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Bruce Dowbiggin

Fortress Australia Gets Its Scalp, Tosses Djoker Out

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The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst   

Are full of passionate intensity. —W.B. Yeats

There has always been a large reservoir of affection for Australia in the West. The sun-kissed land down under. Kangaroos. Beaches. Crocodile Dundee. Aussie Rules Football. Men At Work. Foreigners embraced all the clichés gleefully.

The Australian Open tennis tournament was part of that scenario. The first Grand Slam, played in scorching sunshine while the Northern Hemisphere freezes in January. TV coverage was laced with tourist entreaties to fly 14 hours to the Great Barrier Reef and Gold Coast.

But with the nation’s behaviour in fighting Covid-19, this is all (in the words of Yeats) “changed, changed utterly.” The fever-swamp regime now running the nation has gone off the rails with detention camps for unvaxxed, flying squads of police roaming the streets and total lockdowns in emulation of the Chinese.

Australia’s heavy-handed “cures” for Covid would make Curfew Quebec look a model of tolerance. While America is moving away from draconian lockdowns, (Associated Press is now asking its writers to play down Covid numbers) Australia is still singing from the 2020 WHO hymn book that pretends lockdowns save lives. For example, mask mandates were recently re-imposed when five— count ‘em— five local cases were spotted in Perth.

Look, Australia is entitled to run their nation any way they want. They have the constitutional right to act like so many scared kookaburras in the face of a virus that will spare 99.98 percent of them. But don’t push the “shrimp on the bar-b” hokum on the world when the tennis begins.

This whack-a-mole mania culminated in Sunday’s expulsion of Covid rebel Novak Djokovic. After granting the No. 1 men’s player in the world a visa to play, Australia’s Minister of Immigration Alex Hawke said he had cancelled the 34-year-old’s visa for a second time on “health and good order grounds, on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so”. He said Djokovic’s example was— wait for it— a threat to his people.

Good order? Hawke and his government have to lock up the population because their Island Fortress strategy isn’t enough to curb Omicron’s arrival. Yet Djokovic is the threat, not their frantic search for a fifth column of viral killers in Canberra.

Djoker knew he was going into headwinds as he sought to play in the Open as an unvaccinated player. He was less than forthcoming on his entry documents. So his highly political stance made him a target. But a threat to the people of Australia? Please. (The cops escorting him to the airport was reminiscent of Judy Garland being shooed from the country in the 1960s for being too drunk to perform.)

The Australian PM Scott Morrison, with his eyes on re-election, greeted the expulsion, mumbling about needing to “keep our borders strong and keep Australians safe… It’s now time to get on with the Australian Open and get back to enjoying tennis over the summer.”

Djokovic’s argument is that the Australian government that initially granted him a visa is now using him as an easy target to whip the natives in line. The independent, unapologetic Djokovic has certainly served the Aussie politicians well as a convenient whipping boy for the petrified millions who put their faith in governments and health “experts” to save them from the dreaded virus.

(Sounds like France, which never misses an opportunity to enforce the status quo, will emulate Australia by banning an unvaxxed Djokovic if he ventures there in June for the French Open.)

The “burn the witch” frenzy feeds into the non-vaxxed insanity currently underway in Canada and the U.S. There are demands that those who declined the juice be denied healthcare or fined or have their taxes audited. Immunity is dismssed. Cobbled hospital numbers are conflated with truths. Instead, images of gap-toothed hillbillies saturate progressive media who find their allies have been unable to halt the virus as promised.

Inconveniently, polling by Abacus in Canada has shown that the typical anti-vaxxer is not a swaggering tennis player, a bow hunter or toothless yokel but is in fact a 42-year-old Ontario white woman who votes Liberal.

The bright side of this Kafkaesque farce is that Omicron is fading like old Xmas decorations. Many are predicting that it is peaking now and will be a spent force by February. The tinpot tyrants in Australia, having booted Djokovic, will need something else to reinforce their desperate grasp on power.

Ditto here in North America. Unless a follow-up variant can be swiftly produced (remember that subsequent viruses are always weaker) Skippy and Biden will be left to explain their enforced vaccines and virus solutions to a public disinterested in their ongoing need for power.

To use a tennis analogy they’ll be down two breaks and facing Djokovic’s best serve. Should be entertaining.

 

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

We Have Met The Goalies, And The Goalies Have Won

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The NHL’s problem, Boston Bruins GM legend Harry Sinden told us years ago, is that there are 30 teams. But just one Stanley Cup. That makes for a lot of disappointment.

As Toronto fans can now attest, that disappointment stings worst when you have a team with a likely Hart Trophy winner and an impressive regular season. By rights a healthy Leafs squad should have disposed of the defending champions from Tampa Bay, who finished five  points below them in the standings.

But the NHL is no place for favourites. Analytics have found that, generally,  you’d have to play a best-of-51 series before the higher-seeded NHL team would have the advantage. (The NBA is much more favourable to the chalk.) So, given enough time Toronto would have outlasted the Lightning. It could/ would have taken till August to do so, however.

Why? Because the NHL— despite fitful attempts to redress this discrepancy— has created a Frankenstein playoff model that allows lesser teams to clog the ice, funnel shots from bad angles and get away with fouls that wouldn’t stand in the regular season. Using the rules today, a defensive-minded team can clog the front of the net, blocking as many shots as does their goalie.

In Toronto’s Game 7 loss to Tampa, the Leafs directed 57 shots at impenetrable goalie Andrei Vasilevsky. He stopped 30 of 31 that reached him. His defence almost matched him, blocking 26 shots. (Toronto blocked 13 shots while goalie Campbell stopped 20 of 22 shots that rewashed him.)

Toronto buzzed the scoring zone, dominating puck possession.  They dominated faceoffs, winning 61.8 percent. In the end it meant zilch, be cause Vasilevsky was a brick wall.

It was the same for the Pacific Conference champion Calgary Flames against 23-year-old goalie Jake Oettinger and the Dallas Stars— who only snuck over .500 on the final day of the season. In Game 7 Calgary sent 129 shots toward the net, with Oettinger making 64 saves into OT. And his defence blocked 32 Calgary shots on Sunday.

On average the Flames outshot the Stars (272 shots) by over 20 shots in each of the seven games.  Yet the lower-rated Dallas almost escaped with the series win, because Oettinger was otherworldly. It took a bad-angle goal from Johnny Gaudreau in OT to propel the favoured Flames to a Round 2 Battle of Alberta with Edmonton.

The NHL shows no inclination  to reward hight-ranked teams, preferring to lionize the grinders and bangers by letting them hit opponents late and charging guys along the boards. If there were a goal that epitomized this credo it has to be  Gm.4 of the Kings/ Oilers series when Carl Grundstrom slid on his belly into goalie Mike Smith, pushing the puck under the Oilers goalie with a two-handed shove. Ugly? Yes, but effective against the massive goalies.

Of course, what are scorers to do when faced with 6-foot-5 goalies like Smith and his towering peers blotting out the sun? The epidemic of skilled giants wearing huge equipment has led to teams not shooting till they can screen the goalie or knock in a rebound. It was something we wrote about in February of 2021 following publication of an article by Ken Dryden in The Atlantic entitled “Hockey Has a Gigantic-Goalie Problem”.

 

“The problem isn’t the game. The problem is the goalie, who is changing the game”, declared Dryden. “This game, one that allows for such speed and grace, one that has so much open ice, is now utterly congested… Never in hockey’s history has a tail so wagged the dog.”

Dryden reviews the evolution of the position from goalies’ bodies protruding above the cross bar to having their entire body below it. “Pads that had been made of heavy leather, deer hair, and felt were replaced with nylon, plastic, and foam rubber. These lighter materials, which made the pads less awkward to move around in and less tiring to wear, could then also be made bigger. And bigger equipment, covering a body now in position below the bar, filled even more space.”

Dryden explains how a properly positioned 6-foot-3 or taller goalie can now block all avenues for the puck— from his knees. “But really, in that equipment, with those body strategies, why get up? Why move? What better puck-blocking position could he take?”

The response from coaches and shooters? “Rush the net with multiple offensive players, multiple defensive players will go with them, multiple arms, legs, and bodies will jostle in front of the goalie, and the remaining shooters, distant from the net, will fire away hoping to thread the needle, hoping the goalie doesn’t see the needle being threaded, because if he does, he’ll stop it

It’s not a formula Dryden likes. “All the players’ amazing skills, developed in hours of practice, visualizing and dreaming in basements, on roads and local rinks, in drills with coaches and expert teachers, their minds and hands now able to move as fast as their feet, to find and use all the open ice that is there. But with so little open ice where open ice matters, for what?”

He contrasts how basketball solved its size problem: introducing the three-point line to open up scoring in what was becoming a stalemate beneath the hoop. “If a big guy can’t pass and shoot, there’s no place for him. With big guys dispersed and away from the basket, little guys now even get rebounds. All 10 players are involved. All 10 players can have a role. All 10 players, on the best teams, and on even better teams in the future, need to have a role to win. This NBA game, played on a much smaller surface than a hockey rink, is now far more open, much less congested.”

Dryden’s solution is a reluctant one. “The clever cat-and-mouse game between goalies and shooters has run its constructive course. The goalies, by winning, have changed the game.” So the net must be made bigger. “Maybe only six inches or a foot wider, maybe only six inches higher. And only for those in junior and college leagues and above.”

Whether the NHL can see beyond its cherished myths of grinders and role players to admit it has a problem is the question. A question that, as long as Gary Bettman is commissioner, will never be answered.

 

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

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Bruce Dowbiggin

Pierre Poilievre: No More Mister Nice Guy

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What is the difference between a cactus and a conservative caucus? On a cactus, the pricks are on the outside.” John Diefenbaker

The Conservative Party of Canada has had more wardrobe changes than Elton John. “Do you like me in this? How about this? Does this make me look fat?” In its never-ending quest to win elections and still be loved by the media the party keeps missing the party. It’s the Candle In The Wind movement.

And it’s now repeating itself again. Stephen Harper. Andrew Scheer. Erin O’Toole. They came. They saw. They changed their policies to satisfy people who hated them. While Harper’s act managed to survive the years after the Quebec Sponsorship Scandal— when Liberals kept electing fashionable academics— it was swing-and—a-miss with Scheer and O’Toole.

Even facing the vainglorious fop pretender Justin Trudeau they ended up shut out of the key vote troves of urban Canada. And shut out of the PM’s job. Running as Liberal Lite friendlies Scheer and O’Toole finished up the track— all while being flailed by the Media Party as right-wing extremists.

Now the party of Sir John A. is trying again to find a leader. The favourite as debates commence is Pierre Poilievre the Rottweiler of the CPC front bench. Poilievre has channelled the voters’ disgust with Trudeau and the Ottawa status quo epitomized by the Trucker Convoy. That disgust includes the grandees of his own party who foisted Scheer and O’Toole on the nation .

Their 2022 candidate is the well-worn place holder Jean Charest, failed Conservative and tainted Liberal premier of Québec from 2003 to 2012. Charest’s policy chest sounds like a throwback to the days when language battles and Québec sovereignty were the burning issues. He’s pro-choice, and he knocks PP for supporting the Truckers.

In the debate, Poilievre did not spare Charest. “Now, Mr. Charest learned about the trucker convoy on CBC like other Liberals… He believes I should be cancelled from this leadership race, and disqualified, his words, because I don’t share his Liberal viewpoint.”

“That is the kind of cancel culture and censorship that you would expect from Justin Trudeau, but instead we’re getting it from this liberal on this stage.” He then slammed Charest on his Quebec Liberal party’s alleged acceptance of illegal donations during his time as Québec premier. And his ties to Huawei. “The average trucker has more integrity in his pinky finger than you had in your entire scandal-plagued Liberal cabinet,”

It was red meat for frustrated Conservatives who finally see a champion in the manner of Florida governor Ron DeSantis, a tiger who won’t back up in the face of Andrew Coyne huffing and puffing about nasty truckers. It resounds with Conservatives who refuse to accommodate themselves to a Liberal reality.

Naturally this brought out the Conservatives version of Charlie the Tuna. They want Tories with good taste, not Tories who taste good. They’re appropriating all the Donald Trump derangement beloved by Canadian pack Media.

“Yesterday’s debate was embarrassing for our party,” said CPC leadership candidate Scott Aitchison. “The fighting, yelling and screaming. The partisan cheap shots at fellow Conservatives. We will never win another election if this is how we talk to each other and Canadians.”

Yeah. Because all the “fighting, yelling and screaming” is why Canadians refused to vote for Scheer and O’Toole. Erstwhile Ontario leader Patrick Brown, who took a powder in the debate, also played the Stop Shouting card. “After watching the debate, I can’t help but wonder: how can any of these candidates expect to unite our party and expand our Conservative coalition if they’re already adopting a scorched-earth approach?”

Reform Party founder Preston Manning also demurred. “Stay away from the personal attacks that only poison the party well and reinforce the public’s negative perception of party politics.”

Have these people noticed that, while the CPC plays rock/paper/scissors,  the Liberals are waging drone war on them? Like Republicans— who talk tough and then support Democrats sending g $40 B in untraceable money to Ukraine— the CPC has a credibility problem.

They want to win the government. To do so they need to penetrate southern Ontario and urban areas of Montreal and the Lower Mainland B.C. The leaders of the party— prompted by the Hill press corps— insist that you can beat Trudeau by using a feather duster on him.

Poilievre— a bilingual Alberta product who represents an Ottawa riding—  dares to disagree. (He says he would fire the Bank of Canada governor if elected prime minister).He’s willing to go over the heads of the CBC chattering class and Liberals pollsters who offer unwanted advice such as: “Conservatives must ask themselves if they are falling victim to the ease of stoking and selling the politics of anger,” says pollster Tim Powers.

The outcome of a Poilievre leadership may be another schism between Reform elements and establishment Ottawa TV panel figures. Poilievre’s  attitude in the face of Trump phobia will remain much like the irascible John Diefenbaker who blew out of the West in 1957, defying the status quo, to win the PMO twice. In the face of blowback from those quivering at Liberal omnipotency Dief opined, “You can’t stand up for Canada with a banana for a backbone.”

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

 

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