Human rights verdict great news for transgendered players, hockey

Adam Proteau
Patrick Burke (Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images)

Score another one for progress and understanding in the hockey community: as part of a settlement with a Canadian human rights group, Hockey Canada has agreed to allow transgendered minor hockey players in Ontario to choose which dressing room they use before stepping onto the ice.

The settlement ends a human rights complaint filed in August of 2013 by Oshawa, Ont., native Jesse Thompson, a 17-year-old who identifies as a male and who faced numerous obstacles in finding acceptance in the hockey world. Thompson’s mother, Alisa Thompson, told The Canadian Press her son was thrown out of dressing rooms by unenlightened coaches.

“Parents would come in and kick Jesse out of the girls’ change room because it was for girls only,” Alisa Thompson said. Read more

Hockey Canada’s elite under-17 program no longer ‘mass participation’

Ken Campbell
Team Ontario, 2008  (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

One of the stories that kind of flew under the radar this summer was Hockey Canada’s new development model when it comes to picking its teams for the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge. The players who are picked for that tournament from now on will be judged solely on their hockey talents, not their hometown.

Prior to this year’s tournament, which will be held in late December and early January in Sarnia, Hockey Canada submitted five regional teams from Atlantic Canada, Quebec, Ontario, Western Canada and British Columbia. Those rosters included total of 110 16-year-old players from coast-to-coast, but it didn’t encompass the best 110 16-year-old players in Canada. And the problem with that is all Canada’s opponents in the tournament – USA, Russia, Finland, Sweden and Germany – were sending the top 22 players from their countries.

“When you’re from Russia or Finland or Sweden, you don’t know anything about Atlantic Canada,” said Hockey Canada’s senior director of hockey operations Scott Salmond. “All they see is a Canadian sweater and it’s a big thrill to beat that team. In our organization, we want to have a culture of winning and the sooner we start that, the better.”

After seeing its regional teams win five of the tournaments in a row, a Canadian team has won just one of its past four tournaments and wasn’t even on the podium last year. It might be a stretch to suggest that lack of success at the Under-17s has trickled up to Canada’s struggles at the World Junior Championship, but it’s all about cultivating the best talent so that by the time the players are playing in the WJC, they’re more familiar with one another.

So instead of having five regional teams, Hockey Canada instead had a camp this past summer with the 108 best 16-year-olds, regardless of geography. From that, three rosters of 22 players each will be chosen for the Under-17 World Hockey Challenge, so French speaking players from Quebec will be playing with Anglophones from British Columbia, Maritimers with players from Ontario. That way, as Salmond pointed out, the third-best goaltender in Ontario might get a chance to play in the tournament, “because he might also be the third-best goalie in all of Canada. We needed to get this quota system out of it and have the absolute best players together more often.”

The team will be selected by Hockey Canada head scout Ryan Jankowski and his regional scouts and while the three coaches – Jean-Francois Houle, Sheldon Keefe and Dan Lambert – will have some input, they will for the most part be handed their roster and told to coach the players they have been given.

This, of course, has raised the dander of those who think Hockey Canada is further catering to only elite players. By decreasing the player pool at the under-17 level by 44 players and possibly eliminating the chance for unknown players from small towns to be exposed to a high level of competition, is Hockey Canada guilty of identify and catering to only the best of the best at too young an age? Salmond says Hockey Canada’s tracking over the last decade indicates that the best players in any age group tend to move on to the elite teams anyway. Just because the 10th best player in Newfoundland gets a chance to play in the under-17s doesn’t necessarily mean he’s going to elevate his game in the following years and be part of the top group of players.

“And this is not mass participation,” Salmond said. “It is a Program of Excellence and we’re not going to apologize for that.”

Neighbor calls police on kids playing street hockey

Rory Boylen
A group of kids play road hockey. (Photo by Pawel Dwulit/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

Montreal and Toronto, the two rival hockey meccas, have a long, long history of fostering world class talent. They both have a reputation for being at the center of the hockey universe – but you’re technically not allowed to play the game in the streets of either city.

On Wednesday, a group of kids playing in Montreal were visited by police after a neighbor called in about the ruckus. And according to Bridget Sykucki, the mother of two of the boys playing, there’s so little vehicle traffic, they don’t even refer to it as a street.

From the CBC:

“On Wednesday, we were playing in the alleyway — we call it an alleyway because we only have our cars that are parked there. There are no street addresses that give on that street, so we call it an alleyway but theoretically, it’s a street,” she explained.

She said a neighbour came out and began yelling at the children to be quiet, and threatened to call the police.

Officers showed up a couple of hours later, Sykucki said. Read more

Two former members of University of Ottawa’s men’s hockey team charged with sexual assault

Rory Boylen
geegees

Two former members of the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees men’s hockey team were charged with sexual assault on Friday as the result of a months-long police investigation. The alleged incident took place in a Thunder Bay hotel room in February.

Police said they learned of the alleged incident after it was reported by a third party and that they had chagred Guillaume Donovan, 24, and David Foucher, 25. The two are scheduled to appear in court on Sept. 30. Read more

Ottawa rec hockey player sentenced to 18 months probation for on-ice collision

Rory Boylen
sticks-492280919

Hockey violence in the news again, this time because of a rec league incident in Ottawa.

Gordon MacIsaac, a 31-year-old PhD student, was sentenced Wednesday to 18 months probation for what was ruled a “deliberate blindside hit” on 31-year-old Drew Casterton in a game on March 12, 2012. MacIsaac was convicted of aggravated assault and, on top of the probation, Ontario Court Justice Diane Lahaie ordered him to pay $5,000 to Casterton and forbade MacIsaac from playing or coaching competitive sports during those 18 months.

On Feb. 27 Casterton, a business owner, also filed a $600,000 lawsuit against MacIsaac and the Ottawa Senior Men’s Hockey League. Among the injuries Casterton alleged to have suffered was a concussion, two broken teeth, cuts to his face, and tissue injury to his neck and spine. The allegations in that lawsuit have not yet been tested in court.

As always, there are two very different sides to this story and they’ll be familiar to any NHL fan who has ever argued the legality of a bodycheck or watched one of the league’s supplementary discipline videos. Read more

Moose Jaw Warriors mourn the loss of Ethan Williams, 16

Ryan Kennedy
Ethan-Williams

The Western League’s Moose Jaw Warriors are dealing with tragedy right now, as one of the team’s prospects passed away this week. Ethan Williams, 16, was a Winnipeg native who played one game for the Warriors in 2012-13, spending last season in midget with the Winnipeg Thrashers. The following statement comes from GM Alan Millar on the Moose Jaw website, dated July 30:

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Vin Scully to return for 66th season with Dodgers – listen to his story about skating against Jackie Robinson

Rory Boylen
Vin Scully

Vin Scully is a Major League Baseball icon and Hall of Famer who never played the game as a professional. For 65 years, dating all the way back to the days when the National League’s Dodgers played out of Brooklyn, he has been the play-by-play voice of the team. He’s literally a one-man show – Scully calls the game and does the color commentary all by himself. He’s as good a story teller as he is a caller of baseball games.

And last night the gods smiled: Scully announced he would return to the Dodgers in 2015 for his 66th season.

What does his announcement have to do with hockey? Well, nothing really. But it does give us an opportunity to recall a story Scully told in May of 2012 during a Dodgers-Giants game. In it, Scully remembers the time he went skating with the legendary Jackie Robinson and his wife – and that Robinson wanted to race Scully.

The problem was, Robinson had never skated before. Scully, on the other hand, was an East Coast guy who was familiar with the sport. But I’ll stop now. Let’s hear Scully tell the story: Read more

Three of the top 10 picks in the OHL draft haven’t signed yet

Ryan Kennedy
Victor-Mete

Minor ripples were made the other day when a Michigan news outlet reported that center Tye Felhaber was unlikely to report to the Saginaw Spirit, the Ontario League team that drafted the talented youngster 10th overall in the spring.

As I found out in talking to insiders, Felhaber didn’t just decide this; the team had quietly known for some time. But since it’s officially out there now, Felhaber becomes the third top-10 pick from the 2014 OHL draft to express reticence in joining the franchise that selected him.

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