Monthly Archives: June 2016

Cody Hodgson and the Fallacy of Don Cherry

Don Cherry

Don Cherry loves good Canadian boys, especially good Ontario boys because he’s from Ontario and… it honestly doesn’t seem to go any deeper than that. Cherry routinely chides the Toronto Maple Leafs for not acquiring more local talent, and he did so again in a pair of Twitter rants about last week’s draft, where he calls professional leagues in Sweden and Switzerland “ice follies” and suggests the Leafs disappointed 40,000 kids who play in the GTHL by overlooking Ontario prospects.

But the most interesting part about Cherry’s rant isn’t what he’s saying, which is the same kind of illogical dog-whistle xenophobia he’s been pitching to ignorant hockey fans long before he started making his suits out of your grandmother’s curtains. Most Canadians are painfully familiar with his wrongheaded views about French-Canadians and European players. What made this rant truly interesting was how he avoided mentioning any draft-eligible Ontario players by name, and I think I know why.

Good Ontario boy Steven Stamkos was the consensus first-overall selection in 2008, and he has more than fulfilled expectations by maturing into one of the game’s top goal-scorers, but Cherry had his eyes on another Ontario product that year: Cody Hodgson. Granted, Cherry wasn’t the only one high on Hodgson, who was selected 10th overall by the Vancouver Canucks, but no one went as high as Cherry did when he was asked which player from the 2008 class would have the most impact.

“The guy I’m in love with is Cody Hodgson for Vancouver. Everywhere he’s been, he’s been a captain. I will say that he will be the captain of Vancouver Canucks someday. I’ve watched the kid. He’s got that I don’t know what it is about a captain, a leader. He will be the guy. Stamkos is automatic, don’t get me wrong. But Cody Hodgson, I hope to keep him. This kid’s going to be in the National Hockey League, sort of like a Steve Yzerman. I can’t say anything higher than that.”

Cherry’s effusive praise takes us on so many tangents: He’s watched the kid play! Future captain of the Canucks! YZERMAN! It wouldn’t be difficult to imagine Hodgson as some sort of hockey demigod after reading that. So, how did those lofty expectations pan out?

A nagging back injury delayed the start of Hodgson’s NHL career, but he produced 41 points in his rookie season and finished eighth in Calder voting. A trade to the Buffalo Sabres led to two more promising years and a fat contract extension (six years, $25.5 million) before his production dropped off a cliff. Buffalo bought out the final four years of Hodgson’s deal after a disastrous 2014-15 season and he only made it halfway through the season with the Nashville Predators last year before they placed him on waivers.

Predators general manager David Poile offered the most frank and damning assessment of Hodgson:

“We signed him to enhance our (offence) and it didn’t happen,” Poile said. “You look for other areas that maybe a player can help you — checking or penalty killing or some other area. Really, I think we were pretty honest with Cody and told him that he had to produce offensively, and he hasn’t.”

Poile is essentially saying Hodgson is not reliable on defense, can’t hit, and his offensive production is too inconsistent – the exact same kind of criticism Cherry leans on to stereotype Swedes and Russians. The only difference here is birthplace, which explains why Cherry has been eerily silent about Hodgson (a.k.a. the next Steve Yzerman) as unrestricted free agency approaches.

Hodgson had everything: a birth certificate with “Toronto” on it, the jawline of Liev Schreiber…

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…if only any of those things had any bearing on hockey talent or future success. Alas, they don’t, and neither does the opinion of Don Cherry.

The Only New Taxes Toronto Should Consider

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It should come as no surprise that four years of Rob Ford respecting taxpayers left Toronto in dire need of cash. The city has a massive repair backlog and a slew of unfunded infrastructure projects, including Ford’s legacy: a tiny subway extension in Scarborough with a cost eclipsing $3 billion. As much as Ford Nation wants to believe all budgetary shortfalls could be overcome with a combination of internal efficiencies, private partnerships, and shouting, more money will need to come from somewhere, and soon.

A report commissioned by the city recommends five new taxes to solve the problem. Actually, that’s four new taxes and one we already had – the vehicle registration tax – but repealed due to “war on the car” yadda yadda yadda. Along with bringing the vehicle registration tax back, the report also suggests a congestion tax for driving downtown, an alcohol tax because those fancy emulsified cocktails you’re drinking at a bar on Ossington aren’t expensive enough already, a parking tax because two vehicle-related taxes weren’t enough, and an amusement tax which I can only assume would be similar to Ticketmaster charging me an extra $5 on a $20 ticket.

But these tax ideas are boring and generic. They lack Toronto’s elusive personality and none of them hint at what makes this city such a unique place to call home. Instead, city hall should consider adopting new taxes that play to the city’s true strengths. Taxes like these:

Transit etiquette tax
Enforcing the unwritten rules of Toronto public transit will provide a steady source of revenue. TTC fare inspectors will note any passengers who make eye-contact with or attempt to speak to other passengers and bill them accordingly. Conversely, passengers who avoid all eye-contact during their journey will be eligible for a rebate.

Drake tax
Contrary to what the Toronto Raptors would have you believe, there is such a thing as too much Drizzy. This tax will apply to: adding Drake to the playlist of any bar, restaurant, or Jewish community centre; listening to Drake within earshot of six (6) or more people; and sharing Drake-based memes over Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms.

Internet tax
All residents and businesses will be charged an extra monthly fee for internet access, regardless of whether or not they have a connection or how slow and unreliable their connection is. All money collected will go to Rogers and Bell because they own all our sports teams so they kind of have us by the balls here.

Albino squirrel tax
Albino SquirrelIf Toronto ever needed a mascot, this little guy would be at the top of the list. People who frequent Trinity Bellwoods will be subject to a small fee to ensure the health and safety of everyone’s favourite anomalous rodent. Acorns will be the preferred form of payment.

PATH tax
There’s plenty to be gained by turning downtown Toronto’s underground network of food courts into a toll route for pedestrians. The only thing better than walking in circles underneath Brookfield Place for half an hour trying to find your way to Union Station is paying for the privilege.

Obvious consulting tax
Every time city staff want to commission a report by an external firm to tell them something they should already know, 100% the money budgeted for that report will instead go towards paying for things the city actually needs, like road repairs and competent city staff.

I will be forwarding my recommendations to mayor John Tory and the rest of city council once the accounting firm I’ve hired produces some unrealistically favourable revenue estimates for each of them.