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Scotties curlers say pay equity at national championship ‘long time coming’ – TSN

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MOOSE JAW, Sask. – A long time coming.

That was the common sentiment among curlers in Moose Jaw this week after Curling Canada announced in December the Scotties Tournament of Hearts would have the same purse as the Tim Hortons Brier for the first time in history.

“It’s 2020 and we think it’s time to have equal pay across our sport. It’s really come a long way. When I started played in the Grand Slams and the Scotties there were only a couple of events that were televised for woman,” Ontario lead Lisa Weagle told TSN.ca earlier this week. “We’ve come such a long way throughout the sport so it’s really nice to see that the pay is equal across the board.”

Weagle and St. John’s skip Brad Gushue were just two of the many pro curlers that worked alongside Curling Canada CEO Kathy Henderson to make sure the women’s prize money got a much-needed raise for the Moose Jaw Scotties and beyond.

At last year’s Canadian women’s curling championship in Sydney, N.S., the total purse was just $165,000 (prize money, sponsorship, per-win payments) with the winning team earning $59,000 while the men played for a total of $293,000 as the champions went home with $100,500.

Other Curling Canada events like the Continental Cup and Canada Cup have had identical purses since their debuts in 2002 and 2003, respectively. It was time for national championships to get on board as well.

After the changes, both bonspiels have purses of $300,000. The winners get $100,500 followed by the runners-up at $65,000 and the third-place team going home with $45,000. The remaining $85,000 will be divided up amongst the remaining 13 teams depending on the final standings.

“I wish they would pay it out retroactively,” said Team Canada skip Chelsea Carey. “It’s been a long time coming. We have pay equity at the Grand Slam series and so I think that set a bit of precedent.”

Over the past couple years, a lot of behind-the-scenes work including player meetings and informal discussions were needed to make it to this point.

Alberta skip Laura Walker made her Scotties debut this year and is appreciative of the how hard Weagle, Gushue and other players from both the Scotties and Brier worked to make pay equity happen at the Canadian championships.

“Without that our sport just dies and the players don’t have a voice, so we are all really appreciative for the players that do that,” said Walker.

“I was really proud of the players that came together to fight that a little bit and a lot of the players on that board were men. So, I think that was really important to have both sides speaking for the fact that we knew we needed equality there. Obviously real excited for it, but just surprised it took this long.”

A major factor in reaching pay equity at the Brier and Scotties was Henderson, who made it one of her first goals after taking over as CEO of Curling Canada in early 2016.

“It really didn’t take that long once Kathy [Henderson] got behind it. It was immediate for her. It was just a matter of her having to work behind the scenes with her stakeholders to make sure this was going to happen,” explained Weagle.  

Despite the step in the right direction, Walker says there still could be improvements at both the Scotties and Brier when it comes to sponsors, a key factor for many curlers who compete full time. Currently, curlers are not allowed to wear or mention sponsors during the Scotties Tournament of Hearts and Tim Hortons Brier.

“We don’t curl without our sponsors and we don’t even get to mention them while we’re here [national championships]. So that’s something that I know we would like to keep moving forward,” said Walker. “We’re lucky now that we can do it at the Canada Cup, something we weren’t always able to do. It’s slowly getting there, but that’s just such a big thing for us. We don’t play without those sponsors and we would love to be able to recognize them a little bit more.”

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Labour wars of MLB’s past provide faulty lens for viewing current stoppage – Sportsnet.ca

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For the first time since 1994, Major League Baseball finds itself in a labour stoppage, and there’s really only one thing to do about it:

Relax.

This isn’t 1994.

There’s four months until Opening Day. That’s a third of a calendar year. And instead of sabre-rattling or crying poor or threatening labour Armageddon, Major League teams dealt out $2 billion (all figures U.S.) in free-agent salaries since the end of the World Series, formally announcing 27 deals worth over $1.4 billion on Wednesday.

Instead of wringing hands about how small-market franchises are going to survive – an old labour war standby – owners and players looked on as the Tampa Bay Rays handed out a contract that could pay 20-year-old Wander Franco $233 million over 12 years and the Miami Marlins gave pitcher Sandy Alcantara a five-year, $56-million package that is the richest in history for a first-year arbitration-eligible pitcher.

That’s a helluva way to screw the players. Instead of some of the scorched-earth stuff seen in previous sports negotiations, we were treated to a re-seeding.

It’s preparation for a labour stoppage the likes of which I haven’t seen in 32 years of covering baseball. From the beginning, the understanding in the industry was that the only thing less likely than an agreement before 11:59 p.m. Wednesday was and is the loss of one regular-season game as a result.

Instead of hunkering down for a long, brutal slog teams and players – who still have competing $500-million labour grievances against each other out of the machinations from the re-start of the 2020 season – spent the last week rushing into each other’s arms. Honest to God: it almost made you long for the days when having Jerry Reinsdorf yell “salary cap” sent players to the barricades.

This feels so … so … complicated yet non-draconian at the same time.

I mean, this isn’t about two seats per player on the bus. We’re talking about tweaking the guts of how players get paid. Salary arbitration and, by extension, free agency. Big, big stuff … yet there was commissioner Rob Manfred telling reporters after recent owners’ meetings that “when you look at other sports, the pattern has become to control the timing of the labour dispute and try to minimize the prospect of actual disruption of the season. That’s what it’s about; avoiding doing damage to the season.” His statement early Thursday morning echoed those sentiments.

Translation from Manfred: better to kill the winter meetings and douse the hot stove than lose Opening Day, when leverage begins to shift to the players. Thing is, if I know that and you know that, what impetus has there been up to now for the players to give more than they want? So now we have a situation where no transactions involving players on 40-man rosters can occur and players are prevented from communicating with club officials – including coaches – or using team facilities to rehabilitate or train. Sounds serious … but that’s why it’s called a lockout.

From a distance, the optics stink. Billionaire owners arguing with millionaire (or, in some cases, one-third billionaire) players, with the world still trying to vaccinate its way out of a pandemic that has as many configurations as Angel Hernandez’s strike zone.

You don’t have time for this B.S., do you?

Yet this is how professional sports leagues determine who gets paid and how revenue gets distributed. The foaming mouths are going to be all over social media and the airwaves about this and with social media a worry that didn’t exist in 1994, the chance is this could get pretty funky at some point. No sooner had the lockout commenced than MLB.com dropped all current player imaging from its content, acknowledging it was instead going to focus on the history of the game. Somebody needs to confiscate the iPhone of New York Mets owner Steve Cohen. Now.

Still, I’m reminded of an interview I did with Manfred in August, 2019, on the 25th anniversary of the 1994 strike. Back in 1994, Manfred was outside legal counsel for the owners. Now, keep in mind that as commissioner, Manfred works for the owners. They give him his marching orders. And keep in mind that Manfred’s comments were made before the pandemic hit, when everybody’s world changed.

“Look at the process in 2001, 2006 and 2011,” Manfred told me. “There was just not the public back and forth (as there was in 1994.) Or 2016. You never saw either party talk about a lockout or strike. We both understood that creating an atmosphere where you could focus on genuine negotiations designed to come up with creative solutions was really important.

“Labour disputes never pay off for either party,” Manfred said. “The money lost was way more valuable than the issues that were on the table at the time. The industry took a step back in terms of revenue for the first time in decades.

“Another way to look at it: the union won that (1994) dispute. We were ordered (by courts) to go back to work. But the fact is the agreement we ultimately reached put in revenue sharing and a (luxury tax). The idea that I’m going to go out and strike you to get the agreement I want? It never works out that way.”

Manfred said a lockout and strike, although different, both represented, in his mind, “a failure of the process.”

Maybe the nasty labour wars of the past are a faulty lens to use in 2021. Nothing is the same as it was in 1994. Manfred was then owners’ outside legal counsel. Bud Selig was commissioner and Donald Fehr, who is now running the NHL Players’ Association, was head of the Major League Baseball Players Association, a position now held by former player Tony Clark.

The Rays and Arizona Diamondbacks didn’t exist in 1994. Ownership ranks have also changed by two-thirds, with nine holdover groups including the Steinbrenner, Pohlad and Montfort families and Reinsdorf and Peter Angelos.

A buck now is different than a buck back then and franchise values have gone through the roof. Let’s use the Baltimore Orioles as an example, since Angelos purchased them in Aug., 1993 – a year before the strike – for $173 million in a bankruptcy auction that saw him beat out Jeffrey Loria.

The Orioles are hardly the Cadillac franchise they once were, in many ways over-shadowed regionally by the Washington Nationals. Yet a conservative estimate is that the Orioles valuation is now in the neighbourhood of $1.4 billion give or take, a valuation that pales in comparison to the growth in value of other franchises. The Miami Marlins are valued at $900 million by Forbes but Bruce Sherman paid $1.2 billion for it two years ago which, by pure coincidence, is the amount Manfred says it would take to now buy an expansion franchise.

The Diamondbacks’ expansion fee in 1995 was $130 million.

Whole revenue streams exist now that didn’t exist back then, when getting the rights to parking was a big deal for owners and stadiums were expected to last decades, not years. Network TV was huge. Cord-cutting? Advanced media? Streaming? Formal arrangements with legalized sports wagering? I can see Bud Selig’s head explode over that one.

“Uh, Bud. About that Pete Rose thing …”

Baseball generated $10.7 billion in gross revenue in 2019. Let’s not even go back to 1994. Let’s just look at 2001, when it generated just under $4 billion. Salaries are different, too – the average salary in 1994 was $1.2 million compared to $4.17 million this year. Massively different.

But there has been a softness in salary growth in recent seasons that has shaped the union’s approach to bargaining – as it should. According to The Associated Press, the average salary in the majors in 2021 was a drop of 4.8 per cent from the game’s previous full season (2019.) Since 2017, the average salary has fallen 6.4 per cent. The median salary, which is the point at which an equal number of players are above and below and in in many ways a more accurate reflection of trends, fell to $1.15 million, an 18 per cent drop from 2019 and a 30 per cent drop from 2015. Of the 1,955 players who had signed major league contracts going into Sept. 1, 397 earned less than $1 million and 1,271 earned $600,000 dollars or less.

This season’s average would have been an increase from $3.89 million in 2020 had a full season been played (remember: because of the pandemic the actual earned average salary was $1.35 million because less than 40 per cent of the season was played.) But that 2020 full-year figure would have represented a 4.2 per cent decrease from 2019. The average salary in 2018 also fell – albeit sightly – from 2017.

I know, I know: we’re talking cheaper rims on luxury cars but it was the first time the average major league salary dropped in back-to-back seasons since 1967. In fact, until 2018, the average salary year to year had fallen on just three occasions, the last decline coming in 2004. The only other occasions were during the collusion era and 1995 – the year after the players strike. If you were a player, you’d want to know how that happens.

Boiled to its essence, the guts of any dispute is that owners want a system that allows them to win while controlling player costs as much as possible for as long as possible while players want a greater share of the revenue pie. They want owners to spend to win.

Every player wants his team to be bankrolled like the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Every owner wants to win like the Rays … with Dodgers attendance.

That’s a significant divide, to be sure. But it seems as if there is an understanding on both sides that it makes sense for younger players to get their money sooner – witness what the Rays and Marlins did — and that the current system of salary arbitration needs tweaking. But it’s a safe bet that the sides don’t agree on the degree of tweaking that is needed, especially if it is simply a new way of allowing some owners to not put revenue sharing money into payroll.

Yeah, there’s all sorts of other talking points and trade-offs — a salary floor, tighter salary cap, pace of play, rejigging the draft to possibly include a lottery, the universal designated hitter and expanded playoffs. This could always go nuclear, I suppose, with de-certification and dragging up anti-trust stuff and from the formation of the union in 1967, leaders have always worried about management using its financial tools to split the union between older and younger players.

But the trick will be to see if there’s a common ground, and the idea of expanded playoffs gives us some insight into how these things can get tripped up by something that would appear to be acceptable to both sides: owners like it because it gives them more chances to make more money; players know more post-season games increases the possibility of playoff shares, but that is balanced off by a wariness of anything that could somehow reward owners who don’t spend.

The players don’t want a $55-million payroll in the playoffs and if you were a player you wouldn’t, either. Yet in their last offer to owners, players agreed to expanded playoffs, albeit to 12 teams over the owners’ preferred 14.

Let’s bring this down to the local level. Look: I was there in 1994. I was covering the Montreal Expos for The Gazette when that team had the best record in the majors at the time of the strike and there was little sense it was going to get resolved – players hung around for a week or so and then bailed — and a real fear that the stoppage would ultimately kill the team. The atmosphere around the game was toxic beyond belief. The Expos did pull up stakes after 2004, and while a lack of corporate and political support had more to do with the team leaving than anything else, you are allowed to wonder whether a possible World Series run could have ginned up support for a stadium in Montreal. The Toronto Blue Jays didn’t get off, either: the strike – plus Duane Ward’s arm woes – set baseball into a spin a year after the Blue Jays’ second of back-to-back World Series wins.

I kept some stories that I wrote during the strike. Hugh Hallward, a former limited partner of the Expos, came up with the idea of having the Expos and New York Yankees – the two best teams at the time of the strike – meet in an ersatz World Series with money to go to charity. Wrap your head around that.

President Bill Clinton tried to help the sides. Uh-huh.

And, of course, before future Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor handed down a ruling that forced the owners to get the game back on the field, the game was treated to the spectacle of replacement players in replacement spring training.

Now? It seems likely that this new collective bargaining agreement will coincide with baseball returning to Montreal, since industry sources now view the Tampa/Montreal split cities idea as more of a plan than a mere concept.

And the Blue Jays? They were among the big free-agent spenders leading up to this and, while there must be some trepidation about changes in a new collective bargaining agreement that might have an impact on the service time status of Vladimir Guerrero, Jr., and Bo Bichette, unlike 1994, this edition of the Blue Jays are in their ascendancy and still largely cost-effective. If the Blue Jays wake up some February morning and find that their financial come-to-Jesus moment with these two has been pushed up by a year, the guess here is this ownership group will be ready.

Baseball came within hours – minutes, really – of a stoppage in 2001, when a players strike date would have fallen close to the first anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks. Talk about an optics nightmare: Here was a game that was credited for the role it played in helping the U.S. get back to normality – its offices in the very city scarred by the attack on the Twin Towers, home of the New York freaking Yankees, for god’s sake – seriously preparing to shut itself down. There have been flashpoints, to be sure, over drug-testing and service time manipulation and, in 2019, a ham-handed return to action out of the pandemic.

But since 1994, the sides more often than not have been able to find common ground and get back to the task at hand. They’ve formed a joint venture company to start up the World Baseball Classic and the steroid crisis created common cause, as both owners and the MLBPA were forced to stare down Congress. The drama coming out of the pandemic was peanuts compared to agreeing to drug-testing.

Baseball has enjoyed more labour peace than any other sport for the better part of three decades. That’s just a fact and something to remember as the days get colder and both sides’ negotiators get deep into the weeds. And what hasn’t changed is that whatever happens in these next eight weeks or however long it takes to get a new CBA, it will be up to the players to sell the product. The good news is, there is a golden generation of young baseball talent – the most golden in my lifetime – ready to put on a show.

As long as this doesn’t get personal, the game will come out on the other side in fine shape. In the meantime …

Take a long, slow, deep breath. Let’s see where we are on Feb. 1 or thereabouts, because the approach of spring training is more of a deadline – a real deadline – than 11:59. It’s been that case all along. And both sides acted like they knew it.

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Canadian sportscaster Brian Williams retires following distinguished 50-year career – CBC.ca

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Ask Brian Williams about his half-century long broadcasting career and he’ll rifle off player names and memorable moments with specific detail like they happened yesterday.

There was Liz Manley’s skate and the Battle of the Brians at the 1988 Calgary Games. Ian Sunter’s game-winning field goal for the Tiger-Cats at the 1972 Grey Cup in Hamilton. Freestyle skier Alex Bilodeau’s golden performance at the 2010 Vancouver Games.

Williams, who announced his retirement Thursday, covered just about every sport imaginable over his remarkable sportscasting career. The Olympics and the CFL were two of his mainstays as a principal studio anchor and longtime host with CBC and later CTV and TSN.

“I could sit here and talk about horse racing, car racing, World Cup skiing, tennis, so many things,” Williams said. “But those two come to mind as I’ve probably done those events more than any other.”

Knowledgeable no matter the sport, Williams also lent his voice to coverage of hockey, Major League Baseball, World Cup soccer and much more.

The Winnipeg native was named to the Order of Canada in 2011 for his broadcasting career and community and volunteer work.

“I just feel very fortunate and very happy to have worked with great people at great events,” Williams told The Canadian Press. “It doesn’t get any better than that.”

Williams won eight Gemini Awards, two Foster Hewitt Awards and one Canadian Screen Award. Considered one of Canada’s leading authorities on the Olympics, he covered the first of his 14 Games in 1976 at Montreal.

‘An icon’

Reached by phone on Thursday, he said he noticed that Canadian athletes had a change in attitude at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

“They were going saying, ‘We’re going to do our best and we’re going to stand on top of that podium,”‘ he said. “There was a pride in this country and I remember I said on my sign-off something to the effect of the sea of red pride and love that has flowed from coast to coast to coast, from Vancouver right across this country.

“Canadians with a new pride in ourselves, our country and our athletes. There was always pride for the athletes but this was like something I had never seen. So that was special.”

Williams also co-hosted the syndicated radio show Grapeline with Don Cherry for 35 years. A longtime host of CFL coverage on both CBC and TSN, Williams estimates he covered the Grey Cup upwards of 40 times.

“An icon. Absolutely, an icon,” radio broadcaster and columnist Don Landry said on Twitter. “A brilliant interviewer, a once-in-a-generation broadcaster. And a wonderful, gem of a man.”

“There are legends and then there is Brian Williams,” tweeted Sportsnet anchor Ken Reid. “I grew up on CBC Sports Weekend. Was honoured to meet the man in London in 2012. Congrats to you Mr. Williams.”

Williams covered his first Olympics in 1976 and was the principal studio anchor for 13 Games with both CBC and CTV. (CBC Still Photo Collection)

Williams was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2010 and was given the Commissioner’s Award at the 2012 Grey Cup in recognition for more than 40 years of contributions to the game.

“It’s been coming, so we’ve known,” Williams said of his retirement. “They were going to do it at the Grey Cup in Regina but that was cancelled last year and of course then with COVID everything was delayed.

“It’s here and I [am] looking forward to years of retirement.”

Began career covering university basketball

Williams began calling university basketball play-by-play in 1967. He started his professional career in radio with Toronto’s CHUM.

After a year at CFRB Radio in Toronto, Williams joined CBLT, the CBC’s English-language flagship channel. He remained with CBC until his move to CTV and TSN in 2006.

“Brian is a true legend who has brought extraordinary knowledge, warmth, and humour to TSN broadcasts,” Bell Media senior vice-president Stewart Johnston said in a release.

“A remarkable storyteller with a generous spirit, Brian has dedicated so much of his time to causes close to his heart. We miss him on-air and around the office, but are grateful for all the incredible years he has spent with TSN.”

The network said it will celebrate Williams’ career on Dec. 12 in advance of the 108th Grey Cup broadcast.

“You have children and grandchildren and there comes a time to retire,” Williams said. “At 75, for me, it’s the right time.”

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Sheldon Keefe Post Game, Leafs 8 vs. Avalanche 3: "I like a lot of things about our game today, but I don't leave the rink feeling like we dominated or anything like that" – Maple Leafs Hot Stove

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Sheldon Keefe, Toronto Maple Leafs post game

Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe spoke to the media after the Maple Leafs’ electric 8-3 blowout win over the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday evening — their NHL-leading 17th win of the year.


On the quality of the team’s start:

We thought we needed to start quickly in the game. Obviously, playing with a lead is important always but especially against this team. To build the lead that we did was great to see. I thought we moved the puck really well in that first period which gave us a chance to get after them and attack their net. It’s nice to get that lead and start quick.

On the blowout performance overall:

I don’t think it was an 8-3 game, to be honest. We were playing a team that faced some adversity before the game with their goaltending and I thought we capitalized on that. I think that makes the game feel a lot different than it was.

It’s a tough game, I can imagine, on their side — pucks are going in like that. I like a lot of things about our game here today, but I don’t leave the rink feeling like we dominated or anything like that.

They had the puck quite a bit — I thought we defended well as a group. The thing we really wanted to focus on was our defensive zone — we knew that they were going to spend a lot of time in our end as they usually do. That was important for us to be good there and I was happy with the job we did. For the most part, we limited them to point shots, tips, and things of that nature. Against a team of that quality, you’ll take that.

On what kept Joseph Woll from dressing as backup tonight:

He just came into the game stiff from practice yesterday to the point that he wasn’t comfortable, or [the medical staff] weren’t comfortable allowing him to skate. We’ll see how he is after a day off, both today and tomorrow now. It’s minor, so we hope he bounces back.

On Auston Matthews’ hat trick:

First of all, I thought that line really moved the puck — they were really good down below the hash marks. Those first two goals are just really good sequences by that line — just unbelievable passes by Mitch Marner in both cases and elite finishes as well. On the third one, he gets in alone and that’s a pretty good shot that kisses the post and goes in. It’s nice to see it go in — he hasn’t had many of those this season and those are ones that usually go in for him. To get it to be the one that finishes off the hat trick on home ice is pretty cool.

On Michael Bunting’s three-assist game alongside Matthews-Marner:

He did a lot of really good things off the puck today in terms of working on the forecheck. On the first goal, he’s on it and gets the first touch then goes to Mitch back to Auston.

Good example of the type of game we need from him. I looked at it as he comes away with three assists in the game. There’s maybe nothing that really stands out in terms of how he got those, but he’s a part of those sequences there leading to goals, so he’s contributing in his own way.

On whether there’s concern that the team will become complacent given their recent success:

I think with the fact that we’ve gotten to this point and things have rolled the way they have, the guys themselves have done a good job of that and assuring that we just stay on it. Am I concerned about it? No, because the players themselves have done a really good job here of late, but — at the same time — there are a number of things that we can do a whole lot better. We’re going to enjoy the day off tomorrow — the players very much need a day off and a day away. They’re still recovering from that road trip, so tomorrow’s an important day.

As a staff, we’ve already got a number of things that we want to work on tomorrow and work at in practice to help us prepare for Minnesota.

On Joey Anderson’s season debut performance:

I really liked [his] game. He was strong on the puck in terms of having it and fighting his way through traffic. He’s around the net and strong off the puck, too. He won some battles and got the puck back for us. From what I was looking to see from him, I think he delivered that and fit in well on that line.

On the termination of Kirill Semyonov’s contract:

It’s one of those situations with these guys that come over — they come over because they want to get a look in the NHL and get a chance to play in the league. It doesn’t always go as smoothly as they would hope. The organization has always been really good at working with guys on this if it’s not going to way that they’ve liked. In particular, for the Russian players coming from the KHL, they leave some pretty good situations there.

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