Hodge: Canada Day festivities a grand celebration

Capital News columnist says NHL hockey remains a point of ongoing chatter even during the summer.

New hockey hall of fame inductee Eric Lindros was a controversial figure during his NHL career

Wasn’t that a party?

While Canadians may not boast the same swagger and bravado of national allegiance as that of our neighbours to the south, there is no question Canadians know how to celebrate a national birthday.

July 1 in Kelowna was a marvelous display of national pride, unity, community, and family fun wrapped into one.

It was a day filled with smiles, laughter and a wonderful, embracing, all encompassing experience – with no other motivation other than to celebrate who we are and the land we share. From what I witnessed – we did a grand job.

Full points to event organizers, volunteersv and city workers for helping host a fabulous day of fun for all.

Tez and I joined thousands of other locals and tourists at Tugboat Bay (and various other parts of Kelowna’s waterfront) to take part in the many special events of the day. Certainly this year’s party ranks as one of the best. From beginning to end it was a total success.

Headline entertainers The Cruzeros rocked the massive beach crowd for almost an hour and a half straight. Combining a bundle of original tunes from their three records with a number of classic country-roots covers the band kept the packed beach singing and hopping.

Several thousand music fans were spread out along the sand, sidewalks and the entire boardwalk connecting Tugboat Bay to the Delta Grand Hotel. The superb weather, perfect sky, magnificent music, dynamic lighting, and festive atmosphere culminated in a truly magical setting.

The Cruzeros perfectly tenderized the crowd for the highly anticipated explosive grand finale fireworks display.

Once again organizers outdid themselves with a tremendous pyrotechnics performance, unparalleled from past years. On a couple occasions the crowd suspected the show was over, only to be pleasantly surprised by another outburst of amazing lights and explosions.

A great way to end a great day.

***

Only in Canada can the game of hockey be a dominant part of coffee shop conversations in the first week of July.

Just when hockey widows and orphans figured summer had arrived and playoff games were finally off TV along comes the junior draft, hockey hall of fame selections, and Steve Stamkos Sweepstakes (better known as free agency opens). Oh yeah—and an expansion to Las Vegas for the 2017-18 season.

Howeve,r no announcement was going to take away from the once mighty Toronto Maple Leafs picking Auston Matthews number one in the junior draft; taking what millions of fans hope is a major step towards returning to hockey glory once again.

No other Maple Leaf draft pick or hopeful recruited in the past 50 years has garnered the attention Mathews has. Hopefully Toronto gives him a proper chance.

Certainly Leaf management and ownership are on the same page for the first time since, well, forever. Leaf fans believe there is hope for a solid rebuild back to respect with the Babcock-Shanahan plan.

Stamkos going absolutely nowhere as a free agent was disappointing considering all the hype up until he announced his decision to stay with Tampa Bay Lightning.

P.K Suban traded from Montreal to Nashville for former Kelowna Rocket favourite Shea Webber certainly made more noise than any free agency signing. Montreal got the better of this deal. Webber brings maturity, leadership without bravado, a tough presence and plenty of scoring.

The Habs prefer a team sprinkled with stars, not a demigod relishing in the media spotlight. Suban was simply too over-the-top for Montréal. It will be interesting to watch him grow (or not) in Nashville.

However, the hockey story that caught my eye, and my ire, is the Hall of Fame selecting Eric Lindros as an inductee.

I don’t get it.

There is no denying Lindros was a talented hockey player. The first 1991 draft pick was dominant when healthy during his eight seasons with the Flyers, totaling 659 points (290 goals, 369 assists) in 486 regular-season games from 1992-93 through 1999-2000. He had 56 points in 50 Stanley Cup playoff games and helped the Flyers reach the finals in 1997.

Injuries including several concussions stopped Lindros from having a bigger impact and eventually cut short his career. Despite his skills, many question his selection to the hall of fame since part of the significant criteria includes considering the character of the person involved, and their betterment of the game.

Lindros showed a lack of class on his first day in NHL refusing to report to Québec Nordiques who drafted him. Such a snub came at a particularly uncomfortable time in Canadian history and added salt to wounds already impacting our great nation. He made a lot of non-fans during his draft season and during his following eight seasons did little to enamor himself with many hockey fans.

Lindros, 43, had been eligible for induction since 2010, and was passed over six times previously,.

When looking at the quality of outstanding people named to the Hall of Fame such as Gordie Howe, Bob Orr and others, the selection of Lindros somewhat cheapens the honour.

Selection should be based on much more than just mere numbers.

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