International Children’s Games athletes put focus on our city

It seems this weekend is destined to be a “sporting” one  whether you’re a sports fan or not.

It seems this weekend is destined to be a “sporting” one  whether you’re a sports fan or not.

While the rest of the nation will likely be tuned in at some point or another to the NHL’s All-Star weekend and/or all the Super Bowl hype, Kelownians also have the opportunity to take in a potpourri of tremendous winter athletic games involving youth.

Tez and I were fortunate enough to attend the very entertaining opening ceremonies of the fifth International Children’s Winter Games on Thursday night.

The 470 athletes (including 69 athletes and 19 coaches on Team Kelowna) were given a tremendous ovation and welcoming by the several thousand fans in attendance at Prospera Place.

It’s the first time the winter aspect of the International Children’s Games has been hosted outside of Europe.

Nicely intermingled between the political speeches and mandatory dignitaries were superb performances from various local dance groups, singers and musicians.

Not to my surprise, Noel Wentworth’s music students wowed the crowds once again.

An impressive filing in of teams, complete with flags, was another highlight of the special evening.

Some 38 cities from 13 countries are taking part. The International Children’s Games philosophy places the focus on the city from which the children herald rather than their country. 

(If you want to see the cities and countries represented this weekend in Kelowna, check out the Capital News website www.kelownacapnew.com.)

***

I admit that some of my weekend attention will shift to the NHL All-Star events.

On this past Friday, a whole new format for picking the annual all-star teams will transpire—and it should be a lot of fun.

Instead of teams being decided by conference or by nationality this year’s formula sees two team captains pick their players in a draft.

What a great idea.

While the end result may not alter the unwritten ‘no hitting, it’s just for fun’ approach to the game (goalies are left hung out to dry at the mercy of the other clubs’ snipers roaming about freely) it should be more entertaining.

For the draft, team captains Nick Lidstrom and Eric Stall had to decide who to pick between teammates, fellow Canadians or Swedes, family members, buddies.

The skills competition promises to be spell-binding and the game (hopefully) exciting.

Ironically in perhaps a poignant way, the weekend will be lacking some real lustre. Sidney Crosby will not play due to an injury.

He’ll join the likes of other stars such as Pavel Datsyuk, Evgeni Malkin, and others on the injury sidelines.  

However, what makes the absence of Crosby so frustrating is that it was a cheap head shot that left the hockey icon on the sidelines for the past two weeks. When Crosby was nailed two games in a row by questionable blows to the head area and finally forced to the sidelines indefinitely, he was the league’s leading scorer. Hopefully, he’ll return to action soon after the all-star break.

But Crosby is not alone this year as several key players have been hurt by head shots. The crazy cranium carnage continues.

Boston Bruin centre Marc Savard, a popular player around the league, may have played his final game.

Savard is out once again with a significant concussion. He was terribly injured last year by a hit to the head in a game and had finally just returned to the Bruins line-up and was playing well.

For Savard it is his third or fourth concussion —and may just be the final straw.

So sadly this weekend, because the players don’t seem to really get the message and neither does the National Hockey League, two of the finest players in the world will not strut their stuff.

Because of that, everyone loses. Hopefully the absence of such tremendous talent this weekend will be the straw that breaks the stubborn NHL camel’s back—and significant changes will finally be made to the rules around violent head shots in hockey.

Enough already!

***

Mark down Friday, Feb. 4, as the day to hit the Blue Gator. The Random Act with the Uptown Hornz will be banging out classic Rock and R&B.

Well known Okanagan singer Rann Berry headlines Random Act and it should be a great night of great tunes.

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