Monday, April 7, 2014

Worldwide Human Rights Equality

I am amazed that it is 2014, and the world is a worse place for it.

We have amazing technology. We have high speed everything. We have the most entitled generation in history because they have never had to wait for anything because everything these days is available at your fingertips (literally)

We have jets that can fly you at 35,000 feet in a restaurant environment, and in a few hours you can cross entire continents. There are fabulous advances in medicine which have prolonged human life by 20-30 more years than it was just a generation ago.

We have all of these amazing advances, yet we sit at a basic ground level in universal human rights.

In a fair world, in a kind universe, I would expect that each and every person who is born on the face of the earth deserves the right to have certain inalienable rights. It shouldn't be the policy of a country, a religion or a culture of how these rights should be handled, it should be a human being right.

This would mean that each and every person born, experiences certain freedoms no matter where they are in the world. These freedoms should include and not be limited to, the right to a life of happiness as they choose it. It would also include sexuality in gender and expression/preference. It would include freedom of religion, or the choice thereof to express or not express yourself the way you choose. There are a million of these rights which are not enjoyed universally which we could add to the list, and it could go on and on.

All of these seem to be basic freedoms to us in North America, but we are the vast minority in the world. I think the advances in human rights have been so drastically slow that it is going to take someone or something dynamic to stand up for Universal Human Equality.

I like to say that every human being has the right to H.U.R.A! This stands for, Heard, Understood, Respected and Accepted. Period.

If I can use this distinction, I can give each person I come into contact with, and even not agree with them on their stance, but I can do it respectfully. I can utilize this to respectfully agree to disagree. I can allow the person to keep their view without having it threaten mine, and we can live with that peacefully without trying to dominate or change the other's view to our own.

This means that each and every person gets this right.

In an unworkable world you can tell me that this would never work. But I ask you, which is the easier road to go, the one we are travelling now, or the route to human rights equality?

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Toronto Maple Leafs and Tim Leiweke

So there is a popular joke in Toronto that goes like this:

"How do you know it's spring in Toronto?"

Answer: "The Leafs are out."

It's actually funny because it's true and we've been saying it for decades. Year after year, Leafs Nation looks to mediocre success. They claim that this will be the year that The Leafs are going to win the Stanley Cup, their first since 1967, in which there were only the 6 original teams in the NHL.

I had thought that Brian Burke would have been the new look that The Leafs were looking for, and it turned out, I was wrong on that end. For whatever reasons, that experiment didn't work, and I think Brian Burke himself would tell you that without reservation.

So MLSE looks to a new passer-of-the-torch to bring the Holy Grail of hockey back to Toronto. This comes in the form of a man who brings a new thought process to the sports mentality. A man who plans the parade route of The Stanley Cup before Toronto wins it.

This man is MLSE's President and CEO, Tim Leiweke, and I love his vision.

Now, I don't know Leiweke and I have not spoken to him yet, but I am going to make some predictions  as to what will happen in Leafs Nation this summer.

Leiweke is a visionary man. He has a replica of the Stanley Cup in his office at the Air Canada Centre. He has had his hand in L.A. with championships with the L.A. Kings and the MLS, Galaxy and he brings a new attitude to winning here in Toronto. He is yet to really put his mark on The Leafs like he has with TFC and The Raptors, and with The Leafs missing the playoffs this year, and last year's meltdown against the Bruins in game 7, look for a new direction.

Men like Leiweke don't wait for results, they create them. You can only create success with people who believe it to be possible, and I feel that this has been the problem in Leafs Nation. Every single NHL franchise has the same intention, to win the Stanley Cup. They all have the same salary cap in which they can spend to get it, and they all train with great coaches and systems. Yet, the one missing link is the mentality they instil into their group of players.

So, it is my prediction that they will fire head coach Randy Carlyle at the end of this season. Carlyle is a Norris-winning defenceman, but The Leafs had one of the worst defence in the entire NHL this year. Look for a coach to be brought in who is less of a player and old-school systems guy, but more of a Ted Nolan approach. Coaches now will need to be much better communicators and leave the systems up to their assistants, instead of the other way around. Look for this to change...

A coach can only get so much out of their players. A great coach can make a mediocre player extraordinary. Unfortunately, there is some dead wood that needs to be moved first. Look for Nazem Kadri to be moved in this re-build. Kadri simply doesn't make any of the players around him better. His lack of work ethic and off-ice training leave him as a talented forward, but talent alone will never win at the NHL level. Leafs G.M. Dave Nonis was smart to sign him to a bridge contract which will make Kadri's potential to be realized somewhere else, but his time and chances are done in Toronto.

Unfortunately, The Leafs will also lose goaltender James Reimer this off-season as well. Reimer is widely acknowledged to be a wonderful person and team mate, yet his team did not play well in front of him. He struggled with rebound control and confidence, while Leafs Nation blamed him for an 8 game losing streak in March which ultimately cost them a spot in the playoffs. Reimer deserves to be a starting goalie in the NHL, and I sincerely hope he gets it. He is one the classiest acts in hockey and I wish him well, but it won't be in Toronto.

Look for The Leafs to remove Dion Phaneuf as captain. Leiweke values leadership, period. It is safe to say that Phaneuf is not the leader they thought he could be when they gave him the "C". It would be better to have no captain, and 3 alternates and in the interim, so look for this to happen. Ideally, The Leafs will trade for a #1 pairing defenceman with leadership skills. This would allow Phaneuf to return to his second pairing role and play a more manageable 18 minutes a game. This would take the pressure off of him and allow him to do what he does best, and not ask him to earn his $49 million contract being something he isn't capable of.

The question of leadership in the dressing room will be addressed so look for character players to be injected into the mix.

The rest will be smaller moves, but I think this will be the start of a great run for The Toronto Maple Leafs.

I look forward to seeing the clearing of 45 years of doing it the wrong way, and seeing the vision of Leiweke to bring the Stanley Cup back to Toronto.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

James Reimer and What it Takes to be a Role Model in the NHL

This is a picture of what James Reimer is best at.

Like his hockey ability or not, this is what makes James Reimer an exceptional athlete. This picture was taken on March 8th at the morning skate at the ACC. Unfortunately, it was also the last win the Leafs had and since then, they have lost 8 straight games and with it, the probable loss of the post-season.

Much of the blame from Leafs Nation fell upon James during this time. I was appalled to see his wife, April getting obscene messages from Leafs fans about her husband's play on the ice. What the disgruntled fan doesn't see is that they have one of the sport of hockey's more engaging and down to earth athletes, and they are responsible for killing his chances of returning a Toronto Maple Leaf.

There isn't a team mate in the dressing room that dis-likes James Reimer. Why? Because he has the heart of gold. He's the first person on the ice, and the last off it. He does a ton of charity work, he is a devout man of faith, and he signs more autographs in the public as an act of service.

When I took this picture, James was the last off the Leafs morning skate, and he spent about 20 minutes signing autographs in the tunnel leading to the dressing room. Not only did he sign, he engaged the kids, asked them where they played, how they were doing, smiled, and then he came to this woman in the wheelchair...

I watched in awe as he took 10 minutes with her alone. Reimer stayed and chatted and then reached over to the trainer and asked him to bring him one of his Goal sticks and he asked the woman if she would like a signed stick. Well, you have never seen a more elated fan than her! Then I watched Reimer look down the hall, do a 360 turn to make sure he hadn't missed a kid, a fan, ANYONE that wanted to meet him or have his autograph, before he went into the dressing room. You see, he hasn't forgotten what its like to have your favourite player become your favourite PERSON, as a fan. He makes sure that everyone he meets has a great customer service experience, and that they get to feel special, even for the briefest of moments.

And that's what we want in our role models.

We all have bad days at the office, and make mistakes that the rest of our workplace has to make up for and yet we would love it when people give us space in our "slump" Yet, we are the first to cast the finger at James Reimer because he was going through a tough ride when the Leafs were playing terrible in front of him. Former NHL heavyweight tough guy, Jim Thomson once told me, "We're all going to go through slumps in our career. If you are the type of person that everyone loves as a team mate in the dressing room, you will have 19 guys supporting you to get out of the funk. However, if you are the asshole in the dressing room, your team mates will let you rot..."

I wonder where the leadership of Dion Phaneuf has been in stepping up for Reimer? That's what a captain is for. The way Dion has handled this is pathetic, and its consistent with his own play on the ice.

The really comical thing here is, everyone seems to forget that James Reimer was single handedly responsible for carrying the Leafs on his shoulders and leading them into the playoffs. And of all the hall-of-fame goaltenders that Toronto has ever had, Broda, Bower, Sawchuk, Plante, Parent, Belfour (and soon to be) Cujo, Reimer has the single season highest save percentage as a Leafs goalie, EVER. That's some skill to be at the top of that company...

So I want to say thank you for giving us your absolute best every night James Reimer. Sometimes, it wasn't in the result of a win, but I know that you gave Toronto your absolute best effort, and that's all we can ever ask for from anyone. You are a class act, and you are going to be just find wherever your journey takes you. I just wish more hockey player out there got it like you seem to get it.

Good luck in your future, and please allow me to apologize on behalf of all those hurtful Toronto fans that caused you and April unneeded stress in a most challenging time. You didn't need it, and they surely didn't have the appreciation to see your wonderful heart. So feel sorry for them, they are after all, Leafs fans...

The Execution of Ray Jasper, and his victim, David Alejandro Part 2

So I received about the amount of negative feedback as I had expected in Part one of my blog about Ray Jasper. For the most part, I feel the people who spewed their venom my way only read what they wanted my blog to mean for them. One of the themes I saw was people's perception of the word forgiveness and yet the meaning is totally different to us all. Some forgive because it releases themselves from the impact. Some refuse to forgive. Some think forgiveness is earned and some feel that it is given. That seems to be the common denominator as I see it. Again, I don't need the support or the negative feedback from an audience to make me feel better about writing to Ray Jasper.

So let’s get back to why I wrote Ray Jasper.

When I read Jasper’s lengthy response letter to Gawker, I was floored. Perhaps I had an expectation that Death Row inmates were simply people who had numbed themselves in preparation for death, and they just lived their remaining days waiting to die. Maybe I looked at them with contempt for being the utter shame of humanity.

However, I know that each of us has a unique story that resides in each and every one of us of who we are. Some of us had better tools and conditions to deal with the events in our lives and some didn’t. I truly believe that our environment creates the monster in each of us. If you live in a hostile world, you will view the world as hostile. If you live in a safe environment, you will see the world as wonderful and safe. For whatever reasons, known only to few, Ray Jasper did not have the tools to deal with the events in his life and he reverted to the poor choices that landed him in jail, and cost a man his life. In that sense, society failed him. It takes a community to raise a child, and Ray Jasper’s community looks a lot different than mine. It doesn’t justify or allow any of his behaviour traits to be condoned, it simply shows them, and allows us to see why it happened.

And who knows why it happened… I really believe that everything in life happens for a reason and a purpose. I acknowledge that I am short sighted in this grandiose vision, so I have to accept the fact that I don’t know it all, and take the rest on having faith that there is something bigger up there that knows what’s for the good of the whole.

So back to my point…

The way I see it, Ray Jasper has a daughter in high school. She is now the daughter of an executed murderer and now has to go through life with that distinction. As if life wasn’t tough enough for teenagers, her life just got a little more difficult. I mentioned earlier that it takes a village to raise a child. So I wrote to Ray Jasper to ask if I could help his daughter in some way after he was gone.

Now, I don’t know what that will look like. But I had to imagine that having people reach out in the hope that his daughter deserves a better way of life than the one she was born into, was something I could attempt to take on. It wouldn’t be possible with just me alone, it has to come from people who believe that sometimes it takes a horrific mistake to learn from and the strength of great leadership knows that the emotions of humility, acceptance, Love, and forgiveness are the pillars of re-building and starting again. I think she deserves the community to reach out to her and support her in her life, and not judge her for who what her father did.

In Ray Jasper’s reply to me, he gave me permission to reach out to his daughter so that her life might be better for it. Of the hundreds of letters that Ray had, I was one that he replied to. He told me that it was impossible to write back to everyone, yet I was one of the few.

So I have reached out to her. I don’t know what the future will hold from doing this, but I simply could not stand by idle, and not take this action. If you feel like you would want to make a difference in this young woman’s life, then I would hope that you and I could make that difference in showing the world the qualities of forgiveness, acceptance, and Love. Ray Jasper’s life would have looked a world of a difference different with those qualities, and so would the impact of David Alejandro’s. And for the impact of this terrible event, would you help us create a positive from a negative, and show the world that it does take a village of people to raise a child? 

If you feel that way, please feel free to tell me about your ideas at:

So Ray Jasper is now dead, and justice has been served. Every ending creates a new beginning. The end of Ray Jasper’s story is now for us to learn from, and chose our own view from it in the kind of world we wish to live in. I for one choose to live in a world of forgiveness and acceptance; one of empathy and understanding. These words create possibilities and not judgements. I think the world has enough judgement in it, so I choose possibility where nothing is impossible.

For even the word, “Impossible” says, I’m possible…