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Bruce Dowbiggin

Connor Gets His Man; Toronto Still Searches For Defence

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If you bet the chalk on who would win the Stanley Cup next spring you’re probably a little nervous at the moment. The betting favourites Toronto (+750) and Edmonton (+900) have been shaky at best. In both cities there are already goalie changes and coach firings.

On Sunday the 3-9-1 Edmonton Oilers gassed HC Jay Woodcroft in favour of Connor McDavid’s junior coach Kris Knoblauch. They had already fired their goalie, former Leaf Jack Campbell, while they battle to get McDavid healthy. There is speculation that this is Edmonton’s final chance to get it right with McDavid before he moves elsewhere in frustration.

Meanwhile, Toronto is a mediocre 8-5-2, despite its star scorers Auston Matthews (13-6-19) and William Nylander (10-12-22)  at the top of the league in scoring. Their 5-2 win over Vancouver Saturday was their first time allowing fewer than four goals on home ice all season.

Yup, goaltending’s a curse in Toronto, too. Expect to see a move here (Jacob Markstrom?) Of course it’s still early, but at least the decision to sign a four-year-extension with Matthews looks good (till the postseason, at least). Here’s how we saw the impact of finally getting Matthews to sign on the line that is dotted.

“Yet another long national nightmare has passed for Toronto Maple Leafs Nation. After a prolonged summer silence from star forward Auston Matthews about his intentions for Toronto the mustachioed sniper has agreed to a four-year, $13.25 M. per-season extension with the team (beginning in 2025). 

This news resonates at a number of levels from the team to the NHL head office. 1) While Matthews has yet to prove he can lead the Leafs anywhere but a golf course come May, he remains their best hope for any assault on the 56-year Stanley Cup drought. It might be a stretch to say the 40-plus-goal scorer in the regular season led them to their first postseason series win in April against Tampa. Patricia Bergeron he ain’t. But he didn’t hold them back, either. Not every Leafs star can say that. 

He’s at a point (25) where a number of NHL stars have morphed from stats producers to win producers. Bryan Trottier, Steve Yzerman, Joe Sakic and Vincent Lecavalier are a sampling of guys who added leadership their tool box in mid-career and went on to multiple Cups. We will see if Auston does likewise.

2) Matthews’ decision to remain in a Canadian city is a huge relief for the league which has recently seen American stars abandon or ignore Canadian cities for the lure of their home country. Indeed, Matthews would likely have gotten all the perks of this deal elsewhere— plus the anonymity of being an NHL player in a city obsessed by the NFL, NBA or MLB. He could’ve maxxed his take-home pay going to one of the NHL teams benefitting from no-state-income-tax. And the NHL would get a huge problem with Canadian fans.

As Canada’s economy wobbles and players have a choice on lifestyle, Matthews’ decision to live in the Toronto fish bowl means that at least one CDN team is relevant. And, let’s be honest, he has a chance of winning the Cup that he wouldn’t in six other CDN teams. If that doesn’t pan out his contract is movable should he desire to move on before 2028.

3) Speaking of relief, getting the deal done is a break for new Toronto GM Brad Treliving. It was he who, as Flames GM, had to negotiate the escape of Americans Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk from Calgary last summer. Had he not been able to retain Matthews in Canada’s largest market it would have not been a job enhancer. Now, he has to find a way to squeeze all Toronto’s glamour boys— hello William Nylander— under the cap and leave room for what they still need. Good luck, Brad.

4) Matthews’ commitment to Toronto means that a number of teams who’ve been delaying bold moves and hoarding trade bait in anticipation of his potential trade or UFA market can now move to Plan B. There were a number of U.S. teams poised to offer the Leafs the moon and stars— NHL version— at the trade deadline or to sign him next summer. This should now signal some activity by teams anxious to deal.

Ironically, the Leafs used to be that team waiting for a Toronto Moses to emerge in the UFA market. Remember Brian Burke’s unseemly longing for Steven Stamkos? Even when they got their local guy in John Tavares, the Islanders star was past his peak and has proved a millstone under the Toronto salary cap. This time they get a star in his peak years.

5) Matthews’ league-leading benchmark of $13.25 M. over just four years allows the NHL salary grid to fall in place behind him as the salary cap takes a bump in 2024-25. His deal will be the comparison for the next superstar contract that enters the unlimited FA portal in the future— although his max salary may chafe some stars who match Matthews’ production but have taken their teams deep into playoffs or winning a Cup. Don’t they deserve more? The expected rise in the league cap over the four years of the Matthews deal may help assuage that.

6) Finally— and most amusing— has been the response from hockey sweats to Matthews getting $13.25 M. For four years? To this crew who talk lovingly about The Game, this seems an awful lot to pay a guy for playing a boy’s game. That much? This just in, Matthews is criminally underpaid as one of the Top 10 players in a modern sports league. 

The dizzying $13.25 as NHL No. 1 would make him the 113th highest-paid player in the NBA, the 103rd highest-paid player in the MLB and the 88th highest-paid player in the NFL. As one perspective, Toronto-born Shai Gilgeous-Alexander of OKC Thunder— now starring for Canada’s national team— pays about $13.25M per year in income tax.

Sure, there are differences among the revenues of the Big Four pro Leagues But, as we’ve written extensively, the @NHLPA sold out its stars in the 2004-05 CBA negotiations to protect average players and grinders. (Actually, it was a small group of stars pushed by their agents to stab Bob Goodenow’s strategy in the back.) They like to mock the product in CBA talks. 

Limiting the maximum contracts to 20 percent of the cap allows the league to have higher minimum and median salaries than NFL and MLB. (Hands up those people who buy tickets or digital packages to see the third line and fifth defenceman?) And pay lip service that it’s still Don Cherry’s Original Six league. With its cozy business plan there’s been little incentive to push the NHL’s business model beyond more expansion.

Also of note, if NHL doesn’t make its revenue target under this #CBA Matthews and the other players will have money clawed back in escrow. Great deal, huh? None of the other leagues has escrow, a device thought up by an NYC law firm and foisted on gullible NHL stars in secret meetings to break the 2004-05 lockout. Everything since then has been pantomime labour negotiations.

So good luck, Leafs fans. Enjoy Matthews and the star-spangled Toronto lineup. Things could change with the same guys making more money. But don’t hold your breath. 

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

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

Cutting Remarks: The Scourge of Hate Speech Censors

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“When plunder becomes a way of life for a group… in a society, over the course of time they create for themselves a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.” Frédéric Bastiat

We take you now to a day in the not-too-distant future. Citizens are lined up at the registry office to renew their license to speak. Since governments weaponized speech and then criminalized words in the mid 2020s, citizens must register their speech the same way they register guns or cars.

For their convenience the government agencies provide a list of words or insinuations that qualify as criminal speech. Here’s a CBC guide to correct speech on climate, giving you the appropriate words to describe weather-as-the-Apocalypse. Don’t forget, every climate faux pas is a micro aggression!

Should you have made it through the previous 12 months without tripping the language laser beam you’ll be permitted to again speak publicly— albeit very carefully. Pretty soon everyone will speak like Uterus Man, also known as cisgendered NDP MLA Brooks Arcand-Paul, who talks as though his mouth was a Woke minefield.

Media outlets, too, will be required to renew their speech licenses or lose the annual slush-fund monies that come with government Good Speak. Here, Trudeau wind therapist Patty Hajdu demonstrates Good Speak, decrying the cyber-violence of Adolph Hitler… er, Pierre Poilievre… over a “reckless use of the pejorative ‘crazy’” to describe her cabinet colleague Stephane Guilbeault. PP’s “slander” was, she assured us, yet another page out of the infamous Donald Trump American playbook that will rule Canada if Patty & Friends lose the next election.

To keep your talk license you’ll need to speak more like Liberal MP Ken Hardie when he says damn the facts, let’s throw a little dirt over a multiple murder on the bad side of Winnipeg: “Might it be the anti-social ‘burn everything down’ far-right attitude we’re seeing creeping in from the U.S.? And the ‘creep’ on the Canadian side? Pierre Poilievre?” (The tone-deaf Liberal has since sorta’ backtracked after being buried on social media.)

If this all sounds absurd, you haven’t been paying attention. In Canada the government of Justin Trudeau is well on its way to creating an apparatus for regulating both public and private speech. The past week it announced that it was extending its grant money though 2029 to failing media outlets, up to about $30,000 per employee. Not to be outdone, Heritage Canada is putting $40,000 per journalist as a target to promote “diversity”. No wonder so many CDN media legends rushed to defend a hapless CP reporter who was verbally upbraided by Poillievre.

Hey, money is money. Who in the collapsed media empires is not going to like that, huh? Sure you’ll have to sing for your supper, but you’ll still have the cottage in the Muskokas or Kawartha Lakes to soothe any qualms about selling out your journalistic birthright.

Here’s former-progressive author and blogger Michael Shellenberger: “Liberal Left governments have sought to use every new crisis as an opportunity to scapegoat their political opponents and, when that stops working, demand censorship, since the legitimacy and continued existence of the liberal Left hegemony in the West comes from control over information.”

Speaking of U.S. politics, where Joe Biden is polling below herpes, his administration is setting up a disinformation bureau to help the average voter divine something as “information” (Biden policy) or “disinformation” (Trump policy). Stubbornly hanging on to un-truths about The Biden Family’s shakedown of foreign governments could land you in a jail next to the Jan. 6 traitors.

To goose public fear, Team Biden has a new series of Adolph Hitler… er, Donald Trump… revenge memes. From Bill Maher (“I’m afraid of him on a personal level”  ) to former Obama spokes-bugle Jen Psaki, the ruling class is pumping the accelerator: “There is an old quote that goes, ‘For my friend everything. For my enemies the law.’ That is how Trump has operated and that is how he will continue to operate if ever given the levers of government again.” Irony alert.

Need More? Here . Here And here is a CDN fainting goat. (Clarification: DEMs jailed for political crimes or charged for same during Trump presidency: 0. Non-DEMs jailed for political crimes or accused of same during Biden presidency: more than 600, perhaps as many as a thousand.)

Rioting in Dublin

In Ireland, the recent riots over an immigrant stabbing five adults and children have inspired the EU puppets of Leo Valadkar’s government to suggest similar limits on speech must be codified after UFC star Connor MacGregor suggested that perhaps immigration was behind the anger of protesters. Here’s Taioseach fart catcher Pauline O’Connell:  “If your views on other people’s identities go to make their lives unsafe, insecure, and cause them such deep discomfort that they cannot live in peace, then I believe that it is our job as legislators to restrict those freedoms for the common good.”

In Britain, the parsing of language has produced “UK police : We will no longer accept the statement ‘re-housing of illegal immigrants” as a hate crime.” Across the European Union, the “restrict those freedoms for the common good” drumbeat is the same, as quaking bureaucrats and entitled statists seek to silence their critics using hate-language laws that would make even Orwell blush. Result: In Germany, the right-wing AFD party is rising in the polls. In France, Marine Le Pen is more popular than Emmanuel Macron. The recent election of right-wing governments in Italy, the Netherlands and Brexit in Britain has only hastened their panic to punish speech.

Says economist and blogger Tyler Cowen “if your main theory here is ‘racism,’ your contribution to the discourse probably is negative.”

Next speech regulation is silence. Or non-speech. Under the new rules, silence will be no defence when the mob orders you to “wear the ribbon”. UC Berkeley Law Professor Savala Trepczynski gave away the game saying that “White silence is incredibly powerful … It’s not neutral. It acts like a weapon.” Writes legal specialist Jonathan Turley, “In a world where silence is violence and civility is complicity, there is little room for true free speech.”

In this vein nearly 2,000 people signed a petition to fire Marymount Manhattan theatre arts associate professor Patricia Simon after she appeared to fall asleep briefly during an anti-racist Zoom meeting. Complained one colleague, Simon was “ignoring … racist and sizeist actions and words of the vocal coaches under her jurisdiction.”

Just sayin’. Better get your license now. Before it’s too….. (click).

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

Could AI Make Yesterday Into Today For Culture, Sports & Politics?

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On a recent trip to the Fredericton Playhouse to see PEI’s splendid The East Pointers we couldn’t help but notice amongst the coming attractions an appearance by the Glenn Miller Orchestra. As far as we know, Miller disappeared over the British Channel in 1944 on his way to play a concert for the troops post D-Day.

Since then a succession of people have carried his musical heritage under the Miller name. Most of them have joined Miller in the great bandstand in the sky. It is safe to say that the number of people who heard anything by Miller himself live are virtually nil. Still, someone is still buying tickets to hear A String of Pearls, Pennsylvania 6-500, Chattanooga Choo-Choo and In The Mood.

Perhaps it was serendipity but seeing that Miller was still a thing came shortly after the arrival of a final Beatles song “Now and Then”. It’s not as long ago as the final Glenn Miller original cut, but “Now and Then” is the first original Beatles music since the 1970s. Which is when this lacklustre John Lennon composition was born from a demo cut by Lennon.

Its provenance has been talked about by Beatles obsessives ever since. Frankly they’d be excited to hear Lennon/ McCartney read the Liverpool phone book. (Which won’t be any less underwhelming than this song.) Now And Then stayed out of the public realm, probably because George Harrison (d. 2001) hated it, and the recording was scratchy at best.

But thanks to the officious Paul McCartney cleaning it up in the studio and AI producing a catchy video to accompany the song “Now and Then” is on the Billboard chart with a bullet. Where it will probably stay for a while. No doubt this artful dodge will put the idea of reviving other dead musical icons into the heads of their colleagues and supporters.

The AI variations already extend past music. “@ilumine_ai This has been my first test of an experiment I’m doing, which is why it might feel a bit rough. It might not seem like it, but this video shows a single, uncut take at normal speed, where I move through a 3D stage that I am generating at will and in real time.”

Can some clever soul use AI to create a new Humphrey Bogart movie using previous material? What about reviving Katherine Hepburn from her many films? Could Glenn Miller suddenly emerge from the mists to lead his band in Fredericton? We already know about The Beatles.

There ramifications, says cartoonist/commentator Scott Adams.. “If you let ChatGPT answer without constraints, it gives you the “approved narrative,” also known as bullshit. In other words, you can use AI to give you any answer you want on political questions by manipulating the allowed “experts.”

No wonder the Screen Actors Guild went on strike this year to protect the properties of stars dead and alive. What security will they have if AI makes them redundant? AI is, in the words of Hunter S. Thompson, “a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.”

To say nothing of the AI implications for sports. Can AI replicate the greatest of the past? Already there’s a slightly cheesy commercial running in which present-day Wayne Gretzky counsels 18-year-old Wayne Gretzky on the future. But could AI create a better NHL mixing Gretz, Gordie Howe, Bobby Orr and Bobby Hull with the best of today? A league with no injuries, no travel fatigue, no bad coaching? Ditto for the other leagues. An NFL with Joe Montana, an NBA with Michael Jordan, an MLB with Barry Bonds?

In Canadian politics AI could revive Pierre Elliot Trudeau to assist his dimwitted son (“Interest rates are at historic lows,” PMJT, 2020). Bill Davis could bring back the days of Blue Ontario. Ralph Klein could recreate the Alberta Advantage. If someone younger and more charismatic pops up you can use them in the present. With an AI figure waiting in the wings for when the real politicians eventually screw up.

In the US-AI, the leading candidates for U.S. president in 2024 are creakingly old. Democrats are in a lather over Joe Biden’s decrepit state as he hit 81 this week (he’d be 87 when a possible second term ended). Polls show Americans are not fooled by the grinning Amphetamine Joe staggering up the stairs of Air Force One.

Republicans are alternatively exhilarated and exhausted by the prospect of loopy 78-year-old Donald Trump carrying their banner next November. With Trump it’s less age than instability. Were he remotely stable he’d be leading Biden by 15 points in the polls.

In the Senate and House of Representatives octogenarian and nonagenarian members are literally dying at their desks for want of term limits. Across the political spectrum voters and media are asking, “Is this the best we can do?” Some recall the movie Dave where Kevin Kline plays a doppelgänger for a comatose U.S. president. Maybe that might work?

Or what if AI could revive JFK or Ronald Reagan in their primes? Or John McCain and Ruth Bader Ginsberg? “Now and Then” would be an appropriate slogan for re-inserting these tried & true political figures into the present, using their former selves to re-craft today’s arguments. (We’ve seen how it might work since most believe that Biden is simply the conduit for a third Obama term.)

Anything has to be better than two old guys who could’ve heard “I’ve Got A Gal In Kalamazoo” when it was originally released by Glenn Miller in 1942.

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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