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.
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.
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 FightClub 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):
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.
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.
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.
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.
This past Thursday, a friend of mine took me to Century Link Field for the Seattle Seahawks fourth preseason game. This is the preseason game that ‘the 12‘ are excited about. The starters all have their places on the roster locked down (they hope), and on the field are the bench players vying for position. Deep bench. Waaaay deep bench.
Russell Wilson came on the field for one play. He threw a touchdown. Then had a nap.
The Legion of Boomwere looking for their swag. Marshawn Lynch was eating Skittles(TM). The guys sitting behind us (who ESPN needs to hire STAT) kept exclaiming things like:
“Is that another one of them Smith boys?”
“Who the…what the…who the hell is THAT guy?”
“Son, you’ve gotta throw the ball sometime.” (See below.)
“Remember, it’s preseason for the refs too. No way they be making that dumbass call during regular season.”
For the last half of the game, the quarterback was this guy.
They don’t even list him as a backup quarterback. Also explains why he rushed most of the time.. really well, I must admit. So well that the Raiders sent six guys on him at one point and made a giant Daniels sandwich.
I always thought suspenders were used to hold your pants up, to provide you with a feeling of security while letting the world know that:
you have lost weight;
you don’t know how to purchase appropriately-sized pants for yourself;
you accessorize to appear unique.
Suspenders are a worthy yet unceremoniously goofy alternative to a belt that some, usually the over-80 demographic, still choose to employ, presumably because belts and sized waistbands hadn’t yet been invented when these people started dressing themselves. Suspenders are supposed to, you know, help.
In professional soccer, however, suspenders are quite different. They don’t protect you. They don’t offer you security. Their purpose is to expose you, to strip you bare and leave you hanging.
The MLS suspenders left Carl Robinson and his squad unsheathed after a pair of red cards sent Matías Laba and Kendall Waston to the showers early last weekend.
The Vancouver Giants are just two days away from their first pre-season game. Puck drops Saturday vs the dirty, rotten, stinkin’ scoundrels that are the Kamloops Blazers at 7pm at the Ladner Leisure Centre.
Here’s a bit of Throwback Thursday for you: Tyler Benson wheeling into the offensive zone during WHL action at the Pacific Coliseum. Benson is largely predicted to go in the first round of the 2016 NHL Draft, assuming the mysterious, undisclosed injury that’s kept him out of contact drills and scrimmages through training camp is as minor as team officials are claiming.
Last week, Chris Withers took offence to my list of ten must-watch sports films, and responded by posting one of his very own. While his list contained some gems, I’ll admit — A League of Their Own and The Battered Bastards of Baseball are impressive entries, in particular — but questioning my taste just because I included an awkward Canadian bobsled film? That’s just low, man.
Oh well, at least he went full Bob Barker and punched Adam Sandler in the face with his words.
Here are five more sports movies you oughta know.
5. Bull Durham Buy it here.
I am not the biggest Kevin Costner fan in the world, trust me, but I have to admit the guy had a spell there where he could do no wrong. No Way Out, JFK, The Untouchables… Even Dances with Wolves, for all its tatanka cheesiness, was a remarkable accomplishment. One of the first post-modern instances of a star pouring their own resources into a project when studios were backing off Dances with Wolves can be argued as the forefather of such films as Good Night and Good Luck, franchises like Mission: Impossibleor series like True Detective, House of Cards and Arrested Development. But I digress. Bull Durham sees Costner at his stoical best, plain-Janing the lead role while chaos swarms around him. Susan Sarandon is steamy and smart as a baseball groupie who latches onto the Durham Bulls minor league team; Tim Robbins is hilarious as a young pitcher who focusses as much on his libido as the strike zone. The jokes hit more than miss, and the acting chops of everyone involved mean we actually care about the people trapped in this special breed of small town hell — two things Major League can’t claim for all of its nearsighted gags and MLB licensing. Bull Durham is worth watching for Tim Robbins standing on the mound in high-end lingerie.
4. Dodgeball Buy it here.
Is it smart? No way in hell. Is it funny? Hells yes. Vince Vaughn turns in his only watchable performance, and Ben Stiller nails the brain-dead obnoxious a-hole he’s known for. Let’s call a spade a bleeping shovel here: Dodgeball boasts an insultingly formulaic script. The owner of a small gym (Vaughn) needs $50,000 to prevent being bought out by a soulless corporation (run by a hilariously over-the-top Stiller), so of course they go head-to-head in a dodgeball tournament with a winner-take-all payout of — wait for it — $50,000. The script, while simple, hits every point a sports movie should: the set-up, the team-building, the initial failure, the swelling of doubt, the seemingly insurmountable obstacle, the almost inhuman opposition, the celebrity cameo, the colourful play-by-play, the moment of truth. We know what’s coming, and when it’s going to come. Still, Dodgeball works, because it features a stellar cast of comedians, all playing to their strengths. It’s worth watching for Rip Torn’s wheelchair-bound ex-world class dodgeballer whipping the contents of his toolbox at his team: “If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball!”
3. The Rookie Buy it here.
Dennis Quaid takes the lead in this Disney movie based on the real-life story of science teacher Jim Morris. In his late 30s, nearly 20 years after injuring his shoulder and cutting short a promising baseball career, Morris finds himself coaching a small town high school baseball team. When he challenges his sad sack team not to quit, they throw his own shortened career in his face. “We’re quitters? You’re the quitter!” And thus, a wager is born: if the team wins the local tournament, Morris will try out for a major league team once again. Cue the montage of Rocky-esque training techniques that shows improbable improvement in a few short minutes. Likewise, compact years of marital tension into two perfectly scripted 30-second scenes. Just like that, the team qualifies for the state championship, and Jim Morris sneaks off to a conveniently timed open tryout for the Tampa Bay Rays. It turns out, that shoulder surgery he’d gotten all those years ago didn’t wreck his arm at all. In fact, he’s now throwing 98-mile-an-hour fastballs. History — and a few years later, Hollywood feature — was made, as Morris became the oldest rookie in Major League Baseball since World War II. Director John Lee Hancock isn’t exactly known for a light touch; still, he’ll appear twice on this list with this and #2 below. The Rookie is worth watching for the acceptable cheese in those Disney moments: “Owls win! Owls win!”
Here’s an interview with Quaid and Morris that took place during the film’s promotional cycle:
2. Cinderella Man Buy it here.
When Ron Howard directs Russell Crowe, only good things happen. Okay, the Best Actor Oscar for 2002 went to Denzel Washington for Training Day — while I loves me some Denzel, this was a travesty as far as awards go. Washington won for two political reasons: first, in an attempt to erase decades of quite literally whitewashing their awards, the Academy as a whole was in love with the idea of giving both lead actor statuettes to black performers. Training Day is far from Washington’s best performance, but then again it’s unfathomable that Al Pacino won his Best Actor statue for the pedestrian Scent of a Woman. Second, Crowe had taken home the big prize just one year earlier as the lead in Gladiator. Digression achievement unlocked.Other than Best Actor at the Oscars, A Beautiful Mind won just about every award available in 2002. Three years later, Paul Giamatti was nominated as Best Supporting Actor for Cinderella Man —a Depression-era boxing movie that is at once gritty and gorgeous, superb and sad. It wouldn’t be a Ron Howard picture without a dramatic happy ending, but even that is drenched in a palette of mud browns and dust greys. Like Quaid’s Jim Morris in The Rookie, Crowe’s ex-boxer James J Braddock overcomes injury (in this case a broken dominant hand) to come back better than ever. His wife, played angrily by Renée Zellweger, is so tortured by her hubby’s choice to go back into the ring that she can’t bear to watch the title fight. Cinderella Man is worth watching for its brutally realistic boxing scenes. I felt like Max Baer was hitting me in the midsection in those final moments.
Here’s some highlights from that 1935 title fight:
1. Seabiscuit Buy it here.
I’m sensing a bit of a pattern here. The Oscar-nominated Seabiscuit features a broken athlete who defies the odds to come back after devastating injury. Tobey Maguire plays Red Pollard, a Depression-era jockey whose side gig as a small town boxer leaves him blind in one eye. That’s not good enough, you say? Well, he shatters his leg at one point in the film as well, but comes back to ride the famous race against War Admiral. Oh, I’m sorry, was that a spoiler? Come on, you know the beats in this film every bit as well as the ones in Dodgeball.The difference: this film features Jeff Bridges, Chris Cooper, Elizabeth Banks and William H Macy instead of Vince Vaughn, Ben Stiller, Jason Bateman and Rip Torn. Another: it’s written and directed by Gary Ross, of Pleasantville, Big, The Hunger Games and The Tale of Despereaux, whereas Dodgeball was helmed by a guy whose only other widely known feature is the mediocre road flick We’re the Millers. Seabiscuit is worth watching for excellent performances up and down the cast, but especially for the stirringly well-shot racing sequences. This is a gorgeous film; the American Society of Cinematographers gifted Seabiscuit its Oustanding Achievement in Cinematography award for 2004.
If you’re interested in some historical perspective, here’s actual footage from the 1938 match race between Sea Biscuit and War Admiral: