Parade of Champions!

November 29, 2016 5:54 pm
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redblacks-parade-2-of-21wredblacks-parade-15-of-21wAll photos by Andre Gagne.

It could have been coming down in sheets of ice but nothing was going to rain on the Ottawa Redblacks parade. 40,000+ came out to pack both sides of Bank Street as the Grey Cup champions paraded through the city amongst proud admirers.

redblacks-parade-20-of-21wredblacks-parade-9-of-21w“Let’s go Redblacks!” fans shouted as the team, lead by a full marching band, reached out for high-fives and to sign a few footballs.

The jubilant hoard wouldn’t be satisfied with seeing their hometown heroes simply pass. After all, they waited 40 years for this! The fans would take to the street to follow the float all the was to TD Place.

It was a nailbiter of a game Sunday night with the Calgary Stampeders pushing it right down to the wire where the Redblacks took it 39-33 in overtime. The hard-fought victory only made their moment today shine even brighter. Game MVP Henry Burris had a smile that beamed so brightly it could probably be seen from Saturn!

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“Being able to experience this and see the number of people that turned out and the waves of redblacks-parade-16-of-21w(them) lined up I honestly had a tear come to my eye,” he said still on crutches from an injury suffered in the big game.

“We dream of this moment right here!”

Mayor Jim Watson and colleagues from city council were present to not only praise the redevelopment of Lansdowne but to also thank the fans who made the new arena a success with multiple sell-out games.

“We all ended up on the right side of history,” Watson shouted over the cacophony of fandom!

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Those fans were repeatedly reminded by Burris and the players how they were the best fan base in the CFL. Their admiration reached a furious peak when Burris tried to share his plans for next season amidst speculation he would not return to the game. The thousands wouldn’t even let him speak drowning him out with shouts of “One more year!”

Burris wasn’t making any choices today, choosing the relish the moment he and his team earned, a moment some said couldn’t happen. In three seasons, the Redblacks proved them wrong and to this city the Grey Cup is back where it belongs!

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SENATORS: A Week in Review – November 21-27, 2016

November 28, 2016 8:11 pm
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ottawa_senatorsSENATORS: A Week in Review is a weekly column
looking back at the week in Ottawa Senators
hockey written by #OLMSports Dave Gross.

Images from NHL.com.

Not a shocker – Craig Anderson named on Monday as the NHL’s first star of the week.

What is a shocker? The idea that Anderson is not included in the list of the league’s top netminders. Check any TV panel vote or any newspaper writer’s opinion piece and you hear the names Carey Price (justifiably) then Henrik Lundqvist then Braden Holtby then Jonathan Quick then Tuukka Rask then Corey Crawford . . . even Anderson’s old crease-mates Ben Bishop and Robin Lehner get noticed first. Sports Illustrated in fact conjured its own list prior to this season and had Ottawa’s chief keeper rated 24th in the league (Bishop and Lehner were ranked higher).

24th?

If the NHL ever developed a trophy for unappreciated players, Ottawa’s goaltender could have his face plastered on it.

Fact is – if not for Anderson, the Senators don’t plow through November (prior to Tuesday’s Buffalo game) on a 9-4-1 tear.

Fact is – you probably would have to turn those numbers around if not for Anderson.

He’s been that good, and really, he’s been that good since arriving to the nation’s capital from Colorado in the 2011 season.

Anderson doesn’t have the luxury of a Ken-Hitchcock-type defence in front of him. Frankly, Ottawa’s defensive zone has been a minefield since Anderson landed here, and oddly enough, he seems to relish the busy-work.

And that is likely the reason he is labeled “oft-injured.” Fighting off continual assault can do that to the human body.

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And you can yammer on all you like about Erik Karlsson being this team’s MVP; your yammering would be incorrect.

At 12-4-1 with a 2.03 goals-against average and lofty .936 save percentage, Anderson’s the guy.

He’s the most important guy on this team right now. Period.

* Got a chuckle out of former Senator Matt Puempel’s comments in Larry Brooks’ piece in the New York Post. He might be wrong; he might be right, but in the Good Book of Hockey (you know: the ‘code’) it’s just not something you do . . . especially if you haven’t done squat in nearly six years of playing pro.

* Looking back at that 2011 NHL draft where Ottawa had three of the top 24 picks (Puempel was picked 24th), you’d have to qualify it as a disappointment – and that might be an understatement. Mika Zibanajed (6th overall) is now a Ranger as well and Stefan Noesen (21st) is in Anaheim’s organization. This was supposed to be the beginning of Ottawa’s major rebuild and none of their first-rounder’s remain in the organization. Don’t forget Shane Prince too. The Sens’ second-rounder from ’11 was traded to the Islanders last season.

* The get-back on those players makes for good hot stove debate. Zibanajed and a 2nd for Derick Brassard and a 7th has been all New York so far (Zibanajed had five goals and 10 assists in 19 games before being injured; Brassard has struggled finding his way – three goals, six assists in 22 games). Add those numbers to this one: Zibanajed is six years younger than Brassard.

* Noesen, Jakob Silfverberg and a 1st (Nick Ritchie) went to the Ducks for Bobby Ryan. Ryan’s never truly hit his stride in Ottawa and carries an enormously expensive ticket (he signed a seven-year contract extension worth $50.75 million US two years ago). Ryan turns 30 in March and has but three goals in the first 20 games. Noesen’s knee troubles have limited him greatly – he’s playing in the AHL currently. Ritchie is a young banger with potential (five goals in 20 games with the Ducks), but the steal is Silfverberg whose overall game is impressive. Defensively sound with some offensive upside (seven goals so far), you won’t find a smarter hockey player.

* As for Puempel? We’ll see.

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WEEK THAT WAS:

Tuesday: Ottawa 4, Montreal 3
Thursday: Ottawa 3, Boston 1
Saturday: Ottawa 2, Carolina 1
Sunday: Ottawa 2, NY Rangers 0

WEEK AHEAD:

Tuesday: Buffalo at Ottawa (7:30 pm)
Thursday: Philadelphia at Ottawa (7:30 pm)
Saturday: Florida at Ottawa (7 pm)

40 Years in the Making: Redblacks Win Grey Cup!

November 27, 2016 10:41 pm
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Image courtesy of Ottawa Redblacks.

The detractors will inevitably give excuses of varying degrees of legitimacy — Ottawa’s losing regular-season record, Calgary slotback Marquay McDaniel’s first-quarter injury, etc. — but it matters not.

The Ottawa REDBLACKS triumphed on Sunday night in front of a sold-out crowd at Toronto’s BMO Field, edging the powerhouse Calgary Stampeders 39-33 in overtime.

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The city’s first Grey Cup since 1976 was delivered in a fashion that reflected the trying last 40 years for Ottawa football fans. It certainly wasn’t the prettiest of championships — a hairy fourth quarter built on a nervous East Division final built on an unsteady regular season — but when it mattered most, the REDBLACKS came through.

Despite losing a 20-point second-half lead on Sunday, Ottawa showed its resiliency, just as its fans did three years ago in returning to the Lansdowne seats after suffering through some very, very lean years of football in the nation’s capital.

It was the kind of victory that immediately brought on story time, whether it was in the Twittersphere or at sports bars across the city. Tales from 1976 — and earlier — echoed as people placed their heroes of yesteryear next to the city’s newly-minted champions. Names like Ernest Jackson, who bobbled and eventually hauled in the eventual game-winning score, and Henry Burris, the charismatic, 41 year-old gunslinger fighting against time.

The latter’s performance was nothing short of remarkable. After a mixed bag of results throughout 2016, Burris — who has been playing professional football longer than a small but significant portion of REDBLACKS fans have been alive — put in his best shift of the season on Sunday when it mattered the most.

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It was a remarkable win based on the sheer numbers entering the Grey Cup. At 15-2-1, the Stampeders’ starters hadn’t lost a game since Week 1 and appeared, understandably, as a nine- or ten-point favourite depending on the market. At 8-9-1, and having nearly fallen to Edmonton in the East Division’s snow bowl of a final the week before, few pundits and experts were giving Ottawa much of a chance.

But Ottawa raced out to a 20-7 lead at the half, having beaten Calgary in every phase and shaken the confidence of star Stampeder quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell. The CFL’s best regular season team stormed back in the second half, with Mitchell, running back Jerome Messam and co. battling back to improbably tie the game at 33.

Had there been a few more minutes on the clock, Calgary likely would have continued their second-half roll and claimed the championship that many — including myself — had already given them prior to kick-off.

But it wasn’t meant to be for the Stampeders; this was the REDBLACKS’ night, and following Jackson’s overtime touchdown, Calgary’s offence never moved from the Ottawa 35-yard line.

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Much will be written in the coming days. Stories of nostalgia, of former players wrestling with their scars from their own championships, of the deeper meaning of sport.

But what must be written today is the fact that Ottawa, for the first time in nearly two generations, is a championship football town.

Its fans have been all along.

Grey Cup: Keys to Victory

November 26, 2016 11:06 am
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Images courtesy of Redblacks.com.

Plenty has been written this week on what the Ottawa REDBLACKS will have to do to overcome the heavily-favoured Calgary Stampeders in Sunday’s Grey Cup at BMO Field in Toronto.

You can analyze the specific position group matchups, or compare and contrast the two teams’ offensive gameplans, but there are three integral keys for Ottawa on Sunday if the REDBLACKS are to have even a sniff of the Grey Cup.

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  1. Jerome Messam 

Calgary’s running back was arguably the best offensive player in the CFL during the regular season, powering his way to 1,198 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground. Ottawa did a solid job of stopping the Stamps’ power back in both its regular-season meetings with Calgary, limiting Messam to 3.5 yards-per-carry and a single touchdown.

With the Stampeder offensive line being the best in the league, and quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell now holding the crown of undisputed best pivot on the nine-team circuit, Ottawa has to make Calgary’s offence one-dimensional. If Dave Dickenson’s team is allowed to run the football, it could be a long night in Toronto for the REDBLACKS defence.

  1. Kienan Lafrance 

It seems bizarre to mention Ottawa running back Kienan Lafrance — a national running back who was largely a third-string option in the backfield during the regular season — in the same breath as Messam. The Manitoba product ran for just 163 yards all season prior to a snow-covered 157-yard performance against Edmonton in the East Final.

As much as Henry Burris is a cherished figure in Ottawa, the days of him leading a team to the Grey Cup on the strength of is arm are over. Against a strong Stampeder D-line led by sack machine Charleston Hughes, it’s going to be imperative for the REDBLACKS  to find their run game early.

  1. Ottawa D-Line vs. Calgary O-Line 

The Stampeder offensive line was the best line in the CFL from virtually wire-to-wire during the regular season, buying ample time for Bo Levi Mitchell to do his thing in the pocket and opening up regular holes for Jerome Messam to burst through.

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It’s a strong unit, led by the likes of Derek Dennis and Dan Federkeil, and the REDBLACKS will have to find a way to create meaningful penetration on Sunday.

Zach Evans and Connor Williams will have to be their usual explosive selves on the D-line for Ottawa, which will need to find a third (and fourth) penetration threat to seriously trouble Calgary’s airtight offensive line.

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Calgary is the (much) better team on paper. Of that there is no doubt.

You don’t go 15-2-1 in a season, with one of those losses being a garbage-time game against Montreal with starters on the bench, without having the best all-around roster in this league.

Luckily for REDBLACKS players, coaches and fans: You have to play the game.

A quick start in the first quarter, or a key injury on either side of the ball for Calgary, could throw this game’s blueprint (and nine-point spread) out the window. Buckle up for what should be an entertaining Grey Cup, Ottawa.

Stanley Cup to Return to Ottawa for 125th Anniversary

November 24, 2016 9:52 am
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The Stanley Cup will be returning to Ottawa in 2017 whether the Senators make the NHL playoffs or not. However with the famous competition celebrating its 125th anniversary and the Senators team themselves celebrating their 25th anniversary, all in the same year as Canada’s 150th birthday, it would certainly make it even more of a special event for the nation if Pierre Dorion’s side were to reach their first final since 2007. With a whole host of celebrations taking place in order to commemorate such anniversaries, it is certain to be a momentous year.

On the ice, the Senators have made a solid start to the new season, with their 10-7-1 record leaving them third in the Atlantic Division NHL standings.  Despite holding one of the eight playoff spots from the East, attendances at Canadian Tire Centre have been disappointing, with the Senators yet to sell out any of their eleven home games. They have averaged just 14,494 fans per outing, which is 24th in the league and last among the seven Canadian NHL teams. According to a recent infographic, teams hoping to reach the playoffs must win around 60% of their regular season games, something which the Senators were nowhere near achieving last season.

Injuries to the likes of Mike Hoffman, Bobby Ryan and Clarke MacArthur have certainly not helped the team, however they continue to struggle offensively, with a combined two-goal output in back to back losses against the Nashville Predators and Florida Panthers last week only further demonstrating their lack of firepower. Findings also show that teams making the playoffs must score an average of 2.89 goals per game, something the Senators must improve upon if they are to reach the Stanley Cup in their own city.

However, even if the Senators fail to reach the finals in Ottawa, the city is already preparing for mass celebrations from March to October of next year. Kicking off in March with a gala at the Canadian Museum of History, before fans will have the opportunity to see the Stanley Cup for itself, with David Johnston bringing the famous trophy back to Ottawa.

Elsewhere, a Stanley Cup tribute concert will be held at the Canadian Tire centre on March 17, before a Stanley Cup monument is unveiled on Sparks Street just a day later. Should the Senators be able to follow in the footsteps of the Pittsburgh Penguins from last season, it would certainly be the icing on the cake for all of Canada, Ottawa and the NHL.

WWE’s Ottawa Smackdown and the Rise of the Lunatic Fringe

November 23, 2016 1:46 am
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Photos: WWE.com.

Every reform movement has a lunatic fringe
-Theodore Roosevelt

The Superstars of WWE’s Smackdown Live blazed brightly tonight inside a near sold out Canadian Tire Centre. One of them, however, shined brighter than the rest in Ottawa’s little corner of the WWE Universe. You just had to look around the arena. The signs would tell you who the crowd was waiting for before the cheers from those holding them did. Ottawa was living on the Lunatic Fringe and Dean Ambrose would have no problem keeping them there!

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Smackdown’s commissioner Shane McMahon kicked off the show much to the elation of the crowd glad to see he’s still standing after the vicious bump he took Sunday night at the Survivor Series in Toronto. There was a little less spring in his step eased perhaps by the adoration of the Ottawa crowd seeing him live for the first time in over seven years.

“Shane-o-mac! Shane-o-mac!” they shouted.

Shane, despite telling the crowd he felt like he’d been in a car accident, couldn’t hold back the grin.

“You still got it,” the audience assured him.

While praising his team for their victory over the WWE’s Raw brand Sunday night in their traditional Survivor Series matchup, the commish would have some harsh words for the man who nearly power-bombed away their victory. Dean Ambrose didn’t need much more of a reason to make his way down to the ring to wisely divert attention onto the unsung hero of team Smackdown, 31-year-old James Ellsworth, who has taken the wrestling community by storm of recent despite being in the business for well over a decade.

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The ultimate underdog, Ellsworth has yet to be signed to the main roster. He’s often been utilized in more comedic roles or as the brand’s mascot. Ambrose, however, had plans to change that. The former Shield member would provoke his rival and current WWE Champion AJ Styles into a match with Ellsworth that would have a contract on the line. It wouldn’t be just any match, either. Ellsworth would literally have to climb the ladder to earn his spot in a Ladder Match. Considering how this match has its origins in Canada, it only seemed fitting to break out the steal in the Nation’s Capital.

“There is much more creative freedom on Smackdown,” says Alec Miske, one of the hosts of Wrestling With Ideas on CKDJ 107.9, a fact made all the more apparent by the main event that had just been set.

Long-time wrestling fan Adam Gough agrees that Smackdown has stepped up their game since the start of the second brand split that divided the WWE roster. He looks at Smackdown as a showcase for new talent that has added a stronger focus on long-term storytelling.

“I think the brand split has given more opportunities to the mid-card wrestlers as they have more time to be focused on and develop,” says Gough. “A chief example of this would be the women’s division.”

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The WWE have transformed the women’s division into one that has competed with the men for some of the top matches on the card. If you needed any proof outside of the glowing performance of the women who have pulled out all the stops to get the division over this year, just look inside the Hell in a Cell. Last month, for the first time, the women headlined a major PPV.

Tonight would be no different as champion Becky Lynch took on Natalya in a non-title match.

105_sd_11222016ej_2094-cec087f6f9310bfb706a4afacc164682Natalya would have a hard time playing her role as a heel in Canada. The Calgary-born Superstar is a third-generation member of the much respected (especially here in the Great White North) Hart wrestling family, a lineage that includes her father Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart and her uncle Bret “The Hitman” Hart. One fan at ringside, dressed at Bret, represented the strong Hart family fanbase in Ottawa as he urged the crowd around him to cheer Natalya despite the heat she was trying to draw by taunting the champ.

The cheers weren’t enough. Natalya, attempting her uncle’s Sharpshooter, would fall victim to a counter by Lynch into her Disarmher submission.

This would not be the last of the Canadian content the Canuck crowd would see. Ambrose, after being asked to leave the building by McMahon, kept reappearing on the show with each new entrance inching the Cincinnati Native closer to becoming an honorary Ottawan. If his reference the poutine wasn’t enough (and it was as it received one of the largest pops of the night), showing up backstage with Ottawa’s own Colonnade Pizza pushed the already ecstatic crowd over the edge. Showing up dressed as a Mountie in a nice nod to Jacques Rougeau only elevated the crowd’s want for more Ambrose.

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In event that saw fantastic Tag Team Turmoil Match, an Intercontinental Title defense and appearances by fan favourites Kane and Daniel Bryan, it would be Ambrose that would steal the show when he appeared for a final time in the main event. This time dressed in an Ottawa Senators jersey he tossed down the gloves and proceed to give AJ Styles an introduction to how we fight hockey-style. The interference would give Ellsworth the chance to ascend the ladder and clutch his contract. As an astonished Styles looked on, Ambrose lifted Ellsworth and paraded him around the ring as though he had just won the championship itself.

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It was a shocking win for the underdog.

The victory would earn Ellsworth a coveted spot on the Smackdown roster with Styles still clutching WWE gold. It may only be a matter of time for the phenomenal one because, though Ellsworth climbed that ladder, tonight was all about the rise of the Lunatic Fringe.

RESULTS:
IC Title Match: Champion The Miz defeated Kalisto
#1 Tag Team Turmoil Match: American Alpha won via pin
Non-Title Match: Champion Becky Lynch defeated Natalya  via submission
– Baron Corbin defeated Kane via DQ
Ladder Match: James Ellsworth defeated AJ Styles

Dark Match: Dean Ambrose and Kane defeated Bray Wyatt and Luke Harper

SENATORS: A Week in Review – November 14-20, 2016

November 21, 2016 6:53 pm
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ottawa_senatorsSENATORS: A Week in Review is a weekly column
looking back at the week in Ottawa Senators
hockey written by #OLMSports Dave Gross.

Images from NHL.com.

The timing couldn’t be better for – well – bad timing.

Let’s face it, as the Ottawa Senators’ brain-trust was reminiscing about two stinkers this past week, the Ottawa sporting public was too busy elsewhere to put a lot of notice into the string.

A return to the Grey Cup by this city’s REDBLACKS was taking up most of the print and sports radio talk. No need to dip and delve into the sudden poor turnaround by the local hockey team.

But back-to-back ‘convincing’ defeats (4-1 to Florida, 5-1 to Nashville) were unsettling. Mostly because what this club had been so effective at during the first month-and-a-bit of the season, slipped away.

The identity new head coach Guy Boucher had installed – puck possession and solid defensive play – became the trademark of the Senators early on. Yes, Craig Anderson has been heroic, but an overall team commitment to defence doesn’t go unnoticed.

Example No. 1: Last season Ottawa gave up the most shots on goal per game in the entire league; this year the Sens rank 10th.

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More figures?

Ottawa’s goals-against are way down. Sporting a 2.56 GAA, the Senators rank 14th overall (and would be sailing higher if the last two losses hadn’t bit them). Last season, Ottawa’s 2.94 GAA put them 26th in the 30-team circuit.

And if you toss out the Nashville and Florida results, the defensive trend lately has been sizzling. Ottawa has won three 2-1 games this month so far. In their first eight games of November, Ottawa surrendered a total of just 12 goals.

No one is pushing the panic button here, after all, two games is a minuscule sample size. And what the Senators do have going for them is a relatively quick turnaround against a motivational force.

The early 2000s were indeed the era of the battle of Ontario (and one, particularly in the playoffs the Senators would like to forget) with the Maple Leafs taking residence as Ottawa’s most hated/heated rival, but since the 2013 playoffs, Montreal has arguably replaced Toronto.

From post-whistle skirmishes to a full-out line brawl, the Habs/Sens rivalry was lit. Montreal/Ottawa games have dominated the calendar since that spring.

That’s who we’ll see Tuesday night from the Bell Centre.

Ask any player across the league and they’ll tell you – if you can’t get up for a game at the Bell Centre, time to take up another profession. (The hot dogs are pretty good too).

Focus shouldn’t be an issue for Ottawa Tuesday night.

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WEEK THAT WAS:

Tuesday: Ottawa 3, Philadelphia 2 (SO)

Thursday: Nashville 5, Ottawa 1

Saturday: Florida 4, Ottawa 1

WEEK AHEAD:

Tuesday: Ottawa at Montreal (7:30 pm)

Thursday: Boston at Ottawa (7:30 pm)

Saturday: Carolina at Ottawa (7 pm)

Sunday: Ottawa at NY Rangers (7 pm)

Bell Doesn’t Toll on Brendan’s Long Days

10:43 am
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As portfolios go, this one is a whopper.

Welcome to the full-plate life of former Ottawa 67 and former Ottawa Senator Brendan Bell.

Three jobs; three kids (ages 5-4-2) and the last 15 years spent travelling through North America and Europe chasing down the hockey dream -there is no slow-down or pause-button in Bell’s game or life.

So let’s run it down for you.

Since retiring, Bell’s entered the field of financial planning (estate and tax), opened a gym (Fitness Lab, with partner Adam Bracken) in Manotick, and in his latest venture to maintain his high octane level of ‘on-the-go,’ entered the field of broadcasting.

Like he doesn’t have enough to do, Brendan has joined TSN 1200 as a co-host on its Senators broadcasts.

“I am really enjoying it. I like being around the rink and the people. That was the idea, to kind of do it as a moonlighting thing and stay involved (with hockey),” said Bell.

If you’ve been listening, quickly you have realized he’s a natural. Well-spoken, analytical – with a dash of humour thrown in – Bell hits the mark.

No one is surprised. The Ottawa native showcased the gift early.

“When he was with the 67’s and that was that, 15 years ago? And there’s this kid and he’s the captain and being interviewed on the station ever week and I thought he was really well-spoken for a teenager. Incredibly well-spoken and smart and you knew right then that even at the age of 19, boy, this kid’s got a future in broadcasting,” said TSN 1200 program director John Rodenburg (JR).

Ironically enough, the program Bell appeared on – as team representative of the 67’s, on a weekly basis – was co-hosted by former NHLer Garry Galley.

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Galley landed his start as a broadcaster that same year; just months after retiring from a 17-year career in the NHL. He has since charged forward and is widely considered one of the top in-game analysts in hockey, plying his trade for CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada.

“Garry is equal parts knowledge and enthusiasm, where I think Brendan’s equal parts knowledge and maybe more of a thinker,” offered JR.

“Even the way they played – Garry was an enthusiastic player and Brendan was more of a thinking hockey player. They’re different but both are tremendous broadcasters.”

Bell counts himself as a fan of Galley’s work.

“Garry’s done very, very well. He’s a smart guy and he’s affable and he’s talkative and he’s everything you want in a broadcaster. The thing with Garry is he loves, loves the game.”

TSN reached out to Bell about a year ago when he decided to retire after a short stint in Austria.

“What’s not to like, wow,” said JR. “First thing I like about him is he’s just fresh out of the game. He’s a young guy and thinks about the game from the perspective of a player that’s just left the game.”

“That’s great to hear,” Bell said with a chuckle. “I guess when your boss says you’re doing well that’s always good. I was always very aware that that was a possibility and had friends in the media that I talked to that said – ‘when you’re done (with hockey), give us a call, look us up.’ For now I am happy to be at my home base. I have travelled so much the last 13 years that I’m just happy to in Ottawa for the next while.”

Bell, 33, paused when asked if the media angle was something he would want to pursue full-time.

“At this point it’s not really a career objective . . .  I am really happy with where my career is post-hockey. With the financial planning I am very busy during the day, and with the gym I have enough stuff to keep me busy outside of that. You know, there’s only so many hours . . .  I am even helping out with the coaching a bit with Carleton and try and get involved with the 67’s, you know, try and help out with the young players. Unless they lengthen days, I don’t know if there’s enough time.”

At least he’s sure about where he has landed . . . In familiar territory.

unnamed-1Bell spent his novice-through-bantam years with the Ottawa West Golden Knights’ program, then played one year with the CJHL’s Ottawa Jr. Senators.

The 67’s then drafted him and he played four seasons (the last as captain) with Brian Kilrea’s team before moving on to pro. After three years in the American Hockey League (St. John’s and Toronto Marlies), Bell sniffed the NHL for the first time. First with the Maple Leafs, then Phoenix and the Senators and New York Rangers.

After extensive periods then skating in Europe, Bell said it was time to go home.

Docked now in Ottawa with his young family, he admitted he’s happy with all the opportunities he’s enjoying.

And if he ever considered doing that “Galley-thing” full time, he’s gained at least a few supporters.

“Sky is probably the limit,” said JR. “It doesn’t hurt the fact that he’s got a history in Toronto as well. If he ever decided to take this (broadcasting) to the next level . . . the sky is the limit. If you asked me whether he could co-host a show on here, absolutely.”

Ottawa Sports Market the Real Winner as REDBLACKS Book Return Trip to Grey Cup

9:31 am
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Images courtesy of @Redblacks.

The Ottawa REDBLACKS are headed to their second-straight Grey Cup following 35-23 win over the visiting Edmonton Eskimos in the East Division final.

The REDBLACKS raced out to a  17-3 halftime lead, and led by as much as 22 before Edmonton made an ill-fated comeback attempt.

Sunday’s heroes for Ottawa were as unlikely as the weather was conducive to pretty football. Canadian-born REDBLACKS running back Kienan Lafrance nearly matched his season total for rush yards (163) with a 157-yard performance, while 30 year-old return man Tristan Jackson — who questioned his future in pro football at the season’s outset— sprinted through the snow for an electrifying 76-yard punt-return touchdown.

Last night’s victory has Ottawa, which posted an unspectacular 8-9-1 record in the weaker of the CFL’s two divisions during the regular season, on the brink of a league championship.

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The team standing between the nation’s capital and its first Grey Cup since 1976, however, is about as strong as they come.

CFL regular-season title-holders Calgary finished the season with a 15-2-1 mark, and boast the league’s best offence (586 points for) and defence (369 points against). Head coach Dave Dickenson’s Stampeders are, to put it bluntly, the best team in the CFL by a country mile, having steamrolled over virtually everybody in the CFL at some point this season. The team’s top roster hasn’t lost a game since late June, when they fell 20-18 at BC in Week 1. Coincidentally, the Stamps thrashed that same BC team 42-15 in the West Final on Sunday.

Regardless of what happens at next Sunday’s Grey Cup in Toronto — whether Calgary covers the spread and records the expected double-digit victory over the REDBLACKS or not — this season has been a resounding success for Ottawa, both the franchise and the city.

Relative to 2015, when the REDBLACKS went 7-2 at home and were considered amongst the CFL’s elite, the 2016 season was something of a flop. Ottawa posted a dismal 2-6-1 record on home turf, and took until Week 19 to lock up an impotent East Division. The overwhelming positive, however, was the support the team received: Crowds never wavered, and the team’s diehard support has remained consistent.

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I’d wager that what the REDBLACKS have achieved off the field is at least as important, if not more so, than what the organization’s accomplished on it. By both reinvigorating the old-school football community and making TD Place and the surrounding complex a destination for younger fans, the team has given Ottawa a new ‘it’ spot for people to spend their sports dollars at.

In 2014, the pro football team brought diversity to the Ottawa sports market. In 2015, it brought Ottawa as close to a professional championship as any other outfit had in the last eight years. In 2016, regardless of the outcome of Sunday’s Grey Cup, the team has solidified its place as a unique and varied sports destination in Ottawa — chalk that one up as a win for the nation’s capital.

Tennis Canada to Host Murray, Brits in Davis Cup Clash at TD Place

November 17, 2016 1:09 pm
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Images from Daviscup.com.

The world’s largest international tennis tournament is coming to Ottawa in February of next year.

It was announced Wednesday that Tennis Canada has awarded Ottawa the hosting rights to a first-round Davis Cup match between Canada and Great Britain in the 2017 edition of the tournament. The three-day series will be hosted at TD Place Feb. 3-5.

The Davis Cup is another unique event to be hosted by the Ottawa Sports & Entertainment Group (OSEG), which has in recent years diversified the previously staid Ottawa sports market through its creation of a pro soccer team and reigniting of the city’s passion for football.

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“We are thrilled to host this important Davis Cup tie at TD Place,” said OSEG CEO Bernie Ashe in a press release. “The matchup between Great Britain and Canada is the marquee first-round tie for the competition (and) it’s a privilege to be able to present it to our Ottawa/Gatineau fans during Ottawa 2017 celebrations.”

The matches will feature Great Britain, the 2015 Davis Cup champion, and a youthful Canadian squad looking to return to the latter stages of the tournament after crashing out early in 2016. The Brits are led by world no.-2 Andy Murray, and if all goes according to plan, there should be a primetime showdown at some point in February between him and Canadian world no.-4 Milos Raonic.

209550Unlike regular tennis events, where crowds are asked to maintain a polite quiet, the Davis Cup is known for its rowdy crowds and home court advantages. Canada team captain — read: coach — Martin Laurendreau, a native of Montreal, understands how critical the atmosphere in Ottawa will be if the Canadians are to upset the 2015 champions in Great Britain.

“We are always at our best when we play at home in front of loud, patriotic crowds and that is exactly what we will need here to defeat a strong team from Great Britain,” said Laurendreau, whose squad will likely include familiar Canadian tennis names like Milos Raonic, Vasek Pospisil and doubles king , in a press release. “This will be the first time many of our guys will play in this city and we are looking forward to introducing a new generation of tennis fans to the passion and excitement that is Davis Cup.”

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Fury Switch Nothing to Get Hung Up About

November 5, 2016 8:23 pm
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Photos courtesy of Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group.

Okay. Everyone get a grip.

Breathe deeply. Relax.

The soccer community in the National Capital Region might be in hand-wringing mode concerning the move of their Ottawa Fury from Division 2 football to Division 3, but in reality, there’s not much to rattle your marbles over.

“Right now  there’s a small difference. With the NASL you’re going to get a few more established veterans but with the USL you’re going to get a few more up-and-comers,” said AJ Jakubec, the voice of the Fury since inception on TSN 1200.

When the Fury made the announcement they were skirting away from the NASL (North American Soccer League) in 2017, and hopping into the USL (United Soccer League), the general consensus was ‘this is bad joo joo.’ After all, the Fury created a tremendous amount of interest, good vibes and hype for themselves (and the NASL) when they made it to the 2015 Soccer Bowl against the eventual-winning New York Cosmos.

This was something to build on. Right?

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Well, this past season didn’t quite go as planned and the Fury finished well out of the playoff chase.

Still, the notion was there that this was high-quality soccer; the best a fan can expect barring a Major League Soccer (MLS) franchise (see: Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver).

And then the announcement that Ottawa is dropping down a division.

Perception trumped reality, and the frowning and grimacing began.

A completely inappropriate reaction.

Let’s check the facts.

First and foremost, the USL has already applied for Division 2 status (as with the NASL) and will hear on that appeal from the United States Soccer Federation by the end of this year.

Secondly (and perhaps the biggest concern for Ottawa football followers), the thought that the USL is a gigantic drop in quality of play rings untrue.

Team president John Pugh puts it into logical terms.

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Team president John Pugh

“They are a great fan base (in Ottawa) and have supported us . . . If we tell our fans that Cincinnati (USL) is coming, can they really distinguish that from say the Carolina Railhawks (NASL)? The answer to that is mostly no, unless it’s the New York Cosmos which everyone recognizes. Obviously if they think we’re moving from a Division 2 to a Division 3, that might be a concern but if they look a little deeper – look, NASL teams beat MLS teams and USL teams beat NASL teams in the US Open Cup (An annual knock-out tournament between the three leagues).”

Stability-wise, the USL shines.

This is now a 29-team league – not including the 2017 additions of Ottawa and Tampa Bay. The NASL has 12 – not including the exits of Ottawa and Tampa.

Just a few years ago, the USL sported but 14 clubs.

Attendance-wise, the USL shines. FC Cincinnati averages 17,000 per game; by contrast, the darlings of the NASL, the Cosmos, average slightly more than 3,000 per (and quite frankly play in a crumbling stadium).

Look at it this way, the top three teams in ticket sales are all leaving the NASL (Tampa and Ottawa to the USL, and Minnesota moving up to MLS). This is not what you call growth.

Attendance across the USL is up 33 per cent, said Pugh.

Ottawa Fury FC midfielder Lance Rozeboom (#25) during the NASL match between the Ottawa Fury FC and New York Cosmos FC at TD Place Stadium in Ottawa, ON. Canada on Oct. 9, 2016. PHOTO: Steve Kingsman/Freestyle Photography

Ottawa Fury FC midfielder Lance Rozeboom (#25) during the NASL match between the Ottawa Fury FC and New York Cosmos FC at TD Place Stadium in Ottawa, ON. Canada on Oct. 9, 2016.
PHOTO: Steve Kingsman/Freestyle Photography

“I think NASL gave us a good three years where we were able to build a foundation of pro soccer here in Ottawa. We are very comfortable that Ottawa is a great market, but we needed to think about what would be our next step, and making sure that soccer would be here for years to come.”

Jakubec applauded the move.

“OSEG has doubled down. They could have easily pulled the plug but they’ve made the commitment and they’ve paid the money. They clearly want soccer to be viable for the long term in Ottawa. And when you see a team like the Tampa Bay Rowdies making the same move, and they initiated it before Ottawa, and this is a club that’s well supported and has money and they’re established and have a great tradition in the Tampa market, you know it’s a smart move.”

And don’t expect a huge shift in talent. Pugh has indicated the bulk of last season’s Fury roster will be back. (Of course this is also professional soccer where turnovers are as commonplace as at Betty Crocker’s.)

“I know it’s going to be good. It’s a league on the way up,” said Jakubec.

Ravens WHKY: The Turnaround

October 27, 2016 12:31 pm
he Ravens pour off the bench at the final buzzer after beating top-ranked Montreal.

The Ravens pour off the bench at the final buzzer after beating top-ranked Montreal. All photos by Carlos Verde.

Far from the bright lights and 20,000-seat arena of the National Hockey League’s Ottawa Senators, a team mired in the dilemma of to rebuild or not to rebuild, another capital-region hockey team has already entered a full-swing rebuild.

The Carleton University women’s hockey team is anonymous even on its own campus, but is the most clear-cut example of a traditional rebuild in the Ottawa sports landscape today. Playing their Sunday-afternoon games in front of roughly 100 people at what equates to a community arena, the team is finally showing positive strides in its third year under ambitious head coach Pierre Alain.

There are two critical things to know about the Ravens program: The team has been downright awful for the past three seasons, compiling a 9-47-4 record, and Alain, the architect of the rebuild, is as driven a coach as you will find at any level.

Over the course of last year’s 20-game season, Carleton managed just 21 goals as a team.

On opening weekend this year, the Ravens scored seven goals and beat the defending national champion. This is the story of how they got there.

Alain was hired in May 2014 to take over what was then the worst women’s hockey program in Canada.

Carleton had finished the previous season with just one win, and its .050 win-percentage the lowest mark in Canada. The team had surrendered a nation-high 4.5 goals-per-game.

“I got the job because (Carleton) Athletics believed in me,” said Alain, a Montreal native who has coached at the national level with Hockey Canada. “We know what we need to bring to the table as coaches and staff; recruiting is a big piece of women’s hockey programs coast-to-coast, and you need the players to execute your system.”

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Tawnya Guindon (91) is a fifth-year player who’s experienced many lows as a Raven but is ready to lead this season’s young group to new highs.

Year one proved to be a struggle for Alain’s program as he attempted to change the team’s dressing room culture; the Ravens finished 3-17, and the team recruited just one player of long-term impact.

To initiate a positive change in any locker room, a coach has to rely on respected veterans.

Tawnya Guindon is the longest-serving Raven on this year’s Carleton roster. A fifth-year forward from Clarence Creek, Guindon was a sophomore on Carleton’s historically-bad 2013-14 squad and has since played a major role in reshaping the program’s identity.

“It’s a big difference (from then), you can’t even compare the two,” said Guindon, one of Carleton’s top offensive players. “It’s a big change, we’ve brought in players who have better hockey smarts and skills — players who can actually implement a game plan and follow it to win a game.”

The Clarence Creek native has been through plenty as a Raven; regular seven-goal losses to top-ranked teams, dressing room tension, and ultimately the largest roster shuffle in the program history. Despite that upheaval, Guindon has brought her quiet brand of leadership and an unmatched love for the game to the rink on a daily basis.

“She’s a role model for her teammates (and) her heart is totally committed to this program,” said Alain of Guindon, his team’s captain. “She’s always at the rink — first on the ice, last off the ice — and has put in a tremendous amount of work to become a better player.”

Year two of Alain’s rebuild, 2015-16, was another difficult step in the process; with a dozen new recruits, the young Ravens struggled to a 5-15 record and once again missed the playoffs. However, bright spots like an unlikely upset victory over top-ranked McGill and contributions from a series of first-year players confirmed to the architect that his design was indeed working.

“I’m not a magician, this is a long process that takes hard work and smart work, and I believe we’re doing both,” explained Alain. “When you’re losing badly — 9-0, 8-1 — it’s tough on everybody, both players and coaches. But the plan is to progress every day of every season, and I think we’re doing that.”

One of his best recruiting tools — and one he shares with rival uOttawa — is the city of Ottawa itself.

“It’s a great, bilingual city,” said Alain, who has recruited heavily from his home province of Quebec. “The canal, the river, the downtown, our campus site — it’s all fantastic. There’s a lot of diversity and nice restaurants. Living in Ottawa is fantastic.”

The rest of the women’s hockey scene began to take note of Carleton’s modest progress, and midway through last season the Ravens head coach found himself speaking to players of a higher caliber than before. As more and more commitments fell into place, Alain landed his first blue-chip recruit: Delaney Ross.

The Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan native was named the top player in the JWHL, Western Canada’s premier women’s league, in 2015-16, and her committing to Carleton marked the first big-name prospect landed by the program.

“I love it here,” beamed Ross roughly seven months after her commitment and two months into her Carleton career. “The city is very beautiful, the rink is nice — I don’t have a single bad thing to say about my experience.”

Early in her collegiate debut, she has come as-advertised, notching a goal and an assist in her first two games as a Raven.

“I feel like knowing that Coach Pierre (Alain) coached with Team Canada, and (strength coach) Nick Westcott trained with Team Canada, pushed me here because I knew that he knew what he was doing,” explained Ross, who was recruited by a number of other schools. “I like being the underdog, and coming out here and starting something new is a good challenge.”

Being more than 3,000 kilometres from home in northern Saskatchewan, Ross admits that the move hasn’t always been easy.

“The veterans help a lot, because they’ve been through it all and been coached by Pierre,” admitted Ross, a member of the Canoe Lake First Cree Nation. “Going to them for advice is big for me, especially being so far from home and my family not being at every game.”

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Goaltender Katelyn Steele (33) zones in prior to Carleton’s upset win over Montreal last weekend.

Opening weekend 2016 served as an arrival of sorts for the Ravens, who pushed crosstown rivals uOttawa to the brink in a 7-4 loss Saturday before engineering a monumental upset of Montreal, last year’s national champion, Sunday on home ice.

“In terms of a young team, those games are very good for the confidence and team cohesion,” said Alain, whose team had suffered through a series of blowout losses to Montreal over the past two season. “When you bring a new system, those wins are necessary to show the players that what we’re teaching is doable, that it’s possible to have success with what we think is best for our team.”

While the goal for Carleton this season is to make the playoffs and challenge the established power structure of their conference — Montreal and McGill, then everybody else — the real target is 2018-19.

Two seasons from now, the Ravens’ current core group of 20 first- and second-year players will be third- and fourth-years with a plethora of experience. That same group will have developed into leaders and, one would imagine, an incredibly tight-knit locker room group.

Judging by their respectable results to start the season, Carleton is ready to compete now and could turn into a dominant force in its league by 2018.

It’s a Hat Trick! Introducing OLM’s New Sports Team!

October 20, 2016 1:07 pm
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We here at Ottawa Life Magazine are happy to announce our new sports writing team.

Dave Gross brings with him over 20 years of successful journalism credentials including work in press, television, and radio. He has written for the Ottawa Sun and Ottawa Citizen as well as national publications such as The Hockey News and National Post. He has been seen on A Channel and heard on TSN 1200.

Carlos Verde is a Carleton University journalism student and staff writer for the CFL. He hosts a weekly sports-talk radio show on CKCU FM and is the Communications Director for hockey at the University of Ottawa.

Brennan MacDonald is a Carleton University journalism graduate who grew up in the Capital Region. He has written features, profiles, and recaps for many city pro-sports teams. Along with a voracious appetite for covering sports, he also brings a political writing edge to Ottawa Life having covered politics on the Hill as well as elections and debates.

Exciting times to come for Ottawa sports fan here at Ottawa Life.

 

A Matter of Time for the Senators

October 3, 2016 11:35 am
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The old saying “Better late than never” worked in favour of the Montreal Canadians Saturday but for two Ottawa Senators players the message from new coach Guy Boucher was pretty clear: don’t be late at all.

Defenceman Cody Ceci and right winger Bobby Ryan had a pretty good view when the Canadians Paul Byron slipped the puck by Andrew Hammond within 37 seconds of the opening face-off. Ceci and Ryan, who arrived late for a meeting earlier in the day, had been benched for the first time in as long as they could remember. The point was hammered home early in the season: Boucher will have no problem doling out consequences and rules will be strongly enforced with very little leeway.

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Couch Guy Boucher. Image courtesy of vavel.com.

“It’s pretty simple: you’re on time or you’re not on time,” Boucher told reporters after the Sens 3-2 overtime loss to the Canadians. “I talked to the players and we addressed it internally the way we’re supposed to address it.”

“We were late and we paid the price,” Ryan said. Ceci agreed and both players would eventually get to hit the ice for some shifts in the second and third.

“We let down teammates…we have to check the schedule. There’s new times, new coaches, so we’ve got to get used to that,” Ceci added.

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Images courtesy of nhl.com/senators, nhl.com/canadians.

Timing, unfortunately, was not working for the rest of the team either as, along with the early goal, the Habs bookended it with one in the final seconds of the game driving some momentum into overtime where, in only 46 seconds, Phillip Danault put away the winner for the Canadians.

It was an arena divided for this pre-season game with just as many united in white as they were in red. For Sens fans, however, teamwork was the focus they feel Boucher needs to work on this season.

“They need to work in building the team, as a team, not just functioning as individual players,” said long-time fan Kate Kerr before the game, a statement echoed by others as they filled into the Canadian Tire Centre.

“They need to play together and have chemistry,” said Kinni Duquette. “I think they have to develop more of a relationship on the ice together.”

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Images courtesy of nhl.com/senators, nhl.com/canadians.

Still, there were signs of that as the team didn’t let the early goal and rocky first period trip them up too much. A short brawl to end the first period between Montreal’s Bobby Farnham and Ottawa’s Ryan Dzingel perked up the mostly silent Senators fans and showed the team wasn’t going down without a fight. They rallied in the second with an early period goal of their own when Mike Hoffman slipped it by Al Montoya in just under a minute and a half. A Kyle Turruis falling backhander a few minutes later finally put the Sens in the lead and those in red on their feet in what would be the loudest crowd eruption of the afternoon.

“I love the Sens. I’ve seen a lot of hockey games live and I’m just really excited to see the Senators play,” said an elated nine-year-old Aiden Brennan.

Watching that time tick by in the third, it looked like the Sens had the game wrapped but it only took a few seconds to turn tide in favor of the Habs. Despite the loss, Boucher remains hopeful for the coming season and said this pre-season game shouldn’t be a reflection of what the team can do once the regular season kicks off on October 12 against the Maple Leafs.

“We’re looking at these games. We’re not looking at scores, I’ll be honest. Whether we win 6-1 or we lose. We’re looking at every individual facet of the game,” said Boucher. “The things we’ve focused on we got better at.”

The Power of Giving Back: Beyond the Buzz of Boobyball

September 7, 2016 10:57 am
Fall2016_Boobyball_4305 By Valerie Keeler Photography-1

Photo by by Valerie Keeler.

A new generation of philanthropists are here and they’re not holding back. A bold and daring campaign has made its way to Ottawa and people are taking notice. Returning for a second year, Boobyball offers a fresh twist on the traditional and sometimes stodgy Ottawa fundraiser all while bringing an unconventional approachability to the topic of breast health.

Boobyball is Rethink Breast Cancer’s principal fundraising event which fosters a new generation of young and influential breast cancer supporters and brings relevant awareness to the 40s and under crowd. By approaching the cause with style and sass, Rethink has been successful in helping young people be proactive about their health while also attending one of the hottest tickets in town.

The Ottawa Boobyball Committee is made up of over twenty women who hope their efforts help to take some of the fear out of the conversation. Co-chairs Kathleen McGuire and Rachel Kerr are the leading force within the committee and boast of the diverse skill set of the volunteers and how they have become an asset in making an impact across the community.

“We have a really strong team with a wide array of skills. It was easy to place people with tasks that they would knock out of the park. We have event planners, marketing and PR professionals and students, sales specialists, you name it, we have the women for the job!” says Kerr.

Many young women who are starting careers or that have small children, although they belong to a smaller cancer demographic, they too can have lives shaken by the disease.

“When we started planning the inaugural event in Ottawa, someone near and dear to me relapsed with breast cancer. She was originally diagnosed when she was young. It hit home” says McGuire.

Revolutionizing the breast cancer movement takes a “group of smart, fun, creative women. Everyone who’s been a part of it over the past two years have inspired me — they come together with passion to make a difference” says McGuire.

FAll2016_Booby Call outRethink Breast Cancer founder and executive director MJ DeCoteau is proud that Boobyball has become one of the most coveted and high profile fundraising events, raising over $3.8 million dollars since 2002. “After fifteen years the fundraiser has officially become — not just a party —but a movement, with events all across Canada that stimulate breast awareness conversation and engage thousands of young people in the cause.”

As the movement gains momentum, it may be no surprise that last year, when Ottawa kicked off the first annual charity bash, they raised $58,000 dollars for Rethink.

“The funds raised through Boobyball support Rethink Breast Cancer’s work for young people concerned about and affected by breast cancer including education, advocacy, support and resources” says DeCoteau who expects the second year in Ottawa to be a sold-out success.

Clay Shooting Requires an Eagle Eye

September 6, 2016 12:58 pm
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I first toted a gun when I was 10-years-old growing up in Calgary.

A childhood friend introduced me to his birthday present BB rifle and we quickly high-tailed it to a vacant lot and shot pellets at cans.  It was fun even though we had no thoughts or concerns about anyone’s safety (including our own) or other people’s property.

Six decades passed and for first time in my life I’m aiming a shotgun at clay targets from a stand at Fox Harb’r Resort in Wallace, Nova Scotia.  Much more challenging and  much more fun.

The Resort’s director of sport shooting, Peter Phillips, showed me the ropes while stressing safety first.

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“Clay shooting is a totally safe sport here, because you have a stand from which to shoot, and the clay is presented to you in a direction that is safe. In our controlled environment, people enjoy the challenge without the worry.”

Many things about this experience surprised me, including the fact that clay shooting is such a popular sport across North America.

About a two hour drive from Halifax, on Nova Scotia’s North Shore, Fox Harb’r Resort features a 15-acre sporting clay course with five stands, plus 350 acres of private hunting grounds. Their facilities are considered among the top locations in North America. Every year they hold four competitions and the Tiger Woods or Gordie Howe of sport shooting, George Digweed MBE,  a 26-time World Champion in the sport, consults with the Resort’s team.

“He has an encyclopedic knowledge of clay shooting and trophies to boot,” Phillips says, “and manages to put our residents and guests at ease, which is exactly the kind of no-pressure atmosphere we foster.”

This weekend (September 9 to 11) Digweed hosts Canada’s Atlantic Cup and will tutor many shooters looking to improve their skills, just ahead of pheasant hunting season.

My clay-shooting lesson started in the Sporting Lodge, an impressive post-and-beam structure in the on-property woods, with a welcoming stone fireplace.  All the equipment you’ll  need is stored next to the 5-stand course. While relaxing in the Lodge, I was somewhat nervous.  But Phillips provided a “plain English” introduction to the sport and explained the extensive safety procedures in place. I was outfitted with a safety vest, glasses, shoulder padding and ear plugs, and learned how to mount the gun properly for minimal shoulder impact.

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“We take special care to prepare people,” Phillips adds. “Many, like you, have never really fired a gun like this in their lives, so we have them hold the gun at their side while one of us holds on as well, and we fire off one shell. I quickly saw, heard and felt the effect and my shoulder didn’t hurt.

To shoot clay targets, you place your cheek on top of the gun so your eye looks in the same direction as the barrel.  Phillips told me that some folks take to it right away and others are reluctant.

“We never force anyone to shoot. Most people are glad they came out and experienced it.”

Clay shooting at Fox Harb’r is open to men, women and children who are big enough to sturdily hold the gun. Peter Phillips has helped kids as young as nine take part.

“Our shotguns weigh about five pounds each, and lifting a gun is a movement that is new to most people. Even a half-hour of instruction is tiring, so we make sure they rest in between.”

Clay shooting is a bit like playing a round of golf, for which the Resort’s reputation is renowned.  You have a shotgun cocked and ready, as one of the facility’s six trap machines throws bread-and-butter plate-size target clays at different angles and speeds. You hold the gun stock against your chin, almost like a violinist, and point it in the air. Hitting the clays takes some skill and that was proof positive since I didn’t hit a clay that morning although many of the other novices that were with me at the Sporting Lodge did.

Fox Harb’r is a licensed shooting facility so as a Resort resident or guest you don’t need a permit to participate. Some years ago, Phillips trained with Don Currie through the National Sporting Clays Association and became certified to teach novice and beginners.

“Don visits us every year for a few days to offer lessons. Everyone learns a lot from his teaching, and so do I.”

Clay shooting is one of the many recreational activities at the Resort. There are also facilities for fall wing shooting on the private hunting reserve.

“It’s a great way to warm up for ring-necked pheasant and Hungarian partridge season,” said Phillips.

Certainly, clay shooting is more fun than aiming at targets on a smart phone or tablet computer and it beats shooting at those tin cans of my youth.  Easy to understand why people take it on as a lifetime pastime.

(David Eisenstadt is the Founding Partner of tcgpr, the Toronto-based Partner firm of IPREX Global Communications.  His firm represents Fox Harb’r Resort)

Pokémon Go Shows There is a Better Way to Promote Healthy Behaviours

September 1, 2016 3:48 pm
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By Tanishq Suryavanshi and Steven J. Hoffman

The recent release of Pokémon Go, the mobile phone augmented reality game, has taken the world by storm. The game has become a fitness icon, requiring players to walk or run around in the real world to catch Pokémon creatures in their virtual world.

While evidence on the long-term health benefits is not clear, it is apparent that the game does more than just allow players to live out their childhood dreams of becoming Pokémon Masters. Pokémon Go serves as an important reminder that more and more evidence about the benefits of exercise will never be enough to get Canadians moving, and that any enduring solution to our expanding waistlines depends on figuring out how to integrate healthy behaviours into our daily lives.

Today, non-communicable diseases are responsible for 88 per cent of deaths in Canada, including chronic conditions like stroke, diabetes and cancer. Increased risk of these diseases is strongly associated with lifestyle factors, such as unhealthy diets, tobacco use, physical inactivity and alcohol over-consumption.

pokemon-1575825_960_720To combat chronic disease, advocates in medicine and public health have long-tried to promote healthy behaviours among Canadians. For example, many are familiar with the recommendation to walk 10,000 steps a day and to get 150 minutes of moderate activity each week. Yet despite widespread knowledge about what we should all do, the results have not been promising. Based on American data, we can estimate that the average Canadian walks around 4000-6000 steps a day and only half of us exercise for 150 minutes weekly.

The good news is that stories like the Pokémon Go phenomenon show us that large-scale changes in healthy behaviours  – like physical activity – are possible if we are more creative in how we encourage them.

Pokémon Go isn’t the first time that the entertainment industry has inspired such changes to health-related behaviours. Many other instances, both good and bad, have been noted.

For example, public health authorities are well-acquainted with the “Angelina Jolie effect” which describes the surge in genetic testing for breast cancer and inquiries about risk-reducing surgeries that first occurred after Jolie announced her preventative double mastectomy in 2013. Our own research has shown how Hollywood celebrities frequently drive the popularisation of fad diets and lifestyle gimmicks – sometimes for the better, too often for the worse – highlighting how our decisions are shaped by factors beyond scientific evidence of effectiveness.

This disconnect between what the evidence says we should do, and what we as a society actually do, is a major pain point for those advocating for healthier lifestyles. Our country spends enormous amounts of money on the science behind lifestyle practices, so it’s naturally disheartening when the evidence is ignored. But the Pokémon Go phenomenon suggests we may just need to change our approach to the problem.

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Promoting healthy diets and urging people to go to the gym multiple times a week can have short-term benefits. However, for the majority, these practices may  not be affordable or soon become unsustainable. Healthy behaviours more likely for long-term success need to include activities we want to engage in.

Ultimately, promoting healthy lifestyles must be less about waving the evidence in front of people, and more about making these practices easy, normal, and even fun. We must engage in the science of what motivates people to act, and study how to nudge people towards healthy habits by designing them into our work routines, as part of the places in which we live, and the activities we undertake with family and friends.

Pokémon Go is an example of making physical activity enjoyable. We need more creative approaches like it. Now is the time to invest in developing these new approaches, and rigorously evaluate whether they actually work.

TanishqTanishq Suryavanshi (@nishqy) is a medical student at McMaster University and a research assistant with the Global Strategy Lab at the University of Ottawa’s Centre for Health Law, Policy & Ethics.

 

 

 

 

Hoffman-30_vlSteven J. Hoffman (@shoffmania) is an Associate Professor of Law and the Director of the Global Strategy Lab at the University of Ottawa’s Centre for Health Law, Policy & Ethics.

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