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Volume Ten, Number Three   May 2005

Hockey’s out, Dodgeball’s in

John Hughes

In the absence of pro hockey the sports-minded have come up with new, recycled and bizarre methods of dealing with the void. Some of these sports innovations do not, admittedly, have a direct causal link to a dearth of NHL hockey. I’m thinking, for instance, of the laudable introduction in the United Arab Emirates of camel-racing robots. For real - it has recently become illegal to have small boys act as camel jockeys in the UAE. The boys have been replaced by simple robots that will sit on the camel’s backs as the beasts race each other in the popular and lucrative sport. The robot thing is to the good because boys as young as four were being kept as slave labour. They were not fed properly as a means of keeping them underweight for the camel races. So while not having much to do with hockey, progress is being made in sport and that rocks.

DodgeballAs for the simply recycled solutions to a world without hockey, those who miss the rough stuff will be ‘treated’ to yet another Mike Tyson fight. Sadly, the sport of boxing’s biggest boob will get another chance to bite an opponent’s ear off. Or perhaps knock him out. The convicted rapist will fight Irish boxer Kevin McBride in Washington DC on June 11. It’s not much fun firing slings and arrows at an easy target like Tyson, but when is this guy going to hang it up for good and let suffering sports fans forget the man who has done irreparable damage to the sport? Tyson fills the bill as a recycled alternative to hockey, but certainly not a respectable one.

There has, however, been a recent upswing in a sport most had forgotten until at least last summer. The sport is dodgeball. You remember dodgeball, don’t you? Two teams line up on either side of a gymnasium and try to hit opponents with smallish sized square-balls. The last team with at least one person unscathed by the flying rubber wins. Yes that elementary school gym-period special is on the rise. Since last fall, at least one organized league has sprung up in the Lower Mainland. Dodgeball BC ( held no fewer than six tournaments for enthusiasts of the newly rekindled sport.

Teams with names like the Stinky Chickens, the Undodgables and, predictably, the Artful Dodgers have brought their best pitching and dodging to the fore since the season began in October. The Stinky Chickens won the last two tournaments and bragging rights for the summer. The season ended March 19 but this is not a league that is going to dry up and blow away once hockey is back. It has honest-to-God sponsors that have pledged to keep the sport going. Organizer Bobby Chan says the dodgeball league was something “silly he had in mind” that he had “wanted to do for a long time.” Chan says he’s not sure if the new league’s popularity is a result of people at loose ends with the hockey lockout or a desire to imitate the 2004 Hollywood blockbuster ‘Dodgeball’ starring Ben Stiller. Whichever it is, Chan says playing dodgeball is “a great way to get aggression out.”

As a discerning moviegoer, I decided to give the Stiller flick a miss. Something about watching two hours of that man wearing spandex made me think twice about paying twelve bucks for a movie the Vancouver Courier said was “best to dodge.” As a sports fan, I have to believe that it was the lack of pro hockey that inspired people to get into the dodgeball groove. The very idea that Ben Stiller in a workout suit caused Vancouverites to get dodging is too gross to contemplate! Still, even as a team of Toronto lawyers leads a Quixote-like charge to have the NHL release the Stanley Cup from the iron grip of NHL head office, it is good to know lovers of sport are contenting themselves with viable alternatives to hockey.            

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