storyteller, broadcaster

Archive for August, 2012

NHL Showdown, and visiting Flin Flon finally …

When it comes to questionable inflated hockey salaries, who is at the head of the class ? Give yourself a Hershey bar if you said Gary Bettman.

He is in his 20th year as Commissioner of the NHL, and he and the owners of the league’s 30 teams are getting ready to lock players out of the rinks for the third time in 20 years. Eight years ago the lockout scrubbed an entire season. Bettman insisted it was necessary to get costs under control.

Did I miss a meeting or two? Player salaries have continued to rise into the stratosphere, the cost of tickets requires a second mortgage in many cities, and more than half the owners say they’re losing money.

And the commissioner ? He seems to have done quite OK. His basic salary is well over seven million dollars a year. That’s more than double what it was eight years ago when the players got nothing. Not bad for a man who has never stopped a shot from the point, or even taken a hip check.

His so-called Southern Strategy which moved teams to non-traditional hockey markets has been largely a failure. The Phoenix Coyotes, who used to be the Winnipeg Jets, have been an expensive welfare case for years in the Arizona desert.

The Atlanta Thrashers are now the reborn Jets, thanks more to Mark Chipman and his partners than Gary Bettman.

Now those Winnipeg fans who committed major cash to secure their tickets for five years, are facing the prospect of a shutout after only one season. The move to another lockout appears to be deliberate and premeditated, and the impact will be huge, especially in the Canadian markets.

Most North Americans who work for a living keep their jobs by working hard and being productive. Sometimes it’s not enough as the Global economy spits people out.

How and why does Gary Bettman keep his job ?

We’re not sure.

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I am not what you would call a world traveler, even in my own region of Canada. I have lived most of my life in two southern cities, Winnipeg and Regina. But this month I pushed the envelope a little with a rare visit to the near north.

Flin Flon is a mining community which straddles the Manitoba – Saskatchewan boundary, just into the northern half of both provinces. It’s firmly located in the Pre-Cambrian shield, and the scenery is rugged and breathtaking.

It reminded very much of northwest Ontario where my grandfather first built a cottage in the late 1920’s. That’s about the same time that the Whitneys of New York first began mining for copper and zinc and other metals buried in those rocks.

The name Flin Flon comes from Josiah Flintabbatey Flonatin, the hero of a long forgotten fantasy novel. A giant statue of Flinty, designed by cartoonist Al Capp, celebrates that colourful history.

Enormous trout and other fish are still regularly pulled from the waters of Lake Athapapaskow in Baker’s Narrows Provincial Park.

More than 5,000 people live in Flin Flon, and some of them live in two provinces all the time. The boundary is a crooked line that wanders through the western part of town, and some folks literally sleep in Manitoba, and get up to eat breakfast in Saskatchewan, or vice versa.

It’s a wondrous world that most of us southerners will never see because it takes an eight hour drive, or an expensive plane ride to get there. That’s what the locals are faced with when they need anything major in the way of health care.

It costs a lot more to fill your gas tank and put fresh fruit and veggies on the table. Summers are fabulous, especially when it’s warm and sunny.

Winter is a different story indeed. Maybe I’ll check that out after I get my knees fixed.

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Roger Currie is a writer, blogger and broadcaster.

He lives in Winnipeg, but this week he’s returning to Regina to watch the 2 and 6 Blue Bombers tangle with the 3 and 5 Roughriders.

They used to call it the Labour Day Classic

He can be reached at .. rogerc@mymts.net

Don’t believe everything you read or hear .. Ever !

The digital age we live in has produced some very strange research in the field of human behaviour, as well as just plain scams.

I was all set to declare Dr. Christopher Moeller as this year’s winner of the International Award For Terminal Dumbness. He is supposedly a psychologist who gathered a ton of coverage recently when he declared that anyone who is not on Facebook might not be normal. In fact, they could be a dangerous sociopath.

The reasoning behind this absurd pronouncement? Well it seems that the nutbars who were responsible for the mass killings in Norway last year, and the shooting spree last month at that movie theatre in Colorado, are NOT among the 900 million souls who exist in some form on the social networking site.

The story began on the pages and website of a German magazine called Der Taggespiegel, and it went viral when it was picked up by the Daily Mirror in England.

Dr. Moeller suggested that employers looking to hire young people, are now leery of folks who are NOT on Facebook, whereas until now, they were nervous about candidates who let it all hang out on that site.

The fact that no such employers were quoted or even named in the story made it smell a bit funny to me. With the help of Mr. And Mrs. Google, I went in search of Dr. Moeller. You know what ? I could not find him.

Personally, I don’t think he exists, except as a means of promoting Facebook, or possibly selling magazines.

Impossible you say? Remember David Manning? He was a movie critic who was always showing up in newspaper ads about a dozen years ago, praising films that no one else liked. Turned out old David never existed, but was created by one of the studios.

Stay tuned, and don’t believe everything you read or hear anywhere .. even from me.

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Roger Currie is a writer, blogger and broadcaster.

He lives in Winnipeg, and can be reached at rogerc@mymts.net

Harvest Time in the Global Economy

Driving across the prairies at this time of year has always been a wonderfully Canadian experience for me. Green or brown tend to dominate the landscape, depending on how wet the summer has been.

Harvesting of hay and other early crops is underway, and there’s a peace and serenity to the picture which is quietly inspiring.

There have definitely been changes since I first traveled that stretch between Winnipeg and Regina, long before I was old enough to be the person behind the wheel. The biggest change has been the disappearance of those familiar wooden elevators, including the red one at Fleming that said Lake of the Woods Milling. It came down in an unfortunate fire a couple of years ago. 

Others have mostly been replaced by those imposing concrete structures called inland terminals. They carry names like Cargill and Viterra and Richardson. They are the product of the global economy, and politics.

Since the beginning of August, the Canadian Wheat Board no longer has the monopoly to sell wheat and barley that is grown on those prairie fields. The CWB has been around for more than 70 years, and it appears they are not about to quickly fade away.

As the first crop year under the new regime begins, hundreds of Wheat Board employees have been terminated, but the survivors seem to be doing quite well.

They have concluded grain handling agreements with a number of major players including Richardson International of Winnipeg. This will give farmers more than 170 locations across the prairies where they can deliver their crop and be confident that it will be handled and marketed by experienced people who know what they’re doing.

Chances are the producers who continue to market through the Board will be barely acknowledged by the likes of Stephen Harper and Gerry Ritz, but don’t be surprised if they do amazingly well on a world market where prices are very strong.   

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Bonjour mes amis. Comment ca va? That is about the extent of my ability in Canada’s other official language I’m afraid.

Truth be told, with the notable exception of wonderful and lively communities like Gravelbourg in Saskatchewan and St. Pierre Jolys in Manitoba, the Canadian prairies will never be francophone country.

The CBC spends many millions of dollars delivering local TV news in French on the prairies. It has long been argued that it would be cheaper to pick up that small group of francophone viewers and drive them to a theatre where they could watch the broadcast on a closed-circuit. Sadly, it’s only a slight exaggeration.

But Pierre Trudeau’s vision of Canada lives on in the person of Canada’s Official Languages Commissioner. Graham Fraser occupies that job at the moment. He has dispatched his troops as mystery shoppers. Their mission is to find out how francophone-friendly Canada’s major airports are.

They’re checking things like bilingual signage, and whether airport staff greet travelers in both languages. These are the standards for airports that serve more than a million passengers a year. The eight that are being mystery-shopped are Winnipeg, Halifax, Quebec City, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Edmonton and Vancouver.

Strangely missing are Calgary, Regina and Saskatoon. Perhaps Edmonton and Calgary take turns, but why is the entire province of Saskatchewan left out ? Perhaps the folks in Mr. Fraser’s office are relying on old numbers.

Both Saskatchewan airports are now regularly handling more than a million passengers a year, and more growth is expected in the future.

Ralph Goodale is my favourite prairie politician. He may eventually be remembered as “one of the best prime ministers we never had”. He readily admits that a major reason was his lack of ability in French.

He also comes from the province that Canada continues to forget for some strange reason, even though it’s no longer a have not.   

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Roger Currie is a writer, blogger and broadcaster.

He lives in Winnipeg, and can be reached at rogerc@mymts.net

 

 

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