Monday, April 18, 2011

TVOS at The Hockey Writers: Are the Buffalo Sabres Still the Underdogs?

Buffalo Sabres Defenseman
Tyler Myers
(Photo - TVOS)
Coaches will say that the key to victory in the NHL playoffs is earning a split in the two road games to start off a series. After earning the split in Philadelphia, the Buffalo Sabres head home for tonight's game with the advantage of playing in front of the home crowd, having the reigning Vezina Trophy winner Ryan Miller in their goal and Brian Boucher, not Sergei Bobrovsky starting in goal for the Flyers.

Do the Sabres have the advantage in their first round match-up against the Flyers?

Read about the Sabres and Flyers series at The Hockey Writers

Friday, April 15, 2011

Coyotes or Jets? TVOS Presents: Glendale - The Musical!

Amidst radio reports from Toronto that the Phoenix Coyotes are once again all but assured of landing in Winnipeg, possibly becoming the Manitoba Jets as soon as the current NHL playoffs conclude, I put forth this question, should we consider renaming this franchise The Vikings? After all, whether the team stays in the desert or heads back to the Canadian Prairies, when the story of this franchise is explained to future generations there will be more layers to this tale than a Norse saga.

Seriously though, could a Hollywood scriptwriter come up with a more convoluted tale than what we have witnessed for the past several years when it comes to the Jets/Coyotes/Jets franchise? Of course, if it is to be successful at the box office, this saga should be written as a musical with big-name stars in every role.

Casting ideas: Perhaps Patrick Stewart could play The Commissioner and Colm Feore, a masterful actor, should be considered for the role of the Prominent Real-Estate Developer. Larry David could play the part of the Reluctant Owner and any of Hollywood’s leading men could be cast as Hero 1, 2 and 3, the potential buyers. To add some vocal range to the cast and perhaps add a love triangle to the plot, Alanis can play the role of the Canadian Billionaire, with Mel Brooks taking on the role of Glendale. Legendary Canadian Anne Murray will star as the Canadian Prairies and to mix things up, how about casting William Shatner as the Taxpayer Watchdog.

TVOS Presents: Glendale - The Musical!

A prominent real-estate developer wants to build up an area in the city of Glendale. He brings his reluctant partner with him from what could have been a successful venture in Scottsdale, Arizona for their hockey franchise to an area approximately an hour away from the team’s existing fan base. Upon convincing Glendale to borrow money and finance a new arena, he sells his shares of the team to his partner, who purchases the franchise for fear of losing his initial investment completely. The Westgate area is never fully developed, leaving the city searching for the tax revenue it was promised and the reluctant partner begins pouring money into the franchise.

The economy begins to struggle and fearing for his own business, the once reluctant partner, tired of pouring money into his recently acquired hockey team, finds a willing buyer - a Canadian billionaire prepared to move the team to a cooler climate in a hockey market that is heating up. After dropping the entire mess of a situation into bankruptcy court, the Canadian billionaire offers twice what the franchise is actually worth, and a handsome payment to Glendale for their troubles, but the team will be on the move - that is a certainty.

Enter the league Commissioner from stage left... The team can work where it is and in fact, since we have already been supporting the franchise, we actually have control of the team; it should never have entered into bankruptcy in the first place. We, the league sings, have a long list of potential owners ready to keep the team where it is. We will in fact purchase the team with the promise to keep it where it is for at least one year - as long as Glendale agrees to pay for our losses.

All the while, the fans of the struggling franchise are left wondering why they should support a team that may no longer belong to them. While the product on the ice continues to excel, the losses mount - another $30 million this year, adding to the estimated $300 million the team has already lost. One owner arrives on the scene but the city will not renegotiate the lease for their facility to his liking - he exits stage right. Other owners arrive on the scene but they too fail to find a solution to the lease issue and sing their way off stage. Finally, a hero emerges to save everyone from this embarrassing situation. He will gladly purchase the team, but not with his own money.

Originally, the price tag offered up by the Canadian billionaire was in the range of $240 million, well above the actual value of the franchise, a completed sale would have increased the value of every franchise in the Commissioner’s league. Now the league needs $175 million to cover the price of the team and their losses. Our new hero sees the team’s value closer to the $75 million mark at this point; the business has been devalued due to the constant threat of relocation. As long as the city can borrow another $100 million and hand over control of the arena, he will gladly keep the team where it is for years to come.

Cue villainous organ music... Enter the taxpayer watchdog, saying that the $100 million loan is actually a subsidy, which is against the laws of the state and they will tie the whole process up in court for years to come if the proposed sale goes through. All parties involved are left in a staring contest. Who will blink first? Who has the better lawyers? What about the fact that this team’s fans are being held hostage through this whole process? Will the soundtrack for Glendale - The Musical! hit number one on the Billboard Charts? All are very important questions, especially the one about how the soundtrack will sell...

All the while, the loving city that has watched its team wander in the desert for 16 years is ready to welcome them home to the Canadian Prairies. They say you cannot go home again but that is exactly what they hope will happen. Like a blast of arctic air during a prairie winter, they are ready to whisk their team from the dry, dusty desert and bring them back to the land of the surging dollar and its robust economy. We have loved and lost they sing, we are ready to love again. It is not just any team that we want back; it is our team that we want back. We are ready to hang our portrait of the Queen once again and throw millions of dollars at the merchandise vendors and season ticket salesmen. Just bring our team home they sing, that is all we ask in exchange for a permanent role in Glendale - The Musical!

There is only one problem, the main cast is not done with their staring contest. No one has blinked yet...

Coyotes or Jets? No one seems to know - the production team is still in the process of casting Act 1. Perhaps, in a few weeks time, we will learn the answer when Act 2 of Glendale - The Musical! is released.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

TVOS at The Hockey Writers: Flyers and Sabres - Bobrovsky vs. Miller

Ryan Miller could be the difference in the
first round match-up between the
Sabres and the Flyers
(Photo - TVOS)
Once again, the Philadelphia Flyers will rely on an unproven goaltender in the playoffs, as rookie Sergei Bobrovsky will carry the load in the first round match-up against the Buffalo Sabres. For Buffalo, they can enter the series with the confidence that comes with having one of the best in the business in their goal - 2010 Vezina Trophy winner Ryan Miller.

Miller finished the season recovering from an "upper body" injury but Jhonas Enroth helped secure seventh place in the Eastern Conference. The Flyers have last year's playoff hero Michael Leighton on the roster as an insurance policy. If Miller is not 100% and Bobrovsky stumbles out of the gate, we could see a battle between Enroth and Leighton before the series finally concludes.

Read about the first round goaltending match-up between Bobrovsky and Miller at The Hockey Writers

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Curling Is On The Rise In The Ottawa Valley

This article first appeared in the April 2011 edition of Main Street and is reprinted here with permission from the editors. Drop by Main Street Week News to have a look at a great community newspaper.

While we often refer to hockey as our unofficial national sport, millions of Canadians enjoy the sport of curling. Whether they are participating as members of their local clubs or watching the Brier, the Scotties Tournament of Hearts or the World Championships on television, there is no doubt that curling has captured the hearts of Canadians. Lachute resident Martin Cavanagh, a Level 3 high performance curling coach, shared some time with Main Street to discuss his passion for the sport and the benefits of curling.

“The Ottawa Valley area has produced many champions in the last 40 to 50 years,” Cavanagh explained. “We have a very enriched record but in the last 15 to 18 years interest has fallen. However, since the Olympics last year, the phone has been ringing off the hook at the Canadian Curling Association with the amount of people wanting to start curling. The Olympics were a major boost for the world of curling and in the next 15 to 18 years, interest in the sport will be on an upward swing.”

“My focus now is to rebuild the link from the past in the Ottawa Valley, to encourage and promote curling in this area. This past winter, with the help and support of local schools and the Ottawa Valley Curling Association, of which Lachute and Brownsburg belong, we began a Learn to Curl program. We are showing the children in the elementary schools how to curl and we have an accredited program approved by the Ministry of Education that we hope to have in the physical education program starting in the fall. Getting the schools involved over the next four to six years, we should see some positive results. People are starting to see that it is fun to play the sport - it’s looking very, very good for curling in our area.”

As our lives become increasingly intertwined with mobile devices, “must-see” television shows and video games, curling is an inexpensive option for parents with young families. Curling provides participants the opportunity to get active and unlike many other sports, age is not a factor. Whether you are nine years old or ninety, the sport can provide a lifetime of fun and friendships.

“One of the most important things at the club level is the social aspect,” Cavanagh said. “We’re not generating Brier champions by curling every Thursday night but we are building bonds, social structures and a community of support.”

“Curling is a sport that everyone can enjoy; it is a safe physical sport that you can enjoy at any age. You can play at your level for 30, 40 or 50 years and if you want to excel, if you are a competitive person, then there is every opportunity to do that as well. I don’t know of any other sport where you can do that - it can be whatever you want it to be. Kevin Martin, a World Champion curler, is 46 years old and the youngest guy on his team is in his twenties. There is no other sport where you have that mix. It’s a fantastic sport!”

Getting active while having fun and making new friends - is there a better combination? Join in on the fun and give curling a try! For more information on curling in our area, visit the Ottawa Valley Curling Association’s website:

Saturday, April 9, 2011

TVOS at The Hockey Writers: Bryan Murray Signs Three Year Extension

Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk arrived in the nation's capital this week to take care of some business and put to rest some of the questions surrounding the future of his organization. Current General Manager Bryan Murray will continue reshaping the franchise for three more years after signing an extension with the club on Friday.

Read about Bryan Murray's new deal at The Hockey Writers

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

NHL Alumni Interview with Shean Donovan

This summer, Ottawa area children will have a tremendous opportunity to learn from one of the NHL’s greatest skaters. Former Ottawa Senators forward Shean Donovan will host a hockey camp for children ages 6 to 12, sharing the knowledge that helped him excel in the league for 15 seasons. The camp will focus on on-ice and off-ice training for Peewee and Bantam players, with two sessions in July at the Beckwith Recreation Complex in Carlton Place, Ontario. The first session runs from July 18th to the 22nd and the second session is July 25th to the 29th.

When Donovan retired from the NHL last fall, he began assisting his friend and skating Coach Shawn Allard at Perfect Skating, helping to teach hockey players in the nation’s capital the benefits of proper skating techniques. He quickly discovered that he loved the challenge of teaching and sharing what he had learned as a professional hockey player.
“I went into it to try to learn and help Shawn, to see if I was any good at working with kids, teaching and breaking down skating,” Donovan explained. “I found that I love it - with the small groups you really get to help the kids and you definitely see an improvement. I love minor hockey, my nephew is with the minor midget triple-A Ottawa 67’s and I love getting out to the games to watch him and all the young kids. I also have two young boys playing hockey, so getting to see them play at this age is great. I had such a good experience growing up with hockey; my hope is that other kids get to have the same experience.”

In getting his own hockey camp started, Donovan enlisted the help of a family member. His sister Shannon has worked with Hockey Canada, helping to grow the girls and women’s programs and her expertise has been a tremendous help to Shean. An important element when working with children is making the hockey camp a fun experience for all involved and Donovan has discovered that having fun is an important teaching technique.

“My sister has helped me out a lot. This is our first year having the camp and we are running it together - I will be doing the on-ice part of it with the kids and she will be helping run the off-ice activities. It is going to be two weeks with a full day camp and it should be a lot of fun.”

“I’ve learned with kids that you have to find ways of teaching while they don’t know that they are being taught,” he said. “You want to make learning as fun as possible and that makes the game fun for them too. I think everything comes from skating so we are going to concentrate on the basics. You can learn stick handling and other stuff afterwards but when you get your skating base down, the game becomes more fun for the kids when they can move around a lot easier.”

An important ingredient to his own success in the NHL, Donovan worked on his skating technique throughout his career. His speed was a valuable asset on the forecheck and combined with his love of the game, he dazzled opposing defenseman with his abilities.

“As a player, I always thought about skating,” Donovan said. “When I was younger, I just loved hockey - I was a huge fan, I loved the Boston Bruins and Rick Middleton and I played street hockey all the time. My dad put me in figure skating and power skating when I was younger. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was such a good thing to learn about edges so young, it gave me a good head start for skating. For a lot of kids, when they are younger, they don’t learn to use their outside edges. When they are turning, they are kind of turning straight up and until they can learn to use that outside edge, they will have trouble turning. The outside edge is really important because you use it for crossovers and backwards skating.”

The summer hockey camps will also provide an opportunity to learn about off-ice training. Helping with that portion of the program is Ottawa Senators Strength and Conditioning Coach Chris Schwarz. The founder of FitQuest, Schwarz brings 19 years of experience to Donovan’s camp and he has created a program that will benefit the young hockey players, while keeping the overall focus on having fun.

“For the younger camps, we are going to touch on a few things but I know for 6, 7 and 8-year old kids, they are just going to want to play sports and have fun in their off-ice work. For a few of the older kids, we can start introducing eating better, learning some balance techniques and core training but we are not big believers in heavy weights for young kids. At the peewee and bantam ages, we can start giving the kids some useful information and helpful programs. At those ages, with their natural abilities, you can start adding technique and strength and they’ll see an improvement in their game.”

“What’s nice about the program Chris has designed is that it is just a couple of days a week where he can show them some things they need to do and work on. It’s not about being in the gym five days a week when you are 12-years old, just lifting heavy weights, it is about working on some core techniques and speed - not getting this huge mass of muscles.”

Team sports can also provide some important lessons that will stay with the children throughout their life. As Donovan learned in his career, when everyone is working together, great things can be achieved on and off the ice.

“I think the biggest thing about sports and hockey in particular because I love it so much, is that it teaches you about life skills - how to interact with others, not being selfish and how to be a good teammate. These are the kinds of things that can be with you for your whole life. Kids are learning when they are little guys, when they don’t even realize it, that they have to be a team if they want to have success and do better. Not that they are worried about winning and losing when they are this age but teamwork is a huge part of success in life.”

Since making the decision to retire from professional hockey, Donovan has focused on the next phase of his life and making the transition to life after hockey. Unfortunately for Ottawa area hockey fans, the Senators did not re-sign the former Ottawa 67’s star during the off-season and like many veteran hockey players, he was still waiting on the sidelines for a contract offer when the season began. In November, the Anaheim Ducks were struggling and looking to shore up their third or fourth line by adding a veteran player. They offered Shean a tryout with their farm team in Syracuse but after arriving to work out with the Crunch, the proud father of four realized that his heart was still at home with his family.

“After being there for four or five days, I kind of knew it was the end,” said Donovan. “I was missing my family, missing Ottawa and that kind of solidified things for me. When I got back from Syracuse, we were offered a contract in Europe but we sat down and decided we were not going. After you decide that you are not going then you have basically decided that it’s the end. I’ve really enjoyed being home and around the kids to be honest with you.”

“When you are younger I think you can just go and you don’t think about these things. The players’ wives deal with a lot because the players are thinking about hockey, extending their career and just playing good hockey. Sometimes you forget about how hard the wives are working behind the scenes, dealing with all of the off-ice stuff - getting the kids in school and having to move around a lot. I think at this time in my life I was able to sit back and see it from my wife’s point of view a little more.”

Originally drafted by the San Jose Sharks in the second round (28th overall) in the 1993 draft, Donovan played with the Sharks, the Colorado Avalanche, Atlanta Thrashers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Calgary Flames and Boston Bruins before joining the Senators for the start of the 2007-2008 season. He played an integral role in Calgary’s run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2004, one of many experiences and memories from his career that will stay with him.

“Obviously, your first big memory is always your first game in the NHL - skating through the shark’s head in San Jose, that was always a big dream,” Donovan said with a laugh. “It’s also scoring your first goal and things like that. I remember getting my first hockey card too, that was a big memory. I was at a function in San Jose and a fan came up with a hockey card of mine. I had never had a card and I was so excited when I saw it - that was a big thrill!”

“I really enjoyed playing in all of the different cities too and making it to the Stanley Cup Final with Calgary in 2004. Although, that is kind of a bittersweet moment, not winning, but in the end going there was a great memory. I really enjoyed being able to finish my career in Ottawa too, a town that I wasn’t born in but grew up in, and had lots of friends and memories. Playing with the Ottawa Valley Titans and living in Carleton Place when I was younger, I had thought about coming to Ottawa as a free agent. It ended up happening through a trade and that was awesome. I really loved playing for the Senators."
Another highlight in Shean’s career was representing Canada at the 1995 World Junior Championship and the 1997 World Championship. He is proud to have worn the national colours on the world stage, bringing home gold on both occasions.

“Whenever you can play for Canada it’s a thrill and it was something I didn’t expect when I was younger. I remember watching the World Juniors growing up, seeing it on television and thinking how awesome that was. It was in Red Deer, Alberta the year that I played, so it was pretty crazy to be able to do it in Canada - I couldn’t believe how excited people got about it.”

As a retired NHL player, Donovan has joined the ranks of “Hockey’s Greatest Family” - the NHL Alumni Association. In his new role as an ambassador for the game he loves, he can continue to share his passion for hockey while being active in the local community and raising much-needed funds for charity.

“I took some time off to start with to make more time for my family but I recently went out to a hospital event and I would like to be more involved with Alumni work. They always help out great causes, it’s good to still be involved with the guys, and they do a lot for the community. It’s nice to still be in the position where you can go out and put a smile on someone’s face. It’s nice that when you are done in the NHL you can still play some hockey and raise money and awareness for great causes.”

This summer’s hockey camps will provide the next generation of hockey players an opportunity to learn many valuable lessons from one of the greatest skaters in the game while having fun at the same time.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Will Arena And Stadium Funding Become An Election Issue?

This article was first published in the April 1st edition of Main Street Magazine and is reprinted here with permission from the editors. Drop by Main Street Week News to have a look at a great community newspaper or sign up and have Main Street Magazine delivered right to your inbox.

(Photo - TVOS)

The world of sports and politics do not often appear in the same column but as we head for the voting booths once again on May 2nd, it will be interesting to see whether using tax dollars to fund new arenas and stadiums gains any traction and becomes an election issue. While it is unlikely to become a national discussion on par with health care, unemployment or economic recovery, it could become a billion dollar expenditure when the dust finally settles on this discussion and the concrete begins to be poured. The keyword here is “discussion” - there should be one before our elected representatives borrow money to finance arenas and stadiums.

In previous columns and in a recent appearance on CBC News Now, I discussed the importance of the Quebec Nordiques returning to the National Hockey League. Replacing a struggling franchise with a healthy and well-supported Quebec City franchise makes sense for the overall health of the league. It will increase the league’s revenues and increase the overall value of the other teams. Having said that, should new arenas receive public funds as is the case in Quebec City where municipal and provincial tax dollars have already been committed to pay for the new Colisee.

If you are a Montreal Canadiens fan in the Laurentians or not even remotely interested in professional sports at all, how do you feel about your tax dollars being spent on a new arena you will most likely never set foot in? Perhaps you are struggling to build your own business during these difficult economic times, it would be fair to ask, “Where is the helping hand I desperately need?”

These venues are no longer single-use facilities; they host concerts, conventions and special events. There is money to be made if it is used to its full capacity. If a business or single-owner can afford an NHL team, they can afford to build their own arena as well - reap the rewards or take the loss, your business savvy will ultimately decide whether it was a successful venture. When using public funds the question that must be asked is, will this project be for the greater good? Is a new arena or stadium more important than making much-needed repairs to the local schools or hiring new doctors for an overworked health care system? It is a valid question, especially at election time.

So, why should this become a Federal election issue? It is not only Quebec City looking for funding, Regina hopes to build a new stadium that would be home to the CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders and the Edmonton Oilers are looking for a new home to replace the aging Rexall Place. It will not be long before the Calgary Flames are ready to leave the Scotiabank Saddledome or the remaining Canadian NHL and CFL teams need an upgrade on their current venues. If you open the door to fund one project, the door opens to all these other projects. One or two hundred million dollars for a Quebec City arena could easily become a billion dollar investment by the Federal Government when all is said and done. Ask your local candidates for their opinion, start the discussion, it is one worth having.