Category Archives: Sports

The National Hockey (Association) League: When public history misinterprets history

There is a plaque in Le Windsor, an office building in downtown Montreal that used to be the grand Windsor Hotel.

Unveiled in 2017 by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada in conjunction with the National Hockey League, the plaque commemorates the founding of the league during a meeting at the hotel 100 years earlier.

“Founded here in November 1917, the NHL holds a special place in Canadians’ hearts,” begins the English wording on the plaque. It goes on to define the NHL as “the world’s predominant hockey league, growing through radio and television broadcasts and captivating generations of fans with the speed and skill of the game.”

The National Hockey League’s historical plaque in the former Windsor Hotel in Montreal.

Every word on the historical plaque is true. For me, though, the plaque is noteworthy for what it does not say – for what has been deliberately left out of this prominent expression of public history.

Continue reading

All I need is a name: How cemeteries can aid in public history research

Since I used last week’s blog post to illustrate on a very personal level why cemeteries have limitations as historical sources, I feel it is only fair to discuss here how cemeteries can also be invaluable research tools.

For some time now, I have had an idea for a public history project in my hometown. I have been curious about heritage and commemoration, specifically parks and buildings that are named after people. The best example in Owen Sound is the Harry Lumley Bayshore Community Centre, which is named in honour of Hockey Hall of Fame goaltender Harry Lumley. There is ample signage at the community centre that tells us who Harry Lumley was. But in many other instances in town, the name of the person who has been remembered is often all we know about that person. Little or nothing shows or tells us why the person was honoured.

Softball action at Duncan McLellan Park. Photo by the City of Owen Sound.
Continue reading

Not really real: The trouble with popular history

I’ve been into music and sports for longer than I can remember. I used to dream about playing hockey for the Toronto Maple Leafs, but when that dream didn’t come true, I fantasized instead about being a rock and roll star. I learned how to skate and shoot a puck, and how to play the guitar and sing, but fame and fortune eluded me at every turn.

That didn’t put an end to my passions – it just redirected them. I became very proficient in sports and music trivia, which I recognize now as the start of my interest in history as a discipline. I absorbed facts about music and sports as fast as I could read them, along with the stories associated with those facts. But something has become clear to me as I have turned from journalism to professional history – a lot of the stuff that I read and thought I knew was not necessarily true.

Popular history has been populated by legends and myths that have been passed down through the generations, and rarely if ever being questioned. These may have been stories that were reported accurately at first, only to become exaggerated over time. Or maybe they were sensationalized from the very beginning. Either way, they were accepted as fact. And when that happens, they become extremely difficult to dislodge from the public consciousness.

Continue reading

Here’s an opportunity – how badly do you want it?

How does a hockey play reflect something that invariably happens in our personal and professional lives?

I write about varsity sports at the University of Guelph. For the past week-and-a-half, I’ve been thinking about something that I saw during a hockey game at the Gryphon Centre.

It was November 25, and I was covering the Guelph Gryphons as they played the visiting Nipissing Lakers. Midway through the second period, with the Gryphons already leading 1-0, Guelph forward Tryg Strand took a pass from teammate Marc Stevens just inside the Nipissing zone. Here’s a video of what happened next:

Continue reading

Slim fast: Chet Couture drops 90-plus pounds in as many days

Logan Couture can’t wait to return from his broken ankle and get back on the ice.

And not just for obvious reasons. The San Jose Sharks centre is looking forward to welcoming his father back to the team’s dressing room and showing him off.

Chet Couture has undergone a remarkable transformation, shedding almost a third of his body weight in a “Biggest Loser” challenge at a gym in the family’s hometown of London, Ontario.

The elder Couture saw his weight plummet from 301 pounds to 208 – a 93-pound loss, which he accomplished in only three months this past summer.

Continue reading

Once a teacher: Scott Russell is still delivering important lessons

Screen Shot 2014-11-22 at 1.47.49 PM

Scott Russell

Scott Russell wanted to be a school teacher. And he achieved that dream.

But when he got there, he realized it wasn’t exactly the kind of teaching he wanted to do.

So in the spring of 1984, he quit his job at West Hill Secondary School in Owen Sound, Ontario, and returned to the University of Western Ontario in London to study journalism.

A year later, he emerged with a master’s degree and also began a relationship with CBC that continues to this day, having become one of Canada’s most visible – and tireless – sports broadcasters.

How tireless is Russell? This year alone, he journeyed to Sochi for the Winter Olympics, then hosted CBC’s coverage of the FIFA World Cup in Brazil, then went back to Europe for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland.

It’s a workload that made him an obvious choice as the year’s outstanding broadcaster, as chosen by Sports Media Canada. He was presented with his award at a banquet on Wednesday in Toronto.

Continue reading

Creating heroes: Own The Podium CEO Merklinger honoured for her efforts

SMC Journal

Originally published in Sports Media Canada Journal, November 2014.

Anne Merklinger says she is in the business of helping to create heroes.

The chief executive officer of Own The Podium didn’t imagine that, along the way, someone might consider her to also be a hero.

“To receive this kind of recognition is very humbling,” says Merklinger, the Executive of the Year as chosen by Sports Media Canada.

“I’m very fortunate to be working in a wonderful organization with a great team,” she says. “I love what I do.”

Continue reading

Snow Canada! Family creates Olympic billboard on winter wall

Screen Shot 2014-03-29 at 2.46.21 PM

The Canadian Olympic team has inspired a hot – or is it cool? – new tourist attraction in the Ontario snowbelt.

A family living near Paisley, in rural Bruce County, created an impromptu “Go Canada!” billboard across the road from their farm.

Their canvas? An 11-foot-high wall of snow.

“It’s Canada and we have snow – lots of it,” Sarah Slater said. “And we’re living with this snowbank. If we can actually paint on it, let’s paint on it.”

Continue reading

Sochi hopeful Logan Couture finds motivation in rejection

Screen Shot 2014-03-29 at 2.47.25 PM

Logan Couture took note on Monday when Hockey Canada announced its tryout camp roster for the upcoming world junior championship.

The San Jose Sharks centre paid special attention to the names of the players who were not invited to the camp.

He knows how those players are feeling. He knows it’s a tough pill to swallow, to be told you’re not good enough when your heart and your brain are telling you otherwise.

“To this day, I sit back and think about the world junior teams I was left off, how I didn’t even get an invite to any of their camps,” Couture said on Tuesday, prior to the Sharks’ 4-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre.

Continue reading

Team Canada cuts Tessa Bonhomme, ‘Face of Women’s Hockey’

Screen Shot 2014-03-29 at 2.46.54 PM

Only a year ago, Tessa Bonhomme was the subject of a cover story in The Hockey News, which called her “The Face of Women’s Hockey.”

That face is yesterday’s news as far as Hockey Canada is concerned.

The axe unexpectedly fell on Bonhomme on Tuesday as the veteran defenceman was one of three players cut from the national women’s team. The others were fellow blueliner Brigette Lacquette and forward Jenelle Kohanchuk.

It was unexpected in that, while cuts were looming as Team Canada decides on its roster for the Sochi Olympics, the 28-year-old Bonhomme certainly did not suspect she would be one of the players cast aside.

Then again, a move like this probably should have been expected. Surprise roster moves in advance of big tournaments are commonplace for Hockey Canada and its national women’s program.

Continue reading