Seasons of Loss (Or, How to Reference Broadway Theatre in a Football Piece)

Andrew Harris rushed for 118 yards and caught a few passes for 57 yards more, while Manny Arseneaux led the team with 75 yards reception. They combined for three TDs in a 26-23 comeback win over the Edmonton Eskimos. CP photo lifted from the Province Sports website.
Andrew Harris rushed for 118 yards and caught a few passes for 57 yards more, while Manny Arceneaux led the team with 75 yards reception. They combined for three TDs in a 26-23 comeback win over the Edmonton Eskimos, and did so seven minutes after Erin Jeffery & Kid left the building. CP photo lifted from the Province Sports website.

This past Friday I was at the Lions game with the kid. As games go, it wasn’t our best. The defence was kind of sleepy and the offence seemed to be hurling themselves at the Eskimos like lemmings over a cliff.  There were moments of brilliance, but sadly more moments of ‘arrrrrgh’. Sure, Arceneaux scored a spectacular TD, but Jennings got hammered with his short yardage attempt. Harris was dependable, but Lulay just wasn’t finding his receivers. So with seven minutes left, Lions down by five, I looked at my 5 11/12-year-old, our 35-minute ride home, and his 7am wake up the next day and thought, “Well… This game is over… Crazy P has sung… It’s time to head”. The kid was sad, because he wanted to see the Lions win.  His Lions win.  But I made a choice.

Don’t say it. Just. Don’t. Say. It.

Continue reading Seasons of Loss (Or, How to Reference Broadway Theatre in a Football Piece)

Summertime & The Winning’s Easy

Whitecaps Wednesday

The Whitecaps’ goal parade continued on Saturday as they poured in four against Western Conference foes Real Salt Lake. The four-spot gives them ten goals for over their last three games while only surrendering a single goal against in the same time frame.

It was another victory in a game that would have likely offered up a serving of humble pie in years past – Caps fans have become accustomed to never taking “guaranteed win night” for granted much like Dennis Skulsky and the BC Lions – bringing about the notion (for me anyways) that this team is exceeding expectations.

Coach Carl Robinson chants along with the Curva Collective,:"Four goals is not enough, four is not enough!" Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
Coach Carl Robinson chants along with the Curva Collective: “Four goals is not enough, four is not enough!” Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

For certain this team has suffered some authentic disappointment season (see June 3, May 23), but on the whole, the squad has taken steps towards becoming the “professional team” all franchises aspire to be. That is, winning games you should and managing to earn results in many that you shouldn’t.

But is this what we had envisioned for the 2015 Whitecaps coming into the MLS season? Let us spew a few words about that.

Continue reading Summertime & The Winning’s Easy

Four goals is not enough, say four is not enough

The Vancouver Whitecaps steamrolled a third-string Real Salt Lake team 4-nil on Saturday in what can only be considered an apology for the mutt of a game they put forth in their first-ever Champions League match three days prior.

RSL midfielder John Stertzer says "Bring it on, Kekuta!". Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
RSL midfielder John Stertzer says “Bring it on, Kekuta!”. And bring it on, he did. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

Ugh. Memories of that Wednesday Champions League match plague me like large, hulking plague-y things. Both the Caps and Sounders fielded third-string rosters who played uninspired, irresponsible football.

Having RSL field their USL affiliate against the Whitecaps first squad, then, was going to end one of two ways: a close match that had Vancouverites wringing their hands in horror, or a blowout. Thankfully for the local boys, it was the latter.

RSL starting 11 vs Vancouver Whitecaps FC, 8 August 2015
RSL keeper Jeff Attinella isn’t sure he even recognizes half the guys in this starting XI. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

The biggest story isn’t that Octavio Rivero scored his ninth on yet another penalty kick. It’s not that Christian Techera put a brace into the back of the net for his third and fourth goals of the year. It’s not that Jordan Harvey is playing his best soccer just when Christian Dean is showing he’s got game and Sam Adekugbe is rounding into game shape to push him for minutes. It’s not that All-Star keeper David Ousted has the best goals against average in MLS, having allowed just two goals in the last four games and 22 overall this season. It’s not even that Pa Madou Kah scoring his third goal in two games — Pa Madou Frickin’ Kah, my friends, who had only scored once in his previous 58 MLS games.

Christian Techera keeps tabs on RSL defender Olmes Garcia. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
Christian Techera keeps tabs on RSL defender Olmes Garcia. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

No, it’s the fact that all of these remarkable storylines are coming together at the same moment. When Rivero hasn’t scored from the run of play since May. With Pedro injured and/or playing so-so football for the majority of the year. When Manneh still hasn’t found a regular groove and Mattocks is still, well, Mattocks. In a season that features a loopy schedule because BC Place hosted the Women’s World Cup. The Vancouver Whitecaps have tied the franchise record of 13 wins this season, and there are 10 games remaining.

This is an exciting time to be a Whitecaps fan. Come on, you blue and white, indeed.

Coach Carl Robinson chants along with the Curva Collective,:"Four goals is not enough, four is not enough!" Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
Coach Carl Robinson chants along with the Curva Collective,:”Four goals is not enough, no four is not enough!” Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

You want highlights? You got ’em.

Champions League Preview – Round 1 vs. Seattle

Tonight, the Vancouver Whitecaps kick off their first continental campaign when the Seattle Sounders come – somewhat reluctantly, as we’ll see later – to town for the first of four CONCACAF Champions League group stage matches.

The Whitecaps got something of a mixed bag in their first CCL draw. On the one hand, they avoided a Mexican club. On the other, they drew a very strong MLS side in Seattle and a 2015 quarterfinalist in Honduras’ CD Olimpia. This presents Carl Robinson with an interesting dilemma. Does he count his lucky stars that the likes of Club America and Cruz Azul were drawn into other groups, and go for the win, testing his squad depth and potentially risking results in the Voyageurs Cup and the league, or does he trust a young squad to try and nick a result? Province reporter Marc Weber provided this quote, which seems to indicate the latter: “It will be the best lineup I think can go out and win this game, with an eye on Saturday, with an eye on next Wednesday.”

With that in mind, a few predictions, all of them sure to be wrong because what the hell do I know?

Robert Earnshaw thanks the heavens for his first goal as a Vancouver Whitecap — he should be thanking Pedro Morales for that sick pass, I'd say. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the head.
Robert Earnshaw thanks the heavens for his first goal as a Vancouver Whitecap — he should be thanking Pedro Morales for that sick pass, I’d say. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the head.

Continue reading Champions League Preview – Round 1 vs. Seattle

King Kah climbs the Space Needle

This was a dominant performance. The Vancouver Whitecaps took vengeance down the I-5 and spanked the Seattle Sounders 3-0 this weekend, and in doing so moved back atop the Western Conference standings.

Pa Modou Kah, he of a single goal during his respectably long MLS career, put a brace into the back of the Seattle net, and stirred up considerable ire among Flounders fans, players and scribes with his post-game giggles on the Century Link pitch. Kah earned a spot on the MLS Team of the Week for his efforts. Not bad for an ageing defender more famous for big gaffes than big goals.

Pa Modou Kah tripled his career MLS goal total with a brace against the Seattle Flounders. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
Pa Modou Kah tripled his career MLS goal total with a brace against the Seattle Flounders. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

It was a text book, solid performance by the visitors. David Ousted got the clean sheet by wasn’t really tested, if we’re being honest. Kendall Waston earned his obligatory yellow card for little more than being a large man. Pedro Morales scored a beauty of an insurance goal on a free kick from distance.

Over 53,000 fans took in the spectacle. It marks seven losses in eight games for a Seattle team that has all the parts to do damage. This Sounders squad doesn’t know what to do with itself right now. Defence? Atrocious. Passing? Loose and irresponsible.

Vancouver is happy to take advantage — these three points mean another Cascadia Cup is just a draw away. Before that, look for heated challenges and not-so-gentle tackles to rule the day when these two teams square off on Wednesday at BC Place in Champions League play. And don’t be surprised if Kah is even more trash-talky than usual after this two-goal performance.

Highlights, even if the preceding ad’s depiction of a Vancouver fan practising in deep snow is particularly galling. Have any of the MLS staffers even been north of 49 before? This is a league where 15% of franchises exist in Canada, but they only play the Star-Spangled Banner before the All-Star Game. Vancouver has snow on the ground occasionally — about as often as MLS brass makes sense, but we would never suggest logic as being one of their defining traits.

Commence the countdown to hockey season

If July 1 brings talk of trades, arbitration and free agent contracts, then August 1 is when hockey fans get down to the serious business of being impatient pricks on Twitter.

Goodbye, Bonino Phone

Brandon Sutter is the newest Canuck, and the latest victim of attacks from Vancouver hockey fans. Gregory Shamus photo cribbed from a Bing image search.
Brandon Sutter is the newest Canuck, and the latest victim of attacks from Vancouver hockey fans. Gregory Shamus photo cribbed from a Bing image search.

The Canucks sent Nick Bonino and prospect Adam Clendening to Pittsburgh for career third-liner Brandon Sutter. On the whole, people in Vancouver were not happy. Imagine the sadness emanating from the Raffi household, for example. There just wasn’t time to record that Boninophone track that dammit should have happened no matter what you say, and BOOM, the Canucks essentially traded Ryan Kesler to the Ducks for Brandon Sutter’s 3rd line minutes.

Of course, once Bob McKenzie confirmed the trade, hand-wringing, hair-pulling and all-around whinging ramped up in seconds.

YVR haters don’t even stop when a player leaves the Vancouver roster. Ex-Canuck and Scrabble aficionado Tanner Glass takes one on the jaw in chart form: the Glass-to-Crosby scale, based on production vs possession, favours the Penguins. Fancy stats people tend to dislike Sutter, generally speaking.

Cooler heads made an appearance, too. (Jeez, I can’t believe I’m on the same side as Tony Gallagher on this one. The difference? I make more hockey-related supporting arguments in 121 characters than ol’ Radio Face does in 500 words.)

As always, the jury is out until we see results on the ice. But let’s be honest: the Vancouver Canucks are not going to play an entertaining, up-tempo brand of firewagon hockey, a la 2011. Brandon Sutter gives them some consistent sandpaper, however, to compete against a never-say-die Flames squad and those dirty, rotten, stinkin’ bastards who call themselves the Anaheim Ducks.

Current crop of Canucks lacking personality

Vancouver fans are still stinging from the dump of Eddie Lack’s meagre salary.  Do I think he’s a number one goalie? No. Should he have been given away for meaningless late draft picks? No way, Jose. There goes our boy Ed showing off his new pads, which alas feature the Carolina Toilet Flush:

For those who don’t like to gram the insta (did I do that right?), those pads look like this:

Eddie Lack introduced his new Carolina Hurricanes pads via Twitter and Instagram.
Eddie Lack introduced his new Carolina Hurricanes pads via Twitter and Instagram.

How many goalies will paint the Great Wall on their masks?

The 2022 Winter Olympiad will be held in Beijing, which means the NHL will be under more pressure to extend its agreement to allow players to play for Olympic gold. There’s so much money involved in China, both above board and under the table, that not even Gary Bettman can let ego get in the way of a deal.

If you thought Puck Daddy’s Jersey Fouls posts were entertaining before, wait until you see a generation of new fans wearing counterfeit Team USA Crosby sweaters.

I only hope Dave Bidini, he of the wonderful book Tropic of Hockey, gets a piece of the action somehow. Outside of ex-pat teachers lacing up the skates in backwater rinks of Mongolia, ol’ Dave was the first person to give hockey in Asia any serious attention.

The 2022 Winter Olympics will be held in Beijing, China. I hope Dave Bidini gets a piece of the action. Photo cribbed from a Sports Illustrated article.
The 2022 Winter Olympics will be held in Beijing, China. I hope Dave Bidini gets a piece of the action. Photo cribbed from a Sports Illustrated article.

Real Girl Power

We are not going to talk about the Lions game on Friday.  Ideally, I’d like to pretend it didn’t happen.  We’re not going to mention losing a three-touchdown lead, or the moderately INSANE decision to go for it on 3rd and 4, or the grabbing of facemasks by defencemen who have NO BUSINESS GRABBING FACEMASKS!

We’re also not going to talk about this most recent loss last night. It’s just salt in the wound.

What we WERE going to talk about was the Felions. Specifically…WTF (or What the Felion?)

However, while I was hammering away on my keyboard about the ludicrousness of the Felions and how they are indicative of the outdated assumption that the only people who attend or appreciate football games are horny straight males who couldn’t recognize good dancing if it hit them on the head with an arabesque, I heard the news that the Arizona Cardinals had hired the first ever woman to coach on an NFL team.

Well now….

Dr Jen Welter has been named the pre-season linebacker coach for the Arizona Falcons, and becomes the first woman to join an NFL coaching staff. Image borrowed from notable.ca
Dr Jen Welter has been named the pre-season linebacker coach for the Arizona Falcons, and becomes the first woman to join an NFL coaching staff. Image borrowed from notable.ca

This proves one of my points way better than anything I was going to say. (Although, I’m sure I’ll be spouting off on the Felions at a later date… because SERIOUSLY?)

The trend that was started by Becky Hammon as assistant coach of the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs is continuing with Dr. Jen Welter, and I say it’s about bloody time.

This post on Time.com has a lot to say about why getting women into the coaching pool is going to make for better games.

Giving women access to leadership positions expands the talent pool available to organizations. And a wider talent pool improves the quality of candidates a firm can hire.

The history of sports clearly illustrates this point. For example, prior to racial integration in baseball, which began with Jackie Robinson in 1947, the sport had a competitive balance problem. It was not uncommon for a team to win (or lose) more than 65% of their games. This disparity was made possible because the league, which only employed white males from the U.S., could not find enough talent. When it expanded its talent base, the number of talented pitchers and hitters expanded, too. A team has not won more than 65% of its games since 2001.

This rule applies to any organization: The wider your search for talent, the better the talent you are ultimately likely to employ.

Is the male dominated sports world ready for this shift? Yes, I think it is.  I see it when I coach my son’s team.  Admittedly, I’m coaching six- and seven-year-olds, but misogyny starts early, my friends.  Most of these kids have dads. Most of these kids are boys. One of my fellow coaches (another woman), used to play tackle on the very same team we are coaching (GO HYACKS).

I was asked to be a head coach of one of the teams because I know the game. I’m asked for advice by men on the field. I’m given respect by the kids, their fathers and the other coaches.  The fact that I’m a woman doesn’t enter into any discussions. What matters is that I know and love football and I want the kids to love it too.

This picture of Dr Jen Welter as the first woman to play a non-kicker position in a pro football league was given the respectful name "female-player.jpg" by the New York Daily News.
This picture of Dr Jen Welter as the first woman to play a non-kicker position in a pro football league was given the respectful name “female-player.jpg” by the New York Daily News.

So hooray for the Arizona Cardinals in continuing what I hope will become a trend in professional and high level competitive sports. While it may be a while before we see women on these teams, or an interest in legitimate professional women’s teams that aren’t wearing underwear as uniforms,  there is no reason why we shouldn’t be coaching.

Coaching is teaching.  It’s instructing.  Does the coach need to have a thorough understanding of the game they are coaching? Oh hells yes. Should they have played it at a high level at some point in their lives? Absolutely.  Do they need to have corresponding genitals to be able to guide the team to victory? Nope. Balls do not make the calls.

I think I’m going to get that put on a t shirt…

The Kids Are Alright

Because Jason only allows me to cover Vancouver-based sports teams that carry an above .500 winning percentage, I’ve been taken off the Lions’ beat. So here I be, back to spilling virtual ink on the lovely Whitecaps, who most recently took on the San Jose Earthquakes in MLS competition.

The Vancouver Whitecaps FC beat the pants off the visiting San Jose Earthquakes, 3-1. Photos by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
Mauro Rosales celebrates the opening goal in a 3-1 victory over the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday. Photos by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

After a positive result in Portland, Carl’s Boys came into the game with some confidence, some beer and some toast. Actually, come to think of it, I was the one that came into the game with some beer and some toast. An odd combination that somehow works well together, presuming the toast is homemade multi-grain sourdough and buttered exactly right. And it was. Oh, it was.

Continue reading The Kids Are Alright

Grouse Grind personal best, baby

Why else would you quite literally run yourself into the ground? Trinkets, naturally. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
Why else would you quite literally run yourself into the ground? Trinkets, naturally. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

If you read the blog, and I hope you do, you know that I started running less than two years ago in an effort to not not run. I’ve had two injuries since then — one a serious ankle sprain that kept me off my feet for nigh on ten weeks, and the other a nagging owie of the hip that I’ve learned is altogether normal for folks who run long distances.

While I’ve completed six half marathons and a full marathon in the past 12 months, I’ve done less and less training as time goes on. I’m going to ease off the official races — I now have a war chest of tech shirts, each with event logos and sponsors plastered all over them — I plan to spend my energies on a more consistent routine of distance and elevation.

I know what you’re thinking:Jason, consistent routine? Jason Kurylo?!?!?!? Yeah, this is taking me by surprise, too.

Continue reading Grouse Grind personal best, baby

For the love of the game

Monday was a good day.

It started like any other. Running around the house like a crazed maniac, saying ‘It’s time to go, it’s time to go, it’s time to go’ about 800 times to get my six-year-old and his friend out the door to soccer camp. Doing volunteer work at the Arts Council of New Westminster, picking up my kid and his friend after soccer camp, watching them go all Lord of the Flies in the forest, running home, eating dinner, running out of the house, once again yelling ‘It’s time to go it’s time to go it’s time to go!’

It’s time to go to football practice.

Nick Hebeler, eat your heart out. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
Nick Hebeler, eat your heart out. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

Today I stood in front of 30+ six- and seven-year-old boys and two girls (YES) and talked to them about football and about bleeding orange (GO HYACKS! GO LIONS!). Today I got to start them on the road of a lifetime of passion for the greatest sport in the world.

Today I got to share this with my son.

Continue reading For the love of the game