Tuesday, August 27, 2013

One Sentence Does Not Say It All

Pavel Datsyuk has no problem with the anti-gay laws in Russia, and explains his stance by saying that he's an Orthodox and that says it all.

How, exactly, does that say it all? So much ink has been spilled on this issue in recent weeks, and Datsyuk chooses to address it in a soundbite. As if that's enough. How on Earth could he think that that's enough?

Why does it seem like he's hiding behind his faith in order to avoid answering questions fully and expressing exactly how he feels? I know that athletes aren't often celebrated for being honest and telling it like it is, but I wish that the culture of sports would allow them to.

Why aren't we asking more questions about this?
I think I'll start by asking one of my own. I asked it on Twitter last week but I'm still looking for a good response. If Datsyuk is faithful enough to his religion that he would use it as a super-brief response to a major world issue, why is this the first time I hear him say that he's Orthodox?

Faith can be a beautiful thing, but it most often makes the news when it's used in a negative context. And far be it from me to tell anyone how to live their life, but I believe that anyone vocal enough to identify their faith should be able to live it freely. Why don't we ever hear Datsyuk extending holiday greetings beyond the canned, pre-written stuff the team makes him say? Why don't we see him going to church or volunteering his time? Has anyone heard him thanking God after winning an NHL Award or the Stanley Cup? I know that Datsyuk barely speaks at all, but still, I can't help but wonder. A peek at his website tells me all about his mentors and how much he enjoys billiards and fishing. No mention of any church stuff.

Datsyuk chooses to be a model for his church only when a political issue comes up. As a person of faith, I find this discouraging. I personally would love to see an NHL star, a Lady Byng winner, showing the world all of the positive things he believes in. Since we're in different denominations, it's very possible that he and I see things differently. And yes, I know that as a Catholic, I probably have a lot to answer for on this same issue. However, as a Catholic, I was also taught that we should love one another. I'm assuming that the Orthodox have read the same Gospels that I have. 
Pope Francis has been encouraging Catholics - and all Christians - to live their faith, rather than just expressing it:

"To be Christian is to live and witness to the faith in prayer, in works of charity, in promoting justice, in doing good."

Now, to me, "promoting justice" sounds like a very good way to say "oppose a government that treats homosexuality as a crime," but I don't actually know very much about Datsyuk's own thoughts about homosexuality and/or how uncomfortable he is with it, so I'm not going to expect him to do a 180 on this overnight. But Pope Francis' words aren't just about this issue - they're about living life every day. If Datsyuk uses his faith to guide his opinions, he should use it to guide other aspects of his life as well. Expressing himself (even just to the Russian media - we can wait for a translation), encouraging others to engage in acts of charity... this is the kind of stuff that I would love to see a star athlete doing.

Now, some people have said that athletes often do or should keep their religious beliefs private because it could turn off their fans or alienate them. Or, in other words, that a Christian should keep their faith in the closet. In my opinion, that is completely ridiculous. No one should have to lie about who they are. The NHL can only continue to grow and evolve if its players cooperate and respect each other. To me, this means that a player deserves respect regardless of who he loves, where he's from, and what religion he practices. And, in turn, he should show the same respect he's been given.

Wishful thinking, I know.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Hab It Her Way Awards, part 3

Okay, one more round of awards. Nothing like an awards ceremony that overstays its welcome, right?

The J. Jonah Jameson Trophy for Special Achievement in Journalism
This one goes to John Buccigross for his excellent, in-depth piece about Blake Geoffrion's life, injury, recovery, and retirement. It made me cry, and it probably made you cry, too. (If it didn't, you might want to see the Wizard about a heart.)

The Gunn Brothers Trophy for Unrewarded Excellence in Television
(Think of this as TV's equivalent of the Jacques Beauchamp)
Columbus Short is so great on Scandal. He really is. I could watch him wear funky suits and talk fast for hours. But, unfortunately, he usually only gets minutes. You see, Scandal was quite occupied with expanding its storylines in season 2, and fleshing out the characters who remained a mystery in season 1. What does that mean for Short's character, Harrison? Unfortunately, not much. He didn't really get to use his fast talking and suit-wearing to its full potential. Which is ridiculous, because he wears suspenders. Suspenders! I've heard that there's going to be more for Short and his suspenders to do in the upcoming third season, and I can only hope it's true because it's a shame to see such a good performance go to waste.

The Tom Hanks Trophy for Best SNL Host
How often will you see a first-time host and musical guest go toe-to-toe with someone joining the Five Timers Club? It's a tie between Bruno Mars' classic showmanship and Justin Timberlake's appointment television. No, seriously: Most people make plans to go out on Saturday nights. My friend and I made plans to stay in and watch JT on SNL. And Bruno Mars' turn as host was the last push I needed to decide for sure that I wanted to see him in concert as soon as he came to town, no matter what. (Which I did, and now part two of the Bell Centre concert sequel to this will be the Justin Timberlake concert on Halloween night.)

The M. Night Shyamalan Trophy for Biggest Shock of the Offseason
The only time I will ever use a photo from Perez Hilton
The M Night Shyamalan goes to.... M Night Shyamalan! WHAT A SHOCKING TURN OF EVENTS. Can you believe that he claimed to have ghostwritten She's All That? It was probably the randomest and funniest news story of the summer.
(The other biggest shock of the summer involved Jarome Iginla and please, let's not talk about that.)

The Ben & Jerry's Trophy for Best Thing About The Offseason
Without a doubt, this trophy has to go to Jay Baruchel's Just for Laughs gala. JB making his entrance in a Subban jersey! Surprise appearances by Youppi! and Chris Nilan! A video address from Geoff Molson! A spoken-word poem about corrupt local politicians! A completely solid lineup of comedians! It was the best thing to happen at Just for Laughs this year outside of my shaking Seth Meyers' hand.

The Lumiere Brothers Trophy for Best Animated GIF
Champagne for my real friends; real pain for my sham friends.
This was a late entry to the competition, but the Hawks are pretty good at winning things at the last minute.

I'd invite Patrick Kane to the HIHW Awards afterparty, but I don't have that kind of budget.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

I don't normally accept bribes.

Somehow, word got around the hockey community that I would be writing the Canadiens' entry in Puck Daddy's National Hockey League of Nations. As such, I was contacted by a bunch of eager Habs players and alumni, hoping that I would write about them. I still have no idea how they got my address, but here's what they sent me:

From the family of Maurice Richard: A copy of The Hockey Sweater, when what I really wanted was a picture of The Rocket where his eyes look especially crazy.

From Alex Kovalev: A lock of his hair, and the keys to that car he won at the 2009 All-Star Game (which may or may not have been lent to Sergei Kostitsyn at some point.)

From Sergei Kostitsyn: The exact same thing that Alex Kovalev sent me, but a week later and in a really smushed-up envelope with my name and address misspelled.

From Jean Beliveau: A smile.

From Chris Chelios: A bottle of Johnnie Walker Red and a very, very expensive brown leather purse.

From Jaroslav Halak: A letter that reads "You know that store on Ste-Catherine that's still selling my T-shirts? The one whose owner has hated Carey Price since his rookie season? I told him to just relax and chill out."

From Carey Price: A note that said "Vote for Jaro!" on cowboy-printed stationery.

From Tomas Plekanec: Not even joking, he sent me a turtleneck, a sleeveless turtleneck, a turtleneck for my cat, and a keychain shaped like a Habs jersey with a turtleneck under it.

From Sergei Samsonov: An email that said "Whatever. I don't need Montreal, because I'm going to be on the Bruins' list."

From Kirk Muller: A brief but very nice email, when what I really wanted was a gif of him flipping his hair.

From Patrick Roy: Earplugs shaped like Stanley Cup rings.

And no, I haven't read the comments, because that is the number-one rule of Yahoo.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Habit Her Way Awards 2013, part 2

Let's be honest. I love awards season so much that I had to make it last a little longer. This installment focuses mostly on what happened before the season started. 

The MacGuffin Trophy for Best Inanimate Object
The Internet would probably smite me if I didn't choose #NHLPodium, so I guess it wins this season.
First place in my heart: the NHL tablecloth that accompanies the Stanley Cup.

The Flava Flav Trophy for Best Time Of Day
Apprently the best time to be a hockey fan in 2013 was that ungodly time between night and morning, when you're not sure if any humans are actually awake or if Tim Hortons secretly closes because not even truckers go to the drive-thru at that hour. You know, between like 1 AM and 4 AM? The sun hadn't even thought about rising when the NHL finally got its act together and announced that there would be a season after all. David Desharnais signed a contract extension at some hour that only hobos and emergency rooms are awake. And before any of that happened, most of Canada turned on the TV at... I don't even want to remember what time, to watch the World Juniors.

The Michael Bay Trophy for Most Unnecessary Sequel
They made a nineteenth Fast and the Furious movie, and it only loses this trophy for two reasons:
1) Paul Walker looks good, I guess
2) It's nowhere near as annoying as next season's onslaught of outdoor games.
You're starting to exaggerate, hockey, with all these outdoor games. You're like Taylor Swift with writing songs about her exes. Yes, I went for a super-obvious Taylor Swift joke. But it's still less obvious than you, announcing all these outdoor games while you dive into a pile of money like Scrooge McDuck. We like the Winter Classic just the way it is!

Best Thing About The Lockout

I ordered a five-game ticket package last September, when I believed that the lockout wouldn't last very long. I was wrong, obviously, but I had already charged those tickets to my credit card and paid it off. So what was there left to do? Wait for each game date to be cancelled, cry a little, then stop crying when I realized that every cancelled game was like a tiny windfall: a discount on my flight to Italy, or a surprisingly small balance after the holiday shopping season. So thanks, Geoff Molson, for giving me back the money I had paid you to see Saku Koivu.
Second-Best Thing About The Lockout: Going to Italy.

Worst Thing About The Lockout
Pretty much everything. By the time November came around, I was ready to get out of town.

The WGA Award for Best Lockout Distraction
The tribute concert for Hurricane Sandy, organized by Bruce Springsteen. He filled Madison Square Garden with people who deserved to be there and people who wanted to make a difference, and he gave them hours of the absolute best musical performances they could ask for. This concert had everything: a Nirvana reunion fronted by Paul McCartney, Kanye West in a leather skirt, Martin Scorsese... and, most importantly, it gave the people who worked so hard to make a difference in the face of disaster - the volunteers, the hospital staff - a chance to get the cheers and applause usually reserved for whoever's on the ice or the stage at MSG.

The Han Solo Trophy for Badassery
Remember that time Carey Price got one or two of his teeth knocked out, spit them out, then skated to the bench with teeth in hand? Yeah, that was gross.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Hab It Her Way Awards 2013

The best things about summer have come and gone, so I guess it's time for me to enjoy my favourite weather and look forward to the next hockey season. Or, actually, look back on the last season. (That'll take all of three seconds.) Sounds like the perfect time to bring back one of my favourite features: the Hab It Her Way Awards! This year, instead of posting nominees, I've chosen the winners on my own. (Sorry!)

So, without further ado, here are our more traditional categories:

The Youppi! Trophy for Best Hab of the Season
Here, Brendan Gallagher, this is for you. You know, on top of the 28 points, 2 playoff goals, NHL All-Rookie team, Calder nomination, and unconditional love of an entire city.

The Leslie Knope Trophy for Acts of Kindness
Hal Gill saved an owl's life! We've always known that he was a nice guy who seems to treat his teammates really well, but not everyone would go out of their way to save an animal, so this deserves an award.

The Coach Taylor Trophy for Favourite TV Person (Sports)
As usual, this award goes to James Duthie. From his roles in TSN's sketch comedy efforts to his relaxed professionalism in-studio, I don't think I've ever seen a segment where Duthie seemed out of sorts. If there was a clip reel to accompany this award presentation, it would just be of James Duthie, between periods of Team Canada's first game at the World Juniors, around 4 AM EST, saying "If you're watching one of our later rebroadcasts or if you recorded this game to watch later, suck it up next time." It was the most hysterical thing I have ever heard at 4 AM.

The Benedict Cumberbatch Trophy for Best Name of the Draft
Last year's draft was rife with excellent names. This year, not so much. But still, there's no denying the awesomeness of a name like Ben Storm. They waited until the sixth round to draft a guy named Ben Storm? Dude sounds like a superhero! And he was drafted by the Avalanche. That's synergy if I've ever seen it.
Honourable mentions: Stephon Williams (NYI's hottest club) and Rasmus Ristolainen (BUF.)

The Pierre McGuire Trophy for Best Playoff Moment
Thank you, Dave Bolland, for scoring a last-minute Stanley Cup winner and saving us all from the clutches of the evil Bruins!