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Bruce Dowbiggin

The NHL Changes Its Mind: It Won’t Wear The Ribbon After All

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The NHL and #SJW membership was always a heavy lift. For a league whose core is largely wealthy owners, middle-class conservative whites and Orthodox Eastern Europeans, the idea of donning the symbols of #LGBTQ or Climate Change or one of the myriad hip causes du jour was a stretch.

But, pressed by ESG forces it felt is could not resist, the league shocked everyone by going full Woke earlier this year with a demand that its players wearing Pride jerseys in warmup before games. With its liberal media howler monkeys applauding wildly Gary Bettman must have thought it was a price worth paying.

But the NHL discovered what Bud Light, Target, Blackrock and others have found out about their consumers. While they are content to accept the differences in society they don’t want to be compelled into participating in controversial causes. They don’t want behaviours ground in their faces by the sanctimonious media purging its white guilt.

Hence the announcement from Gary Bettman last week that next season the league is not going to do novelty branding as an effort to raise consciousness and, yes, raise money using its products— the players. Cue the howler monkeys again— this time in indignation that not everyone will agree with their pet causes. Here is a Toronto morning show decrying the right to choose not to be one of the fanatically committed.

Then Toronto Blue Jays, whose parent company Rogers pays these morning show hosts, took a different tack with its excommunication of pitcher Anthony Bass for his objection to the #LGBTQ orthodoxy. In a move Lavrentiy Beria would applaud, Bass was publicly paraded before the media, forced to read prepared statements grovelling to Rogers’ pals and had on-air hosts like Dan Shulman discuss the psychological re-assignment Bass would undergo if he wanted to pitch in Toronto again.

Then they cut him in preparation for a Pride Month festi-palooza at the park. For now, the Blue Jays are only being criticized for their lack of clutch hitting.

As we wrote in MarchThe problem with liberal tolerance in Canada is that it’s not particularly liberal and it’s certainly not tolerant. For instance, the reverberations from goalie James Reimer declining to wear a San Jose Sharks rainbow jersey have continued…

It seems to have escaped many people’s tolerance that refusing to march in a parade does not mean you hate the people in the parade. It is to say that you have a different opinion. One your employer can’t compel you to abandon. An opinion guaranteed to you by generations of free speech defenders and religious freedom. 

It is why we have halal and kosher foods. Live and let live. But the hysteria is not stopping with Reimer. The radical blood hounds have tracked down new targets to mount on their gibbet of 100 percent conformity to Woke causes.

The latest NHLers caught up in this fundamental failure to communicate are the Staal brothers in Florida who followed Reimer’s path to say that they haven’t and won’t wear symbols with which they disagree. Immediately the SJW sports media attacked them. When they said they wouldn’t Pride jerseys it was shown by the gotchas ‘ that they had worn subtle LGBTQ jerseys in the past. As if this makes them hypocrites.

My friend Mark Hebscher asked if the NHL should suspend them. Really? What would Mark say if Edmonton’s Zach Hyman, a Jew, declined to wear Muslim symbols on an Islamic Pride night? Would Mark demand Hyman be suspended?

What would he say if secular players in the league declined to wear the cross on their jersey for a Christian appreciation night? Should they be punished as haters? What if a pro sports team has a Mormon appreciation night. Does refusing to wear an LDS badge make people haters?

Of course these examples are moot. There are no progressive DEI laurels for creating political trip wires over Muslims or secularists to advance Woke influence. The only targets that matter here are conservative whites. Sports teams these days would only entertain the most provocative causes to create “a crisis that shouldn’t go to waste” (in the words of Saul Alinsky in his Rules for Radicals).

This put us in mind of the famous Everyone Must Wear A Ribbon episode on Seinfeld. In the classic 1987 episode The Sponge, Kramer is harassed by AIDS Walk organizers for refusing to wear a ribbon as he walks in the event. Here’s what we wrote in April.

VOLUNTEER: But you have to wear an AIDS ribbon.

KRAMER: I have to?

VOLUNTEER: Yes.

KRAMER: Yeah, see, that’s why I don’t want to.

VOLUNTEER: But everyone wears the ribbon. You must wear the ribbon!

KRAMER: You know what you are? You’re a ribbon bully (walks away).

VOLUNTEER: Hey! Hey you! Come back here! Come back here and put this on!

Kramer supports AIDS research, but he doesn’t support meaningless symbols. So some aggressive AIDS walkers eventually track him down and beat him in an alley for not going along with the mob. Comedian and curmudgeon George Carlin summed up Kramer’s resistance: “Religion is like a pair of shoes…..Find one that fits for you, but don’t make me wear your shoes.” But these days you must wear the shoes of the cool kids or suffer the consequences. “

Naturally, progressives pushing their myriad causes fail to see the irony— even as they laugh at the skit. Since when was it a cultural crime that 100 percent of people don’t agree on any position? You don’t demand everyone eat meat, worship God or write with your left hand. Why do we demand unanimity on Woke catechism? But white- guilt liberals now look for any excuse to suppress dissent from “the other” who spreads disinformation.

The last group you’d have expected to adopt the You Must Wear A Ribbon tactic is the NHL. But no, the league that forgot Don Cherry is once again forcing its sanctity on players who dare to say “No, thanks” to wearing LGBTQ+2 sweaters as part of their costume drama.

We summed it up this way in March: “As we’ve contended over decades, the key to acceptance of gays in hockey will be the coming-out of a prominent NHL star(s). They are out there. It wasn’t high rhetoric from Brooklyn Dodgers GM Branch Rickey that changed the colour line in baseball. It was Jackie Robinson’s forbearance. It wasn’t slogans that slowly changed the skin colour of golf. It was Tiger Woods’ utter dominance. 

It was also the hyper-macho world that Brian Burke himself nurtured through the years before his son came out — not colourful jerseys— that has repressed gay participation in the NHL. The weeding-out of gay youth in the development process comes from the grass roots. (To his credit a penitent Burke now owns some of this.)

While it is commendable that Burke now supports his son’s memory, flailing Christians for refusing to wear Pride jerseys is not the way to achieve understanding. Worshipping symbols is a divisive, not a unifying action that plays into the hands of forces Burke clearly does not acknowledge or understand. Radicals who use terms like white settler and cis-gender-entitlement to baffle the vulnerable. And who will discard him when he’s no longer of use to them.

Churchill was prescient about appeasing today’s virtue warriors when he long ago said that appeasers “are like people who feed the crocodile in hopes that the crocodile eats them last.”  Chomp.Chomp. Their day is coming. “ Just ask Bud Light.

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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

Corked: The Incongruous Affection For Government Liquor Retailing

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First, the nostalgia. In 1974 we worked at the (now departed) Huron and Dupont LCBO site for Xmas. In those days, when people arrived by dog sled, customers were required to consult a book, find the code that corresponded to their choice of wine or booze, and then hand the slip to a clerk (us) who would fetch the evil brew from a deep lair beneath the store.

Okay, it was from shelves beyond the view of customers. We would then return with the bottle, a cashier would process the transaction, and democracy was safe for another day. After we left, the LCBO modernized stores to allow customers to actually see the bottles they were considering (heresy). They hired clerks who actually knew something about the products, Later still they even had sales and tasting bars in fancy stores adorned in chrome and wood accents.

Those who wanted anything different could hoover to Buffalo or Rochester where the stores were often modest but the prices attractive. Different stores carried different inventories. While Ontario customers ordered rationed futures or shivered in parking lots to get a miniscule share of a hot new wine, getting product at the U.S. stores was both immediate and not rationed.

The contrast was stark. Which is where things sit today. The Ontario government (like all provincial governments save Alberta) is still in the retail business. In the day, they had about 8,000 slots for shelf-worthy products. If you wanted to purchase something else you needed a process that made finding the headwaters of the Nile seem like a casual jaunt. It’s less strenuous now, with the Ford government allowing sales in corner outlets and grocery stores.

But the LCBO remains a unionized tribute to Bill Davis’ Ontario. A polite, apologetic concession to pre-Trudeau Canada. Which is why the noisy ruckus being kicked up by the unionized employees is a downer for the Family Compact sensibilities. The people who stock shelves, operate cashes, check IDs and refuse to give you plastic bags are on strike to protect their sinecures with government. Have they no gratitude?

Union leaders are insisting that the loss of their workers will be a death blow to healthcare and education in the province. All sorts of miscreants will be allowed to escape detection in the buying process. For those of us now living in Alberta this eye-rolling claim is amusing. You see, private liquor retailing has been in effect here for decades. Different stores have different choices. Sales are an everyday feature of the experience. While the LCBO brags about its buying power you don’t see it reflected in prices. Bonus: We also can purchase Costco’s Kirkland brand wines which are cheap and delicious.

The predicted increase in crime and diminution of tax income without unionized store clerks has not happened. As Brian Lilley explains in The Sun, “Statistics Canada tracks the annual net income of liquor authorities in Canada and for fiscal year 2022-23, Alberta returned $825,104,000 to the provincial coffers. With a population of 4,645,229 as of April 1, 2023, that means the Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Commission gave the government a per capita return of $177.62.

“That same year, the LCBO’s net income from liquor was $2,457,527,000. With a population of 15,457,075 as of April 1, 2023, the LCBO returned $158.99 per capita. Even using the $2.58 billion the LCBO remits, which includes other earnings, the LCBO’s per capita return to the province would be $166.91, which is still lower than Alberta’s return.” In short, we call bogus on the union’s claim.

But there is in government liquor sales the Canadian quality of worshipful adherence to the state. This is the polite impulse of restricting competition that has driven healthcare into the stratosphere for Canadians. Even as they wait 18 months to see a specialist or sit endlessly in a waiting room, Canadians privately welcome this as a merit badge for not accepting the two-tiered systems of Europe or the insurance-based market in the U.S.

Their suffering gives them gravitas that, as middle-class folk, they can suffer like the poor folks do, the ones whom, pace the NDP, need our empathy. The glossy brochures churned out by LCBO minions allow a frisson of pizazz but without oppressing the folks camped out in Trinity Bellwods park.

For this reason the Ford Conservatives are treading very carefully despite the evident big-foot uselessness of the current model. In the venerable Ontario government tradition of trying to be half-pregnant they don’t want to stir up the class warriors seen recently in ant-Israel demos. It’s similar in the rest of the provinces where bureaucrats have convinced elected officials that, like Jack in Brokeback Mountain, “I wish I knew how to quit you, Ennis.”

Whatever the LCBO strike result it’s a safe assumption that no one in the Canadian bureaucracy will be losing their jobs to the free market. The huge bumps in hiring since Covid show a colossus that has no intention of giving back its power to regulate. From liquor to climate Canadian politicians have ceded responsibility for areas that can be handled more efficiently and cheaply by civil servants and consultants. Kind of like CBC.

It is possible to kick the habit. The recent Chevron SCOTUS decision seeks to unpack the bureaucratic state by de-fanging its armies of in-house experts, pushing regulations and laws back to elected officials and away from the sprawling DEI-infested bureaucracy. You can tell it’s working by the torrents of complaint from redundant officials. Even more drastically, new Argentine president Javier Milei has reduced his cabinet departments from 22 to just nine.

While PM-in-waiting Pierre Poilievre talks a big game about tackling these excesses, he doesn’t stand a chance at rationalizing government services. So it’s likely he’ll have to content himself with a nice glass of beer or wine. That, under the LCBO, will cost him more than it should.

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. His new book Deal With It: The Trades That Stunned The NHL And Changed hockey is now available on Amazon. Inexact Science: The Six Most Compelling Draft Years In NHL History, his previous 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 brucedowbigginbooks.ca.

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Bruce Dowbiggin

Soccer Most Foul: While Canada Soars The Game Suffers

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Watching Canada’s mens team at the Copa 2024 soccer tournament has been a hoot. With a coach who hasn’t been there long enough to unpack his bags and with a smattering of world-class players they’ve managed to make a little go a long way. They play mighty Argentina on Tuesday after winning a dramatic shootout against Venezuela on Friday.

They’ve yet to score more than once in any game. In two games they’ve been shut out in regulation time. One of the top forwards, Tajan Buchanan, broke his leg. The grandstands are about five percent Canada, 95 percent the other guys. They played almost an entire game with a man advantage and never took any advantage.

The Canada national team huddle together during the Concacaf Gold Cup football match semifinal between Mexico and Canada at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas on July 29, 2021. (Photo by AARON M. SPRECHER / AFP) (Photo by AARON M. SPRECHER/AFP via Getty Images)

But here they are. God bless ‘em. The American announcers, bereft after the U.S. collapsed, have adopted Canada as a feel-good story. Should they beat Argentina it will be almost enough for Canadians to forget that Justin Trudeau is still their prime minister. Almost.

What is unavoidable— outside the Canada plot line— is the distressed state of soccer being played at the Copa and the concurrent Euro 24 tournament deciding the champion of that neck of the world. Not that it hasn’t been a disputatious disgrace in the past, but the soccer playing out next to Canada’s ascension is breaching new lows.

Soccer is the UN of sports. It has a storied past. It represents many good and virtuous things in the world. But it is now a swamp of corruption, cynicism and bad people. To paraphrase the Hunter S. Thompson expression, soccer is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs.

At times it seems that the object is the litigation process of lies and deception during the game, not the eventual outcome. Like Iran on the UN Women’s Commission or China on the Human Rights board, Ecuador as a soccer titan seems to beggar the imagination. But there you go.

The nadir of this incarnation of “the beautiful game” was likely the unwatchable spectacle of Uruguay and Brazil on Saturday night. The way the bodies were hitting the ground you’d have thought it was the Somme. Except at the Somme, the bodies didn’t miraculously revive and rejoin the battle as if nothing had happened to them.

While there were 37 fouls called (including four yellow cards and a red card) dozens more incidents ended up with players writhing on the turf, pounding the grass with their fist as if their leg had been severed. When the referee ignored the charade, their teammates swarmed Dario Herrera to dispute the sheer injustice of it all. The pantomime of outrage and pomposity was more suited to Gilbert & Sullivan than a sporting event.

Creating some offence seemed to be too heavy of a load for the Brazilians and Uruguayans. (Brazil’s star Vincius Jr. was suspended for the game.) Hence the puny four shots on target in the entire 120-minutes plus of regulation (three by Brazil, one by Uruguay). Better to see if the referee can set you up for a free kick inside the box by feigning injury. Or halt your opponents as they threaten to launch a ball in the direction of your goalie.

The endless lather, rinse, repeat of this process was exhausting as it became clear that the clubs were going to let a shootout settle who would proceed to the semifinals against Colombia (Canada/ Argentina is the other semi.) Finally Uruguay outlasted Brazil 4-2 in the shootout.

Almost hidden in the docket of legal challenges made to luckless referee Herrera was the fact that one of the Brazilian players is currently being investigated in for match fixing. Turns out he’s been (allegedly) taking a dive to draw a yellow cards so his being buddies can cash in.

But he’s been granted a papal dispensation or the equivalent to play in the tournament . Oh, that puts the whole thing beyond the pale. Remember that unhappy bettors once murdered a Colombian player for an own goal at the World Cup. What could possibly go wrong?

That brings up another subject. Which is the standards for what’s allowed in the game. Under a mysterious tradition, defenders are apparently allowed to grab jerseys, hand-check attackers, tackle players in the penalty box on corner kicks and generally impede attackers who stray into their vicinity. If you want to know why three of four COPA matches and three of four Euro matches ended in SO or OT, look no further than the permissible impeding of offence. Scoring is a herculean task when teams are remotely competent.

In a hidebound sport such as soccer where politics reigns supreme, nothing happens without someone’s palm being greased. (And this is our seemingly umpteenth time in our four decades reporting on sport that we have made this point.) But we shall try again.

Other sports have understood that neither fans nor networks pay to see defence. So the NBA made hand-checking opponents a foul. The NHL made slashing the hands of a shooter into a two-minute penalty. The NFL told defensive backs that they couldn’t grab jerseys or limbs in covering receivers. It worked, freeing up the game enough so it doesn’t look like Brazil/ Uruguay every night.

Surely, soccer can restrict the borderline tactics of defenders to allow more flow to the sport. No doubt the cro-magnons that roam the pitch will howl. The players-turned-announcers in the booth will scoff. Fans will blame “sissy tactics” when their team loses.

But please. For one last time. We want to enjoy soccer, not endure it. Open up the game. Shut down the players who turn soccer into The English Patient. Let skill, not clever fouling, decide matches. Remove the terpsichorean spectacle from the pitch.

There. We said it. Nothing will change, but we will feel better about not watching in the future.

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. His new book Deal With It: The Trades That Stunned The NHL And Changed hockey is now available on Amazon. Inexact Science: The Six Most Compelling Draft Years In NHL History, his previous 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 brucedowbigginbooks.ca.

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