Five things: A time for reflection

1. A look at what they’ve got

With all those mid-summer youth tournaments now concluded, Calgary got a good ol’ fashioned eyeful of five of their most prized prospects, all of whom appeared for either Canada or the US at the World Junior Evaluation Camps in Lake Placid last week. The results were, shall we say, mixed.

John Weisbrod can talk all he wants about how pleased he was with everyone’s performance, but the fact of the matter is that most players (with one very notable and totally predictable exception) were simply solid. Now granted, being even solid out there against three of the other best World Junior teams in the world is a pretty good thing to be, with Sean Monahan garnering the most attention for reasons that should be obvious.

Emile Poirier was, from what I read about every game of the camp, very well respected and thus a pleasant surprise as a No. 22 overall. This is also true of Patrick Seiloff, who seemed to do more to round out his game since the last time he played for the US. Jon Gillies didn’t get much of a run-out (because he’s the US’s 1 trillion percent starter unless his head falls off during the college season, and even then he’s got a shot to make the squad), but was ultra-impressive in defeating Canada on the final day of camp.

Mark Jankowski, the surprise invite whose uncle just happened to be putting together the team and added him at the last minute? Well, he got mixed reviews. Here’s Weisbrod, who didn’t make the trip but is a totally unbiased and trustworthy in these matters: "He was the guy that caught most of the people by surprise. A lot of people gave me really strong feedback about how skilled he was and his reach and his size and how good everyone thought he was going to be. I was really happy about that. I was getting constant updates during the Canada/U.S. game."

Corey Pronman, whose observations from the tournament we’ll publish later today, notes that Jankowski flashed some skill but was mostly behind the pace.

Well, like Weisbrod I wasn’t there, and I know a lot of doubt has been cast on Pronman in some quarters because he isn’t high on every single Calgary prospect (although he’s likes Janko more than Kent does), so I guess I’ll add: That’s the Mark Jankowski I know.

2. And now for something I’ve been meaning to talk about for a while

I haven’t really gotten into arguing about the whole "Sochi Olympics vis a vis Russia’s anti-gay laws" situation because… well, because of a lot of things.

First I think pitching a fit that the NHL or the USA or Canada or anyone else is still going to go (because of course they are) isn’t very productive. After all the work all these athletes and those in their organizations have done for four years, of course they’re going to go. If the far graver human rights violations in China didn’t deter anyone from going to Beijing, gay people and their supporters being thrown in prison by a disgusting iron-fisted government isn’t going to do it either. It’s howling in the wilderness.

Second is that I’ve heard a lot of semi-convincing arguments, most notably from You Can Play, about how people should go BECAUSE they want to support gay athletes and citizens and all that, and I’m not sure I totally buy it, but it’s, well, something.

Third is that even if there was a mass boycott, do you think Putin would give a rat’s ass? He’d just compete himself and win a couple medals and feel great and never once think to himself that anything he did was wrong. That’s not how he operates. He’s Vladimir friggin’ Putin.

So all those things have prevented me from talking about it in long-form like this, until today, because this happened…

3. Henrik Lundqvist goes out like a punk

I had been wondering how the NHL and its players, with their fairly vocal support of You Can Play, would treat this issue as the Olympics approached, and now we have our first answer.

Henrik Lundqvist, beloved and handsome goaltender for the New York Rangers, will obviously be the starter for the stacked Sweden team that looks a favorite to medal. And he and the rest of the Swedish team had their first press availability about the run-up to the Olympics, and all ably dodged the questions about it citing that the Olympics are above any country’s laws or whatever.

Here’s the actual quote from Lundqvist, who has recorded a PSA for You Can Play and has talked extensively about his support for gays in general: "As an individual, I have opinions about a lot of things, but when it comes to the Olympics, it is important that we focus on the sport and have it as a platform. I have no problem with talking about some of the views in other contexts, but when it comes to the Olympics, I think you should just focus on the sport."

That’s the kind of sickening crap I expected. Vocal supporters of gay rights suddenly clam up because Sport Is Sport and Personal Politics Has No Place At The Olympics. It’s sellout garbage. That’s exactly what it is. Lundqvist can’t believe that deeply about this clear and inarguable human rights issue, which has been talked about on the national stage for weeks now, if his answer is "Well, hockey’s more important." It isn’t. Or at least, it shouldn’t be. And you don’t get to call yourself an ally if this is how you think in your daily life.

4. What can be done?

The problem with making a big stand in Russia, if that’s what you’d like to see happen, is that these guys can do it but will probably go to jail afterward. As far as I know, this Swedish hockey press conference was not held in Chelyabinsk. You’re not going to be arrested for saying that the laws are horrific and should be to any right-thinking person living in 2013.

This was the across-the-board line of talk from the Swedish team, apparently, so I get the not-talking on that level but the fact of the matter is that when you’re as vocal as Lundqvist has been, turtling when given the opportunity to speak on the subject — you know, because a journalist asked you a direct question about it; it’s not like he would have been going off all by himself — comes off as pathetic and worthy of scorn.

The only thing that can be done about it is for guys like Lundqvist, who have cachet internationally and who have supported the issue in the past, to get vocal about this. It won’t do anything in Russia, but it will bring more people’s attention to the issue, and that would be good because god damn is it a terribly important issue. Hiding behind "Well let’s just let this be a sports event," is for cowards. Standing up for his convictions, which Lundqvist apparently holds pretty deeply, is what grownups do.

No one ever made a change by accepting things as they are, right? So why not try? Oh right, because your team didn’t want you to talk about it. Real courageous stuff, Hank. Get a clue.

5. On a lighter note

The Flames are apparently looking for a new goal song. This should be your winner:

Around the Nation

  • Brent G.

    I definitely do not see any country boycotting the Olympics altogether but it would be very refreshing to see a player or two play their way onto their respective team and refuse to report because of the anti-gay laws. One guy I am particularly interested in is Brian Burke. Does anyone know of he is involved in the US team? He of all people needs to stay true to his convictions and I would lose the little bit of respect I still had for him if he chose to ignore this making some stupid claim about sport being more important.

    I appreciate it is very slow this summer and you are surely looking for things to write about. That being said, this Jankowski debate is getting old. The horse has been dead for months now and we are simply beating rotten maggot flesh now. This will become a 50 comment post because you mentioned the elephant in the room when no one has a unique perspective. Anyone they chose in that spot was unlikely to become anything of consequence in the NHL. Leave it alone!

    • This will become a 50 comment post because you mentioned the elephant in the room when no one has a unique perspective.

      Until Janko washes out completely or makes the NHL, this will continue to be a bone of contention. Get used to it.

  • Captain Ron

    I actually think Lundqvist is right. The whole point of the Olympics is to rise above such matters and focus on sport. The Argentinians came to London and competed in last summer’s Olympics without complaining about the Falklands, Arabs competed with the Israelis, China with Taiwan, India with Pakistan, etc. I may not always agree with every law of the host country but why punish athletes for matters that should be dealt with in the political arena?

    • Matty Franchise Jr

      A large part of the Olympics is going to places that aren’t necessarily aligned with the world or fully developed rights/ politics wise.

      Seoul Korea was far from the nice place that it is now when they had the summer Olympics, having recently removed itself from years of dictatorship etc. Same with China, no one would argue that its rights protections (gay or otherwise) are adequate yet.

      Do you think Mexico in 68, Moscow in 80, Beijing or Rio coming up have/ had fully developed human rights mechanisms? Not a chance. The olympics are a chance for exposure to the world, and probably does more use going ahead than moving.

      Maybe there will be violence and protests, but the world will be watching, if the games are moved, the violations will still happen, but less people will see.

  • piscera.infada

    The WJC tournie has at least solidified that Porier was a sound pick. Monahan by all accounts should be a lock. It seems like Seiloff and Gilles are a lock to make the USA team. I wonder if the whole Jankowski thing would have been different if he was taken in the second round and Seiloff in the first.
    Now on Sochi and gay rights; I was listening to US figure skater last night on CBC giving his stand that we should embrace the Olympics and support the gay athletes. For the most part I agree with him. It is difficult to change a sovereign nations policies from outside political pressure. What the law shows is the Russia has a long way to go to become a democracy. One of the cornerstones of a true democracy is respecting the rights of minorities through the rule of law. How long ago was it that in Canada you could go to jail if you were gay (1960’s the laws changed. I think back to the Black Panther salute in Mexico, hopefully the athletes of the world have some courage yet at the same time the sense not to end up in a Russian jail.

    • Avalain

      No, that’s not right. A democracy is not about respecting minorities. In fact, it’s technically the opposite. A democracy is about everyone having an equal say in how the country is run. Technically this means that the majority are going to have the final say in anything. If the majority of people in Russia are anti-gay, it would be undemocratic to force gay rights onto them. It may be the right thing to do, but that’s a different argument altogether. Of course, if the only people who are against gay rights in Russia are the party leaders then this would be undemocratic. Unfortunately, I believe that the majority of Russians are still against any sort of gay rights.

      Democracy isn’t about a country following OUR personal beliefs. It’s about a country following the beliefs of it’s people.

      • piscera.infada

        Actually he’s right. I don’t want to veer this off into a political debate, but one of the cornerstones of a democratic country is that the law is guided by the principles of the constitution of that country. I’m certainly not a Russian constitutional expert, but after a quick scan through the anglicized text of the constitution; “all people should be equal before the law and court” (article 19-1). It then goes on to guarantee equality on the basis of sex, race, nationality, language, origin, property and official status, place of residence, religion, convictions, membership of public associations, and also of other circumstances (article 19-2).

        As such, a law that expressly flies in the face of Article 19 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation undermines the democratic process of the state. As such the law itself represents a de facto challenge to the supremacy clause (under article 4-2).

        We know that the Putin government gives little heed to the constitution as there have been attacks on basic human rights, and many of the freedoms listed in article 19 (including religion and nationality – to name a few). But to argue that any law of this kind is even remotely “democratic” on the grounds of the will of a majority is pure ignorance.

        • piscera.infada

          To add just one more comment.

          It’s not a question of whether gay individuals can get married, as that is purely a political matter, and is thusly up to elected official to decide based upon the will of the majority. It is about a law that treats homosexuals and supporters of the rights of homosexuals differently in the eyes of the law that is at issues here.

        • Avalain

          Well, yes, I will admit that I’m ignorant of the Russian constitution. I also admit that I do not actually know how the people of Russia feel about this law.

          That being said, sexual preference isn’t expressly stated in article 19-2. As you said, “Sex, race, nationality, language, origin, property and official status, place of residence, religion, convictions, membership of public associations, and also of other circumstances.” Perhaps there can be a case for it to fit into other circumstances, but that is likely vague enough to grant leeway for them. You could maybe try to fit it under “convictions” but I think they can argue that one as well.

          So no, I do not think they are explicitly breaking their own constitution in this case. Even if they were, something like this could be done by the government amending the constitution to allow it. Of course, they haven’t done that, but they could. So again, yes, it falls back to the will of the majority. If the people feel that the constitution is not serving their needs, it can be changed. (Ok, “people” is a bit of a process unless they actually call a referendum or something on the matter.) If you want an example, take a look at the 21st amendment of the US.

          Hey, if the people of Russia are opposed to this law and they are blocked from voting someone else into power who is willing to remove it, then yes democracy has failed. If Putin goes and makes a law saying that no Russian white males can be arrested (or something that actually explicitly breaks the constitution) then yes, it’s a problem as well. And sure, he may have made laws that attack basic human rights. I don’t know, but that really isn’t my point.

          I guess I should end this with a quote from everyone’s friend, wikipedia. “Majority rule is often listed as a characteristic of democracy. Hence, democracy allows for political minorities to be oppressed by the “tyranny of the majority” in the absence of legal protections of individual or group rights.” Basically, democracy is only going to be as good as the majority. It can be a bastion of equality and freedom but this isn’t an actual requirement to be considered a democracy.

          • piscera.infada

            I get where you’re coming from, the issue here is the totality of the constitution. I just want to point out the mechanisms for amending a constitution are typically long and drawn out, and usually prone to backfire. The amendments to the US constitution were made in block, and there has been little done in that regard (outside of ending prohibition) since. Even the big Canadian amendment package (The Charter of Rights and Freedoms) was a block package, signed without approval from one province. Again, I’m not a Russian federalism expert, so I have no idea what the mechanism for amending the constitution is.

            It’s more about article 19-1,“all people should be equal before the law and court” and the supremacy clause under article 4-2.

            It would be different if the issue at heart here was gay marriage – that is an intrinsically political issue (at least as practiced by the majority of modern democracies), and should be treated thusly by elected officials and majority rule. The issue here however is a law that treats members of the LGBT community as well as their supporters differently by imposing jail terms in addition to state-sponsored discrimination. As such, it matters very little if article 19-2 explicitly states ‘sexual orientation’. This law first treats a certain sub-set of the population differently before the law, secondly it takes away the right of anyone to openly support that group (therefore, should fall under either ‘convictions’, ‘membership of public associations’, or the vague ‘other circumstances’).

            Again, we know (due to recent history) that the courts in Russia are far from bastions of upholding constitutional policy. As I said however, it’s hardly an issue of the will of the majority in this case. It comes down to basic protections afforded to every citizen under the founding and binding principles of law of the country.

      • piscera.infada

        To add just one more comment.

        It’s not about the rights of homosexuals to get married – that is a political issue and is thusly up to elected officials insofar as the majority wills. The issue here is a law that treats the LGBT community and anyone who openly supports them as different in the eyes of the law.

      • piscera.infada

        Actually I have a degree in Political science and have studied democracy quite a bit and you definition of democracy is extremely simplistic. Imagine if we had only majority rule, blacks in the US would still be slaves. While the majority must rule they must respect the basic civil rights of the minority. While I probably agree that most Russian oppose gay civil rights that does not mean they are any country should disrespect the civil rights of it’s smallest minority. One thing I believe is that democracies are a journey and Russia has along way to go on it;s journey. (Canada too)

        • Robear

          I love this site! Lambert pitches a log on the fire of social responsiblity disguising as a conversation about the NHL at the Olympics and out pops a fully formed discussion about democracy in Russia vs. the Western World! Awesome!

          Oh and from what I’m hearing Janko is unlikley to make the team. The reviews of his play remind me of the military adage “being damned by faint praise”.

          Even still, I imagine even being at this camp will be good for Janko. It doesn’t sound like he’s being outskilled, more an education in what playing at this level it like.

        • piscera.infada

          I am Poli Sci too. You are absolutely right. It is no great feat to install majority rule and tyranny of the majority. The trick is protecting minorities.

        • Avalain

          Yes, my definition of democracy is simplistic. That doesn’t mean it’s wrong. The whole thing really stemmed from your initial comment that said Russia had a long way to go to become a democracy. I disagree and feel that they are a democracy. I guess the reality of the situation is that the word democracy means different things to different people. To me it seems that you and piscera are arguing that Russia isn’t a Liberal Democracy, and I’d agree with you on that. Where I disagree is if you say your definition is the only one that exists and everything else is called something else.

          As for a US that still kept slaves, I can certainly imagine that. And I can also see them being considered a democracy. Of course, the slaves would be classified in the way prisoners have been (I’m not sure of the current status of prisoner rights to vote). Probably not completely unlike the one that existed in the democratic US when they were still keeping slaves.

          Your view of the definition of democracy is seems to be a sliding scale; a journey as you call it. I can agree that social rights and equality is changing all the time (not always in what I personally feel is the right direction…silly anti-abortionists). But I can’t agree that no democratic countries even existed before, say, 1893 when women were first given the right to vote. What would you call the governments that came before? Aristocracies?

          • piscera.infada

            Limited democracies at best although many of them were more democratic than previous societies. From my perspective I would suggest that Russia is less democratic under Putin than Yeltsin, yes people get to vote but be critical of him and it is likely you will get a visit. Many independent media types have been either imprisoned or murdered for being critical of Putin.

            Many political philosophers have argued much better than I can that individual rights and freedoms are essential for a society to be democratic. The essentials of democracy are many including our discussion here. Freedoms, accountability, informed participation, right to dissent, peacefully protest are some of the key elements that go into developing a liberal democratic state. From my study of modern Russia many of these still need to develop. Hopefully they will and the Russians I know hope so too. Other former communist nations have moved further along in their development. We see in the news just this week the events in Egypt whom many in the west had hoped would become a democracy. Democracy whether it’s your definition or mine is something that takes time. I would say it is less a sliding scale than an evolutionary process.

  • Gange

    I suggest a moratorium on Janko until he either does something or does nothing. However at this point he’s very much in that “wait and see” area. FYI – I hope he dominates at NCAA level this year just because I want to see another great prospect.

    Teams are not going to boycott. There are better ways to achieve your goal than boycotting the Olympics.

  • piscera.infada

    Everything I’ve heard about the WJC evaluation tournament makes me most excited for the two American guys. Gilles sounds like he just keeps trending in the right direction after that insane season in the NCAA last year. Sieloff seems to be the biggest surprise in my eyes. He gets a reasonable amount of flak on here, but I think he’s one of those heart and soul guys Flames fans are going to love in the coming years. I’ve heard he had a great camp, and with the youth on the American team, there’s even talk about him getting the C – which is nice to see (even though it doesn’t mean all that much in terms of ability).

    I’m most interested to see where Monahan actually slots in here. It seems like with the talent on the roster (especially including guys that will likely not be able to make it), he slots in as a defensive centre on the third line. I really hope he gets a chance to show a little more offensive flair.

    I really like what Kenta had to say on the Olympics. It seems like every Olympic games I can remember has controversy leading up to it, and the IIOC does a pretty good job masking it all (not that it’s right at all – in fact, I find it somewhat despicable). That said, I was incredibly pleased when I heard FIFA was considering moving the 2018 world cup if Russia continues their hardline stance on this issue. We can talk all we want about Putin being a megalomaniacal jerk-face, but these two events (the Olympics and the World Cup) are his attempt to cement his legacy both internally and externally. Both events are not only huge money-makers (well, not so much the Olympics) for the host country, but also largely symbolic in terms of giving international credibility to that nation.

  • Matty Franchise Jr

    Sure, we’re in “wait and see” mode with Janko, and every other guy who isn’t currently a full time Flame. But while we’re waiting, and seeing, we can discuss what it is we’ve seen. I think that that is what this forum is for.

    As for keeping quiet about political or moral issues, if you want to change the world, keeping your mouth shut is not the way to do it.

    If Lundqvist believes in something, he should speak up about it. If he thinks that what he says could get him arrested at the Olympics then he shouldn’t go. To do otherwise makes me think that he is more interested in playing hockey for his country than he is about the human rights of homosexuals.

  • Matty Franchise Jr

    Look up “tyranny of the majority”. Just something to think about.

    As for Putin, he’ll just ignore everybody and ride off on a bear (pun intended).

  • DoubleDIon

    On the Russian issue:

    What is democracy without personal freedom? The dictatorship of the majority. The majority of Russians don’t appreciate homosexuality.

    Perhaps it’s time to re-think democracy and augment it with a bit of personal freedom. I’m not Gay and would be uncomfortable sharing a shower with a gay athlete. But human rights are basic and sometimes personal freedom needs to trump democracy and my personal comfort. This is one of those cases.

    A democratically elected government without a constitution that protects individuals is still a dictatorship.

    Should athletes be the ones fighting this law at the olympics? Of course not, it’s not their country. Russians should be fighting for a constitution that protects their individual rights. I’d be pretty unhappy if some athlete from Russia tried to dictate our laws to me based on his values. It’s not hypocritical to act like a “guest” while you’re a “guest” in someone else’s country Ryan.

  • DoubleDIon

    Stick to the issue, gentlemen! Janko, Schmanko. You Can Play, You can be Gay- Okay, Okay!
    Mr. Lambert, you may be “handsome and great”, but tossing off a tribute to Hank Sr. as the next choice for the Flames Goal Song to fill in The Fifth Thing makes me want to cry- and I ain’t talkin’ So Lonesome- type cryin’. I’d rather hear the original Prince version of “Kiss”. Or ” Bye Bye Baby” by the Bay City Rollers. Or- Damn you, Lambert don’t make me do this- “Sweet City Woman” by The Stampeders. You could even get Ronnie King to come down every game night (if he’s not on tour) and crank it out live. That oughta get the crowd going and shake up the opposition. Or maybe we find a guy to do a “tribute” to Prince, or The rollers or The Stampeders.
    Hank was already rolling (a smoke) in his grave and you go and do this! Shame, Mr. Lambert, shame…
    There, now it’s a real “Fifth Thing”.

  • beloch

    I have had the distinct benefit of taking courses in Olympics history and Olympics Sociology as options for my kinesiology degree.

    There’s a reason the Olympic flag and Symbol represents the five colours of all the flags in the world. The Olympics is about equality in the truest sense. It’s about coming together to rise above political differences. Encourage community and working together through sport to overcome inequality. Isn’t that what gay rights is about?

    It is very much a large scale platform for representing world views. Human Rights issues are not country or politics specific, they apply to everyone, everywhere and all the time. Along with that platform quite naturally is going to come protests. Protests have been as big a part of the Olympics as the actual sports themselves.

    My biggest concern with this whole issue would be for athletes that do try to speak out about the injustice they feel will be silenced by Russian tyranny.

    The Olympics don’t belong to Russia (they’re being held there). They belong to everyone of the world.

  • BurningSensation

    Well as another member of the poli-sci degree holding club here I’ll throw my two cents in;

    – The Russian Dumas passed the anti-gay legislation with a perfect vote (something like 436 to 0)

    – Polling of the Russian populace on the legislation indicated an 80% majority favour the legislation.

    Russia is still (at least technically) a democracy, they just aren’t a very liberal one.

    As for participating in the Olympics, you have to ask yourself;

    – Should Canada participate in any Olympics where the games are held in a country that has what we consider ‘human rights abuses’? If we think they should not, are we prepared to not send an Olympic team to any country outside of a handful of European countries and the US? How broad a brush do we use when discussing human rights abuses? Does a nation using secret intelligence gathering to spy on its people count? How about laws that encourage police to stop and frisk black people but leave white people alone? What if the nation doesnt treat it’s native population particularly well?

    Where does the line get drawn?

    • schevvy

      Just because a Duma or parliament overwhelming support something does not a liberal democracy make; lets recall that the Nazi’s well referendums to get their laws passed. As have other so called democracies.

      • BurningSensation

        If you read closely what I wrote I explicitly said that while Russia is a democracy it is not a liberal democracy.

        They might be best described as an oligarchy with a democratic face (and for many this will describe the US as well, but this is a hockey blog).

        • piscera.infada

          I agree that they are not a liberal democracy, and their process is not very democratic. Often in my discussion on democracy I speak of democracy and liberal democracy as one in the same. I have kind of built an internal discussion. I too would like to get back to hockey.

  • beloch

    If NHL players won’t boycott Sochi, they can still do some good by not completely ignoring the issue. It would be pretty awesome if any nation’s Olympic hockey team changed the color scheme of their sweaters to rainbow for Sochi. Even just stitching on a rainbow patch somewhere would be something. The players themselves are, of course, free to wear whatever they want off the ice…

    • piscera.infada

      Actually they aren’t. That’s the whole law. Anything deemed as spreading “homosexual propaganda” is banned in Russia. They law itself has nothing to do with any actual LGBT practice – although those are also banned. The law is against any publication, act, speech, demonstration, etc. that is in favour of the LGBT lifestyle – hence, propaganda in the eyes of the Russian government.

    • piscera.infada

      Actually they aren’t. That’s the whole law – it makes any publication, act, speech, demonstration, et cetera that can be viewed as “gay propaganda” illegal. Thus, the law is not about any act or lifestyle (although I’m sure that would also be banned), but rather about support in any form for the LGBT movement writ large.

      If any player were to wear a rainbow shirt for example, they would be inviting a whole series of legal problems.

      • beloch

        Would you want to be a prosecutor trying to send a bunch of wealthy, famous hockey stars to a gulag for wearing the wrong combination of colors, especially if they were a part of the team colors and all you can really convict the players of is failing to refuse to wear their team sweaters?

        I’m not saying these guys need to run around in rainbow speedos shouting pro-gay slogans and waving banners. They do owe a part of their income to gay fans though. Total silence is the same as supporting the policy.

        • piscera.infada

          Dude, I agree with you. I’m just telling you what the law is. As for a prosecutor, I don’t see why not. As per the “P*ssy Riot!” case last summer, it doesn’t strike me as though the Russian courts really care how high profile a case gets, who’s giving curae briefs, or who the defendant is.

          If every athlete did what your proposing, I’d think it was great.