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Bruce Dowbiggin

Are We Ready For A Russian To Become NHL’s Top Goal Scorer?

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With the grinding war in Ukraine showing no signs of ceasing and Biden-led sanctions doing nothing tangible to deter Vladimir Putin, Russia’s image in the West has rarely been this low. So now might be a good time to ask if the NHL is prepared for a Russian to become the greatest goal scorer in league history.

As the league prepares for its annual draft on Thursday/ Friday, the top pick in the 2004 Draft is showing every sign that he will pass the game’s greatest Canadians in goal scoring. Going into 2022-23, the 36-year-old Capitals star is just 21 goals behind the immortal Gordie Howe in second place and 114 back of Wayne Gretzky, the Prometheus of NHL scoring.

  1. Wayne Gretzky. 894

2. Gordie Howe 801

3. Alex Ovechkin 780

Given good health Ovechkin will surpass Howe next season and probably leave Gretzky in his wake in four seasons. Even in a time of peace it will be interesting to see the public reaction in Canada and the U.S. to Ovechkin’s passing No. 99. While the No.1 pick in 2005, Sidney Crosby, has had a squeaky clean image, The Great Eight has been a little salty for some folks.

He plays a game Howe would love, dispensing devastating hits as well as brilliant goals. His gap-toothed sneer has not always endeared him to many. Nor has his proximity to Putin himself. In November 2017, Ovechkin started a movement called PutinTeam in support of Putin during the 2018 Russian presidential election .

In recent times he’s sought to have a foot in both camps. “I don’t know what’s happening out there. I know it’s a hard situation, but it is what it is. You know, I play here, and this is my second home. I don’t want to fight between two countries, because it’s going to be a mess.”

Too late on that front, Alex. Putin’s naked aggression and Biden’s desire to unseat him (he’s endorsed assassination) have put the West on the brink of a war with nuclear potential. Few can say where the conflict is headed, except that it’s highly unlikely the West will be surrendering its sons to the battlefield when NATO runs out of Ukrainians willing to die.

One thing is certain. As we point out in our book Inexact Science: the 6 Most Compelling Drafts in NHL History, Ovechkin put an end to the bias against Russians at the top of the NHL draft. While there had been Russian Hall of Fame selections in the middle to lower rounds of the draft (Sergei Fedorov, Pavel Bure, Sergei Zubov) Ovechkin’s No. 1 overall was considered a risk at the time. He changed the equation.

It began in 2004, when the Capitals selected Russian phenom Alex Ovechkin, maybe the greatest pure goal scorer the NHL has seen. A number one pick who has lived up to the billing of “generational player,” Ovechkin maybe would have been even more widely hailed as that “Next One” had he developed under the intense hockey media spotlight of Canada, or North America in general.

Never before had an international player earned the kind of accolades Ovechkin received leading up to his draft year. After all, he was only the second Russian ever to go that high on draft day. But the fact he wasn’t a Canadian kid may have tempered the headlines around “Ovie” and made some fans skeptical about his supposed wizardry. 

He wasn’t helped by how easily a stacked Team Canada had handled him and his Russians in the World Juniors of 2004 and 2005. In retrospect, “The Great 8” was actually undersold as a generational legend. But all of this made his majestic rookie season as a 20-year-old in 2005–06 more of a revelation than it would have been otherwise.

CAA agent J.P. Barry says that some resistance remains. “Even with Russian players, we’ve seen a hesitance in the past. A few teams have said to me, “Sorry, we just don’t draft Russians. End of story.” I know of several teams that did make that an internal memo. Some even said, “We can’t take a Euro in the first three rounds!” I don’t think there’s any team that could say any of that anymore, though. Way back when, however, there were these unwritten internal policies that were just silly. 

There was definitely a period there where teams didn’t want to touch Russians, because they didn’t feel that they could get them to come over. Sometimes they were teams impacted by something negative that happened in the past and let it change their course of action.”

If Ovechkin didn’t entirely smash the Russian stereotype then his countryman Evgeni Malkin, selected right behind Ovechkin in the 2004 draft, sealed the deal. (Ironically the two were rivals for a long time, only reconciling in recent years). Lifetime, Malkin has 444 goals and 702 assists in an injury-riddled career.

To the NHL’s credit, it hasn’t banned or sanctioned its Russian stars as some have done. The country’s teams are banned from international soccer and hockey tournaments and the Paralympics. Russian tennis players Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev (the top-2 ranked Russian male players) were barred from participating at Wimbledon. Many Russian artists have seen their concerts cancelled.

For now Ovechkin is walking a tight rope. He’s called for peace without mentioning Russia or Ukraine directly. In May 2022, he reiterated his support for Putin, as well as retaining the Russian president on his Instagram profile photo. Much depends on the progress of the war, and how much Canada and the U.S. are drawn into the combat.

The best advice is probably to keep his head down and his politics to himself if he wants to be celebrated for passing Howe and Gretzky.

Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy is the editor of Not The Public Broadcaster (http://www.notthepublicbroadcaster.com). The best-selling author was nominated for the BBN Business Book award of 2020 for Personal Account with Tony Comper. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada’s top television sports broadcaster, he’s also a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. His new book with his son Evan Inexact Science: The Six Most Compelling Draft Years In NHL History is now available on http://brucedowbigginbooks.ca/book-personalaccount.aspx

 

BRUCE DOWBIGGIN Award-winning Author and Broadcaster Bruce Dowbiggin's career is unmatched in Canada for its diversity and breadth of experience . He is currently the editor and publisher of Not The Public Broadcaster website and is also a contributor to SiriusXM Canada Talks. His new book Cap In Hand was released in the fall of 2018. Bruce's career has included successful stints in television, radio and print. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada's top television sports broadcaster for his work with CBC-TV, Mr. Dowbiggin is also the best-selling author of "Money Players" (finalist for the 2004 National Business Book Award) and two new books-- Ice Storm: The Rise and Fall of the Greatest Vancouver Canucks Team Ever for Greystone Press and Grant Fuhr: Portrait of a Champion for Random House. His ground-breaking investigations into the life and times of Alan Eagleson led to his selection as the winner of the Gemini for Canada's top sportscaster in 1993 and again in 1996. This work earned him the reputation as one of Canada's top investigative journalists in any field. He was a featured columnist for the Calgary Herald (1998-2009) and the Globe & Mail (2009-2013) where his incisive style and wit on sports media and business won him many readers.

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Bruce Dowbiggin

Death Becomes You: How Canada Became Euthanasia Central

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Liberalism used to mean live-and-let-live. If your neighbour painted his house day-glo green, liberals shrugged and said, “so be it”. Now? You must not only heap fulsome public praise on his paint preference but you must paint your own house the same glaring colour, too. While apologizing for your abject failure in not recognizing his lived paint experience.

The runaway freight train that is liberalism the past decade has come to affect virtually every part of life. Now the moveable goal posts have come to impact death, too. As usual, the best intentions of cozy liberals have become the ugly bureaucratic beast of effective altruism.

The issue de jour of assisted suicide— tactfully known in Canada as medical assistance in dying (MAID)— leapt into the Canadian public consciousness with the ALS death of Toronto Maple Leaf legend Borje Salming. As we wrote here , the spectacle of the legendary Swede taking a last public lap with his former teammates and fans in Toronto last month was heart-rending.

Salming, who was diagnosed in April, died just after returning to Sweden. Former teammate Mark Kirton, who also suffers from ALS, a progressive nervous system disease which has no known cure, spoke for all terminal patients in weighing their options. “He died a good death,” Kirton said. “What I mean by that is, his family was around him. He didn’t allow the ALS monster to tear him apart.

“Let me elaborate on that. He knew how much a burden he would be to his family if it kept going, going, going. He knew what was going on in that respect. He was a smart player, even a smarter man.”

Naturally the swift end for Salming so soon after returning from Toronto raised questions. Did Salming use assisted suicide? It is not yet legal in Sweden, and no one has confirmed that he did. But to those who think MAID should be available to terminal patients Salming’s case perfectly fits the template of compassion.

Had Salming been Canadian, he could have availed himself of MAID in Canada. Available to physically challenged or terminal patients since 2016, it has now will be expanded in March 2023 to include those living with mental-health conditions. The law says “a physician or nurse practitioner can directly administer a substance that causes the death of the person who has requested it, or A physician or nurse practitioner can give or prescribe to a patient a substance that they can self-administer to cause their own death.” (In the United States, physician-assisted suicide is legal in nine states and D.C.)

Many Canadians want the option to decide when enough is enough— and are choosing death. In 2021 over 10,000 ended their lives this way, just over 3 percent of all deaths in Canada. But as is typical of this Liberal government and its virtue-seeking cadres, the original compassionate sentiment and its rollout have produced something else used by malign actors.

Assisted death has now seemingly gone from last resort to earth-friendly lessening of the population promoted by society’s top names. And as an alternative to psychiatric treatment. Medical providers of MAID are being told that bringing up the topic to vulnerable patients is now a professional obligation.

According to reports, patients suffering from depression and other psychiatric conditions are being offered MAID as an alternative to treatment. One man said he wanted MAID to escape his terrible financial straits. The most dramatic suggestion has come from desperate Canadian veterans who claim they are being offered MAID in lieu of further treatment.

The federal government says it has no evidence of this being offered, but veterans insist it was verbally offered. Retired corporal and Canadian Paralympian Christine Gauthier told the House of Commons’ veterans affairs committee in November that she was offered an assisted death during her five-year fight for a wheelchair ramp in her home.

Other veterans had similar stories of their psychiatric treatment being no treatment at all. “Mental-health injuries can be terminal only if they’re untreated, unsupported and under-resourced,” said Wounded Warriors executive director Scott Maxwell, whose organization runs mental-health support programs for veterans and first responders.

According to Maria Cheng of The Associated Press, “the Canadian system shows exactly the corrosive features that critics of assisted suicide anticipated, from health care workers allegedly suggesting euthanasia to their patients to sick people seeking a quietus for reasons linked to financial stress”. But defenders of those too ill or depressed to defend themselves are up against stiff competition in the battle for Canadian hearts and minds.

The fashion retailer Simons produced a lavish PSA in October about 37-year-old Jennyfer Hatch, who was approved for MAID amid suffering associated with Ehlers Danlos syndrome. Simons execs said their piece was to “build the communities that we want to live in tomorrow, and leave to our children.” NYT columnist Ross Douthat observed: “For those communities and children, the video’s message is clear: They should believe in the holiness of euthanasia.” 

As if gauzy tributes to MAID were not enough, mainstream Canadian media found a silver lining. “Medically assisted deaths prove a growing boon to organ donation in Ontario,” chirped the Ottawa Citizen. “Ontarians who opt for medically assisted deaths (MAiD) are increasingly saving or improving other people’s lives by also including organ and tissue donation as part of their final wishes.” Well gosh, ain’t that swell!

Unspoken in this move to euthanasia is the acknowledged desire on the part of many environmentalists and radicals to reduce the world population. Planned Parenthood has long embraced euthanasia as a means of lowering the population— especially those with whom they disapprove politically or culturally. Noted population catastrophist Paul Ehrlich has predicted everything from nuclear disaster to plague unless we get on with the business of helping people die— especially people not down with climate catechism.

Not surprisingly Canada is now being mocked as the assisted-suicide hub of the world.  Annette Prestia: “‘Kill yourself’ is either an insult that will get you kicked off Twitter or health advice from the Canadian government” Tweeted Adam Zivo: “The toilet in my boyfriend’s apartment stopped working tonight. I let him know that, if the problem persists, we can just fly to Canada and apply for MAID”.

So if nothing else, Canada has that going for us. We The Dead North coming to a screen near you.

[Disclosure: At NPB we have seen our brother-in-law die of ALS upper bulbar palsy and currently have a close friend battling the disease.]

Sign up today for Not The Public Broadcaster newsletters. Hot takes/ cool slants on sports and current affairs. Have the latest columns delivered to your mail box. Tell your friends to join, too. Always provocative, always independent.  https://share.hsforms.com/16edbhhC3TTKg6jAaRyP7rActsj5

Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy is the editor of Not The Public Broadcaster  A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada’s top television sports broadcaster, he’s a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. Inexact Science: The Six Most Compelling Draft Years In NHL History, his new book with his son Evan, was voted the seventh-best professional hockey book of all time by bookauthority.org . His 2004 book Money Players was voted sixth best on the same list, and is available via http://brucedowbigginbooks.ca/book-personalaccount.aspx

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Bruce Dowbiggin

Misconduct: NHL Succumbs To Non-Binary Power Play

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Imagine the Academy Awards coming out in favour of returning The Dreamers to their home country. Or the Tonys advocating a repeal of gay marriage. That’s the equivalent of the NHL’s Twitter site tweeting “Trans women are women. Trans men are men. Nonbinary identity is real.

For a league that celebrated its inner Don Cherry for over a century this sudden assertion that traditional biological gender is deader than Eddie Shore has to qualify as a game changer.

The tweet came as the league announced its support for something called the Team Trans Draft Tournament in Middleton, Wisconsin. The tournament’s 80 participants identified as either transgender or nonbinary, according to the NHL. Whatever. Do your thing.

But when social media asked whether this meant the league was okay with men playing in women’s leagues some progressive puckster in the NHL head office fired off the tempestuous “Trans women are women. Trans men are men. Nonbinary identity is real.”

Cue the incredulous reaction. Who were they trying to impress? Just one example from conservative Ben Shapiro: “If this is true, why aren’t there any trans men in the NHL? They’re real men, after all. Must be terrible and vicious discrimination.” Claiming racism and sexism and transphobia the NHL briskly shut down its comments section on social media lest the suddenly disinherited Tim Hortons hockey culture submit its disgust.

There were upsides. Watching cardigan-clad commissioner Gary Bettman squirm in his new role as commissioner of all genders is worth the price of admission. Seeing the enlightened hockey media at Sportsnet, CBC, TSN and ESPN lay down cover for Comrade Gary was likewise amusing.

But the NHL’s sudden conversion to trans orthodoxy is also highly instructive of how deep the tentacles of this ideology have attached themselves in ordinary culture. The NHL? Men-as-women playing against biological women? Until this radical chic agitprop thrust itself into the fore the last few years this was unthinkable for the NHL or its fans. Laughable. Fantastical.

But now you have a league HQ embedded in the heart of Manhattan— where the global media, business and arts community have already succumbed to the intimidation of this cultural blackmail. The NHL’s sponsors, suppliers, broadcast partners and just plain neighbours have also taken the Trans Kool Aid. At some point the NHL’s surrender must have seemed inevitable— even for a league that asks its employees to never back down to bullies.

Seeing Bettman— who has epitomized stubborn resistance in his denial of the science of CTE brain trauma— crumble before the forces of approved speech is instructive to those who think this leaky scow can still be turned around quickly. Or that the forces of objective media might raise a whimper about being steamrolled by the rabid internet wolf packs.

As Douglas Murray noted sadly in Toronto of the Canadian media’s performance during the February Convoy. “The Canadian media acted as the amen chorus of the Canadian government,” he said during last week’s Munk Debate on trust in media. After numerous examples of this capitulation, he added: “Why is this so rancid? Because in this country… your mainstream media is funded by the government.”

His debate partner American journalist Matt Taibbi was no less scathing. “The press, culturally, has been transformed from an institution that reflexively identified with the broad audience to one whose first instinct is to protect the people they’re meant to cover.”

As if to prove their point, new Twitter owner Elon Musk allowed Taibbi to release emails and documents that show the active Twitter suppression of the Hunter Biden laptop scandal in the weeks prior to the 2020 presidential election. Prodded to censor by presidential candidate Joe Biden’s followers, Twitter and its sister monopolies at Facebook and the corporate American media banned any public discussion of how Biden’s son and his brother had sold the “Big Guy’s”  position in government to China, Ukraine and other malign actors for years.

Why is this important? As many as 30 percent of those hearing about the Biden’s shakedown operation for the first time said they’d have changed their vote in the razor-thin election. The implications are odious and far-reaching.

So what did corporate media do Friday upon release of the communications showing corrupt collusion between media and politicians? It reprised its October 2020 performance and buried the story of its disgrace. A few of the most corrupt tried ad hominems on Taibbi and Musk. But otherwise it was a re-run of the mute media in which a smug corporate vigilantes suppressed vital news. That includes Canadian media.

Example: the Carleton Journalism School hosted a presentation on the Canadian media titled “Journalists and Online Hate”. The idea being that brave impartial journalists are now being hunted down for their trailblazing education of the masses. The monochrome panel included federal minister Marco Mendicino, Global TV’s Rachel Gilmore, CBC President Catherine Tait, and black columnist Erica Ifill, .

(Or as Jon Kay saw it: “(1) laughingstock cab minister (2) self-loathing J-school dean (3) tiktokker (4) leader of bloated state network no one watches, & (5) woman who says she’s glad the queen’s dead’.)

After cravenly thanking native groups for the use of their hereditary land, J- School director Allan Thompson— a “fifth generation settler” told the audience that media must dismantle “white supremacist mindsets”. It went downhill from there with federal civil servant Tait lashing out at the people who pay her $460 K salary as being in need of reconstruction.

Given her chance, Ifill said when she seeks an expert opinion, she does not talk to white men because her job is to challenge power. She then talked about CBC’s Queen coverage, and noted she was glad the queen died. She also says the media treats black women very poorly. (Someone should tell this Virtue Trooper that the Queen’s ancestors were the ones who effectively ended the slave trade in. the Western World in the early 19th century. But that might upset her narrative. And upsetting narratives is racist.)

The conclusion of the debate? Sticks and stones may hurt journalists’ bones but names are first-degree murder. So save a prayer for poor Mr. Bettman. He held out longer than some before accepting the white guilt hemlock. Having known his desire to be the longest-serving commissioner in history he’s probably now wishing he’d quit his job three seasons ago. Because he’ll never wash away the cisgender privilege now.

Sign up today for Not The Public Broadcaster newsletters. Hot takes/ cool slants on sports and current affairs. Have the latest columns delivered to your mail box. Tell your friends to join, too. Always provocative, always independent.  https://share.hsforms.com/16edbhhC3TTKg6jAaRyP7rActsj5

Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy is the editor of Not The Public Broadcaster  A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada’s top television sports broadcaster, he’s a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. Inexact Science: The Six Most Compelling Draft Years In NHL History, his new book with his son Evan, was voted the seventh-best professional hockey book of all time by bookauthority.org . His 2004 book Money Players was voted sixth best on the same list, and is available via http://brucedowbigginbooks.ca/book-personalaccount.aspx

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