• Something I thought might never happen has finally happened: Don Cherry has finally been fired from Sportsnet and his show Coach's Corner after criticizing visible minorities in and around Toronto for not wearing remembrance poppies to honour fallen soldiers.

    That isn't the first time Don Cherry made derogatory remarks on his iconic show. He called the players of the Carolina Hurricanes ''a bunch of jerks'' for their post-game home victory celebrations last season. He called Sidney Crosby a ''hot dog'' for sliding on his knees after scoring. Don Cherry declared that only ''Europeans and French'' Canadians wear visors because they are softer than tough anglophone Canadian players. He called Winnipeg Jets assistant coach Alpo Suhonen ''some kind of dog food''. The list goes on and on but Sportsnet and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation have always protected Don Cherry. This time however, the eighty-five year old Kingstonian has gone too far.

    The terrible thing is that public opinion supports Don Cherry. Many people defend him strongly and call those who criticize him ''snowflakes'', ''losers'' and ''communists'' on social media. These people claim that Don Cherry's freedom of speech has been disrespected by firing him.

    We have to understand that our freedom stops where the freedom of other individuals starts. Everybody is entitled to have his or her personal opinions. If our personal opinion however harms other individuals, we have crossed a line that shouldn't be crossed. Suggesting that Canadians of all backgrounds should support fallen soldiers on Remembrance Day is perfectly fine. Pointing out visible minorities by generalizing them and associating them to disrespectful behaviour however isn't acceptable. The way Don Cherry articulates himself is hurtful, harmful and disrespectful. That is unacceptable for a public figure in the twenty-first century.

    Don Cherry should have never even gotten a chance to deliver such negative speeches on public television in the first place. His derogatory remarks are stuck in a hostile mindset of the fifties of the last century when Don Cherry was a teenager. Sportsnet and Canadian Broadcasting Corporation need a younger and more dynamic, intellectual and respectful analyst who understands that modern hockey simply isn't about being physically tough anymore. This person might be less charismatic but that isn't necessarily a negative thing. Being considered an iconic national treasure as some people call him for all the wrong reasons related to closed-minded, controversial and hostile comments isn't anything praiseworthy at all.

    That being said, a sports show should always be about sports and not about political opinions, military propaganda and cultural assimilation.

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  • Ottawa Fury FC has just announced today that it has suspended operations. The franchise isn't taking a break. The franchise is dead and gone. This situation is only explained in three bland sentences that are a slap in the face for the numerous supporters. The club's website has already been deleted. The way the plug has been pulled is simply heartless.

    However, one might have seen that devastating end coming by a mile. Ottawa Fury FC started playing in the North American Soccer League back in 2014, still playing at the cold and modest Keith Harris Stadium at Carleton University before moving to brand new TD Place. The team developed an intense rivalry with the only other Canadian team, FC Edmonton and competed fiercely against legendary New York Cosmos with star players such as Raul. The team even made it to the Soccer Bowl final in 2015. The North American Soccer League was however struggling financially and administratively at that point already.

    Ottawa Fury FC had no other option but to switch to the United Soccer League, playing its first season in 2017. The North American Soccer League folded at the end of the same year and many franchises either switched to the United Soccer League or had to suspend operations. After a difficult start, Ottawa Fury FC made it to the playoffs in 2019, losing against Charleston Battery after extra time and penalty kicks in the first round. That has only happened a week and a half ago. However, the team had already struggled to obtain permission by the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football to play in the United Soccer League for its last season and the team was heavily pressured to join the new Canadian Premier League that has a much smaller budget, set up quite different rules and features only seven teams. Ottawa Fury FC appealed the decision to not be allowed to play in the United Soccer League and was ultimately allowed to play in 2019.

    At that point, the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group, owner of the Ottawa Fury FC as well as Ontario Hockey Leagues's Ottawa 67's and Canadian Football League's Ottawa Redblacks, should have known that it had eighteen months to switch from the United Soccer League to the Canadian Premier League. The team would have gone through numerous changes but could have played in a new and strong Canadian league starting in late April 2020.

    Instead of switching leagues, the team has now folded and the future for professional soccer in Canada's capital is currently looking quite bleak. It's understandable that the administrative challenges have exhausted the owners. It's obvious that a switch to a third league in such a short period of time goes along with lots of complicated paper work. It's clear that numerous players would have been forced to leave and be replaced by younger Canadian players. 

    The disappointing thing is that the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group didn't even seem to be trying to solve those issues anymore, that it released its devastating statement in three bland sentences and closed the website immediately as if to erase any trace of a team that thousands of fans had supported over the years.

    On a positive note, FC Edmonton folded after the final North American Soccer League season back in fall 2017. The team seemed to be dead and gone but rose from its ashes to join the Canadian Premier League and resumed playing in spring 2019. A similar fate might eventually happen to the Ottawa Fury FC or a completely new team in Ottawa.

    It's devastating however how many leagues and teams have folded in North America over the past few decades. Soccer is still overall not sustainable in North America despite significant improvements over the past decade in particular. North America will be hosting the 2026 FIFA World Cup. There is a brand new stadium ready to welcome twenty-four thousand fans in the heart of Canada's capital. It would be a shame if professional soccer didn't succeed in the long run in Ottawa. Until then, the fans will be waiting patiently. Canadian soccer fans have already developed elements most hockey or football fans have never known: determination, optimism and resilience. Ottawa Fury FC will not be forgotten.

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  • We seem to be living in a very selfish world. As soon as a Canadian province feels disadvantaged, misunderstood or overlooked, it tends to opt for menaces to leave the federation and create its own country. The proposed creation of Cascadia consisting of Canada's British Columbia as well as the United States of America's Washington and Oregon has been discussed for many centuries and peaked in the middle of the twentieth century. Quebec's independence movement was going strong from the seventies to the nineties, leading to two referendums in 1980 and 1995. Once everyone thought that divisive ideas were closed-minded ideologies of the past, we now have a so-called Wexit movement because a minority of voters from Alberta and Saskatchewan feel like they are not well represented in Canada's federal government.

    What's next? Will Nunavut be planning an independence movement because the government isn't sufficiently protecting Inuit culture in 2025? Will New Brunswick attempt to join the United States of America after the next severe economic crisis in 2034? Will Newfoundland try to separate from Labrador and join the United Kingdom because it has alienated from Canadian values in 2042? When will this ridiculous madness ever stop?

    Stop being so self-centered and understand that unity makes strength. We have more important changes to face, problems to solve and questions to answer. Climate change for instance is an international issue that needs all our dedication. Fighting poverty is an element we can only tackle together. Increasing social justice is a task that takes the efforts of more than one generation to make significant progress.

    It's important that we listen to the challenges, concerns and frustrations of minorities to make sure their situations improve. But we have to see the bigger picture as well. Stop wasting time with egoistic first-world problems and let's tackle the real issues of the twenty-first century in a collaborative, communicative and diplomatic manner!

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  • This topic deserves a differentiated comment. One of my favorite bands, German gothic metal veterans Crematory, have recently been releasing a comment claiming that the group's upcoming record might be its last and that its album tour is going to be a farewell if album and ticket sales didn't improve. The band leader asked the fans to ''get off their lazy asses'' and support the band with led to an elevated number of controversial reactions. You can find the entire post on the band's Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/CREMATORY

    First of all, it's understandable that it's frustrating for artists who have put so much creativity, passion and time into their project for nearly three decades to lose money every year, sell less copies of their art and see less people attend their shows. I can perfectly understand the drummer's point of view. Since I have known the band half of my life, seen the band in concert three times and bought most of their records, I don't take the message personally at all. My father or I are still going to buy the new album and if the band plays close to my hometown when I'm going to be in Germany, I will attend the concert, no matter if it costs thirty bucks or more. The band usually plays far over two hours, talks to fans after the show and offers a memorable experience. I know Crematory won't disappoint as they offer value for money.

    However, the drummer's cry for help won't change anything and those who already didn't like the band or were neutral won't be tempted to support the band now. Some hot-tempered fans might even turn their backs on the band as a consequence. What was meant to wake up people could actually become the final nail in the coffin because it offended people. A quick look at the band's Facebook page shows that about two thirds of the reactions are negative. The positive thing is that people are now discussing the future of the music industry but nobody will be talking about Crematory anymore in a few weeks. Releasing such comments is indeed honest, liberating and straight-forward but the long-term consequences only make things worse.

    The fans are not to blame for the group's financial problems anyway. Prices for records, merchandise and concert have constantly risen over the past few decades just like anything else while the salaries didn't truly follow. Those who have followed the band throughout all those years, bought their records and attended concerts have to spend money on more essential expenses these days, have become too old to attend concerts until late at night and have maybe not the energy to attend festivals with noisy crowds in the summer heat for one hundred bucks or more. Gothic metal is simply not as popular as it was twenty years ago either which means that most younger metal fans might not even be familiar with the genre in general or this band in particular. Crematory isn't the only band to go through these changes and this tendency is nearly impossible to be reverted. Another fact is that most people are traveling more these days than they did twenty years ago, so people want to have their music accessible at all times in a digitalized world to listen to it on their cell phones or computers. Some people don't have the time to listen to full records in their living rooms anymore and will instead listen to new music on the bus. It only make sense that people prefer streaming services, downloads or digital copies over physical products that might only collect dust on a shelf. Nobody wants to buy a product for a hefty price just to see it collect dust like in a museum. This might not be a healthy development for our society but that's just the way it is in general and nobody is going to change the world, especially not with a Facebook comment.

    What can really be done to change the game? There are more options than one might think of. Here are a few that came to my mind immediately and I'm far from being an expert of any kind.

    First of all, the labels in particular and the music industry in general need to adapt to these changes. Instead of producing music videos or lyrics videos that nobody will watch, short commercials on streaming websites or social media presences will lead to a more efficient marketing strategy. 

    Instead of giving interviews to print media that become less popular every year, one should cooperate with specialized fan magazines and popular people on social media to get more attention. 

    Music should become more available digitally for a certain price. Bandcamp would be the best current option for a band to get more popular and get more immediate profit at the same time. Crowdfunding campaigns offering unique gimmicks to fans are a great way to finance projects and records. Sticking with declining labels is less and less essential these days.

    Being active on social media such as Facebook and Twitter but also specific forums will make a band more visible.

    Offering specific gimmicks will also attract fan attention, such as signed copies for fair prices, an exclusive release with one of the few popular music magazines to promote an upcoming album, or boxed sets like the ones the band has released from their records Klagebilder to Revolution could be some ideas. All releases should include download codes offering high-quality digital versions of the record. If you want to sell physical copies, bonus tracks are mandatory and can be complemented by addition live discs, posters or even shirts.

    Touring with a bigger band could also be an interesting option even if it might feel disgraceful for a band that has been around for three decades. Softer German bands associated to the gothic genre such as Unheilig, Rammstein and In Extremo are doing very well financially and opening for these bands would introduce a group like Crematory to younger audiences. It could also be an idea to join forces with similar bands with comparable issues and to have three popular gothic metal bands touring together for reduced costs per member. I'm sure a line-up consisting of Paradise Lost, Moonspell and Crematory would attract much larger audiences than if the bands toured on their own.

    Obviously, all these changes need to be introduced and prepared progressively. A clever label or band would have started doing these things more than a decade ago already because the music industry as we knew it was already declining back then and streaming services and download portals were becoming more and more popular. But it's not too late to embrace change and adapt. Instead of being passive-aggressive over it, it would be much more efficient to be proactive and try out something new.

    That being said, I will continue attending concerts, buy merchandise and purchase physical versions of my favorite bands' records but this philosophy only applies to a modest minority these days.

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  • Some administrators seem to have the strategy to exploit their best human resources until they are completelty drained just to drop or exchange them as soon as they aren't considered valuable enough anymore. In most cases, those inhuman and purely bureaucratical decisions are just as despicable as they're wrong.

    Remember Montreal Canadien's Patrick Roy, undoubtedly one of the best goaltenders in the history of the NHL. He might have had a difficult personality but he was respected among most teammates, adored by numerous fans and last but not least incredibly successful. Then a new manager without much experience, reputation and success came in and didn't know how to handle such a heavyweight. It came to a clash and the coach tried to humiliate the goaltender by not taking him off the ice during a game when the entire team played terribly. Patrick Roy was furious, announced his departure and went on two win two more Stanley Cups for the Colorado Avalanche. The Montreal Canadiens haven't won one single Stanley Cup since then.

    Some sportsmen and other people in their everyday lives don't always have the occasion to make such a brave move so easily. They aren't financially independent, they have families, friends and houses to pay near their workplace and they don't always have the occasion to start a new career or life. The administrators in charge know about this and exploit their employees recklessly.

    This leads me to the current case of Laurent Ciman. He has had an incredibly successful career, a large group of fans and followers and is still a national player for the Belgian team despite his advanced age. He didn't join Montreal Impact for the fame and money but because he needed a secure environment for his autistic daughter who could get better treatments in Canada than in Belgium. Even though Ciman made his choice for the sake of taking care of his family, he gave everything for his new team. He was elected defenseman of the year in the MLS in his first year. He brought some attention to an internationally unknown team. He supported local charity and developed a strong bond with numerous fans. Ciman was also known for being severe and demanding towards himself and his teammates. Taking leadership also means taking risks. Laurent Ciman was always a perfect example for determination, honesty and integrity in both good and bad times.

    Now, a new coach has joined the team and his first noteworthy decision was to send Laurent Ciman to an expansion team in Los Angeles to get two younger and rather unknown players in return. The coach, whose name isn't even worthy to be mentioned here, justified his decision by saying that he wants to start a new era and that his decision was only influenced by recent performances. The new coach wanted to show that the management is more important than one of the team's most experienced, most faithful and most successful players. The fans reacted very negatively which surprised the coach. This proves how disconnected from reality he really is.

    The worst thing is the way this transfer was made. Laurent Ciman wasn't even asked whether he agreed to the transfer or not. The decision was taken while he was in Belgium with his family, just two weeks before Christman during offseason. Apparently, this transfer had been planned over weeks but nobody told Laurent Ciman about it. This is nothing new: managers expect their players to be honest but when it comes to themselves they are rarely role models for integrity.

    The worst element about this trade isn't the fact that a great player is leaving a team that desperately needs a leader after the departure of captain Patrice Bernier. The worst element is the human factor in this decision. Laurent Ciman's autistic daughter now either needs to leave the country and work with specialists from yet another foreign country and in a foreign language which could seriously harm her developed or Laurent Ciman must separate from his family to work in Los Angeles while his wife and children must stay in Canada. Let's not forget that Laurent Ciman bought a house in Montreal, was very well integrated in the local community and that the family members were even planning on becoming Canadian citizens. All those dreams and hopes are now shattered - by a coach who didn't even take the time to talk to his star player appropriately.

    It's very difficult to support this team after what has just happened. True fans have to criticize and question decisions like these. It's impossible to just turn the page from one day to another and to replace one player with another one. This example stands for many things that are wrong with society these days. Power, money and influence matter but empathy doesn't, even if managers might wrongfully claim otherwise.

    It's time to change things for the better - by showing your disagreement with this horrendous decision. Or by deciding to leave and start anew like Patrick Roy once did.

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