absolute defence, the deflecting’s gone about as well as a guy trying to push off bullets by waving his hands around. But it bought time. The men in charge knew they could count on Ottawa to a) quickly promise to take decisive action and b) take absolutely forever to decide what that decisive action looks like.

Deflecting has another virtue – it dilutes outrage. No matter how awful, people can only read about a story for so long without becoming bored. And there’s always a fresh outrage to divert us.

This week, Hockey Canada hired someone to head an investigation into the workings of Hockey Canada. You could’ve written out this person’s CV long before the name was made public – retired judge, history of public service, member of the new Family Compact, etc.

Finding people is not hard. There are a whole bunch of them out there twiddling their thumbs, itching for someone to stick a microphone in front of them.

But after two months of withering pressure, Hockey Canada is just now figuring out who will set up the Slack group to discuss how to begin discussing their problems. Let me guess that if they’d been bleeding cash instead, organizing some sort of working committee would have taken two hours.

But this is how you do it, American-style. Pretend it’s a live broadcast with screen time to fill before commercials – stretch. Continue talking about nothing. Don’t stop speaking. It’s the silence that kills.

While you’re stretching, keep your eye on the horizon. That’s where the sports are. If you can make it to sports, you might be okay. The same people who wanted your head paraded in the town square yesterday might be distracted by a waving flag.

On Tuesday, the world junior hockey championship begins in Edmonton. Over the weekend, there will be a barrage of publicity about the tournament that launched a thousand official denials. We’ll rehash the particulars of this ugly affair and assess where we’re at. This column is part of that.

By Tuesday, the usual outlets will be talking about hockey. How’s Canada’s top line measuring up? Where’s the United States at? Whither the Olympic team?

This is how you erect a modern, media barricade.

Having seen a million of these things go down in recent years, you know you’re not going to talk your way out of your problem.

Bottom-line: You were in positions of authority at a public institution when something abhorrent happened. The integrity of that institution cannot be maintained if you continue to lead it.

This is obvious. But in our rush to definitively nail someone, anyone, we have skidded past the obvious. Now we’re all deep in the weeds, hacking away.

Uncovering the minutiae about who said what to whom at what board meeting may absorb reporters and politicians, but it only serves Hockey Canada’s current leadership.

While we’re Inspector Clouseau-ing this thing, we’re also avoiding the clear end point. The longer we spend doing that, the more likely it is that these fish all get off the hook.

This was the goal all along. Deflect, get to the world juniors, hope that Team Canada wins and that everyone is too exhausted by the end of it to keep taking pops at you. By the time your judge wraps up his report – let me guess ‘Mistakes were made but there is a clear plan forward’ – maybe you’ll have successfully run your gauntlet.

It’s not a plan, as such. As with Hockey Canada’s in-camera board meetings, nobody’s written it down. It’s instinctive process based on observation. In scandals as in sports, the mission is getting through today.

It’s not going to work. That’s also obvious. No matter what the eventual report says, it will reignite outrage.

The names of the players involved in the two alleged assaults will come out, probably during the NHL season. That will reignite outrage.

At any moment, the alleged victims could make fulsome public declarations. That will reignite outrage.

Any way you go, the outrage is going to leak out again. The only way to contain it is to blow this down to the foundations. Eventually, everyone’s going to realize that.

Really, all that’s being decided now is how you want to get to the elevators – walking under your own power, or being dragged there screaming by the rest of Canada.

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Rafael Nadal announces he will not be playing at the Canadian Open

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Montreal, Canada- 22 Grand Slam champion, Rafael Nadal, has announced that he will not be playing at the Canadian Open which kicks off this weekend.

Nadal cited that the reason to abandon the Canadian Open was a result of an abundance of caution regarding injury concerns.

“From the vacation days and my subsequent return to training, everything has gone well these weeks. Four days ago, I also started training my serve and yesterday, after training, I had a little discomfort that was still there today.

We have decided not to travel to Montreal and continue with the training sessions without forcing ourselves. I sincerely thank the tournament director, Eugene, and his entire team for the understanding and support they have always shown me, and today was no exception.

I hope to play again in Montreal, a tournament that I love and that I have won five times in front of an audience that has always welcomed me with great affection. I have no choice but to be prudent at this point and think about health,” said the Spaniard.

Last month, Nadal was forced to withdraw from his Wimbledon semifinal against Nick Kyrgios due to an abdominal injury.

Meanwhile, Novak Djokovic has also withdrawn from the Canadian Open as his status as unvaccinated against COVID-19 means he cannot enter the country.

Djokovic is also unlikely to play at the US Open after organizers said they would respect the American government rules over travel for unvaccinated players as the United States (US) requires non-citizens to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to enter.

“Per the Grand Slam Rule Book, all eligible players are automatically entered into the men’s and women’s singles main draw fields based on ranking 42 days prior to the first Monday of the event.

The US Open does not have a vaccination mandate in place for players, but it will respect the US government’s position regarding travel into the country for unvaccinated non-US citizens,” read a statement from the US Open which is set to take place in New York from the 29th of August to the 11th of September, 2022.

Nevertheless, Novak Djokovic will be joining Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray to play for Team Europe in the Laver Cup.

The event, which pits six European players against six from Team World over three days, will take place in London between 23 and 25 September 2022.

“It’s the only (event) where you play in a team with guys you are normally competing against. To be joining Rafa, Roger and Andy, three of my biggest all-time rivals, it’s going to be a truly unique moment in the history of our sport,” said Djokovic.

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Canada beats Sweden to claim gold in Hlinka Gretzky Cup – Sportsnet.ca

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RED DEER, Alta. — Canada scored early and often and also stayed out of the penalty box en route to a 4-1 victory over Sweden in the gold-medal final of the Hlinka Gretzky Cup.

Tanner Howe, Ethan Gauthier, Calum Ritchie and Brayden Yager scored for the Canadians, who held period leads of 2-1 and 3-1 at the Peavey Mart Centrium on Saturday. Riley Heidt also chipped in with two assists for the champions.

Hugo Pettersson scored for Sweden, who were outshot 36-26. Each team received eight minutes in penalties.

Canada had beaten Sweden 3-0 on Aug. 3.

“Three weeks ago, we put this roster together and I felt right away this was a tight group,” said head coach Stephane Julien. “It’s not easy when you have this much talent, but everyone accepted their role and I’m so happy for them.”

The win is Canada’s first gold medal since 2018, the last time this tournament was held in Canada.

“I’m so happy for this group,” added Julien. “They haven’t had it easy in their careers the last two years with the pandemic, but now they have this, a gold medal and something they are going to remember for the rest of their career.”

Canada advanced to the final with a 4-1 win over Finland, while Sweden defeated Czechia 6-2. Finland beat Czechia 3-1 in Saturday’s bronze-medal final.

The Hlinka Gretzky Cup will shift to Europe in 2023, returning to Breclav and Piestany, Czechia for the first time since 2021. 

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