Saturday, July 31, 2010

Knowledge a Key Factor in Preventing Concussions

This article was first published in the July 30th edition of Main Street Week and is reprinted here with permission from the editors. Drop by to have a look at a great community newspaper or sign up and have Main Street Week delivered right to your inbox every Friday.

When writing a series of articles on concussions, hoping to raise awareness of a serious injury that is on the verge of becoming a crisis in sport - at the professional and amateur level, the best place to start is at the beginning. Please keep in mind as you read on, I am not a doctor, merely a concerned sports writer. If you think you have experienced a concussion, your best course of action is always a visit to the doctor’s office or your local hospital.

What is a concussion?
Medical dictionaries describe a concussion as a traumatic injury to the brain because of a violent blow or a sudden impact. Under normal circumstances, cerebrospinal fluids protect our brain, which cushions the organ and keeps it safe from serious injury. However, when the head is suddenly struck or jarred, the force of the blow can cause the brain to continue moving and strike the inside of the skull. When this occurs, the brain temporarily stops functioning properly and a person can pass out, feel light-headed or dizzy, become confused, have a temporary short-term memory loss, or feel nauseous. Make no mistake; while concussions are on the rise in high impact sports like hockey, football and rugby, the possibility of injury exists in sports like skiing and snowboarding, as well as falling off a bicycle or skateboard.

What should you do?
Proper diagnosis, rest, and avoiding physical activities, will in most cases lead to a full recovery and a return to a normal life. With each concussion though, the risk of a second or third increases significantly, as does the possibility of serious and life-altering damage to the brain; therefore, fully recovering from the original injury is crucial before an athlete returns to the playing field. The symptoms of a mild concussion can disappear quickly, so it is extremely important that athletes do not dismiss the injury as simply “having their bell rung” - a phrase far too common in the sports world.

Competitive by nature, athletes at all levels often feel they are letting their teammates down if they are on the sidelines for an extended period; they want to be in the heart of the action. Parents, coaches, and the athletes, need to educate themselves about head injuries and realize that staying off the playing field does not demonstrate weakness. We spend a lifetime accumulating knowledge and memories, why risk it all for an extra touchdown or a goal?

How do you prevent a serious concussion?
Being active is an important part of a healthy life and people should not cease playing sports out of fear, but knowing the signs of a concussion and being prepared with the proper equipment is essential to staying safe. Many manufacturers are focusing on new technology in helmet designs, which can help prevent serious head injuries. These new helmets are designed to lessen the severity of any impact and deflect the force of the blow. Research has also led to a new type of mouth guard for athletes. Thicker in its structure, it is believed that keeping the jaw properly aligned will also lessen the risk of serious head injuries. While these new designs are expensive, when it comes to protecting your brain, is it better to buy the least expensive helmet, or pay a few extra dollars for innovative technology? Before making a purchase, talk to the retailer or visit the company’s website to obtain valuable information on how to protect yourself.

In the August edition of Main Street, American Hockey League veteran Bryan Helmer shares his thoughts on concussions with The Voice of Sport. A good friend of Main Street and TVOS, Bryan is about to begin his 18th season of pro hockey and has played almost 1,000 games in the AHL. If you have a young hockey player in the family, make sure to pick up a copy. Have a great sports day everyone.

Friday, July 23, 2010

A Growing Crisis - Concussions in Sport

This article was first published in the July 23rd edition of Main Street Week and is reprinted here with permission from the editors. Drop by to have a look at a great community newspaper or sign up and have Main Street Week delivered right to your inbox every Friday.

Over the next few months, while continuing to bring news and interviews from around the sports world, some of my columns in Main Street will take on a more serious tone, as The Voice of Sport examines the growing crisis of concussions in sport. While the research in recent years has revealed startling new evidence regarding the life-altering consequences of multiple concussions, many media members and sports fans have failed to see the significance of this crisis.

In the past, knowing the extent of injuries and the length of rehabilitation required has been straightforward, and thanks to modern technology, players will often return to action better then ever. However, a new uncertainty is entering the sports world; while the spotlight shines on the NHL or the NFL when another headshot makes the highlight reel, the reality is that the number of concussions amongst teenagers and recreational athletes is also growing at an alarming rate. More then ever, perhaps due to an increased awareness of the injury, young athletes and teenagers are arriving at hospital emergency rooms with brain injuries from sports. Coaches must learn the symptoms and significance of the injury; parents must also become aware of what is taking place on the field or on the ice.

Professional sports leagues around the world are attempting to reduce the number of concussions in high-impact sports and gauge the economic impact of star players missing significant time due to these debilitating injuries. The situation is complicated in the pro leagues because the athletes are all adults and there are sometimes millions of dollars involved if a player misses significant time. If players are aware of the consequences of returning to action too soon, and they choose to return anyway, it is their decision. That is one of the key factors in this debate though, are the players informed about all of the consequences? When examining youth sports however, many concussions go undetected and undiagnosed as players are simply asked if they are “good to go” after having their “bell rung” - an alarming thought!

Research groups like the Sports Legacy Institute are devoting a great deal of time, effort, and energy, working to raise awareness amongst athletes in the professional leagues, as well as among young recreational athletes. In conjunction with Boston University, SLI co-founders Chris Nowinski and Dr. Robert Cantu have worked tirelessly to raise awareness and advance the research in diagnosing and treating concussions and the long-term effects associated with head injuries. In Canada, the ThinkFirst Foundation has operated as a non-profit organization since 1992 to promote safety and awareness. Founded by Dr. Charles Tator, ThinkFirst enlists the help of volunteers to educate and protect Canadian children from the debilitating effects of concussions.

In a 2003 report (available at the SLI website), the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported to the US Congress that approximately 1.5 million people experience a “traumatic brain injury” (TBI) every year in the United States; the estimated cost of treating this injury in the US is a staggering $17 Billion dollars. While not all of these injuries occurred on the sports field, many sports related injuries often go undiagnosed or unreported - the numbers and the cost would certainly increase if they were reported. It is one thing to injure a knee or an elbow; it is quite another matter all together when you have injured your brain. According to the CDC, in 1999, as many as 5.3 million Americans were living with a permanent disability linked to a TBI.

The numbers are staggering; the ramifications of multiple head injuries are shocking. Watch for more information in future columns as TVOS investigates this growing crisis in sport. Have a great sports day everyone - and remember to have fun, but play safe.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

NHL rejects Kovalchuk's contract... Long-term deals the new normal?

Not too long ago, the New York Islanders signed goaltender Rick DiPietro to a 15-year contract. Hockey fans and analysts throughout North America scratched their heads in wonder, some even laughed at the situation. While DiPietro’s injury problems left lingering questions about the deal, it appears that Islanders GM Garth Snow was on to something; long-term deals in the NHL now appear to be the new normal.

Since the DiPietro contract, Alex Ovechkin, Marian Hossa, Johan Franzen, Henrik Zetterberg, and Roberto Luongo have all signed 12-year contracts (in Ovechkin’s case it is a 13-year deal). What did Garth Snow know that the other NHL general managers did not? Front-loaded contracts could be a great way to circumvent the league’s salary cap. I am not saying that was the motivation behind any of these signings, but when the New Jersey Devils agreed on a 17-year deal with this year’s free agent prize, Ilya Kovalchuk, the NHL did, taking a stand and rejecting the contract, possibly making Kovalchuk a free agent once again. The next step in this situation is uncertain at this point; the NHLPA can file a grievance with the league by 5pm on Monday, with the possibility of arbitration, or the Devils and Kovalchuk can re-work the deal more to the NHL’s liking.

It is interesting to note, that the league’s general managers could be using a loophole in the CBA, which allows for these types of contracts; a CBA that the league and its owners deemed essential enough to wipe out an entire season of hockey to obtain. The general managers are not using their own money in these deals; it obviously belongs to the team owners. So, if the GM’s are using a loophole in the current CBA, negotiated by Commissioner Bettman on behalf of the owners, what can we expect when the next round of negotiations begin when the current deal ends? If the league wishes to close the door on these contracts, another costly work stoppage could be on the horizon. However, by handing out 12, 13, and 17-year contracts in the range of $100 million, it will be difficult for the owners to cry “poor” when facing the NHLPA at the bargaining table.

The current CBA was supposed to bring “cost certainty” to the league, but it appears there are more questions then answers under agreement. Teams that were losing money with a $20 million payroll before the lockout are now spending at the salary cap minimum, which is currently in the $40 million range for the upcoming season. The only cost certainty in the current CBA is that teams are spending more then before the work stoppage.

In the Kovalchuk/New Jersey situation, technically the league is in a grey area with their refusal to register the contract. As mentioned before, the contract appears to fall within a loophole and the NHL will have great difficulty in proving that Kovalchuk does not plan to honour the entire term of the deal. Today’s athletes are fitter then ever, but I believe that Gordie Howe and Chris Chelios are the only two players to play into their mid-forties. The contract has the NHL concerned because a majority of the money for Kovalchuk is in the first portion of the deal, easing the burden of the salary cap for the Devils. Other teams and general managers will certainly take advantage of this situation too before the current CBA expires.

Do you think that there are too few trades and big-name free agents these days? The July 1 "Free Agent Frenzy" is about to become a thing of the past. In a few years time, all we will be discussing on July 1, is who the Montreal Canadiens signed to wear the Youppi costume, or the fact that the Ottawa Senators have traded Spartacat to Florida.

Perhaps this is the scenario that will encourage the NHLPA to name a new boss. Heading into what could become a very contentious CBA negotiation, the NHL sees a players union without direction, without a leader; a victory in this situation will give them a strong position when they attempt to close this loophole at the bargaining table. It all becomes clearer sometime between now and 5 pm on Monday afternoon, which should make for an interesting weekend for sports columnists.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Garfoose warned us "Evil X-Ray Halladay" was real...

This weekend, the Twitter world was rocked by the arrival of an evil force rarely witnessed by sports fans. The normally tranquil world of "I'm out having coffee", "What are U doing", and "Today at The Voice of" was shattered by the presence of Evil X-Ray Halladay (@EvilRayHalladay).

The world was warned repeatedly by Dirk Hayhurst (@TheGarfoose on Twitter), a relief pitcher with the Toronto Blue Jays and best-selling author of The Bullpen Gospels, of Evil Ray's existence, but many did not listen, or could not fathom that such an evil presence could exist in the world. Rumoured by some to be a fictional character living in Hayhurst's basement, the truth is now online for all to see - Evil Ray Halladay is real! Threatening kittens and puppies, and constantly tormenting Hayhurst via Twitter, telling him he is “too weak to rule this mud-ball planet”, Evil Ray has become a force on Twitter and his plan is to rule the world.

According to legends, Evil Ray Halladay is the cloned brother of a certain MLB pitcher, born in a secret laboratory in Russia. He wears an eye-patch, has a hook instead of one of his arms, can reportedly kick Chuck Norris' ass in a fight and he is pure evil. He has a paper route, stealing the newspapers and selling them on the black-market and he has been known to torment orphans in his spare time. Unbelieving at first, I reached out to Evil Ray on Twitter and discovered too late that he is very real, he is very evil, and he is ready to engage in a war of words with anyone, at anytime.

Hayhurst recently announced he would be sharing two more books with the world, and so I asked Evil Ray in our first encounter if Hayhurst’s recent success as an author was a source of jealousy, fuelling his anger.

His reply came swiftly, “@TheVoiceofSport I've heard of you, you're one of the @thegarfoose's favourite idiots. Turn to the dark side, I'll not ask you again!”

My next message to him turned a simple exchange, into a life or death situation that could be my greatest challenge as a sports columnist. I proudly proclaimed my dedication to Hayhurst - a Twitter friend and an extremely interesting person to interview and talk with. I informed Evil Ray I was a dedicated “Garfoosling” and it was then that I made my first mistake. I challenged Evil Ray to speak with TVOS for an interview - if he was brave enough!

Again, his response was swift, cutting and has perhaps sealed my fate, “You wish to interview me? For what? Your stupid site about being stupid? Bah, you are a flee to me... I’ll do it.”

We may or may not have agreed on a time for the interview and Evil Ray informed me that we would meet in an evil, dark, undisclosed location. Being the pure evil clone that he is, he never disclosed the secret evil location! A very well played move Evil Ray... I awoke this morning to find police cars outside my house - Ray must have been nearby! I asked Evil Ray if that was meant to scare me off the interview - is he afraid TVOS can reveal something he would rather the world did not know? I was informed that he had gone to the “wrong house” and I would “see him tomorrow morning!”

The battle has continued today, as Evil Ray informed me he has convinced Canadian icon and hero, The Littlest Hobo, to carry his sniper rifle. If Ray can corrupt a fine, law-abiding dog like the Hobo, what chance do I have? Regardless of my family’s concern for my safety, I have continued to go on the offensive with the offensive Evil Ray. I have offered him an open, uncensored forum for his anger and evil at The Voice of It remains to be seen if he is indeed brave enough to take up my challenge.

Unable to agree on a new time and location for the interview because Evil Ray is evil and being difficult, I emailed my questions to Hayhurst; informing Evil Ray they were sent, warning Dirk to be careful and not to endanger himself sliding the questions under Ray’s basement door.

So Evil Ray Halladay, the ball is in your court... Are you brave enough to answer the questions from “The Voice”? Are you willing to let the light shine onto your evil ways? I said it before, I will say it again - Evil Ray Halladay is very real and very evil... and now he is on Twitter seeking world domination.

I hope that this story will continue....

The kitten photo is by The Voice, it was chosen to taunt Evil X-Ray Halladay when he reads this article!! Perhaps TVOS will begin a "Kitten-A-Day" campaign on Twitter aimed at Evil Ray Halladay. Russian experts have informed me that a kitten a day has been known to keep Evil Ray away...

By the way, have you picked up a copy of Dirk Hayhurst’s book yet? The Bullpen Gospels is a tremendous read and is available in a book store near you!!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Family comes first for former Alouettes star Bryan Chiu

This article first appeared in the July 2010 edition of Main Street and is reprinted here with permission of the editors. Drop by to have a look at a great community newspaper.

As football fans, many of us focus our attention on the quarterback or the running back, but the heart and soul of any offence is the offensive line. For 13 seasons, one of the anchors on the CFL’s most potent offence was centre, Bryan Chiu, of the Montreal Alouettes. A seven-time CFL All-Star and two-time Grey Cup champion, Chiu recently retired from the game he loves, entering the next phase of his life and becoming the anchor of another winning team - his family.

“My family will always be priority #1. They are the reason why I finally decided to retire,” Chiu told Main Street in a recent interview. “Over my 13 seasons with the Alouettes I have had nine surgeries. At the end of the day, I decided it was time to stop thinking of myself and to put my family first. I want to remain relatively healthy for the sake of my children. All I want for them is to have a dad that will run and play with them. I am also going to have my first summer off in over 20 years. It is going to be so much fun to spend quality time with my wife and kids without always complaining about being sore or injured.”

While Chiu is not taking the field with the Alouettes this season, he has not walked away from the game completely. A new challenge awaits him at Concordia University, where he will patrol the sidelines as their new offensive line coach and assistant offensive coordinator. It is an opportunity to pass on the vast amount of knowledge he learnt during his stellar career.

“I am very excited to have the opportunity to coach at Concordia. I not only get to stay involved in football, but I get to interact with student athletes and pass on all my knowledge of the game to these young men,” said Chiu. “Football has grown incredibly in the province of Quebec over the last decade and it is both an honour and privilege to be associated with Concordia University.”

“I have always believed that it is important to give back, and this is a perfect opportunity for me to help these football players be the best athletes possible and hopefully get a chance to play at the next level. I will stress the importance of getting their degree because the reality is that not all of them will be professional football players but they can all be university graduates if they put in the effort. An education is something that is yours forever and no one can take that away from you.”

Since their return to Montreal, the Alouettes have been one of the elite teams each year in the league. However, keeping an offence firing on all cylinders, having a shutdown defence, and avoiding serious injuries is no easy task during the lengthy CFL season; a Grey Cup victory is never a sure thing.

“Winning a Grey Cup is an amazing accomplishment. I have been fortunate enough to win two. I feel that they were each special in their own way. In 2002, it was the first time the Als had won in over 25 years and to see the excitement of our fans during the parade is something I will cherish forever.”

“In 2009, it felt different because it was our seventh Grey Cup appearance and we had lost five other times so it was a long time coming,” confided Chiu. “It made it even more special because of the dramatic 4th quarter comeback and the 'too many men' penalty on the Riders, which gave us a second chance. It felt like the whole stadium was cheering for the Riders, it felt like it was us against the world. The best thing about winning two Grey Cups is that I can give a Grey Cup ring to each of my children.”

For the casual sports fan, there is a lot of activity on the football field and it can be difficult to keep track of all the action. The offensive line is the key to on-field success for any team. What are the responsibilities of the centre and the O-line - let’s ask the expert.

“Playing centre definitely comes with a lot of responsibility,” Chiu explained. “Not only do you have to snap the ball to the QB, you also have to assess the defence and make all the appropriate calls to tell the rest of the O-line what to do. In essence, being the centre is like being the QB of the O-line; you must know everybody’s jobs.”

A very special thank you to Bryan for spending time with Main Street; an All-Star on the field, there is no doubt he will continue to be an All-Star off the field. Thanks for the memories and helping to bring two Grey Cups home to Montreal! Have a great sport day everyone.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Will "next year" ever arrive in Toronto?

Two very different messages were sent out yesterday after the Atlanta Braves/Toronto Blue Jays trade.... For Jays fans, the message from GM Alex Anthopoulos was look to the future; for Atlanta fans the message had a more favourable tone - we can win it all now.

Leaving a Toronto team that is sinking in the AL East for the wide-open NL East, Alex Gonzalez is now in Atlanta, and the 33-year-old shortstop could help propel his new squad back into the MLB playoffs. Wait until next year is a refrain Toronto fans have heard before and one cannot help but wonder, when will “next year” finally arrive? Which direction is this franchise headed - playoff contenders or the annual fourth place finishers in their division?

As the Jays entered a self-described “rebuilding mode” in 2010, Toronto said goodbye to shortstop Marco Scutaro after he had a career year last season. After hitting .282 with 12 home runs and 60 RBI’s, the 33-year-old was deemed “too old” to re-sign on a multi-year contract and he left for Boston via free agency. This year, Scutaro is hitting .283 with 4 home runs and 28 RBI. Certainly, his power numbers are down, but he has continued to reach base on a consistent basis.

Perhaps this is where some of the confusion arises amongst Jays fans... To replace Scutaro, Toronto signed the 33-year-old Gonzalez, Boston’s backup shortstop last season. Against all odds, Gonzalez flourished as an everyday player and began knocking the ball over the fences, on his way to having a career year himself; only to be traded away for a younger shortstop (27-year-old Yunel Escobar), that has struggled at the plate this season. Toronto is at the top of the MLB in home runs and near the bottom in batting average, trading Gonzalez will certainly cost the Jays a few victories in August and September. The Jays hope that Escobar regains his form and is a solid player until their prospect at the shortstop position (Adeiny Hechavarria), is ready for the majors. One cannot blame Jays fans for thinking that the organization’s plan to rebuild is more of a perpetual motion machine; they constantly hear about the good things to come. They are expected to pay for tickets, to watch and wait for the team of the future to arrive.

Since the early nineties, the Toronto and Atlanta franchises have travelled a very different path. Once considered amongst the elite teams in the MLB, the Blue Jays have struggled since their last post-season appearance, while the Braves appear to be in the hunt for the NL East title every year. The Jays are competing with the money of the Yankees and Red Sox, teams considered to buy their championships by spending ridiculous amounts of money, which is not entirely untrue. However, the third highest payroll in the MLB belongs to the Chicago Cubs - proving that big money does not always guarantee victories. The Braves have consistently worked new players into their lineup without missing a beat, so for Atlanta to give up on Escobar in acquiring Gonzalez makes one wonder if Escobar is more like Edwin Encarnacion (a gamble that did not pay off), then Jose Bautista (one that certainly has).

After four sub-par seasons, which saw the Braves miss the playoffs for the first time since 1994, Atlanta is in the hunt for a division crown once again; a crown that they held for 14 of 15 seasons between 1991 and 2005 (they finished 2nd in the lockout shortened 1994 season), a streak that included a World Series in 1995. The Jays reached the playoffs from 1991-1993, winning their two World Series championships (’92 against Atlanta and ’93 against Philadelphia), but they are still searching for that elusive playoff spot. The Jays came close in 2000, finishing just 4.5 games back of the division leader, but for the most part, they have been slotted into third place behind the Yankees and the Red Sox on a regular basis. Now that the Tampa Rays are on the scene as legitimate contenders in the AL East, the Jays can expect to be fourth in the division. Except for the 2000 season, the Jays have finished anywhere from 10 games back (2006) to a whopping 33.5 games behind the division leader in 2004.

Don’t get me wrong, Anthopoulos has made some very wise decisions along the way in his first year as General Manager and he will continue to impress as one of the young rising stars in the GM ranks. He deserves the opportunity to continue tweaking the roster in search of the perfect winning formula. The Jays have a solid reputation as a “classy” organization in the league and despite his young age, Anthopoulos is very respected in the MLB. If they could become competitive on a regular basis, free agents would be lined up to sign in Toronto. Keep in mind though, the strength of the Jays moving forward is the pitching staff; a staff assembled by JP Ricciardi - and disgruntled fans ran him out of town.

Season ticket holders in Toronto hear that the team is looking ahead to 2011, 2012 or 2013, but the comment I hear repeated time and again from Blue Jays fans here at TVOS is, “Will we be there to watch?”

At or near the bottom of the standings, with promises for future success and complaints about the atmosphere in the Rogers Centre, as a long-time Expos fan, I have read this script before - you will not like the ending. To spend money, sports franchises need to make money, through ticket and merchandise sales. One cannot help but wonder, when it comes time to re-sign the Hill's, Lind's and other future stars on the Jays, will the money be there? When the Toronto Maple Leafs become competitive in the NHL again (and they will very soon), the Jays will sink further into obscurity in the MLB and their own city if “next year” continues to elude them.

I would like to hear from Blue Jays fans: Do you have faith in the franchise? Are you tired of waiting for next year? Will you be there to watch in 2012 or 2013?

Send me your thoughts on twitter...

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Don Reddick's "Killing Frank McGee"

An avid reader my entire life, when I find a new author that I enjoy, I eagerly read all of their creations as quickly as possible. Fortunately, in the case of award-winning author Don Reddick, he found me...

Through my work at The Hockey, I was asked to review Reddick’s latest release, The Trail Less Traveled; a thoroughly compelling book chronicling the re-enactment of the Dawson City Nuggets/Ottawa Silver Seven Stanley Cup challenge. The Trail Less Traveled, has found a permanent home amongst my favourite books and so has one of his earlier releases, which I just completed, Killing Frank McGee.

Released in 2001 as a work of fictional history, Killing Frank McGee is a masterful combination of hockey history, Ottawa history, and Canada’s involvement in World War 1. The novel is an account of Frank McGee’s hockey career and often overlooked death serving his country in World War 1. Besides being a wonderfully written story that captures the reader’s imagination on every page, a tremendous amount of research went into its creation, making the novel extremely valuable due to its historical details and a true learning experience. In fact, Killing Frank McGee could easily become an educational tool in our schools.

Written from the point of view of Alf Smith, a Hall of Fame member of the Silver Seven, and William Kinnear, a Private in the Canadian Armed Forces, Killing Frank McGee is informative, humorous, and haunting all at once. Dynamic in its storytelling, the perspective shifts between Smith and Kinnear as they discuss their lives and connection to McGee. The novel leaves the reader speechless on more then one occasion - especially the ending.

From Smith we learn about the early days of hockey in Ottawa and our country, and the challenges and politics involved with creating a winning hockey team in the early 1900’s. We also learn from Smith how the legend of Frank McGee grew, as he became one of the greatest “hockeyists” in the history of the sport. The novel’s opening chapter begins with the McGee family learning of Frank’s death. As a former coach and teammate, Smith is present and Reddick captures the scene brilliantly. A scenario that repeated itself time and again across Canada throughout WWI and unfortunately, continues to this day, the reader is immediately gripped by the pain and turmoil that arrives on the family’s doorstep. Through Alf Smith, Reddick takes us on the journey through the Silver Seven years and Frank McGee’s Hall of Fame exploits on the ice.

From Kinnear, we learn of the absolute and unimaginable horrors of trench warfare. The devastating impact on a man’s mind and soul living amidst so much death and destruction, and the equally inspiring friendships made during one of humanity’s darkest moments in history. One of the many haunting moments in the book comes when Kinnear and his fellow soldiers are receiving instructions while waiting to move forward to the trenches. “You needn’t bother ducking at the sound of a gunshot,” their instructor tells them, “Because you will never, never hear the one that gets you.”

Kinnear’s narrative eventually leads to the battlefields of France, where he and his companions “go over the top” to engage the enemy. Reddick vividly describes the devastation and confusion of trench warfare with stunning accuracy; a young man from Sackville, New Brunswick must kill or be killed in the name of his country. The fear experienced by these young men leaps off the pages and into the reader’s imagination. In the heat of battle, Kinnear meets the famous Frank McGee.

While it is a work of fiction, the realities contained in Reddick’s creation make for a very moving experience for the reader. He takes a moment in history and brings it to life with his remarkable attention to detail and eloquent writing style. Whether you are a casual or fanatical sports fan, Killing Frank McGee must be added to your collection!

For more information on Don Reddick, The Trail Less Traveled, and Killing Frank McGee, visit his website:

Thursday, July 8, 2010

TVOS loses its biggest fan...

Regular readers may have noticed a lack of new articles here at TVOS during the lead up to the NHL's free agency period and as the Intercounty Baseball season winds down - my apologies. The site is growing rapidly each month and I truly appreciate all my readers, those that have been here from the start and the new folks that keep arriving daily. Besides being baseball season, it is also hay season; I have been making trips to my hometown, helping my Dad on his farm and to visit with my ailing Grandmother.

My Grandmother, Mrs Florence Jackson, of Lachute, Quebec, passed away peacefully yesterday in hospital after a lengthy illness. Sometimes when these events happen, we look for distraction, or turn to something we know in search of comfort. For me, that outlet is writing here at TVOS, so I would like to share a few thoughts with you all about my Grannie Jackson.

She was never a “die hard” sports fan, but always watched an occasional game with me as I grew up because she knew I loved sports. It was something we could chat about - how the Expos were doing, what the Canadiens were up to, or if I had any news on the Edmonton Oilers and hometown boy Kevin Lowe.

While she probably did not fully understand the world of emails and the Internet, she was always eager to hear about this site and my career. Who had I spoken with lately? What was I working on? Besides this site and other online writing jobs, my work is published weekly in Main Street, my hometown newspaper. I will share a secret with you - after years of being on the West Coast, working successfully as a musician but unable to share the day-to-day ups and downs with her, one of my greatest joys is creating my weekly columns for Main Street, because I knew she would be reading them and could take part in my accomplishments. She cut out every article and remembered all the names, often asking if I received a computer message lately from Dirk or Bryan, or my “behind the scenes” partner in TVOS, Ed.

When my career brought me into contact last year with Kevin Lowe, my hero growing up, she would ask on every visit, “Did you talk to Mr. Lowe this week?” - No Grannie, I would say, it does not work that way. He is very busy and we do not chat every week... She would then tell me to “Say hello to Mr. Lowe” next time we spoke, and to say hello to his mother too... Awesome guy that he is, Mr. Lowe would pass along her greeting and let me know his mom said hello back - that pleased my Grannie immensely. For me, the Lowe’s are part of hockey royalty; for her, they were Lachute folks and former neighbours, it would be impolite not to say hello.

Sometimes the universe brings very special people into our lives, or us into theirs, and when they leave it, things are irrevocable changed. I am a better man for having her in my life, sharing stories, teaching me right from wrong, and the importance of following your dreams. Her greatest joy the last year and a half was the birth of my nephew Justin, her “little man” - and she would light up every time he was around or she saw a picture of him... It was very special to see them together.

For almost 36 years, she has always been there for me, and it will be tough to write that next Main Street column knowing it will not be cut out and added to her collection. TVOS has lost its biggest fan.... I will close today with my Main Street sign-off for my Grannie - Have a great sports day everyone!

New articles return to TVOS next Wednesday...

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Journey Towards the 2010 Grey Cup Begins...

This article was first published in the July 2nd edition of Main Street Week and is reprinted here with permission from the editors. Drop by to have a look at a great community newspaper or sign up and have Main Street Week delivered right to your inbox every Friday.

The off-season workouts are done, the practise scrimmages have ended, and the roster decisions have been made. After weeks of lining up against their teammates, all the offensive players are ready to dazzle the fans and the defensive players are ready to make an impact on their opponents. The quest for an appearance in the 98th Grey Cup championship game is officially underway. It is that time of year again and the football fans in our nation celebrated Canada Day with the start of another exciting season of CFL football.

Once again, the Montreal Alouettes are the team to beat in the East Division, and as the defending Grey Cup champs, they will be the measuring stick for all the teams in the league. The Hamilton Tiger-Cats emerged as a legitimate playoff team last season, but they are not quite at the elite level of the Alouettes. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers enter the season with a new General Manager, a new Head Coach and new QB’s; while they are heading in the right direction, they lack the overall depth to challenge in the East. Then there is Toronto... The Argonauts finished last season with a 3-15 win/loss record and while the team will put up a good fight each week, their record will be similar this year. Until another team can prove that they are as talented and have as much depth as the Alouettes, you will find them in their usual spot at the end of the season - first place.

In the CFL’s West Division, the race for first place will be a heated affair all season long. The Saskatchewan Roughriders won the West last year, but the Calgary Stampeders and the improving Edmonton Eskimos will be in the mix for the division title. All three teams have tremendous depth on offence and defence and have All-Stars at several positions. The fate of the fourth team in the West Division, the BC Lions, is in the hands of QB Casey Printers. An MVP in the CFL with the Lions before leaving for the NFL in 2006, Printers returned to the league after one season, but struggled at the helm of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats during the 2007 and 2008 seasons. Last year, he returned to the Lions and demonstrated he can still be an elite QB in the league. It is not an easy task to pick a winner in the West, but look for the Calgary Stampeders to be at the top when the playoffs begin in November.

In a recent interview with Bryan Chiu, the long-time centre on the Alouettes offensive line, I asked for his thoughts on the upcoming season in Montreal. Chiu recently retired, but as a seven-time All-Star in the CFL and the man that organized the O-line and snapped the ball to Anthony Calvillo for much of his thirteen year career, is their a better man to ask?

“I feel this year’s team will be very competitive,” Chiu told Main Street. “Coach Trestman will not allow his team to be complacent and rest on their laurels. The CFL will definitely have more parity among the teams but I believe the Als have to be favoured to win the East. There is a great mix of older veterans and young guys with the hunger to succeed. Anytime you have a great quarterback like Calvillo, you will always have a chance to win. Go Als!!!”

The next chance to see the Alouettes at Montreal’s Percival Molson Stadium is Thursday, July 22 against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, and look for the full interview with Bryan Chiu in the July edition of Main Street. Have a great sports day everyone - and enjoy the season!