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Devion's Views #166

ONE HUNDRED AND ONE AND COUNTING (posted Sept. 21, 2018)

"A proof is a proof. What kind of proof? It's a proof. A proof is a proof. And when you have a proof, it's because it's proven" - Jean Chretien...linguist extraordinaire.

2018 marks the 101st anniversary of the fastest and most exciting winter game in the world.

The National Hockey League (NHL) was organized on November 28, 1917, at the Windsor Hotel in Montreal.

Aldous Leonard Huxley said "Facts do not cease to exist simply because they are ignored".

From their mouths to our ears...

"Truth is whatever I say it is" - Emperor Crazy Pants...pathological liar.

"Truth isn't truth" - Rudi "the illusionist"...personal lawyer to the Emperor.

"Half the lies they tell about me aren't true" - Yogi Berra...malapropism expert.

Controversy over where the game of hockey came into being can provoke a heated debate between Francophone and Anglophone students of hockey history.

Whether the game evolved from a frozen pond in Quebec or the Maritimes???, doesn't change the fact...it's our game.

For the record:

Hockey originated "around" the year 1800, in Windsor, Nova Scotia.

Bet you didn't know that.

The boys of Canada's first college, King's College School, adapted the exciting field game of "Hurley" to the ice of their favourite skating pond and originated a new winter game.

Back in the era of the "original six", the device invented by, Guglielmo Marconi, was given a prominent location in most Canadian homes.

For marketing purposes, this "magic box" was always disguised as a fancy piece of furniture.

In our rented apartment on the second floor at 554 DesMeurons street in St. Boniface, Manitoba, it was located in the living room.

On "coolish" (minus 40 F.) Saturday nights, our radio was tuned to the CBC.

Eagerly awaiting the following: "Hello Canada, and hockey fans in the United States and in Newfoundland."

(NB: Newfoundland was a separate Dominion within the British Empire before joining Canada in 1949...thanks to, among others, the dogged efforts of Joseph Roberts "Joey" Smallwood.)

The voice of hockey for fourty years, belonged to Foster Hewitt; Canada's premier play-by-play broadcaster.

For a few hours, his distinct voice painted word-pictures of action on the ice, igniting the imagination of young boys intently listening to the exploits of their heroes.

The "original six" comprised: Boston Bruins, Chicago Black Hawks, Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadians, New York Rangers and Toronto Maple Leafs.

Every kid had their favourite team and player(s).

Living in the predominantly French speaking community of St. Boniface, my team was the Montreal Canadians. My hockey hero, Maurice "the rocket" Richard.

If you lived across the Red River, in Winnipeg, (considered "enemy territory") the assumption was, your team had to be the Toronto Maple Leafs.

This created a natural rivalry, francophone vs anglophone.

Whenever we met in sports competiton, on their side of the river or ours, it was war.

The "original six" team rosters were filled with highly skilled Canadian players.

Unbeknownst to fans, team owners treated their employees as minimally paid serfs, while they raked in millions.

Any player who complained, regardless of how skilled, was blacklisted.

Player equipment/safety, in a highly dangerous game, was minimal and of no concern to the owners. The lord/masters knew there were plenty of equally skilled players eagerly waiting in the wings to replace the injured.

The owners' stranglehold was finally broken by a handful of courageous players like, Ted Lindsey, of the Detroit Red Wings and, Doug Harvey, of the Montreal Canadians who formed the NHL Players Association in 1957 after the league refused to release pension plan financial information.

Today, there are 31 teams filled with the best players from around the world, all millionaires, playing with the best safety equipment available. 

Billionaire team owners trade players like chess pieces for championship advantage and profit.

Today's primary "safety concern" in sports is brain injury caused by recurring concussions which team owners and their league surrogate commissioners, have been slow to confront despite mounting player concerns. For obvious reasons...their bottom line.

Who would doubt that in Canada hockey is more popular than religion?

To mark the 101st NHL anniversary and recognize one of its contemporary icons, the following electronic letter was sent to Governor General, Julie Payette (my favourite astronaut), Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau and our local member of Parliament, Green Party leader, Elizabeth May:

                                             "Sour Grapes?

Am I alone in wondering why the Order of Canada selection committee hasn't honoured an icon of our national game, Donald S. "Grapes" Cherry.

Over eight decades he has managed several careers: professional hockey player, car salesman, construction worker, NHL coach, television personality/star, actor, business owner; and in 2004, selected #7 on "The Greatest Canadian" CBC TV program.

Over a 38-year career on television, "Grapes" continues to generate controversy about both hockey and politics.

Less well known is his generosity; giving time and money to several charitable causes, first responders and unswerving support of Canadians in uniform.

Combining a "unique" use of English, dress style, strongly held opinions, passion for our game and chutzpah, "Grapes" has fashioned a persona like no other on television.

On Saturday night, millions of Canadians tune in to watch and listen as Ron Maclean and Don Cherry do their schtick...hockey fan or not.

Time for the OC Committee to honour Donald S. Cherry before he leaves the stage, or, will political "sour grapes" prevail.

Signed: Ron Devion, retired, former Head of CBC Sports, Brentwood Bay, B.C."

How many readers are aware a department called "The Chancellery of Honours" exists and works for my favourite astronaut?

Within 48 hours, an email response was received (in both official languages) from 'The Chancellery'...cue the royal trumpeteers.

"Thank you for your comments recommending Donald S. "Grapes" Cherry appointment to the Order of Canada. You will be pleased to note that we have an active file on Mr. Cherry, to which your comments have been added.

The Chancellery of Honours strives to protect our sources and to avoid disappointment if a nominee is not elected. To further enhance the confidentiality of the research process, nominators and others who write to the Chancellery should not inform the nominee and other sponsors.

Your interest in the Order of Canada is most appreciated.

Yours sincerely,

Signed: Order of Canada, Office of the Secretary to the Governor General"

To keep denying a Canadian icon the Order of Canada just because of his strongly held opinions and "occasional" wanderings into politically incorrect minefields (that have offended some) is frankly "un-Canadian".

Underneath all the bluster is a kind, gentle, passionate, old soul who loves animals (think Blue), supports and promotes women's hockey, lends his considerable persona to several charitable causes, most significantly organ donation awareness, and keeps us attentive and entertained, every Saturday night, with his words and what he is wearing.

His generosity alone makes him worthy.

Besides, who's perfect...we all have our best and worst moments.

Others with "issues" far more grievous, e.g., Alan Eagleson, have received the honour.

P.S.: Please heed the royal WARNING. As the Chancellery note cautioned, do not inform the honours nominee ("Monsieur Grapes") or other sponsors who have, in the past, made a similar recommendation. The risk of a CRA full-audit of the next three income tax returns isn't worth it.

In the meantime, let's keep this "our little secret" and hope it happens before his 85th birthday, on February 5th, 2019.

From humble beginnings to the seventh greatest Canadian and still on top of his game. Impressive by any measure.

Time to right a wrong.

Ron Devion, No Guts, No Glory