The Whitecaps began their third MLS playoff campaign on Sunday afternoon six hours down the I-5 in rainy Portland, Oregon. Hopes were high among Vancouver supporters. The club had just scored multiple goals in a game for the first time in nearly two months, some of their injured players were rumoured to be available, and they’d got the matchup that looked the best, on paper, after the Timbers eliminated Sporting Kansas City in one of the most entertaining penalty kick contests you will ever see. Then the game started, and the offence was once again maddeningly anemic. Continue reading Whitecaps Play For Nil-Nil, Get Their Wish
As we count down the minutes to the Vancouver Whitecaps first-ever home playoff date — the back end of a home-and-home tie versus the dirty, rotten, stinkin’, bearded Portland Timbers that starts tomorrow — poet in residence Russell Arbuthnot offers up his quill to the soccer gods with the six stanzas below. We at Pucked in the Head wholly endorse the product of Russell’s sleepless enthusiasm, but claim no responsibility for questionable grammar, rhyme scheme or metre therein.
End of Season
by Russell Arbuthnot
With the regular season laid down to rest
And with the playoffs drawing ever near
The Whitecaps found themselves among the league’s best
Reflecting on one helluva year
We waved goodbye to the Cascadia Cup
And welcomed in that of the Voyageurs
Coach Robbo patch-worked his CONCACAF lineups
Delicately navigating fixtures
Displaced in June by a Worldly tournament
Meant the men wearing Whitecaps blue and white
Lived in hotels for what seemed like permanent
But they fared quite well in the six-week fight
A rookie named Parker came out of the blue
And from Waston an MVP season
Ousted and Techera were essential too
Expectations mounting, with good reason
Injuries mounted, the infirmary filled
With bumbles and stumbles down the homestretch
Hope and belief grew increasingly chilled
The faithful grew restless, began to kvetch
The franchise regrouped, dispatched the Dynamo
Earned a bye straight to the semifinals
One more week to patch up Captain Pedro
And a chance to knock off their fiercest rivals
If you’ve spent any amount of time around the Pacific Coliseum this season, you’ve heard someone or other mutter that Vancouver Giants GM Scott Bonner has some tough choices to make. With franchise poster boy Tyler Benson back from off-season surgery to remove a cyst from his low back, not to mention three viable WHL goaltenders crowding the crease, the Giants just had too many hands on deck. A good problem to have, you may say, but with just 10 points in the first 12 games, the G-Men needed a change.
Queue the Well-We’ve-Made-a-Bloody-Change music. Bonner has pulled the trigger on a five-player deal with the Calgary Hitmen., easing the strain on the bulging roster while bringing in two NHL draftees. Forwards Jackson Houck and Jakob Stukel head to Calgary, along with goaltender Cody Porter. Coming to Vancouver are defenseman Ben Thomas and right winger Chase Lang.
At 20 years of age, Houck is in his fifth WHL season, all of which have been spent in Vancouver. He has scored 91 goals and 108 assists for 199 points in 267 games, good for seventh spot on the franchise’s all-time scoring list. While Tyler Benson recovered from off-season surgery to remove a cyst from his low back, Houck wore the captain’s C. Houck was not offered a contract by the Edmonton Oilers, who drafted him 94th overall in 2013, and is now a free agent.
Left winger Jakob Stukel is probably looking forward to a change in scenery after scoring just 16 points in 49 games as a WHL rookie last season. Originally a blue-chip prospect, Stukel has struggled to find rhythm at the WHL level and isn’t listed on many scouts’ radar in this, his draft year. Cody Porter, for his part, likely welcomes a shift as well; he has made just two appearances in the Giants net this season after playing a full 40 games last year.
Coming to Vancouver are a pair of 19-year-old picks in the 2014 NHL Draft. Chosen 119th overall by the Tampa Bay Lightning, Ben Thomas offers some help to a Giants back end that has had difficulty closing out games in the third period so far this season. His challenge will be to fill the shoes vacated by Mason Geertsen, who anchored Vancouver defensively as well as quarterbacking the power play.
Chase Lang is a sixth-round pick of the Minnesota Wild (167th overall) who was just shy of a point a game with the high-flying Hitmen last season. Hopefully, he’ll appreciate being closer to his hometown of Nanaimo, and use that to put up some similar numbers at the Coliseum.
With Houck’s departure, the Giants are currently carrying only two overage (20-year-old) players; the WHL maximum is three, and it’s extremely unusual for teams to play a full season without taking advantage of those older bodies on the roster. Look for Scott Bonner to make at least one more deal in further efforts to shake up the lacklustre dressing room that has, frankly, lost too many games for too many seasons.
With the Top Prospects game mere weeks away, the full attention of the country’s best hockey minds will soon land on Vancouver; it’s in Bonner’s best interest to give Tyler Benson every opportunity to shine before then.
Playlist Song #3
William Shatner — Common People
I admit it: I’m a Trekkie through and through. Back in the day, I saw Vancouver TheatreSports League‘s Star Trick musical no fewer than two dozen times, and wrote a front page story for the WestEnder about it, to boot. I ain’t no fan of the Ferengi, but I’ve wasted more than my share of hours watching TV, movie and fan fiction productions of at least three different Star Trek shows. Hell, ask Chris: I’ve played William Shatner’s Rocket Man over public address systems at college basketball games.
It’s not the cheese factor, though, that brings me to pump William Shatner’s 2004 cover of Pulp’s Common People into my earbuds on the hoof.
Produced by Ben Folds for Shatner’s adventurous album Has Been, this track just plain kicks ass whether you’re at the gym, at the track, or driving the highway. Musically, rhythmically, socially, you name it — Common People is anything but a common track. Shatner delivers an angry fuck-you spoken-word vocal, perfectly set to irritable guitar, simplistic keyboard and indie rock drums. Folds blends Joe Jackson’s sublime vocals into the chorus. Between the three of them, Folds, Jackson and Shatner make us believe they all three of them have been trounced by some uppity rich chick who just wants to slum on the other side of the tracks.
I can’t get into the original Pulp version, musically, but damnation the lyrics here are fantastic. I’m a sucker for writing that effectively tells a complete story; if someone can do that in the context of a pop song, count me in. Jarvis Cocker nails the phenomenon of class tourism so predominant in the 80s and early 90s — think Fight Club for a participatory exploration of hitting bottom. Later, reality shows like Honey Boo-Boo would allow “normal” viewers to point and laugh at those they perceive as less intelligent, less developed, less rich or just less.
“Everybody hates a tourist, especially one who thinks it’s all such a laugh.”
“Laugh along even though they’re laughing at you and the stupid things that you do because you think that poor is cool.”
Album: Has Been
Release date: 2004
Beats per minute: 178
Subject: Class / Money / Sex /
Content warning: None
Video (Shatner cover):
Video (Pulp original):
Previous songs on the playlist:
Lady Gaga – Poker Face
Gioachino Antonio Rossini – William Tell Overture Finale
There has been a lot of football in my life since last we spoke. Mine, my kid’s, The NWSS Hyacks and the BC Lions. This makes me happy. I won’t bore all y’all with endless dithering on things, so I’ll encapsulate with some highlights:
- My women’s team sits at 4-0. Go Bomb Squad!
- Farhan Lalji highlighted my son and his defensive efforts in the Hyacks football newsletter. Next stop, TSN. Or Broadway. Or a Nobel Prize. It’s up in the air really. But my kid is a genius. Just saying.
- I went to the NWSS Hyacks Homecoming game and didn’t stop smiling. Fun for all ages. Bouncy castles, shiny helmets and game ball was brought in by a skydiver. This should be a thing. Always.
- Went to an amazing football game on Saturday with the kid to watch the BC Lions trounce the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Jennings was cool, calm and collected, threw four touchdown passes (two to Arceneaux…who is still my favourite) and CAUGHT A TD PASS FROM COLLIE! Also, there was THIS KISS CAM (obviously a set up, but still brilliant) Richie Leone was…well…awful. I’m sorry Richie, but you were. You missed two converts and a 34 yard field goal. Not okay dude. And your pants are too short. Like really short. It’s weird. The Felions were severely shown up by the Washington Huskies Cheer Squad. WHICH HAD MEN IN IT TOO AND THEY WERE AMAZING! And we need more marching bands. Everywhere.
- Did I mention my football team sits at 4-0. I KNOW RIGHT?
- My son’s team played against another team and the coach was such a giant flaming asshole, it was all I could do not to punch him in the throat. Or walk off the field. Or both.
It is this last point that we will address in today’s missive.
Here’s a tip. If you are coaching kids…don’t be a dick. I’m going to let you in on a secret. If you are looking at coaching little kids as your pathway to fame and fortune, being a dick is NOT the way to do it. No adult remembers you fondly. They don’t say in their thank you speeches at the ESPY’s ‘my tyke coach was a complete ass hat and he was the best’. Or ‘I loved how he shamed us for being useless when we were seven. It was a totally life affirming moment that I will treasure always’.
That does not happen.
Don’t get me wrong. I get coaches being intense and hard asses. I get Old School coach yelling. I’m a bit guilty of it myself. ‘FOR THE LOVE OF GODZILLA WHY WON’T YOU ALL RUN IN THE SAME DIRECTION?’ ‘DON’T GO BACKWARDS? WHY ARE YOU RUNNING BACKWARDS?’ ‘STOP TOUCHING EACH OTHER? WHY ARE YOU TOUCHING EACH OTHER?’ ‘WHY IS NO ONE LISTENING TO ME?’But that is different from shaming. That is different than winning at any cost.
That is different than running a hurry up offence because your defence is five tired six and seven year olds who have been playing iron man because there are no subs and then saying ‘WHAT ARE YOU COMPLAINING ABOUT? The offence controls the ball!’ That is different than yelling ‘I can’t work with this line up! THEY ARE USELESS’, and then sending five little kids with their heads bowed off the field.
That’s not coaching. That’s being an asshole.
Here is the thing. I get where it is coming from. I am the most competitive human on the planet. Except for maybe my mother who once tried to kill me with a tennis ball. She said she was simply serving the ball, but I’m pretty sure Federer serves slower.
But I digress. Now is not the time for mother issues.
I get being competitive. I get wanting to win. My co-coach and I discuss this before every game. Each kid touches the ball. Each kid gets a chance at everything. They deserve the chance to throw that winning touchdown or catch that interception, or sack their running back THREE TIMES IN A ROW (which my kid did. Just saying). But we also play to win. If we are down, our strongest QB will take the third down snap or our fastest runner will take the hand off. And if we are ahead, we pull back so the other team doesn’t get hammered. The focus should be getting them to love the game. To love sport. Sometimes they will win, which is great, and sometimes they will lose, which sucks, but everytime they play, they should still walk off that field with their heads held high because they had fun, they tried hard, and their coaches are really really proud of them.
At the end of every game, I tell each kid what he did that made me proud. Every single one. I have one who scores like a fiend, but my favourite thing about him is that he is the best sport on the field. So I tell him that. And I tell him I wish I could catch as well as he does. Because I do.
I don’t do this to make me special. I do this because I had coaches that did that with me and it’s how I learned. Mr. Dougan. Mr. Zinkan. Mr Alexander. My dad. My mom. So many others that I’m too old to remember their names. They coached loud and hard, but they also lifted us up every game.
I hope you are reading this sir, and I hope in my heart of hearts that you have figured out that I am directing this to you. I’m sure you aren’t a bad person. I’m sure you think you’re making them better football players, but here’s a secret. You aren’t. Because they are going to stop playing. They will quit and do something else. Anything else. And they may never touch a football again, which is sad because it’s the greatest sport ever played.
But rest assured, they will remember you. They’ll remember you like I remember Mr. Smythe. As that asshole who made our entire basketball team cry because we embarrassed him. We were an unbeaten team who didn’t win by enough and we embarrassed him. I still remember him thirty years later, and I remember it as the last year I played basketball.
Is that how you want to be remembered?
As we sat on Saturday night watching the Whitecaps piss another one away, Jason and I got to talking. He imparted upon me that he felt the Whitecaps recent string of poor performance was simply the manifestation of their historical tendency to eat shit through the summer. Only this time, a deeper roster and improved coaching had helped keep the swoon at bay, however the shit eating was nevertheless inevitable.
He may be right. But if this were a multiple choice exam curated by one of my current professors, he’d actually be wrong because there is no “correct” answer anymore, just the “best answer.” Hey, maybe we should try educating students, rather than deceiving them? Just a suggestion. Anyways, I digress. Read on as I fill in Jason’s holes. In his theory, I mean. You sicko.
As the Fall Equinox arrives, the Seattle Mariners are…well, they’re not quite done yet. And that, my friends, is maddening.
As I sat here contemplating the passing of baseball great Yogi Berra, and noodling on something I could put together to appease my impatient editor (what, you expected content more frequently than every 3 months?), the phrase that kept running through my head was the title of this piece.
A team that lost its General Manager (and rightly so, based on performance), whose onetime great hope Dustin Ackley left, finally, because there was just no there there anymore, and whose offense seemed destined to become nothing but Nelson Cruz home runs (welcome as they are, not really quite enough)…suddenly finds itself only 5 games back in the wild card race, with 11 still to play. And three of those are against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, who are ahead of the Ms in the wild card race.
It’s maddening, I tell you. Not because it’s not exciting that the team still has a…well, a small chance. That’s great. But I am not embarrassed to admit that I had just about written this team off in early August. And while I am thrilled that, as Yogi said, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over”, for crying out loud could the real Seattle Mariners please stand up? Who is this team?
I’m not about to predict any kind of Mariner comeback here. But. This team has gone 13-6 so far in September. Took 2 of 3 from both the Rangers and Angels. Still has that Cruz fellow, who has now hit 42 home runs. Still has that Felix Hernandez guy. And finds itself only 3 games under .500.
So maybe next time I’ll talk about next year…or maybe next time I’ll talk about a miraculous Mariner comeback. Stay tuned.
Back on November 16, 2013, Tyler Benson made his WHL debut. He wore a full face cage, as rules stipulate Bantam-aged prospects must. He also stood 5’11” and weighed 185 pounds at the time, which should probably be against the rules when you’re 15 years old. Here’s a picture I took at that game, as Benson tried a shifty backdoor play. He didn’t get on the scoresheet that night, but he’s figured prominently in Vancouver ever since.
The Giants heralded his debut a full month in advance, and are still getting media attention on his decidedly broad shoulders. Benson is now a full six feet tall and sits much closer to 200 pounds of lean muscle, and he is projected to go as high as 8th in the 2016 NHL Draft in Buffalo. Despite sitting out tomorrow’s season opener (as he recovers from pre-season surgery that removed a cyst from his tailbone), Benson was today named the captain of the Vancouver Giants for the 2015-16 season.
It was a disappointing day by many standards. The Vancouver Whitecaps, sitting atop the MLS standings, hosted the dirty, rotten, stinkin’ Seattle Sounders. A win would mean a third straight Cascadia Cup for the Caps, and put a dagger in Seattle’s attempt to revive a lacklustre season.
Instead, the boys in green and blue beat the Whitecaps at their own game: they sat back and let Vancouver come at them, and waited patiently for opportunities to come on the counterattack. At the end of the day, the Whitecaps are still the class of the Western Conference and sit tied for top spot in MLS — thank you, woeful Real Salt Lake for pummelling the LA Galaxy when we least expected it.
The season series between Seattle and Vancouver has seen home teams struggle. The Sounders won 2-0 here back in May, and the Caps put in one of their most complete games at Century Link with a 3-0 victory on August 1. The latter was a low point in the Sounders season, with coaches and players sniping at each other after the fact for poor preparation and effort levels, respectively.
Saturday offered a much more balanced game, but it was Seattle who took advantage of their chances. Octavio Rivero had several opportunities early in the first half, including a glorious clean shot at goal from ten metres, but put the ball high and wide every time. Every other shot toward Stefan Frei was pretty much a gift to the Swiss-born keeper. (I can think of perhaps two saves that required him to actually move.)
Then, seconds before the halftime whistle, Obafemi Martins dribbled away from four white jerseys and put a perfect aerial pass on the foot of striker Andreas Ivanschitz, who had snuck in behind rookie defender Jordan Smith. The German with rather predictable sophomoric nicknames slotted the ball neatly behind David Ousted to open the Sounders account on the evening.
The Caps pushed for the equalizer throughout the second half, but that opened them up to yet more fast breaks the other way. The Sounders waited for their chances, then buried them. Love him or hate him, Clint Dempsey is one hell of a player when he keeps his head about him. Yes, he spends an inordinate amount of time whining to referees — more on these antics below — but he also spent this entire game feathering one-touch balls and delicate passes to his mates, giving the Whitecaps midfield fits at times and directly resulting in two of the Sounders goals. He fed Gonzalo Pineda with a lovely pass at the lip of the box, and Pineda put a perfect shot off the post and in to double the lead in the 71st minute. Sixteen minutes later, Dempsey outhustled Cristian Techera — yes, you read that right, he outran the Bug — before sliding a gimme to Martins for the 3-nil scoreline.
For many, however, the biggest disappointment didn’t happen on the field of play at all. Longtime season ticket holder Christy Clark created quite a stir on our local corner of the interweb, as she tried to poke fun at the Flounders’ proclivity for lying on the BC Place turf nursing non-existent injuries. Sadly, her old-timey insistence upon using girly references to insult male athletes kinda backfired.
Did the Sounders spend a lot of time with their butts glued to the turf? Yeah, sure they did. Were fans rankled and riled about it? You bet your Southsiders scarf they were. Does that make it okay to throw sexist jabs around in a public forum, when you’re an elected official, and to boot a role model to women interested in entering politics? Absolutely fricking not.
The BC Premier is no stranger to social media firestorms. She has nearly 51,000 followers on Twitter, and she upsets a great number of them with even the blandest of posts. In this case, however, folks really ought to get their hackles up. Clark is a self-professed champion of the anti-bullying movement — she helped to spearhead BC’s involvement in Pink Shirt Day a few years ago, and continues to make public comments that pooh-pooh language, actions and systems that belittle or exclude portions of the populace.
— Christy Clark (@christyclarkbc) January 29, 2014
Members of the Southsiders, Rain City Brigade and Curva Collective supporters groups all actively dissuade neanderthal members of their groups who denigrate women. Even five years ago, chants of “SHE FELL OVER” were commonplace when an opposing player hit the pitch. These days, references to gender and/or sexual orientation just aren’t accepted any longer by BC Place supporter groups. (Note: Sadly, sexism is still rampant in the football world. The comments screamed at Chelsea medical staffer Eva Carneiro by opposing clubs have been atrocious. The Vancouver Canucks, and women’s rights groups for that matter, have put up with dolts calling Henrik and Daniel “the Sedin sisters” from day one. Hell, the NHL even made an ad that featured Hank & Dank showing up for a fan’s stag party as twin Swedish dancers
. Ice girls at men’s games are the embarrassing norm, when teams should be putting resources into setting up a serious women’s pro league. The sad fact is, loads of sports fans turn their noses up at the prospect of watching professional women’s sports — the Women’s World Cup drew fans, but YVR is still without a women’s Whitecaps team. At least in Vancouver, widespread homophobic or misogynistic jeers aren’t the norm. Clark’s tweet is harmless on the face of it, but flies in the face of very anti-bullying campaign she claims to honour.)
Friday was 27 degrees Celsius, a truly glorious day. I took my daughter to her second day of Kindergarten, ducked into Governor General Literary Award winner The Sisters Brothers, then proceeded to spend the afternoon playing with Lego and making some decidedly awesome Chesapeake Bay chicken. Literally, I played the winner, winner, chicken dinner card.
The evening got better. I shot SFU hockey, then ran a personal best 5km at the track while watching my old school’s football team put up a truckload of points against a lesser rival. Spent over an hour chatting with five-time Grey Cup champion Leroy Moss after he complimented me on my run — yes, he’s the uncle of Randy Moss — and he happens to be a charming and generous storyteller to boot. He spent time with the BC Lions, Edmonton Eskimos and Cincinnati Bengals, and played with and/or against the likes of Warren Moon, Lui Passaglia, Tom Wilkinson and Larry Highbaugh. Nice talking to you, Leroy!
Enjoy my first hockey pictures of the 2015-16 season, from pre-season action between the SFU Clan and the Trinity Spartans. Against the flow of play, TWU took the game 3-1 down at Bill Copeland Arena in Burnaby.