23 May 2014

Something to talk about

Almost forgot about having this blog....and since I really want to get back to my passion of journalism, I figured it was time to resurrect it.

To restart things, I will focus on some sports items that have come to forefront recently.

NHL Playoffs (aka terribly inconsistent officiating)

Most of my friends, plus a few others, know I am a fan of the Montreal Canadiens and they also know I have been officiating hockey for more than three decades. Now, I've normally stuck to backing up my officiating brethren as it is always easier to "ref from the stands." However, in recent years the standard of what penalties are called at the NHL level is as predictable as the weather in Alberta.

And this post-season it seems, the standard has gotten even further away from the path of consistency to the point where even well-seasoned former NHL referees such at Kerry Fraser and Paul Stewart have taken to their respective columns (and television spots on TSN for Fraser) to comment on just how far the stripes have strayed. Both men have, rightly so in my opinion, stated the problem isn't so much with the guys on the ice, but with the coaching and instructions they get from the NHL officiating brass.

Among the items that need to be remedied in order to bring the game back to some respectability are much better positioning, returning to letting the officials manage the game instead of reacting to what happens and having more veteran referees assist and train those coming up through the rank and file before throwing them to the wolves in the playoffs.

I personally know a number of the referees in the NHL and know they are among the top stripes on skates in the world. Unfortunately, they are being branded with the same brush for the missteps of a few far more junior officials, who will make mistakes but that shouldn't be doing it in the pressure-packed playoffs.

Here's hoping the criticism the NHL is receiving about this will resonate with the top brass and lead to some more consistency for the rest of this playoff run as well as changes to instruction, training and supervising in the seasons to come.

Picket lines vs running lines

The storyline has been building for last few months and blew up this week when talks broke off between the CFL and its players association. In fact, the crisis neared nuclear proportions (as one of the great CFL newspaper writers put it) when the league fired off an email to every player outlining their offer as the players' union was waiting at the bargaining table for a reply to their counter offer.

I won't go into the details of each sides offers - there are plenty of places to see that if you want it. What I will offer is that my opinion is in complete agreement with several other learned media that cover the CFL on a daily basis.

Both sides need to restructure their offers and meet in the middle somewhere before the start of the season (training camps are supposed to open on June 1st) is placed in jeopardy.

The players must lower their expectations on revenue sharing and not try to gain back everything and more that was lost in previous negotiations in one fell swoop. Meanwhile, the owners need to realize they are going to make healthy profits over the period of a new agreement even if they gave back a fair compensation to the players in recognition of their sacrifices during the lean years as the CFL struggled to stay alive.

Additionally, taking this fight public is already getting ugly as the divisions are already being created between fans and that can only hurt everyone when play eventually gets underway - whether it is postponed a bit this season or the worst case scenario happens and the 2014 season is lost.

Baseball is still relevant, isn't it?

Even though my favourite club hasn't been "a club" for quite a long time, I still enjoy the summer past-time and this season I was especially proud for one particular reason.

After several years of toiling in the minor leagues, a friend of mine became one of the very, very few Canadians to umpire in the major leagues when he was called from AAA to fill in on a crew for a three game series in the storied Dodger Stadium. Nnt only that, but got another honour (okay, maybe I'm the only one who is impressed with this fact) when the greatest baseball broadcaster ever, Vin Scully, put the spotlight him in welcoming him to the big stage.

By all accounts, my friend did a wonderful job on the diamond that included an appearance behind the plate in the final game of the weekend set. Can't help but feel Stu will be seeing more time on the big diamond this season and maybe a permanent spot next year.

As always...that is...just my observation.

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