Archive for April, 2009

The Forest For The Trees

April 30, 2009

Bit of a short post today. The podcast is on the way but has been delayed thanks to work and life.  I occasionally talk about issues pertaining to the environment (you can find a bunch of earlier posts by googling “the alder fork environment”).  I cam across a very interesting blog post about 5 environmental concerns that are more serious and imminent than global warming.  I agree with the author’s assessment and have also noticed that deforestation and pollution are often ignored these days.  That should keep you busy for awhile.

He Hit The Post!

April 29, 2009

You said you didn’t give a **** about hockey and I never saw someone say that before. You held my hand as we walked home the long way you were loosening my grip on Bobby Orr.

The Tragically Hip


In honour of the second round of the NHL playoffs, which are about to begin, I have a few thoughts about the future of hockey in Canada. I thank you in advance for indulging this diversion from my usual fare.

The internet has been a wonderful resource for modern history.  This blog regularly features National Film Board films from the online archive, and media institutions such as Time magazine have made their collections available to the world.  For awhile the CBC has offered a great deal of material in their own digital archive.  While looking around, I came across a feature on the departure of Candian professional teams.   The  Jets (now Coyotes), and Nordiques (now Avalanche), are the two most recent examples.  On the site you can find radio and television reports about the WHA, and the loss of both teams.  There is also information about the Oilers troubles, and bitterness of the Colorado Avalanche’s Stanley Cup title that came one year after the team abandoned Quebec.

It is very strange to me that Canada has only 6 NHL teams (out of 30) when it is the leading hotbed of hockey internationally.  Junior hockey does well in many small communities, but people in this country have shown that they won’t support professional hockey that is second rate (see the AHL for example).  The most recent story on this topic concerned a meeting of interested Toronto investors with NHL VP Bill Daly. They want to place a team in Vaughn, Ontario.  A great many commentators believe that a second team could thrive in southern Ontario based on the population base and the passion for hockey.  Of course, the Toronto Maple Leafs aren’t fans of that idea since this is their major market (though the team is popular in many other parts of the country thanks to their dominance of Hockey Night in Canada).  With the NHL, among other sports leagues,  likely facing economic difficulties in the coming years, it makes sense to examine alternative ideas for the league.  This leads me to one question: How many teams could Canada realistically support? Here’s a list of the 6 NHL teams, their 2009 per game attendance (% of capacity), and the population of their cities (2006 Census):

Calgary, 19,289 (100%), 1,079,310
Edmonton, 16,839 (100%), 1,034,945
Montreal, 21,273 (100%), 3,635,571
Ottawa, 18,949 (105%), 1,168,788
Toronto, 19,312 (102.7%),  5,113,149
Vancouver, 18,630 (101%), 2,116,581

That list demonstrates that the Canadian franchises are quite successful at the gate, and that a city needs to be able to provide 16000-20000 fans per game to fit in this group.  That Toronto total includes Mississauga and the rest of the main GTA (but not Hamilton-Burlington).  These are the 6 largest metropolitan areas in the country. I think a very convincing argument could be made for another team in Toronto, maybe in the aforementioned Mississauga (668,549).  Here are the next 7 largest metro areas along with the two major Saskatchewan cities just for fun:

Quebec City, 715,515
Winnipeg, 694,668
Hamilton, 692,911
London, 457,720
Kitchener, 451,235
St. Catherines-Niagara, 390,317
Halifax, 372,858
Saskatoon, 233,923
Regina, 194,971

On the surface the drop off is pretty steep from 6-7 and beyond.  Returns to Winnipeg and Quebec have been floated several times.  Both Quebec City and Winnipeg lost their franchises due in part to financial difficulties.  Those problems occured in the old NHL when cost certainty was a dream. With the new financial model in the league it is much more likely that a team in a smaller market, with a strong fan base, would be able to thrive. Before the lockout Edmonton, and Calgary were struggling with rising salaries, yet they are now among the most successful franchises in the league. A new league model means reexamining the potential for the NHL in Canada.

If we accept that teams in smaller Canadian markets would be more successful now, then Winnipeg and Quebec are obvious considerations.  When Jim Balsille began accepting down payments on season’s tickets in Hamilton (part of a failed attempt to buy the Nashville Predators) 10000 people signed up.  There are very many people in southern Ontario who aren’t Maple Leafs fans.  Some like the Canadiens, some the Senators, and many follow teams from all over the league.  People living in Hamilton, London, KW, and Niagara don’t share their identity with the city of Toronto even if they are nearby.  I absolutely believe that a second team in one of those communities would find a fan base.  Obviously, there are many large issues to be sorted out before that happens, like an arena, satisfying the Leafs and Sabres, figuring out where the team would come from (relocation or expansion) and finding solid ownership (I hear RIM is sort of successful), but the idea is workable.  Putting teams in the four communities I’ve mentioned (Mississauga/Vaughn, Winnipeg, Quebec City, and Hamilton/KW/London) would bring the Canadian portion of the league to 10 teams.  I can also stretch my imagination to include teams in Halifax and Saskatchewan (they whole-heartedly support the Riders, why not a hockey team?), which gives us 12 Canadian and likely 18 American teams.  Doesn’t that reflect the identity of hockey in North America a bit better?

I understand that this will probably never happen, but I think fans of the game should continue to make our preferences known. The NHL has, at times, actually listened to what its fans and critics have to say about the game.  I believe that at least 2 of the cities I’ve mentioned will have teams in the next 10 years.  The forces just seem to be moving that way.  Here’s my theoretical NHL, for fun. Oddly, I kept the top 21 teams in attendance and three other random teams from the bottom 9 based on history and geography.  You could definitely argue which ones belong, and if any of the ones I’ve included could be relocated elsewhere.

Thanks for bearing with my diversion.

Eastern Conference

Buffalo Sabres
Carolina Hurricanes
Montreal Canadiens
New Jersey
New York Islanders
New York Rangers
Ottawa Senators
Philadelphia Flyers
Pittsburgh Penguins
Quebec Nordiques
Toronto Maple Leafs
Washington Capitals

Western Conference

Anaheim Ducks
Calgary Flames
Chicago Blackhawks
Colorado Avalanche
Columbus Blue Jackets
Dallas Stars
Detroit Red Wings
Edmonton Oilers
LA Kings
Minnesota Wild
San Jose Sharks
St. Louis Blues
Vancouver Canucks
Winnipeg Jets

A Short Piece

April 28, 2009

A poem from an upcoming collection:

Mail Order Surprise

They say I bribed the shopkeeper
To sell it to me at half the price
“There’s no way, you could buy it
Not on your salary”
I said, “How do you know
What I make in a month
And quality is worth it”
Why would I tell them my secret?
That the Italians had it
On special
Because they don’t know the value
Of a space heater
In Pickle Lake
In January

News You Can Use

April 27, 2009

Fighting for the smallest goal: to get a little self-control
I know how hard you try. I see it in your eyes
But call your friends, ’cause we’ve forgotten what it’s like to eat what’s rotten
And what’s eating you alive might help you to survive.
We went on as we were on a mission, latest in a Grand Tradition
And oh, what did we find?
It was Ego who was flying the banner, and me and Mia, Ann and Ana
Oh, we’d been unkind
But do you believe in something beautiful?
Then get up and be it

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists

Me and Mia

Just a quick post tonight because I have been very busy enjoying nice weather and wrapping up the 2009 Change the World Youth Challenge. I wanted to confirm to everyone that the Eating Disorder Awareness Coalition of Waterloo Region is on board as our supported organization for The 2009 Alder Fork Festival. If you’ve followed this blog, or know me personally, you hve heard about my passion for this cause. The battl many people wage against their bodies is dangerous, deadly, and unnecessary.  Eating disorders are dangerous mental illnesses, and poor body image is a chronic issue in our society.  A great deal of work needs to be done to educate people about both of these concerns, and EDACWR does a great deal of work in this area.  Just a reminder that the event will be on Saturday, September 12th, 7pm at the Reigstry Theatre in Kitchener. There promises to be great music and a lot of fun.

If you think you might be developing an eating disorder please seek help.  Find the strength inside yourself to say that you want to get better, and understand that starving yourself, and/or purging are not healthy activities.  I realize it is an immense challenge but please try.  For everyone else, if you don’t already love your body, take a deep and long look at that relationship.  There are many good reasons to love yourself.

Talk Talk Talk

April 26, 2009

As part of my current job I spend a lot of time in high schools.  This has led to a lot of discussion and reflection about the differences between my school experience and what I observe now.  The students themselves act more or less the same.  There are still the same categories of people, from the wise cracking kids in the back of the room, to the shy, acheivers up front.  The swearing might be a bit more blatant and loud, but it isn’t that different than 10 years ago.  The one noticeable change is the proliferation of cell phones. When I was in high school the internet was a rlatively new idea, and I don’t think any of my friends had their own cell phone.  Today, a large portion of the students I see can’t go 3 minutes without texting someone.  The same is true of many adults now, but it’s startling to me that so many young people stay in almost constant contact with their peers.  How would they survive in a world where you could only reach your friends by phoning from your house, or knocking on their door.  I wonder how they will cope in the working world, where they won’t be allowed to repeatedly text or phone people.  In some ways it echoes back to my earlier post about The Machine Stops.

I also wonder what effect electronic conversation has on all of us as social beings.  I heard a report claiming that electronic relationships don’t nurture people the way real life encounters do.  Should we become a mostly digital society (a possibility that I’m not compeletely sold on)  I’m sure there are a great many negative consequences.  Since I prefer to deal in the present and past, I think the proliferation of cell phones among young people has mostly led to problems.  I don’t hate technology, but I do think we need to be careful what we do with it.  Take a look at this post from another blog because I think Neil Postman covers this territory in a superior manner.

A Long Time Ago

April 25, 2009

Vodpod videos no longer available.

In honour of Earth Day and Earth Week, I resent this interesting take on human evolution.  It’s a bit of a tradition on this blog to feature animated NFB films from the 70’s.  Zlatko Grgic blends humour and social consciousness into an entertaining trip through history. Deep Threat seems a bit dated today, and it’s message has certainly been heralded to death in the last 30 years.  The use of eccentric animation is not something you would see today in an environmental film. In fact, you are much more likely to see live action shots of whatever habitat/creature/society that is threatened.  This film may be a time capsule of the film industry and environmental movement of the 1970’s, but it’s remains enjoyable today.   I think the environmental movement takes itself far to seriously sometimes, with very dramatic tales of humanity’s destructive powers.  Deep Threat put a nice spin on the overall message of protecting the earth.  Perhaps people don’t need to be scared in order to act.

The Northwest Passage

April 24, 2009

The View From Up Here

Some days I have a lot to say, and some days I don’t Today I bring you a link to the words of someone else, who presents the case for Stan Rogers in the Canadian Music Hall of Fame much more effectively than I could. Thank you Andrew Dreschel.

That picture has no connection whatsoever to this post.  I just thought it was a fun reminder of a nice day.  That was taken from the along the tracks in Dundasover looking the valley. I’m not sure what I was going for with it, but I think the photo gives a nice contrast between the beautiful and the industrial (if those are indeed contrasting elements).

You Can Dance If You Want To

April 23, 2009

I don’t usually write about the day-to-day going-ons in my life. Today will be an exception.  I spent Wednesday traveling to several seniors residences and Participation House  As part of my work with the Change the World Youth Challenge for Volunteer Hamilton.  Although the performances were only 25-30 minutes long, these young people created a connection with their audience that was remarkable.  I was reminded of my own days performing as a teenager in front of appreciative crowds.  The beauty of this event was the collision of two groups seeking an opportunity.  The dancers were craving a chance to perform their well practiced moves, and the audiences, people who spend most of their times in the same place, love when something new and exciting enters their world.  The recreation coordinator at Participation House told the group that their residents only see dancing once a year, when this samba group visits.  You could argue that there is a lot of dancing on TV, but a live performance is much more powerful and compelling. Regardless, experiencing the enthusiasm of the dancers and the audience was a treat. Even though all I did was organize the tour (a pretty easy task) I was very pleased to be part of it.

I witnessed one more special moment during this little tour.  After one of the performances there was a gap of about 30 minutes before the bus returned.  As the students lingered in the atrium around a grand piano, one elderly resident in a wheel chair pulled up.  He began to play some songs and the 20 or so teenagers gathered around to cheer him on and applaud his playing.  It was a magical little moment where young and old bonded over some classic tunes. All around an amazing day.

Where Are You Going?

April 22, 2009

I will follow you, will you follow me, all the days and nights that I know will be.


Follow You, Follow Me

Although I usually write about arts and culture on this blog I came across a unique little experiment today that I want to share. Tweenbots are the creation of an artist named Kacie Kinzer.  This American artist has taken a simple concept, a small robot trying to reach a destination, and turned it into a social experiment.Basically this minimally built robots are put on the street with a flag that explains their goal, and asks for help.  It is up to random strangers to aid them along their way.  It turns out that people were remarkably helpful and the robots tended to make it where they were going.  The artist gives a thoughful analysis on the site, and I recommend reading it.

I am probably attracted to this idea because of the parallels to Paddle to the Sea. This is not the first time I’ve mentioned this book and it ranks as  one of the most influential texts from my childhood.  Some romantic part of me loves the idea of a small object set adrift in the world with the hope that it will reach it’s destination.  I also think it’s remarkable that people are willing to respond to this tiny creature in a positive way.  By all accounts no one sabotaged the robots.  The artist began with an attempt to make interactive art and ended up unwrapping a little bit of the human condition.  This seems like the type of experiment that could be very revealing if done in a wide variety of cities across the world.  I wonder if people in certain places are more apt to help out than others.

Do You Have Some Time?

April 21, 2009

New podcast up tonight.  It’s National Volunteer Week here in Canada and I have Jen Grebeldinger from Timeraiser Hamilton. The May 9th event is an art auction where volunteer hours act as currency.  This unique event began in Toronto and has grown to many communities across the country.  This is the first Hamilton edition and you can get ticket information at the website. I also expand on the topic of volunteerism and my involvement with the Change the World Ontario Youth Challenge.

Over 12 million Canadians volunteer every year.  Advocates, like myself, point out to anyone who will listen that volunteerism is an integral part of this country.  It is strange to think that in many countries people aren’t giving as much of their free time to improve their society.  It is perhaps even more impressive because of the diverse nature of Canada. People from all over the world come here and many find themselves sharing in the spirit of volunteerism.

Music by two Canadian groups that need little introduction,  Great Lake Swimmers and The Stills.