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


More Milos!

Tennis has such a short off-season that I got to interview Canadian tennis phenom Milos Raonic again, less than two months after he was name the ATP Tour’s 2011 Newcomer of the Year.

We spoke during a conference call on Tuesday to discuss his championship at the Chennai Open and how he was preparing for the Australian Open, which begins this weekend.

Raonic was a good interview, as usual, fielding questions for about 20 minutes from me, the QMI Agency, the Globe and Mail, TVA, RDS and Tennis Quebec. (Yes, three Quebecois outlets… tennis is bigger in La Belle Provence).

Here’s my lede and a link to the article itself:


Canadian Milos Raonic is leaving nothing to chance at Australian Open

Canadian Milos Raonic has everything ready for the Australian Open.

The No. 23 seed at the first Grand Slam event of the tennis season has worked out all the details, from his training regime right down to where he's going to eat dinner.

Anything to replicate and surpass his success at last year's Aussie Open, when the Thornhill, Ont., native made it to the fourth round.

"I'm not really getting ahead of myself," Raonic said. "I know the things I need to do and I know that I'm just going to keep getting better and better with more matches, so I'm really just going after it as if it's sort of my first time here.

"Obviously, it's fun to play here and I have really good memories and I even have superstitions because of how I did last year." (Read the rest here


A rare double billing on bylines

There are days on the People’s Wire – that’s The Canadian Press to you – that are really quiet, where we focus on Canadianizing stories from the Associated Press and crafting small, quick stories of our own.

But then there are days like yesterday when we live on the phone, recording conference calls, working from news releases and hunting down stories.

Over the weekend Milos Raonic was named the ATP Tour’s Newcomer of the Year. I put together a story on it and contacted Tennis Canada to ask if they’d have any media availability with the Thornhill, Ont., native.

Raonic wasn’t immediately available, but the PR person assured me he’d have a conference call on yesterday.

Sure enough, when I came in to work my boss Neil Davidson had printed off Tennis Canada’s notice about Raonic’s availability. I hopped on the call, rolling tape for radio stations on our broadcast wire and to refer to for colour on this story.

It took a few drafts, but we got the Raonic story to a good place and it started spreading across the Internet.

It was soon overshadowed though. The American League’s Most Valuable Player was named yesterday afternoon, with starting pitcher Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers – already the AL’s Cy Young winner for the season – getting the nod from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

Verlander beat out Boston Red Sox fielder Jacoby Ellsbury and Toronto Blue Jays right-fielder Jose Bautista.

Oddly, Bautista decided to hold a news conference from his home in the Dominican Republic.

It was a strange move because, usually, pro athletes quietly nod and say “so-and-so had a great season” when they miss out on major awards. They may be pissed, but they hide that disappointment from the media for fear of looking like a sore loser.

Not Bautista, however.

He angrily made a case for why he or Ellsbury should’ve won the MVP award instead of Verlander. Bautista’s two major points were that Verlander didn’t play every day – an implicit qualification for the award – and that he was passed over for the honour because he played for the Blue Jays, a team far out of playoff contention in the fall.

Again, I had to write a full-length feature story (almost 800 words exactly) in just over an hour’s time.

Cranking out two features in a day would be stressful at the best of times, but I was also writing regular broadcast sports bulletins and doing other stories as well. It was a hectic day on the desk.

Naturally, an all-star player like Bautista complaining about an MVP snub made big waves, with several outlets putting the story online. Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan even cited the story in one of his stories.

This morning, on a hunch, I bought the print edition of the Globe and Mail, assuming that my Bautista story would make the Toronto edition.

It didn’t – but my Raonic piece did. Here's a photo of the only story that has ever made it onto my fridge door at home.



My latest byline

A big part of working desk shifts is listening in on conference calls with athletes, coaches and managers.

Today I sat in on a call with Toronto Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos. The team had set up the call after the Jays signed the club option for infielder Edwin Encarnacion and let relief pitcher Jon Rauch, amongst others, become free agents.

A link to my article is below.

Encarnacion to become utilityman for Jays

TORONTO - Edwin Encarnacion is going to be a jack of all trades for the Toronto Blue Jays next season.

General manager Alex Anthopoulos said Tuesday that the 28-year-old infielder is going to spend more time as a designated hitter and even play some games in the outfield.

"The fact that Edwin can play multiple positions, and now he's going to be playing some left field in winter ball as well, will open up some flexibility," Anthopoulos told a media conference call. "As we sit here today, the role would primarily be DH but we like he can play some first, play some third and we'd like to find out a little bit more about him in left field."

(Read the rest here)


Welcome back

I haven’t posted on here since my lengthy post on Chris Bosh’s place in the history of Toronto’s sports teams. That was on Feb. 11th, the day of Bosh’s return to the once-friendly confines of the Air Canada Centre.

It was also a lifetime ago in the world of blogging.

My paid work for the Canadian Press has taken precedent over my blog work. That’s just the way it’s got to be. After all, this lifestyle doesn’t pay for itself.

In any event, things should be picking up on this page. I’ve got a review of Bob Sirois’ controversial Discrimination in the NHL and I just finished Theo Fleury’s memoir Playing with Fire. Both were fascinating looks at life in professional hockey, and I’ll have posts on both of them shortly.

In the long run, I should be going back to working nights and some of the junior hockey beat. I’ll keep all of you posted, but things should be returning to normal in this space.

Welcome back!


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.


Review: Ubisoft’s Battle Tag

Another one of my video game reviews went on the Canadian Press wire today.

This time was slightly different though. Although the game was produced by Ubisoft, a well-know video game developer, "Battle Tag" is a toy, albeit one that plugs in to your home computer.

I had a blast lot of fun writing this piece. How could I not? After all, I got to play laser tag with my fiancee and got paid for it. Anyway, follow the link below to read the whole thing for yourself.

"Motion capture technology in video games has been a theme this holiday season.

Platforms like the XBox and PlayStation 3 have put out new peripherals with motion sensitive controllers or cameras, forcing gamers to get up off the couch and get physically active.

Ubisoft's "Battle Tag" takes this trend a step further, using a home computer as an automated umpire that organizes and scores laser tag games for kids." - from the Winnipeg Free Press


Review: Civilization V

Otto von Bismark is just one of the 18 world leaders you can play as or against in Sid Meier's Civilization V.

Last week I finished writing a review of Sid Meier's Civilization V for the Canadian Press. It was picked up by a lot of news outlets including,, the Kitchener-Waterloo Record, the Guelph Mercury, the Winnipeg Free Press, 570 News, Sympatico's Sync, the Medicine Hat News, 680 News and Yahoo! Canada.

I was pretty pleased with the finished product, although props have to go to editor Neil Davidson for adding some spit and polish to the finished product.

As long-time readers of this blog know, I love writing my own reviews, but hopefully I'll be able to do more video game review in the near future.

Please follow the links above or below to read the whole piece.

Minutes become hours that bleed into days with "Sid Meier's Civilization V."

The latest instalment of the classic PC game casts the player as the leader of a Stone Age society tasked with guiding a nation to the heights of civilization.

"Just one more turn" is an unofficial motto of "Civilization V" players, as they plot their nation's progress city-by-city and develop social policies, trade routes and technologies. Waiting for the responses of enemies and allies creates a compulsive need to play more and more.


My weekend in junior hockey: October 29-31

Although I take a lot of pride in the writing I have to do as a junior hockey editorial assistant, that’s one of the smaller parts of what I do. Most of my weekend is spent editing the work of other writers.

The vast majority of game stories published by the Canadian Press have been written by reporters on location called stringers. Our junior hockey stringers send their work in to our office in downtown Toronto.
It’s then reviewed, changed (if necessary) and put out on the wire.

From start to finish the process should take approximately 5-10 minutes from the final whistle of a game. The better the stringer, the faster the turnaround.

So what do I look for in my stringers?

Speed – Thanks to the Internet I’ve got a pretty good idea of when the game ended. The longer it takes for a stringer to get the story to me, the more anxious I get. Why? Because if I know the game’s over, so do our readers and clients, and the news business is all about the quick and efficient spreading of information. If we’re not fast, we’re letting our consumer down.

Accuracy – Obviously, all that speed is wasted if there’s a mistake in the story. Having the correct score, players, spelling, even the date (yes, people mess up what day of the week it is) is all crucial. More than anything else, accurate copy is what makes a good stringer. If I have to check every stat on the Internet, you're not doing your job.

Clarity – My biggest pet peeve is when I can’t make heads or tails of what’s happening in the story.

A good stringer will have the final result, every scorer’s name (and how many points they had) and every goaltender’s stats in the first three paragraphs of their story. Basics like the team names, records, the league and the day of the week should be in the first paragraph.

Don’t hide the scorers at the bottom of the piece, or scattered throughout. Get down and dirty as quick as possible.

Simplicity – Straightforward writing goes hand-in-hand with clear writing. Don’t tell me that someone “tallied” or “netted” or “potted” a goal when you haven’t used “scored” yet. Even “Greg McKegg had two goals” sounds better than “McKegg potted two goals”.

A lot of stringers get a case of nerves and over-describe the play. Keeping it simple makes it easier to read and doesn’t clutter the reader’s mind. It also makes it less likely I’ll need to edit your masterpiece.

If you’re ever writing a game story just take your time and go with the simplest descriptions. Let your reader’s imagination fill in the blanks. Your personal style will shine through no matter what you do.

Fortunately for me, my crew of stringers was on fire this weekend and provided me with lots of great, easy to read copy. All of them met those four expectations, and it made my life much easier.

On to the round ups!

Friday, October 29th, 2010
It turns out that Evan Mosher is something of a late bloomer.

The 20-year-old goaltender made 28 saves as the P.E.I. Rocket blanked the Halifax Mooseheads 3-0 in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League action Friday night.

Casey Cizikas had a goal and set up two others Friday to power the Mississauga St. Michael's Majors to a 5-1 victory over the Kingston Frontenacs in Ontario Hockey League play.

Three minutes after setting Devante Smith-Pelly's opener, the 19-year-old Cizikas scored a short-handed goal to put the Majors up 2-0 with six minutes left in the first.

It was a rough homecoming for Nino Niederreiter on Friday night.

Brad Ross had the eventual winner as the Portland Winterhawks flew past the Kelowna Rockets 4-2 in a very physical Western Hockey League game.

Saturday, October 30th, 2010
Charles Bety and the Halifax Mooseheads are making the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League a little more competitive.

Bety had back-to-back goals as the Mooseheads upset the Moncton Wildcats 5-2 on Saturday night.

Kale Kerbashian saw his teammates reel off three-straight goals and figured he should join in on the fun.

Kerbashian had a hat trick to help the Sarnia Sting beat the visiting Brampton Battalion 6-3 in Ontario Hockey League action Saturday night.

The Spokane Chiefs just kept coming on Saturday night.

Levko Koper had two goals and four assists to help Spokane light up the Regina Pats 11-1 in Western Hockey League play.

Sunday, October 31st, 2010
The Baie-Comeau Drakkar were close to a major upset Sunday afternoon, but not close enough.

Joel Champagne scored in overtime as the Quebec Remparts narrowly escaped defeat against Baie-Comeau to pull out the 3-2 win in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League action.

Justin Shugg scored three times and added an assist to guide the Mississauga St. Michael's Majors to a come-from-behind 7-5 victory over the Sudbury Wolves in the Ontario Hockey League on Sunday afternoon.

Chris Doyle had the eventual winner for the Majors (11-2-0), while Casey Cizikas, Jordan Mayer and Gregg Sutch also tallied.

Stefan Elliott scored the game-winning goal with 59.1 seconds left in regulation to lead the Saskatoon Blades to a 5-3 win over the Calgary Hitmen in the only Western Hockey League game Sunday afternoon.

Curtis Hamilton added a empty netter for his second goal of the contest for the Blades (11-4-0), while Darian Dziurzynski and Braeden Johnson also scored.


My weekend in junior hockey Oct. 22-24

Cape Breton's Taylor MacDougall in action against the Halifax Mooseheads

This probably goes without saying, but, one of the crucial aspects of journalism is timing. People want their news to be delivered as quickly as possible.

Sports reporters are fortunate because they can guess – usually with some accuracy – when a game is going to end. A baseball game is usually three hours long, hockey two and a half hours, etc.

This is particularly important when covering three leagues across the world’s second largest country, as I do.

See, my junior hockey games end in waves. Thanks to six teams being in the Atlantic time zone, the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League starts to wrap up between 8:30 and 9 most nights. The rest of the Q and the entire Ontario Hockey League follow suit between 9:30 and 10.

Out west is a little more complicated as the Western Hockey League stretches across three time zones. Games in Manitoba and Saskatchewan (and often Edmonton) usually finish between 11 and 11:30. British Columbia, Washington and Oregon check in between 12:30 and 1 in the morning.

Obviously, if one of these waves is delayed, they start to crash into each other. If writing the QMJHL round-up takes me past 11 at night, the OHL stories will be late, and so on. Even the WHL can run into another deadline: my ability to stay conscious.

More often than not, the cause of a delay is a slow game. And what is the cause of a lethargic game? More often than not, it’s because of fights.

Think about it: Each fight eats up about two minutes of play time. Between the scrapping itself, picking up all the loose equipment and sorting out penalties, it adds up to about 120 lost seconds that don’t count toward the game’s run time.

Not bad in isolated instances, but if there’s a handful of fights during a game, it can mean tacking on an entire period’s worth of time.

Further, fights often mean more work. I need to investigate if anyone was injured, what the cause was, and if it’s a particularly rough game I have to find a way to describe the melee.

A perfect example of a game that caused massive back up in my shift was Friday night when the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles and Halifax Mooseheads mixed it up in a fight-filled match.

Fortunately for me, the Halifax Chronicle-Herald’s Willy Palov was in attendance and he forwarded me his game story for inclusion in the nightly QMJHL round up. He saved me a lot of time and added a lot of detail to my story, but even then, some time was eaten up getting in touch with him and then editing his story to suit my needs.

I don’t mean for this to be a commentary on the role of fighting in hockey, I just wanted to share the practical ramifications of when your two favourite hockey teams start throwing down.

BONUS: Here’s a link to Mr. Palov’s original story on the Screaming Eagles 7-2 win over the Mooseheads. You’ll be able to see the different angles we took on the game (his local, mine broader) and also what parts were thanks to his hard work. Also, big ups to CP Sports editor Josh Clipperton who, like all my editors, made my copy much sharper.

Friday, Oct. 23rd 2010
The Nova Scotia rivalry in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League erupted in spectacular fashion Friday.

Taylor MacDougall had a hat trick for Cape Breton as the Screaming Eagles cruised to a physical 7-2 win over the Halifax Mooseheads.

The Brampton Battalion went to Ottawa with revenge on their minds Friday night.

Ian Watters had a goal and an assist as the Battalion avenged themselves with a 3-1 win over the 67's in Ontario Hockey League play.

Damien Ketlo recorded his first win of the season with a shutout as the Regina Pats blanked the Swift Current Broncos 2-0 in Western Hockey League action Friday night.

Mark Schneider scored the only goal the Pats would need just 54 seconds into the game. It was the defenceman's first of the year with a slap shot from the point.

Saturday, Oct. 24th 2010
It was supposed to be a night of celebration in Rouyn-Noranda, but the Val-d'Or Foreurs had other ideas.

Jonathan Hazen had a hat trick as the Foreurs crushed the Huskies 9-4 in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League action Saturday.

Home ice advantage finally meant something for the Barrie Colts on Saturday night.

Taylor Carnevale scored twice as the Colts knocked off the Niagara IceDogs 5-2 in Ontario Hockey League action.

Mark Friesen posted his eighth win of the season to backstop the Swift Current Broncos to a 3-2 win over the visiting Moose Jaw Warriors in Western Hockey League action Saturday night.

Friesen turned aside 33 shots to post the win, and he was beaten for only a single goal in a third period where Moose Jaw held an 11-0 edge in shots.

Sunday, Oct. 25th 2010
Goaltender Olivier Roy joined an exclusive club Sunday afternoon.

Roy made 23 saves to lead the Acadie-Bathurst Titan to a 3-2 win against the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League action.

Captain Thomas Nesbitt led his Ottawa 67's by example Sunday afternoon.

Nesbitt was the only scorer in the shootout as the 67's were 4-3 winners over the Oshawa Generals in Ontario Hockey League action.


Sandwich Review: KFC’s Double Down

Inviting, isn't it?

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

Normally, reviwing 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.

Not since the Earl of Sandwich put meat between two pieces of bread has a sandwich created so much buzz.

The novelty of the breadless sandwich coupled with the thrilling sense of danger that accompanies each sodium-filled bite has made the Double Down into something of a pop culture phenomenon, with people proudly announcing on Facebook or Twitter their desire to consume the grease-laden treat, often accompanied by photo galleries shortly thereafter.

Diana Mehta, my colleague at the Canadian Press, wrote an excellent feature story on the Canadian debut of the Double Down, including the many health risks associated with downing one of these bad boys.

I’ll skip all the warnings from nutritionists though, since I’d like to think my readers are smart enough to know that two pieces of fried chicken with bacon, cheese and special sauce stuck between them isn’t good for you, and move on to the review.

I travelled up to York University campus for my Double Down, purchasing my lunch from the combination KFC/Taco Bell at the school’s food court.

My eating companions were my fiancé Katy and her co-workers Andrew and Rachel. It was clear that we weren’t the only ones feeling adventurous that day: the outlet had the longest line in the entire food court.

After a pretty lengthy wait each of us sat down to our Double Downs and Pepsis.

 The first bite was, predictably, very greasy and hot although it really did taste good. After the second bite though, the overwhelming saltiness of the Double Down became a problem.

A necessity when eating the Double Down

Fortunately, Katy had picked up some hot sauce for us to dip our sandwiches into and the spice really helped cut through the savouriness of the sandwich. I’d definitely recommend having some hot sauce to anyone trying the Double Down for the first time. The added heat makes it much more palatable.

About three-quarters of the way through my sandwich I had a gut-check. Was I going to make it through? My body was already starting to feel uncomfortable with the mess I was forcing it to digest. But I looked at the wad of meat in my hand and decided that although I might regret it, I was still hungry and could easily put the rest of the chicken and bacon away.

I was right. In fact, when Katy struggled to finish hers, I was able to eat that too.

This sampling had been a long time coming. Katy and I actually had “Eat a Double Down” on our itinerary during our road trip to New York City and Boston this past summer. Unfortunately, we could not find a KFC, and so we had to wait for the Canadian release.

That delay probably created an unfair sense of expectation, but we came to an inescapable conclusion: the Double Down is a bit of a disappointment.

Don’t get me wrong, it really is quite tasty, if a bit too salty. But when I was done my sandwich I was actually still hungry. I regretted the fact that I didn’t order a combo. I could’ve used the fries to complete the job started by the Double Down.

Further, it’s really expensive. The sandwich by itself is $6.99 before tax. I can get a more filling – and healthier – meal from countless fast food chains, so why would I eat the Double Down, aside from the novelty?

I’m sure I’ll have it a few more times, undoubtedly as part of a full combo meal with some hot sauce to dip the sandwich into, but I can’t imagine that the Double Down is going to be a success in Canada.