Opinion

Hodge: Challenges ahead for new Canuck coach

Much like the current weather, this week’s column is another typical HodgePodge with a bit of everything.

In our always interesting world of sports, particularly hockey (B.C.’s second favourite and most boggling sport next to provincial government elections), the Vancouver Canucks have taken yet another step sideways.

This week the enigmatic NHL franchise finally named a new replacement coach to fill in the punching bag position left open by the firing of John Tortorella.

Seems the wise (or at least wealthy) owners of the Canucks figure that Willie Desjardins can get the job done. Who?

While Willie Desjardins is hardly an NHL household name, Willie along with a Gazillion and a half hockey fans hope he can change that soon.

Desjardins holds a relatively impressive record in the hockey having coached at most levels including junior, international, university, and the American Hockey League.

This season he led the Texas Stars of the American League to the championship Calder Trophy.

It will be interesting to see how his calmer, gentler style of dealing with spoiled, elite athletes does versus the bombastic and ineffective style of Torts.

While he may not have a challenging time boasting a better win/loss record on the ice, certainly he will have a tougher time ticking off media and players unless he suddenly learns to punch walls, chase other coaches down the hallways of the arena, and insult fans and players alike. Ah, so much to learn in a new job.

Oh well, at least new Canucks GM Jim Benning can now concentrate on trying to find a few good hockey players, trade away malcontent Ryan Kessler and prepare for another mediocre draft.

Up until the announcement of Desjardins’ hiring, the guess was that Vancouver was going to beg the New York Rangers to enter a time warp machine where we could reverse the past year, give the Rangers back Torts and keep former Canuck bench boss Alain Vigneault.

Since Coach V took the Rangers all the way to the Stanley Cup final this spring, the Canucks management now understand that he was not the problem in Lotus Land.

***

Clearly Canadians have fully embraced soccer or ‘football’ as their favourite sport for the moment now that the hockey season is over.

Like much of the world, it seems many Canadians are currently absorbed by the World Cup activity going on in Brazil.

I admit to never being a huge soccer player or fan, though I have tremendous respect for the game and the athleticism needed to play the game.

I remember as the first sports reporter for the Capital News back in the mid-1970s when editor Patrick Denton insisted I start covering local soccer matches.

When I confessed I knew little about the game, he replied; “Well don’t stand around my office telling me that. Go find out about it.”

I took that bit of advice to heart and immediately sought some sort of soccer sage.

That was when I was pointed to local soccer guru Mike Condon.

When I met Mike, my first question was for him to quickly explain the idea behind the game.

He grinned and said, “The best definition of soccer is this—if it moves kick it, if it does not move kick it until it moves, then kick it.”

Mike eventually became the sports editor of the Capital News years later.

***

In the music world, this year’s Parks Alive program looks promising so go online and check out the plethora of fun music lined up. I do know that on July 9 the always popular Cowboy Bob will be playing on the Island Stage at 8 p.m.

Happy Birthday wishes to the Bob’s lead singer Curtis Tulman who turned 59 this week. Belated birthday wishes also go out to Canadian troubadour Keith ‘Papa’ Thom who turned (yikes) 60 last month.

***

In the things I am not looking forward to seeing, city council gave fourth reading this week to the controversial high-rise proposal for the waterfront of downtown.

Alberta based Westcorp Developments will build a 24-storey hotel and conference centre at the foot of Queensway Avenue on the old Willow Inn site. Council gave unanimous support to the project during final reading Tuesday night.

In announcing the approved project, Mayor Walter Gray heaped praise on Calgary developer Phil Milroy saying Milroy had been “misunderstood” and “not treated well in the past” (by the previous council) and deserved a lot of credit for sticking with his plan.

Hmmm…I am not sure if “misunderstood” is the term I would use.

I fully understood what Milroy and crew wanted to do and along with four other city councillors also heard that the public had no interest in Milroy’s “supported” CD21 plan that the former council (including moi) defeated.

The public had elected me and others in that election to make sure the bottom block of Bernard Avenue was not turned into a wall of skyscrapers.

With the allowed height of 19 storeys ignored in favour of Milroy’s requested 24 storeys, I guess we misunderstood that “allowable maximum height” detail as well. The mayor predicts the new development will “set the bar for future development.” Wow, I can hardly wait.

 

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