John Chidley A blog about reading, writing, pop culture and sports.


A funny thing happened on the way to the video feature…

EDIT: The Globe and Mail has now uploaded my video on lacrosse goaltender pads. You can view it here.

A few weeks ago Neil Davidson, my editor at the Canadian Press, suggested I do a video feature story on the padding an indoor lacrosse goaltender wears. We agreed that having a professional lax goalie put on all his gear and demonstrate how it protects him would be perfect for a short, two-minute piece.

As a result, I spent last Saturday morning in the bowels of the Air Canada Centre interviewing Pat Campbell, the back-up goaltender of the National Lacrosse League's Toronto Rock. Pat was incredibly nice and a great interview. We shot some really good footage of him putting on his gear and explaining each piece - including some funny asides about his personal superstitions - as well as a general dicussion in the stands about being a goaltender.

Neil then suggested I turn my extra quotes from Pat into a written feature story. After all, most of the Canadian Press' clients are smaller dailies across Canada that don't carry video on their websites.

Both the video and the article were released late yesterday, with the story popping up in several places online, including and the Winnipeg Free Press. I'm still searching for the video online, but I'm sure it'll pop up at some point.

"There’s a simple reason why an indoor lacrosse goalie looks like, in the words of the Toronto Rock’s Pat Campbell, the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.

A lacrosse shot can go faster than the average hockey slapshot — and usually is fired from closer range.

“You just can’t be afraid of the ball,” says Campbell, an 11-year veteran of the National Lacrosse League. “I often have to convince myself that it’s a rubber ball, not a bullet." - Kitchener-Waterloo Record, Feb. 2nd 2011.


The NHL’s Guardian Project is a misstep

Look upon the Edmonton Oiler, ye mighty, and despair!

The National Hockey League’s All-Star Weekend has come and gone, generally creating a positive buzz for professional hockey in North America.

The All-Star Fantasy Draft, where captains Eric Staal and Nicklas Lidstrom selected their superstar teams schoolyard style, was a huge success, averaging 600,000 viewers in the United States.

Unfortunately, the lingering product from the gala event in Raleigh N.C. is the Guardian Project, the NHL’s misguided attempt at drawing in today’s youth.

The Guardian Project is a marketing campaign where legendary comic book creator Stan Lee designs super heroes based off the names of all 30 NHL franchises.

Sounds good in theory, but in practice the idea plays out like a super villain’s hare-brained scheme. Stan Lee + comic books + hockey teams + ???? = world domination.

In other words, it’s not very well thought out.

The NHL Guardians are problematic from their very conception. First, Stan Lee simply doesn’t have as much cultural cache as he once did. After all, he hasn’t had a monthly title since Ravage 2009 in the early 1990s. You know, when the Guardian Project’s target demographic was still years away from being born.

Second, the characters themselves are lame. Witness Chris Sims of ComicsAlliance epic takedown: The Ten Most Insane Characters From Stan Lee's 'NHL Guardians'.

Many of the characters seem to be based on a brief skimming of each franchise’s Wikipedia page. Important details like the military heritage of the Chicago Blackhawks and Toronto Maple Leafs aren’t touched on at all.

Most importantly, the NHL’s marketing department is once again playing away from the game’s strengths.

Hockey is one of North America’s oldest sports, with the NHL’s Original Six predating any National Basketball Association franchise, only a handful of National Football League teams and most Major League Baseball clubs.

It’s a disgrace that the Montreal Canadiens, a franchise that is over 100 years old and a cornerstone of Quebecois society, is being represented by the likes of this:

But campaigns like Project Guardians relies on trendy thinking that makes the NHL seem newer than the Arena Football League or other shaky niche sports.

Seriously – the Tampa Bay Storm of the Arena Football League predate the Tampa Bay Lightning by five years. The Charlotte Rage were created and folded before the Carolina Hurricanes moved from Hartford, Conn. The list goes on and on.

Commissioner Gary Bettman and the rest of the powers that be at the NHL have to learn that if they really want to make inroads in the Sun Belt, they need to educate and inform their new fanbase about the rich history and tradition of the game, not disregard it.

Otherwise, the NHL comes off as just the latest in a long line of failed sporting enterprises.

That’s why innovations like the All-Star Fantasy Draft and the Winter Classic have been so successful: because they are reminiscent of the history and tradition of hockey.

It’s also why the NHL’s Guardians Project was a dreadful misfire: it glosses over one of the most appealing aspects of hockey.


My week in junior hockey Jan. 21-23

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of the Red Deer Rebels showed his modesty in my interview of him.

Yes, that’s right, my week in junior hockey, not weekend.

Last week I grappled with a full slate of Canadian Hockey League madness as I helped cover the Top Prospects game, junior hockey’s annual showcase of the best draft-eligible talent, for the Canadian Press in addition to my regular duties.

It all started on Monday night when I went to the teams’ practices and interviewed Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of the Red Deer Rebels, currently ranked third amongst North American skaters by the NHL’s Central Scouting department.

I was really pleased with my finished profile. “Nugent-Hopkins focused on improving his game” illustrated how impressively modest and grounded this young play-making centre is.

“It’s been an eventful week for Red Deer Rebels star Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

Just six days ago Nugent-Hopkins was ranked third among draft-eligible North American skaters by the NHL’s Central Scouting department. Days later, he was named captain of Team Orr for the Canadian Hockey League’s Top Prospects game Wednesday night.

The six-foot centre is keeping it all in perspective though and remains humble about the two achievements.” Read the rest at Yahoo! Sports Canada.

On Tuesday morning I went to watch the Next Testing combine where the skaters for the Top Prospects games were put through their paces to measure and compare their skating ability through a series of drills. I didn’t have a piece to work on, I just wanted to see what it was all about and get to take in some of the best young players in the game in person.

I was most impressed with two players during the combine: Daniel Catenacci of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds and Sven Bartschi of the Portland Winterhawks.

Catenacci blew me away with his speed.  I didn’t have a stopwatch or anything with me, but it was clear that he was by far the fastest player on the ice that morning.

Bartschi’s seemingly effortless strides really struck me. He could keep pace with most of his competition, often peeling away from most of them, apparently without breaking a sweat. Incredible.

Wednesday was the main event. I joined my CP colleague Shi Davidi at the Air Canada Centre. He did the game story for wide release while I was responsible for the game’s sidebar and producing the agate file for paginators across Canada.

The morning was spent doing media scrums around head coaches Don Cherry and Doug Gilmour as well as Gilmour’s assistant Wendel Clark.

It was during these free-for-alls that Cherry spoke out about the lack of respect amongst players in the NHL, leading to disastrous head shots like David Steckel’s blindside of Sidney Crosby at the Winter Classic. Of course, it was a hot news item for most of the day, with Shi and I at the centre of the maelstrom.

For my sidebar I wound up doing a notebook on four of the smaller stories within the game that was only distributed to print outlets, including this bit on Shane Prince of the Ottawa 67’s:

“It was the most unheralded player at the Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game game that made the biggest impact for Team Cherry on Wednesday night

Left-winger Shane Prince of the Ottawa 67's was the only member on head coach Don Cherry's squad to score in the 7-1 drubbing handed out by Doug Gilmour's Team Orr.

After Team Orr jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead by the game's midway point, Prince put Team Cherry on the board. Although it was his team's only goal of the game, the 18-year-old from Spencerport, N.Y., was glad to make a difference.

‘It's a good feeling,’ Prince said after the game. ‘It doesn't say everything about a player but it’s definitely nice to get a goal.’

When the two rosters of draft-eligible prospects were originally drawn up, Prince was left out despite being second in the Ontario Hockey League's scoring race with 21 goals and 55 assists, three points behind his 67's linemate Tyler Toffoli, who has 41 goals and 38 assists for 79 points.

It took a nagging injury to Gabriel Landeskog of the Kitchener Rangers – currently ranked first amongst North American skaters by the National Hockey League’s Central Scouting – to make space for Prince on Team Cherry.

Prince is ranked 35th.

‘I completely believe in fate,’ Prince said. ‘It was definitely fate for me to be here. When I got the news I was very excited.

‘It's an experience I'll never forget.’”

All in all, it was a very busy but productive week. Lots of fun and a great learning experience for me as a journalist. Best of all, I got to see my name in print as I helped break some news, easily the biggest thrill for a reporter.

Friday Jan. 21st 2011
It took six rounds in the shootout, but the Victoriaville Tigres earned the win on Friday night.

Goaltender David Honzik turned aside three of the six shooters he faced and made 29 saves in regular play as the Tigres out-lasted the Halifax Mooseheads 5-4 in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League action.

Petr Mrazek stopped all 36 shots he faced and rookie Sean Monahan scored one goal and set up another Friday as the Ottawa 67's put an end to a three-game slide with a 3-0 victory over the Saginaw Spirit in Ontario Hockey League action.

The shutout was Mrazek's third of the OHL season and sixth of his career. It came after he gave up six goals in each of Ottawa's season-high three consecutive defeats last weekend.

Mark Segal made 30 saves to earn his fourth shutout of the year to lead the Vancouver Giants to a 3-0 victory over the Prince George Cougars in Western Hockey League action Friday night.

Darren Bestland, Matt Bellerive and Nathan Burns scored for the Giants (23-19-5), while Spencer Bennett recorded an assist to extend his point streak to 10 consecutive games in a Vancouver uniform.

Saturday Jan. 22nd 2011
The Acadie-Bathurst Titan kept their hot streak alive with some clutch play on Saturday night.

Sebastien Trudeau's game-winning goal was one of five unanswered scores as the Titan rallied to a 6-3 victory against the Lewiston Maineiacs Quebec Major Junior Hockey League action.

The Hamilton brothers and Ryan Strome insured the Niagara IceDogs continued their home-ice domination Saturday.

Niagara maintained the Ontario Hockey League's top home record with a come-from-behind 5-4 shootout victory over the Sudbury Wolves.

Cam Braes scored a goal, an assist and the overtime winner to lead the Lethbridge Hurricanes to a 3-2 win over the Regina Pats in the Western Hockey League Saturday night.

Landon Oslanski also had a three point night for the Hurricanes (16-22-9) with a goal and two assists.

Sunday Jan. 23rd 2011
The Saint John Sea Dogs dealt a blow to their closest Quebec Major Junior Hockey League rival on Sunday afternoon.

Zack Phillips' power-play goal with seven seconds left in the second period stood as the winner in Saint John's 4-2 triumph over the Quebec Remparts.

Taylor Beck and Cody McNaughton scored 20 seconds apart in the final minute of the third period to lift the Guelph Storm to a 4-3 come-from-behind victory over the Ottawa 67's in Ontario Hockey League action Sunday.

The Storm (21-19-5) trailed 3-1 heading into the third period before Beck scored during a 5-on-3 power play to cut the lead to one.


Happy anniversary,!

Last Tuesday was the one-year anniversary of this blog's creation. For the past year this website has been a place to work on my writing, talk about things that interest me and show off my various professional projects.

I’ve been really pleased with this site and with how my career has developed over the past year. In particular, I’ve been touched by all the positive feedback I’ve received from people. I’m always surprised with how often friends or family mention that they love my writing here. It’s nice to see my hard work appreciated like that.

To me, the most incredible thing about this blog is all the people who’ve read my posts that I don’t know personally. According to my metrics, I’ve had 16,688 unique visits and counting. When I started this site a year ago I never thought I’d have that many visitors.

Thank you for all your support.

To celebrate this blog’s anniversary I thought I’d list the top five most popular articles on this website.

But before I do, I want to mention two in particular: "Bill Simmons’ Twitter idea might be a game-changer" and "Sandwich Review: KFC’s Double Down". These two posts are the two biggest spikes in readership I’ve had over the course of the year. In both cases my readership doubled or even tripled the day they were posted.

Here are the top five most read articles of over the past 365 days, in ascending order:

5. "Bill Simmons’ Twitter idea might be a game-changer" – May 14th, 2010
As mentioned above, this article was one of the first big spikes in traffic this blog saw. Collecting a total of 202 unique page views since it was first published, this was my first serious stab at discussing the evolving role of media in sports.

“An interesting experiment occurred on Thursday night as the Boston Celtics eliminated the Cleveland Cavaliers from the National Basketball Association’s Eastern Conference semifinal with a 94-85 victory.

As league MVP LeBron James stepped up to the free throw line in the second half the Boston crowd began to chant “New-York-Knicks! New-York-Knicks!”, referring to one of the more moribund destinations that the soon-to-be free agent might head to in the offseason.

Later, the Celtic faithful began to chant “MSG! MSG!”, the acronym for Madison Square Gardens, the home of the Knicks.

This was all part of a grand scheme concocted by’s Bill Simmons, Boston’s most famous sports fan, and it may just revolutionize spectatordom.”

4. "Sandwich Review: KFC’s Double Down" – Oct. 19th 2010
I’ve reviewed a lot of things on this blog: comics, books, the occasional movie and even some baseball stadiums. But my look at the controversial Double Down sandwich at KFC was the first and last crack at being a foodie you’ll ever seen in this space. That review was particularly timely, earning some buzz and a spike in readership, eventually tallying 214 reads.

“It took months to make it possible, but yesterday I finally ate a Double Down from KFC.

Normally, reviewing a sandwich is not my bag. After all, my good friend and neighbour John already does a bang-up job over at In Search of a Sandwich. Why would I want to compete?

But the Double Down - KFC’s bacon, sauce and cheese sandwich that substitutes the bread for pieces of deep-fried chicken - transcends a normal sandwich.  Just as the Double Down pushes the envelope of sandwich technology, I must expand my blogging horizons for this fast food delicacy.”

3. "Three ice dancing performances I’d like to see" – Feb. 23rd 2010
I blogged throughout the Vancouver Olympics, usually in response to a significant event at the games. By far, the most popular of these pieces was my suggestion for three ice dancing routines that would set the performers apart from the cliché-laden pack.

When I posted this link on Twitter it was quickly picked up and retweeted by many of my friends, making it as close to viral as this site has ever been. That buzz resulted in a total of 313 views to date.

Oddly, and somewhat creepily, “Princess Peach” is by far the most popular search on this website, all thanks to this article.

“Like many Canadians, I was thrilled by Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir’s gold medal ice dance performance on Monday night.

I would never call myself a figure skating or ice dancing fan – I find that too often the judge’s decisions are political – but I was impressed with the athleticism and technique of all the dancers in the competition.

What did not impress me was their lack of creativity or originality. Most of the performances bled together. Virtue and Moir stood above the rest of the competition because they didn’t rely on clichéd music like the themes from the Phantom of the Opera or Requiem for a Dream. They weren’t covered with sequins and feathers. Their performance truly distinguished them from the rest of the pack.”

2. "Toronto has two strikes against it for most professional athletes" – Mar. 9th 2010
I wrote this piece between Roy Halladay’s departure to the Philadelphia Phillies and the National Basketball Association’s free agency period that saw Chris Bosh take his talents to South Beach.

It’s a topic I’d like to revisit sometime, especially since one of my commenters pointed out that my math on the differences in taxes between the United States and Canada might be wrong. Despite the possible error, this post has been read 417 times.

“This summer could be particularly heart-breaking for fans of the Toronto Raptors as they face the prospect of forward Chris Bosh, arguably the best player the team has ever seen, leaving the city as a free agent.

Toronto Blue Jays fans can sympathize with their basketball neighbours – this summer they lost ace Roy Halladay in a lopsided trade with the Philadelphia Phillies and Seattle Mariners.

It’s a familiar story for Torontonians. One of their teams will draft a player who becomes a star, but the franchise player eventually begins to grumble and complain about greener pastures, eventually demanding a trade or letting their contract expire and moving on via free agency.”

1. "Book Review: The Glass Castle by Jeannette Wells" – Sept. 15th 2010
I try to review every book that I read, even if it doesn’t have anything to do with the general themes of this blog like sports and pop culture. But the incredible success of my review of the Glass Castle shows that maybe, just maybe, I should review literally every single thing I experience. Not just books, but music, food, furniture, public transportation, whatever. Although it is the second-most recent post on this list, it’s garnered far and away the most views at 1,106 and counting.

“I never thought that I’d enjoy Jeannette Walls’ "the Glass Castle", but I was wrong.

On the surface, it looked like it was more for stay-at-home moms. It was one of Heather’s Picks at Chapters-Indigo Bookstores and reeked of Oprah’s Book Club. But once I started reading it I appreciated Walls’ writing and was moved by her story.

Like Frank McCourt’s ultra-popular Angela’s Ashes, the Glass Castle is a dark memoir about a dysfunctional family crippled by the father’s alcoholism and the mother’s loose grip on reality.”


My weekend in junior hockey Jan. 7-10

Last weekend I was able to put some focus on the Shawinigan Cataractes as they upset the Quebec Remparts.

It’s been too long since I did one of these posts, and for that you have my apologies.

The Canadian Hockey League ­takes a break every year over Christmas, which means, by extension, that I also get some vacation time.

After that, all three member leagues crank out games at an epic rate from Christmas to New Year’s Eve because the players aren’t in school. It’s also an opportunity for some of the lesser lights on the club teams to shine while their all-star teammates are playing in the World Junior Championship.

That run of games meant five consecutive shifts for me, and it was simply too daunting to recap in one of these blog posts.

Anyway, I don’t mean to offer up excuses, merely explanations.

The Canadian Hockey League season is now around its midpoint and it’s hard to not write about the top teams night after night. I could, in theory, make every round up revolve around the Quebec Remparts, Saint John Sea Dogs, Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors, Ottawa 67’s, Portland Winterhawks and the Saskatoon Blades.

That’s why I was so pleased with this past weekend. Sure, I still touched on those teams in the toppers of my roundups, but I also shone a light on other teams like the Shawinigan Cataractes, Gatineau Olympiques and Sudbury Wolves.

It can be tough in the bleak midwinter, but for at least one weekend I managed to keep things interesting.

Friday, Jan. 7th
The Shawinigan Cataractes cooled off the Quebec Remparts on Friday night.

Samuel Hodhod had a pair of goals as Shawinigan upset Quebec 4-1 in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League action.

Petr Mrazek stopped all 23 shots he faced Friday night and the Ottawa 67's received goals from six different scorers on their way to a 6-0 victory over the Peterborough Petes in Ontario Hockey League action.

The shutout was the second of the season for the Czech netminder, who backstopped the 67's to a sweep of the home-and-home series with the Petes.

Landon Ferraro broke out of a massive goal-scoring drought, finding the net twice to lead the Everett Silvertips to a 3-2 victory over the Tri-City Americans on Friday night in Western Hockey League action.

Ferraro, Everett's captain, had gone 20 games without scoring. But he ended his drought when he scored on his own rebound late in the first period to open the scoring. His power-play goal midway through the third period proved the difference.

Saturday, Jan. 8th
The Saint John Sea Dogs continue to dominate the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

Michael Kirkpatrick had back-to-back goals and two assists as the Sea Dogs crushed the Halifax Mooseheads 9-2 on Saturday night.

Andrey Kuchin scored twice, including a power-play goal, as the lowly Sudbury Wolves defeated the Ontario Hockey League-leading Mississauga St. Michael's Majors 6-5 on Saturday night.

Captain Marcus Foligno, Eric O'Dell, Mike Lomas, and Alex Racino also chipped in for Sudbury (13-24-2). Mathew Campagna and Josh McFadden both had a pair of assists.

There's no place like home for the Tri-City Americans.

Brendan Shinnimin and Adam Hughesman each had two goals and Mason Wilgosh had a goal and three assists to lead the Americans to a 9-4 victory over the Lethbridge Hurricanes in Western Hockey League action Saturday night.

Sunday, Jan. 9th
The Gatineau Olympiques are rolling their way up the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League standings.

Raphael Lafontaine scored at the 11:30 mark of the third period as the Olympiques disposed of the Montreal Juniors 5-3 on Sunday afternoon.

Tyler Toffoli had three goals and an assist as the Ottawa 67's earned a big 6-4 win over the Owen Sound Attack in Ontario Junior Hockey League action Sunday.

The four points give Toffoli an even 200 for his OHL career. He is in his third season with the 67's.


Old school, new school

Last Friday hockey fans saw another example of how the world of journalism can be a divided place.

Matthew Barnaby, currently of ESPN and formerly of the Buffalo Sabres, tweeted that Tim Connolly might have been punched in the eye by his teammate Derek Roy. He then retracted the statement saying that his sources were wrong.

This opened the door for John Vogl of the Buffalo News to say in a blog post that:

“The Roy-Connolly story began Monday night with 'rumors all over Twitter.' After putting on hip waders, rubber gloves, a gas mask and taking an anti-vomit pill, I ventured to the God-forsaken site and discovered what I expected to discover: One person posted the rumor, and a lot of other people copied and/or linked to the one comment, making it look like more than one person actually had an original thought.”

Seems like Vogl’s editorializing about Twitter is a little bitter, a little personal, doesn’t it? That’s because it’s only the latest example of an ongoing feud in reporting circles.

This is because journalism, like any industry, has cliques, rivalries and feuds.

There’s the obvious disagreements along political fault lines, rivalries both corporate and individual as well as the usual disagreements that plague all places of business.

Of course, there are also clashes of style and personal bias. It should be expected. Journalism demands long hours, often late into the night with tight deadlines. Tensions will always run high in that kind of stressful environment.

But in the past couple of years a new, more philosophical, divide has appeared amongst journalists: traditional (or mainstream) outlets versus the New Media.

Boundaries and alliances have been drawn with print, radio and some television journalists lining up against web-based news outlets, particularly bloggers.

The knock on new media is that it’s not true journalism. Bloggers haven’t been to J-School and therefore aren’t bound by the ethics of journalism. They might even be anonymous, able to wantonly libel and slander anyone they want without any threat of legal repercussions.

Similarly, a tweet doesn’t go through the checks and balances of the editorial system employed by traditional outlets. The immediacy of the Internet opens it up to quick-triggered reports that could be false.

Ask popular singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot about that speed – this time last year he was widely reported to be dead. He definitely was not, and many whip-fast online editors were red-faced.

Champions of the new media point out that blogs and Twitter can be just as accurate and perceptive as any traditional news source. Also, the speed of the Internet is as much an asset as it is a liability.

Also, online journalism sometimes benefits from its editorial freedom.

Take for example the media-criticism website Deadspin. In early October it reported that famed National Football League quarterback Brett Favre made a Hail Mary pass to Jenn Sterger, a sideline reporter with the New York Jets, by sending a text message containing a photo of his penis.

Even though it spread like wildfire across the Internet, it took weeks for mainstream media to pick up the story, likely because conservative editors were reluctant to take a run at a sacred cow like Favre.

Flexibility is also a major strength of e-journalism. Where else can a consumer watch a video of the G20 riots, read a commentary on the ensuing arrests, then listen to an interview of a protestor and get regular updates on the ongoing violence in downtown Toronto?

The Internet also allows users to participate, a double-edged sword to be sure, but nonetheless, interactivity is a valuable tool.

This debate rages in all journalistic circles, but has become especially contentious in sports journalism. It’s the corner of the reporting world that probably has the most amateur online journalists and it also has athletes, reporters and fans can interact via email and Twitter.

Sports are also the fastest paced arena for journalists, with multiple stories being generated for every game played worldwide on a daily basis. The output of any sports department is massive, earning the nickname “the Meatgrinder” in many newsrooms.

When there’s a full slate of games in several leagues, North America’s sports media complex churns out thousands of stories.

That’s why sports journalism is prone to incidents like the erroneous report that long-time National Hockey League coach Pat Burns had died on Sept. 16. The media machinery was locked, loaded and ready to go, and the speed of the Internet made it impossible to stuff the genie back in to the bottle.

In the aftermath of the premature report of Burns’ demise, journalists pointed fingers at each other. Traditional media outlets blamed the blogosphere and Twitter for the rapid spread of the story, but new media was able to trace the rumour back to several print and radio outlets.

Unfortunately, the false alarm made Burns’ actual passing last week even more uncomfortable as many readers were once bitten, twice shy about the news.

Similarly, ESPN’s Bill Simmons had to write a lengthy apology and explanation on Oct. 13 after he accidently broke the news that Randy Moss was being traded to the Minnesota Vikings on his Twitter account. There was much less controversy surrounding that flub though, because it turned out that Simmons was right. Still, it was a startling demonstration of the power and speed of online journalism.

The pervasive lack of respect for new media amongst print journalists ignited a small storm of controversy right here in Toronto when the local Sun newspaper printed a story about an interview with Tomas Kaberle’s father – without citing the translation provided by the Pension Plan Puppet’s blog that it was apparently based on.

Things got ugly on Twitter when Yahoo! Sports hockey blogger Greg Wyshnicki and the Suns’ Steve Simmons debated the journalistic ethics of the newspaper’s behaviour. It’s hard to breakdown the entire debate, but if you’re interested go to either feed and scroll all the way back to August 20.

At the heart of this dispute seems to be a basic misunderstanding of what makes a blog or a Twitter feed.

Simply put: they are media, not genres.

Saying “bloggers aren’t journalists” is like saying that “television isn’t funny”. No, television isn’t necessarily funny, but it can be. Books aren’t all fiction, but they often are.

A blog can be photos, it can be recipes, it can be fiction or it can even be journalism. Not to get all McLuhan up in this, but the medium does not define the genre or subject matter.

There might be a blogger who is irresponsible and posts inaccurate information online, but the same could happen to a print or television journalist. Poor reporting isn’t any more or less intrinsic to New Media than it is to traditional outlets.

When traditional journalists rail against Twitter or blogs I imagine they sound a lot like radio producers did when television first became popular – a little scared, a little ignorant and very short-sighted.

New media is here to stay, there’s no disputing that. But it’s a new, open frontier that experienced reporters and writers should be embracing, not just because it’s the future of the industry but because they’ve been presented with a rare opportunity to set the new rules and paradigms and maybe, just maybe, improve the quality and quantity of content.

Let’s give credit where credit is due. Some of the old guard have done a fantastic job of adopting (or adapting to) the new technology. TSN’s Bob McKenzie, Sports Illustrated’s Peter King and ESPN’s Bill Simmons are all examples of veteran reporters who are using and experimenting with New Media.

This is to their infinite credit.

They see the potential of Twitter, blogs and the Internet in general and are embracing it, to the benefit of their fans around the globe. They understand that handled correctly, an energetic and ambitious reporter or editor can help set the tone for journalists for decades to come in New Media.

Journalists and consumers alike will be better off when everyone learns this lesson and embraces online media instead of dismissing it.


My weekend in junior hockey Nov 26-28

Lukas Cingel scored the biggest goal of the Baie-Comeau Drakkar's season on Friday night.

When I’m writing or editing Canadian Hockey League stories I always try to keep in the back of my mind that these players are amateurs.

Not just amateurs, but young men (and occasionally women) who are completing high school or starting university soon. More often than not they’re living far away from home, away from their families and friends.

Because of that, I try to focus on the positives in a game.

For example, I don’t like to mention who took a costly penalty that led to a power-play game-winning goal. It may have been an honest mistake and sometimes penalties are worth taking – like tripping or hooking to stop a breakaway.

Also, I try to avoid over-emphasizing that a team lost. I would never write “Bobby Jones made 10 saves in a losing effort.” There’s no need to underscore that a team lost, it’s already apparent in the story’s lede. It might be true, but it’s unnecessary to rub it in poor Bobby Jones’ face.

There’s just no need to go out of my way to point out the mistakes of amateur athletes who, in some cases, aren’t even old enough to vote.

But I had to break that rule for Friday’s Quebec Major Junior Hockey League round up. The Baie-Comeau Drakkar finally won their second game of the season, bringing an end to a 25-game losing streak, the third longest winless streak in league history.

Although most of the article detailed the historic significance of Baie-Comeau’s skid, there was a focus on the fact that they had won, and on the remarkable play of Lukas Cingel.

Friday, Nov. 26th 2010
It took months, but the Baie-Comeau Drakkar finally won again.

Lukas Cingel scored on the power play with 17 seconds left in the game to lead Baie-Comeau past the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies 4-3 in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League action Friday night.

It was just the second win of the season for the Drakkar, snapping a 25-game winless streak.

Ryan Ellis was the star of the show without even scoring a goal on Friday night.

Zack Kassian scored twice and Ellis had three assists as the Windsor Spitfires defeated the Oshawa Generals 5-2 in Ontario Hockey League play.

Ellis, Windsor's team captain and the 2009 first-round draft pick of the Nashville Predators, was honoured in a pre-game ceremony for becoming the all-time leading scorer in Spitfire history.

Kevin Sundher had two goals and two assists as the Chilliwack Bruins thrashed the Western Hockey League-leading Portland Winterhawks 7-2 Friday night.

Ryan Howse registered a goal and an assist, while the Bruins (12-9-3) scored seven unanswered goals in the second and third periods.

Saturday, Nov. 27th 2010
David Honzik is starting to find his legs in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

Honzik made 27 saves as the Victoriaville Tigres rolled over the P.E.I. Rocket 6-0 on Saturday night.

It was the 17-year-old goaltender's first shutout in his rookie season in the QMJHL.

Saturday night was a good night for scoring streaks in Barrie.

Daniel Catenacci scored a pair of goals to lead the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds to a 6-5 victory over the Barrie Colts in Ontario Hockey League action.

Catenacci, who extended his current goal streak to six games, has now picked up a point in 19 of his last 20 contests.

Once the Kootenay Ice got scoring there was no stopping them Saturday night.

Kootenay ended a long scoring drought with three power-play goals in the first period and went on to rout the Seattle Thunderbirds 6-2 in Western Hockey League play on Saturday night.

Sunday, Nov. 28th 2010
The Saint John Sea Dogs are riding their hot streak to the top of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League standings.

Zack Phillips opened scoring for Saint John with back-to-back goals as the Sea Dogs trounced the Halifax Mooseheads 7-1 on Saturday afternoon.

Casey Cizikas, Devante Smith-Pelly and Riley Brace kept their team rolling on Sunday afternoon.

The line combined for four goals and seven points in leading the Mississauga St. Michael's Majors to a modern-era franchise record in the Ontario Hockey League with a 6-3 victory over the Owen Sound Attack.


When predictions turn ugly

Whether it’s picking a champion before a season begins or presaging the outcome of a draft, there’s a good chance a sports writer is setting themselves up to fail when they make predictions.

It’s inherent in sports journalism. The predictable nature of a season naturally lends itself to playing oracle.
You know there will be a Most Valuable Player award and even at the start of the season you can narrow it down to three or four likely candidates. Guessing who it’s going to be is easy copy and it gets the consumers involved in the debate as well. It’s too tempting to pass up.

Of course, more often than not, those predictions are way off and then you have readers sending you crank emails lecturing you on how you’re the wrongest wrong who ever wronged.

Hindsight is 20-20 and those bold statements, predictions of future success (or struggles) and deep explanations embedded in an article can sour quickly, ruining an otherwise fine piece of work.

I touched on this before in my review of SI’s Great Baseball Writing. Throughout that collection there are passages or even entire articles from the late 1990s and early 2000s that try to explain the sudden power surge late in the careers of Barry Bonds, Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa.


This is at the heart of the Sports Illustrated or EA Sports cover curses – the subject is chosen because of what they’re expected to achieve and, more often than not, they disappoint because they’re being held up to more intense scrutiny or our expectations (raised by the hype of being on the cover) are unrealistic.

Right now I’m reading Bill Simmons’ Book of Basketball and I’m making my way through his lengthy Pyramid section where he ranks the top 96 professional basketball players of all time.

It’s an entertaining and informative piece, until you get to the subchapter on Lebron James. Here’s a few paragraphs of the book that, in turn, were pulled from Simmons’ April 15, 2009 posting where he makes the case for James as NBA MVP.

“Not since Magic Johnson has a superstar doubled as such a galvanizing teammate. If there's an enduring image of the '08-09 season, it's the way LeBron stamped his personality on everyone around him. They orchestrate goofy pregame intros (my favorite: the team snapshot), trade countless chest bumps, giggle on the sidelines, hang out on road trips and support each other in every way. What's telling about LeBron's in-traffic dunks -- and he unleashes them more frequently than anyone since Dominique -- is how he seeks out his bench for feedback, and even better, how they give it to him. It makes the forced camaraderie of the Lakers seem glaring. If you want to watch a team that pulls for each other and follows the lead of its best player, watch Cleveland.

And if you're a Cavs fan trying to talk yourself into LeBron staying after 2010, your best chance is this: Through 24 years, LeBron has proven to be an inordinately devoted guy. When you're with him, you're with him. The upcoming documentary (supposedly superb) about his high school years bangs this point home. So does the fact that he jettisoned his agents and surrounded himself with high school buddies. So does everything that happened this season. He's as good of a teammate as a player. The more I watch him, the more I wonder if such an intensely loyal guy would ever say, "Thanks for the memories, everybody," dump his teammates, dump his hometown and start a fresh life elsewhere. Although he isn't surrounded by the most talented players right now, collectively, it's a team in the truest sense, with a devoted set of appreciative fans, and maybe that's all LeBron James will need in the end.

I thought he was a goner four months ago. I think he's staying now. Regardless, he's our Most Valuable Player for 2009. It won't be the last time.”

Although Simmons’ schtick is enthusiastic hyperbole, I do believe that he was very sincere in his belief that James is a loyal, team-oriented player and a true son of Ohio. And, credit where it's due, the Sports Guy was right that James would win NBA MVP in 2009 and that it wouldn't be his last.

But Simmons was wrong about Lebon's character. I think it's fair to say that the Decision, the hour-long ESPN special where Lebron announced that he was “taking his talents to South Beach” proved that as it ripped out the hearts of Cleveland Cavaliers’ fans and tarnished Lebon's image.

It turned out that James is not particularly loyal, that his high school friends/managers totally misread the impact of his television special and that the Lebron camp are so out of touch with his fanbase that they signed off on this ad for Nike, rubbing salt in the wound.

Yikes. Knowing what we know now, reading Simmons' glowing praise of Lebron makes me cringe.

In fairness to Simmons, he did change his mind as the free agency deadline loomed this past summer, backpedalling from his earlier belief that James was going to stay in Ohio as new information came to light.

And hey, it’s not like I haven’t made my own terrible calls. Long-time readers of this blog just need to think back to my March Madness predictions from this past spring, or my Canadian Hockey League playoff predictions from about the same time to see that I’m no seer myself.

I just want to underscore just how tricky this predictions game can be. It’s a wrinkle that makes sports journalism just a bit tougher, a little more unpredictable and definitely a lot more uncomfortable for columnists.

Blog posts, books, magazine covers, whatever, are all created in a particular moment but then stand forever.

Unfortunately, sports journalists are often called upon to make predictions, foresee the future and the incorrect guesses last much longer than the actual outcome ever does. It can turn good copy bad, real fast and it can also make me put down a book for a few minutes to reflect on how fleeting insight can be.


My weekend in junior hockey Nov. 19-21 2010

Tyler Toffoli of the Ottawa 67's celebrating yet another goal.

Unfortunately, my Twitter account has been acting up a little, both online and on my Blackberry. Otherwise, I would have been Tweeting all last week about how excited I was for Sunday’s match between the Ottawa 67’s and Rangers in Kitchener, Ont.

Those two clubs have the best offences in the Ontario Hockey League and rank with the Portland Winterhawks, Moncton Wildcats and Lewiston Maineiacss as some of the most potent attacks in junior hockey today.

The Rangers have league-leading scorer Jason Akeson as their top forward. Unbelievably, this talented winger has gone undrafted the past two years,  and went unsigned after a free agent tryout with the Anaheim Ducks.

Akeson’s 12 goals and has set up 34 others so far this season are undoubtedly making general managers across the National Hockey League regret not signing him.

Who’s trailing Akeson in the scoring race? Ryan Martindale of, you guessed it, the 67’s. He’s got 17 markers and 23 assists so far this season.

Martindale’s linemate Tyler Toffoli is leading the league in goals scored with 22. Kitchener’s Gabriel Landeskog is right behind him with 19.

In other words, Sunday’s game promised to have some offensive fireworks.

The game definitely did not disappoint, either.

Toffoli and Shane Prince ­– fourth in OHL scoring – scored in the shootout as the 67’s edged the Rangers 5-4. Toffoli also scored twice in regulation, Martindale had two assists and Prince had one.

Landeskog had a pair of goals and an assist, while Akeson padded his scoring lead with a goal and an assist.

Games like that are what make hockey great.

Friday, November 19th 2010
The Halifax Mooseheads started one streak and kept another alive Friday night.

Konrad Abeltshauser put away the winner 4:09 into the third period as Halifax shaded the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies 3-2 in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League action.

Devante Smith-Pelly's second goal of the game midway into the third period lifted the Mississauga St. Michael's Majors to a 2-1 victory over the Niagara IceDogs in the Ontario Hockey League Friday night.

The winner came as Smith-Pelly broke in on the right wing, took a pass from centre Casey Cizikas and beat Niagara goaltender Mark Visentin from close range.

Greg Lamoureux's goal 1:58 into overtime gave the Vancouver Giants a come-from-behind 5-4 victory over the Regina Pats in Western Hockey League action Friday night.

Brendan Gallagher led the Giants (13-8-3) with two goals and an assist and also drew the penalty that set the stage for Lamoureux's winner. Matt MacKay and Nathan Burns also tallied for Vancouver in a wildly entertaining game before a raucous crowd of 11,476 at the Pacific Coliseum.

Saturday, November 20th 2010
The Lewiston Maineiacs continued to roll through their Quebec Major Junior Hockey League competition Saturday.

Olivier Dame-Malka scored in overtime as the Maineiacs edged the Shawinigan Cataractes 2-1 for their 10th straight win. Lewiston sits fourth overall in the QMJHL.

Captain Andrew Agozzino led his Niagara IceDogs by example Saturday night.

Agozzino scored four times as Niagara dropped the Ottawa 67's 5-3 in Ontario Hockey League action.

Nino Niederreiter scored a pair of goals and Taylor Aronson had a goal and two assists to lead the Portland Winterhawks past the Kamloops Blazers 6-4 in Western Hockey League play on Saturday night.

The game turned ugly at the end of the second period with three fights breaking out after the horn had sounded.

Sunday, November 21st 2010
The Quebec Remparts knew they needed to beat the Lewiston Maineiacs to hold on to their lead in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's East Division.

Martin Lefebvre opened the scoring for Quebec and added two assists as the Remparts got a crucial 4-2 victory against the rival Maineiacs Sunday afternoon.

The Ontario Hockey League's most prolific offences were on full display Sunday afternoon.

Shane Prince and Tyler Toffoli scored in the shootout to power the Ottawa 67's past the Kitchener Rangers 5-4 in a game that showcased some of the best forwards in the league.


My latest for – Like his personality, Burns leaves large legacy

I'm particularly proud of my work last weekend for I wrote a brief piece on Pat Burns' impact on the National Hockey League's Northeast Division and my hockey fandom. Check it out and tell me what you think.

Like his personality, Burns leaves large legacy
A former policeman, Burns looked the part behind the bench with his thick moustache, but didn’t act like any cop that would visit my elementary school or volunteer with my Cub Pack. He was always yelling, screaming or trying to get at the other team’s bench. My parents had to awkwardly explain what he’d just said to the referees that had gotten him in so much trouble. (Although I had no problem understanding the idea of sending him to the locker room as punishment.)

He was easily my favorite of the Leafs. As news of Burns’ death spread Friday night, it quickly became clear I wasn’t the only one.