Diary of a Sports Diva July 3, 2007
The Calgary Flames hiring of Mike Keenan as head coach means one thing. The expectations from the fans to the owners is nothing but Cup. The time is now. Everyone is looking at this move as the seasoning to a somewhat full plate of talent.
I think we'll know how well it will be working around November, when everyone on the team is either a strong forward-moving unit, or fragmented to the point where everyone will be demanding a trade. We know that many core player contracts are up at the end of next season, so this is a make or break year. If there are results in the win column, and even if the players decide they hate Keenan more than stretching and warm ups, they will have bought in and become his disciples.
While General Manager Darryl Sutter and Keenan are adamant that last year's head coach Jim Playfair still has a place on this team in the role of "associate" coach, it has to be very difficult for Jim, but perhaps not a total surprise, considering the growing wave of unpopularity almost from the very start of the season. Maybe Jim was too nice -- at least he was not Darryl Sutter or Mike Keenan as far as aggressiveness when it comes to coaching. And that is what everyone seems to think will push this team to hoisting the silver.
Two Calgary minor hockey groups have had to cap their hockey registrations because there are not enough arenas or teams to house players. So far over 1,300 kids have been turned away from those two groups and it's a first-come first-serve basis. Calgary's growth has been phenomenal in the past five years but there have been not enough additional facilities built. It's only a matter of time before more associations follow with caps. It's not likely a problem to be resolved anytime soon as all three levels of government seemingly have not made sports a priority. If 10 new arenas magically materialized overnight, it likely still wouldn't be enough to meet the demand of minor and recreation hockey, ringette, and box lacrosse, which in a catch 22, affects the growth of all those sports. Even Hockey Canada, whose western home is based in Calgary, is feeling the pinch. It needs a bigger facility and new training center.
"I think one of the biggest issues in front of the game is facilities at all levels of the game, coast to coast in Canada," says Hockey Canada President Bob Nicholson. "It’s not just an arena we’re looking at. We’d love to have a training facility for all Olympic athletes, national team athletes for all sports, and a place that all Canadians can come and say, wow, this is the way you should prepare athletes for world championships. I’d love to see hockey sort of become the leader in that."
The first pick in this year's NHL Entry Draft, Patrick Kane, doesn't have an agent. He doesn't appear to be vying for one any time soon. His reason? He's made it this far without one and when he was coming up the ranks, he watched agents preferring other players bigger than his 5' 9.5" 160 pound frame, so now, when they're deciding to give him a look, he's ignoring them.
The NFL gets a lot of things right, but one has to wonder what the fallout will be after all is said and done after the House of Representatives subcommittee hearings on the league's player disability plan.
It's been an understandably emotional issue. Former players are voicing their disgust at how flawed the system is -- that they have no voice -- and there is a massive pile of disregarded broken bodies of football pioneers that are being cast aside as if they never mattered. The sad thing is, the current players may have never given it a moment's thought. They can't forsee what their own future might be, although it's really their lavish salaries that will ultimately fund the disability pot for many years to come.
The point of argument is that there are too many hoops to jump and too much red tape to filter through for these players to receive the pittance they earned. And the main point of contention is that retired players are not being represented by the NFL Players Association. So what that means is, you can't walk at age 40 after five seasons as a linebacker, your headaches constrict your ability to hold a full-time job because of the six concussions you endured, and now you're being thrown aside like a used ticket because you just want to be heard.
Congress is considering action. They are disgusted at how these former players have been treated. A couple of these players have reported being threatened by NFLPA boss man Gene Upshaw -- who as a former player, you'd think he'd have some sympathy. In fact, Congress offered to change the hearing date many times to accommodate his schedule so he could attend. He would not make himself available so the hearings went ahead without him. Upshaw's office is stating that he was never contacted with a meeting date. But to his credit, he is reportedly meeting with Hall of Famers and other retired players on July 24 to talk about added benefits.
We all know about Congress's influence on professional sports (see Major League Baseball and steroids). If its members don't like the results of the July 24 meeting, it will be fascinating to see if it means new legislation, which will force the NHLPA and the NFL to take care of its players after their seasons are done.
The Internet is a wonderful thing. But it can be a nuisance -- especially for a Canadian League Football team. Last week, the Calgary Stampeders closed their practices leading up to game day. Apparently, videos of some CFL practices have materialized on YouTube.
The NHL free agent frenzy has resulted in some big surprises. What is Buffalo thinking, letting BOTH Daniel Briere and Chris Drury go? That will be a shell of a team come September.
How about the Philadelphia Flyers? Talk about instant playoff team. They could be laughing all the way to the Cup.
And just when you thought the Anaheim Duck defensive corps couldn't get better. Yes, Mathieu Schneider is insurance in case Scott Niedermayer retires. But think about it. Why would he now when they just might have cemented another trip to the final in 2008?
One thing is for sure. We will all need a program next season.