CFL-CSL

A League Of Our Own?

It’s been twenty-two years since Canadians have had a domestic soccer league to call their own. In 1992, the semi-professional Canadian Soccer League folded after only six seasons. Since then, the Canadian soccer landscape has been dotted with mostly short-lived teams trying to make their way as part of dodgy American leagues. Yesterday, news broke on Canadian Soccer News that the long winter of domestic soccer in this country may finally be drawing to a close.

The report, somewhat limited in details, says that the Canadian Soccer Association is in talks with the Canadian Football League and the North American Soccer League (current home of FC Edmonton and the Ottawa Fury) to bring domestic soccer to Canada as early as 2016.

If accurate, this could be the most important moment in Canadian soccer since the men’s national team qualified for the ’86 World Cup. Canada is one of an incredibly small number of countries to have qualified for a World Cup without a domestic league, and a Canadian league is seen by many as an important step towards getting back to that stage. The establishment of a stable league would be a massive coup for the oft-maligned CSA.

The viability of a Canadian league is certainly not a given. Historically low soccer attendance figures in many major markets, combined with the huge distances teams necessarily need to travel in this country, make the financial prospects far from rosy. That’s why it’s encouraging to hear that the CSA may be enlisting the aid of the CFL.

The report says that the league will initially comprise seven teams, each associated to a CFL team. A CFL partnership makes sense for a few reasons. First, if anyone knows how to run a nationwide league without going broke, it’s these guys. Second, having respected institutions like CFL teams (well, CFL teams not nicknamed Argonauts) using their marketing muscle to support a fledgling league would be just what the doctor ordered. Third, there is the very real possibility that they can bring TSN — a network that almost single-handedly saved the CFL in the not-too-distant past — along for the ride.

TSN is in an odd place right now, having recently announced that they’re expanding their channel lineup while also being outbid for National Hockey League rights by Rogers Sportsnet. They already have easily the best soccer production crew in the country, so it makes some sense that they might look to the most popular game on the planet to give their subscribers something to watch.

If I have one major concern about the report, it’s the tidbit that teams will be playing in CFL venues. This seems like an awful idea at first glance. Even the smaller stadia like Ottawa’s TD Place Stadium and Hamilton’s not-yet-completed Tim Horton’s Field seat upwards of 20,000 people, when division two soccer in this country has always hovered around 3,000-5,000. The biggest task for the league will be to find a way to get attendance high enough that the atmosphere doesn’t suffer.

2014 French Open - Day Ten

Genie and her Canadian Army

Our first-ever tennis article here at PITH was almost two years ago to the day, about Eugenie Bouchard becoming the first Canadian to win the Wimbledon Girls Championship.

Eugenie Bouchard is a typical 20-year-old gal -- she tweets, Facebooks, dances Gangnam Style on the Great Wall of China, and wins millions on the tennis court. Selfie from GB's own Instagram account.
Eugenie Bouchard is a typical 20-year-old gal — she tweets, Facebooks, dances Gangnam Style on the Great Wall of China, and wins millions on the tennis court. Selfie from GB’s own Instagram account.

North Van’s Filip Peliwo also brought home the boys’ trophy that year, but no one remembers because he’s not a remarkably photogenic blonde woman who has reached the final eight in three consecutive Grand Slam tournaments. This Bouchard gal, on the other hand, is entirely memorable. She may have lost the Wimbledon final, but the Montrealer was by far the biggest story on the women’s side. Her sense of humour is winning as many fans as her rapidly improving on-court arsenal, with everyone from TV nerd Jim Parsons to tennis legend Chris Evert admitting to being a part of Genie’s Army. She can fricking hit the ball, yo.

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Erik Hurtado dances and deals prior to Darren Mattocks' goal during a 2-2 draw between the Whitecaps and LA Galaxy. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

Ups & Downs & Smiles & Frowns

A 1-0 result over the Seattle Sounders this weekend was just what the good doctor ordered for the Whitecaps. Perhaps more importantly, the game had moments that were actually entertaining. It remains to be seen if this was simply a byproduct of the Cascadia rivalry or an authentic outcome.

Nigel Reo-Coker battles for the ball versus the Seattle Sounders.
Nigel Reo-Coker battles for the ball versus the Seattle Sounders. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked In The Head.

It has been a bit of struggle for the Whitecaps since returning from their World Cup break. An uninspired effort versus a sub-par Montreal Impact squad, followed by a horrific performance at Colorado, raised some concern surrounding the club’s ability to develop and maintain an attack.

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The peloton negotiates a bend in the road during Sunday's Tour de Delta. Photo by Greg Descantes for BC Superweek.

Tour de Delta kicks off BC Superweek

Keep your eyes peeled over the next few days, my pithy friends — there are oodles of specimens of ultrafit humanity zipping around the Greater Vancouver region for BC Superweek. Folks unfamiliar with the sport just curse the temporary road closures. Those of us who know better are on the lookout for windswept hair, thighs of steel and aerodynamically ripped abs.

Rejoice, rubberneckers, and gawk away! It doesn’t even matter which way your preferences lean; both the men and women in this sport are cut from the cloth of the gods, and dress in skin-tight superhero tights.

Canadian National Champion Leah Kirchmann leans into a corner during the criterium  2014 Tour de Delta. Photo by Greg Descantes for BC Superweek.
Canadian National Champion Leah Kirchmann leans into a corner during the criterium  2014 Tour de Delta. Photo by Greg Descantes for BC Superweek.

The Tour de Delta was an especially big weekend for Winnipeg-born Leah Kirchmann, as she took first place in the first BC road race sanctioned by UCI, the Union Cycliste Inter-nationale.

Kirchmann (of Team Optum) is no stranger to winner’s circles, as she is the first rider to ever simultaneously hold Canadian national time trial, road race and criterium titles. The 24-year-old favourite delivered in the 40-km criterium on Saturday and the 96-km road race the following morning, topping the 59-rider field on both days. She drove a group sprint for an exciting finish, stopping the clock at two hours, 25 minutes and 8.7 seconds.

On the men’s side, Ryan Anderson of North Vancouver (also of Team Optum) came in second behind American teammate Jesse Anthony. Anderson averaged 43.66 klicks per hour over the 151.19-km men’s course, earning him a seven-second cushion for a winning time of 3:27:46.3.

Not sure what 43.66 km/h looks like? Take the Expo Line from Waterfront Station to King George and back. Four times.Team Optum just rode that same distance, and beat that SkyTrain to the finish.

The peloton negotiates a bend in the road during Sunday's Tour de Delta. Photo by Greg Descantes for BC Superweek.
The peloton, featuring the orange-helmeted women’s winner Leah Kirchmann (centre), negotiates a bend in the road during Sunday’s Tour de Delta. Photo by Greg Descantes for BC Superweek.

Monday is a day off for BC Superweek, which comprises nine races over ten days across the Lower Mainland between July 4–13. Next up is the UBC Grand Prix on Tuesday night, July 8.

The ever-popular Gastown Grand Prix goes July 9, followed by the Giro di Burnaby on July 10. The finale, the Tour de White Rock, is a three-day event taking place Friday, Saturday and Sunday of next week.

Check out www.bcsuperweek.ca for more details.

Ah, a nooner at the Nat. What better way to celebrate summer? Photo cribbed from the interweb.

Bring on the boys of summer

Update: Thursday night’s Vancouver Canadians contest vs the Spokane Indians was suspended in the top of the 2nd inning due to rain; the teams hit Nat Bailey for a Friday afternoon double header to make up the game.

It’s a good time to be a baseball fan in Vancouver. If you’re all about Canadian content, look east — the Toronto Blue Jays are doing what they should have done last year. They’re ten games over .500, and sit 3.5 games up on the hated New York Yankees in the American League East. Want something closer to home? Just down the road in Seattle, the Mariners are riding Felix Hernandez’s pitching and Robinson Cano’s superstar play to a damned fine seasons themselves.

Ah, a nooner at the Nat. What better way to celebrate summer? Photo cribbed from the interweb.
Ah, a nooner at the Nat. What better way to celebrate summer? Photo cribbed from the interweb.

But who says you can’t have CanCon and a short drive to the ball park? Nat Bailey Stadium opens business on the Vancouver Canadians 2014 summer season this week, as the three-time defending Single A champion hosts the Spokane Indians. Opening night (Wednesday) is sold out, but $12.50 grandstand seats remain for both Thursday evening and the Friday nooner in this series.

Want box seats? You’ll have to wait another week, when the Tri-City Dust Devils come to town for three games, quickly followed by a five-game set against the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes. Of special note is the July 2 appearance by Steve Garvey, who despite not making Cooperstown, has a gaudy list of Golden Gloves, Silver Slugger awards, National League and All-Star MVP nods, and impressive statistical achievements.

The Canadians started the season impressively, outscoring Salem-Keizer 20–4 in three straight road wins. The Volcanoes found their bats in the next two games, however, edging Vancouver 10–9 in 12 innings before taking the last game of the series 4–3. In the first loss, it was the bullpen that let the C’s down, but fielding errors were to blame for dropping the second.

Follow the Vancouver Canadians on Twitter here.

blackjersey14And if any of you have a few bucks to spare, feel free to get me one of these new Mounty the Mountie jerseys. They’re purty.

I’ll squeeze into a medium, or lounge in a large. Your choice.

Fans at Commercial Drive's Caffé Roma were thrilled by their opening game win over England. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

World Cup Power Rankings: Volume 1

Now that we’ve had a look at all 32 teams competing in Brazil, let’s take a look at where they stand. Please note: like all power rankings ever created, these are complete bullshit. These particular rankings do not necessarily reflect how good the teams actually are, or how they are playing. Rather, these rankings give us a chance to crack jokes and make snide comments.
CW — Chris Withers; JK — Jason Kurylo

32) Uruguay
New rule: lose to a CONCACAF team, and you get dropped to the bottom of the rankings. I’m not sure why I’m surprised. This is a team that managed a scoreless draw against Jordan at home in their final qualification game. Jordan. CW

31) Ghana
Sorry guys, but rules are rules. Look, you outplayed the USA and deserved better than a 2-1 loss, but you’ve got all the polish and finish of (somewhat ironically) a 400 lb American redneck in a barbecue sauce-stained tank top cruising up to the McDonald’s drive through in an 84 Dodge pickup at 3 in the morning. CW

Never Ghana give you up.
Never Ghana give you up.

30) Honduras
Fuck these guys and the bullet-ridden, thrice-carjacked bus they rode in on. The slaughter at the hands of the French is the first step in what’s sure to be an early exit for these assholes. You’d think they’d be more motivated to stay, given that the alternative is returning to Honduras where the largest export is stray bullets. (PS: CBC, I’m sure you must have footage of Honduras scoring goals against countries other than Canada. Please use some of it.) Spend a few weeks watching international football with fans of Canada’s men’s squad, and you’ll understand my unvarnished rage. CW

29) Australia
Australia is a terrifying place. Poisonous jellyfish, Vegemite, giant poisonous centipedes, Vegemite, and something called the Australian Paralysis Tick (!!?). The fates didn’t really need to add yet another way to go, yet here they are in a group with Chile, the Netherlands and Spain. Still, I can’t feel too bad for them. If you’re going to walk around with a name like the Socceroos, trouble will follow. CW

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Javier Hernandez chases a loose ball in monsoon rains during their opening game win over Cameroon. Photo stolen indiscriminately after a lazy Google search.

Ref, You Suck

Two days into the 2014 World Cup, and we’ve already been treated to some outstanding two-goal performances — most noticeably from Arjen Robben and Robin Van Persie in a 5–1 thrashing of the defending champion Spaniards. (Not to take anything away from the star player on the host team, but Neymar’s pair on opening day came on a mediocre grasscutter from distance and an awful penalty call.) But no matter how many acrobatic headers RVP knocked in, or how many impressive runs Robben put together, the most impressive brace came from Mexican youngster Giovani dos Santos — and neither goal was allowed.

Giovanni dos Santos (circled) was called offside twice to negate two goals in the first half against Cameroon. Image cribbed from ESPN.
Giovanni dos Santos (circled) was called offside twice to negate two goals in the first half against Cameroon. The Cameroonian defender is clearly back when the ball is struck; the linesman is visible at the bottom of the screen, in perfect position to… miss the call? Image cribbed from ESPN.

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Drew Doughty puts his obscenely well-paid proof in the pudding. Actual pudding during the off-season, and outrageously solid play from October to June. Photo gleaned from the interweb.

Congrats, Mr Doughty

Drew Doughty, that fella wearing number eight for the Los Angeles Kings is about to add ‘Conn Smythe winner’ to his resume. This will sit nicely beside ‘two-time Olympic gold medallist’, ‘two-time Stanley Cup champion’, ‘Norris trophy nominee’ and ‘filthy, stinkin’ rich cat who let’s face it ought to be able to afford better hair care’.

Drew Doughty puts his obscenely well-paid proof in the pudding. Actual pudding during the off-season, and outrageously solid play from October to June. Photo gleaned from the interweb.
Drew Doughty puts his obscenely well-paid proof in the pudding. Actual pudding during the off-season, and outrageously solid play from October to June. Photo gleaned from the interweb.

Godawful facial growth aside, Doughty is every bit the MVP, anchoring the back end of the most feared defense in the land. At just 24, he’s got credentials among active NHLers only rivalled by countrymen Jonathan Toews and Sidney Crosby. Barring injury, and assuming he doesn’t get bored, he’ll have built a Hall of Fame career long before he hits the traditional defenseman’s peak of 30 years old.

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Sounders-Chad Barrett 1036

Officially Embarrassing

Whitecaps Wednesday

The Whitecaps put together one heck of a performance over the weekend. They were the better team over the course of the game and even dominated for long stretches. It was a wonderful display over the league leading Seattle Sounders in a rivalrous Cascadia Cup fixture.

It’s a shame that referee Ismail Elfath’s performance overshadowed all of this.

Marie Hui - 1036
Whitecaps’ anthem singer Marie Hui looked stunning in a scarfed colour spectrum pregame. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked In The Head.

The unfortunate truth is the type of officiating he displayed provides the feed and the fodder for fans to question the integrity of MLS officials. And it’s disappointing that this even warrants discussion.

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Erik Hurtado dances and deals prior to Darren Mattocks' goal during a 2-2 draw between the Whitecaps and LA Galaxy. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

A Million Ways To Lose The Voyageurs Cup

Add another one to the list. Last night, the Vancouver Whitecaps’ improbable streak of failing to win the Voyageurs Cup stretched to 13 years when Joe Bendik made the only save of a penalty shootout to send Toronto FC through to the finals against the Montreal Impact.

Erik Hurtado dances and deals prior to Darren Mattocks' goal during a 2-2 draw between the Whitecaps and LA Galaxy. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
Erik Hurtado is starting to shed his reputation as a speedster with no touch; he provided more than a few moments of excitement, including a gorgeous one-touch goal on a full run, during a home-and-home against TFC. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

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