Thursday, January 17, 2008

Canada Ultimate en Espanol


Through some site tracking I found my first Talking with Trainor link and translation. It appears as though Jimmy P is big in Columbia.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Who stole the Logo? Discraft versus Gaia


Starting to play the game in Ottawa in late 2001, I soon became aware of GAIA Ultimate and their apparel. Their clothes were never hotter, as sales of cleats, clothes and ultimate paraphernalia wasn't just available at local tournaments, it was the thing to do (purchase). The fact that GAIA lost much of its moment due to various reasons (high price, poor service, slow shipping, logistics and distribution, etc) is a different story for a different article soon to come.

Our sport knows the Discraft disc company as well. It's the disc of choice for almost all competitive players in North America. Enough said.

I was looking through an Ottawa based ultimate picture site ( and viewed some pictures of the world beach ultimate championships in Brazil. Among the many great pictures taken by Greg Lays, here is one that left me wondering:

  • Does anyone notice the Discraft signage in the background?
  • Doesn't that logo look disturbingly similar to the Gaia logo?
  • Who is copying who?
  • Has there been some kind of merger that hasn't been discussed in Ultimate and hasn't been posted on either company's site?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Evaluating Leadership In Ultimate: Learning from JFJ's woe


By now, I am sure everyone in Canada knows about the current woes of the Toronto Maple Leafs and the chaotic job status of their General Manager. John Ferguson Jr has fallen on hard times and seems to be a dead man walking as seen here . Let me state the obvious:

  • The situation (replacing their GM) is being handled poorly
  • There are far too many people involved in the leadership structure at Maple Leafs Sports Entertainment (MLSE) with regards to hockey matters
  • People that hate the leafs enjoy this way too much
  • The media has an uncanny ability to press issues
  • I'd like to discuss it a little today and relate it to ultimate.
I have a bit different perspective of the situation than most. Thanks to my excellent advisor at Western, I've met MLSE President and CEO Richard Peddie on multiple occasions. Meeting him one on one and in group situations, it is very apparent that he is an excellent CEO. He makes MLSE A LOT of money. He's confident, he's charismatic (which he has failed to show on camera lately), and he's diligent. I'm met a lot of Canadian sport executives in the past 2 years, and I would venture to say that he is the best read in terms of executive leadership. We're not talking paperback books by Trump, legitimate authors that academics love and respect. Despite all this, he's suffering a lot of bad PR. Blame the media, blame some poorly executed comments, blame
the on ice fate of the team.

Above Peddie comes a Board of Directors representing the many owners of the team. The have varied interests and egos. World domination and return to the shareholder is a common link. Most prominent is Chairman Larry Tanenbaum.

Below both of these titans is John Ferguson Jr. He's been in power for roughly five years. His main job is to ensure the club's on ice performance, and he's failed. He hasn't traded well. He hasn't signed great contracts. His scouting staff is large but he hasn't drafted well. Overall, his biggest failing (in my opinion) has been the ability to develop a vision and stick to it (Youth, Win Now, Team strategy, etc). For most of his tenure, JFJ got the benefit of the doubt. Despite not being a big name, he has NHL pedigree in his family, a law degree and an extensive NHL record working in player development.

The good times are over. Both Peddie and Tanenbaum seem ready to replace him with an older and more experienced men. Why the team in Toronto needs a president over 70 (Cliff Fletcher, Scotty Bowman) boggles my mind.

My questions are this:
  • Why is the same media calling for the head of a GM that they personally lobbied for a contract extension in the summer. Does the media have any long term memory?
  • Why do fans jump to conclusions on their teams in the midst of slumps and streaks?
  • Why would a team with such great leadership be so swayed by a media backlash?
How does this relate to Ultimate?

Ultimate teams and players don't have a lot of media to deal with in tough times. I am thankful I didn't have to face the media after nationals last year (my team had its "wheels fall off"). However, there is a throng of people in the community with their own agendas and their own ideas of leadership and organization evaluation.

This year, I saw a man lose his paid ultimate job ("resigned", as it seems everyone does in the association) because of persistent pressure (and some propaganda) from league members and a board that has very little private sector/sport leadership experience to draw from. Captains of the field yes, captains of industry definitely not.

This man was not perfect. He had failings in his management style. However, he had held his position for over 7 years and was a huge source of tacit knowledge with regards to fields, local politics, youth programs, comp programs and the league itself and oversaw huge growth. However, various groups (some very good people among them) personally came to dislike the man and he went from popular to out of the picture very fast. Didn't like his personality, resented his being paid, and the list went on.

We're not the media and we shouldn't eat our own without valid reason. Taking someone's source of income away from them is a very serious manner, and I resent the mob mentality in ultimate as much as I do when sports media attacks a team on a 5 game losing streak. If someone is doing a poor job by the evaluation goals set out, sack them by all means.

It seems very easy for volunteers and league members to slag online and attack petition online with the previous mentioned mob mentality. However, we should make sure we elect/appoint boards and staffs that do the right thing. True leadership looks at the big picture. It sticks to the vision. It can be counted on in times of crisis. If your association or team doesn't understand that, you're lose valuable people and ultimate loses.
I predict JFJ will be fired and the coach (Paul Maurice) will need a miracle. Peddie will relinquish his President duties and remain the CEO. A more media friendly face will represent the team. The team will still suck. Leaf Nation will still scream for Dougie Gilmour and look at grainy black and white victory parades from 1967.

I love the salary cap!!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Trainor Teaches... What I learned from the Stanley Cup Champs

I just want to give a shout-out to the Americans who have been loyally coming to the site. Please fire me off an e-mail (if you like) to tell me a little about yourself, your teams, and so on.


One of my new year's resolutions regarding this site is to post more think pieces borrowing on the strength of my master's degree and teaching awards. I will enjoy it, the game needs it, and it might make for a great read. This one will be very bubble gum, but I've got to use these pictures somehow. :)

This Christmas, I spent the holiday season with the Praha Princess and her family in Vancouver, Canada. One of the many activities we did during our stay was to mentally beat down scalpers and score some great seats to a Vancouver Canucks/Anaheim Ducks NHL hockey game. For a guy who loves the NHL so much, I don't really enjoy going to the games that much.

However, being so close to the ice allowed me to watch the defending Stanley Cup Champions during their warm-ups. Here were some of my observations

  • There was almost zero mistakes in the 20 minutes I watched. Not a mix up in the drills, nor a mistaken pass. I've watched Finals warm-ups in ultimate and they don't have the same level of efficiency. (Maybe legendary DoG has gotten to this point)
  • Given how crowded less than 100 feet of ice is with 20 players (average height over 6'2 and weight over 210 I would guess), the awareness shown by players was refreshing. They've done this thing over and over, but they are always making space and adjustments at a fast speed.
  • Different players do different drills outside of the basics. This makes sense, and it is something Canadian ultimate teams should look into.
  • There wasn't anyone wearing an ipod with headphones or engaging in activities that ignore the team concept. It always bothers me when players do this during warm ups.
    Equal effort was given by multi million dollar players (Pronger, Scotty Neidermayer).
  • Some players are entertainers and know how to play to the crowd while carrying on their business. I have a whole new opinion of Doug Weight, Todd Marchant, Ryan Getzlaf, Mathieu Schneider and Todd Bertuzzi. I don't think Ultimate players are lacking in showmanship skills, but finding a balance is no easy act.
All photos: courtesy Jitka Licenik