Archive for the Editorial Category

Edmonton on the afternoon of June 24, 2013

Posted in Editorial on June 25, 2013 by JonH

Took the day off yesterday to take care of my sick wife and youngest son. After visiting the doctor and getting antibiotics for everyone (third round for Augger–damn persistent ear infection) I went for a little bike ride down by the river valley.

The bike path in the valley is a beautiful patchwork of interconnected routes that go from the North side of 149 street heading east and crisscrossing the mighty North Saskatchewan river all the way to Hermitage park north. (The pathway actually extend from Terwillegar in Southwest Edmonton to Hermitage, but that goes beyond the valley.)

My friend Sheldon “the freakin’ bike riding machine” Smart took me for a little ride (at least that’s what the sadomasochistic bastard called it) through part of the valley and up many hills. The paths were dry when we went out on Saturday, but he sent me this photo of a chunk of the path that was overrun with water the day after.

Where'd the path go?

Where’d the path go?

It blew me away how quickly the water rose. Here some shots I took of the same area yesterday.

hmm, kind of muddy

hmm, kind of muddy


another random cyclist try to stay clean.

another random cyclist try to stay clean.

I didn’t go much further than this, but I did manage to do a few hills with some gorgeous scenery, which, of course, I didn’t take any pictures of.

To finish off my ride I took a little chew over to my buddy Neil’s house. He wasn’t home, so I thought I should take a few shots of the things around his house just to keep his neighbour’s wondering.

pretty flower that I suspect has been growing despite Neil's "green thumb."

pretty flower that I suspect has been growing despite Neil’s “green thumb.”

IMG_3976

My bike. Neil's house.

My bike. Neil’s house.

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Woohoo, Hockey’s back! But the Feeling in my Extremities isn’t . . .

Posted in Editorial with tags , , , on January 13, 2013 by JonH

Shinny!

Shinny!


With the new NHL/NHLPA collective bargaining agreement recently ratified teams could finally get to down to the business of playing hockey; for the Edmonton Oilers, business started with a bit of community outreach, which was just as much a public relations move as it was a team building exercise.

Minus 13? Whatever.

Minus 13? Whatever.

Hundreds came out to see Captains Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall lead their teams in a game that featured prominent Oiler prospects Nail Yakupov and Justin Schultz, grizzled vets Ryan Smyth, Ales Hemsky, and Sam Gagner (yup, you heard it right, grizzled) and a host of others like RNH, Magnus Paajarvi, Jeff Petry and Ryan Whitney.

Hall and Eberle face off

Hall and Eberle face off

While there weren’t any highlight reel goals or awe-inspiring moves, seeing Devan Dubnyk score a goal and celebrate by running his hand along the ice before raising it into the air, and Darcy Hordichuk rubbing Laddy Smid out along the hay bale boards were pretty good.

Hordichuk following through on his check

Hordichuk following through on his check

Overall minus 13 isn’t too cold, but when you’re standing around for an hour in the snow it certainly starts to feel a little crisp. Thankfully the Edmonton Oilers put on a good show and entertained everyone who took the time to come out and see them play.

Happy Fans

Happy Fans

While the lockout certainly did a lot to frustrate fans, it would seem the Edmonton Oilers have come a long way to being forgiven in the city they represent.

Corey Potter

Corey Potter feeding the fans


Sam Gagner: a grizzled vet

Sam Gagner: a grizzled vet


The newest Oiler weapon: Nail Yakupov

The newest Oiler weapon: Nail Yakupov

Showboating!

Showboating!

Good job, Oilers!

Good job, Oilers!

Ride to Conquer Cancer

Posted in Editorial with tags , on December 27, 2012 by JonH

Training for the 2013 Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer begins today.

Why today? Well, I need to start losing my Christmas belly, and it seemed like as good a time as any. I’ve got work to do.

The plan is to lose 27 pounds by June 1. That’ll bring me down to 185 lbs. This seems like a reasonable weight to carry over 200 kilometres.

I’m hoping to blog about my efforts to get there.

Anyhow, check out my Ride to Conquer Cancer page and help out if you can with donations, advice, and/or comments.

http://bit.ly/Ynb2fc

Go get 'em, pops!

Go get ’em, pops!

An Expensive Undertaking

Posted in Editorial with tags , on April 21, 2012 by JonH

You may or may not know, but the RogoHagan house has recently been undergoing some renovations to the bathroom in the southeast wing. This is an expensive undertaking; as such, in a bid to raise money to finish the job, we’re selling the naming rights to this unique space. Normally called “The Jon” we’re willing to officially name it after YOU if you’re the highest bidder!

Imagine coming over and going downstairs to visit “The Neil” or “The Bob”? How about “The Jimmy” or “The Frank”?

Carpe diem! Act fast as I’m sure someone is going to jump on this opportunity to see their name enshrined for all posterior posterity.

This could be your’s!

Show me the Money

Posted in Editorial with tags , , , , on November 6, 2011 by JonH

I always get a kick out of athletes that invoke God whenever they achieve some modicum of success. Why, I wonder, do they think that God is watching out for them any more than God would be watching out for the next guy? We all can’t win, so is God picking sides, or is God being used as an excuse for something else?

In a recent article I found on Fox News baseball player Albert Pujols was asked about his imminent free agency. He responded by saying, “Just like my wife says, we’re going to be praying about it [free agency] and whenever the time comes we’ll make the decision.” Despite the “praying” part, Pujols comments sound reasonable enough. That is until he blurts the next bit out: “Hopefully, I don’t have to make that decision. We’re just going to see where God takes us. I don’t want to get ahead of God’s plan.”

Pujols seems to be one hell of a nice guy. His Family Foundation raises awareness for Down Syndrome and money for the poor in the Dominican Republic. I’m genuinely impressed with his obvious sincerity when it comes to helping others, but the way he’s using God as some sort of factor/arbitrator in contract negotiations is truly bizarre.

However, let’s say for the sake of argument there is a God and that bestowing a lucrative baseball contract on Albert Pujols is part of the plan. The obvious argument would be to say why would God see fit to bless Pujols with so many riches, a wonderful family and a great career, and yet allow drug addled mentally unbalanced parents to bring a child into the world (for example)?

A believer’s response might be to say that God works in mysterious ways. A believer may even go on about the trials and tribulations he or she had endured growing up. But the mysterious ways argument is no argument at all. It’s a way of stopping all dialogue.

Anyhow, let’s step away from speculating what Albert Pujols and God discuss in order to more fully explore this phenomenon of invoking God in the way I’ve been discussing.

According to the Bible, “God created man in his own image” (Genesis 1:27); it reaffirms this after the apple incident: “men, who have been made in the likeness of God” (James 3:9), and then once again for good measure: “he is the image and glory of God”( 1 Corinthians 11:7). Based on this fact, it’s not a stretch to imagine that if we’re made in God’s image some of our greatest virtues and most noble qualities are things that God has down. Take reason for example. God would make Ghandi and Mother Theresa look unreasonable. If we agree with this, we can dispense with the “God works in mysterious ways” argument as merely a means of obfuscation and move onto some other formulation of why the world around us is as so.

For the sake of discussion, let’s base that other formulation on what the German philosopher Immanuel Kant’s called a categorical imperative. A categorical imperative can be thought of as a duty established by reason, and it can be summarized in the following three points:

“Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law;” (Act in a way that you think everyone should act.)

“Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never merely as a means to an end, but always at the same time as an end;” (Treat people equally.)

“Therefore, every rational being must so act as if he were through his maxim always a legislating member in the universal kingdom of ends.” (Reasonable people are able to figure out whether an argument is moral or not through reason alone. As a result, all reasonable people should conclude the same moral laws.)

Now granted, I understand that some will make the argument that God isn’t bound by rules that man/woman has delineated. But we did agree that God was reasonable, and we are told that we’re made in his image, so it’s reasonable to assume that God would use a more sophisticated version of whatever form of morality we, as his reflection, could come up with.

If we can continue to agree that this is the case, we’re left with one of two choices: a) God is ignoring his own decree that we’re made in his image because he doesn’t exemplify an amplified version of our most noble traits and characteristics (in this case, reason), which then draws a few of the other noble qualities like truth and honesty into question; or b) God is hands off, and we’re the masters of our own destiny.

If we choose the former, then we’re left with the troubling consequence of why Albert Pujols would be so blessed and the crack addled prostitute’s child is not. Why has God blessed one, but punished another? God works in mysterious ways. If we choose the latter, we’re left knowing that while some people may succumb to the hardships of life, others will surmount them, and that in the end we have a more active role in shaping our lives than just leaving it to whatever circumstances we find ourselves in. We’re empowered to make change and not merely slaves to some vague destiny.

In the end what Albert Pujols is really doing by suggesting that God is going to somehow show him where to go (which, will absolutely guarantee that he makes more money) is using his religion as a scapegoat. Things like contract negotiations are out of his hands. If he signs with a team other than with the St. Louis Cardinals (which is the crux of the biscuit here because if he does think of all of those disappointed fans that would accuse him of chasing the money) it’s because it was destiny. “It must be God’s plan for me to move on,” one can almost hear him say at the press conference.

Wouldn’t it have been much easier, and more honest, if Pujols had just said, “Hopefully, I don’t have to make that decision. We’re just going to see where negotiations between my agent and the GM takes us. I don’t want to get ahead of their plans”?

But I guess some athletes move in mysterious ways.

The Culture of Hockey

Posted in Editorial with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 26, 2011 by JonH

On December 12, 2008, Whitby Dunlop defenseman Don Sanderson got into a fight with Brantford Blast forward Corey Fulton. The fight lasted a moment before Sanderson’s helmet came off, and he fell. His unprotected head bore the brunt of the impact when he hit the ice. The 21-year-old lay comatose for close to three weeks before finally succumbing to his injury. Sanderson’s father and the young man’s girlfriend were quoted as saying Don never liked fighting, he only did it occasionally to defend his teammates.

Over a century before, in 1907, Owen “Bud” McCourt lost his life after an on-ice altercation resulted in severe head trauma. A quote from the newspaper at the time said, “nearly all the local players express[ed] the opinion that if the referee had been more strict regarding the rough play, the trouble would have been averted.” Considering each of the following players also suffered head injuries at the hands of opposing players that were overcome with something akin to madness, it’s only dumb luck that Ace Bailey (1933), Ted Green (1969), Donald Brashear (2000), and Steve Moore (2004) didn’t suffer a similar fate as McCourt.

Tragedy struck yet again in 1968 when Bill Masterton hit his head on the ice in a game between the Minnesota North Stars and the Oakland Seals. A recent article suggests that Masterton may have been playing with a pre-existing head injury.

Each of these deaths and the circumstances surrounding them, in one way or another, underscores four things about hockey: there’s a code; there’s passion; there’s a culture, and there’s controversy.

This past summer will long be remembered as one of the most tragic in hockey. In addition to the plane crash carrying the KHL club Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, we saw the passing of Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien, and Wade Belak. The former struggled with addiction issues; the latter two, depression. Unlike the first three men, it’s obvious these three died of something other than head trauma, right?

Perhaps not.

Recent research coming out of a collaborative effort between the Boston University Medical School and the Sports Legacy Institute is suggesting that the effects of head trauma no longer have to be as obvious as in the case of Sanderson, Masterton and McCourt.

The hypothesis, set forth by neurosurgeon Robert Cantu and his team, is that addictions, anxiety and depression might be caused in part by something called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). The Institute’s website describes CTE as “a progressive degenerative disease of the brain found in athletes (and others) with a history of repetitive brain trauma [… and] is associated with memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, paranoia, impulse control problems, aggression, depression, and, eventually, progressive dementia.”

The mere possibility of secondary effects to head trauma like this adds a whole new dimension to the discussion and raises the question of whether or not these men experienced the effects of repetitive brain trauma that Cantu’s research suggests?

By piping up regarding their roles and the effects that fighting has had on them, some retired heavyweight enforcers seem to be suggesting that there might be a correlation. Both Brantt Myhres and Georges Laraque were recently interviewed on a radio show discussing the negative psychological effects that the role foists upon enforcers. Laraque understands the pressure that some feel; and Myhres, having struggled for years with addiction, has lived through it. Each man touched on his anxieties with the prospects of an upcoming fight.

“All I could think about was that Stu Grimson was in the lineup,” said Myhres as he recounts one of the first NHL games he played in. For Laraque, it was having to face the prospects of Dave Brown. “I just hoped that he’d have a good game, so he wouldn’t be mad.”

Todd Fedoruk summarized it concisely in the USA Today: ” Could the pressure of fighting make you want to pick up? Yeah, I think that can be a trigger,” he said. “For me, it was. You just want to forget about having to fight the guy. You line up against a guy like Boogey, God rest his soul, but he’s 267. He’s a big man. You think about that a week before you fight him.”

Not everyone, however, feels this way. On CBC’s Fifth Estate, Marty McSorley said the prospects of fighting didn’t bother him at all, and he’s not alone.

“I don’t understand where it comes from ” says the aforementioned Stu Grimson. “No matter what profession you’re involved in, we all experience anxiety. I experience those same things that George Laraque and Brantt Myhres are talking about, but it’s not necessarily a daily experience. Anxiety is something a professional has to learn to manage if they’re going to work in a certain profession for any length of time.”

The Grim Reaper, as he was called in his playing days, is now a trial lawyer working out of Nashville. And although his career trajectory doesn’t fit the stereotype of an NHL enforcer, fighting was his stock and trade for over 700 NHL games. In fact, Grimson was so tough, he could literally do it in his sleep.

“I was in a fight in junior hockey once where I blacked out, and it felt like I was gone for a long time,” he says. “I recovered consciousness, and I was still on my feet. In fact my right arm was cocked somewhere up behind my shoulder and I realized, ‘wow, I’m still in this one.’ It was bizarre.”

According to HockeyFights.com, Grimson fought a total of 217 times prior to retiring. That’s almost a fight every fourth game. Ironically, fighting and the lingering effects of post-concussion syndrome are what forced him to retire. Despite that, he fully supports the role fighting plays in hockey, and he doesn’t agree that it should be vilified whenever talk of reckless head shots comes up.

“I’m not so sure that fighting should be drawn in because here it’s a different story: you’ve got two guys who both understand the risk associated with what they’re about to do. They understand it very well, but they’re prepared to accept those risks. It’s a job that they readily step into knowing full well there may be a cut lip; there may be a broken nose; there may even be a concussion in any particular fight, but that’s very different from somebody that’s not expecting someone else targeting their head. I think the point you really want to make is that we need to do whatever is reasonable to eliminate deliberate or even reckless head blows to players that are vulnerable. Those are the areas that we’ve really got to crack down on.”

Whatever the cause, and whether or not what Dr. Cantu’s research suggests is accurate, issues of depression and addiction have long reared their head in any number of sports and are certainly not the unique province of repeated head trauma. What, however, should come from this revelation is the continued need for dialogue and support for those players that might be suffering from any one of these psychologically debilitating diseases.

“There are a number of great programs in place right for any athlete that is current or retired from the game of hockey,” Grimson says.” Specifically, the collaboration between the NHL and the NHLPA called the Substance Abuse and Behavioural Health (SABH) program. This is a program that’s designed to support anybody that’s dealing with a behavioural issue like depression or a physical addiction like drugs and alcohol.”

While it’s impossible to identify any one particular solution to address issues of head trauma in hockey, whether they result from deliberate shots to the head or the effects of two willing combatants clubbing one another in the cranium, Grimson offers some food for thought on where it needs to start.

“Knowing what I know about the effects of head trauma back when I first started, I probably would have been quicker to disclose to the medical professionals that supported me what I was experiencing when I was experiencing it. I would have been quicker to seek treatment,” he says. “Now, I say that as someone that understands the culture of the game, that sounds a bit ideal. Here’s one of the problems; one of the difficulties that we face in this area. We haven’t talked about this much yet. The culture of sport, specifically of hockey, is problematic in this area. The athlete doesn’t want to disclose anything for fear of losing his spot on the roster. It’s akin to exposing a weakness to teammates. You never want to let on that you’ve been hurt.”

Bill Masterton immediately comes to mind. After a brief pause, Grimson adds, “The culture may have prevented me from doing the right thing. As we talk about the issues that are part of this debate, for me that’s one that really needs to be identified as we analyze the problem.”

Speaking in terms of the culture, for a program like SABH to work, a player needs to come forward on his own. “It’s not always easy to detect and diagnose that there is a problem,” says Grimson. “Even if a guy did come forward and he said you know what I’m really struggling with this particular area of my life, if he decides to take his life for whatever reason there is no program in the world short of keeping him inside in an institution and under 24-hour watch to prevent that.”

It’s not a stretch to think that if coaches and athletes took a different tack and began to change the culture, so it was easier for an athlete to come forward, things might be easier to rectify. “The responsibility lies with everybody. The players, first and foremost, the trainers, coaches, teammates–everybody involved,” says Grimson. “I know the powers that be in our sport are making every reasonable effort to do that.”

This can, and should, also be extended into the realm of fans and spectators. You only need to read the comment section for almost any article on Sidney Crosby’s concussion or turn to Coach’s Corner on Hockey Night in Canada to see just how entrenched the culture of hockey is in the public consciousness.

An example can be seen in part of a response to a CBS Pittsburgh article on Crosby where a reader takes issue with Crosby for speaking out on head shots and writes, “Whining and crying are not the finer qualities of a professional hockey player.” A more recent example is Don Cherry calling three former NHL fighters “pukes” for allegedly saying, “The reason they’re [Boogaard et al] taking drugs and alcohol is because they fight. You turncoats, you hypocrites,” said Cherry. “You were fighters and now you don’t want guys to make the same living you did.” This quote is particularly intriguing as Cherry claims Stu Grimson was one of the three that said it.

Discussion regarding blows to the head and fighting have been front and center for over a century. Not that anyone wants to stifle the passion of hockey, but when talk of the code and the culture are used to explain why certain things happen maybe it’s time to really look at our game, and what it is we’re teaching kids and expecting of athletes when they play. Perhaps only then will we be able to move forward and leave seriously debilitating and sometimes deadly injuries behind us.

This article originally appeared in the Fall 2011 issue of Hockey Edmonton Magazine.

Way to go SpongeBoob, you jerk!

Posted in Editorial with tags , , on September 13, 2011 by JonH

Research out of the psychology department at the University of Virginia is now suggesting that even minor exposure to the Nickelodeon cartoon SpongeBob SquarePants can make a four-year old retarded. (Oh my god, that was politically incorrect.)

Okay, it doesn’t really say that. It does say that moderate exposure (nine minutes or so) to the much loved sponge and his starfish buddy Patrick has shown cognitive impairment in the test subjects’ executive functioning.

The best part of this research, however, has been some of the responses that people have had to it. Take for example, a snippet of the commentary from the CBC’s website and their article “SpongeBob may impair 4-year-olds’ brains.”

Local782 had this to say: “never mind Sponge Bob, what about the kids that watched Caillou. did they happen to notice how much complaining and how demanding the kids were after watching him. all he dose is wine and be saucy. in the end he learns a lesson and the proper way is highlighted, however as this study suggests, most kids don’t make it to the last couple mins. ill let my daughter watch sponge bob over that show any day.” Independent research has shown that Local782’s lack of proper punctuation, apparent disdain of capital letters and poor spelling hasn’t stunted his (or her) ability to get a point across: Caillou does suck.

The infinitely right leaning RandyD said, “Whats [sic] the big deal, the left has been impairing childrens [sic] brains for, going on 50 years now.” Research out of left field has indicated that RandyD votes Conservative.

The amazingly off-topic, yet aptly named Anti-CBC: “Well the CBC DOES impair my wallet because they will get 1.1 billion in tax payers money in 2011 alone.” Research suggests that this was RandyD using a pseudonym.

The best comment, however, goes to the insightful SpidersNSnakes: “Maybe if 30 minutes of television didn’t have to contain 8 to 10 minutes of commercials, the show could slow the content.”

Good job Spiders, blame the advertisers.

Anyhow, it’s all fun and games until they release a study indicating how hours of watching the Hilarious House of Frightenstein has bent a generation of forty somethings.