Category Archives: Motivation

The unwritten rules of slo-pitch

Finally, a master list of  slo-pitch rules.  This is for hitters, fielders, pitchers, umpires and even spectators.  The world would be a rosy place if we could all just remember these 15 points.

Rules are in no particular order, except for #1 and #2 which are essential to a game being played in an efficient manner.

  1. Hitters – Always take the first-pitch.
  2. Pitchers – Always throw a first-pitch strike.
  3. Spitz are communal.  If you don’t want to share, leave them in your car.
  4. Umpires – Always call your own guy “out” on close plays.  It’s better for your buddy to bust YOUR chops over the call than some “Gary Go-Hard” getting in your face.
  5. Umpires – If it’s a “foul ball”, yell like your hair is on fire.  Don’t make any baserunners or fielders run for no reason.
  6. Spectators – Shag up those foul balls.  The extra steps add up on your fitbit.
  7. Umpires – If the pitch is a “strike”, make an audible noise so the outfielders can hear you.  If it’s a “ball”, silence is ok.
  8. Clean up your empties and garbage.
  9. Never throw behind the runner.
  10. Always hustle in and out of the dugout.
  11. Don’t try to hit up the middle.
  12. If you accidentally hit up the middle, apologize.
  13. If your 10th guy is a little late…start with 9 and take the auto-out.  Don’t stall.
  14. Clean up your bats from the on-deck circle.
  15. “Three Cheers” should be done with purpose.

10 Media tips from Jay Onrait

Jay Onrait is successful (duh).  The broad strokes of his resume are: 10+ years hosting SportsCentre on TSN, 4 years on FS1 (FOX Sports 1) in the US, and 2 best-selling books.  He’s set to return to TSN in September with Dan O’Toole….Canadians haven’t been this jazzed since the Golden Goal.

Jay was the keynote speaker at NAIT’s annual Media Broadcast day Saturday.  If you’re thinking about getting into the Media, here are the Top 10 Tips I took from his presentation:

  1.  Establish industry contacts early and put together a “demo” ASAP (read “What Color is your Parachute” for more on this)
  2. There is no replacement for face-to-face conversation when looking for a job.
  3. Embrace any city/town you land in.
  4. Find common ground with others to get over personality conflicts and always turn the other cheek.
  5. Remember:  you’ll always be working when your friends and family are not.  Get used to it.
  6. Don’t judge anything/anybody/anyplace until you get there and see/meet/experience it/them for yourself.
  7. Get used to hearing “no” a lot.  Lose your sensitivity to it, but never stop asking.
  8. Writing is STILL the most important skill in this industry.  Find a reason and an outlet to do it more.
  9. For that first job, be willing to move anywhere.  Your first job is the toughest one to get.
  10. As of now: your social media existence is different.  Be a professional because anything you say can and will be used against you.

Being a Man and the New Tough

The ongoing process of “being a Man” is complex and confusing.  It’s important to look at where “being a man” came from in order to understand where Men are today; and why where they are today is dangerous.

Humble and Primitive Beginnings 

Men are taught when they are boys that being a man requires physical strength and a willingness to use it.  Wells don’t dig themselves, gents.  Wood doesn’t come self chopped, fellas.  Pickle jars lids are always snug, chaps.  Without the physical tools to perform certain tasks: we’d be dirty, thirsty, and cold in (the dark) eating sandwiches without a tangy, crunchy zip to them.  Physically, the manual for being a Man looks like this:

         How To – Be a Man.  A guide for boys.

     page 1.

Roll up your sleeves (if you’re wearing any at all) and get after it!  Push, pull, heave, trench, sweat, swear and muscle at the task until it’s done.

page 2.

(I imagine this being comic strips and maybe an article on lawn maintenance)

Mentally, the process of being a man is much less straightforward and it has changed drastically.  100 years ago (give or take), a man had to view every other man as a threat.  And rightfully so!   If another man wanted what was yours (your house, land, horses, etc.) he challenged you to a duel for it.  The only thing worse than drawing second, and losing that challenge, was refusing it altogether.  Think about that:  showing weakness was a fate worse than DEATH.

Men had to constantly be on guard and keep their emotions in check in order to live to see another sunrise.  Some men still believe this world-view is completely necessary. And this is where our problem begins.  Newsflash: you will not be dueling another man over a clam-shell of mixed greens anytime soon.  Despite this fact, men still act like every other man is just looking for an opportunity to pounce!  This defensive outlook has seeped into how Men maintain their health.  The reality is: the single largest danger facing men today is themselves.

The New Tough

The hard part of embodying what it is to be a Man these days is overcoming the preconceived notions, fabricated conditions and outdated traditional rituals that we are led to believe we cannot or should not change.  Despite the fact that in the last 100+ years, everything has changed.  Men don’t hunt in loincloths anymore, they go to Safeway.

The New Tough is recognizing this change.  It means showing emotion and being a Human; not just a Man.  It is being confident enough to see a doctor because living is more important than what a lesser man thinks of you.  It also means being sympathetic toward that lesser mans and helping him see the stigma.  A man recognizes he can be hurt both physically and mentally (heck , even Superman has kryptonite and a soft-spot for the human race…and nobody questions his toughness).  “The New Tough” is being man enough to recognizing that the world has changed and that to keep our physical and mental health in check we need to change with it.

Movember Launch 2015

Movember Launch 2015



Northlands: October 6, 1990

My favourite Northlands moment came on Saturday October 6, 1990.  It was my first Oiler game.  The home-building company my father worked for had season tickets.  He must have had a good month, because that Saturday night was the home opener.

The Oilers had just won their 5th Stanley Cup, and during the pre-game ceremony team officials rolled the trophy in question onto the ice.  Even from high in the stands, The Cup looked massive and sparkled like a ten-foot diamond on a Christmas tree.

The home team was announced and Mark Messier was given the loudest ovation.  There was a smoke-machine (!) and what would now pass as the appropriate lighting production for a 6 year old’s birthday party. Hey, it was 1990!

Then it happened.  Just as the visiting Winnipeg Jets were announced, something I had never witnessed in person before began to happen.

Grown men started boo’ing.  Children began jeering.  Women were cussing.  It was the most unruly thing I had ever seen or heard as an 11 year-old!  Confused, and perhaps caught in the moment, I began to boo too!  “Boooooooooooo!”, I hollered.  I managed only one “mini-boo” before my Mother let me know that it was not polite and I was to stop immediately!  I’m guessing she was thinking, “Phil Housley, Thomas Steen and Ed Olczyk seem to be decent guys.  My child should not be calling them down at work.”

I don’t remember a single goal in the 3-3 tie (but I do remember going to Boston Pizza for dinner, delicious).  Thanks for the memory and the lesson in sportsmanship, Mom!



The Romance in Arguing with an Official.

Arguing with the officials is as much a part of sport as athletic supporters.  In baseball, players spit near the feet of umpires while managers kick dirt on homeplate.  Football coaches race down sidelines blue in the face with rage screaming bloody murder.  And who could forget this classy gem by NHL head coach Joel Quenneville in the playoffs last year:

That's what Coach thought of the call.

That’s what Coach thought of the call.

Soccer is different.  Arguing with the official is almost romantic.  Players plead their case like jilted lovers.  Their eyes pour with extreme disbelief like the wrongest of wrongs has been done unto them immediately after they kick another man in the shin (from behind).  How could the referee punish me for this?!  They hold their hands as if to pray, begging the referee to see their side, as if the fate of humanity depended on it.  With arms extended out, as if crucified, they beg for a higher power (the guy with the whistle) to see things their way!

I was at my first Edmonton FM match on the weekend.  We tide the match at 1 in extra time off a free kick.  It was a thrilling finish to an afternoon filled with the most romantic sports arguing I have ever seen.  I am now a soccer fan.

A Lesson On The Eve Of Canadian Olympic Hockey

In Canada, we talk about hockey all the time.  Those who can’t at least debate Gretzky vs. Lemieux or  traditional icing vs. no-touch icing are black-bagged and sent to Siberia.  In an Olympic year, we somehow over-turn the laws of physics and talk about it even more than a 24 hour day allows.  There are no shortage of story-lines to follow as Team Canada prepares to defend Gold in Sochi.  This is one story we can all learn from.  The story of team Canada forward Chris Kunitz.

Team Canada is a team of NHL All-Stars littered with a few NHL Super-Stars: players drafted first overall into the NHL.   John Tavares, Rick Nash and Sidney Crosby were all picked first after accomplished and acclaimed junior careers.   In addition, there are eight men on the roster drafted in the top 10.  These are guys who were born and raised to play hockey.  Then there is Chris Kunitz.

Kunitz was not drafted.  Not one single NHL team thought he had the goods to play in the NHL.  Not.  One.  Did he quit?  No.  After a decent college career, he signed a contract to play in the American Hockey League in 2003.  He skated well enough for the Cincinnati Ducks to be called up to the Anaheim Ducks of the NHL.  He played in just 21 games recording six points.  What was his reward for decent play?  He was released.  Did he quit?  No.  He was signed by the Atlanta Thrashers, where he played 2 games and was -guess what?- Yep, released again.  “Your services are no longer needed, Mr. Kunitz.  We wish you all the best in your future endeavors…”  Did he quit?  No.

Anaheim gave him another chance in 2005-2006 and that year he won a Stanley Cup when the Ducks beat the Senators.  Eventually, he was traded to Pittsburgh where he currently plays along Sidney Crosby.  There is little doubt that it was Sidney who recommended Chris to be on Team Canada.  When the best player in the world asks for somebody on his wing: you listen.  That speaks volumes about Chris’ ability and work ethic.

I can only imagine how many times Chris wondered if all the hard work would be worth it.  If all the hours in the gym would pay off.  If all the long bus rides, sacrifices and bruises would get him anywhere at the profession he chose.  He’s gotten to the point where every NHL team would love to have him; just eleven years after they all passed him up.  And he’s been given the personal stamp of approval by Hockey Royalty.

Zack Kassian owes Taylor Hall an apology.

Oilers center Sam Gagner was whacked in the face by Canuck Zack Kassian Saturday night (in a PRESEASON game) and will need surgery to repair his broken jaw. Gagner is out indefinitely.  Zack is really sorry.  Who are we kidding; Kassian a repeat offender and likely won’t lose a wink of sleep.  This heaps more bad news onto a team so thin at center; Oiler fans wish Shawn Horcoff was still on the roster. But that wasn’t all the bad news  from Saturday.  

In the same game, Vancouver forward Dale Weise (who?  EXACTLY!) missed decapitating Taylor Hall with the kind of elbow that would have made the Macho Man proud.  I believe both Weise and Kassian will be disciplined by the league.  The trickle down from these 2 events, by these 2 knuckle heads, should be noted.  But before we do that, let’s look at the financial ramifications:

Weise + Kassian = $1,56M in salary.

Hall + Gagner = $10.8M in salary.

This is the equivalent of Chevy Cavalier rear-ending a Ferrari while texting-and-driving. Think about that for a second.

Back to the point:

With Gagner out until who-knows-when, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins on the shelf until at least November recovering from shoulder surgery, the Taylor Hall at Center Experiment is all but assured.  Taylor will be challenged play and excel at a new position out of necessity.  To add personal insult to the team pain, Hall’s chances of making Team Canada are all but squashed.

As an Oiler fan, I can admit it.  Taylor Hall was a bit of a long-shot to make Team Canada on left-wing.  Now he can forget about it.  Even if he only plays 15 games at center he will then only have 15-25 games to prove he’s got what it takes to represent Canada on the wing.  If playing at an elite level in multiple positions was “easy”, players would do it all the time.  But they don’t ’cause it ain’t.

Clearly, I’m an Oiler fan.  Obviously, I’m upset.  Yes, my opinion may be a little slanted.  But what if a repeat offender (Kassian), and a career minor leaguer (Weise) put your team’s already-slim-playoff-hopes on the brink and came 5 inches away from killing one of your best players and an Olympic hopeful?   I think you’d be hot under the collar too.  What dumps gas on this fire is the fact that it’s PRESEASON.

The league needs to send out a memo to owners and General Managers.  The gist of it needs to be this:  It’s bad for the league to have yahoos running around trying to “play intense” or “show that they have edge”, etc. in the preseason.  If your player does something that warrants a suspension in the preseason, the franchise will be penalized with draft picks.  I’m not saying do this in the regular season (although I might say that a few years from now) but it’s just down-right ridiculous in the preseason to have this level of injury and violence.  How GM’s and Coaches deliver this message to their franchise is up to them.

How to be cool: an essay for my brother Mitchell Sawchuk

If the line between genius and madness is thin, I would argue that the distinction between cool and uncool is a real eye-squinter.  Being cool is a lot like NOT going offside in hockey; and about as easy to explain.

To be “Cool” you want to be the first person to do something, like bringing the puck across your opponents blue line before the rest of your teammates cross said line.  Or, you want to be right behind the person who’s stick handling the puck, while acting like you know what’s happening, or what’s going to happen next, (when you really don’t).  Keep in mind that if you get too close and skate over the metaphorical “cool blue line” too soon, ahead of the person with the “cool puck” everybody stops and looks at you funny.   That’s offside, man.  

If you -by chance- are the pioneer of a fashion, sound, idea or movement, which is to carry the “cool puck”, you want to lead at the right pace.  It’s your responsibility to charge toward the net.  But don’t deviate from that plan at the last moment.  Don’t change your mind based on new information, experiences or advice.  In that moment you are no longer able to think for yourself.  It’s too late for you to be an original.  Your destiny is to be what others want and or expect of you.  You’re not a person – you’re cool.

When the coolness of others depends on you, you’re no longer an individual.  So there you are, doing something you may no longer believe in because you have to lead others based on their expectation of you.  See how thin the line is?   This is where the similarities between being cool and not going off side in hockey stop.

In hockey, the idea is to score goals.  Putting the puck in the net is how a team wins.  In hockey, when you score, everybody hugs and celebrates and high-fives and pats each others bums.  There is a clear and definable goal.

In the pursuit of cool however, you follow trends (the guy or girl with the” cool puck”) even if you don’t fully understand why,  then when that movement “scores” (whatever that means), cool people gather around the net looking at each other trying to understand what just happened: “What did we score?”  “Did I score, or was that you?” Being cool includes a lot of clueless celebrating.

Calculating the cadence to being cool (whatever that is) is something I’ve been working on my entire life.  Maybe you are too.  Maybe you’ve subconsciously, or on purpose,  gotten a haircut that society deemed “cool”, maybe you drink a brand of beer, drive a brand of car, or use a vocabulary that brings you admiration from a peer group who’s idea of “cool” you’ve actively or passively embraced.  And it’s OK if you dobecause we all do in a way.  We’re all human.  So how do you become cool?

Some people think they know the secret to being cool.  They say all you have to do is not try.  People who think that are wrong.  Believe me:  Mick Jagger, Justin Bieber and your-favorite-fill-in-the-blank celebrity/musician/actress/politician/activist/hero, etc are all trying to be cool.  The difference is they don’t CARE if you think their cool IS cool or not.  In fact, the thought likely doesn’t even cross their minds.  After they do something they think is cool, they stop thinking about it.  Doing what they think is cool is cool enough.  Then they do something else cool, while a lot of us write essays about it.

My brother Mitchell Sawchuk has been defining cool as long as I’ve known him.  It takes a brave man to boast that he plans to wear a suit and tie to a cruise ships safety demo –  it takes a cool guy to actually do it.  And more importantly: to not care what anybody else thinks, even if that somebody else is the trained safety professional politely asking you to keep it down during the demo.  Mitchell saved a few bucks on his high school grad jacket when he bought it second-hand, he thought that was cool.  He didn’t care if it did, and still does, have another person’s name on it (a girl’s name at that).

There are two types of people in the world: those who labor over what it means to be cool, and those who  do stuff they think is cool without hesitation.  It’s just another thing my brother and I will never have in common.


How to Be a Sports Fan

It’s difficult to believe that a handbook on this is even necessary; but yesterday I saw a full-grown man wearing a San Jose Sharks jersey in downtown Edmonton.  This man was not Joe Thornton.  Clearly, it’s necessary.

To set this up, the following is a loose transcript of a conversation I had with a woman wearing a Red Wings jersey on the LRT leaving a hockey game in Edmonton this season:

Dave Sawchuk:   I see you’re wearing a Red Wings Jersey, when did you get into town?  Are you enjoying your Canadian visit?  

Random Woman: Visit?  I’m not from Detroit.  I’m from Edmonton.

DS: Oh, I assumed you were visiting since you’re not cheering for your home-team.  Is your family from Detroit or the greater Detroit Area?

RW: No

DS: Have you ever been to Detroit?

RW: No

DS: Do you have a personal or professional connection to anybody who currently, or used to, play for the Detroit Red Wings?  Is Henrik Zetterberg your boyfriend?

RW: No, no and I wish!!!!

*My face goes blank and I quietly ride the LRT to the Corona station*

Effective immediately  these are the never-to-be-broken rules on how to properly select and cheer for a sports franchise.  It’s a 2 step process.

1.  Examine your drivers licence.  You’ll notice an address on it.  Take note of the city.

2.  Cheer for the sports franchise that corresponds with the city listed.

I wish it were more complex; but it ain’t.  There are a few rare exceptions:

a) You are from another city, or used to live in another city where you developed a personal connection with another team.  Did you do a tour of duty in St.Louis?  Did you become a Blues fan in the process?  Sure, you can have it.  Even if you move back to Edmonton.  You wanna be a Blues fan for life?  I can understand (and I’m sorry).

b) You’re OLDER than the franchise in your city.  My dad is an Oiler fan, but he has every right to choose any Original Six team he likes.  Why?  Because those were the only teams playing when he was a kid; he couldn’t very well cheer for a team that didn’t exist.  This condition is grandfathered in.

c) Your brother, high school buddy, boyfriend, dental hygienist’s kid, (this is a real stretch) plays on the team.  I met a 12 year old boy at an Oiler game once wearing an LA Kings jersey with “Clifford” on the back.  Turns out Kyle Clifford is a family friend.  It’s all yours kid; you get a pass.

Am I missing any reasonable exceptions?  I considered adding a “father figure” clause, but balked.  True Story: I know this guy who cheers for the Calgary Flames because he hates his father.  As an adolescent, he developed a love for the Flames (specifically the thing opposite to his father’s passion), while living in Edmonton during the “dynasty days”.  There’s an Oedipus Rex joke in there somewhere.