Tuesday, June 10, 2014

What Coach's Corner Didn't Tell You

   Television evenings for me these days are the Stanley Cup games. But between the first and second periods when Don and Ron begin their inarticulate chatter on Coach's Corner my concentration slips and my mind drifts. I get to thinking about things like: who invented that black rubber hockey puck anyway?
   I’m glad I asked. There is no officially recognized answer.
   The first recorded mention of a hockey game was made by British explorer Sir John Franklin. Sir John, who before losing his way and perishing in the Arctic, wrote that his crew members exercised by playing hockey on the ice at Fort Franklin, Northwest Territories in 1825. He did not mention what they were using for a puck. Likely it was a ball, or piece of ice or a frozen musk-ox turd.
   Vulcanized rubber was invented in 1839 but rubber didn’t enter hockey until the 1880s. Cow patties, stones, balls, lumps of coal, frozen potatoes and pieces of wood all were used in the meantime.
   Balls proved too difficult to keep in the playing area. Wood was much better. Game enthusiasts began shaping the wood into squares, then rounds easily produced by cutting tree limbs.
   The Victoria Hockey Club of Montreal began using rubber pucks in the late 1880s. The first rubber pucks likely were made by cutting a rubber ball in half, then trimming the halves.
   Today the standard puck is an inch thick, three inches in diameter and weighs six ounces. They are frozen before play, which helps reduce bounce, making for better control.
   Other non-essential information you might want to have for the remaining days of Stanley Cup madness:

-       The word hockey comes from the French word hoquet, which means shepherd’s hook.
-       Hockey did not evolve from the North American Indian game of lacrosse. It evolved from the British stick and ball games of shinty, hurley or bandy.
-   No one knows for sure where the word puck came from. Probably it is derived from old Scottish and Irish puc and poc, meaning to poke or push. Makes sense. There's much pushing and poking in the game these days.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Bring on the Revolution!

   Ontario, Canada’s most populous and once most important province, chooses a new government on June 12. It does not matter what party is elected to lead that government. Nothing will change because Ontario is a textbook example of the dysfunction and decline in the world’s democratic governments.
   Dysfunction and decline in failing governments are examined a new book published just as the Ontario politicians spilled onto the campaign trails with their wagonloads of unachievable promises. The new book is titled The Fourth Revolution: The Global Race to Reinvent the State, written by John Micklethwait, editor-in-chief of The Economist, and Adrian Wooldridge, management editor at the same news outlet.
   The book makes the case that we must change and re-master the art of governing because our governments have become too large, inefficient, and are going broke.
   In the first half of the last century people lived each day with almost no connection to government. Today, governments influence almost everything we do and are with us most hours of every day. The cost of government in our lives has become unsustainable.
   In 1913, U.S. government spending was 7.5 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). By 2013 it had ballooned to 41.6 per cent of GDP. Canada’s government spending as a percentage of GDP is 41.9.
   The Europeans are the champs in this category. The European Union contains seven per cent of the world’s population, producing twenty-five per cent of the world’s GDP. Yet it accounts for fifty per cent of the world’s social spending, which has bankrupted some of its member countries.
   Fixing our broken system of government is the greatest political challenge of the next decade, The Fourth Revolution argues.
   But don’t watch for any Canadian government to lead the reform of a governing system headed at high speed toward a cliff. Canadians are second only to the Europeans as hypocrites when it comes to reforming government. We bleat like sheep about ever-increasing taxes and fees, but squawk like famished vultures for government to do something when anything goes amiss in our lives.
   Politicians and parties, who have allowed pandering for votes to become more important than doing what is right, have corrupted the political system. The political health of the party and its politicians takes precedence over what is best for the people. Making the tough choices needed for responsible, efficient government has become abhorrent.
   Voters are not blameless. Most of us are poorly informed on the important issues. We form our opinions on hearsay and spin, researching little on our own. Traditional news media, on which we once relied for facts, is collapsing and new media still has to grow up to become useful and reliable.
    A revolution in governing can’t come fast enough.