Iginla pucks the trend as a black role model for ice hockey
BLACK players in the National Hockey League are almost as rare as an East Stirlingshire victory. Less than 20 men of colour populate the NHL’s 30 teams. In the wake of the game’s recent expansion away from its Canadian hinterland into outposts such as Atlanta, Carolina and Nashville, this is a statistical aberration.
Jarome Iginla could be the man that the NHL has long sought to dispel its Caucasian concentration. Canadian-born to a Nigerian father and American mother, the Calgary Flames right-winger isn’t just a bona fide star - his form in the early stages of this season’s Stanley Cup finals give him a claim to be the best player in the world.
Already the first black player to captain an NHL team and the first to win Olympic gold with his native land, Iginla has been the inspiration for the Flames’ improbable run from perennial off-casts to a team with a genuine chance to upset favourites Tampa Bay and lift Lord Stanley’s jug. And, in a league which is in dire need of torchbearers for its new generation, the emergence of Calgary’s top scorer from the obscurity of provincial Canada has provided a welcome lift.
He scored in Game one, a 4-1 victory over the Lightning before Tampa hit back to even the best of seven series with a win on Thursday night.
Growing up, Iginla could not escape the sentiment that his skin colour set him apart. "When I started playing and watching hockey as a 7-year-old, I was aware of it," he remarked. "Also kids would say, when I wanted to be in the NHL, that there are not very many black players in the NHL. So I really was aware of it - but I wanted to be in the NHL and be like my idols."
How appropriate then that there will be kids out there now who want to be like him.
ON THE mats of Sydney, Rulon Gardner completed mission apparently impossible by handing Russia’s Alexander Karelin a first defeat in 13 years to claim the Greco-Roman wrestling gold medal.
He’ll get the chance to defend his title in Athens after coming through last weekend’s American trials. Only this time, he’ll enter the circle with only nine toes.
Seventeen hours in the frozen woods of Montana two years ago left Gardner with such severe frostbite that his body temperature fell to -31C and complete amputation of his feet. Speedy treatment brought him back from the brink and after vowing to retire if he missed out on a trip back to the Olympics, his career will rumble on.
"I thought this was an impossible goal," Gardner said. "To be sitting up here again is a miracle."
SIXTH place in the 2002 men’s basketball World Championships provided utter humiliation for Team USA. It sent a wake-up call that if Uncle Sam didn’t send his best dozen then the likes of Serbia, Argentina and even little New Zealand would happily cut them down to size.
That explains why at last summer’s Olympic qualifiers in Puerto Rico, arguably the finest Stateside selection since the incomparable ‘Dream Team’ of 1992 took to the floor in a bid to secure safe passage to Greece.
Only now, most of that team have decided to opt out, citing the F-words. Fatigue. Family. And most of all, fear.
Although promises have been made to secure the team aboard a heavily-secured yacht rather than in the Olympic Village, top names such as Kobe Bryant, Karl Malone, Kevin Garnett and Vince Carter have all withdrawn. With what remains of their A-list still wavering, the USA have turned to second-tier NBA recruits, none of whom has experience of the differing strategies and demands of the international games.
A streak of gold medals unbroken since 1972’s controversial loss to the Soviet Union looks shakier than ever.
SING along with me: "Take me out to the ball game
Take me out with the crowd
Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack
I don’t care if I never get back."
And so forth. Except the greatest anthem in American sport could be set for an urgent re-write, within the confines of Yankee Stadium at least, after the staple peanut brand of the Bronx Bombers was ditched in favour of a rival - to universal uproar.
"We’d have no heartburn if Yankee fans started standing up in the seventh inning and singing: ‘Buy me some peanuts and Crunch ’n’ Munch’" said a spokesman for the newcomer. Doesn’t quite have the same ring. But the furore is nuts.
THE UK premiere of acclaimed American football-themed drama Playmakers is on satellite channel FX next Saturday night at 9pm.
Sex. Drugs. Corruption. No wonder then that the NFL asked for it to be taken off air lest we were (easily) confused between fiction and the real thing.
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Wednesday 19 June 2013
Temperature: 8 C to 19 C
Wind Speed: 20 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 11 C to 19 C
Wind Speed: 7 mph
Wind direction: North