FIRST. I admit, I went looking for some over-the-top triumphalism in the Russian press coverage of their team’s Tuesday night World Junior semi-final victory over Canada. No such luck. Most of the reports were happy but even in tone: no in-your-face arrogance, grandstanding, poor sportsmanship at all, really. That’s not counting the post-game exuberance of some of the Russian players. Here’s Nail Yakupov, who’s projected to be the first pick in next year’s NHL draft, quoted in The Globe and Mail: “It’s my first big tournament in my life. We win. We’re pretty excited. We beat Canada. Russia win. Russia better than Canada.” And from the Moscow’s Argumenti i Facty, Russian captain Evgeny Kuznetsov: “This victory compares with my birthday. I’m just happy that we won. And not even happy with what we have won, but from the fact that they did not win gold this year. … It’s a shame, really, that I missed so many goals, I wanted to win 6-1. Canadians are not so good to us scoring so many goals. I knew it would be hard ending the game, but not so much. I thought the fourth or fifth goal would be victorious. Thank God that we are so lucky. Canadians are not Russian, to accomplish feats. We won, and it became clear who is better, Russia or Canada.”
SECOND. The papers and the magazines, the websites and the blogs are all filled this week with anniversary and year-end wraps-up and looks-back at Sidney Crosby’s famous concussion. With all the talk on head hits and early onset dementia and CTE, the outcry and the awareness, Reggie Fleming, Derek Boogaard, the many doctors talking, and Keith Primeau, the memories of Pat Lafontaine and Brett Lindros, the calls for change, all the actual human grey matter we’ve seen on TV, not to mention the many simulations of shaken brains — is it really possible that NHL teams are still talking about “mild concussions”? Yes. The Ottawa Senators were reporting this week that during Monday night’s game against New Jersey, defenceman Chris Phillips was involved in a “mishap,” colliding with the Devils’ Dainus Zubrus. Ottawa coach Paul MacLean was the one to use the word “mild” next day, which the team’s website duly reported. More surprising might be all the other reputable media (hello, TSN.ca) who picked up the story and repeated it unquestioned. To review, with the aid of Toronto neurosurgeon Charles Tator: the term “mild concussion” is as useful as saying “mildly pregnant.” You either are or aren’t concussed. “Mild concussion is an oxymoron,” Dr. Tator said in 2009.
THIRD. Russian legend Vladislav Tretiak organizes an annual winter camp for young goalies, with this year’s edition wrapping up in early December in Tambov and Berdsk and Ufa and … all over the country, really. One of Tretiak’s messages to his protégés, according to the Russian Ice Hockey Federation: “With all the wonderful coaches who help me here, I teach young goalies not to be scared of the puck. Yes, it can be psychologically difficult when a piece of rubber is approaching your head but one must not be scared of it. Respect it and then everything will come out!”