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From December 30th

Sunday, December 30, 2007

The December 30th column, in its entirety, as I intended for it to read:

When the Ottawa Senators re-signed Ray Emery to a 3-year, 9.5 million dollar contract in July (all terms US), they knew it would involve risks rarely associated with your run-of-the-mill goaltender.

Now amidst a firestorm of Ray-related drama, you have to wonder what each party was truly expecting from the deal. From Emery’s end, it doesn’t seem difficult to figure out.

Ray Emery remains anointed as one of the best goaltenders the Sens have possessed in modern team history for an obvious reason: He was the premier netminder during the team’s most successful playoff run to date. And while his play during the Anaheim series didn’t display the consistency shown through the first three rounds, he couldn’t be solely blamed for Ottawa’s eventual downfall. Few people were willing to blame Ray for anything last season – after all, he was looked upon as the catalyst behind the Sens’ regular season turnaround (a sentiment exacerbated by the team’s improved play during the same period). Many also knew that he was playing hurt, and would likely require some rehabilitation and repair during the summer.

When the 2007-’08 season kicked off with the Sens’ so-called No. 1 goalie still healing on the bench, many assumed that the 25-year-old was simply keeping the seat warm for Martin Gerber. No one realized at the time that Emery was also apparently making the same assumption, and now he appears determined to maintain that viewpoint, despite the change in circumstances. The fiery netminder currently behaves as if his play from the previous year has earned him top billing, no questions asked – an incorrect presumption to be sure. That was then, this is now. And you need not look far for recent evidence.

When given the opportunity, No. 1 has rarely shown flashes of last season’s success. His record stands at 5-3-3 with a 2.88 GAA and .891 save percentage. And while head coach John Paddock didn’t overly chastise Emery for his most recent performance against Chicago, the current backup displayed suspect positioning and poor lateral movement throughout the game.

The young goaltender would likely be given additional opportunities to gain back his form if he showed some enthusiasm in practice – a subject that has come up time and again via John Paddock since October. Apparently Emery felt the constant demands were open to interpretation when he decided to throw a diva-like fit (which included the tossing of his stick into the stands) during Thursday’s practice.

Paddock may continue to claim that effort takes precedence over time spent in practice – Emery has been observed arriving late and leaving the ice quickly on many occasions. Perhaps this is the coach’s way of going easy on someone who’s already been placed under the gun. However, it’s safe to say that not a single NHL player overcame the odds by putting their nose to the grindstone for a mere 10 minutes per day. Would it really make a difference if Emery only worked hard in short spurts? It’d be a start, but are we expected to be placated with a backstopper’s baby steps when he should know better by now? It shouldn’t have to be this hard.

Unfortunately, the fact remains that Ray Emery is making it hard on himself and his teammates by refusing to put in the work necessary to earn back the No. 1 spot -- meanwhile, the truculent ‘tender continues to act as if such efforts are unwarranted and aggravating. Very few players are privileged enough to stand on the merits of previous achievements, because yesterday’s NHL history is rarely today’s reality. All that’s left to ask is, “What have you done for us lately, Ray?” Right now, Sens observers would be hard pressed to find a positive answer.

Template issues

Thursday, December 06, 2007

We're dealing with some stuff over here, so we'll be offline for the rest of the day until we have it sorted out.

Just saying...

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

During the last 7 games:

Shean Donovan -- 0 points -3

Mike Fisher -- 0 points - 8

Chris Kelly -- 1 assist -6

Dean McAmmond -- 2 assists -2

Randy Robitaille -- 1 assist -5

Antoine Vermette -- 2 points -5

A must-read

Monday, December 03, 2007

I apologize for getting to this late, but if you haven't seen this piece from Heather Mallick of CBC News, you need to read it. I understand that it pertains to a highly controversial topic and there is a definite viewpoint being expressed in the column. However, there is a bigger issue at stake and it will become blatantly evident if you keep an open mind.

If you wish to read the column on its original page and the comments that follow, click here.


I hate picking on women. We're born at a disadvantage and in our wild flailing to stay afloat, we make such easy targets. But really, do the wives and girlfriends of the Ottawa Senators have to dress up in matching pink team sweaters and call their ad hoc union "The Better Halves?"

It's bad enough that these women have hooked up with bruised artist-athletes with careers of inevitably brief span, sold by hockey corporations as if they were cans of Spam, shipped around the continent without notice, thus dooming their wives' careers from the start. But must The Better Halves bully young pregnant women during their own brush with greatness? I'd like to ask the nice ladies about this, but these shy creatures are as hard to track down as the tiny, near-extinct, muntjac deer.
The Better Half way

The Better Halves are giving a third of the proceeds of this year's $50,000 Christmas Tree raffle to First Place Pregnancy Centre, an Ottawa anti-abortion group run by Pentecostal Christians.

Planned Parenthood Ottawa is upset, in its customary polite way, and sent out a press release protesting charity money going to a group that is not what people might think it is.

Here's the context: There are thousands of these centres across North America. They're known in the business as CPCs, as they usually have names resembling Crisis Pregnancy Centre. They have cute websites designed to appeal to teenage girls, lots of advice about boys — giggle — and sites on MySpace. They take great care to look like kindly counselling centres. In fact, they exist solely to prevent abortion.

Planned Parenthood told me it frequently talks to women who went to these apparently welcoming places for counselling on the three options — abortion, adoption and parenting. The group says women report feeling badly treated.
Charity's rewards

The problem is worse than just some hockey fans inadvertently donating to a cause they may oppose — that is a personal issue between a fan and her team (in my case, the Canadiens). What irks is that our tax dollars are involved.

The raffle money is channelled through the Sens Foundation, the team's registered charity arm, which is matching every dollar raised by The Better Halves.

Not only does the foundation, which normally does good — make that wonderful — things appear to be breaking Revenue Canada's rules for charities, it is breaking its own rules.

Both the taxman and the foundation agree that donations can only support registered charities. They can't support "political or lobby" or "advocacy or special interest groups." And they shouldn't.

As a pro-choice woman, I write and speak about abortion rights and donate money. But I don't get a tax break and would ridicule the suggestion. Half the joy of activism is its utter lack of reward. The other half is the cold rain leaking down your spine and into your cold, sodden jeans at a demonstration on a wet Wednesday on the Legislature's muddy lawn. There's no life like it.
First Place link lesson

I had an initially cheerful phone interview with Sens Foundation president Dave Ready, who said the Better Halves, when asked to choose three charities, chose:

* First Place.
* Kids Help Phone.
* Harmony House (a women's shelter).

First Place was "in line with our mandate," he said. "We did due diligence and checked that it's a charity."

"You went to the website?" I asked.


"Did you check on the links?"


We went through the First Place site links together. There's a standard disclaimer but First Place hopes we'll find them "helpful." I told Ready that some of the news headlines appeared to be libellous, particularly the ones linking corporations that make birth control drugs to the Jewish Holocaust and one drug itself to Nazi death camps. Others were grotesque: "One baby in 30 left alive after medical abortion" turns out to be an absurd, unsubstantiated anonymous "news story" in a British entertainment magazine.

You're also guided to a donation page for the American Life League, a hardline group based outside Washington. There's a shop, admittedly very funny, that sells "Abortion is mean" T-shirts for two-year-olds.

They offer booklets explaining that abortion is wrong even in the case of incest. They tell members to scare away raped children outside abortion clinics. They call RU-486 "the anti-human pesticide." They offer sample letters to the editor to send to outlets that employ, I imagine, columnists like me. One begins: "Planned Parenthood is not 'a good guy.'"

Ready gets more and more quiet as we track this. Soon he is desperate to get off the phone. He will not let me talk to a Better Half, who might well explain that she hadn't known that First Place is financed by the Bethel Pentecostal Church in Ottawa and its mission — declared on the Bethel website but nowhere on the First Place site — is not just anti-abortion but anti-birth control.
Who says what

Revenue Canada tells me that First Place is not a registered charity.

Terri Mazik, executive director of First Place, sent out a press release attacking "our colleagues at Planned Parenthood" for their press release. She says First Place makes its position clear by saying it doesn't do "abortion referrals," ignoring the fact that no one does. Referrals aren't necessary; all anyone needs is to be guided to a phone book.

Her website and her press release are full of fact-concealing cotton puffery. But why conceal them? This is Canada. Say what you want, but on your own dime.

I don't know how the Sens Foundation got itself into this mess, which will surely lead to some hard questions from Revenue Canada.

CBC TV is about to show a new soap/drama series similar to Britain's notorious Footballers' Wives, called MVP. It's about the women known as — sorry — "puck bunnies."

Were the Better Halves abortion hardliners or innocent bunnies when they offered their money to this weird organization? Does the Sens Foundation's "due diligence" include Google searches?

This whole matter is a soap opera, and I expect the Foundation and Revenue Canada to call a halt. But, unlike in a soap opera, everyone came out of this with real damage: the Better Halves, the Sens Foundation and its wonderful Roger's House for dying children, the unaware raffle ticket buyers, Kids Help Phone, Harmony House and most of all, the confused, friendless young women who may want to consider the option of abortion but are going to be lied to and maybe bullied out of it.

You may have noticed the glossed-over blogger segment on Hockey Night In Canada, prior to the Leafs-Pens game. Not much new under the sun there, although it should be ironically noted that Elliotte Friedman took part in the piece. Friedman is a moderator on the Sportsjournalists.com message boards -- a gathering place for mainstream sports media that's well-known for viciously denouncing bloggers.


Keep in mind that the Sens have another PPV coming up this Friday (from Dallas). What adventures will this broadcast bring? God only knows, given the history thus far. Just remember what Jim Steel (the team's VP of broadcasting services) said during the last snafu:

"I'm committed to doing HD (for pay-per-view broadcasts this season,)" he said. "I wish I hadn't (agreed, given what happened.)"

That's the kind of sentiment you want to see expressed, right? We pity your regret over attempting to give your customers what they want, Mr. Steel. Your fans regret that the team implemented pay-per-view in the first place.