Salesmen of Sport

With capitalistic bubbles stretched taut, economies and individuals staggering under debt, infrastructure rapidly falling apart and the legitimate rape of the planet continuing unabated and ignored, one of the distractions in a Canadian’s life, hockey, seems to be heading for another strike. Imagine that, individuals of the top 1 % arguing over how much more of the pie they can take. As of 2012, the average wage of a NHL hockey player for one season was $2.4 million, about $29,000 per game. In the real world $2.4 million equals someone making $48,000 per year for 50 years. Yes, wow.

Comparatively, the other major sports in North America that keep us preoccupied and distracted and who also possess an insatiable thirst for our hard earned dollars, the NBA, MLB and NFL, have combined revenues that are higher than most countries make in a year.

The numbers quoted in this article for any players cited as being one of the richest 100 athletes in the world include player salaries, bonuses, appearance fees, prize money and endorsements and licensing, just like any other corporate entity, because that’s what they are, ask them. These 100 players combined earnings last year was $26 billion.

The National Football League brings in revenue of about $9.5 billion a year and even though they generate the most money of all the pro leagues in the entire world, their players are the least paid at an average wage of $1.9 million a season. And yet as so happens, of the 100 richest athletes in the world, thirty of them are NFL players, the most from any sport.

Leading the way in the NFL is Peyton Manning who just recently signed with the Denver Broncos for $96 million over 5 years. For signing he was given a $6 million advance. Last season (2011) he did not play because of rehab from neck injury but his team at the time, the Indianapolis Colts still paid him his player’s wage of $32.4 million. Manning also made over $10 million in endorsements, making his combined earnings in 2011 $42.4 million. Manning is listed as the 10th richest athlete in the world, while on average the top ten players in the NFL are making upwards of $20 million per season.

NFL players get 47% of league revenues, but there are 1,696 of them, spread out over 32 teams, playing a 16 game season and perhaps a few playoff games. The NFL has the shortest average career span of the big leagues of only 3.3 years.

The Dallas Cowboys (#1 at $1.8 billion), Washington Redskins, New England Patriots and three other NFL teams are presently, some of the most valuable teams in the world of a combined worth of over $8 billion.

Yes the States has the over-hyped bling, attitude and 2 yard running plays of the NFL, but in Canada a superior game of football is being played, mostly because of a slightly different set of rules and character of player. The Canadian Football League is all about finesse, throwing the ball and the smoothness of the game as it is played out, mainly because a CFL team only has three downs to get 10 yards and a first down so you have to make things happen, while in the NFL they get four kicks at the can to get 10 yards, conveniently allowing lots of time-spots for advertisers. There are only eight teams in the CFL, with 42 players per team, 19 of which may be imports, plus 4 players in reserve, playing 18 games and a few playoff games if lucky and they’ve been working hard. League revenues each year are between $120 and $150 million, with each team having a salary cap of $4.3 million. Playing wages go from league minimum of $43,000 per season to the quarterbacks on each team, who make the most at $250,000 to $400,000 per season. The average CFL player makes about $82,000 per season and the average career span is about three to four years.

Major League Baseball has revenues in the $7.7 billion range, the second richest pro league in the world. With 30 teams and 750 players who play a 162 game season and a few playoff games, the average wage of a player is $3.31 million per season, while the average career span in baseball is about 6 years. Twenty-one baseball players make up the world’s 100 richest athletes, with fourteen of them making more than $20 million per season. And then there is Alex Rodriguez and the New York Yankees.

In 2000 and playing for the Texas Rangers, Alex Rodriguez signed the largest sports contract in history, a ten-year deal worth $252 million. In 2004 he was traded to the New York Yankees and in 2007 he opted out of what the Rangers had still been paying him, and what they still owed, by signing a deal with the Yankees for $275 million over ten years and breaking a new record for sports contracts, the record being his previous deal with the Rangers. Since he started playing major league baseball in 1994 Rodriguez has made over $296 million, with his teammate Derek Jeter, playing since 1995, having over $220 million in career earnings. Rodriguez’s current annual playing wage is $30 million. Meanwhile, his team, the Yankees, had a 2012 team payroll of over $198 million and is the third highest valued sports franchise in the world, at $1.7 billion.

Even though they are the second richest pro league in the world, MLB is also the most regional of all major sports and is strictly and truly, America’s game. And lord knows, especially today, they desperately need the distraction and the emotion the game brings to them and are obviously still willing to pay for it.

Though actually attending a pro game is far above what most people can afford because the arenas will soon be filled with corporate boxes, we do have bars and TV. Instead of actually going to a game and spending a hundred or more bucks, if you’re lucky to find a ticket, we can buy a $200 team jersey with someone else’s name on the back, go to the pub and spend another $50 on pints and a burger, with friends.

Over on the hard court, the average wage of a player in the National Basketball League is $5.5 million per season, making them the highest paid players of the major sports leagues. Indeed, only thirteen NBA players are in the top 100 richest because there’s so many of them right behind them. The NBA has only 450 players, on 30 teams which play 82 games and if hope willing, have a long playoffs to endure. The average career in the NBA is about six years.

The average player earns about $67,000 per game. League revenues in 2011 were $3.6 billion, of which nearly 56% went to player salaries. The elite players are earning anywhere from $10 to $15 million per season, Kobe Bryant is the highest paid basketball player at $20 million per season playing for the LA Lakers. He also is paid $32 million from endorsements, making his 2011 income in the $52 million range. Lebron James of the Miami Heat meanwhile made more overall money than Bryant, with $13 million in players’ wages and $40 million in endorsements, totaling $53 million, he also now owns a stake in the English League, Liverpool Soccer Club.

Bryant and James were both on the US Olympic Basketball team, their games as exciting as the Canadian Olympic Women’s Hockey team beating yet another opponent 16-2.

Ah, finally back to the good old game of hockey. There are no NHL players amongst the 100 richest athletes of the world and considering a very recent poll suggesting Canada could support another 3 NHL teams, hockey is truly Canada’s game.

The National Hockey League made $3.2 billion in 2011-12, a 50% increase over the past 7 years. Currently the players receive 57% of revenues, with the owners taking 43%, though as I’m writing this article, the players union and the league are at an impasse at meetings to renew their contract, mainly concerning economic issues. If no deal is made by Sept15th the players will be locked out. The player’s side would like to see an increase of $100 million to $250 million for a subsidy fund which goes to teams who can’t afford to pay their players and are struggling in shitty markets, such as the successful operations in Phoenix, Arizona, two teams in Florida and one in Carolina. To keep these teams and others, competitive, they must be subsidized by the other team owners to do so.

The players union has also said they would be willing to have a hard salary cap in place and are willing to take less than 57% of revenues for 3 years, maybe 54%. The NHL is countering with the players receiving 43% of League revenues and the owners getting a 25% raise. The League would also like to end long-term contracts with their front end loaded deals, such as those being signed over the past few months by their very selves, and that the same amount is paid each season of that contract, which would also have a 5 year cap on its length, forthwith.

Like kids in the sandbox, the owners have the bucket that the players shovel money into and the players who have the shovel are refusing to play any more if they can’t have their share, with the owners wanting a bigger share and if they don’t get it they’ll take both the bucket and the shovel and go home in a pout, it gives me a headache. Collectively the players make more money than all the CEO’s and owners who hire them and individually make far more in one season than what 80% of the planet will make in a lifetime.

As mentioned earlier, the average NHL player’s wage is $2.4 million per season, with thirty teams carrying 690 players, playing 82 regular season games. This year each team has a $59.4 million salary cap. The playoffs are four rounds of best of sevens, with the champion team having to win 16 games, playing a maximum of 42 games over nearly two months to achieve it. The Stanley Cup is mutually agreed upon as being one of the hardest physically and mentally challenging championships to attain in team sports. Yet in North America, out of all the major team sports, NHL hockey is the lowest rated sport. The average career in the NHL is five years, though 50% of all NHL players play less than 100 games.

The two highest paid players this past season, both earning $10 million were Roberto Luongo, currently of the Vancouver Canucks and Vincent Lecavalier of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Luongo signed a new deal with the Canucks in 2010-11, a 12 year $64 million contract, which paid him $10 million this past season and then pays $6.7 million each year after. Lecavalier signed his front-end loaded deal in 2008, an 11 year $85 million contract. The top NHL players meanwhile, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Alexander Ovechkin each make $9 million a season. Tied for sixth richest contracts in the NHL are Chris Drury and Scott Gomez at $8 million per season each, which is sad considering since signing such huge deals years ago, both have either been injured or inept and ineffective when they have played.

The average NHL franchise’s worth is about $228 million. Toronto, NY Rangers, Canadians, Red Wings, Philly and Boston are all valued at more than $300 million, while Nashville, Tampa Bay, Winnipeg and Phoenix are valued at $150 million. Two teams, representing both ends of the scale, were sold during the 2011-12 season. Tampa Bay was sold for $93 million; the Canadians were sold for $575 million.

Besides the pro North American sports teams and athletes already mentioned, many of the richest players in the world are in individual sports. The boxer, Floyd Mayweather, is the richest athlete in the world. From June2011 to June 2012 he fought twice. The first fight he made $40 million, the second he pulled in $45 million, for a total of $85 million. I say this with a pure white cat on my lap which I am stroking and a pinkie finger touching the side of my mouth. Total time in the ring for Mayweather was less than an hour. Besides being his own fight promoter and having no need to endorse anybody other than himself he made no outside endorsement money.

The second richest athlete in the world is also a boxer, Manny Pacquaio, who made $56 million fighting and $6 million on endorsements. Number three, surprisingly, is golfer Tiger Woods. He made $4.4 million golfing and $55 million from Nike. The combined, $59.4 million is half of what he made in 2009. He would have made more, but after his wife attacked the car he was driving with a five-iron because he was following his little head around, he lost sponsors Tag Heuer and Gillette. Woods’ net worth as of 2010 is $500 million.

After #4 Lebron James, is the tennis player, Roger Federer, whose total earnings were $52.7 million, $7.7 million in winnings and $45 million on endorsements. #6 is Kobe Bryant, then golfer Phil Mickelson, who made $4.8 million for golfing and another $43 million on endorsements. Eight and nine are the soccer players David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Ronaldo is the highest paid soccer player in the world, but Beckham made more on endorsements. Beckham’s salary to play soccer was $9 million, with endorsements of $37 million. To-date he has made over $260 million in his career. Ronaldo on the other hand was paid $20.5 million to play soccer and made another $22 million on endorsements.

Soccer is actually the world’s third richest pro sport, behind the NFL and MLB. The franchise, Manchester United, is the second most valuable sports team in the world at $1.86 billion, followed closely by Real Madrid and Arsenal, both at over $1 billion each.

The tenth highest paid athlete is Peyton Manning and right behind him is another soccer player, Lionel Messi, with $20 million in playing salary and $19 million on endorsements.

Other notables, who are leading their respective sports in earnings and are included in the top 100 richest include, Formula One driver, Fernando Alonso with total earnings of $32 million, Valentino Rossi earning $30 million racing motorcycles and Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the highest paid cricket player in the world earning over $26.5 million. One of only two women players on the list is tennis player, Maria Sharapova, the 26th richest athlete in the world, earning $27.9 overall earnings. The other woman is also a tennis player, Li Na, at #81.

Interestingly enough and at first a surprise, Usain Bolt is one of the richest athletes in the world besides of course being the fastest human on the planet. Bolt is the 63rd richest athlete with only, at least compared to this surreal world we are walking through in this article, $300,000 in prize money, appearance fees etc, but he makes over $20 million in endorsements, Puma pays him $9 million alone.

Basically, the top twenty-five paid athletes in the world are making in excess of $30 million per year, roughly the same as someone making 60 grand a year for 500 years, yes, five hundred years. There are no hockey players on the richest list, though they still make very, very good coin. And there are no rugby players, who average around $50,000 per season, with the top class players making $300,000 per and the elite, $500,000 plus. Also not on the list are the hundreds of millions of people, who are playing for the love of the game, whatever that game may be.

While back on earth, in Aug. 2012, over 20% of the United States population, 66 million Americans and each representing a family of four, made about $28,800 last year. Comparatively, over 80% of working Canadians are making less than $48,000 per year.

There you have it, at least inquisitively. The sheer wealth and the representative numbers so far mentioned makes my head spin. But then athletes are only one part of our distracting celebrity culture and always have been, with the question always being, how much of the integrity of the richest athletes in the world and their ilk, such as corporate CEO’s, movie stars, rappers and rock stars, is left after withstanding the demands, pressures and greed to make even more money. There are many who are wealthy and still show glimpses of empathy, they appreciate what they’ve got and they make an effort to give back, though never as much as they could afford. What they all share is that they understand what they do is strictly business.

Others are taken over by the voices in their head, the whispers in their ears and they simply can’t help themselves. What once was and who they really are is gone, reshaped, forgotten and not even allowed by their status and class, they’ve sold their souls. Enough will never be enough and eventually many simply stop caring.

A celebrity’s job is twofold; they help us endure while our society goes through controlled collapses and the more the situation deteriorates the more grandiose, fictional and contrived the spectacle of the arena becomes, whether in a stadium, boardroom, on a screen or upon a field. Personal dramatics become the agony, the defeat and the winning with tears of joy and chest of pride, while fiction eventually erases what is natural, genuine and spontaneous; and they are the faces and hawkers of goods for corporate society and the gods of consumerism.

We admire our stars because of three things, how much money they make, what they do and we wish it were us. We live our lives through them and the maybe couple of hours we spend watching them we can hopefully forget about the real world, perhaps even hoping for some inspiration. Our celebrities show us that we can triumph and get to the top of the world, often just so we can give a finger to those who thumbed their noses at us or belittled us at one time and we act and are able to extract revenge on something or someone. Or become a hero and save the day by overcoming much pain and hardship. These storylines run through most all that happens on television, in movies, sports, business and politics. But in reality, for a vast majority of people, they never happen.

I’ve coached young hockey players who besides talking their parents into buying them $200 high-tops so that they could be cooler, get them to pay for a $200 stick, which breaks at their next practise, and $400 skates, both believing they’ll make the kid a better hockey player. This is the other side of the celebrity’s job; to be the “human representation of commercial commodities.” Most of the world’s richest athletes make more money from endorsements than from their playing wage, the numbers are obscene. They’ve become salesmen for materials we don’t need or can’t afford and they personally don’t seem to have a problem with that and no matter how much the planet sickens and deteriorates around them they relentlessly ask us to spend more, to support them so that they can make even more money.

To underscore this article, I’d like to end it with a paragraph listing some of the corporations who gave the aforementioned richest athletes millions of dollars to sell their products for them. They predominately target people that have money or credit, children, those whose religious belief leans toward consumerism, those who believe there is no such thing as climate change and those who smile and say everything will be all right as long as everyone sticks to the status quo. The list is what our heroes and our children’s heroes want us to purchase, even though in reality none of these products define us, or at least they shouldn’t. Materialism is never ending, never enough, like allowing the voices in our heads to go on and on and on, like the band on the Titanic, until we eventually slip beneath the waves.

Nike, Mercedes, Chevrolet, Monster Energy, Haagen-Dazs, Hennessy, Hewlett-Packard, McDonalds, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, State Farm Insurance, Rolex, the Nike Jordan brand (over $1 billion in sales each year),Wilson, Credit Suisse, Exxon, Amgen/Pfizer (pharmaceuticals), Burger King, Samsung, Castrol, Reebok, Sony, Wheaties, DirectTV, Gatorade, PepsiCo, Dolce, AT@T, Adidas, Kia Motors, Bacardi, Quaker State, Rawlings, Range Rover, Toyota, Shell, Kraft Foods, Tag Heuer, Verizon Wireless, Gillette, General Electric, Head and Shoulders, Pepperidge Farms, Vita CoCo, Ford, Goodyear, Subway, RBC, Polo/Ralph Lauren, MusclePharm, EA Sports, Jeep, Pennzoil and Toshiba.

Highest-Paid Athletes 2012 – World’s Richest Athletes ‹ The Richest People In The World 2012


1st Period of Oh Canada, where art thou going?

There was so much relative information researched for this article it nearly overwhelmed me. Reading it may very well overwhelm you. Verbose it would have been. So because it is about Canada and I am a Canadian I will treat it like a hockey game and I will release it one period at a time.

We are on one bench while on the other is Harper and his yes-men, at least the ones that can skate. He seems to be their best player, while many of his teammates appear to be playing through multiple concussions, do not speak, and just nod a lot. Many of their friends have flown in from overseas to watch and be pampered in the luxury boxes. Most all of the filled arena is rooting for us, but not all seem happy, as it’s very noticeable that our team has too many self entitled players on it. They either stay out too long on their shift, hogging up ice time, are always trying the same fancy pants pretty move trying to score the perfect goal or are cocky to their teammates, thinking their skates or stick is the best, because it costs more and therefore they are a better player. Some of our players are even going out and just looking to throw the big check or immediately wanting to drop the gloves. We lose three players to this in the first period alone. As a whole we know we will probably lose, but a few of us are still giving our best. Going into the corners, outracing an opponent to the puck, getting to the ugly spots in front of their net, playing for the love of the game, while a few on the team feel that if they are going to lose they hope they at least look good doing it.

We are a team of typical humans, overwhelmed by peer pressure, too much information and share a primitive instinct, which is the same impulse for birds to flock, cows to herd and insects to swarm. An inbred impulse that takes in information and then responds to such information without being aware of why we act in such a way. While most all of us tend to be oblivious to the impact of decisions made by those around us, yet we are powerfully affected by what is influencing us, which many times we do not even recognize. We just do it. As we will, because we are a team.

The Harper team owns the referees, timekeepers and the arena, as it is, they dropped the puck when we were still getting prepared in the dressing room. So the game starts and we are already behind six goals, all scored by Harper. But we are Canadian and we’ve got game, playing our game. The period will end 12 to 2, our two goals given to us because the Harper team thought it’d prevent us from throwing our sticks away in disgust, leaving the ice surface and getting undressed and going for a beer because, well we have to work tomorrow. Wise move on their part, hell most of us still think we are in the game, even though for most of the first period we have had a minimum of one player in the penalty box for one mandatory infraction after another.  Though both the crowd and our team do not believe their eyes and ears, we go through the motions, only focusing on getting the game over with and hopefully with no one getting hurt. The game continued.

The Harper Government is under the misguided notion that all Canadians worry about are jobs and the economy. Forgetting that we also care about the democratic process, protecting the environment, social justice and accountability, international co-operation and taking care of the poor and most disadvantaged.  While corporate sponsored media tries to keep us distracted with stories in which nightmares are made of and we find are hard to contemplate, we often times lose our perspective. Most of the programming from the media, especially TV, is not normal; in fact most of us go about our lives in civilized, peaceful ways. What we are often seeing on the news is not the norm in our lives and is actually very rare in society.

No matter what PM Harper thinks, the fundamental facts are; the economy will do what the economy will do regardless of whether the government is Conservative or Liberal and yes, what happens beyond our borders does dictate our economic fate and with a voting system that allows 40 per cent of the 60 per cent who voted, or 24 per cent of eligible voters to decide on a government, who get the majority of seats, including a Senate which panders to their wishes, with the country run mostly by one man in the Prime Minister’s office, is not a democratic country at all.

There has been, and will be, much change in how things will be done in Canada. But it is being fed piecemeal to us in a gradual repression. Sort of like baby steps. For many of us, each new bit of information appears, and after first wondering if it be true or false, builds up upon the last one. And after time it can and does wear us down, as we are busy enough handling our own day to day worlds and making them count hopefully. Any person who stands and walks can certainly stride faster than little baby steps, unfortunately the banking and financial world’s baby steps are quickening, but with the global web so are we. We are on their tail knowing where they are headed and yet they are frantically tossing out chafe and shiny things to keep us distracted. Much of the population is buying in to the ruse but then at the same time I feel, many are not.

Distraction comes from many directions; the childlike awe we have for celebrity, the fear of being overwhelmed by either communism, Mexican drug lords, numerous crazed Arabs, the war on drugs or our neighbours, the multiple murderer or molester of the week, and to be someone one, one must purchase stuff.  Many are stressing out about how they are constantly reminded that they must be consumers yet reality makes this not possible anymore. Distraction keeps us from thinking too much about what we are really stressing about, what we’ve always stressed about; clean water, food and sex and where can we get it. For instance, in 2006 pornography revenues topped $97 billion, annual sales in the United States was $10 billion alone.  The $97 billion was more than the revenues of Microsoft, Google, Amazon, e-bay, Yahoo!, Apple, Netflix and EarthLink combined.

And finally, on many levels, faith and reason seem to be shaking the living daylights out of the celebration of life, with too many disconnects going off for us to handle. As far as reason goes, it is dangerously lacking and so very desperately needed, because reason is mindfulness, reflection, introspection, contemplation, and musing, pondering, rhetorical and literary ways of thinking. But we do not have the time for such things as thinking.

But hark the herald angels sing; let’s get back to the game and what’s happening in Canada, my home and native land.

Actions listed below are baby steps of the Canadian government, decisions that are being made “for all Canadians” and starting just after Mr. Harper was first elected in 2006. The folly seems a continuous stream, because it is, it’s all connected.

The top polluters in North America and the World, in 2006, were fossil fuel power plants, oil and gas extraction operations, primary metal manufacturing, metal mining and chemicals manufacturing. These industries were responsible for 72% of the 5.7 billion kilograms in toxic pollution that was released into the North American environment at that time. Of this total amount Canada was the source of about 37 % of it. Alberta and Toronto accounted for 8 of the top 10 emitters of pollution in Canada, including the Vale Inco Copper Cliff smelter complex in Sudbury Ontario, the Nanticoke coal-fired power generating station in Ontario and two oil-sands facilities in Alberta, Syncrude and Suncor. Five waste-water facilities in Ontario were among the top ten sources of surface water pollution, along with two municipal facilities in Vancouver, Calgary, Montreal and Edmonton.

2008. The Universal Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was passed by the UN General Assembly, 143 to 4. Against were the US, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

The province of British Columbia’s 2008 budget included the rising of subsides paid to oil and gas companies, $50 million to $327 million, with oil, gas, aluminum and cement producers exempt from any Carbon tax. The $220 million of Capitol Tax paid by financial institutions was also eliminated. Meanwhile BC’s child poverty rate is the worst in Canada, the forests and wild salmon stocks are in crisis and the manufacturing sector is disappearing.  BC does not export so much lumber, chairs and tables anymore; they simply export the whole tree itself, raw.

April 2009. Federal government spends $14 million on trying to find out what ex-Prime Minister Brian Mulroney did with $225,000.

From 2009 to the present day; the continuing deregulation of food inspection, especially for meat, with cuts to number of inspectors of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, an ongoing operation.

Before the financial meltdown in Sept. 2008, 22,674 federal public servants received more than $100,000 per year; by Sept 2010 it had nearly doubled to 42,050 public servants making more than $100,000 per year.

As to the war on terror and because it is supposed to be one of our perceived fears, how’s it going anyways?  Since 2002, 158 Canadian Forces personnel have died in Afghanistan, all just doing their jobs. The majority were caused by road side explosives, then direct fire and suicide attacks. There have also been 1859 wounded, 1244 of which were non-battle injuries.

In 2011, Canada’s post-9/11 bill reached $92 billion, of which $11 billion has been spent on Afghanistan. Since 9/11 Canadian Military expenditures have doubled. The current Defense budget is $21 billion, with expected military spending of $60 billion on jets and a further $32 billion on warships over the next few years. Since by that time Canada will be out of Afghanistan and will have to find somewhere else to spend their money and expend Canadian lives. $71.3 million was spent in 2010 to “mitigate the potential threat of terrorism” during the two weeks of the Vancouver Olympic Winter Games alone. Other than that not much has happened on the war on terror, whoever and whatever that is.

The horn goes. Well, off to the dressing room.




Accountable to be Responsible in Sports

Coaching fifteen, sixteen and seventeen year olds in the game of hockey at the Midget level for the past seven seasons became a passion the day I realized that there was so much of the team game that had to do with life away from the rink. Each day afterward the importance was placed on making the player a better player and perhaps a better young man as well. The beauty of this is that to become a better player in hockey you have to become a better team player and when you become a better player you also understand that you will also need to be the hardest working player, be accountable and responsible. Just like in life.

Many of our children become enamored by their sports hero. Much more than anybody on television or film, in music or politics and there is a reason for this. More often than not a successful athlete, especially one involved in a team sport, possesses many traits that are rare in our everyday society.

The following is something that describes what’s needed to be a successful athlete and indeed are the traits nearly all successful people possess. Each year I’d give a copy to each of the nineteen players on the team, I don’t know exactly who read it or not, but for those that did not I hope one day they come across it and give it a ponder, because it could also be read as the expectations of yourself to live a successful life. If you simply replace the words teammate with fellow human being and coach to parent, who should be the child’s mentor and hero, and team to community, it lists what is needed to be successful no matter whether it’s on a field, in an arena or an office tower, on the street, at home or simply interacting with a fellow human being.


Commitment – the pledge to one’s teammates that you will be accountable for the responsibilities of your position and how it relates to the team system.

Drive – the desire or need to win, to achieve, and to be successful in athletics. An athlete with drive desires to attain athletic excellence and responds positively to competitive situations. They also aspire to accomplish difficult tasks and set and maintain high goals in athletics.

Determination – the willingness to put forth the physical effort necessary to be successful. A determined athlete is persistent and unrelenting in work habits, practices long and hard, works on their skills until exhausted and does not give up easily on a problem.

Emotional Control – the capability to maintain one’s cool during the stresses involved in athletic competition. An athlete with strong emotional control can face stress in a calm objective manner and rarely allows feelings to affect performance. They are not easily discouraged, depressed, or frustrated by bad breaks, calls, or mistakes.

Conscientiousness – the willingness to do things according to the rules. A conscientious athlete will not attempt to bend the rules to suit personal needs. They display the tendency to be exacting in character, are dominated by a sense of duty and place the good of the team ahead of personal well being, nor do they try to con the coaches or teammates.

Mental Toughness – the ability to accept strong criticism and setbacks without competing less effectively. A mentally tough player does not become easily upset when losing, or competing poorly. Does not need excessive praise or encouragement from coaches and recovers quickly when things go wrong.

Trust – the acceptance of and belief, in people. A trusting athlete believes what coaches and fellow athletes say, is free of jealous tendencies and tends to get along well with his teammates.

Responsibility – the acceptance of responsibility for the consequences of one’s actions, including mistakes. A responsible athlete accepts blame and criticism, even when not deserved, can endure physical and mental pain and does not dwell on mistakes or impose self punishment.

It’s also very important to have passion for the game, whatever that game happens to be.

These fundamental traits have become rare in society today because our measure of success far too often is based on acquisition of wealth, property and power, instead of the fulfillment of one’s own potential and pursuits. The problem with our altered definition of success is that it breeds the defamation of rational thought.

Many of the young today are simply not stimulated by anything anymore or for very long, no matter how hard the media and technology tries to keep them entertained. They see their future as getting through high school and if able, party through college, then get a job, marry and produce children for many times the wrong reasons, buy things and go into debt. For many youngsters this way of thinking has become so very boring and shallow. But then they have learned life through television and through their parent’s actions. Anyone can berate their child with words for hours on end, but it passes effortlessly in one ear and out the other. While the same child will learn more about life, by watching a few moments of interaction with their parent and someone else, than a thousand words screamed at them would. There is a gap between outside stimulus and our response. The key to growth and happiness is how we use that space.

Too many parents have just wanted to be liked by their children instead of wanting to be trusted and respected, which is called having integrity and which will eventually produce love.

Many of the young, around the globe, are also realizing that it was illusion that led them to believe life is a race. That they were led along by strings of bells and whistles, goodies and shiny, sweet things and that climbing a ladder or a set of stairs was the benchmarks for status and success. They see the end game, of simply becoming either a wage slave or reaching some place of social standing and financial security. In both cases many will feel unfulfilled, even cheated in some way, because they have been led to believe that live is a journey with a serious purpose only at the end, instead of during. Too many, just before they die, regret that they did not realize that while the song of life was being played they had failed to listen to it or failed to sing and dance while it was being played.

As the traits listed above attest to, being an exceptional person, athlete or not, takes hard work and discipline. This is why so many are attracted to and follow sports, where success still possesses the time-honored components of hard work, where both great love and great achievements involve great effort and sometimes risk; patience, as in listening and not afraid of spending time alone just reflecting; scholarship and learning as much as one can; self-discipline whereas not believing all you hear, spending all you have or sleeping all you want; self-sacrifice and not standing by while a fellow human needs help or encouragement; and due diligence, doing your homework.

But the notion that success is achieved because of effort-induced aptitude has been replaced with success now being seen as all about the right positive attitude. Which on some levels is very important, but as we do too many aspects of our lives we wander to the extreme. Having the right attitude has been far too overly hyped and has become all about spin, where even hope is hyped, which has brought about a pandemic of self-entitlement, especially amongst the young. For too many years, too many children have been pushed along to be either a rock star, movie star, the best hockey, soccer, football, basketball etc, etc, player in the world or even the next prime minister or president, though this last endeavor has lost its ranking and luster, not because of the goal to become a better person but to achieve the money and purchasing power that goes with it.

Self entitlement brings about unwillingness to take responsibility for one’s actions. The intention is to now blame someone else or something else for everything that goes wrong with our lives, as well as feeling justified in thinking so.

After many a lackluster, no effort given game or practice I’ve heard players whine the old, would have, should have and could have. I always tell them that that is no way to live one’s life. But because of the numerous distractions of our modern, speeded up lives the majority of us, especially youth, have become excellent procrastinators. Three factors push our procrastination habits along, a lack of self-confidence, being bored with the task at hand and impulsiveness, which all lead us away from our goals and toward distraction.

This belief in self entitlement has wreaked havoc in both corporate business and society, with many human’s egos doing the happy dance over the fact self-confidence is now all about anger, narcissism and rage, because outrage and lack of civility gives instant gratification and personal empowerment of the ego. These traits used to be deemed unacceptable and inappropriate behavior, not anymore, especially when it comes to business. Far too often predatory and greedy behavior is what allows one to survive in today’s corporate business world. Though there are signs this behavior is changing. For it is not human nature to act that way, but is a by-product of our culture, ever since we stopped hunting and gathering thousands of years ago and had to learn to live with each other in larger than family groups.

This negative behavior uses wrath in an attempt to make one’s version of the world unchallengeable. Too many are using raw, in your face anger to get one’s way, for the world to conform to their wishes. It’s basically emotionally punching another human in the face. There are many weak men and women who actually think rudeness, contempt, mockery and derision is inner strength. People who live lives of random acts of rudeness and anger, whether aggressively or passively, are usually people that feel something is missing in their life. Even though in many cases they might have grown up getting all sorts of toys and treats in lieu of a hug, a kind word, any love or forgivness, or perhaps even raised by parents who believed the earth, planets and stars revolved around their perfect child. Basically, most rude people are not very content, self-confident or happy people. Anger is becoming a problem because of family structures breaking down and too many parents no longer teaching self-restraint and self-control but instead the narcissistic, “To be truefully yourself you need to be expressive of what you feel”, so now a person’s rage just spews out, with their opinion alone the right way.

In reality anger is a built in mechanism of the “fight or flight” dynamic of a human being. Whenever we are in a life threatening situation anger affects the human body by suppressing the immune system, the heart rate climbs, breathing becomes rapid, muscles tense up and blood pressure rises, which is good if one’s survival is at risk, but is totally unnecessary dealing with our lives today.

The teams and players that make up politics and the corporate business world have been achieving very little success and in actual fact have been on a losing streak, with everything they try to better the situation so far is just guaranteeing much more of the same. They keep losing, and keep losing the lesson as well. Much like our societies, where too many have become reactive and driven by feelings, circumstances, conditions and their environment and focusing too much on the weaknesses of others, problems and conditions in which they have no control over. Allowing the negative energies of blame and victimization to control us and not allow anyone to accomplish anything also enables reactive people’s nature to absolve themselves of responsibility.

Proactive people on the other hand are driven by carefully thought about, internalized values and focus their efforts instead on things they can do something about. They possess many of the traits listed above, commitment, drive, emotional control, determination, conscientiousness and responsibility. They understand that being aware is being conscious of one’s behavior and that when the ego and the uninterrupted thoughts in our heads are in charge we are unconscious.

It is interesting that in all the great literature of all progressive societies, love is a verb, expressing action and existence; while reactive people define love as a feeling, as in a point of view, a perception and an idea.

So how does one become successful and/or get what they need? Understand that most everyone is secretly wondering what’s in it for them. Listen carefully. Allow intuition to arise from within, and then simply provide the very thing the other person needs. In life and in business, any change needs to be where kind and considerate people get farther than having selfish, greedy and cutthroat people get ahead. The people that are moving forward should be with clear eyed confidence that comes from knowing that being sincerely nice and polite and placing other people’s needs on the same level as our own will get you nearly anything you want.

It’s all about respecting oneself; indeed this is where integrity and compassion comes from. You can’t buy respect or success, they both have to be earned and you can’t go through life thinking happiness will happen all by itself because you have an attitude or a false sense of entitlement. Nearly all we purchase in our lives makes us happy for about a day. The stuff we can’t buy, through healthy relationships and supportive communities, is human experience.

Success, nearly every single time, goes to people who are proactive; people who have solutions to problems and are not problems themselves. They are most often people who grab the initiative to do whatever is necessary, consistent with proper and correct principles and values to get the job at hand done. We all possess these traits but in many of us they lie dormant and unused. They are immobilized because of constant pushing and shoving of someone else. Acting according to your own principles and values, instead of being acted upon by others creates a noble and balanced character.

The most important need today is to restore in ourselves, and instill in our young, the courage to take responsibility, to admit mistakes and look within to solve problems. If the problem is overwhelming then one must look beyond themselves to people in the community and then be willing to work with each other to find solutions. Just like any successful athlete, business person or citizen would do.


Cheap Shots and Staged Fighting in the game of Hockey.

Concussions in all levels of hockey have become newsworthy with everyone having an opinion on the subject. Many of these opinions are based on the fact that when hockey players, playing one of the world’s fastest sports, take hits to the head their brains get scrambled. Depending on how severe the hit to the head, there is no doubt damage is being done, whether one wears a helmet or not. Others have opinions based on how the game used to be played and that hits to head are part of the game, as is fighting. What the issue is now is head injuries caused by illegal checks and fighting, not the checking or the hitting, with the current dilemma being whether the professional game should evolve, as it has many times since its first days, or stay the same and simply make minor adjustments to the rules. The problem unfortunately is much more than that and goes farther than just the game. It is the antiquated mind-set of team owners, the NHL management, the players, the media and the fans. It is has much to do with our society, where a general lack of accountability and respect for ones fellow man seems waning.

Having passionately played, coached and followed the game for over forty years the current problems with concussions caused by head shots, whether by elbow, shoulder, stick or fist start with the game being played on the ice.

The most important concepts of hockey are time and space, which are truly the guts of hockey. The object of the game is for the offensive team to get into prime scoring space. To get a scoring opportunity the offensive team needs the time and space to do so, to create more time for the player with the puck and more space from opponents checking. The defensive team wants to limit the time and space the offensive team has, as well as trying to regain control of the puck. Support and positioning are also important concepts because one individual player, no matter the skill, does not win hockey games, teams do.

Dealing with time and space has everything to do with support, positioning and checking; for the intent of checking is to regain control of the puck through control of the opponent’s body and through the techniques of angling and positional play. Support means backing up a teammate who is engaged in a one-on-one battle along the boards or skating to an area of the ice so that the puck carrier has an easy pass. It also means driving to the net, giving your teammate with the puck the option of just throwing the puck towards the net and perhaps creating a rebound opportunity. The principle of support is one of the most important play concepts of the game and is the basis from which other concepts and team play systems come from. The purpose of checking is threefold; to regain possession of the puck, separate the puck from the puck carrier in a safe and legal manner and to delay or contain the opponent which enables a teammate to come in and support. Finishing ones check and taking your man sends a message to the other team that whenever they touch the puck they will have to waste precious microseconds looking around, feeling pressured to just get rid of the puck and that each play they attempt they will have to work for it.

To check properly a player must have good positional ability, agility, balance, strength and defensive awareness to stay between the puck and their own net. They also need anticipation, to read the movements of their opponents as play progresses and be aware of options available to an opponent who is in possession of the puck. Being very aware and in the moment and knowing the movements and position of the opponents and your own teammates is what the better players possess, it’s called vision. This all happens in a game that is one of the fastest on earth. Hockey is truly an intense, high speed game with success only happening when every player on the team is working together, with each player becoming stronger than they are individually.

How quick and intense is hockey? A shift lasts anywhere from 35 to 45 seconds. And if you get back to the bench spent and breathing hard after those seconds, you did your job while you were out there. Though the game is 60 minutes long, at the pro-level the team’s best defenseman will get about 30 minutes of ice time spread out over 25-30 shifts. A top three forward will play about 22 shifts for a total ice time of about 19- 20 minutes, with many fourth line players receiving about eight to ten minutes over about 11 shifts. Lots of stuff happens on that sheet of ice during those precious seconds. The sheer speed of the game forces the player to read and react, in most cases by instinct alone, which unfortunately applies grey areas to the part of the brain which makes decisions.

Cheap shots, especially to the head, slashes to the arm or stick to the groin and other vicious disrespectful acts were for decades enforced by the players themselves. Up to the time the Instigator rule was implemented in the NHL, if a player intentionally threw an elbow into an opponent’s head and knocked him flat, with a concussion or not, that player knew he would be held accountable, because before his victim even hit the ice, one of his teammates would be right in their face, many times throwing punches upon arrival. Any player who tries to hold an opponent accountable for any unnecessary and disrespectful actions by attempting to fight them now receives an instigator penalty; a 2 min. Minor penalty, 5 minute Fighting Major and a 10 min. Misconduct. While up to until the current 2011-2012 season, the player who threw the shoulder or elbow to the other players head in the first place would receive a 2 minute elbowing minor, with any other additional penalties called being up to the discretion of the referee. If there was a suspension at all from the NHL for any intentional hits to the head it was for, on average, two or three games, thus rarely and truly would the offending player be held accountable. While the player hit in the head could very well miss months and in some cases never play again, thrown into a life of a near-like living death, with headaches, memory loss, dementia and brain damage. The NHL has tweaked the rules this season where any hits to the head; a flagrant lack of respect for another player, a player is now given a 5 min. Major penalty and an automatic Game Misconduct and once again if the referee decides it was a deliberate intent to injure, a match penalty can then be called. So far this season, any suspensions handed out by the NHL for intentional hits to the head have been for 5-6 games. How about the idea of making any hit to the head a deliberate attempt to injure, with the onus on the player doing the hitting to prove by his actions, the video evidence, and the eyes of the referee to prove if a suspension is warranted. If a hit to the head is proven intentional suspend the player for 40 games or more. Make it so he is accountable for his actions and see how this awareness and responsibility of what you are doing with your body on the ice, as well as your stick, does for the incidents of deliberate hits to the head.

Two basic situations develop where fists are thrown in a hockey game. With the speed of the game, the passion and the intenseness of its play, the blood is pumping and is why many times, pushing and shoving matches after a whistle, most times in front of one of the net, will sometimes escalate and punches are thrown. The other situation is when two players, both usually the designated fighters on their respective teams, who might play 6-7 minutes of the game, come out onto the ice or on a faceoff and agree to fight. The play stops while these two guys act out a set routine of removing their helmets and/or elbow pads and going at it. The referees wait until the fists aren’t flying anymore and go in and break it up. Both players sent to either bench or dressing room and two fighting majors given, with play resumed after a faceoff, with neither team playing shorthanded, both still just trying to score a goal. Some call this amusing entertainment. During the 2010-2011 NHL season 7% of concussions were caused by a fist to the head, 44% caused by legal hits to the head or body,  26% by accident and 17% from illegal hits to the head or illegal bodychecks. Everyone on the planet knows what happens to a person’s brain after receiving too many shots to the head, in most cases even after only one hit to the head. Talk to an aged boxer. A great idea considered by many, is for the NHL to drop their current playing rosters from 18 skaters to 17, which would seriously force the coaches and management to consider who would they rather have playing that game, a designated fighter or a skater who might actually score a goal.

Treating all hits to the head as intentional attempts to injure and getting rid of designated fighters in the NHL are only a few steps that still need to be taken. But that’s okay because the game of hockey has evolved many times since its inception and is still very much one of the truly great team sports. Personally I love the game, but also realize that hockey at the NHL level is more entertainment than sport. We want our favourite players to be superhero versions of ourselves. Players who are not playing for just the unbelievable money but are playing for their love of the game, which many are in fact, and that no matter the pain, sacrifice and discipline that is needed, they do whatever it takes to win. As a business the NHL competes against many other businesses, such as other sports, entertainment, news and politics so it needs to get our attention, our interest and of course our dollars.

Much of the game of hockey is about passion. It’s a great game to watch and talk about, a pleasure to play. A game which brings everything from inspiration to excitement into the lives of hockey fans worldwide. The game is evolving, but any reforms to the rules pertaining to hits to the head, will not change the other 99% of the game. The players have got to start thinking and respecting each other. They’ve got to be held accountable and know they will be held accountable for their actions on the ice, as much or if not more than they are held accountable in other areas of their lives. All one has to do is watch a World Cup rugby match and watch those warrior-athletes go hard at it with no protection and then after the game they hug and shake hands. Hockey players and coaches will find ways to adapt because the game becomes their lives, and they will think long, hard and often about how to gain a competitive edge to be successful on that sheet of ice come game time. Because the bottom line is that hockey is simply a form of playing.

Play is what teaches us how to get along, about trust and bonding with others. It teaches us how to behave appropriately in society; it is the activity we engage with others and is most often a shared moment rather than a solitary pleasure. Play teaches collective trust – the feeling that each player can let down their defences of their egos and at least for a moment be a part of a team, so they can experience the fun and joy and pride that comes with success as a team.  Play also teaches us about compromise, how to share, how to interact with others and how to play fair. Through the experience of play we learn to participate equally and openly with our fellow humans. We learn to appreciate and take delight in one another’s efforts. We learn about respect. Play is where we learn to become better people. How we play dictates what type of person we are.




Further reading:  An Essay by Ken Dryden, the Globe and Mail newspaper, Saturday, October 1, 2011, Section F, Pgs 1, 6-7.