Let’s talk about Ivan Provorov’s ol’ time religion and a God-awful lesson to learn

Now that the thunder-clap clatter has eased to a murmur, what are the lessons learned from L’Affaire Rainbow?

Well, we learned that the Philadelphia Flyers stand by their Russian Orthodox employees, because rearguard Ivan Provorov received not so much as a mild tsk-tsk for skipping out on a pregame warmup last Tuesday night.

While his playmates adorned themselves in rainbow-colored garments and wrapped the blades of their hockey sticks in rainbow-colored tape to signal support for the LGBT(etc.) community on Pride Night, Provorov remained in the Flyers changing room, alone in his gay-is-sin thoughts as his playmates participated in the 15-minute frolic.

Provorov later cited his old-time religion as the reason for his refusal to play Mr. Dressup, telling news snoops: “I respect everybody, I respect everybody’s choices. My choice is to stay true to myself and my religion.”

Oddly enough (but probably not surprising), the Russian Orthodox rearguard refused to elaborate on his choice of religion over rainbow, perhaps because further discussion might have been a bit dodgy, if not prickly. News snoops might have asked Provorov about Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Rus’, a man who believes a) his buddy Vlad (The Bad) Putin is a “miracle of God,” b) the Russian invasion of Ukraine is necessary to prevent an eastern-advancing scourge of gay Pride parades, and c) same-sex marriage is “a sin” and similar to “apartheid in Africa or Nazi laws.” Apparently, those are talking points Provorov would rather avoid.

Whatever, his true-to-religion soundbite was sufficient for Philly head coach, John Tortorella (“Provy did nothing wrong”), the organization (“The Flyers will continue to be strong advocates for inclusivity”) and the National Hockey League (“Players are free to decide which initiatives to support”). In other words, nothing to see here, kids.

So that’s another lesson learned: If an NHL player wishes to opt out of a team theme night (Pride, Military, Black Lives Matter, Indigenous, etc.), he need only dust off religious dogma to avoid the sin bin, and we have to assume that’s all-inclusive, meaning it’s an easy out available not only to Russian Orthodox but also Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, etc. (I suppose an atheist would have to come up with a different angle, but I don’t know.)

L’Affaire Rainbow also reminded us that news snoops are quick to rally and kick up a mighty fuss, yet they’re just as lickety-split in finding a new toy to chew on.

I mean, opinionists hither and yon spent three days in full and loud yowl, most of them pooh-poohing Provorov and suggesting an appropriate level of punishment, like deportation to the bosom of Mother Russia or listening to Barry Manilow music 24/7. I swear, we haven’t heard the jock journo machine rage like this since two of its heroes, Bobby Orr and Jack Nicklaus, pledged unwavering devotion to Donald Trump.

Yet, today, mention of Provorov’s work clothing is scant and has been pushed to the back pages of sports sections and the back half of news programs.

But here’s what the scribes and talking heads are ignoring: How many Ivan Provorovs are in the NHL? One per team? Two? Five? Surely he isn’t a lone wolf.

The jock journos decline to pursue the issue for one basic reason: They aren’t gay. Thus they can’t relate and don’t care. They’ve delivered a good and proper bawling out to Provorov, positioning themselves as LGBT(etc.) allies, so they harbor no compulsion for a deep dive into the matter.

Similarly, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman wants no portion of any anti-gay discussion, unless it provides him an opportunity to apply a coating of sugar.

“When you look at all of our players and the commitments that they’ve made to social causes and to making our game welcoming and inclusive, let’s focus on the 700 that embrace it and not one or two that may have some issues for their own personal reasons,” he told news snoops the other day.

Sure, Gary, and let’s focus on all the banks Bonnie and Clyde didn’t rob.

Perhaps some reminders would be appropriate right about now…

  • In January 2014, TSN ran a three-part documentary, RE/ORIENTATION, which attempted to pry the lid off the issue of gays in hockey.

“We struggled to get participation from players,” said series host Aaron Ward, a former NHL defenceman and TSN talking head. “Over a nine-month period, we reached out to 12 different National Hockey League teams. (We) could not get co-operation. It was a struggle to get guys to sit down and be comfortable and honest in front of a camera. Obviously, it’s easy to sit down and read words for a PSA, but it’s another thing to sit down and be honest and in-depth and be clear about how we feel about this process and this issue. It’s almost a barometer of where we are today.”

Nine months. Twelve teams. That’s more than 200 players. And only three—Andrew Ference, Ben Scrivens and Dustin Brown—agreed to a formal, on-the-record natter. None of the three are in the NHL today.

  • Last month, Hockey Canada revealed results of a study into incidents of on-ice discrimination across all levels and age groups during the 2021-22 season. There were 512 penalties called, 61 per cent involving sexual orientation or gender. Males accounted for 99 per cent of the fouls.

Some of those male shinny scofflaws might grow up to perform in the NHL, which, with its shoulder shrug in L’Affaire Rainbow, has given players the official okey-dokey to go rogue and show the LGBT(etc.) collective, or any marginalized group of their choice, the cold shoulder. They can be just like Ivan Provorov. All they need do is flash a rosary or spew the Lord’s Prayer, then wait out the brief media storm.

What a God-awful lesson to learn.

Man oh man … what are the boys to do about all those Chatty Cathys in the broadcast booth?

I think it’s safe to say that many men harbor a dislike for female sports.

They don’t talk about it.

They don’t read the boxscores first thing in the morning.

They’d rather endure a 24-hour Joanie Loves Chachi marathon than walk across the street to watch, say, Sue Bird and Tina Charles bounce a basketball, and there are reasons for that, foremost being that Sue and Tina don’t do it as well as LeBron and Steph.

That’s always been the main bugaboo for men re female sports. They consider it second-rate, or lower, worthy of only their contempt, even without watching it.

I can’t say how many studies have been undertaken to support that notion, but there’s been at least one, conducted by Durham University, the University of Leicester and the University of South Australia, which sought to pick the brains of 1,950 male U.K. footy fans. Once the fact-finders had sifted through the information gathered, they concluded that the men could be slotted into three categories:

Progressive 24%
Covertly misogynistic 8%
Overtly misogynistic 68%

One Leeds United fan described women as “useless” at sports, while a West Ham supporter went half nutter about increased exposure on the telly:

“It now means there is too much women’s sport on the TV; no one really cares (about it). Women’s football in the media all the time, women’s golf on Sky and the men’s Euro tour on the red button. NETBALL ON SKY!!! The one thing that does irk me is Women’s Hour on Sky Sports News. No woman watches Sky Sports News! NO WOMAN! I honestly wish they’d just piss off out the spotlight. But it’s all PC bollocks nowadays.”

Right about now I should note that I began this essay by saying “many” men dislike female sports. Not most men. Not all men. “Many” men. And I remind you of that because I don’t want anyone going half-nutter on little, ol’ moi, claiming I’ve painted all men with the same stroke of the brush.

How many is “many,” I don’t know, because that’s like asking how high is high.

I do know this, though: If there’s one thing many men dislike more than watching female sports, it’s listening to women talk about men’s sports on TV.

Not all sports, mind you.

Men don’t seem to get their boxers in a bunch when Dottie Pepper tells them what’s wrong with Tiger Woods’ golf swing, nor do they find the sound of Cheryl Bernard’s voice irksome on TSN’s men’s curling coverage. Chrissie Evert and Martina Navratilova can discuss Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer all day long, and there’s nary a squawk of protest about their gender. Ditto Doris Burke on the National Basketball Association.

If, however, the topic is the National Hockey League, send the kiddies for cover in the root cellar and batten the hatches, because all hell is about to break loose.

Jennifer Botterill

I’m guessing Jennifer Botterill knew all about misogyny-spewing louts before this past weekend, but if she needed a reminder Twitter supplied it after her she-said, he-said exchange with fellow Hockey Night in Canada panelist Kevin Bieksa on Saturday (or as we used to call it as kids, Bath Night).

If you missed it, Bieksa was advocating for goon hockey, because of course he was. Botterill was passionately in favor of removing stone-age behavior and back-alley tactics from the game. It was a Bowling Green grad (finance) vs. a Harvard grad (psychology). But, for many, it was a former NHL player vs. a woman. Here are some of the comments directed toward Botterill on Twitter:

“This is men’s hockey not women’s. Why is Jennifer even there?”
“Go back to women’s hockey.”
“We don’t need women commenting on a man’s game.”
“If I wanted to listen to my Mom, I’d call her.”
“Go analyze women’s hockey.”
“Damn bitch.”
“She is the definition of a gender hire.”
“She is a girl. That’s the point. Why is she commenting on a man’s game when she isn’t a man?”

Lordy, I shudder to think what they’d be saying about Jennifer if she was female and lesbian.

Meanwhile, the many dozens of comments I read on Bieksa’s part in the gum-flapper on stupidity in hockey made zero mention of his gender as a bad thing. They called him a “dumbass” and suggested he’d taken too many whacks to the melon, but his dumbassness wasn’t linked to his gender.

Despite this evidence, many who walk among us insist a woman broadcasting men’s sports isn’t judged differently. As if.

Botterill was pooh-poohed for having the (apparent) bad manners to never play in the NHL. Those Olympic and world championships she won? Pfffffft. Her critics were only too happy to emphasize that she wore a cage to cover her face and played a brand of hockey that forbids body checking and earns you life without parole for fisticuffs. So unmanly. Thus, her opinion carries little to no heft. Again, as if.

I don’t need to star in a sitcom to know that Joanie and Chachi was rubbish. I didn’t need a bit part in Cool Hand Luke to know Paul Newman slayed it. I don’t need a song on the Billboard 100 to know the Beatles were brilliant and the Monkees were a novelty act. And it wasn’t necessary for Jen Botterrill to drop the mitts with Bob Probert before she could form an opinion on fighting and gong shows in the NHL.

I mean, how many men doing play-by-play on Hockey Night in Canada have gone dukes up with Tie Domi? Zero. How about Elliotte Friedman? He ever chew on Stu Grimson’s knuckles? Not unless he lost his mind at last call in a pub one night. Does that disqualify him from sharing his opinion on NHL ruffians?

As I have written, any female broadcaster is fair game for criticism. You don’t like Jennifer Botterill’s work? Fine. Say so. But the moment you make it about her gender you’ve lost the plot. Also the argument.

Don’t tell transgender kids where they don’t belong, tell them to be the best they can become

A number of years ago, I was in a local watering hole, a gathering place for the LGBT(etc.) community, and I was informed by one of the late-afternoon regulars that I had no business sitting at the bar.

“This is where the boys sit,” he said. “You should respect that.”

It didn’t matter that I was the cleaning lady at this particular haunt, spending anywhere from three to six hours (depending on carnage left behind from the previous night’s hijinks) each morning applying spit and polish to the facility, including the very bar and stools that accommodated my antagonist’s and his sourpuss friends’ fat asses.

Utah Gov. Spencer J. Cox

It only mattered to him (and some, but not all, of the others) that I wasn’t a gay man and must be put in my place. Or, to be more accurate, reminded where I didn’t belong.

“I’ll sit wherever I like,” I responded. “I’ll sit on your face if I feel like it.”

It was one of many unpleasant exchanges I experienced at that bar and, over time, it became quite apparent that a number of “the boys” preferred that I didn’t share their oxygen.

Another e.g.: I was the sole soul in the bar one day when one of the grumpy pants walked in and, after gazing upon the emptiness, strolled my way and stopped at my post.

“Tell me something,” I asked after some awkward banter, “you’d prefer it if this was an all-male gay bar, wouldn’t you? You don’t really want me in here, do you?”

“Honestly, that’s true,” he replied.

“And if there was a gay man in here you wouldn’t even be talking to me, right?”

“That’s also true.”

I didn’t belong.

I bring this to your attention because it’s open season on transgender kids, specifically girls, in many parts of the United States, Utah lawmakers being the latest group to tell trans youth that there’s no room for them in the playground.

Check that. There’s actually plenty of room. The trans females just aren’t welcome. They don’t belong.

Actually, that should be singular, as in female. Of the 75,000 kids involved in high school sports in Utah, a grand total of one is a transgender student athlete taking part in female sports. One. Out of 75,000.

You don’t have to take my word for it. Governor Spencer J. Cox laid it out for all to read in an enlightened letter explaining why he attempted to veto the push by Utah lawmakers who would outlaw transgender female athletes. The Guv didn’t get his way, with legislators vetoing his veto on Friday, and the ban on transgender female athletes is to become law on July 1, but I ask myself this: What is it that has the backers of HB11 so frightened?

They say it’s necessary legislation to protect female sports from a scorched-earth destiny, as if Utah’s one student in 75,000 is bound to multiply like Biblical fish and loaves of bread at a gathering of Jesus’ followers. But, in reality, they’re flailing at an enemy that has not yet presented itself. It’s like that asteroid we keep hearing about, how it’s bee-lining toward Earth and will one day wipe out the human race upon impact. Except that asteroid never arrives.

Certainly transgender female athletes have grown in volume and some, like collegiate swimmer Lia Thomas and a handful of others at below-elite levels, have experienced success, yet you wouldn’t say they’re plentiful and there’s scant evidence to indicate they soon shall arrive in numbers that would fill Pasadena’s Rose Bowl to overflowing. There’s little to no danger of female sports disappearing like Maya civilization, regardless how loudly the naysayers squawk.

So, what these lawmakers are actually doing with all their bombast is telling kids—or in Utah’s case, one kid—that they don’t belong. They don’t fit in. They are pariahs.

And that’s a helluvan ugly thing to say to a kid. Such a shame.

I mean, if it’s hurtful and gutting for transgender adults to be ostracized, what impact does it have on fragile minds still in the early, exploratory stages of life? It can be ruinous. Deadly even, as Gov. Cox indicated by citing suicide and suicide ideation rates among transgender youth.

No doubt the decision-makers in Utah and other jurisdictions in the U.S. believe they’re doing what’s right for female sports, but, again, there’s no evidence to support the notion that the distaff portion of the playground is in danger of extinction.

This needs to be about the kids and their growth, not adults with a religious or political agenda putting up road blocks and trying to shove them into the bleak and shadowy fringes of society.

I can confirm that’s a very scary place to be, at any age, which is why I literally weep for the kids in America who won’t be allowed to play.

The screamers scream while scientists/medics try to find the proper fit for transgender athletes

First of all, being transgender doesn’t make one an all-knowing sage capable of solving the planet’s most-pressing problems, or even those on the back burner.

Second, I’m not a scientist/doctor, so finding a fit for transgender female athletes is above my pay grade.

And, finally, if the world is about to implode, most likely it will be on account of evil Vladimir Putin doing something irrational, not whatever Lia Thomas does or does not accomplish in a swimming pool.

Lia Thomas

Yet we continue to hear and read apocalyptic bombast, the latest suggestion of end times found in the scribblings of Dan Wootton, an opinionist with The Daily Mail in London and a man who believes in getting right to the point. His lede on a recent column:

“This weekend the world finally woke up and realized politically correct monsters who don’t give a damn about anything other than advancing a hard left ideology are perilously close to wiping out women’s sport for good. The incongruous image of University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas—the first transgender athlete to win the NCAA title in the women’s 500-yard freestyle—towering over the biologically female runner-up while being booed by the Atlanta crowd sums up the total madness of our times.”

Wootton later tossed in a reference to the “woke mob” and called for an “uprising” before female sports is reduced to a frolic for “sub-par biological males.”

Oh my. “Monsters” and “madness.” A “mob” and an “uprising.” Little wonder state politicos in Florida don’t want school teachers telling the kiddies about sexual orientation and gender identity. They’re just protecting the urchins from all those gay bogeymen/bogeywomen, don’t you know.

All because Lia Thomas won a college swim race.

But here’s where Wootton truly went off the rails: He consulted one person to prop up his end-days argument—Caitlyn Jenner.

Women and men who wear lab coats and squint into microscopes and hang medical diplomas on their office walls wrestle with the notion of fairness in sports, vis-a-vis transgender female athletes, and various governing bodies follow the scientists’ findings. Or they ignore the experts and make up their own rules, depending on the mood du jour and Caster Semenya’s testosterone levels.

Caster is not transgender. She’s a natural-born woman, except some in the athletics world weren’t (and probably still aren’t) convinced, thus they had squints put the South African runner under a microscope and ultimately decided that they would permit her to toe the line in some races but sit and watch others.

So if the decision-makers don’t know where a natural-born woman fits in, who’s qualified to make the call on transgender athletes?

Wootton believes it’s Jenner. He just “had to” have a natter with the world-renowned trans diva, as if a pair of store-bought boobs somehow transformed her into a savant with unparalleled insight.

“I think to be honest with you they’ve got to change the rules. We need a fair playing field. And right now, if we allow this, it’s not a fair playing field,” Jenner told Wootton. “I am firmly behind protecting women’s sports. We cannot have biological boys competing against women.”

Well, okay, except not so long ago Jenner was singing from a different sheet in the songbook.

“I think every trans person, if they’re into athletics, should have an opportunity to compete and to improve themselves,” she told Outsports in 2020. “I think sports is such a great way to learn a lot about yourself. And yeah, I want to, hopefully they’ll have the opportunity in the future to do whatever they can do. I’m all for it. I’m all for it.”

So let’s be clear on something: Caitlyn Jenner doesn’t open her cake hole without first sticking up a finger to determine which direction the wind is blowing. What Kitty Cait tells an LGBT(etc.) website isn’t what she tells Fox News, not to mention the rabble when seeking the governor’s office in California. She is an entitled transgender woman with a multi-million-dollar bankroll and whose home base is a Malibu mansion. Last time I checked, she is not a scientist/doctor, nor has she played one on any of her dopey reality TV shows. Her lived transgender experience has been a clownish ruse.

Yet this is who Wootton sought for insight, perhaps because she might be the only transgender person he has on speed dial. But it’s like hiring Tiger Woods to teach driving lessons.

Both Wootton and Jenner are entitled to their opinions, of course, and you can agree with them if you like. But to put it in terms of monsters and madness and mobs and uprisings? A bit much, don’t you think? I mean, Vladimir Putin is a monster. His Russian army is a mob. The transgender people I know aren’t trying to hurt anyone.

And let’s remember one thing about Thomas and the recent NCAA swim meet: She competed in two other races, the 200- and 100-freestyles. She finished fifth in one and last in the other.

Some speculate that she tanked, but there’s been no evidence to support that theory.

Just as there’s no evidence that the end days for female sports is nigh due to an imagined tsunami of biologically born male bogeymen-turned-bogeywomen.

Numerous people imagined, and said, the same when Renee Richards stepped on-court at the Orange Lawn Tennis Club in New Jersey, and advanced to the semifinals of her first professional tournament in 1976. Yet here we are today, almost half a century later, and there’s been no sign of a second transgender player on the women’s tour.

Richards reached as high as world No. 20. Perhaps one day Thomas will be an Olympian. I suppose that depends on who’s making, breaking or ignoring the rules.

In the meantime, screamers will scream and pretend to have the answers that not even the experts have.

The see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil of the Chicago Silent Seven

I was perched on a stool in a local watering hole a few years back, silently observing and absorbing the goings-on and the banter of a late-afternoon gathering.

At one point, I took note of a man standing at one hem of the crowded bar. He struck me as quite frumpy…short and squat with baggy, wrinkled clothing and a face in want of a razor blade and a scrubbing. He was also fidgety, his eyes constantly darting to a fro about the room. He took a long pull on his bottle of beer, plunked it down on the bar, then turned and wobbled in my direction.

As he passed by on the way to the men’s washroom, he reached out with his right hand and grabbed my right breast, giving it a firm squeeze.

“What do you think you’re doing?” I yelped, loud enough for my voice to reach the barman’s ears.

“I don’t normally do that,” the cad answered, “but I’ve had three or four beer and I wanted to see if your tits are real.”

That’s sexual assault.

While Mr. Grabby Hands staggered off to relieve himself, I approached the barman to report what had just happened and was informed, “He’s almost done. I’ll let him finish his beer, then ask him to leave.” Sure enough, he returned to his roost at the bar and was allowed to loiter until he had squeezed the last drop from his bottle of brown pop.

That’s sexual assault ignored.

And, as the Chicago Blackhawks, the National Hockey League, the NHL Players Association and numerous other sports organizations have discovered, expecting or hoping sexual assault to disappear like summer wages is folly in the extreme.

In the case of the Blackhawks, whereby one-time video coach Brad Aldrich (allegedly) sexually assaulted one-time top prospect Kyle Beach in 2010, the fallout from a long-held, dirty, little secret has been extreme, with high-profile jobs lost, reputations tarnished, an Original Six NHL franchise in tatters, and legal hearings on the docket (unless the matter is settled out of court).

To date, of the seven men made aware of the Aldrich trespass at a May 2010 meeting, only Kevin Cheveldayoff has been spared the rod, and I’ve been wrestling with that since NHL commissioner Gary Bettman absolved the current Winnipeg Jets general manager of responsibility.

Bettman reasoned that, because Cheveldayoff was assistant GM in Chitown at the time and, thus, junior management, there’s no dirt under his nails. He is forgiven for his silence in 2010 and the ensuing 11 years.

“What did you expect Chevy to do?” many have asked. “Would you have spoken up to your superiors if you’d been in his position?”

Actually, yes. Absolutely. Been there, done that.

The personal incident I described above wasn’t a one-off. I’ve been sexually assaulted, harassed and/or ridiculed more often than the Pope prays and, unlike the Chicago Silent Seven, I’ve never been shy about acting on or speaking against wrong-doing. Most often, and most unfortunately, my gripes were met with victim-blaming and I’d be told to “grow a thicker skin.” But I continued to speak up.

Similarly, when I see or hear objectionable behaviour or language, I call out the offenders.

Again, a number of years back in a local establishment, every third word that tumbled from a patron’s mouth was an N-bomb, and he wasn’t speaking in whispered tones. The barman turned a deaf ear to it all.

“Excuse me,” I said after the third or fourth N-bomb exploded, “but we don’t use that kind of language in here.”

“I’m from L.A.,” the patron told me. “That’s the way we talk down there.”

“Well it’s not how we talk up here in Victoria and it’s definitely not how we talk in this nightclub.”

That was the end of the N-bombs.

I’ve experienced similar non-niceties in the workplace, and I once called out my boss’ husband for boorish behaviour that brought me to tears. It was a risky gambit, knowing I was a lowly sales clerk and my complaint could lead directly to the pogey queue (do not pass go, do not collect $200). She spoke with him, he confessed to his shameful deeds, and I continued to collect a paycheque. Oh, and she never scheduled us to work together again.

It’s sometimes preferable to exercise our right to remain silent, but that’s usually reserved for people in handcuffs, not those whose rights, values and dignity are being trampled.

So don’t be like the Chicago Silent Seven. Speak up, for yourself or others.

Why are business people in Canada so eager to lose millions on men’s sports but they treat female pro sports like it has the cooties?

To date, no one is telling us the sticker price on the B.C. Lions.

It might have been 10 bucks in Canadian Tire money, it might have been $10 million in cold, hard Canadian currency, and it might have been nothing more than a few specks of lint from Amar Doman’s deep pockets.

Amar Doman

We just know that Doman dipped into those deep pockets of his and pulled out enough something-or-other to satisfy the wants and needs of the David Braley estate, which had been holding the purse strings on the Canadian Football League franchise since the longtime owner’s death last October.

Logic suggests Doman bought the Leos—lock, stock and perhaps Joe Kapp’s old jock—for a bargain basement price this week because, like all outfits in Rouge Football, they surely did a belly flop into a pool of red ink on their 2020 (un)operation. No games. No revenue. Except perhaps a piddling amount of merchandise sales.

We know the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, for example, took a financial bath ($6.98 million), as did their community-run Prairie kin in Saskatchewan (the Roughriders dropped $7.5 million) and Edmonton (Elks’ losses came in at $7.1 million), so it follows that the Leos faced similar hardship.

Collectively, it’s been reported that the CFL was $60 million-$80 million into the glue on its COVID-canceled 2020 crusade and, during its most recent season (2019), the nine member clubs combined for $20 million in losses.

Little wonder commissioner Randy Ambrosie went hat in hand to Trudeau the Younger and his pals on Parliament Hill, looking for a one-time pogey payment of $30 million.

When the feds told Commish Randy to take his begging cup and go panhandle on another street corner, there was legitimate concern that some outfits might not survive a lengthy shutdown, and a lot of people were looking directly toward the far side of the Rocky Mountains, where the Leos have gone into a Witness Protection Program.

David Braley

Indeed, Braley himself delivered a sizable heaping of gloom and doom in May 2020, telling TSN 1040, “I really believe if we don’t play this year, there’s a very good chance that we won’t survive. There’s no money. How can you afford to lose five, 10 million a team?”

But lose it, and survive, they did.

The Leos were back in B.C. Place Stadium on Thursday night for a grass-grabber with the Edmonton Elks, and (reportedly) 12,500 of their friends and family dropped by for a looksee at Amar Doman’s new toy.

Doman was also in the house (he’s probably still hosing himself down after enduring an in-game natter with TSN’s resident boot-licker and insufferable, gushing groupie Glen Suitor), and his readiness to roll up his sleeves and make the Leos relevant again was evident.

But it also had me thinking this thought: Why are deep-pocketed business people in Canada so eager to go all-in on a losing hand like the B.C. Leos or Toronto Argos, but they won’t do the same for women’s professional sports?

We are a hockey nation, yet look across our vast, oft-frozen tundra and you shall find just one female pro outfit, the Toronto Six of the National Women’s Hockey League, and it’s bankrolled by a group of Boston-based investors headed by Johanna Neilson Boynton.

The NWHL will have a salary cap of $300,000 per team in 2021-22. Amar Doman will pay his main man, quarterback Michael Reilly, $525,000 for 14 games this year, win, lose or wonky arm.

I’m no financial whiz, but it seems to me that any losses would be less staggering in the NWHL.

Meantime, we have become a world soccer power on the women’s side, yet there are zero professional teams in the True North. Nada. Zilch. Squat.

Minimum wage in the all-U.S. National Women’s Soccer League is $22,000. Max is $52,000. The team cap is $682,500. In Rouge Football, the low-end salary is $65,000 and the top-end depends on how stupid an owner chooses to be. Each team is capped at $5.35 millions.

Who figures to drop more coin, Portland Thorns FC or the B.C. Lions?

Yet smart guys like Amar Doman are positively giddy about frittering away great gobs of cash on a CFL business plan that has proven to be broken and, at the same time, they steer clear of female sports like it’s a kid with the cooties.

Go figure.

The Montreal Canadiens and NHL need to know sexual assault isn’t just about rape

Many, if not most, of us said and did and wrote things in the 20th century that would fail to pass the societal sniff test two decades into the 21st century.

Talking and acting like Archie Bunker or George Jefferson just doesn’t cut it today, at least not in mixed company and certainly not if you’re a sports figure or organization with influence and power and a platform.

Don Cherry can tell us all about that.

Don Cherry

Grapes’ Hockey Night in Canada gig was like an All In the Family spinoff series, except it wasn’t nearly as funny and Archie Bunker didn’t wear clothing that looked like Edith’s table cloth. Still, Coach’s Corner survived close to 40 years of misogyny, xenophobia, gay-mocking voices, sexism, leftist-bashing, etc. before it finally came crashing down at the back end of 2019, when Cherry scolded “you people” (immigrants) for enjoying our “milk and honey” but refusing to purchase and wear poppies for Remembrance Day.

The careers of others, like broadcasters Mike Milbury and Jeremy Roanick, have died on a similar hill, only their undoing leaned more toward boys-will-be-boys banter. You know, cringeworthy spewings that would earn giggles in the frat house but not at the family dinner table or on national TV.

Fringe NHLer Brendan Leipsic, meanwhile, was still earning his chops when he participated in a group chat featuring degrading comments and pics of misogyny, body shaming and other unpleasantness. The Washington Capitols promptly parted company with Leipsic and, not long after, he booked passage to Russia, presumably in close proximity to the Siberian border.

All of which brings us to the Montreal Canadiens.

If the Habs and, by extension, the NHL were unaware of a different-thinking, less-tolerant society that tends to not look the other way when women, minorities or the marginalized are skewered and/or shamed, they were brought up to speed on the weekend.

The outrage that followed the selection of Logan Mailloux in the entry draft has been as fierce, fevered and unyielding as it is justified.

Mailloux, you see, went full cad-mode last winter while with SK Lejon in Sweden’s Division III. He hooked up with a young lady who obliged him in oral sex, and there’s no crime in a hot-blooded, late-teenage lad letting the wolf lose. It is, however, a firm no-no to secretly take pics and share them, also the women’s identity, without her knowledge and consent.

Swedish authorities tend to harrumph and frown when that happens, so they charged Mailloux with defamation and offensive photography, then fined him the equivalent of $1,650US.

Les Canadiens, on the other hand, apparently considered the crime a party gag gone wrong.

Thus general manager Marc Bergevin used his first shoutout (31st overall) at the annual grab bag of teen talent to pluck Mailloux, which went against the grain of his clearly expressed wishes. He had informed all 32 NHL outfits to steer clear. He wanted some buffer time to contemplate his misguided ways and allow his moral compass to catch up to a still-growing body jacked up on testosterone.

The Habs were having none of that. To hell with political correctness.

Well, here’s what the Habs, also the NHL, are missing: The same way domestic violence doesn’t always mean visible bruising, sexual assault isn’t just rape. It isn’t just a body thing.

Sexual assault has layers like an onion. It can be words. It can be stalking. It can be the lecherous looks and lewd suggestive comments from a group of men who make you dash to safety on the other side of the street. It can be an email. And it definitely is the unwanted sharing of sex photos you didn’t know existed. They don’t take a rape kit for that type of sexual assault, but they might send you to a therapist.

If it sounds like I’ve been there and had some of that done to me, it’s only because it’s true.

Not all sex crimes carry the same heft on the surface. What Mailloux did shouldn’t be as punitive as rape, but it should be more punitive than a small fine and a “welcome aboard, kid” from the Montreal Canadiens and NHL. I mean, he didn’t rape her so everything is supposed to be cool? Nice try. They can’t possibly know the impact it’s had on the victim. Anyone reach out to that young lady? What’s she going through today? What’s her hell been like in the past eight months? Do they even give a damn? No. They don’t.

I don’t know where the NHL stands on the sexual assault and domestic violence files. Does anyone?

Slava Voynov beat up his wife in 2014, spent time behind bars, vamoosed to Mother Russia, played in the Olympics, and hasn’t been on an NHL pond since. Austin Watson was instructed to spend 18 games in the corner after roughing up his wife.

And I suppose that’s progress.

Sean Burke

Goaltender Sean Burke, for example, laid hands on his wife, Leslie, while with the Carolina Hurricanes in 1997. She had bruising to the face and neck and he spent 21½ hours in the brig. Yet he didn’t miss a beat. No suspension.

“I’m not going to sit the guy out because I’m trying to make a public relations move,” then-head coach Paul Maurice told news snoops. “We are talking about human beings here. Yes he’s an athlete and yes he’s a public figure, but there are two human beings involved in a difficult situation and they are trying to work through that. There is not a lot of denial going on. They are trying to work through it. What they need is support from everyone—their family, the family on the ice and their new family in North Carolina.”

Imagine that, refusing to sit a wife-beater because it might be viewed as a PR stunt. Incredible.

How about sitting him because it’s the right thing to do?

At any rate, perhaps we ought not be surprised how les Canadiens handled the Mailloux situation. After all, Burke is now Montreal’s director of goaltending.

Once again, men’s hockey is caught with its pants down and it’s utterly odious

Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin

So it’s true what they say: Hockey is for everyone.

And that includes young men like Logan Mailloux, a newly minted member of the Montreal Canadiens fellowship whose baggage includes a sex-related crime.

And it includes the Chicago Blackhawks, whose ownership/management/players spent the past decade covering up a sex crime and verbal gay-bashing for which no individual has been held accountable, let alone punished.

And it includes Auston Matthews who, two years ago, got together with some buddies and thought it would be a swell idea to swill beer and frighten a female security guard on a dark street at 2 o’clock in the morning. When she failed to find any humor in their booze-fueled boorish behavior, the Toronto Maple Leafs centre dropped his trousers to his ankles, bent over and mooned her. Many in mainstream media wrote it off as nothing more heinous than frat-boy hijinks.

Yes, hockey is for everyone.

Except the victims, of course. They are mostly faceless and nameless inconveniences. If their identities are revealed, they’re forgotten in less time than it takes to sharpen a pair of skates.

We know a former Blackhawks player has accused one-time video coach Brad Aldrich of sexual assault, but we only know him as John Doe 1. We know Logan Mailloux took and illegally shared pics of a young Swedish woman giving him oral sex, but she’s a mystery. If anyone remembers the name of Matthews’ victim, move to the head of the class.

But, hey, we don’t need to know anything about Fayola Dozithee and the fallout from L’Affaire Matthews, because young Auston pulled up his pants, delivered a mea culp and he’s become the National Hockey League’s leading goal-scorer. The Rocket Richard Trophy is all that matters. The Blackhawks? Until recently, their dirty, little secret was buried beneath the ballyhoo of three Stanley Cup-winning crusades. That tall, shiny trinket is all that matters.

Logan Mailloux

There was a different twist in the Mailloux case. All his victim desired was a sincere apology (she’s still waiting), but the London Knights defenceman seemed to recognize that he is a cad and informed all 32 NHL outfits to remove his name from consideration in this year’s annual auction of teenage talent.

“Being drafted into the NHL is an honor and a privilege that no one takes lightly,” Mailloux tweeted. “The NHL draft should be one of the most exciting landmark moments in a player’s career, and given the circumstances, I don’t feel I have demonstrated strong enough maturity or character to earn that privilege in the 2021 draft. I know it will take time for society to build back the trust I have lost, and that is why I think it is best that I renounce myself from the 2021 NHL Draft and ask that no one select me this upcoming weekend.”

Well, either les Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin missed the memo or something was lost in the English-to-French translation, because he used his first shoutout (31st overall) on Friday night to pluck Mailloux from the pool of teens. Lack of maturity, character and sexism be damned. As long as the guy can fill a need on the blueline, that’s all that matters, right boys?

“He already started to put it behind him,” Bergevin said in explaining his utterly odious, shocking selection and his failure to accurately read the temperature of the room.

What the Habs GM didn’t, wouldn’t or couldn’t tell us is if the victim had “already started” to put it behind her. Whoever she is.

Naturally, Bergevin has been battered fore and aft on social media in the wake of the tone-deaf Mailloux decision, but save some of that tar and a few of those feathers for Habs bankroll Geoff Molson. You don’t make such a radical move without the okie-dokie from the guy sitting in the big desk in the ivory tower.

And that’s not to ignore the London Knights, who will readily and eagerly welcome Mailloux back to the fold, and SK Lejon of the Swedish Division III, who were privy to their defenceman’s trespass yet permitted him to play on.

Hockey, after all, is for everyone, even the creeps.

It’s such a shame, because this should have been a good-news week on the diversity file.

I mean, it was only scant days ago that young Luke Prokop was welcomed warmly as the first openly gay man signed to an NHL contract. The scandal-plagued Blackhawks are giving females in their hockey department prominent face time during this weekend’s entry draft. The new kids on the block, Seattle Kraken, trotted out pro scout Cammi Granato to name one of their selections in the expansion grab bag. And Kevin Weekes, a Black man, has been prominent on ESPN entry/expansion draft coverage.

It appeared that the men’s game was, at long last, following the plot.

Then along came Molson and Bergevin, who were “proud” to recruit a guy guilty of serious wrong-doing, a crime that once again devalued and victimized a woman.

But, hey, that’s men’s hockey. Always caught with its pants down.

Diversity: Sports sections of daily newspapers still stuck in the 20th century

It happens every time a story with social significance spills into the playground, as was the case last week with Carl Nassib of the Las Vegas Raiders outing himself.

Sports scribes seized the moment, like West Coast grizzlies at the annual salmon run, and they went on a feeding frenzy, feverishly tapping opinion pieces favorable to Nassib, the first openly gay man to be included on an active National Football League roster. But their essays, although well-intentioned, were chock-full of assumptive generalities and shy on first-person perspective.

The wordsmiths wrote on auto pilot, as if following a template.

Nassib is brave. Check. Nassib is courageous. Check. Nassib is an inspiration. Check. Bravo for Nassib. Check.

It’s all meant as high praise, yet, in reality, it’s the piling on of platitudes.

And there’s a reason for that: They don’t know any better.

I mean, the rarest of species in major North American professional team sports is the openly gay male. There have been more confirmed sightings of Elvis, Sasquatch and Amelia Earhart. There is one at present, Carl Nassib. There’s never been more than one at any given time.

But the second rarest species is the openly gay sports scribe (newspaper division), male or female.

LZ Granderson

A handful exist in the United States—LZ Granderson of the Los Angeles Times most notable among them, and transgender female Christina Kahrl is the freshly minted sports editor of the San Francisco Chronicle—but I don’t know of any LGBT(etc.) writers working at dailies on the northern side of the vast, still-blockaded border.

I spent 30 years in the rag trade, shutting down in 1999, and any gay person scribbling sports during my time was coal miner deep into the closet.

So, if we do the math, there’s not been an out gay jock journo at a major daily in Canada in more than half a century. Perhaps not ever.

Even as we hear more female voices and see more Blacks and people of color on our TV sports networks, the toy departments in the rag trade remain stuck in the muck of the 20th century, like an old jalopy spinning its wheels in a ditch.

When I took my leave from the business in ’99, both dailies in Winnipeg had a female scribbling sports. Today there are zero. There were no out gays then, there are no out gays now. There were no Blacks or people of color, there are zero today.

It’s much the same across the oft-frozen tundra. Sports sections at daily newspapers don’t do diversity.

Thus, when Carl Nassib comes out or Black athletes rise in protest of social injustice or another woman is beaten up/sexually assaulted, the scribes are at a disadvantage. Because they aren’t gay, Black or female, they’re incapable of drilling to the numb of the matter.

I mean, the very notion of straight men explaining what Nassib’s coming out means to the LGBT(etc.) collective and/or society is the highest level of absurd. It’s like having Tiger Woods for a driving instructor.

Therefore they traffic in platitudes, which comes across as trendy, if not patronizing.

Christina Kahrl

When Nassib said he “agonized” for 15 years—more than half his time on this planet—before coming out, those of us in the LGBT(etc.) collective got it. Fully. It’s why some of us, including myself, were moved to tears. We’ve felt the searing pain of the suffocating inner strife. We’ve lived the fear of losing/being denied employment or lodgings. We’ve lived the fear of losing friends and family. We’ve lived the fear of bullying and worse. We know what it’s like to be told conversion therapy will “cure” us. We know what it’s like to hear the Vatican refuse to bless our marriages because gay sex is a “sin.” We know the humility of being scorned and refused service. All that based solely on our preference in life/sexual partners and/or gender identity.

So, yes, we know Carl Nassib’s story because it’s our story. And we can tell it.

Sadly, sports editors across the land are not inclined toward giving diverse voices a share of their platform. They’re quite comfortable allowing straight, white, mostly male scribes to opine with an outlier perspective on stories that can only be told with LGBT, Black, or female insight earned through lived experience.

The irony, of course, is that numerous sports editors and scribes are quick to condemn the lack of diversity in, say, the National Hockey League and NASCAR, or at Augusta National Golf Club—and they’ll shame others for failing to promptly rise in protest against social and racist injustice—yet they don’t see a very white, very straight, very male business in their own mirror.

Sorry, but you can’t be part of the solution unless you recognize yourself as part of the problem.

We should care about Carl Nassib because he might have saved a life

Carl Nassib

Carl Nassib is gay and many among the rabble say they don’t care.

We know this because they rushed to their keyboards on Monday and used various social media platforms to confirm they don’t care, which would indicate that they do, in fact, care.

I mean, if you truly don’t give a tinker’s damn that the National Football League has its first active openly gay player, you don’t become a keyboard warrior and insert your two cents worth of opinion into a discussion you claim to have no interest in.

Question is: Why should anyone care?

We are, after all, into the third decade of the 21st century and you’d think by now a gay man coming out would be your basic dog-bites-man story. Which is to say, no story at all.

Except that isn’t the way it shakes down, even in the year 2021.

Sue Bird and Megan Rapinoe

In female sports—professional/amateur, team/individual—gay athletes are as commonplace as fresh bread in a bake shop. They have won WNBA championships, they have won tennis Grand Slam tournaments, they have harvested Olympic medals of three different hues. They become power couples (see hoops legend Sue Bird and soccer star Megan Rapinoe). They get married (see U.S. national footy team members Ali Kreiger and Ashly Harris). They have kids (see hockey stars Meghan Duggan and Gillian Apps/Julie Chu and Caroline Ouellette).

A female athlete coming out is generally met with a shrug of the shoulders, in part due to the antiquated and misguided assumption that any girl/women who chooses to participate in “manly” sports like hoops and hockey must be lesbian.

Male jocks, on the other hand, operate in a different world. No, check that. They roam a different galaxy.

There have been 15 gay or bisexual players in the NFL, all coming out post-career until Nassib dropped his bombshell via Instagram. Glenn Burke was out to everyone in Major League Baseball in the 1970s, but it was hush-hush beyond the ballpark. The National Basketball Association has featured one active openly gay player, Jason Collins, while others came out post-career. Major League Soccer has had two out players, while the National Hockey League has never known an openly gay player, past or present.

That’s it. Approximately two dozen gays in North America’s top five men’s pro sports leagues. All-time.

But, again, why should anyone care?

Well, try this: It’s quite possible (probable?) that Carl Nassib saved a life when he came out on Monday.

There’s an LGBT(etc.) kid out there who was feeling abandoned and alone, a kid on the edge, a kid convinced he/she couldn’t take another dose of the bullying and mental torment that so many gay youth experience and endure. He/she wasn’t simply prepared to quit sports, suicide seemed like an option with merit.

Then along comes Nassib, a stud of a man—6-feet-7, 275 pounds—and a defensive lineman with the Las Vegas Raiders, after previous tours of duty with the Cleveland Browns and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Suddenly the light of hope radiates.

Too dramatic for you? Not really. I was that kid in the 1950s and ’60s.

That kid today has a name, we just don’t know it yet. But we might hear from him/her one day when he/she becomes a doctor, a lawyer, a political leader, a college prof or a sports writer and they point to Nassib’s bold decision as the reason they didn’t surrender to those who hate.

And, be sure, Nassib’s coming out wasn’t as simple a task as folding laundry. It never is.

The Raiders DE said he “agonized” over this decision for 15 years, and anyone in the LGBT(etc.) collective will nod knowingly, because it tends to be a lengthy struggle, one that can gnaw at you for years, like a dog on a chew toy. It plants the seeds of alienation, abandonment, rejection and self-loathing, all filed under ‘F’ for fear.

Thus, for Nassib to come out while active in the Goliath of macho men’s team sports, that’s ballsy.

Make no mistake, Nassib isn’t anyone’s idea of an NFL Pro Bowler. He’s listed third on the Raiders depth chart at right DE. But he can still serve as a Pied Piper to those who remain in the closet, even if he isn’t interested in becoming the feature attraction in a media circus.

Unlike Michael Sam after he’d been drafted by the St. Louis Rams, Nassib doesn’t seem inclined toward an appearance on Dancing with the Stars or being dogged by Oprah’s cameras.

“I’m a pretty private person so I hope you guys know that I’m really not doing this for attention,” he said. “I just think that representation and visibility are so important. I actually hope that one day, videos like this and the whole coming out process are not necessary, but until then I am gonna do my best and do my part to cultivate a culture that’s accepting that’s compassionate.”

Sometimes it only takes one, and hopefully Carl Nassib is the right one for men’s pro sports.

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