By Jason Parker Quinton - Friday, April 20, 2012 - 0 Comments
A six-foot-four guard is Burlington, Ont.’s best hope for a future NBA star
Every spring, campuses are full of students anxious to return home, and Brady Heslip is no exception. What is exceptional is how he spent this spring: tromping through the NCAA tournament, flashing his signature “3 point goggles” salute, winning academic awards, and emerging as Burlington Ont.’s best chance at a future NBA star. The 21-year-old, six-foot-four Baylor Bears guard deftly abides pressures of school and basketball, and then takes the long trip home from Waco, Texas, to the suburban house he shares with his mom, where he’ll kick back and bake banana bread (seriously, his mom swears it’s true).
Heslip’s Mom, Jodi Triano, is excited for the arrival of her boy, who will breeze into the house with his “too many clothes and shoes that spill out into all the rooms.” Accustomed to the company of sportsmen (her brother Jay is a former Olympian and the first Canadian-born coach in NBA history), she says that her son, “lights up the house, and it’s great to re-connect with his gaggle of friends.” She adds, “I am most proud that he has stayed so level-headed. He hasn’t let the hype disrupt his focus.”
When throwing up his trademark “goggles” (touching thumb to forefinger, and putting the ring around his eye), Heslip could be boasting about this focus, frequently credited as the key to his ascent. With a hint of emerging an Texan drawl, he says his main goal is “to graduate from Baylor a better person.” It’s a broad outlook, but one synthesized through concentrated and dogged training, as he shed 20 pounds before last season began. “There is no secret, just work hard, eat well, put in work in the gym, and watch yourself on film—you see it all in the game”
Whether or not he indulges the temptations of Texas barbeque or Baylor’s nightlife, Brady rises at dawn to exercise, before studying, then an evening workout, and pick-up basketball—a regime he continues when home on vacation.
And what keeps him level-headed is constant communication with family, and with the people he says, “have been my best friends since we were in Grade 5.” Even when he’s only home for a few days, Brady drives to Niagara Falls to visit his grandparents. He watches movies with his grandpa, and grocery shops for his grandmother. In Brady’s youth his grandparents were always there for him (he was raised by a single mom) and even as a sports celebrity, he wants to be there for them.
“Easter weekend, he was out partying it up with some friends at Brock University,” says Brady’s mom, “the next morning he was in Niagara Falls, at his grandparent’s house as they were waking up.”
Visiting old haunts, seeing old friends, coaches, and stomping grounds—for Brady Heslip, it’s just another summer before the NBA calls.
By Nancy Macdonald - Monday, April 16, 2012 at 9:13 AM - 0 Comments
They’re our best hope, by far, for the Stanley Cup
Here we go again. With Vancouver clinching their second straight Presidents’ Trophy over the weekend as the NHL’s best team, and every other Canadian franchise failing to earn a playoff berth save for Ottawa—in by the skin of its teeth—the Canucks are the country’s best hope to repatriate the Stanley Cup. The painful drought that has kept the Cup on U.S. soil since ’93 was made worse this year by an especially grim season for Canadian hockey. Half the country’s franchises—Montreal, Toronto and Edmonton—rounded out the season as bottom-five clubs.
If it were the Winnipeg Jets or Calgary Flames sitting cozy at No. 1, they would surely be embraced as Canada’s team, the country’s hopes and dreams resting on their shoulder pads. The spring before last, when Montreal made it to the final four, almost 70 per cent of Canadians were pulling for the Habs, according to pollster Angus Reid. Last June, however, the Canucks were cast as arrogant, classless, even un-Canadian—and that’s just what Canadian media dubbed them. Things aren’t looking any better this spring.
At this stage, 35 per cent of Canadians tell Angus Reid they’ll root for Vancouver. That sounds okay until you consider that nearly half the country, 45 per cent, would prefer to see an American team take home the Cup over the Canucks, with Boston and Pittsburgh the most popular choices. “They whine. They turtle. They want referees to fight their battles,” Edmonton Sun columnist Robert Tychkowski wrote this week. “They are arrogant, they bite people, and their fans set fire to police cars.”
By Nancy Macdonald - Thursday, April 12, 2012 at 12:53 PM - 0 Comments
EXCLUSIVE POLL: Who’s dirty? Who’s admired? Who’s loved? And who likes Don Cherry?
The Canucks as Canada’s most hated team? Think again. A new Angus Reid Public Opinion poll conducted in partnership with Maclean’s has found that Toronto—not Vancouver—is the country’s most hated hockey team. It turns out Vancouver, which has worn the “hated” label since last spring’s failed Stanley Cup run, is actually one of the country’s most popular teams. Montreal, meanwhile, is the country’s favourite club.
But while Canada may respect the Canucks, it doesn’t mean they’re going to cheer for them this playoff season.
In the wide-ranging hockey poll, Canadians were asked to name their most loved—and hated—Canadian NHL franchise, to name teams they find arrogant, dirty or disrespected, and to say what they actually think of Don Cherry.
The Leafs, it turns out, are a polarizing club—both loved and hated by a large segment of the population.
When Canadians are asked to name their favourite Canadian NHL club, 17 per cent chose the Leafs. When the question was reversed, and Canadians were asked to name their most hated national franchise, a slightly larger proportion, 19 per cent, chose the Leafs.
Like the Leafs, the Habs—the country’s other Original Six franchise—are also well loved. They’re the country’s most loved club, the choice of 19 per cent of Canadians. And they are also country’s next most despised team, among 15 per cent of Canadians.
Vancouver was the favourite club of 11 per cent of Canadians, while fourth place was a tie. Both Alberta franchises, the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames are favoured by five per cent of Canadians.
That picture changes, however, when you ask only hockey fans.
Among fans of the game, almost a quarter of the country, 24 per cent, name the Leafs their favourite team, followed by the Habs, with 21 per cent of the votes, and the Canucks, at 18 per cent. The Oilers, rounding out the list, come in with 13 per cent of votes.
At this stage, 35 per cent of Canadians tell Angus Reid they’ll root for Vancouver, and one in five Canadians, 20 per cent, are supporting the Ottawa Senators.
Nearly half the country, 45 per cent, however, would prefer to see an American team take home the Cup over the Canucks, with Boston (11 per cent), Pittsburgh (8 per cent) and Detroit (8 per cent), the most popular choices.
CITIES AND HOCKEY
Canadians not only dislike the Leafs, they hold negative views of the team. They see them as weak (48 per cent), in decline (43 per cent), arrogant (39 per cent), boring (38 per cent) and overrated (38 per cent).
In a funny finding, Canadians view Toronto much the same way as their hockey team. Both the Leafs and Torontonians are seen as arrogant, dirty, disrespected and overrated.
But Canadians don’t just see Toronto and the Leafs as one and the same. The Alberta capital and the Oilers are both seen as down to earth, while the Jets and Winnipeggers are both seen as undervalued. Vancouver and the Canucks are both seen as strong, exciting and clean. Both Montrealers and the beloved Habs are seen as dirty and in decline.
But Canadians also hold positive views of the Habs, with 49 per cent agreeing it is a classic club, and 36 per cent calling it admired.
Canadians also see the Canucks in a positive light. They see them as strong (47 per cent), exciting (36 per cent), clean (26 per cent).
No surprise, the game’s most divisive figure is a polarizing fellow. Just 40 per cent of Canadians say they have a favourable opinion of Don Cherry. Among hockey fans, however, that number jumps to 59 per cent. But what you feel about Grapes seems to depend on where you live: Albertans love him most (53 per cent), while only one in five Quebecers (19 per cent) have a favourable opinion of him.
But that’s just Cherry. Canadians have nothing but love for the game’s stars. A huge proportion of Canadians think favourably of Wayne Gretzky (87 per cent), Sidney Crosby (80 per cent) and Mario Lemieux (78 per cent).
By Emma Teitel - Tuesday, March 20, 2012 at 12:55 PM - 0 Comments
The things we’re most afraid of are usually the least likely to kill us
When 29-year-old Canadian skier Nik Zoricic was killed last Saturday coming off the final jump at a ski-cross race in Switzerland, the reaction was swift and predictable. Coming after the accidental death of Canadian freestyle skier Sarah Burke in Utah two months ago, outcries about an epidemic of fatalities in extreme sports were heard far and wide. The only people who were temperate in their reaction were Zoricic’s fellow skiers. One of them, Ashleigh McIvor, a gold medallist in ski cross at the Vancouver Olympics, emphasized the misguided alarm she saw in the general public by comparing competitive ski dangers to the perils of everyday life. “The fact is,” she said, “there are risks associated with our sport and practically everything I do in life. We’re probably just as safe doing our sport as we are driving down the highway.”
Are they really?
The question is less glib than it might seem. In 1999, American author Barry Glassner argued in his book, The Culture of Fear, that the things we’re most afraid of (crime, rare diseases, plane crashes) are usually the things least likely to kill us. For example, he writes about an especially common fear: “The average person’s probability of dying in an air crash is about 1 in 4 million, or roughly the same as winning the jackpot in a state lottery.” According to Glassner’s findings, if the U.S. government really cares about its citizens’ health, it should probably abandon its war on terror in favour of a greener Earth: the average person is far more likely to die in a car crash than in a terrorist attack.
By Charlie Gillis - Monday, February 20, 2012 at 10:10 AM - 0 Comments
More kids, more rinks, and now, more popular than basketball
It was an unlikely cradle for a hockey prodigy. A sun-baked expanse of concrete, equipped with a makeshift set of boards—the haven of a passionate cadre of in-line skaters who in the mid-1990s had adapted the game of Wayne Gretzky to the climate of southern California. From the moment three-year-old Emerson Etem wobbled onto the roller-hockey surface at the Los Altos YMCA, it was clear he’d found his métier. “He just had this ability on wheels,” recalls his mother Patricia, a former Olympic rower. “It was a lot of fun to watch. But more than anything, I was intrigued.”
At six, Etem made the transition to ice, joining a house league in his hometown of Long Beach, then advancing through select teams run by the L.A. Hockey Club, an elite program based in Orange County. A stint at Shattuck-St. Mary’s, the fabled Minnesota prep school where Sidney Crosby played, led to an invitation to join the Medicine Hat Tigers of Canada’s Western Hockey League, where the 19-year-old has established his bona fides as a blue-chip NHL prospect. Last week, he became the first WHL player in 11 years to score 51 goals in 50 games. Next fall, he’ll attend the training camp of the Anaheim Ducks, who took him in the first round of last year’s NHL entry draft.
Canadians may dismiss Etem as an anomaly—the SoCal equivalent of, say, a gifted Slovenian discovered by a diligent scout. But if the growing numbers of young Americans taking a shine to hockey are any guide, we’ll soon see more like him. U.S.A. Hockey, the sport’s governing body south of the border, is on track for its fourth straight year of record enrolment, having cracked the half-million player mark for the first time in 2010-11. The U.S. has yet to catch Canada—we had 572,000 players last year of all ages, male and female. But its trend lines are better. Since the early 1990s, when the NHL embarked on its aggressive expansion into the U.S., the number of Americans playing the game has ballooned by 257 per cent. Canada’s registration levels have remained comparatively flat, averaging 550,000 over the last decade.
By Richard Warnica - Wednesday, February 15, 2012 at 2:17 PM - 0 Comments
With the Knicks in town to play the Raptors, Linsanity comes to Toronto
As the clock wound down at the Air Canada Centre Tuesday, Jeremy Lin, a Harvard graduate who two weeks ago was sleeping on his brother’s couch, looked back at his coach, got a nod, then waved his teammates toward the baseline. Set up on-on-one against Raptors point guard Jose Calderon—who had outplayed him much of the night—Lin dribbled and waited for the final shot. When a few seconds remained, he stepped forward, stepped back then launched the ball over Calderon’s extended hands. When it cleared the mesh, the game clock read 0.5 seconds and the Knicks were up by three.
In front of a near-sellout crowd in Toronto, the legend of Linsanity, by some measure the unlikeliest sports story of the year so far, was extended. In a game in which he struggled for long stretches, turning the ball over eight times and missing crucial free throws in the fourth quarter, he pulled it out in the end. Lin scored his team’s final six points. He hit the winning shot. And he did it with a swagger that belies belief, given where he was 10 days ago. Continue…
By Charlie Gillis and Nancy Macdonald - Tuesday, January 31, 2012 at 11:00 AM - 0 Comments
High stakes and big bucks lure athletes, who risk injury, and their lives, for sport
These are the days when sports confound. In a cruel split second, the steady rise of a gentle, pioneering athlete destined for Olympic stardom lurched, violently, to tragedy. Canada’s Sarah Burke, the winningest female freeskier in the history of the sport, crash-landed an alley-oop flatspin trick in a Utah half-pipe. Her death, nine days later, has given the sport momentary pause.
Burke had pulled the simple manoeuvre time and again, according to her friend, skier Peter Olenick, who was riding with her in Park City. In landing, her ski “caught an edge,” whiplashing her, head first, into the icy pipe. The impact knocked her unconscious. Initially, Olenick figured she’d broken her collarbone. Soon, however, emergency personnel swarmed her, performing CPR. Burke, who had no pulse and could no longer breathe on her own, was rushed by helicopter to hospital where Olenick, among others, began a bedside vigil.
The only word on her condition came from Olenick’s younger sister Meg, another pro skier. In a message that appeared momentarily on Twitter, the 21-year-old said Burke’s eyelids fluttered and her heart rate increased when she was spoken to. Few, even within skiing’s tight-knit community, understood the severity of Burke’s injuries. After all, they’d seen her bounce back from countless injuries, and far worse falls.
By Alex Ballingall - Friday, January 27, 2012 at 6:17 PM - 0 Comments
‘Jumping 80-foot kickers is fun to me, whereas for other people it might be a little crazy’
Montreal’s Kaya Turski won her third consecutive gold medal in Women’s Slopestyle at the Winter X Games on Thursday in Aspen, Colo. Turski is one of the shining stars of her sport, in which skiers navigate a terrain park while grinding on rails, going off jumps and performing acrobatic tricks in the air. Following her big win in Aspen, the 23-year-old spoke with Maclean’s about her love of adrenaline, the inclusion of Slopestyle in the 2014 Olympics, and the recent passing of her friend and co-freeskier, Sarah Burke.
Q: First off, congratulations. Winning your third consecutive X Games gold medal—that’s quite the accomplishment.
A: Thank you very much.
Q: I understand you did so by landing what’s called a switch 1080, the first one ever by a woman in X Games history. For people who may be less knowledgeable about your sport, what is a switch 1080, and how did it feel to stick that trick and win the competition? Continue…
By Nancy Macdonald - Thursday, January 12, 2012 at 6:05 PM - 0 Comments
‘It’s definitely a mental game’
By now, everyone knows about Tuesday’s horrific accident that left Canadian Sarah Burke, one of the planet’s best freeskiers, in a coma in a Utah hospital, her long-term prognosis unknown.
Anyone who has watched Burke’s sport knows what incredible courage it takes to hurtle oneself into the air—particularly knowing what happens when things go terribly wrong, as they did for her longtime friend, fellow skier C.R. Johnson, who died in a horrific crash two years ago. Burke, perhaps more than most, was aware of the potential for harm.
In an eye-opening interview in Aspen last year, she spoke to Maclean’s about how fear had crept into her game. Two years earlier, she’d broken her back at the Winter X Games. That fall, it seems, had done more than just physical damage. Continue…
By Jonathon Gatehouse - Wednesday, January 11, 2012 at 11:10 AM - 0 Comments
Marcel Aubut, the Quebec heavyweight who lost the Nordiques, is aiming for gold
Marcel Aubut doesn’t hide his light under a bushel. Sitting in his private boardroom at the Montreal offices of Heenan Blaikie, surrounded by sports memorabilia—a framed old-school Quebec Nordiques sweater, toy F1 cars, jerseys autographed by soccer’s Zinedine Zidane and the late Montreal Expos—the 64-year-old muses about a career that has taken him from hockey owner to heavyweight corporate lawyer to current president of the Canadian Olympic Committee. “I have accomplished so much in the NHL. I was the father of so many big projects. Like the Stastny brothers. Rendez-Vous 87. The video replay. Overtime.” It was only natural his talents would be in demand elsewhere. So when a friend encouraged him to stand for election to the COC board in 2005, he made time in his busy schedule. “He told me, ‘Marcel, the movement needs you. We need that kind of character for the Olympic movement.’ ”
In 2009, the story continues: the big man—with the equally large personality—gave more of himself, mounting a successful campaign to take the reins of the organization. “I got elected with an absolutely ambitious platform about changing things,” says Aubut. “Capitalizing on what has been accomplished, but bringing it to the next level. Making the COC more visible, more credible, and exercising a higher level of leadership in the sports system in this country.” And 20 months into the volunteer job that is now taking up most of his time, he is ready to declare himself a success. “The COC has become a 24-7 operation,” boasts Aubut. “Plus all the biggest corporations in this country are lining up with us as partners.” A “record level” of sponsorship for Games outside of Canada, even if he won’t disclose the figure. “I’m telling you, it’s three or four times more than what was there before.” On his suit lapel, a cluster of pins—signifying his membership in the Order of Canada, Ordre national du Québec, and the International Olympic Committee—sparkle under the pot lights.
These days, the COC press releases are as likely to trumpet Aubut’s milestones as athletes’ accomplishments. (The organization’s new director of communications is Stephen Harper’s ex-spokesman.) It’s all so in-your-face as to almost qualify as post-ego. But heading into this summer’s London Games, there is undeniably something different about Canada’s Olympic movement. The buzz from Vancouver 2010’s Winter Olympic highs—26 medals, including 14 golds, on home soil—has been sustained. The public and media are paying more attention. Big businesses like RBC and Hudson’s Bay Co. have extended their funding commitments through Rio 2016. Politicians continue to cozy up to the Olympic flame. And we’ve all developed a rather un-Canadian appetite for further success.
By Colby Cosh - Monday, January 9, 2012 at 11:40 AM - 0 Comments
Oilers star Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is blazing a trail for the once-dropped hyphenated hockey name
The Edmonton Oilers’ Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has been doing for the hyphen what Wayne Gretzky once did for the tucked-in sweater. Nugent-Hopkins, the first overall pick in the 2011 NHL draft, had Oiler fans wondering about his league-readiness when he was chosen at the head of a slightly weak queue, with his slight frame and his modest (for a top pick) junior stats. But the fast-thinking Nuge tore into the league like a hyena, earning its Rookie of the Month honour for both October and November.
If you like hyphens, Edmonton hockey fans have four of them for you: nobody compares with the Great One, but Nugent-Hopkins, with his puck vision, body type, and tactical insouciance, can fairly be referred to as not-entirely-un-Gretzky-like.
The young magician gives the Oilers their best-ever shot at snagging the Calder Trophy for best rookie, an award that the franchise has somehow got to seven Stanley Cup Finals without ever winning. (Gretzky was declared ineligible in his ﬁrst NHL season, having already played a full pro year for the Oilers in the old World Hockey Assocation.) But on the Internet, his double-barrelled surname makes for polarization, attracting love from fans of sweater oddities and abuse from haters who think young RNH—as sportscasters sometimes call him in the interest of efﬁciency—should just “pick a name and stick with it.” It’s probably already too late for the budding legend to take that advice. But others in the game have done so after arriving in pro hockey with compound surnames.
By Colby Cosh - Friday, December 16, 2011 at 9:10 AM - 0 Comments
Why a Bible-thumping quarterback is this fall’s most interesting sports star
The secret to the polite, positive, peppy Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow—an athlete-evangelist who concludes sideline interviews with “Thank you” and tells print reporters to “Have a good day”—is obvious if you study his alliterative name. With his incessant talk of Jesus and his grovelling humility in the face of success, he is clearly a character who escaped from the dusty pages of some old, didactic magazine for children. Somewhere out there in the fiction universe, a mischievous, unkempt Will Webow is giving hotfoots and skipping church and mopily wondering where his straitlaced doppelgänger can possibly have gone.
Double Heisman Trophy winner Tebow, drafted by Denver in 2009 amid jeers from experts, took over the offence from Kyle Orton at halftime on Oct. 9. The Broncos were 1-3 in the standings and trailing their AFC West rivals San Diego 23-10 on the scoreboard. Tebow completed just four of 10 passes, but kept it close, passing for a touchdown and running for another. The Chargers eked out a 29-24 win, and Denver fans, then still as divided as professional critics were about Tebow’s unorthodox throwing technique, chanted his name appreciatively. The desperate Broncos, figuring they might as well see what they really had in their wild-throwing, fast-scrambling, bull-bodied talent, named him the starter.
And the magic began. Two weeks later, after a Denver bye, Tebow mounted a clumsy, near-disgraceful performance against Miami for 57 minutes, falling behind 15-0. No NFL team had ever come back from such a deficit, but Tebow’s Broncos won, 18-15, in overtime. He trampled the Oakland Raiders 38-24 alongside running back Willis McGahee the next week. Then he beat the Kansas City Chiefs 17-10 at formidable Arrowhead Stadium with another late comeback; his final passing stats were a feeble 2-for-8. Same story four days later against the New York Jets, and then the week after, against Miami.
By Cathy Gulli - Thursday, December 8, 2011 at 5:33 PM - 0 Comments
Sport Concussion Library features information for parents and coaches–and testimonials from those who’ve suffered the injury
After all the attention paid to Sidney Crosby and his concussion this year, countless questions remain about the injury, and countless more athletes will succumb to it yet. For these reasons, Dr. Paul Echlin, a sports physician and concussion researcher in London, Ont., has just launched a website devoted to sharing information about the injury.
The Sport Concussion Library, launched today, features a collection of scientific studies, documentaries, as well as federal and provincial legislation pertaining to brain injuries. General information is tailored to parents, coaches, players, teachers and first responders, while education modules allow users to gauge and improve their knowledge of concussions. Even the SCAT2, the diagnostic test used by medical professionals to diagnose concussions, is explained, and first responders and health workers can register to use it online.
Perhaps most interesting of all on the website are the various lengthy and candid testimonials from individuals who have experienced concussion firsthand, including hockey and football players, cyclists, and a wrestler, plus parents of injured athletes.
“I know how easy it is to tell yourself you don’t have a concussion when you really do; I told myself that a few times,” says one former hockey player in his testimonial. “Doing serious damage to your brain is not worth playing that extra game or those few extra shifts. Concussions can lead to so many other serious problems that I personally experienced and would not wish upon anybody. A concussion is a very serious injury and should be treated that way.”
This is one more step towards making that happen.
By Martin Patriquin - Friday, December 2, 2011 at 6:00 AM - 4 Comments
Looking for the perfect workout for you and your pooch? Tether him to your crotch.
It’s an odd thing, strapping yourself to a jumping, slobbering, overeager animal for the first time. Yet here you are, about to be yanked through the forest by your crotch, harnessed to something that barks when it’s mad, pees when it’s excited and has a brain roughly the size of a plum. What if the poor bugger’s heart explodes from pulling you, a two-legged mass about seven times its weight? What if a squirrel shows up? What if your friends do?
Funnily enough, no one else here in a wooded Quebec City park on a shivery Sunday morning, their dogs duly tethered, seems to be asking themselves these questions. In fact, despite being as novice as I am, the small group that’s gathered here is almost as eager as their pets are to run between the trees, harnessed to their proverbial best friends. The act of running behind one’s dog is called “canicross.” Part sport, part group activity practised by a sprightly, spandex-clad bunch to the point of obsession, canicross is the suddenly de rigueur alternative to walking your dog. In fact, you let the dog walk you—usually very quickly.
Quebec, the North American ground zero for canicross, has Canicross Québec. The group had 16 members in 2006; today there are 300. The association is the brainchild of Amelie Janin, a 28-year-old French chemist who emigrated to Quebec that same year; Héryk Julien, who runs the FouBraque canicross training school with his partner, Laurence Boudreault, sees Janin as something of a proselytizer. “She brought canicross to North America,” he says reverentially.
By Jonathon Gatehouse - Thursday, November 3, 2011 at 10:30 AM - 0 Comments
Moyse decided she would compete for Canada in track cycling at next summer’s Olympics before she’d even bought a bike
This past June, Heather Moyse decided that she would compete for Canada in track cycling at next summer’s London Olympics. Then she went out, bought a bike and introduced herself to the sport. That is not how these things are usually done.
To be fair, the year-long learning curve is more generous than the one the 33-year-old gave herself to master pushing a bobsled before the 2006 Winter Games in Italy. Back then, her first-ever trip down an ice chute came in mid-October. Four months later, she and pilot Helen Upperton broke the start record in every heat at the Olympic track in Cesana, but missed out on bronze by 0.05 seconds. That heartbreak was more than mended by a gold on home soil with Kaillie Humphries at Whistler’s sliding centre in 2010. (Upperton took the silver along with her new brakeman, Shelley-Ann Brown.)
To date, Moyse has had fewer than a dozen practice sessions in the type of velodrome where she hopes to race wearing Canada’s colours next summer. Her inaugural ride on her new $8,000 road bike in mid-June was the first time she’d ever been on skinny tires and clipped into pedals. Yet the dream of moving from the Winter to the Summer Games is real and serious. Spurred on by another barrier-breaking Olympian, cyclist/speed skater/now cyclist again Clara Hughes, Moyse reached out to the national team and found a receptive audience—even more so after she clipped a power meter to her bike and proved she possesses some startling raw energy. “When someone walks in your door with over 1,000 watts, you take notice,” says Tanya Dubnicoff, a three-time Canadian Olympian in track cycling who’s now a national coach. She won’t reveal the exact figures, but leaves little doubt they were elite-calibre. “She definitely put numbers out that were higher than I’ve seen in Canadian cycling.”
By Cathy Gulli - Thursday, November 3, 2011 at 5:00 AM - 68 Comments
A little-known treatment by a Canadian-born chiropractor to the stars may be the key to his comeback
Ted Carrick is listening to Sidney Crosby’s heart. The NHL superstar is strapped into a computerized rotating chair that has just spun him like a merry-go-round. It is, as Carrick likes to tell people who visit his lab at Life University near Atlanta, one of only three “whole-body gyroscopes” in the world, and it’s integral to his work as the founding father of “chiropractic neurology.” He uses it to stimulate certain injured and diseased brains.
Crosby, who plays for the Pittsburgh Penguins and has been famously sidelined with a concussion since January, is Carrick’s newest patient, and this day in August is the first time they’ve met. Carrick leans in close, his balding, tanned head looming inches from Crosby’s face, and rests the stethoscope on his chest. “Let’s make sure you’re not dead.”
Satisfied, Carrick turns to the others in this cramped blue room, who include Crosby’s agent Pat Brisson, trainer Andy O’Brien and several chiropractic neurologists or studentsin- training wearing white lab coats. “He’s fine,” Carrick says. “It’s going to be good.”
Nodding to his colleague Derek Barton, who usually operates the lab equipment, Carrick signals to restart the gyroscope—with one difference. This time Crosby will be turned upside-down while he is also spun around. He hasn’t experienced this dual action yet.
Barton and Carrick discuss the appropriate speed setting the gyroscope. Then Barton enters Carrick’s directions into a computer that controls the gyroscope (chiropractic neurology uses no drugs or surgery), and tells Crosby to keep his head pressed against the back of the black cushioned seat. Crosby, wearing a grey T-shirt, black shorts and white ankle socks, scans the crowd on the other side of the clear plastic cylinder surrounding the machine. The door clangs shut. Above it, a stack of red, yellow and green lights shines while 10 high-pitched beeps signal the gyroscope is about to start. Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! Continue…
By Jonathon Gatehouse - Thursday, October 6, 2011 at 9:20 AM - 3 Comments
Once an equipment manager, Craig Heisinger is now the ‘conscience’ of the reborn jets.
Fifteen years ago, he was the one who turned out the lights. That April night, after the Winnipeg Jets had been knocked out of the 1996 playoffs, losing 4-1 at home to Detroit and bidding adieu to the NHL, it was Craig Heisinger who stood by himself in the dressing room, long after the last fan and player had disappeared. As the team’s equipment manager, it was his job to wash the jerseys, air out the gear, vacuum the rug, and lock the door behind him. By then, he had decided he wasn’t going to follow the franchise to Phoenix. Uprooting his wife and four young kids—three then still in diapers—from their hometown and extended family simply didn’t feel right. So “Zinger” did the only thing he could: he shed a few tears and moved on.
Last June, he was crying again, but this time he wasn’t alone. At the podium, in front of the media and hockey fans across the nation, the now 48-year-old was named senior vice-president and director of hockey operations/assistant general manager of the reborn Winnipeg Jets, a title so unwieldy that he jokes about getting a fold-out business card. Barely able to choke out the words, he thanked Mark Chipman, the team’s co-owner, for “taking a chance” on him. He thanked local fans for letting so many players, coaches and managers—himself included—“cut their teeth” with the AHL Manitoba Moose during the city’s decade-and-a-half in hockey purgatory. And he finally let himself believe that what seemed impossible was now true. Even as an insider in True North, the group that brought the NHL back to the Prairies, Heisinger played the doubting Thomas, steeling himself against another disappointment. “I never really bought in. I knew all the work going on behind the scenes, but I never thought it would come to fruition,” he says, as he sits in his office hours before the transplanted franchise’s first exhibition game. “I couldn’t convince myself that they wanted another team in Canada. I just couldn’t see it.”
Yet as of last May 31, it is real. What once was lost has been found; giving back to a city—and a country—something more profound than a place name in the standings. Proof that bigger isn’t necessarily better. That passion can count for more than dollars. That the game we claim still belongs to us.
By Charlie Gillis - Monday, October 3, 2011 at 9:40 AM - 0 Comments
Even today, racism creeps into the NHL
Time was, Canadians looked upon race-baiting in the U.S. South with a sense of bemused pity, smug in our belief that such attitudes could never take root here. Today, we might consider the following question: where in contemporary America would a fan think it funny to throw a banana at a black athlete?
The hockey world was suitably revolted last week after someone did just that during an NHL exhibition game in London, Ont., in a bid to rattle Philadelphia’s Wayne Simmonds, who was taking his turn in the shootout. “Disappointing,” “despicable” and “disheartening” were the labels chosen by former goaltender Kevin Weekes, who is black. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman insisted that the unidentified culprit “is in no way representative of our fans.”
Well, not all of them. Simmonds, who grew up in Scarborough, Ont., told reporters afterwards that he’d experienced racism in the game before (ironically, he is alleged to have used a homophobic slur in play five days later). Weekes himself was the target of a banana-tossing incident in Montreal in 2002, while junior hockey crowds in Quebec have been known to mock Aboriginal players with war whoops and bow-and-arrow mimes.
By Adam Gopnik - Tuesday, September 27, 2011 at 9:00 AM - 2 Comments
And how a good mind can turn the game upside down
John Kenneth Galbraith, Martin Luther King Jr., Claude Lévi-Strauss, Margaret Atwood: the luminaries who have delivered the annual CBC Massey Lectures since 1961 are luminous indeed. They are an integral “part of the intellectual life of the nation,” in the words of CBC executive producer Bernie Lucht. This year’s speaker—“deeply honoured and deeply terrified” at being selected for the 50th anniversary—is Adam Gopnik, New Yorker staff writer, author and honorary Canadian. Born in Philadelphia, Gopnik lived in Montreal from the ages of 10 to 25, when he “experienced every significant thing that can happen to a human in those years, from falling in love to being rejected in love,” not to mention becoming a diehard Canadiens fan.
Gopnik’s topic is winter: “I wanted something Canadian but not narrowly Canadian, something that would bring in art, music and sport from across the world.” He offers an engaging account of the artists, composers, writers and intellectuals who invented the modern idea of winter, but the real passion lies in his sports lecture, especially when Gopnik discusses the only game that really matters in this country. His take on hockey describes how, in Montreal over a century ago, the French-Canadian demand for style and skill and the English-Canadian interest in playing rugby on ice saw the fusion of brutality and grace into a game of beauty.
This year’s lectures are scheduled for Montreal (Oct. 12), Halifax (Oct. 14), Edmonton (Oct. 21), Vancouver (Oct. 23) and Toronto (Oct. 26), and will be broadcast on CBC Radio’s Ideas Nov. 7 to 11. A book of Gopnik’s lectures will be published by House of Anansi Press. BRIAN BETHUNE
By Jonathon Gatehouse - Wednesday, September 21, 2011 at 6:20 AM - 1 Comment
Wrestling legend Abdullah the Butcher may cut himself, but he claims he didn’t give rival Devon Nicholson hepatitis C
His large bald head is covered with scars. The deep vertical grooves on top were self-inflicted—or at least, consensual, by the sure, drive-my-head-into-the-ring-post standards of his profession. Others testify to the passions Larry Shreve, a.k.a. Abdullah the Butcher, a.k.a. the Madman from the Sudan, a.k.a. Kuroi Jujutsushi (the Black Wizard), was able to arouse outside the squared circle. Like the pink line linking his temple to his left ear, courtesy of a folding metal chair thrown by a fan of one of his opponents. Just don’t ask to see where the little old lady once stabbed the blubbery 400-lb. behemoth with a hatpin.
In a career that has stretched 50 years, the Windsor, Ont., native became a superstar in professional wrestling, frightening crowds from Truro to Tokyo with his predictably unpredictable behaviour. Wild-eyed and gibbering in pidgin English, he’d eat paper, bite the heads off of snakes and chickens, and stab opponents with his trademark fork. But mostly Abdullah—Abby to his friends—would bleed. Copious amounts of what wrestlers call “the juice,” set free by surreptitious razor nicks to his head. By the end of a match, Shreve was almost guaranteed to be a gory mess, slick and glistening under the TV lights. So too his grappling partners. Now 70, he can’t really remember the first occasion—or even guess how many times—he cut himself for an audience. He just knows his entire career was based upon such mutilations. “I did it because I wanted to draw people. To give them a good match,” he says from his Atlanta home. “Violence: that’s what they want.”
Lately, however, blood has come to represent something else to the Butcher—an all-too-real threat to his finances and faux-sporting legacy. This past spring, just before his induction to the WWE Hall of Fame, an Ottawa wrestler alleged that he contracted hepatitis C during a 2007 match against Abdullah. Devon Nicholson, who had been building a following as another madman, “Hannibal,” claimed Shreve had cut him without permission, transmitting the disease via a razor blade he had already used on himself. In June, Nicholson filed a $6.5-million negligence suit in Ontario Superior Court, saying the illness cost him a shot at the World Wrestling Entertainment big time, and prematurely ended his career. This past week, Shreve’s Ontario lawyer filed a defence denying the claims and countering that Nicholson, who staged the bouts, not only consented to his injuries, but is himself responsible for the illness through his own negligence.
By Colby Cosh - Friday, September 16, 2011 at 10:40 AM - 0 Comments
The Lokomotiv Yaroslavl tragedy was devastating, but not unpredictable
The catastrophe that annihilated Russian hockey team Lokomotiv Yaroslavl last week was terrible—but not unthinkable. Every top athlete with any significant service time has air-charter horror stories, and while the major North American pro sports have been spared, it is by the narrowest of margins.
In 2009, litigation surrounding the bankruptcy and aborted sale of the Phoenix Coyotes led to the NHL’s hitherto closely guarded bylaws being put on the public record. Those bylaws include an “Emergency Rehabilitation Plan” (ERP) that activates if an NHL club loses five or more players to death or disability in a single incident. Each team is required under the bylaw to carry a catastrophe-insurance policy of $1 million per lost player. The plan foresees an initial, voluntary effort to bring the affected team back up to playing strength, with the insurance money being used to bid for players in outright sale.
Remaining roster holes would be filled in an “ERP draft,” with the other teams protecting one goalie and 10 skaters. Only one player per contributing team could be sold or claimed, and the drafting club would be allowed to replace its losses only on a position-by-position basis. It’s a fascinating exercise for hockey fans to imagine—and one they hope never to see performed.
By Charlie Gillis - Friday, September 9, 2011 at 10:00 AM - 17 Comments
The night before he was found dead of a suspected suicide, the former NHL enforcer was out on the town and in good spirits
In broadcasting, as in hockey, reliability ranks high on the list of professional virtues. Dead air or squandered studio time are radio sins on par with an empty dressing-room stall before practice. The responsible party can expect retribution and, if he keeps it up, a ticket to the bush leagues.
Some athletes-cum-commentators take a while to grasp that, so the text Wade Belak sent Jeremy Bennefield last Tuesday night came as reassurance to the Nashville radio producer, who had been tasked with grooming the former NHL tough guy to host a weekly show on an all-sports FM station. “I’ll be there on Friday night,” wrote Belak, who was in Toronto at the time. “Staying until Sunday. Any way we can tape a show in that time slot?” The time signature on the message read 11:29 p.m. ET. Bennefield didn’t pick it up until 9:15 a.m. the following day, and he made sure to fire off a quick reply: “Yes, we’ll make it work.”
Three hours later, Belak was found hanging in his hotel room in downtown Toronto, the victim of an apparent suicide (though authorities have not confirmed the cause of death). And Bennefield has been pondering that text exchange ever since.“Somebody actually asked me whether I thought this was a reach-out,” he says from Nashville. “You know: whether Wade was seeking some sort of reassurance that he had something to live for.” But that doesn’t square with the man he had seen at a taping just days earlier, ribbing staff at 102.5 The Game, cracking jokes at his own expense. While recording the inaugural episode of his weekly show and podcast “The Game Changer,” the 35-year-old had enthused about setting down roots in Nashville, where he’d just wound down his playing career. “Based on my conversations with him, based on the texts that I got hours before the fact,” he says, “my impression is this wasn’t a guy looking for a way out.”
By Cathy Gulli - Wednesday, September 7, 2011 at 4:22 PM - 6 Comments
The Penguins superstar says the league isn’t doing enough to take head shots out of the game
After months of intense speculation about whether or not Sidney Crosby will return to play when the NHL season resumes on Oct. 6, the Pittsburgh Penguins captain broke his silence on Wedensday—but failed to quell the questions about how much longer this concussion will haunt him.
In a meeting space that smelled like a hockey locker room inside the Consol Energy Center, Crosby, his two concussion specialists, and Penguins GM Ray Shero faced more than 60 reporters and a dozen cameras to emphasize yet again that there is no fixed date for when the superstar will get back in the game. Continue…
By Alex Ballingall - Monday, August 29, 2011 at 10:45 AM - 0 Comments
Corporate types are turning to martial arts looking for stress relief—and a good, new-fashioned fight
Down a nearly deserted back alley in Toronto’s east end, behind an unmarked blue door, Ilia Danef is going through his regular morning routine. He changes out of his dress pants into a pair of athletic shorts, then drops to the floor and starts doing push-ups on a mat. Next he gets up, wraps his hands in red cloth and pops a rubber mouthguard over his teeth. Minutes later, Danef is getting punched in the face.
This isn’t how most 40-year-old corporate lawyers start their mornings—but then, Danef isn’t your typical suit. He’s a practising Muay Thai fighter with a brown belt in karate, and part of a growing trend: more and more otherwise regular people are spending much of their spare time training in martial arts gyms across the country. They aren’t just doing it to lose weight or get fit. People like Danef—with families, gruelling workweeks and other responsibilities—train to fight.
“It’s a completely different lifestyle than I’m used to,” admits Danef, a partner at Heenan Blaikie, one of Canada’s largest law firms. He’s a mild-mannered and approachable man who, despite being officially “over the hill,” looks decidedly youthful.
By Cigdem Iltan - Thursday, August 18, 2011 at 10:05 AM - 0 Comments
The Spartan Death Race, one of the toughest physical tests on Earth, attracts “lunatics”
While this year’s Spartan Death Race competitors included everyone from marines to doctors, firefighters and teachers, race co-founder Andy Weinberg says the 155 participants had at least one thing in common: “It’s a small, intimate group of lunatics.” They gathered in the forested mountains of central Vermont this summer to spend 45 straight hours testing the limits of their physical and mental strength, but only after they had signed off on a concise, chilling waiver: you may die.
While no one died on the course, there were plenty of broken bones, gashes and hypothermia cases. One woman was taken away in an ambulance after she was found knocked out in the woods. The range of injuries isn’t surprising given the tasks assigned: swimming in 10° C water, crawling under a maze of barbed wire, hiking upstream through chest-deep river rapids, doing hundreds of squats with a boulder and dragging a log up a snarled mountain trail, to name a few. Veteran adventure racers Weinberg and Joe DeSena say they conceived the Death Race six years ago to fill a void they saw in the endurance racing world. There are no water stations; competitors carry their own. And there is no start or finish line; every element of the obstacle course is a surprise. The race is designed to emulate life, they say. “They have no clue what’s going to be thrown at them the weekend of the race,” Weinberg says. “We try to frustrate them, we try to break them down mentally.” Most don’t make it to the end: Weinberg boasts a 10 to 20 per cent finish rate. The annual Death Race is part of a growing trend of fitness and adventure events that make marathons look like grade school cross-country runs. Others include the Antarctic Ice 100-km race and the 217-km Badwater Ultramarathon, which stretches from Death Valley to Mount Whitney, in California.
In the months leading up to the event, 29-year-old Montreal lawyer Dan Grodinsky chopped wood, attracted stares sprinting up and down Mount Royal with a backpack full of weights, and watched YouTube videos that taught skills such as how to pack a parachute, should he have to jump out of a plane. Since the race itinerary is kept secret, participants have to use their imaginations to prepare. “They think I’m nuts,” Grodinsky said of his friends and family, before the race. “I don’t think a single one of them really understands why I’m trying to do this. But I’m not sure I do either.” He registered after completing the Spartan Sprint and Super Spartan, which are sister events geared to more average athletes that take place several times a year, including in Canada.’