• As I have previously argued in THE SEPARATION OF WORK AND STATE, I believe it is unethical for companies to fire employees for morally suspect actions committed outside of the organization’s domain (unless those bad acts are undeniably relevant to the functioning of the company and/or the safety of the company’s staff or clients). My reasons for such censure of employer-delivered justice are twofold:

    (1) Employers frequently make their decisions at the behest of perceived popular opinion, i.e. mob justice (or social media mob justice these days), and so are often going to get their moral judgments wrong (as in the past when the public catastrophically believed that same-sex and interracial coupling was immoral). And:

    (2) Even if we felt the employers were infallible morality police officers, I think it is actually harmful to society to disown bad actors from all social spheres.

    For instance, if someone says something racist in their non-work life, then exiling that person from places where they didn’t exhibit racism, such as their workplace, or perhaps their community centre, is not going to reduce their racism—it is going to nurture it. I have heard many interviews with reformed KKK members, and they always explain their racist genesis in the same way: they were angry about something in their life, and they found camaraderie and acceptance in a racist cult, so they signed onto racism. So, if we truly want to reduce racism, then we should try if we can to criticize the behaviour within racist incidents (and punish it if it involves illegal acts) without universally disavowing any potential humanity in the offenders.

    However, when we say that—because a person did something wrong in place X—they are restricted not only from returning to place X, but they are also no longer welcome at their workplace, and are ineligible to return to their favourite watering hole, we are exiling such flawed beings to the murky boundaries of society where their resentment will be given sanctuary.

    My argument is not that bad behaviours never deserve punishment. Criminal actions—depending on the severity—earn one the right to temporary or even permanent exile from the general population. And, when one does something immoral, but not illegal, then—along with criticism—sometimes the bad behaviour may justify sanctions. For instance, if you’re verbally abusive to the staff at your local medical clinic, then maybe you’ve forfeited your right to return there, but that doesn’t mean that you should be banned from every medical facility in the country and fired from your job for failing to live up to the values of your employer. Instead, my submission is that punishments should stay in their jurisdiction. If you behaved badly in X place, then X place may have good reason to limit your return to X place.

    In contrast, most modern mainstream pundits (and their social media betters) presume that morality policing is the “right thing to do.” (See my analysis of a CBC Radio Q panel and their impenetrable confidence that it was morally right to fire Roseanne Barr from her fictional TV show Roseanne because of improper things non-fictional Roseanne said on social media.) In fact, such termination-seeking commentators suggest that any employer who is silent on the dishonourable outside-of-work actions of their employees is complicit in—or at least condoning of—those behaviours.

    But consider this morality tale: let’s imagine that a person has cheated on their spouse. In my view it is up to that cheated-upon spouse to decide whether to exile their lesser half from the arena in which that poor conduct is relevant, i.e. their marriage. However, while the general public may rightly believe that infidelity is morally precarious, do we really think that the cheater’s local grocery store, rec centre, and place of employment should be weighing in not only with their opinion of infidelity, but also with a punishment for it? Obviously not. To stay out of such a dispute does not mean that the employer is necessarily anti-fidelity: it just means it is not the employer’s business to investigate and pronounce judgement on what goes on in the bedrooms of their employees.

    With that example, the notion of employers acting as outside-of-work morality police is, in my opinion, settled.

    Recently, though, a more difficult question has landed on my ethics desk:

    Should you be fired from your current job for bad actions you are presently discovered to have committed in your previous employment?

    My instinct is to say No for the same reasons as above. Yet, convention has long allowed potential employers to assess our work with previous employers. That is, our work with another company is relevant to our prospective employment with a new one because it is likely to be predictive of our future work behaviour. So the question becomes: Is there a major difference between such pre-employment combing through of our past work conduct, and post-employment retroactive analysis? I think there is a distinction worth keeping in mind, but I’m not certain.

    Consider the case of Bill Peters, the now former NHL hockey coach, who has been accused of (and admitted to) bombarding one of his ex-players (Akim Aliu) with racial slurs 10 years ago (in response to the player serenading the team dressing room with rap music). Peters was then coaching a different team, in a different league, than the one he was coaching when the allegation rose up into our consciousness. Upon receiving the charge, Peters’s team (the Calgary Flames) suspended Peters from duty stating that they needed to investigate the veracity of the complaints (with the assistance of the NHL).

    Shortly after that first allegation, Peters was additionally accused by a former player (Michal Jordan) on his penultimate NHL team, the Carolina Hurricanes, of punching and kicking him and another player during a game. Peters hasn’t publicly admitted to this violence, but former players on the team as well Peters’s then-assistant coach (Rod Brind’Amour) and then-General Manager (Ron Francis) say that it happened, and that it was “handled directly” by the organization at the time (and both of these ex-colleagues say they are not aware of any other abusive events occurring after that).

    Meanwhile, before Peters’s confession to the racist incident, the Calgary Flames acknowledged that, if true, such racist utterances were “repugnant,” but that they needed time to investigate. However, some in the pundit class—who are used to the efficient work of cancel culture—claimed to be befuddled that it was taking days to come to a conclusion on a matter that seemed so clear.

    In fact, when the racist incident was still in that accusation phase, and Peters hadn’t yet conceded the point, TSN That’s Hockey pundits Frank Seravalli and Gino Reda merrily leapt to presumptions of Peters’s guilt by discussing how awful the incident must have been for Aliu. Yes, Misters Seravalli and Reda, of course being a victim of racism is dreadful (and, if the experience derailed Mr. Aliu’s career as he is arguing, then I think he should sue the culprit), but presumptions of guilt have been one of the great tools of racism, itself. So let’s not leap to judgment.

    In response to such itchy trigger fingers, former lawyer, ex-NHL GM, and present-day pundit, Brian Burke, courageously defended the Flames for not pronouncing immediate judgment, and instead conducting an exhaustive investigation first.

    “I think you’ve got to make sure that it happened. The allegations aren’t true until they’re proven. And I think the way Calgary has gone about it is very workmanlike, very businesslike. We’re going to find out if it’s true, ‘cause you’ve got to remember, first of all, a person who is accused of doing something wrong is innocent until proven guilty. So you’ve got to verify the accuracy of the allegation.”

    I admire Burke for making such a sinful suggestion in our present day accusation-equals-presumption-of-guilt culture, and to its credit, the cancel culture has yet to come for Brian Burke Esquire.

    Not long after that, before the Calgary Flames announced their official decision on Peters’s fate, the disgraced coach resigned his commission. To my appreciation, at the team press conference revealing this result, one courageous reporter, Jermain Franklin, risked his reputation to ask Flames’ General Manager Brad Treliving, “Was there any possibility at the beginning of the week of Bill continuing on as the coach with sensitivity training, and whatever he needs to go through to make him a better person moving forward, and did that change as things continued to mount?”

    The GM quickly retorted that he would not deal in hypotheticals, and that was an end to it.

    I can understand why GM Treliving avoided this Catch 22 of a question; it is not obvious that it would have been legal to fire the coach for bad acts on another organization’s watch, but it is clear that there was no way the team could have kept the coach amidst public pressure—or at least pundit pressure—to the contrary. Thus, I think it is likely that the two sides reached a settlement that the coach would resign in exchange for some sort of consideration. In fact, when asked if Peters was retaining any salary after his resignation, GM Treliving declined to comment.

    But, with Peters’ resignation, our question remains unanswered: Is it ethical to fire an employee for bad conduct on another team’s watch that the employer has no evidence has returned under their purview?

    To my sarcastic surprise, the majority of pundits that I encountered on this matter found that to be an easy one: If true, these bad actions automatically oblige an employer to fire the employee no matter how much time has passed.

    Indeed, seeing no reason to question the consequences of such a position, Hockey Night in Canada instead decided to lecture their audience with a new grand assumption—that Peters’ racist incident was evidence that hockey culture in general is a hive of scum and bigotry. To that virtuous end, the eloquent long-time HNIC host Ron MacLean led us in “#TheConversation” in which he and we were “to listen [and] to learn.” MacLean explained, “We’ll just sit and we’ll talk. And for most of us, we’ll actually learn.” That is to say, those with race-based criticisms of hockey culture were to be treated with faith-based deference, while those who might be skeptical and/or on the wrong side of pigment (such as Ron, himself) were to listen and perhaps note—as Ron put it—their “white, male privilege.”

    I would love to be on the virtuous side of this issue. But, in their zest for righteousness, many of these sure-headed pundits simplified the moral question at hand to its lowest common denunciator.

    For instance, National Post columnist, Scott Stinson, argued against the inevitable defences that he imagined would try to rescue Bill Peters. Yet, the defences he invented for himself to take on were idiotic. For instance, “What about [Peters’] freedom of speech?” Stinson claimed some would argue. To which he answered himself, “Sigh… free speech rights don’t extend to being able to say whatever you want in a professional setting without any consequences form your employer.”

    Yes, that’s right, Mr. Stinson, you have brilliantly vanquished your imaginary enemy there. But, of course, no reasonable free speech advocate would actually claim that one’s right to freedom of expression in private and in public extends to one’s workplace where one has a multitude of limitations that don’t apply when one is off duty.

    The true moral and legal dilemma provoked by this situation, Mr. Stinson, is whether an employer should be allowed to fire a person for remarks not said when at their workplace, but instead offered ten years before in the walls of a different employer (in a different country).

    Once again, the answer isn’t obvious to me either, but we will not succeed in our pursuit of a solution if we simply take on easier questions than are at hand.

    It seems likely to me that such these “fire first” pundits are trying very hard to make sure that everyone knows that they are personally opposed to racism (and, to a lesser extent, physical abuse), and so they have lost the ability to critically consider these issues out loud.

    Indeed, it appears to me the hockey pundit class in general is unquestioning of the notion of retroactive punishment because they are afraid that such skepticism would make them appear unsympathetic to victims. Such fear is understandable given that our “social justice” mafia culture eats wrong-thinking talking heads for breakfast, and tends to require full obedience in their calls for cancellation.

    There was, however, one pundit, Ashley Docking, who risked her career to ask our friend, Brian Burke, “Do you feel that people should be held responsible for things that they did [in the past]…?” and Burke answered, “Yes.” Docking followed up, “Is the problem for the Calgary Flames in your opinion, Brian, that they’re asked to potentially hand down a punishment for something that happened within a different organization?” And Burke replied, “No, I don’t think that’s a risk at all. This conduct, this language is unacceptable in any timeframe, in any place… If they verify that these statements were made, this coach is in trouble. These values did not fit with… [Flames’ General Manager] Brad Treliving, they do not fit with Flames’ ownership, they do not fit with the NHL.”

    While I don’t question the sincerity of Burke’s response here (he is not a known virtue signaller), he has once again answered an easier question than the one that was asked. Yes, of course, racist remarks go against the values of the Calgary Flames (and every team in the NHL). And so, if Peters were found to have uttered racial slurs to his players on his current team, then I’d write the pink slip, myself. However, with the evaded question here, we are again reminded of the crux of this matter.

    Do we want a society in which our current employers can retroactively study our past conduct with previous employers to determine that—although we have been good employees for them—our past sins make us unfit to continue our current contracts?

    I am still not sure.

    The axe ‘em if you got ‘em argument would be compelling to me if it were based on a concern that the formerly bad employee was likely to repeat their offences, but no such a case was made explicit by any of the pundits in this scandal. And I’m not sure if such an argument would be persuasive here given that there is no indication that Peters has continued either of his previous malpractices with his new employer. According to all sources, if Peters hadn’t been found out to have been a rotten actor in the past, the Flames would have merrily continued his employment (and would have instantly fired him had they learned from his players of any abuse today).

    According to former NHL player and current Carolina Hurricanes’ coach, Rod Brind’Amour, the players know now that they can speak up if something unprofessional happens to them or around them. “I think the players have way more power now, and they realize that. I think it’s important for them to speak out about whatever they think is important because the times have changed. They definitely have more power and they need to speak up.”

    So, correct me if I’m wrong, pundit class, but it seems that the excommunication today of Peters for bad actions committed in the past is meant as a punishment for those previous sins. He was once guilty of racism, and therefore he is unfit to be employed today.

    Again, this is a tempting conclusion, and even as I type these words, I want to join the ongoing condemnation. My concern, though, is with the notion that people who do bad things are to be forever discarded.

    It is a thin line that I am attempting to traverse because, if the racist and violent incidents happened as described, Peters should have been fired immediately in both cases. Moreover, it would have been reasonable for a new team to resist hiring Peters on the grounds that his prior bad behaviours were likely to be predictive of future bad behaviours.

    However, the distinction I see here is Mr. Peters somehow avoided dismissal on the occasions that he behaved badly. That was surely unjust at the time, but in essence—to paraphrase the philosopher Thomas Nagel—Peters was morally lucky. I think most of us can relate to catching such a moral break. That is, most of us have at some point in our lives made a moral error for which we were either not caught or not penalized as much as we could have been. Nevertheless, I’m not sure that such unpunished moral blunders should follow us for the rest of work our lives.

    In contrast, had Peters rightfully received serious consequences for his lousy choices if and when they occurred, he could then have attempted to rebuild his humanity and reputation. But, when our bad deeds follow us into the future indefinitely (whether we received adequate reprisal for them or not), it seems to be assumed that we cannot learn and better ourselves into morally decent creatures.

    Of course, some crimes—murder, rape, child abuse—should not be pampered with any statues of limitations. Even though murderers, rapists, and child abusers may in theory be capable of turning over their giant leaves, their crimes are so harmful that we must protect society with an arm that reaches far into the future. The purposes, to my mind, of such unblinking justice are that (A) even a tiny risk of recidivism is too high to justify second chances, and (B) we must deter such crimes by letting any would-be participants know that, once they take part, the law will never stop searching for them.

    So my question to all of us is this: Are Mr. Peters’s alleged crimes of crop-dusting his hockey dressing room with a racial slur, and physically assaulting two of his hockey players so serious that they must follow his career indefinitely into the future, regardless of whether he has changed his bad ways?

    Perhaps, the answer is Yes, and I can live with that. However, my concern is that these questions about retroactive justice do not seem to be considered in the public conversation whenever we discover bad deeds in a public figure’s past. In this case, the media covering this discussion almost entirely resisted noting a distinction between firing an employee for present day bad actions committed on their current job, and firing them for bad actions committed under previous employment. Former NHL star, current NBC broadcaster, and self-appointed racism-detection expert Anson Carter says, “This is not a witch hunt. If you’re not doing anything wrong, you should have nothing to worry about.” But once again the case of Bill Peters is not about him doing something wrong; it is about him having done things wrong many years ago. That may be a fine line, but if we erase it, we may all be in trouble.

  • Currently, in a bus shelter advertisement near me (in metro Vancouver, BC), the Children of the Street Society presents a picture of a teenage boy crossing his arms to form the toxic symbol of crossbones that we might see on dangerous chemical products. Below him are the words, “Know the signs of toxic masculinity.

    The term “toxic masculinity” has made me feel queasy before, but this scarlet lettering of boys brought the bile to my forefront.

    The problem, to my critical stomach, isn’t that “toxic masculinity” is a definitionally-flawed concept. No doubt masculinity is a human condition, which I acknowledge may in certain cases render itself in a toxic way. Those who enjoy burning our ears off with their frequent announcements of motorcycle power, for instance, strike me as individuals who are emitting toxic noise, and, as far as I can speculate, the behaviour seems linked to a performative version of masculinity.

    So, were we living in a purely theoretical world, where ideas had no political implications, I could accept the notion of “toxic masculinity” as a legitimate field of inquiry, and along the way, I would assume it would be equally acceptable to look into whether there exists a parallel “toxic femininity” worthy of critique.

    As Dr. James Lindsay (one of the three co-authors of the famous “grievance studies hoax” papers) argues:

    “I would like to see a shift in our [culture]—and, in particular, the culture within academia, our attitudes towards… issues of social justice, where we say things like, ‘Yeah, I believe there are issues regarding sex, race, sexuality, gender, etcetera, and I think that they’re important, but I want to see them studied rigorously. I don’t want ‘gender theory’ informing me of this… I want to see real work being done. And I want to see sociological rigor behind things before we use it to make policy decisions or institutionalize anything.’” (Intro and 1:44:02-1:44:34 of https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OD2MJZRIoGM)

    For good or bad, we do not currently reside in such a theoretical utopia. Instead, mainstream thought has decided that, in general, we should avoid generalizing claims about race, sex, gender, and sexuality. It’s not that mainstream thought doesn’t believe there are some genuine generalities, but given human nature’s predilection for tribalism and bigotry, we are wary of critiques of general groups for fear that such criticism will lead to racial and/or sexual discrimination.

    Today, the one exception to this caution is when we are talking about a group that is presumed to be privileged, and so deemed incapable of being hindered by generalizations gone wild.

    Thus, we hear phrases such as “X group of people cannot be the victims of bigotry, because they are in power.”

    Such exclusion from compassion is a familiar pattern: a society that rightly calls for the equal treatment of us all will sometimes realize that—for practical purposes—they want to omit certain people from that equality, and so the society will dehumanize the inconvenient group so that they can hold onto their call for egalitarianism (for those who are worthy) and ignore it, too. (George Orwell captured this contradiction in his Animal Farm wherein the righteously revolutionary animal leaders began with “All animals are equal,” but eventually came to prefer, “All animals are equal. But some animals are more equal than others.”)

    The notion of “toxic masculinity” is an exquisite example of such bigotry dressed as virtue. In this case, the false moral wisdom passes for the real thing because our society is so used to sexism against men that egregious examples of misandry don’t stand out. If that sounds like a far-fetched, man-spiracy theory, imagine for a moment any public campaign (in Western society) which not only centered girls’ femininity as problematic, but also pathologized it.

    In theory, there may be some general aspects of femininity worthy of critique, but how many mainstream public commentators would sit on their microphones upon witnessing an image of teenage girls being asked to confess their feminine sins by pantomiming crossbones on their chests?

    In contrast, the organizers of this toxic masculinity campaign list among their top donors a high-profile convoy of businesses, charities, municipal governments, and even a school district. (I recognize that supporters can’t always vet what’s happening with their money, but I submit that if such a campaign were about girls’ alleged toxicity, there would be a wee bit of media pressure on the public supporters to both cancel, and apologize for, their funding.)

    The unchecked toxic masculinity campaign itself reads like a grade 8 essay written the night it was due, as it fills the screen with wild, nuance-free, and often self-contradictory assertions, but surrounds them with popular platitudes to smooth out the incoherence.

    For instance, we learn that one of the “signs” of toxic masculinity is, “The reinforcement of gender stereotypes which highlight that men are aggressive by nature while women are submissive.”

    I don’t mean to be pedantic here, but isn’t that kind of what the term “toxic masculinity” itself is doing?—Accusing the male people of having a problem with over-aggression that the female people apparently do not?

    In fact, the campaign lists among the traits of toxic masculinity, “Being violent, aggressive or abusive…”

    So, confuse me, is it the contention of the stereotype-hunting campaign that only male people are ever violent, aggressive, or abusive? Even the most feminist of advocacy data won’t back up such a fantastical claim, so I think not. Therefore, in those cases where ladies do stray into such anti-social behaviours, are they being toxically feminine? No, that can’t be. That would be a sexist utterance that would get one’s organization fired from mainstream conversation, so when women are abusive, are they also exhibiting toxic masculinity? In theory, that’s not necessarily contradictory, since our campaigners do argue that gender is a social construct. But why then does the campaign seem to only target boys who are suffering from toxic masculinity? (I see no girls wearing their own arms as crossbones.)

    If the campaigners genuinely believe that the virus of masculinity is not an innately male problem, I wonder whether they need the male-sounding notion of toxic masculinity at all. Why not just discuss “toxic behaviour” and avoid the gendering of the problem altogether?

    I don’t deny that males are more often violent than are females, but there are also forms of toxicity more common to females, including the very “whispered insults” that our campaigners also suggest is a boy problem.

    As social psychologist Dr. Johnathan Haidt says of boy-girl generalities:

    “Boys’ bullying is physical… Boys are physically dominating and the risk is that they’re going to get punched… Girls’ aggression—girls are actually as aggressive as boys. There’s research from the 80s and 90s on this. If you include relational aggression, girls don’t bully each other by threatening to punch each other in the face; girls bully each other by damaging the other girls’ social relationships, spreading rumours, spreading lies, spreading a doctored photograph, saying bad things, excluding them. It’s relational aggression.” (7:10-7:50 of https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CI6rX96oYnY)

    To my egalitarian eye, all forms of toxicity are participated in—to varying degrees—by both males and females. I have no doubt that on average men and women would attain slightly different toxicity scores, but I am disturbed by the current mainstream Western conversation which reserves all condemnations for one sex (“man-splaining,” “male dominated,” “male ego,” etc), and all commendations for the other (“Because I’m a girl,” “the future is feminine,” “strong female characters,” etc).

    Meanwhile, another supposed indicator of toxic masculinity is “the perpetuation of rape culture and locker room talk,” as though there were no air to breath between those two concepts. As a long-time competitive sports participant, I have very occasionally heard locker room discussions that were more bravado-fueled than my delicate and prudish soul enjoyed, and while sometimes those rare discussions yielded talk of violence against men, I have never heard a squeak of approval for any violence against women—let alone sexual violence.

    My anecdotal evidence, of course, does not disprove the notion of “locker room talk” being a popular “rape culture” sanctuary, but if the campaigners are going to make such a profound claim about average male banter, maybe they could provide some evidence for it.

    Another sigh-worthy example of the campaign’s avoidance of nuance is its claim that a sign of toxic masculinity is “The expectation that ‘boys will be boys’ and they do not need to be held accountable for their actions.”

    I’m not a connoisseur of the expression “boys will be boys,” but, for what it’s worth, I’ve never thought it meant that boys shouldn’t be considered responsible for their worst behaviours. Instead—as with the term “kids are mean”—I took it as a general comment on boys’ nature that, when they’re overly rumbustious, we shouldn’t be surprised, because boys are like that. Far from celebrating suspect behaviour, I always read the phrase as rolling its eyes at boys, and teasing all of them for the behaviors of some.

    But even if the Children of the Street Society interpretation is correct and the “boys will be boys” phrase has commonly been used in the hope of excusing excessive behaviour, the notion that it’s been successful, and that males in general are given a pass on accountability is tough to reconcile with the “punishment gap” between boys and girls in school, and the “sentencing gap” between men and women for similar crimes. Moreover, in North America, while women have the right to financially-divorce themselves from their offspring by giving them up for adoption, men have no such automatic right, and can be forced to pay child support for kids they previously didn’t know existed (and may be labeled a “dead-beat dad” along the way).

    The accountability-gap argument is certainly a common trope in our feminist-fed society, but sadly it was discredited (inadvertently) last year by tennis mega star, and sometimes toxic personality, Serena Williams (she’s actually quite delightful when she wins, but less so when the calls aren’t going her way). As I describe in A BULLY IN MAGICIAN’S CLOTHING, after Williams was correctly sanctioned for verbally abusing an official at the US Open (calling him a “a liar,” and “a thief,”  and threatening his livelihood), she claimed that the penalization was evidence of sexism, and that a male tennis player would have gotten away with much worse. This bias accusation was an obvious deflection; the umpire was patient with Williams’s insulting tirade beyond anything I’ve witnessed in a men’s match, but far from asking her to take accountability for her lack of accountability, the feminist-fearing tennis media supported Williams’s claim of a double standard.

    Since then, commentator and retired footballer, Kaylyn Kyle sinned against feminism when she criticized the American women’s soccer team for unsportsmanlike behaviour (exuberantly celebrating goals in a 13-0 victory against an over matched opponent at the Women’s World Cup). Such enthusiastic celebrating of oversized victories is a well-documented no-no in competitive sports, but the American women’s coach (and various fear-sighted pundits) pulled out the Serena Defence and argued wildly that a men’s soccer team wouldn’t have received the same criticism for the same obnoxious actions.

    Meanwhile, Nike has joined the call for no accountability for unsportsmanlike female athletes, hiring Williams to narrate a commercial celebrating female athletes for standing up to alleged sexism, and for expressing their on-court anger as they see fit. “If we show emotion,” says Williams’s somber voice, “we’re called dramatic… When we stand for something, we’re unhinged… And, if we get angry, we’re hysterical, irrational, or just being crazy.”

    No, Ms. Williams, berating an Umpire for making a decision with which you disagree is not a principled stand: it is abusive behaviour that deserves accountability, regardless of your sex.

    Perhaps there is merit to the claim that not-so-long ago in mainstream Western society, certain men’s caustic presentation was more likely to be dismissed as them “blowing off steam,” but in today’s public conversation—where any criticism of a woman’s behaviour or argument can be suffocated with accusations of sexism—the public accountability gap is pointed in the opposite direction.

    There are, I’m sure, many flaws past and present that are more common to men than women, but some of these accusations from The Children of the Street Society strike me as wild stereotypes thrown at their toxic canvass without any concern for veracity. It’s an understandable strategy; they live in an ideologically homogeneous “progressive” community that is unlikely to ever check them for errors.

    The incoherence is most expertly rendered in the campaign’s concluding advice to boys who would like to resist their toxic programming:

    “Be an ally,” it says, “in the fight to end violence against women and girls. You can do so by confronting your own male privilege, social norms that support sexism, and oppressive behaviours.”

    The doublethink is strong with this one. In a campaign titled “Toxic Masculinity,” where young men—and young men only—label themselves toxic, they are asked to confront sexism against girls. And then, even though the campaign itself argued that one of the signs of toxic masculinity is “The assumption that real men cannot be victims of abuse,” it only asks our sinners to combat violence against women and girls.

    So the campaigners are sexist in their solitary condemnation of male people as the cause of abuse, and then sexist in their sole focus on the female victims of that abuse. And then they tie their incoherent knot together with the common feminist accusation that the very gender—which is both blamed for abuse, and undeserving of protection from abuse—is privileged.

    Now, our gentle campaigners would likely defend themselves—if they were ever asked to—by pointing out that they made sure to note that “Being a man doesn’t make one toxic.” And I appreciate the implied acknowledgment (while it lasts) that it would be sexist to define all men as toxic. However, let us not pretend that such a curated caveat would have protected a government-sponsored organization from demolition if it had caricatured femininity in this way. No amount of friendly backtracking would have shielded such an agency from being universally labeled a misogynist cult. Google would have fired them for stereotyping; the University College London would have sacked them for sexism; and Minnie Driver would have told them “The time right now is for men just to listen and not have an opinion about it for once.”

    But, since this campaign is criticizing boys and claiming to protect girls, the local TV news program, Global News Morning, invited in project leader, Hayden Averill (along with two teenage disciples), to sweetly tell us of the anti-toxic workshops. And, with a soothing voice, Mr. Averill made it clear to the Global host that the gently-spiked Kool-Aid he was providing us would be easy on the tummy.

  • Tennis mega star, Serena Williams, has titillated us with her temper on the tennis courts more than a few times in her long tenure. Nevertheless, watching Ms. Williams reclaim her position at the top of tennis after taking a year’s sabbatical to have a baby, I have considered temporarily waiving my personal embargo on the obnoxious athlete in favour of appreciating her superhuman accomplishment.

    Then this past Saturday, Ms. Williams’ took her toddler’s disposition to work with her in the championship match of the US Open versus Naomi Osaka. When, that is, Williams was displeased with a legitimate pair of code violation penalties she received from the chair umpire of the match, she unleashed at him a series of tirades.

    And yet, with magic rhetoric, Williams has subsequently convinced many that her childish behaviour was in fact the righteously passionate speech of an unjustly treated hero who is fighting for the rights of others.

    The key to Williams’ magic here is to take the incident as far away from context as she can, and to reframe her aggressive actions with minimizing, faintly true descriptors while simultaneously reinventing the umpire’s punitive response with maximizing language. And, sadly, many in her audience, including reporters and pundits, are unable or unwilling to recognize Williams’ simple tricks of language.

    So let me put the incident back into the context Serena Williams is hoping we’ll forget:

    (1) The Coaching Controversy

    Early on in the match, the American struggled with her Japanese counterpart, but Williams’ coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, had a strategic idea that might help, and so he made a fancy hand gesture towards the star.

    In tennis, strangely, such expert in-game assistance from one’s team is against the rules, and so chair umpire Carlos Ramos charged Williams a code violation warning for her coach’s attempted influence. After the match, Mouratoglou admitted he was coaching, but he argued that such infractions occur frequently without penalty, “…so,” he said, “we have to stop this hypocrite thing.” ESPN analyst, and tennis legend, Chrissie Evert concurred, “Every coach does it, so you need to re-address that rule.”

    I accept Evert’s expertise, but this wasn’t a subtle piece of coaching that an umpire could pretend not to notice; it was a blatant signaling from coach to player. So, if Ramos saw it as clearly as the ESPN cameras did, I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect him to ignore it on the grounds that the opposing coach was probably also breaking the rules.

    Williams, meanwhile, also couldn’t support the chair umpire’s decision, and she politely explained to Ramos that, “[Mouratoglou and I] don’t have any code, and I know you don’t know that. And I understand why you may have thought that was coaching, but I’m telling you it’s not. I don’t cheat to win. I’d rather lose.”

    Ramos’s reply is not legible to me on the tape, but he seemed to acknowledge her concern, and she replied, “Okay, thank you, because I’m like, ‘I don’t cheat’… Yeah, so thank you so much.’”

    So all seemed fine in love and tennis.

    (2) The Racquet Demolition

    A while later, Williams lost a point, which she would have preferred to have won, and so she released her irritation by smashing and destroying her racquet against the court. Once again, Umpire Ramos had his eyes open and spotted the unsporting gesture, and so, per tennis rules, he supplied Williams with her second code violation strike, which meant that she was to be automatically docked a point in the next game of the match.

    This did not please our hero. Williams apparently had thought she’d clarified with Ramos that she did not deserve that first code violation, and so had continued in the match under the false apprehension that she still had a free code violation warning available to her for any desired racquet-smashing.

    (3) The Tirades

    Less politely this time, Ms. Williams returned to Mr. Ramos and explained, “I didn’t get coaching. I didn’t get coaching. I didn’t get coaching. You need to make an announcement that I didn’t get coaching. I don’t cheat. I didn’t get coaching. How can you say that?… You owe me an apology. You owe me an apology. [Now shouting.] I have never cheated in my life. I have a daughter, and I stand for what’s right for her, and I have never cheated. You owe me an apology.”

    Now, I can understand Ms. Williams’ frustration that she would be punished for her coach’s behaviour (especially if she was being honest that she wasn’t aware of it). But, unfortunately for Serena, one’s coach is part of one’s team, and so, just as she gains from his expertise, she is also subject to his mistakes. (In fact, my ESPN pundits tell me that the “coaching” penalty is not a measure of whether the athlete received it, but whether the coach sent it.) Regardless of how offended Serena claimed to be, it is not reasonable to expect a referee to overrule what he witnessed just because an athlete insists that they wouldn’t be a party to it.

    Nevertheless, given both the significance of the moment and Williams’ conceivably understandable frustration at being blamed for the actions of her coach, I could forgive her a brief rant towards the umpire. Instead, though, the superstar binged on her anger, and unleashed a series of hostile sermons against Ramos, while Ramos replied only with politeness and calm.

    “For you to attack my character,” Williams continued, “is something that’s wrong. You’re attacking my character. Yes you are. You owe me an apology. You will never ever ever be on another court of mine as long as you live. You are the liar.”

    Now—whether or not Serena Williams actually has the influence to control umpiring assignments—from my umpire’s chair, her threat against the official’s livelihood ought to have earned her a code violation for abuse of official.

    But Umpire Ramos—with the most patient of expressions—nodded and turned away from his accuser when she seemed done. But Ms. Williams still wasn’t satisfied and called his attention back for more: “When are you going to give me my apology?… You owe me an apology. Say it. Say you’re sorry. [Ramos declined the invitation.] Well, then, don’t talk to me.”

    Ramos complied, and turned away once more, but Serena had a little left in the tantrum tank:

    “You stole a point from me. You’re a thief, too.”

    That was finally sufficient for Umpire Ramos, and he provided Williams the long-earned “Abuse of Official,” code violation, which—being the Williams’ team’s third code violation of the day—meant that she was now to automatically receive a one game penalty in the match.

    (4) The Magic Rhetoric

    Soon after, tournament referee Brian Earley arrived to try to calm the waters, but that is when the bully of our story turned into a magician and pulled a rabbit out of her tennis bag.

    “I know the rules,” she explained to Earley, “but I said a simple thing like ‘thief,’ because he stole a point from me. [Now crying.] There are men out here that do a lot worse, but because I’m a woman, because I’m a woman, you’re going to take this away from me? That is not right. And you know it. And I know you can’t admit it, but I know you know it’s not right.”

    I was baffled by the audacity of the trick. Did Williams really believe that after all the abuse she had launched at Ramos that anyone would see her as the heroic victim here? Apparently so. During her post-match press conference, Serena-dini tried the trick again.

    “I’ve seen… men call other umpires several things, and I’m here fighting for women’s rights, and for women’s equality… and for me to say, ‘thief,’ and for him to take a game, it made me feel like it was a sexist remark. He’s never [taken] a game from a man, because they said ‘thief.’”

    It was a beautiful rhetorical trick by Williams. Technically, yes, her accusation that Ramos was a “thief” was the final denunciation that had cost her a game, and out of context, that single word doesn’t seem so bad. But neither does “received coaching” sound so terrible without context, and yet Williams had used it as a catalyst for repeated demands for an apology. So let us play in context, shall we, Ms. Williams?

    When we place the “thief” accusation back in the context of a prolonged collection of demands, accusations, and even a threat towards the umpire’s career, and remember that Ramos did not penalize Williams a game for the culminating insult, but instead simply charged her a third code violation, which in conjunction with the two others that she had already legitimately received, added up to the large penalty.

    But the mesmerized reporters present weren’t going to interrupt their favourite magician in the middle of a trick, so Williams continued with exasperated confidence. “For me, it blows my mind, but I’m going to continue to fight for women… The fact that I have to go through this is just an example for the next person that has emotions and that wants to express themselves and they want to be a strong woman, and they’re going to be allowed to do that because of today. Maybe it didn’t work out for me, but it’s going to work out for the next person.”

    At that point in the press conference, some of the reporters on duty were inspired to applaud the teary-eyed Serena and her heroic characterization of her behaviour.

    The reporters’ apparent inability to spot Williams’ sleight of blame is baffling. They had watched a person unfairly berate another person, and somehow they had now decided to cheer on the aggressor because she was “expressing herself” as a “strong woman” as though all female exposition, no matter how hostile and unreasonable, is a virtue.

    The reporters’ empathy gap was showing. If this controversy had been the result of the world’s greatest male tennis player telling a female umpire she would never work one of his matches again, and that she was a “liar” and a “thief,” and not to talk to him until she apologized, I doubt the journalists would have been so appreciative.

    (5) The Alleged Double Standard

    This argument that female assertion is dismissed—more often than men’s—as excess emotion is a common complaint (and not only from biased feminists), and I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some truth to it in our general society. (Although, as ever, with every double standard against women there is usually a mirrored double standard against men; I suspect, for instance, that female tears call upon our society’s compassion more quickly than male tears.) But, if indeed there are double standards in our general society against female assertion, that differential is not necessarily applicable to all subcultures. Tennis is well-stocked with fiery female athletes, and so umpires with instinctual expectations to the contrary may well have updated their gender anticipations. In fact, I have witnessed many female tennis stars assertively argue their cases on court without retribution from the chair umpires.

    Nevertheless, if there is evidence that female tennis players on average are sanctioned more harshly than their male colleagues for unsporting behaviour on the court, then that should certainly be corrected, and not just for the sake of fairness to the ladies, but also for the gentleman. (If it’s true that the unruliest tennis women get away with less aggression than the unruliest of tennis men, then simultaneously the most courteous male players are having to put up with more of the intimidating distraction than the most courteous female players.)

    If indeed there is evidence of a double standard, my etiquette-cheering amendment would not be to allow the women’s side more abuse of officials, but to level the playing surface by reducing the amount of abuse tolerated on the men’s side. Ms. Williams, though, argues to rectify the alleged problem in the opposite manner, by increasing the abuse women are authorized to direct toward umpires.

    Adding more baffling commentary to the flames, retired tennis great, Billie Jean King, argued on Twitter, “When a woman is emotional, she’s ‘hysterical,’ and she’s penalized for it. When a man does the same thing, he’s ‘outspoken’ & there are no repercussions. Thank you @SerenaWilliams for calling out this double standard.”

    Again, if Ms. King has evidence of this double standard in tennis umpiring, I support her call for correction. However, this is not the case from which to launch the inquiry. The supposedly sexist crime that Chair Umpire Ramos committed here was to charge Williams with a single code violation for abuse of official, which would have amounted to simply a warning if she hadn’t already smashed her racquet, and her coach hadn’t already been caught breaking the rules.

    Even if some male tennis players have sometimes been forgiven abuse of officials that most female tennis players wouldn’t have, we also know that some male tennis players have been sanctioned for less than Williams’ prolific offering here. According to Wikipedia, the now demonized-as-sexist Umpire Carlos Ramos has called several controversial code violations against superstar male players, including Andy Murray who was penalized after calling out Ramos for “stupid umpiring.” So, to accuse Ramos of sexism for drawing a line after several doses of hostility from Williams is a hefty strain on credulity.

    What we have here is a superstar bully, who has called upon “women’s rights” to magically justify her bad behaviours. She is self-aggrandizing a temper tantrum, and we should tell her, “No.”

  • Dear NHL:

    As your leagues’ game theory is currently constructed, the teams that collect the fewest points in the first two thirds of your regular seasons—and so are unlikely to qualify for your playoffs—are better off faring even more poorly in the final third of their regular seasons. After all, if they fall to the bottom few spots in your league, they will be rewarded with the highest chance of attaining a future star in your weighted draft lottery.

    I appreciate your reason for rewarding your worst teams with high draft lottery odds: you want to give them a chance of rejuvenating themselves relatively soon so that their fans don’t look elsewhere.

    However, this noble sporting welfare system has an obvious and troubling consequence. Some below- par teams may purposely stub their own toes so that they can get access to your best services.

    Indeed, you may recall that the similarly constructed NBA recently fined Dallas Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban for admitting to telling his players to “tank” the rest of their season. Well, yes, that was wrong of him as it was very unsportsmanlike, but it was also right of him from a strategic point of view.

    I doubt any NHL owners actually tell their players to take a dive; however, their general managers are able to take the dive on their behalf. As you know, every year at your trade deadline, two thirds through the season, your lesser teams will trade away good players near the ends of their contracts for future prospects. I understand that sometimes a future asset is worth more than a current one, but it seems that some teams are a little too eager to part with players who are playing well for them only to get back questionable value.

    So, dear NHL, I have an idea. Please stop incentivizing losing. Instead, give those teams something to play for so they have good reason to try to win as much as they can.

    Here are two ideas:

    (1) Increase the number of wildcard teams who are given entry into your playoffs by adding in a short wildcard playoff round. This would mean that there would be more teams on the bubble or near the bubble of making those playoffs. These teams would thus have less reason to throw away their seasons.

    (2) For the teams that don’t make the playoffs, instead of rewarding the worst-faring teams with the best chance of winning the draft lottery, invert that, and give the best-faring non-playoff teams the highest chance of landing the next star. Consequently, the rest of the season will have value to the subpar teams and their fans as we’ll be fighting for our future even if we’re out of the playoffs.

    I see your objection to the second suggestion. If we don’t help out the very worst teams with draft lottery rewards, you worry that they’ll never get out of the league cellar. I understand your point. However:

    (A) There’s not that much difference between the worst teams and the next-to-worst teams, so you’ll still be helping out bad teams first no matter what happens in the draft lottery. And, since it’s a weighted lottery, you could still give the very worst teams a reasonable possibility of winning the lottery, just not quite as good a chance as they’d get if they’d fared a little better in their games.

    (B) With this new system, by reducing the incentive for the bad teams to give away “rental” players to the good teams, those playoff-bound teams could still try to acquire players at the trade deadline; however, they would have to offer a lot more to entice the losing teams to give up their end-of-contract players. This new incentive plan would benefit those lowest teams who would only give away good players if the future considerations offered were of high quality.

    And, with the notion of purposely tanking now obsolete, your game theory will be repaired.


    Your fan and (unpaid) advisor, Seth McDonough

  • There’s a very sweet-seeming Olympic ad campaign from P&G visiting our TV screens presently, which I must admit causes my gullible hairs to stand on end as various kid-athletes struggle against alleged bias in their lives. I feel like a truly devilish advocate to question such a compassion-claiming sentiment, but my ever-tedious brain niggles away at me every time the campaign interrupts my Olympic curling.

    So here goes. (May Darwin strike me down.)

    As far as my Olympic viewing can tell, there are five main stories featured in this “anti-bias” campaign, each serenaded by a warm, motherly voiceover singing, “Child, things are going to get easier.”

    All five stories star a mother watching her child struggle against bias and supporting him or her through it; each mom’s eyes glimmer as she sees the best in that kid. And the maternal performances are lovely and sometimes coax a tear out of my eye. Each story is then emphasized with supposedly inspirational text, such as:

    “When the world sees labels, a mom sees love. #LoveOverBias”


    “When the world sees differences, a mom sees pride. #LoveOverBias “


    “Imagine if the world could see what a mom sees. #LoveOverBias. Thank you, Mom. P&G PROUND SPONSOR OF MOMS”

    So, amidst such positive-seeming messages, I must apologize because I have two blasphemous criticisms:

    (1) I wonder why we are celebrating mothers instead of parents, in general.

    Is the campaign suggesting that mothers intrinsically care about and support their children more than fathers? Now I may seem oversensitive here, but I remind you that this campaign is applauding love over bias. And we live in a society that still treats motherhood as more valuable than fatherhood. From a biased court system in favour of mothers’ rights over fathers’ rights, to the government opening shelters for single mothers instead of single parents, to the mainstream media’s lack of criticism of such mom-centered programs.

    I would have thought that the LOVE OVER BIAS people might have considered avoiding such widespread preferential treatment. Instead, while the LOVE OVER BIAS folks are pretending to be subversive by questioning our societal biases, they are actually as conventional as ever as they merely criticize the biases that the mainstream media has identified as bad.

    (2) Now, while the LOVE OVER BIAS people are incapable of seeing anything but the correct biases that one is supposed to see, that doesn’t mean that those biases are not worthy of discussing. And four out of five of the biases seem like fair comments to me. We have a boy missing a leg trying to ski, a Muslim girl receiving sideways glances from her competitors, a poor kid putting on cheap skates and getting laughed at for it, and an effeminate boy with a black eye tossing away his hockey skates in favour of what looks like plans to figure skate. My hopeful sense is that these stories are a bit out of date, but I do think that bullies—conventional thinkers, themselves—do tend to focus on those whose cultures and situations seem different from the norm.

    But our fifth story inadvertently features not bias from the population surrounding the kid in the story, but bias from the mom in regard to the population. In this case, a girl who dreams of being an elite skier is merrily jumping up and down on her bed in preparation for a ski trip, but her mom watches on and shakes her head with concern as the warm lyric once again touches our ears, “Child, things are going to get easier.” You see, the girl is black, while the posters on her bedroom wall feature the superstar skiers of her time, who are all white. And that, according to the ad, is an obstacle to overcome.

    This notion that it is psychologically daunting to have role models who are of a different colour than you is a highly conventional claim about race that I hear frequently emphasized in the “progressive” media. CBC Radio, for instance, loves to talk about the challenge of being the only blue jay in a sea of problematic doves. Now, if that blue jay suffers bigotry from those doves, then we certainly have something to be concerned about. But what I’m referring to here is the additional claim that, even when there isn’t bigotry per se, the very feeling of being a different colour than one’s peers and/or one’s role models is, by definition, suffering a racial indignity.

    Now, I can’t prove such prejudice to be incorrect. Maybe it is difficult to be have a different skin tone than one’s cohort and/or one’s role models, but I see no evidence for this unfortunate assumption, and my experience tells me that it’s wrong.

    When I was a youngster, my first sporting love was football, and my three favourite players were Roy Dewalt, Keyvan Jenkins, and of course “Swervin” Mervyn Fernandez, who were all black (while I was white). My appreciation for these non-white athletes had nothing to with me being a racially progressive kid, but instead had everything to do with them happening to be the three best players for the BC Lions. And, since my parents didn’t tell me that that those star athletes’ racial difference from me was significant, it never occurred to me to be troubled by it. Instead, I planned to be a professional football player when I grew up just like my heroes.

    A year earlier, my family had moved to Bella Bella (a predominantly First Nations village in Northern British Columbia) where my mother had gotten a job as school principal. But my parents didn’t tell me in advance that being of the racial minority would be a problem for me so I wasn’t troubled being one of the only white kids in my class learning the Heiltsuk language from the elders. If only my parents had told me that I was experiencing a hardship, I might have thought to be wary of my classmates, but instead once again, my parents made it seem as though kids of all races are just like any other kids. So I forgot to notice that I wore a different flavour of skin from my new peers, and I even made a friend or two. Indeed, throughout my childhood, I had friends of various races, nationalities, and religions, and I didn’t think I was special for it. I just liked to hang out with the kids whom I liked and who liked me back.

    My lack of racial phobia is not the result of me possessing a wonderful colour-blind soul, it is merely the consequence of having good parents. They never seemed concerned with race, so neither was I. Not that my brain doesn’t see colour, but in the absence of bigotry and CBC Radio’s insistence that race always matters, race really is only skin deep.

    (Ironically, I notice that “progressive” pundits now describe people of colour as “racialized minorities.” I’m sorry, but it’s you, racially-obsessed pundits, who are most often racializing people these days. It seems to me that most of us in Canada agree with Morgan Freeman and would like you to treat people as individuals. But, sadly, I notice that as an adult, I see race much more than I did as a kid, because the alleged progressives keep telling me that it’s important that I always pay attention to race.)

    In the case of LOVE OVER BIAS’s young black girl excitedly planning her skiing career, the grin on her face while she dances in front of posters of the white role models suggests that she’s not at all troubled by her differently-coloured heroes. It is clearly her mother who assumes that there is something lacking in those theoretical mentors, so it is she who is imposing an impediment on her daughter where one may not exist.

    Racism is terrible. But so too is racism.

    No white “progressive” would object to being surrounded by people of a different colour (as they shouldn’t), so why do they assume the opposite is an intrinsic hardship even where racism isn’t shown to be present?

    Indeed, when British Columbia basketballer Steve Nash looked out at the NBA when he was growing up he would have seen a league whose stars were mostly of a different race than him. Quite rightly, no pundit would ever claim that the white Nash overcame a racial indignity as he made it to the NBA and won two league MVPs. So why is conventional thinking so quick to assume that black kids automatically need us to tell them they are at a disadvantage when they decide to pursue a passion featuring souls with a different colour wrapping than they have?

    If there is racism in a particular discipline, please provide evidence for it so we can criticize it. And, if there is sound research that suggests that being racially different—even without bigotry—is daunting, and/or that my parents’ racially-blind parenting was the wrong way to go, let’s hear it. Otherwise, LOVE OVER BIAS people (and your “progressive” muses), it’s time to let go of your bias about what constitutes bias, and stop racializing people.

  • I realize this is a first-world-fan problem, but the 2016 World Cup of (men’s) Hockey isn’t technically the “best on best” tournament that it advertises to be. Don’t get my grumpiness wrong, I’ll be watching as I have every true best on best tournament since I could crawl up to the TV, and (hopefully) cheering another victory for Canada (as I celebrated in KEEPING THE TORCH).

    Best on Best tournaments are a rare prize for hockey fans, because unlike the World Championships and pre 1998 Olympic tournaments, all hockey players from the top 6-8 hockey nations are made available by all hockey leagues. It has only happened twelve times before—

    Canada Cups: 1976, 1981, 1984, 1987, 1991

    World Cups of Hockey: 1996, 2004

    Olympics: 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010, 2014

    —and so has exciting significance to hockey fans (especially, he grins, Canadian Hockey Fans, who have seen their heroes skate around with the trophy eight times while the Soviet Union, USA, the Czech Republic, and Sweden, have won the Best on Best face off once each).

    But this year will be slightly different: along with the top 6 hockey powers (Canada, Russia, USA, the Czech Republic, and Finland), the NHL and NHLPA godfathers of the tourney have also invented two amalgamation groups, Team Europe, and Team North America. The former will be a collection of the best European players not born in the big four European countries that qualified, whereas the latter will be made up of the best Canadian and American players under the age of 24.

    It’s a brilliant idea (as it intriguingly expands the flavour of the competition), but it means that Team Canada and Team USA will not have automatic access to their best players, but instead, they will only be allowed to choose from their top players who are 24 years and older. This will not hurt Canada too much because they are rich with talent in that age group; in fact, I suspect the only one of the young stars who might have made the senior team would have been super rookie, Connor McDavid. The USA, meanwhile, is not as wealthy in the over-23 category, but is greedy of talent amongst the younglings, and so may be losing out on three or four names that could’ve improved their chances.

    Meanwhile, all five European Teams have been given access to their full age range of talent. Any holes in their 23+ pool can be filled in by newbies.

    And, even though, in this case, Canada is not significantly hampered given its unmatched depth of 24 and older stars, the European countries are not being punished for their lack of similar depth.

    Meanwhile, I think the Team Europe idea is masterful (it’s great to give fans from non-powerhouse countries a chance to watch their favourites in such an elite battle), and that collaboration team in no way hurts the other European squads, as they won’t lose any players to it.

    However, the tournament’s set up of a young stars team that draws its membership only from North America is clearly a disadvantage to Canada and especially the United States.

    One possible solution to this disparity would have been for Canada and the US to be given first dibs on those young stars, but then (A) the young stars team might not be competitive enough, (B) Canada might just grab McDavid when they otherwise wouldn’t to lessen the chance of North America beating them, and (C) it would have been awkward for North America to wait for their betters to pick their entire team before selecting theirs.

    Thus, the only way to make the under 24 team an equitable offering would be to make it a true young stars team comprised of players from anywhere in the world.

    That solution would have at least leveled the playing surface such that each national team (as well as Team Europe) was limited to the same elderly demographic of talent.

    But I still see two problems there:

    (1) It would still cease to be a Best-on-Best tournament as lots of stars from around the world would be relegated to the kids’ team (even though the loss of talent would be shared, certain countries, like the US, would lose more of their best players than others), and (2) it seems strange to me to force players to compete for an age-based team instead of their national squad. Most young hockey players watch their national heroes and hope to join them one day. But this young stars offering puts athletes like McDavid in the position of potentially eliminating his own country from the competition.

    The solution to me, then, would have been to quash the young star idea, and instead to have two “Team Europe”s made up of two separate geographical amalgamations of players who grew up outside the big six countries.

    And, if it was really important to the World Cup organizers to get young stars like McDavid involved, they could require every team in the tournament to have at least one player under a certain age on their roster.

    As it is, if either Canada or the USA doesn’t win, they have something to complain about.

  • It all started with referee-requested video review. As video quality and viewpoint abundance has improved, sports such as football and hockey wanted to take advantage of their many unblinking eyes to get crucial calls right.

    But, as the technology has continued to advance, sports leagues realized that there were unlimited matters that could be sent to the video adjudicators to consider. In football, it was not just whether a player caught the ball, but whether he had full control before his feet were out of bounds. The subsequent concern then became whether such constant reviewing and editing of all in-game referee decisions would slow the games down to the point of making them dull for fans.

    It was then that the notion of player/coach challenges burst into our sporting consciousness.

    For instances, tennis players and football coaches were given a finite number of challenges in each contest, such that they could request a video review of certain referee decisions. But, if their inquiry was proven wrong, it would cost them one of their challenges (and in the case of football, one of their valuable timeouts as well). Thus the challengers had to be frugal with their review requests and not spend them unless they were either confident or dealing with a crucial moment in the competition.

    Perhaps to the surprise of the sports leagues, they quickly discovered a strange consequence of these participant challenges: the option added to the intrigue of their broadcasts because the question of whether a participant should challenge became part of the strategy of the game, and in turn something for the announcers to discuss with us between plays.

    For professional football leagues such as the NFL and CFL, coaches’ challenges have been especially effective as entertainment-enhancers: football is a sport that it is divided into many individual plays that rarely last more than ten seconds.  As a result, the bulk of the broadcast is made up of the space between plays, where the strategy of the last iteration is up for scrutiny. Adding in the element of “challenges” has improved the nuance and significance of those discussions.

    Similarly in tennis, where players can question line calls just after they happen, challenging has added a dimension to the between-play contemplations: players are analyzed not only on their level of play, but also their ability to wisely risk their challenges.

    And so all was right and entertaining with video challenges in sport until the NHL tried too hard to get in on the scrutinizing of action.

    Unlike football and tennis, which are made of short bursts of excitement punctuated by long pauses for analysis, hockey is a fluid competition. This is a crucial distinction. In football, each individual play is so short-lived that all challenges of questionable calls happen directly after they occur.

    Such immediacy of fact-checking is important for athletic competitions to avoid becoming “Schrödinger’s sport” (à la that wacky philosopher’s strange thought experiment in which he claimed that a neglected cat in a covered box was both alive and dead at the same time). That is, if a play were allowed to continue indefinitely past the point of a possible referee error, we would be living in a strange Schrödinger-like condition wherein the play would be both happening and not happening at the same time. So, even though the play would have been ruled admissible by the on-field referees, we the fans would be in the constant position of wondering whether a long-earlier missed call could cancel out all of what we were witnessing in the present.

    To avoid this quantum state, when tennis players think their opponents’ shot has been erroneously called in, the skeptical player must stop the action immediately (and risk the point) in order to acquire a review: they cannot continue playing, and then retroactively request a video peak after the fact.

    Consider, in contrast, then, whether either of the NHL’s two new coaches’ challenge options lead us to action that is both happening and not happening.

    (1) Coaches can now challenge whether a goal occurred in concert with the goaltender being interfered with.

    This is an understandable question to which we want the right answer every time. If a player illegally bumped into the goalie, then that is not only relevant to whether a goal should count, but it is a question that is asked immediately after the infraction. Well done, NHL: Schrödinger is kept at bay here.

    (2) Coaches can now retroactively challenge whether a play that led to a goal was “on side” (that is, did a player enter the attack zone before the puck did?).

    In this case, a play can be mistakenly ruled on side by the linesman, and can continue for an unlimited amount of time without intervention. If, however, the attacking players eventually succeed in their daunting mission to score a goal, the opposing coach can turn back the clock as far as necessary to check whether one of the goal-chasing players was a millimetre off side. Thus, Schrödinger is suddenly dominating our sport!

    If, that is, the off side team manages to score a goal, then the game wasn’t actually happening because the goal will be called back, and all of the consequences of the play we were watching for, say, a minute will be irrelevant (and the game clock will be reset to the point of the linesman error). However, if the defensive team takes the puck away from the attackers, and manages to do something beneficial for their side (even scoring a goal), then the game was in fact being played all along. The defensive coach gets to hold onto this quantum challenge for as long as the play remains in their defensive zone or a goal is scored.

    For more specific examples, when one team has earned a two minute power play, every second is potentially beneficial, so when one of these quantum off sides occurs, the defensive team can watch the time tick down with no risk of being scored against. One of the attacking players may try out a brilliant maneuver that he’s been saving for a crucial moment, and he may succeed, only to find out that the game wasn’t actually happening when he unveiled it.

    Such a challenge option goes against the spirit of our viewing of the game. When a play is on or off side by a smidgen, the flow of the event is essentially the same whether a foot was on this or that side of the line. If the off side intervention is called as it happens, then so be it: the line was technically crossed illegally. But, when the play is allowed to go on, and we fans think we’re watching a play that’s been legitimized by the linesman’s call, our hearts and eyes are excited by each scoring chance. To have such a play finally achieve a brilliant success, only to retroactively employ a ruling that was missed much earlier, the game we are watching becomes a continuous Schrödinger conditional.

    An analog in tennis would be if players were allowed to retroactively challenge foot fouls. That is, when serving, tennis players aren’t allowed to touch the service line with their feet, so if the umpire catches the tiny infraction, then the play is stopped, and the player loses a serve (fair enough), but if said line judge misses the foul, then the wee advantage in foot position is not essential to the ongoing play. So to watch Federer make a great diving volley, only to have the play cancelled on the grounds that twelve shots earlier he nicked the line with his foot would be a sporting (and entertainment) abomination.

    Moreover, note how the retroactive off side checking only benefits the defensive team and never the offensive team. That is, when linesmen make the mistake of calling a play off side (when in fact it was on side) to the unearned benefit of the defensive team, there is no recourse whatsoever for the offended offensive team. The coaches can’t challenge that bad call because the play has already been stopped, and so we’ll never know what might have been. Many wonderful goals surely disappear from possibility each year because of this type of linesman error.

    But, given that we’ll never know when such exciting results would have occurred, there is much less embarrassment for the on-ice officials if they accidentally help out the defensive team.  (In contrast, if they erroneously allow a play to continue, when in fact it was off side, and the offensive side scores a goal, the replays will damn them because of the knowable consequences of their error.)

    Thus, it is already in the referees’ best interest to err on the side of guessing in favour of the defensive side if they’re ever unsure (and, in a game that happens as fast as hockey, such difficult close calls present themselves frequently).  As a result, many exciting offensive plays are stopped in a league that is already wishing it could talk its coaches into being a little less defensive-minded.

    (As I argued in DEFENDING THE NHL, I think off side is an unfortunate rule because it disrupts the flow of a game that is currently dominated by a defensive structure, such that goalscoring is now at a dull 2.50 goals per team per game compared to 3.53 in 1992-93 and 3.95 in 1981-82. Thus, I submit that the NHL should get rid of the rule altogether. The similarly structured sports of basketball and lacrosse survive without off side and are much more exciting as a result. But, since the NHL is unlikely to remove this entertainment-hindering rule, it should at least avoid giving all of the benefits of close calls to the defensive side.)

    At some point this season, there will be a moment that means a lot to the home ice fans: a player will score the greatest goal of his career, a long-time fan favourite will achieve a milestone marker, or a team will find victory in overtime to get into the playoffs, and then the fans will hear the dreaded words: “The opposing coach is challenging [whether a minute ago there was a technicality that could retroactively overrule the play].” I’m not sure I want to be watching when that happens.

  • As evidence for my claim in THE HUMBLE LIE that Canadian humility could be more reputation than truth if we continue celebrating self-celebrating in schools and Olympic coverage, I would like to provide me as an example. You see, although I do not believe in beating one’s own’s chest, I will now get close to it by over-cheering for the success of my own country’s hockey dominance at the 2014 Olympics and, in fact, the majority of best-on-best men’s and women’s hockey tournaments. (My commentary regarding boasting in my previous post was all just a segue to my joy in this regard.) Canada is the best at hockey, and has been for a long time as demonstrated by the following results.


    *Olympic Hockey Tournaments prior to 1998 were not “best on best” entanglements because the NHL (in which a majority of the world’s top players have long made their living) did not yet lend its workers to the Olympics every four years.

    1976 Canada Cup
    1. Canada
    2. Czechoslovakia
    3. Soviet Union
    4. Sweden

    1981 Canada Cup
    1. Soviet Union
    2. Canada
    3. Czechoslovakia
    4. USA

    1984 Canada Cup
    1. Canada
    2. Sweden
    3. Soviet Union
    4. USA

    1987 Canada Cup
    1. Canada
    2. Soviet Union
    3. Sweden
    4. Czechoslovakia

    1991 Canada Cup
    1. Canada
    2. USA
    3. Finland
    4. Sweden

    1996 World Cup
    1. USA**
    2. Canada
    3. Sweden
    4. Russia

    **This was a controversial victory. Canadian born and raised star Brett Hull (son of retired Canadian star Bobby Hull) played for the USA because he hadn’t (yet) been good enough to make the 1986 Canadian World Championship team.  Since he officially had dual citizenship because his mother was American, he thereafter played for the USA (even when he subsequently became a superstar and was good enough to play for his home country), and he refused to ever again try for Canada since they were so mean not to select him when he was starting his career. (Brett Hull’s picture is now included in most dictionaries next to the word “petty.”) Canada was up 2-1 in the championship game when Mr. Hull scored a goal that was patently illegal because his stick was at shoulder height when he touched the puck. (One’s stick cannot be above four feet to score a goal; based on Hull’s height with skates on, his head had to be approximately 2 feet long for the goal to be legal. We know Hull has a big head, but that seemed too large even for him.) Strangely, however, the goal was allowed. Later, another dual-citizenship born-and-raised Canadian, playing for the USA, Adam Deadmarsh, scored a game-breaking goal on a clearly offside play. Pundit/ranter Don Cherry of Hockey Night in Canada has suggested that then Boston Bruins’ GM (and former coach of Canada’s team in the 1972 Summit Series) Harry Sinden persuaded the officials to allow the Hull goal to stand because he thought it would improve American interest in hockey. I have no idea if that’s true, but something strange was afoot (“askate”?).

    1998 Olympics
    1. Czech Republic
    2. Russia
    3. Finland
    4. Canada***

    ***For the first time in history, Canada did not make the championship game. It should be noted, however, that Canada was eliminated in a game that was tied 1-1 after one overtime period, and which Canada was dominating (in terms of scoring chances). The epic match was stopped by international rules and decided on a shootout (which is akin to deciding a basketball game via a free throw shooting contest, or a baseball game via a bowling contest between pitchers to see who can throw the most strikes).

    2002 Olympics
    1. Canada
    2. USA
    3. Russia
    4. Belarus

    2004 World Cup
    1. Canada
    2. Finland
    3. Czech Republic
    4. USA

    2006 Olympics****
    1. Sweden
    2. Finland
    3. Czech Republic
    4. Russia

    ****I have no excuse for our absence on the podium for this one. As my sister Tarrin said at the time, it seems we forgot to pack a goal scorer for this tournament. If only Team GM Wayne Gretzky (who had brilliantly sired the previous two championships, and had played for Canada’s best from 1981 through 1998) had decided to select then rookie scoring star, Sidney Crosby, we might have faired better. Oh, look at that, I had an excuse, after all.

    2010 Olympics
    1. Canada
    2. USA
    3. Finland
    4. Slovakia

    2014 Olympics
    1. Canada
    2. Sweden
    3. Finland
    4. USA

(Giving 4 points for 1st, 3 points for second, 2 points for 3rd, 1 point for 4th).

    1. Canada (8 x 1st, 2 x 2nd, 1 x 4th): 39 points
    2. Soviet Union/Russia (1 x 1st, 2 x 2nd, 3 x 3rd, 2 x 4th): 18 points
    3. USA (1 x 1st, 3 x 3rd, 4 x 4th): 17 points
    4. Sweden (1 x 1st, 2 x 2nd, 2 x 3rd, 2 x 4th): 16 points
    5. Finland (2 x 2nd, 4 x 3rd): 14 points
    5. Czechoslovakia/Czech Republic (1 x 1st, 1 x 2nd, 3 x 3rd, 1 x 4th): 14 points
    7. Czechoslovakia/Slovakia (1 x 2nd, 1 x 3rd, 2 x 4th): 7 points
    8. Belarus (1 x 4th): 1point


    1990 World Championship
    1. Canada
    2. USA
    3. Finland
    4. Sweden

    1992 World Championship
    1. Canada
    2. USA
    3. Finland
    4. Sweden

    1994 World Championship
    1. Canada
    2. USA
    3. Finland
    4. China

    1997 World Championship
    1. Canada
    2. USA
    3. Finland
    4. China

    1998 Olympics*****
    1. USA
    2. Canada
    3. Finland
    4. China

    *****After four straight Canadian World Championship victories, the Americans took the first ever Olympics in which women competed for ice hockey gold. It was a stick-breaker.

    1999 World Championship
    1. Canada
    2. USA
    3. Finland
    4. Sweden

    2000 World Championship
    1. Canada
    2. USA
    3. Finland
    4. Sweden

    2001 World Championship
    1. Canada
    2. USA
    3. Russia
    4. Finland

    2002 Olympics
    1. Canada
    2. USA
    3. Sweden
    4. Finland

    2004 World Championship
    1. Canada
    2. USA
    3. Finland
    4. Sweden

    2005 World Championship
    1. USA
    2. Canada
    3. Sweden
    4. Finland

    2006 Olympics
    1. Canada
    2. Sweden
    3. USA******
    4. Finland

    ******This was the first and only time (so far) in history that the championship game was not played between Canada and the USA. I might have felt bad for the Americans if I wasn’t so glad to have a less scary gold medal game to watch.

    2007 World Championship
    1. Canada
    2. USA
    3. Sweden
    4. Finland

    2008 World Championship
    1. USA
    2. Canada
    3. Finland
    4. Switzerland

    2009 World Championship
    1. USA
    2. Canada
    3. Finland
    4. Sweden

    2010 Olympics
    1. Canada
    2. USA
    3. Finland
    4. Sweden

    2011 World Championship
    1. USA
    2. Canada
    3. Finland
    4. Russia

    2012 World Championship
    1. Canada
    2. USA
    3. Switzerland
    4. Finland

    2013 World Championship
    1. USA
    2. Canada
    3. Russia
    4. Finland

    2014 Olympics
    1. Canada
    2. USA
    3. Switzerland
    4. Sweden

(Giving 4 points for 1st, 3 points for second, 2 points for 3rd, 1 point for 4th).

    1. Canada (14 x 1st, 6 x 2nd): 74 points
    2. USA (6 x 1st, 13 x 2nd, 1 x 3rd): 65 points
    3. Finland (12 x 3rd, 7 x 4th): 31 points
    4. Sweden (1 x 2nd, 3 x 3rd, 8 x 4th): 17 points
    5. Russia (2 x 3rd, 1 x 4th): 5 points
    5. Switzerland (2 x 3rd, 1 x 4th): 5 points
    7. China (3 x 4th): 3 points

    I hope no one disagrees that Canada is to hockey what Brazil is to soccer/football.

  • During the 2014 Winter Olympics, I noticed a tendency of Canadian commentators to describe Canadian athletes of a humble disposition as “typically Canadian.” This annoys me for two reasons:

    (1) It seems to me that we have helped ourselves to this favourable designation by virtue of how American media (movies, TVs, journalists) tend to refer to us. The official cartoon analysis of Canadians by Americans is that we are humble, polite, and reserved (which delights me as a Canadian because I value those traits); however, while I’m pleased for our country to be complimented by our neighbours in this fashion, I think it’s strange for us to assume its accuracy, given that it’s just one country’s subjective and generalized assessment of traits they have witnessed through binoculars.

    Similarly, while I have no trouble with Americans teasing Canadians for our allegedly frequent use of the term “eh,” I am distraught when Canadians join in with “Oh Canada, eh?” t-shirts meant to entertain Americans by climbing aboard this joke as though we, too, have noticed our “eh”ing predilection. In fact, I don’t think it’s something we often do or notice about ourselves, so why do we act as though this American observation of some of us is our defining idiosyncrasy? To my ear, when we try to impress Americans by making the same joke about ourselves that they would provide, we look as though we have no understanding of ourselves beyond the limited perceptions of our big sibling.

    (2) More importantly, I loathe the Canadian pundits’ description of Canadian athletes who are polite and humble as “typically Canadian” because it is conceited for us to describe ourselves by such terms. In fact, I notice that the Canadian pundit description of Canadian athletes as examples of typical Canadian humility has become a stepping stone for the same athletes to identify themselves by these complimentary terms, which, in turn, undermines the accuracy of the humble designation. A truly humble person, after all, would not boast that they are humble (as I’ve recently learned from Uriah Heep in my reading of Charles Dickens’s David Copperfield).

    Similarly, I was miffed one day as I listened to CBC’s “Definitely Not The Opera” host Sook-Yin Lee discuss a feminist argument that one reason women in general don’t make as much money as men is because they are too humble and don’t put themselves forward (for promotions and raises) as much as men do. The uber successful and assertive Lee instantly helped herself to the benefits of the generalization as though it were a universality that by definition included herself. While officially she teased herself (and other women) for the being too modest for their own good, she seemed in fact to be delighted to cast herself in the role of the humble person who would have achieved more if she hadn’t been so soft spoken about her own accomplishments all the time. She had landed in the best of all worlds: she was able to give herself credit for humility while simultaneously boasting about it; and she did so without a tinge of irony in her voice.

    This bragging about humility worries me because as the self-celebration movement continues to dominate Canadian schools (where students are assured of their awesomeness regardless of achievement), I fear that Canadians’ reputed modesty will increasingly become a designation in name only.

    After Canada’s impressive 2014 Winter Olympic medal collection, Sportsnet offered up a video essay by one of their pundits, Arash Madani, who indicated that the equally prolific Canadian work done at the 2010 Vancouver games had “changed us” (apparently, by his reverent voice when noting it, for the better). While serenaded by uplifting music, he proclaimed that we now felt okay about going beyond our “typical Canadian” humility and “beating our chests a little” when our athletes climbed a podium. I think that Madani might be confusing the cheering for athletes with boasting about them (which isn’t necessarily the same thing); however, the fact that he, and other pundits, are complimenting Canadian fans for being more cocky worries me. While Canadian pundits seem to take pride in Canadian humility, they also apparently take pride in Canadians taking pride (in our athletes). We can’t lose. We either get to celebrate ourselves for being modest, or celebrate ourselves for learning to appreciate ourselves more.

    In short, I wonder how long the perception of Canadian humility (that we seem to enjoy) will continue if we do not nurture it with behaviours to match.

    P.S. If you’re skeptical of my complaint that there is a trend within Canadian media to boast about Canadian humility and manners while simultaneously celebrating Canadians for building their self-esteem, keep an eye out for a Canadian coffee commercial with the following script:

    FEMALE VOICE A: Welcome to Canada.

    MALE VOICE A: Canadians are so nice.

    FEMALE VOICE B: So polite.

    CANADIAN GEESE: Sorry… sorry… sorry… sorry… sorry… sorry… sor–

    FEMALE VOICE C (above an image of Canadian citizenship ceremony): So welcoming.

    MALE VOICE B: We’re definitely not confrontational.

    MALE VOICE C: But we don’t let anyone push us around.

    MALE VOICE D: You throw the first punch…

    MALE VOICE E: We will drop the gloves. Oh yeah.

    FEMALE VOICE D: I’d say we’re brave.

    KIDS VOICE A: We’re confident with who we are.

    MALE VOICE F: We’re unapologetic.

    FEMALE VOICE E: Unless we’ve done something wrong, then we will apologize.

    KID VOICE B: Canada rules!

    MALE VOICE G: We grind it out.

    MALE VOICE H: We go for it!

    WOMAN IN CAR (driving under overpass with “Go Canada banner”): Awesome!

    MALE VOICE I: We totally rock this nation.

    FEMALE VOICE F: In Canada, we love what we love.

    MALE VOICE J: And we don’t care who agrees, or disagrees.

    MALE VOICE K: Especially when it comes to coffee.

    MALE VOICE L: We like ours…

    CUSTOMER A: Good…

    CUSTOMER B: Honest…

    CUSTOMER C: And simple.

    CUSTOMER D: Thank you very much.

    FEMALE VOICE G: This is our Canada.

    MALE VOICE M: And this… this is our coffee.

    TITLE CARD: Our Canada. Tim Hortons Logo. Our coffee.

    In sixty seconds, Mr. Hortons manages to mix equal parts boasting about our gentle nature with bragging about our other (alleged) good qualities. I couldn’t have satirized the state of media affairs better, myself. I realize that Canadians shouldn’t necessarily be responsible for how an advertiser depicts our collective state of mind, but generally, I think, advertisers are attempting to tell us what they’re confident we want to hear about ourselves. I hope they’re wrong: I hope we’re no so easily manipulated by our egos.

  • On this day of hockey mourning in Vancouver after our leading hockey nemesis, Chicago, beat our second-in-command hockey nemesis, Boston, for the Stanley Cup, I’d like to distract our sorrow with imaginings of how to improve the game itself.

    Consider this: the NHL’s most well-fueled offence this season, the Pittsburgh Sidney Crosbys, averaged 3.44 goals per game. They were eliminated from this year’s playoffs by the aforehated Boston Bruins after scoring a shockingly low 2 goals in four games. The old motto “offence sells tickets; defence wins championships” was in excellent form as this sleep aid of a playoff series ended.

    The NHL knows it has a problem and is planning a few minor changes to give the ticket-selling offence a better chance of winning a championship. To create more room for the players in the offensive zone, the NHL will reduce the size of the irrelevant back side of each goal, and to create more openings between the goalies and said net, the NHL will attempt to reduce the size of the goaltending equipment (which overprotects the goalies into looking like giant marshmallow men). Sounds good to me, but when the problem is as oppressive as the NHL’s most exciting team only managing two goals in four games against the Boston Bruisers, these solutions are akin to throwing a mousetrap at an attacking shark. It’s time to go radical.

    Here, then, are some ideas (that will never happen) that could save the NHL from its own defence.

    In its elimination game, Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby (who should have won this year’s league MVP) made a magnificent pass to teammate Evgeni Malkin (last year’s MVP); the latter received the set up, and instead of smacking it immediately at the net, he maneuvered brilliantly around the supersize (6’9”) defenceman Zdeno Chara, but, upon realizing that he was beaten, Chara slid feet first in front of the play and, by the skin of his skate, managed to block the puck from arriving at the open net that Crosby and Malkin had provoked.

    In the next playoff round, Boston utility forward, Gregory Campbell similarly dove in front of a puck, which in turn broke his ankle on impact. This happens often as players are expected to “sacrifice their bodies” for the sake of restricting goals. So here’s an idea: maybe we should get rid of such dangerous and excitement-dampening dive-based shot blocking.

    It is a means of stopping goals that would not be missed: best case scenario, it stops a brilliant play; worst case scenario, it breaks the player who dove in the way (as in the time superstar Steve Yzerman blocked a shot face first).

    I understand that sometimes it can be exciting when a player chasing a shooting player dives from behind and sweeps the puck away. This could be allowed because it would be the defender’s stick that would be doing the work. However, stopping an offensive play by using oneself as a 7-foot horizontal barrier should not be allowed. Thus, any shot blocked by the body of a fallen player would be a penalty. So new rule:


    Meanwhile, when an offensive player finds an empty path to an opposition goalie but is yanked down from behind by his enemy, he is given a penalty shot whereby he gets a free attempt on the goalie with no defender. Strangely, though, in the original play, if the offensive player had been unimpeded and his first shot rebounded back to him off the goalie, he would have been allowed a second shot at the puck, whereas on a penalty shot, he’s only allowed his first attempt. Therefore, the penalty shot is a lesser breakaway than the one that was illegally taken away! So new rule:


    Minor penalties in an NHL game put the infracting team down a player for two minutes. Thus, if one has one-goal lead with only a few seconds to go, and breaking a rule will allow a team to save a goal, they’ll surely do it because they’ll only be penalized for the few remaining seconds of the game. So, new rule:


    During an NHL game, if a defending team panics because they’re in trouble and shoot the puck all the way down to the opposite end, “icing” is called, and the puck is brought back to where it was and the fatigued defenders have to stay on the ice, while the offensive team can swap in fresh legs. Good rule. Strangely, though, when a team has been penalized for breaking a rule, and so are short one player, they are allowed to ice the puck without the above rejoinder. Why? New rule:


    Presently, coaches are the biggest cause of the defence-first strategy in the game. Coaches would rather win a game 1-0 than 7-6 because it allows them to feel more in control. Thus, we need to start rewarding teams who win with offence. New rule:


    Currently, regular season NHL games are rewarded in the following way:

    Win in regulation time: 2 points
    Loss in regulation time: 0 points
    Win in overtime: 2 points
    Loss in overtime: 1 point

    This means that, if a game is tied near the end of regulation time, it is in the best interest of both teams not to take risks – that way, they can each collect their safety overtime point. To avoid this disincentive to charging for a last minute goal, new rule:


    WIN IN OVERTIME: 2 points
    LOSS IN OVERTIME: 1 point

    Presently, players such as the Boston Bruins’ affectionately identified “super-pest” Brad Marchand swings his stick around during games in such a way that it looks like he’s just being a little careless, when in fact he knows that he’s creating space for himself by being dangerous with his stick: “Oops, did I hit you in the face?” He sneaks in these sharp maneuvers in ways that are difficult for the referees to detect in the speed of the game. So, new rule:


    I’m saving my most radical for last. Currently in the NHL, no player can enter the offensive zone ahead of the puck. This means that exciting plays are often stopped in their development because a foot was in the wrong place. Enough! Lacrosse has no such offensive restrictions, and it has much higher rates of scoring. New rule:


    Finally, I’d like to defend a couple rules already in place:

    Presently, if a defender shoots the puck into the stands, he is penalized. Don Cherry and other soft-hearted media members have shouted down this rule because they say that the player didn’t mean to shoot the puck out of play. Well, as I argued in my post, “LETTING THEM PLAY CUTS BOTH WAYS,” who cares? It takes skill to get the puck out of the defensive zone without also knocking it into the stands; so, even if the players didn’t mean to do it, they lacked the skill to avoid it. Let’s reward skill, and not the players who luck out by accidentally knocking the puck out of play.

    Moreover, I call rotten cherries on this one: NHLers love the motto “If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying,” so of course, if there is no disincentive to purposely shoot the puck out of play (but merely an unwritten rule that one shouldn’t), then players will simply pretend to do it accidentally. So keep rule:


    During penalty shots, some players have taken to “spin-o-ramas” in which they lead the goaltender one way, and then circle with the puck to the opposite side of the (hopefully empty) net. Most fans love it. But there are rumours that the NHL is planning on taking the play out of existence because technically the puck has to be moving forward at all times during a penalty shot. Rubbish! Goalies win about two thirds of penalty shot attempts, there’s no need to take away the most exciting play in their rival’s arsenal. Keep rule:


    Thank you for reading this far regarding these ideas that will never be a considered. I thought it was worth a shot (even though I knew it would be blocked).

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