The PJHL regular season in the Orr Division is now complete, and the playoffs are set to begin this week.
As avid readers of this column might remember, last year I tried my hand at predicting the outcome of the two first round Orr Division playoff matches. Both of those predictions ended up being correct, so I thought I’d do something similar again this year.
Now, the reason I say similar is because the playoffs are a little different this time around. Last year, two teams received byes to the second round and there were two first round best of seven series. But, this time around, the top five teams have advanced to the playoffs, with the 4th and 5th placed teams, Clarington Eagles and the Port Perry MoJacks, playing a best of three series to decide who will face the first place team, Uxbridge Bruins, in the division semi finals. The other division semi final matchup is already set, between the second place North Kawartha Knights and the third place Lakefield Chiefs. I will make predictions for both of those series.
Since it is the first series to occur, let me start my predictions with the Port Perry-Clarington series. Just like last year, I am choosing the MoJacks to advance. Yes, I am the reporter that has been covering Port Perry’s team specifically, but I do have evidence to back up my prediction.
For one thing, if this series goes to the full three games, it will be played mainly on the road for Port Perry (two games in Clarington, one in Port Perry) and the MoJacks record is slightly better on the road than it is at home. They have nine wins on the road, as opposed to seven wins on home ice.
As well, the MoJacks are also the higher scoring of the two teams. Port Perry finished the season with 160 goals scored while Clarington was second lowest in the division in that category with 141 goals for.
Now on to the semi final matchup that’s already set. I think this will be a hard fought series going the distance, and I’m picking the North Kawartha Knights to win it.
North Kawartha has had a fantastic season, and have improved immensely from where they were last year.
Last season, North Kawartha finished with 18 wins and 39 points for fifth place in the division. However, this season they finished with 30 wins and 64 points for second place in the division. In comparison, the Chiefs have regressed a bit from their 2017-18 Schmalz cup winning season, going from 34 wins and 72 points for first place to 30 wins and 64 points for third place.
The Knights will also be motivated to avenge a loss to these Chiefs, a series sweep, in the second round of last season’s playoffs.
In addition, North Kawartha was the second highest scoring team in the division, finishing the season with 202 goals scored, while Lakefield was third with 184 goals scored.
NHL fans received a bit of a surprise at the league’s all star skills competition this past weekend, as Kendall Coyne Schofield became the first woman to compete in that event.
For those who didn’t have a chance to watch the skills competition, or haven’t read any sports media of late. Ms. Schofield took part in the fastest skater competition, in place of Colorado Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon. It was a neat thing to see, and got me thinking about how this was a perfect opportunity to both showcase one of the more talented female hockey players and to put the spotlight on women’s hockey as a whole.
As much as it was great to see a female hockey player make history, and be put in the spotlight at an NHL event, I think there needs to be more done to grow the game of women’s hockey. The best way to start, in my mind, would be to merge the two women’s leagues, the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) and the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL). This would bring the most talented women’s hockey players together to compete in one league, similar to how the NHL operates as a North American league. But, most of all, this would allow the NHL to throw their support behind the one league. As it stands now, the NHL can’t really support either, as they don’t want to show favouritism toward one league or the other. With the support of one of North America’s most influential and successful sports leagues behind them, the merged league could potentially benefit from a better marketed game and could create a new business model that could make them one of the most successful female sports leagues.
I think the NHL should continue to allow women to take part in the all star weekend every year moving forward, as a way to showcase how many talented female hockey players there are in Canada and the United States.
Now, on the topic of women in sports, I think it is inevitable in the near future there will be women involved, at the NHL level, as coaches and general managers. Leafs General Manager Kyle Dubas made headlines, in August, when the team announced they had hired Hayley Wickenheiser, one of the most successful players in the history of women’s hockey, as their assistant director of player development. This is a good start.
It is also worth noting the Leafs employ Barb Underhill as a skating development consultant. In a different sports league, the NBA, there are already female assistant coaches employed. I think with viewpoints changing in pro sports, soon you will see women holding some of the coveted coaching and front office jobs on NHL teams.
I think it was great to see Kendall Coyne Schofield get her shot to showcase one of her skills in front of an NHL crowd, and I am optimistic about the future of women in hockey.
With the NHL’s annual all star game coming up later this month, I just wanted to give some of my thoughts on it.
First off, let me talk about the snubbing of Leaf players Mitch Marner and Morgan Rielly. For those who don’t know, Auston Matthews and John Tavares have been named all stars this year, while Marner and Rielly are deserving players left off the all star rosters. As of press time, Marner leads the Leafs with 58 points. He has 41 assists and is third on the team in goals at 17. Defenceman Morgan Rielly is third on the team in points with 46, and is the second highest scoring defender in the league.
While these two are deserving, I think this actually might be the best thing for them. Instead of having to compete in this annual event, they can rest up and get prepared for the last portion of the regular season and the playoffs. I don’t think I need to remind Leaf fans that Toronto has been ousted in the first round of the playoffs the last couple seasons, so more rest this far into the season may be beneficial to two of the Leafs’ top contributors. Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals was voted into the all star game, but has decided to pull out for that exact reason, to get ready for the tougher stretch of games.
But, Leafs nation, isn’t it great the Leafs are so good now that there is controversy over a couple of their better players not going to an all star game? I think it really speaks to the depth the Leafs have built.
Now, about the All Star game itself, I know fans have been conflicted about it's format over the years. Some have liked it and found it fun to see these superstars taking part in this, while others have found it to be a bit boring.
Personally, I agree with the latter, so I am going to propose an idea to make this special event fun again. I think, for future all star games, the league should do what they used to do back in the early days of this event and have current Stanley Cup champions face a team of NHL all stars from around the league.
Yes, this was done before, but you can’t beat the classics. I think it would be interesting to see the defending cup champions, looking to hold onto the dignity that comes with it, playing against a team of the league’s true elite. I would be interested to see who would be victorious.
It could solve the NHL's problem of making the all star game competitive and appealing again to both fans and players.
Another new year, 2019, is upon us. Road safety has been a concern of residents across North Durham and the Kawartha Lakes for years, so for this year’s opening column I will write about the driving acts I hope to see less of this year.
Let me start with tailgating. I’m sure every driver has faced this at least once in their life. They are driving, following the speed limit, and they look in the mirror to see a vehicle very close to the back of their vehicle. This act is dangerous as it doesn’t allow the driver behind very much reaction time if the driver in front needs to put on the brakes. In my opinion at least, this act does not achieve the other driver’s goal of making me want to drive faster. My message to drivers in this case is be courteous and allow sufficient space between your vehicle and someone else’s.
Now, let’s move to a passing mistake. Another annoying driving act is the people that pass a car without looking at what is coming in the other lane. I probably don’t need to tell you what makes this dangerous, but just in case, this can create an accident as it could either cause the two cars to collide or the car in the opposite lane to veer off the road. To those who are in too much of a hurry to care about the safety of themselves or other drivers, I say, “is it really worth risking your’s or someone else’s life to pass a vehicle you see as driving slow?” At the very least, be patient, look and pass when it is safe to do so.
Of course, probably one of the most dangerous things you can do is drive while you are impaired. I will echo something I said in a column a year ago, it still baffles me that people think it is okay to drink alcohol and drive, especially with the vast array of information out there about how alcohol impairs people’s motor skills, and the fatal accidents drinking and driving has caused over the years. And to those wondering it has still been happening in Durham as the Durham Police’s weekly Festive Ride results have shown numerous Drinking and Driving charges laid. If you drink alcohol at a party, please have a friend drive you home or take a taxi home.
People, let’s all make an effort to make the roads safer in 2019.
After reading a report, on the Scugog December 10th council agenda, about the Scugog budget survey results, it is pretty apparent to me that a lot of residents want an indoor pool built in the Township.
However, I think an indoor pool should not be a top priority for this new council, just yet.
For starters, this new council will soon be working on their first budget of the term, and have some priorities that should be higher on the list. Addressing roads should take up a large chunk of that budget.
Again, looking at the survey results, one thing that did come up a lot in the results was the concern about the current declining road conditions across the Township. This is nothing new, as there was plenty of talk among council members and residents the last few years about the Township’s roads and infrastructure deficit. This is something that should be largely addressed in the budget, and should be a much higher priority than a new pool.
Speaking of roads, maybe the township should move forward with the process to create a second access road to Scugog Island. This second access idea was brought up on the election campaign several times, and has been talked about and debated for over 10 years at least. The last couple accidents reported last month on Island Rd., that closed the road for a period time for the police investigation, should show why this second access project needs to move forward.
As, new Mayor, Bobbie Drew mentioned in her address at the inaugural meeting, the new council also wants to move forward with a plan for the waterfront lands. And, as was identified last term, there is a need to move forward with a plan for a new arena in Blackstock.
An indoor pool project would also likely come at a significant cost to the Township, and thus, if council moves forward immediately, it would add to a larger tax increase than the new council likely wants to start their term with.
It was also recommended, in March in a Township staff report, that an indoor pool be seen in the Township’s Parks, Recreation and Culture Master Plan as a “longer-term development plan”, which makes sense, as it gives council time to think about things, like how they want to fund the project.
In the interim, there are still indoor pools in Uxbridge and Oshawa, which residents can go to.
I’m not saying I think the Township should not move forward in the future with an indoor pool, but instead, I am saying that for the time being, this council should treat the idea of an indoor pool as a ‘nice to have’ rather than a ‘need to have’.
The Caped Cearnsader's Everyday Heroes...A day in the life of Scugog Bylaw Officer Denise Stephenson
DAN CEARNS The Standard
SCUGOG: Ever since her high school days, Denise Stephenson has wanted to be involved in law enforcement. So, she is happy she is currently employed as a Township of Scugog Municipal Law Enforcement Officer.
“I love it. I get to meet all kinds of people. 99 per cent of the time, the experiences are fantastic,” she told The Standard. “Contrary to what people think, enforcement is about helping people. While the law is black and white, the grey comes in how you work to help people, how you get people to the point you need them to be in.”
She also spoke about what it takes to be a bylaw officer.
“In order to do this type of job, you have to like people, which sounds a little counter-intuitive, because a lot of times when we are going out to see people, similar to the police, is when they need you. We are out in the community, trying to help people with issues and trying to educate people on what they can and can’t do,” she said. “The first step would be college, Durham [College] has a great police foundations course, and a lot of the colleges do across Ontario, and that’s a great start. And then just being ready to take whatever you can get, you need to get your foot in the door. Most people start in bylaw enforcement, by working in larger communities in parking enforcement. Here in Scugog, the department are generalists, we enforce all bylaws, but in larger communities like Toronto they are specialists.”
She also said there are courses aspiring bylaw officers need to take from the Municipal Law Enforcement Association and the Ontario Association of Property Standards Officers.
She also noted that it helps to stay in relatively good shape.
“There’s absolutely a physical component to it. You are out there, and you are walking in 40 degree weather in your vest and all your gear, and you could have to be picking things up, cleaning up an area, slogging through snow. You definitely need to be in shape to do the job.”
Every day is different for a municipal law enforcement officer.
“One thing that I like about bylaw is there is no such thing as typical. Every day changes. We’ll come in for the day, check voicemail, check email. Most of our complaints come in through email. We’ll make a listing of anything new that’s come in, do any necessary administrative work behind the scenes, before we attend a property, and then we’ll make our list of inspections,” Ms. Stephenson explained. “The day can be anything from new inspections for new concerns that come in, [and/or] following up on old inspections to see where a particular property is at correcting a situation and getting a property back into compliance. Then [she comes] back [to the Township office] to do updates and notes, and while we are here we also respond to any walk in questions and concerns.”
She added “being respectful and understanding of people’s situations” will help people have success at the job.
“There’s the odd time you will get someone yelling a not so nice comment, but probably for every one of those, there’s two or three people going ‘thank you for doing this’.”
Ms. Stephenson thinks the toughest part of her job is having to work in all types of environments.
“It gets really tough when you have to be out in -20 or -30 [degree weather] writing parking tickets, or doing a patrol in the middle of the summer wearing full gear and a heavy vest when it’s 30, 35 degrees out, that to me is the toughest part of the job.”
She also sees education as the most important part of her job.
“[Bylaws are] really not simple to the average person, who is not looking at the legal side of it every day,” Ms. Stephenson explained. “Always, the first step is education. Helping people to understand what the regulations are, and why they are in place, and then working with them to find a solution, and creating a timeframe to have it rectified.”
She stressed the importance of Scugog’s winter parking restrictions, that are now in place, which don’t allow drivers to park on Scugog roads and on the shoulder between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m.
“That doesn’t seem like a big thing to a lot of people, but when snow removal is required, and no one can get down a street because the plows couldn’t get around the cars, that’s important,” Ms. Stephenson said. “A lot of what we hear is ‘but it’s not snowing.’ My answer is, by the time it’s snowing, it’s too late. The vehicles need to be gone, need to be off the road so that when it snows, the plows can safely maneuver and clean. It’s really a safety issue.”
The Standard was given an opportunity to experience a parking enforcement sweep with Ms. Stephenson. While there wasn’t any non-compliant vehicles found during that time, she said it depends on the time of day how many vehicles they find parked illegally.
“The school areas are a difficult zone, more so at the beginning of the day and the end of the day, pickup and drop off [times],” she said. “After school there is a lot [of violations] around some of the schools. We spend a lot of time just trying to get traffic to move on.”
She also said some people don’t exactly understand the definition of parking.
“What people don’t understand is parking doesn’t mean pulling up, turning off and getting out of your vehicle. Just the act of pulling up, stopping and sitting there constitutes as parking, even if you are in the vehicle and the vehicle is running.”
From just browsing Toronto Maple Leafs related tweets on Twitter the last few weeks, and from personally hearing some fans talk, it seems Toronto’s backup goalie Garret Sparks has faced a lot of unwarranted criticism from fans of the team that wears blue and white.
It seems the decision to make Sparks the backup goaltender and to put Curtis McElhinney and Calvin Pickard on waivers was an unpopular one in Leafs' nation, but I think Leafs fans are missing the bigger picture here, and are deciding to ignore the sound logic this decision was based on in favour of nostalgia.
Personally, I think Sparks is simply facing this criticism because he is not Curtis McElhinney, a goalie who was so popular with the team and with fans the last two seasons, and that’s unfair.
McElhinney’s positive attitude endeared him to Leafs fans. He also had a decent record as the team’s backup, which helped, as he won six out of the 14 games he played, in his first season with the Leafs, and followed that up with an 11-5-1 record with the team the following season. But, as I noted in my annual predictions column, Sparks is 10 years younger than McElhinney.
The Leafs had to make a decision, and were faced with the possibility of losing at least one goalie on waivers no matter what, so they had to go with the younger asset to protect. For those who are unaware, the Leafs lost both Pickard and McElhinney on waivers to the Flyers and Hurricanes.
Unfortunately, because McElhinney was claimed and Sparks won the job, a lot of ire was directed at Sparks unfairly.
Sparks had a great season in the AHL last year, eventually leading the Marlies to a Calder Cup victory. He posted a 1.79 goals-against average and .936 save percentage, and had six shutouts in 43 regular season games. Ok, so some people will point out the AHL is a whole different league than the NHL. Ok, so let’s let his stats this year do the talking. He has won four of the first five games he has played as the Leafs’ backup, and has a .924 save percentage. Not to mention, he is coming off a shutout performance against the Philadelphia Flyers.
The AHL is a league specifically for development, getting players ready to play in the NHL. Leafs fans, who I might add were embracing the rebuild that brought the team Mitch Marner, Auston Matthews and William Nylander among others, should have known someday Toronto would promote their young goalie, and that day just happened to take place this season.
Let’s also look at his inexperience through a positive lens, as he played in the NHL only previously in the 2015/2016 season. If he has won four of five with a record like that, as a goalie still learning the ropes in the NHL, his numbers should improve as he gets more experience, and his best is still yet to come. If you give Sparks a chance, as he works to get better every game, he could very well impress you.
Leaf fans, I think we should be embracing Sparks as our present and future backup goaltender.
Like many people, I like to listen to music whenever I get a chance to.
As a reporter who often travels to certain places in North Durham and the Kawartha Lakes for photo opportunities and interviews, I like to either listen to the radio, or CDs I brought with me, while I drive to my destination. I also often play music to motivate me while doing chores at my home, and I listen to music while I relax as well. I’ve found that the right song has a way of setting the tone for a particular moment, and it is fascinating to listen to the vast array of interesting lyrics. So, in today’s column, I’d like to share some of my favourite song lyric quotes, and why I like those specific quotes.
The first one is from a Kelly Clarkson song titled ‘I Had a Dream.’
The quote is “I had a dream that we were more a generation to behold. Lighting fires with our words, instead of useless smoke that blurs the lines of right and wrong.”
First off, let me just say, I like to listen to this song at times to motivate me. These lyrics specifically remind me how a person or people can create a legacy for themselves by standing up for what they feel is right, and how their words and the actions they take will end up defining how people remember them after they die.
I’ve written in the past about how I hope to leave a legacy, that will last, of both informing the public and possibly making a change in people’s lives through my news stories and columns, so these song lyrics fit well with that interest.
Similar to a song about a generation of people coming together is a Nickelback song about people as human beings coming together. The song is titled ‘If Everyone Cared’, and the lyrics I like are once again in the chorus of the song.
The quote is “If everyone cared and nobody cried, if everyone loved and nobody lied, if everyone shared and swallowed their pride, then we'd see the day when nobody died.”
While I think it is a bit of a naïve thought knowing history, these lyrics do remind me that if people decided to not focus on hatred of other people and instead about caring about the well being of everyone, the world would be a much better place, without things like greed inspired decisions and murder.
While I know this utopian society thought will likely never happen worldwide, I do take solace in knowing there are a lot of caring people locally in the communities I cover and in Canada as a whole.
Now, with Stompin’ Tom Connors’ ‘The Hockey Song’ having recently been inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame, and since I am a longtime hockey fan, I would be remiss if I didn’t include a quote from this legendary song in this list.
Probably my favourite quote from this song is “Where players dash, with skates aflash, the home team trails behind. But they grab the puck, and go bursting up, and they're down across the line. They storm the crease, like bumble bees, they travel like a burning flame. We see them slide, the puck inside, it's a 1-1 hockey game.”
I like these lines simply because there’s lots of imagery in them, that perfectly encapsulates what the battle to tie a competitive hockey game can be like.
I could list several more, but with the constraints of this column, I will conclude this list with a quote from a song titled ‘The Champion’ by Carrie Underwood.
The quote is “I am invincible, unbreakable, unstoppable, unshakeable. They knock me down, I get up again. I am the champion.”
These lyrics remind me of what it takes for a person to be the best at whatever they are doing, which is the right confident attitude, perseverance and hard work.
Hope you enjoyed reading this list and/or found any of these song quotes inspiring or thought provoking.
Well fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs, it has been a fun start to the season, with the team having won eight of their first 11 games.
There are two Leafs players who I’m happy have finally been given the opportunities they deserve this season. They are Kasperi Kapanen and Frederik Gauthier.
Let’s start with Kapanen. He has thrived on one of the top offensive units, Auston Matthews’ usual unit, as he already has six goals and 10 points. As most Leafs fans likely already know, Kapanen is in the spot usually occupied, in the past, by William Nylander, because Nylander has not yet, as of press time, signed a new contract with the Leafs.
Before this season, Kapanen was mostly used on the fourth line, playing along side guys with less skill and more grit, such as Matt Martin. While he excelled in the defensive aspects on that line, there is no denying he has the tools of a scorer. Kapanen has great foot speed, and can create goal scoring opportunities where there don’t appear to be any. A great example of this was in Game 7 of last year’s first round playoff series between the Leafs and Boston Bruins where he rushed onto a misplayed puck, got past the Bruins’ defender, and deked out the Bruins goaltender to score a goal, giving the Leafs a 4-3 lead.
As he was one of the more exciting players to come out of the trade that sent Phil Kessel to Pittsburgh, it’s great to see him finally put in a position to use his offensive skills.
I’m also happy to see Frederik Gauthier as a mainstay on the team’s fourth line.
Gauthier was drafted by the Leafs in the first round of the 2013 NHL draft. Of, course as any first round pick will know, there are tremendous expectations put on a player chosen that high, and Gauthier has struggled the last few years to make himself a permanent member of an NHL team. Coming into this season, the highest number of games he had played in the NHL in a single season was 21 in the 2016/2017 season.
Despite the idea he will likely never live up to the expectation of being a high calibre player, as he only has recorded five points in the 45 games he’s played in the NHL, he does have the tools to be a fourth line centre. He has the size, he’s listed as six foot five inches tall and around 235 pounds. Gauthier is also Plus 2 in the plus/minus stat, meaning he’s been on the ice for more goals for than goals against. He’s also only 23 years-old, so he still has a lot of hockey left in him.
Hopefully when, or if, Nylander returns this season, head coach Mike Babcock will find a way to keep Kapanen in an offensive role. As well, hopefully Gauthier will be able to stick as a regular in the lineup for the rest of the season.
Here we go again. The Quebec provincial government is looking to ban certain provincial employees from wearing religious symbols.
As has been widely reported, François Legault, the recently elected Premier of Quebec, plans to use the notwithstanding clause, if it is necessary, to push through a ban on employees such as police officers, teachers and judges, from wearing religious symbols like the hijab, crosses, and kippahs while on the job.
If this kind of thing sounds familiar to you, it is because it was part of the controversial Charter of Quebec Values proposed by the Parti Québécois in 2013. However, that charter was unpopular in the province at the time and never passed. The party also lost the 2014 election, with some sources speculating this charter led to the downfall of that party’s government. If it was unpopular five years ago, you’d think it would still be an unpopular move today.
While I understand Quebec is a unique province, and the current government is looking to assert their secularism, I don’t see how the wearing of certain religious symbols could impair somebody from doing their job effectively.
In fact, in the case of teachers specifically, the wearing of any religious symbol could lead students to be curious about why the person wears it and about the customs of the religion, leading to an environment of tolerance for all religions.
In a country as rich in diversity as Canada, I think each province should be celebrating their religious, spiritual and ethnic diversity any time they can. It must also be noted that while they are looking to ban the wearing of these symbols, the government has said they will not remove a crucifix from the legislature. This sounds a bit hypocritical to me.
The government should also ask themselves, if they do decide to use the notwithstanding clause, if this is an appropriate use of the clause. Yes, as the Ontario government proved recently, with the pushing through of Toronto council cuts, provincial governments can use this clause to their advantage.
But, I feel this clause should not be used to 'fix' something that, as I noted above, is not even a large issue in the province, as most employees can do their job well while wearing religious items. Some even might do it better wearing them, as, for some people, their religion is an important part of their life and makes up a large portion of their personal identity, including their commitment to a solid work ethic.
I think the Quebec government should rethink this proposal and decide not to go through with it.
Is a reporter for The Standard Newspaper, so if you see him, feel free to say hello. You can follow Dan on Twitter at @dancearnsy