An American sports fan stranded in Canada
Friday - July 20, 2007
For an American sports fan, a trip to Canada is akin to being put in a sensory deprivation tank. Our recent family vacation to Victoria in British Columbia was a revelation. The sports pages in the local newspaper were void of any mention of the NFL or college football, and there was token coverage of Major League baseball. Not even the box scores! Instead the big stories were about the under 20 World Cup soccer tournament and, you guessed it, off-season hockey.
I quickly tuned into ESPN Canada. More soccer and loads more hockey. Every off-season acquisition made by an NHL club was subject to analysis. Salaries around the league were closely examined.
At the end of a workday, people either discussed hockey or went to play it. We took the boys to a summer league hockey game that one of our friends played in. He’s 38 years old. Summer league is a tune-up for his regular season, which runs October through April. The big attraction for my boys was the Zamboni, the large machine that cleans the ice.
Despite the impressive number of rinks in Victoria, ice time is precious. Some leagues play their games at midnight, others at six in the morning. I asked what age they put the kids on skates and was told,“They should start at 2. That way they can work on puck handling by the time they’re 4 or 5.” Not only do they have leagues for toddlers, but Grand Master’s leagues for those over 50. Truly a national obsession.
The news that Tadd Fujikawa turned pro was somewhat surprising. At the tender age of 16, Fujikawa has a game beyond his years, but playing for a living is a very different proposition from an amateur career. I spoke with Ko Olina golf general manager Greg Nichols about the decision.“Tadd really wanted to turn pro, and his parents are supporting his decision,” says Nichols. “It was obvious that Tadd would have qualified for a golf scholarship at a top university. But he wanted to be able to train full time - he’s out on the course right now. He practices about seven hours a day and then goes home to train. The plan is that he’ll travel back and forth to Sea Pines in Georgia where they have state-of-the-art facilities, and he’ll have enough sponsorship money to make that feasible. I guess you’d have to say if he becomes a productive pro then it’ll be a good decision; if he’s unable to make it five or seven years down the road then maybe it’s not such a good choice.”
Then Nichols said something on which everybody seems to agree. “Tadd is such a special kid. We all wish the best for him.” Amen.
Expect the UH football schedule to become grist for the media mill if the Warriors knock out their first five or six opponents. I still believe that UH will get a BCS bid if they run the table, largely because of the last four games on the schedule. Fresno St., Nevada on the road, Boise St. on national television and Washington. Remember, last year at this time a lot of people said Boise State wouldn’t get a BCS bid because of its schedule and the Broncos received one easily.
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