Wednesday, July 30, 2008

No gaurantees

Gord Wilson and I did the afternoon show on the Team 1200 yesterday because all the normal talk show hosts wanted to attend the funeral of Buzz in Georgetown, Ontario. Gord and I both wanted to go but someone had to do the show and we felt the people who worked with Tim Kilpatrick everyday should have that chance.

While the show wasn’t nearly as difficult as the tribute morning show on Monday carried out perfectly by Steve Warne, Stuntman Stu and Kenny Walls, it was still very difficult because we agreed not to talk about it until the very end of the show. All the while emails were coming in asking us to talk about Buzz. We never read any of them on the air as we tried to do a show that was fun, irreverent and upbeat and reading those emails and giving our thoughts and feelings would have made that impossible.

There is nothing new I can tell you about the emotions of this loss. It just strikes me that this is another in a long line of examples that we as humans have no guarantees in life. Tim was just 41 years old when he passed away of complications from a chest infection. I think we all have an underlying belief that with the exception of catastrophic accidents, today’s doctors can fix or treat almost anything. The massive cancer increases prove that is not true, but the strides doctors and researchers make everyday make us all feel a little safer until something like the death of Tim hits you square in the head.

I remember vividly when my father passed away due to bone cancer. We had 2 years to prepare for it and he never suffered. Our family and my father were very lucky compared to many. After that experience I often tell people when faced with the same type of situation to say everything. Tell the people you love everything you feel. The funny, the embarrassing, the criminal, the impressive, tell them everything. I was very fortunate with my father that we did not have any lingering awkward domestic turbulence which had to be settled and said before he died so my conversations with my dad were all about what he was thinking and feeling as a father when I was a boy when different things came up in my life. I remember them as the kid while he remembers them as the father. I understood why he did the things he did and said the things he said at the time better because I understood more about how I was as a kid. Now as a father myself I understand completely and everyday I try to think of what my father would say to Connor and Maya if he were here.

I don’t want to get into a complicated religious debate, but I do believe in God or an entity greater than us. The fact is when my daughter was born she nearly died at birth. I sat in a room they put me in all by myself while the doctors worked to save my little girls life and at that time I didn’t pray, at least not to God. I found myself having a mental conversation with my father. I am not a theologian or a psychologist so I can’t tell you if my father was my subconscious symbol for God, but I can tell you it helped me. It made me calm and hopeful. When the doctor finally came in to tell me that my wife was fine and Maya was not out of the woods, but had rebounded and things were looking positive, I thanked my father. I guess I expected he would pass along my thanks to God when next he saw him/her/it.

There are no guarantees of when and how long each life will last. The only thing we can do for the people we love is be an open book while we are living. Hug them everyday and tell them you love them everyday. That is the only way to guarantee they know the true you when that time comes for all of us.

I’ll miss you Buzz.

See you at the rink.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

"I don't have a drug problem"

Former Senators goaltender Ray Emery appeared on TSN’s Off The Record this week and among many things was asked if he had a drug problem to which he responded “no”. The tougher question would have been “did you take illegal drugs while an Ottawa Senator”.

There are drug rehab centres jammed with people who for years honestly did not believe they had a drug “problem” but did take drugs regularly. The OTR interview left you with more questions than answers’ relating to Ray’s rumored drug use. That is not the fault of the show’s host Michael Landsberg knowing full well it was not a topic Ray would be willing to entertain in full and open discussion. If he walks off the set, the show is over and that is not good for TSN or its viewers. For all we know Ray may have agreed to be on the show only if the question was posed in that specific manor.

I do not know if Ray did or did not take illegal drugs during his time in Ottawa. I like most others have had many people repeat the many rumors to me. Many ask why the Ottawa media refused to speak openly about the rumors in print or on TV and radio. The reason is a simple one. In this country the laws covering libel, slander and defamation are far different from those in the USA. Down south as long as you slap the word "alledgedly" in front of a sentance you can say almost anything. It does not work that way in Canada. Also in both countries when you get sued you can’t tell the judge “well your honor everyone has heard it”. That is not a defence. Unless you know absolutely and can prove it with presentable, verifiable evidence, the reporter is the one headed to jail not the rumored drug user. I can speak of it now, because Ray himself has spoken of it and my observations are directed at his comments and those alone.

The very positive sign from the interview was that Emery wasn’t using his air time to blame other people. He seems to now at least be willing to consider the possibility that he was the author of his own demise. There was no “Ray Conspiracy” to be mean or unfair to Ray. I still got the sense from his body language and the tone of some answers that he doesn’t believe some of the things he did or didn’t do are that big a deal. That tells me he still believes he should not have to abide by the code of conduct almost every other athlete in a team sport lives by. His new Russian club mates will find out soon enough if that is true or not.

Lastly Ray spoke of some of things he will miss about playing in Ottawa. Saturday night games at Scotiabank Place and the love of hockey in this city. He won’t miss the Ottawa media he says. Ray should be careful what he wishes for. There are many who contend he got a far easier ride here than he would have received in several other NHL cities. I guess he will find that out if or when he ever returns to the NHL. Ray may also learn some valuable lessons about ethnicity while in Russia. Just ask Fred Brathwaite how some Russians treat non-Caucasians. Utterances which could bring out the hate crimes police in Ottawa, I am told can barley raise an eyebrow in some parts of Russia.

I believe Ray has learned many things about himself in the last few months. I believe his time in Russia will teach him many more things about what one misses being in a multi-cultural, multi-lingual, Canadian city in the NHL.

See you at the rink.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Garry please send them to bed without supper

It is now time for NHL Commissioner Garry Bettman to step in and stop the stupidity. Anaheim GM Brian Burke and Edmonton GM Kevin Lowe continue their name calling and spitting match over Lowe’s signing of Ducks RFA Dustin Penner last year. Yes that’s right last year. The most recent volley from Lowe was in the form of a radio interview where, among other things, he called Burke a moron and a media junkie. This came after Burke continued to blame Lowe for almost every contract in the NHL which he believes is higher than it should be. His belief is that Lowe changed the salary structure in the league with his offer sheet to Penner.

A gag order should be placed on both with fines for both and the guarantee of heavier fines if the war of words continues. Burke should get the higher of the two fines since he is the one who started the public smear campaign and he is the one who refuses to let it go.

The NHL is often annoyed with the media for what it believes is a propensity for dwelling or searching out the negatives to report on. The NHL can not control the media but it can control the juvenile behavior of its executives. When Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban runs his mouth, the fine is almost immediate. In the NHL it is ignored.

While it is great theatre for newspapers and radio talk shows, it’s a sad method to garner attention for the NHL. Since the Ducks won the cup, this is one of few things to get them any space in their local newspapers, so maybe Burke has a method to this childishness, but again its a sad way to get newspaper space.

Sad also in a different way is the departure of Jaromir Jagr from the NHL. Poor Jaromir was forced to leave for Russia because no one wanted to offer him a contract longer than one year. I feel bad for Jaromir having to endure making millions in Russia after pocketing over 98 million dollars during his career in the NHL.

Do you think that Jaromir will ever consider the possibility that no one was willing to offer him more than a 1 year deal not because of a clause in the CBA putting the team’s salary cap on the hook for his entire contract even if he retires before the expiration of a new long term deal, but rather too many teams have finally figured out that he is simply too much trouble and too much of a gamble to invest in him for more than a year at a time.

Jagr has always been a player with unquestionable talent and the ability of change a game in a few seconds. He is also a player who has divided locker rooms, sulked for seasons at a time and on too many occasions was just not willing to try very hard. He is coming off a very strong season with the Rangers, but lets also remember this is the same player the Capitals were willing to eat millions and millions of dollars in salary just to get him out of their locker room.

A player in Washington once told me they knew which games he was going to give effort. If he put on his shoulder pads for the warm up, he was going to try. For at least 2 years in Washington he didn’t put them on very often. Its also sad when his team mates know almost to a certainty before the game starts that they cant count on their best player because that night he just doesn’t feel like it. The last franchise player Washington had was Jagr before their current franchise player in Ovechkin. The difference in the marquis player and his impact on the team is hard to dispute.

There are so many good stories in the NHL and so many uplifting tales to tell, I wish both of these stories would just go away. Mudslinging managers and forlorn enigmas hold little interest for me.

See you at the rink.