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Ron MacLean apologizes for comment on Hockey Night in Canada


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TORONTO — “Hockey Night in Canada” host Ron MacLean apologized Wednesday for a comment he made during a playoff game a night earlier.

In a statement posted on Twitter, MacLean said he is “deeply sorry” and that he regrets what happened on the broadcast. The comment was made in an intermission segment during Sportsnet’s coverage of a Toronto Maple Leafs-Montreal Canadiens game.

MacLean said that earlier in the show, they had a fun moment with a photograph of Sportsnet analyst Anthony Stewart enjoying a rum party. That photo was on a shelf in the background of analyst Kevin Bieksa’s set for the rest of the night.

During the segment, Bieksa said he was the most positive member of the four-person panel that also featured MacLean, Jennifer Botterill and Kelly Hrudey. Appearing to make a joke in response to Bieksa, MacLean said: “You have a photo of a guy with his tarp off, you’re definitely positive for something.”

In his statement, MacLean said the ‘tarp off’ comment was a reference to being shirtless, to specify the picture of the rum bottle.

As for the quip about being ‘positive,’ MacLean said he meant testing positive for rum.

“I understand that when others are within ‘earshot’ of a two-way conversation, the potential for a misunderstanding exists,” he said in the statement. “If you only heard that last line in isolation, I completely understand how that misunderstanding occurred. I am deeply sorry.”

A member of the executive board of an organization that pushes for inclusion in sports said he had a “good discussion” with MacLean about the comment.

David Pulombo, the vice-chair of the executive board of the You Can Play Project, said they “discussed language going beyond two-way communication and (how) others hearing language without context may think differently than intended.”

Pulombo said MacLean’s comment “is something we should move on from.”

In the aftermath of the comment, MacLean became a trending topic on Twitter with some posters calling his words homophobic and others saying he was referring to drugs and partying.

Pulombo said MacLean “has always been a great ally to the LGBTQ community and I don’t expect that to change.”

MacLean did not immediately respond to an interview request from The Canadian Press.

A Sportsnet spokeswoman said MacLean would be back on the air for Wednesday night’s studio show. The network also released a statement in the afternoon.

“Ron MacLean has a strong history of being an outspoken ally and continues to advocate for all equity-seeking communities. Sportsnet supports Ron in his acknowledgment and apology for the comment made during last night’s broadcast.”

Brock McGillis, who played in the Ontario Hockey League and the semi-pro level before becoming a voice in sports for the LGBTQ community after he came out in 2016, said the incident shows how language can affect people.

“Regardless of intent, the way it was worded is going to upset some people, because it feels like a comment directed towards gay men,” he said. “And even if intent was not that, which I kind of find it hard to believe that Ron MacLean would go on national television and overtly intend to make a homophobic joke, but regardless, it’s still homo-negative language, and there has to be ownership and accountability for that, and recognizing the importance of language and how it impacts people.

“I wasn’t bullied in hockey, but the use of homo-negative language, homophobic language, etc., led me to severe depression, constant injuries, suicide attempts, and I struggled a lot and it jeopardized my career. And if we want to grow the game and make it inclusive for all, we need to become aware of what we say and the importance of it.”

In his statement, MacLean said he has seen the concepts of language of intention and personal responsibility used as broad exoneration, adding “it’s not enough.”

“We have a contract with you the viewer, that in us you see yourself,” he said in the statement. “I’ve reached out to several guiding lights in the equity seeking arena, my allies in the LGBTQ2S+ Community and to my co-workers to receive their wisdom, and continue our joint effort to tend to the hearts of us all.

“I appreciate the power of the voices who spoke to me last night and this morning. It provides a sense of possibility. It’s how change works.”

McGillis said he hopes the sport can learn from the comment.

“I really hope that Ron, that hockey people in general use this as a teaching moment and recognize that it’s not people being reactionary for the sake of wanting to be upset about something … Men’s hockey (is) an unsafe space for queer people,” he said.

“And while I don’t think the intent was malice or homophobia, it’s time that the culture has an overhaul, and we fix the culture so that when somebody does have a comment that is misinterpreted or poorly worded, that our first reaction isn’t that it’s malicious.

“This is how we are treated within this culture, so why wouldn’t we assume?”

The 61-year-old MacLean, who grew up in Alberta, first joined “Hockey Night in Canada” in 1986 when it was produced by CBC.

MacLean was the longtime sidekick for Don Cherry on the Coach’s Corner segment before the latter was fired in 2019 following on-air comments which many felt were critical of immigrants for not wearing Remembrance Day poppies.

After the segment, MacLean issued an apology for not challenging Cherry’s remarks.

MacLean moved to Rogers Media when it acquired “Hockey Night in Canada” rights in 2014. He was out of the host’s chair for two years, but returned in 2016 after the departure of George Stroumboulopoulos.

— With files from Lori Ewing and Gregory Strong.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 26, 2021.

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Tom Brady retires at 45, insisting this time it’s ‘for good’

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TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Tom Brady, who won a record seven Super Bowls for New England and Tampa, has announced his retirement.

Brady — the most successful quarterback in NFL history, and one of the greatest athletes in team sports — posted the announcement on social media Wednesday morning, a brief video lasting just under one minute.

“Good morning guys. I’ll get to the point right away,” Brady says as the message begins. “I’m retiring. For good.”

He briefly retired after the 2021 season but wound up coming back for one more year with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He retires at age 45, the owner of numerous passing records in an unprecedented 23-year career.

A year ago when he retired, it was in the form of a long Instagram post. But about six weeks later, he decided to come back for one more run. The Buccaneers — with whom he won a Super Bowl two seasons ago — made the playoffs again this season, losing in their playoff opener. And at the time, it begged the question about whether Brady would play again.

Only a couple of weeks later, he has given the answer.

“I know the process was a pretty big deal last time, so when I woke up this morning, I figured I’d just press record and let you guys know first,” Brady says in the video. “I won’t be long-winded. You only get one super emotional retirement essay and I used mine up last year.

“I really thank you guys so much, to every single one of you for supporting me. My family, my friends, teammates, my competitors. I could go on forever. There’s too many. Thank you guys for allowing me to live my absolute dream. I wouldn’t change a thing. Love you all.”

Brady is the NFL’s career leader in yards passing (89,214) and touchdowns (649). He is the only player to win more than five Super Bowls and has been MVP of the game five times.

Brady announced his retirement one day after attending the premiere of “80 for Brady” — which comes out Friday — in Los Angeles. The movie tells the story of four lifelong friends, played by Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, Rita Moreno and Sally Field, who went to a Super Bowl to see Brady play.

He was asked Tuesday night whether he felt a connection working with women — the four stars range in age from 76 to 91 — who don’t want to retire.

“They’re working hard and they love it. So good for them,” Brady told The Associated Press. “You know, it’s just that’s what life is about. You got to, you know, wake up every day with a purpose. And when you find something you love to do, you know, it’s hard to stop. You really enjoy it. And there’s a lot of aspects that you do enjoy. So they still bring it at this age. It’s really unbelievable to watch them on set and how much energy they have. And I certainly was inspired by them and learned a lot of lessons on this whole experience.”

Famously underrated coming into the NFL — he was picked 199th in the 2000 draft by the Patriots, behind six other quarterbacks, three kickers and a punter — Brady certainly wasn’t expected to become synonymous with greatness. He played in one game as a rookie, completing one of three passes for six yards.

The next year, it all changed.

Brady took over as the Patriots’ starter, the team beat the St. Louis Rams in the Super Bowl that capped the 2001 season and he and New England coach Bill Belichick were well on their way to becoming the most successful coach-QB duo in football history.

More Super Bowl wins came after the 2003 and 2004 seasons. The Patriots returned to football’s mountaintop for a fourth time in Brady’s era a decade later to cap the 2014 season, the start of three more titles in a span of five years.

In 2020, he joined the Buccaneers and won his seventh Super Bowl. He spent his last three years with Tampa Bay, getting them to the playoffs in each of those seasons.

“I think I’ve been on the record dozens of times saying there’s no quarterback I’d rather have than Tom Brady, and I still feel that way,” Belichick said in 2021 — shortly before Tampa Bay, with Brady, came to New England and beat the Patriots in a game dubbed “The Return.” “I was very lucky to have Tom as the quarterback, to coach him, and he was as good as any coach could ever ask for.”

Brady has won three NFL MVP awards, has been a first-team All-Pro three times and was selected to the Pro Bowl 15 times.

Brady and model Gisele Bündchen finalized their divorce this past fall, during the Bucs’ season. It ended a 13-year marriage between two superstars who respectively reached the pinnacles of football and fashion.

It was announced last year that when Brady retires from playing, he would join Fox Sports as a television analyst in a 10-year, $375 million deal.


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Immigration increase alone won’t fix the labour market, experts say

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By Rosa Saba

Experts say Canada’s plan to increase immigration may ease some pressures in the labour market, but bigger changes are needed to ensure new permanent residents are matched with the jobs that most need filling.

With the unemployment rate at historic lows, many companies are “starved” for workers, and new immigrants will help fill some of the need, said Ravi Jain, principal at Jain Immigration Law and co-founder of the Canadian Immigration Lawyers Association.

The federal government’s new immigration plan calls for the admission of 1.45 million more new permanent residents over the next three years, beginning with 465,000 in 2023 and reaching 500,000 in 2025. That’s compared with 341,000 in 2019.

According to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, the plan is intended to help attract labour in key sectors, including healthcare, skilled trades, manufacturing and technology.

“It’s clear that there are real gaps, real demands, and real needs,” said Naomi Alboim, a senior policy fellow at Toronto Metropolitan University and a former Ontario Deputy Minister of Immigration.

But upping immigration levels is just one way to begin addressing those needs, she said — the government’s plan should be part of a wider initiative to address temporary workers, international students and a larger range of jobs.

Change is needed to ensure new Canadians are well-matched to jobs that maximize their skills, qualifications and experience, said Alboim.

Recent immigrants are less likely to see their skills and education utilized than Canadian-born workers, Statistics Canada said, and new and recent immigrants are overrepresented in certain industries, including transportation and warehousing, and accommodation and food services.

Government policies have created a mismatch between the specific skills employers are looking for and the skills of immigrants being approved, Toronto immigration lawyer Sergio Karas said.

Some of this mismatch begins with international students, said Karas. Though many international students plan to become permanent residents after they graduate, many of them aren’t in programs for jobs that are in demand by immigration policies, like healthcare or trades, he said.

International students and temporary foreign workers (TFWs) have made up an increasingly large portion of Canada’s economic immigrants, or those selected for their contribution to the economy, who made up more than half of recent immigrants in 2021, Statistics Canada said.

In 2020, 67 per cent of the country’s principal applicants in the economic class were previously temporary foreign workers or international students, the agency said.

But that 67 per cent is a relatively small portion of all the temporary workers and international students in Canada, said Alboim. Canada had 777,000 TFW work permit holders in 2021, and almost 622,000 international students that year, Statistics Canada said.

Canada’s dependence on temporary workers to fill long-term gaps is a huge problem, said Alboim. It creates little incentive to improve wages, conditions or supports for temporary workers, she said.

Federal immigration policy seems laser-focused on jobs requiring higher levels of training and education, said Alboim, a barrier to permanent residency for many TFWs and international students.

That’s despite the fact that much of Canada’s labour shortage is in jobs that require lower levels of education or experience, jobs that many temporary workers and students take on, said Alboim.

The federal government should expand its scope to prioritize more of these kinds of jobs, she said.

“There are way, way, way more people here now with temporary status that will never be able to transition to permanent residency, assuming they want to, unless the rules for permanent residency are changed to recognize that we actually need them too,” she said.

However, not all the onus lies on the federal government, Jain said. One ongoing problem has been immigrants’ credentials not being recognized in Canada, and while there have been some recent changes aimed at improving that, more needs to be done, he said. These credentials are the jurisdiction of provinces and territories, not Ottawa.

Provincial and regional immigration programs often do a better job of bringing in workers who can meet a wide range of labour needs including in lower-skill jobs, Alboim said, noting those programs are set to increase under the federal government’s plan.

A legislative amendment recently gave the minister of immigration the power to select immigrants for Express Entry programs based on specific qualities like occupation, but currently Alboim anticipates that use of that power will be focused on higher-level jobs.

“(There are) real needs at the high end, which immigration should certainly be focused on, but not exclusively,” she said.

Jain agreed.

“My worry is that if the targeted draws get too heavy, like if it’s weighted too much in terms of the proportion of people coming in, then I worry that some of these other folks will get marginalized,” he said.

“There needs to be some kind of a balance.”

— With files from Lee Berthiaume

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2023.

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