Random thoughts on a variety of sporting topics . . .
Lots of talk of late about who should be MVP in NHL and NBA. Well, folks, here's how you do it. You take the player away and imagine how his team would do. It's not about 'best player' which unfortunately MVP discussions have become. Sports leagues should have MVP and 'best player' awards. Granted, picking an MVP is still not easy, but if you go by the letter of what the award should be, it's less difficult than people make it out to be. So all that said, my NBA pick would be, easily, LeBron James. He just happens to be the best basketball player on the planet but aside from that he singlehandedly lifts any team he's on to championship contender status. Take him away and where would the Cleveland Cavaliers be? As of this writing they are 0-6 without him. And in the NHL, for me, it's Connor McDavid. Take him away and where would the Edmonton Oilers be? It's not rocket science.
Much ado about nothing re the Sidney Crosby slash. Countless such slashes in NHL games. Just happened to result in this ugly injury to Ottawa player Marc Methot. Ottawa owner Eugene Melnyk is way over the top in his criticism of Crosby, who as arguably best player in NHL takes more than his share of such things. Granted, were it Crosby who was injured the Pittsburgh Penguins would be whining but come on, as mentioned such slashes happen all the time in hockey, just a fluke that it resulted in such an injury.
Thank God Mario Lemieux came out and said it's OK for New York Islander player Josh Ho-Sang to wear No. 66. As Mario said, loads of people wore No. 4 (Bobby Orr's number) or No. 9 (Maurice Richard, Gordie Howe, Bobby Hull) and nobody said a word. And, people, Ho-Sang wears No. 66 to HONOR Lemieux! What an absurdly silly non-story this has been. Good for Lemieux for finally coming out and putting an end to the nonsense.
So will the NHL be in the next Olympics? We'll see. But here's a not so radical thought, given the NHL's concerns about disrupting its season. Play the Olympic hockey tournament in the SUMMER Olympics. Yeah, you hear me right. It's not my idea, actually, though it is sound. Much-criticized for many things, former NHL commissioner/president John Ziegler suggested this long ago. And it makes sense. Artificial ice is tenable during the summer. Summer hockey throughout Canada if not the world proves this. Ice hockey debuted at the 1920 Summer Olympics, played in April in Antwerp, Belgium and icemaking has progressed by leaps and bounds since then and if things like the Canada and World Cups can be played during hot Septembers, and the NHL playoffs already extend fairly deeply into June, what's the difference? Basketball, which is a winter sport concurrent with hockey, sends its players to the SUMMER Olympics; basketball always having been a summer Olympic sport. So put hockey in the summer Olympics. You wouldn't have to disrupt the NHL season.
And even if hockey is to stay in the Winter Games, there's no reason the NHL has to disrupt its schedule. Junior hockey keeps on rolling during the world junior hockey championship even though some players are away playing for their national teams. And the NHL has zero argument on this one if it were to say that continuing the schedule while stars are at the Olympics would compromise the integrity of the regular season. The NHL - and hockey in general - has already long since proven it cares not for and has compromised its regular season by giving more value to overtime/shootout 'loser' points than it does to regulation-time victories. For more on that, check a couple items down under "loser points in hockey". Bottom line: The NHL in the Olympics issue is not nearly as difficult to resolve as it's being made out to be. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said Friday that "If someone proposes something that's pragmatic, that's radically different, . . . we'll have to look at it again." Well, there you have two proposals.
The regular season should be meaningful: Kitchener Rangers coach Jay McKee quoted in today's Waterloo Region Record newspaper/website in advance of going in as underdogs to Owen Sound Attack in Ontario Hockey League playoffs: “If the regular season mattered, then why a playoff series?”
Yes, indeed. Why? Well, sorry Jay but you know, the regular season SHOULD matter and the fact it doesn't is a blight on all sports, North American sports in particular. I used to love playoff upsets but you know what, they are BS. The Rangers are a pretty decent team, above .500 by a bit so this is not a criticism of them in particular but . . . You get teams barely qualifying for playoffs and then getting hot for a short run beating teams who worked hard for however many regular season games, proving themselves with talent, depth and balance then losing in a crapshoot short series. It's the way it is, but it's garbage. Excellence is not always rewarded and that is not right and for someone – a league coach no less - to actually say the regular season doesn't matter well, whoah.
If that's the case, then why play a regular season? Why charge fans for tickets? Should fans not be reimbursed if all these games mean nothing? Why not just flip a coin to set playoff matchups/results and start there? Oops, sorry, they already tried that in Calgary minor hockey. Or don't even play, period. Why bother, if the regular season doesn't matter? I mean seriously. Just start with the playoffs and save everyone considerable time and money. What an absurdly silly - though sadly true to this pervasive anti-excellence attitude - statement by McKee who, obviously, would not be saying the same thing were his Kitchener Rangers top or near the top of the league during the regular season.
Only international soccer among major sports has it right. There are no playoffs. The team finishing top of the table is the champ, and deservedly so. I mean, look at women's curling. Canada went 11-0 in the world championship round robin, 12-0 now after winning its first-round playoff game and advancing to the final. But why should Canada, having dominated the field, have to prove itself yet again in the playoffs?
Loser points in hockey: Hate to have to bring it up yet again but here it is. North Bay Battalion: 24-38-4-2 won-lost-OT loss-shootout loss record, 54 points. Niagara IceDogs: 23-35-6-4, 56 points thanks to loser points awarded for losing in OT/shootout. Niagara makes Ontario Hockey League playoffs. But, if losses were losses and not rewarded, North Bay has 24 wins, 48 points, Niagara has 23 wins, 46 points, North Bay, not Niagara, should be in playoffs. Yes, neither team should be in with such awful records but the point is, North Bay got ripped off. As did teams that didn't have enough loser points and finished behind the 2012 Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings, who without loser points would not have made the playoffs that year. Been ranting about this nonsense for years and will continue to rant about it. And finally some national media is picking up on it. What boggles my mind is that the hockey community just seems to accept it and, further, that no team owner in whatever league has not sued for loss of playoff gate receipts based on a deeply flawed system.
USA women's hockey dispute: Whatever will happen will happen but good for the USA women for fighting and here's what bugs me and always has, since I covered the 1997 world championships in Kitchener for the Waterloo Region Record and that is, some males' perception of women's hockey. One constantly hears and reads comments - in fact at the time I wrote a column about it - where men say things like 'so this would be like boys' bantam hockey?' in terms of level of play. Well, maybe that's what it is, maybe not. Bottom line is, it doesn't matter. Nobody says such things about women's tennis vs. men's tennis. That said, I have said and am on record as saying that I disagree that women get same prize money in majors as the men, given that the men play best of five set matches vs. women playing best of three. But beyond that, and while Roger Federer would likely easily beat Serena Williams in a match, or one would think, simply because men are, physically, bigger, faster and stronger, that does not mean women's tennis is not worthy. It is. Very worthy. As is women's hockey. Because it should not be compared to whatever level of men's hockey. Women's hockey at the national/Olympic level is simply the best level of hockey women can attain, same as the NHL is for men. So arguing that women are not 'as good' as men is irrelevant. It's the highest level of women's hockey, not to be compared with men for all the physical and realistic reasons.