This is the government office block at the northwest corner of Wellington and Bank Street in Ottawa, looking very Canadian. You'd think anyone who works there arrives by train, with skis over one shoulder.
I sat down to see if I could figure out the probability of two Canadian teams meeting in the Stanley Cup finals, and this is what I got:
Here's the reasoning. There are three Canadian teams in each of the NHL's two fifteen-team conferences. So Canadian teams represent 20% of each conference. The 20% chance of a Canadian team winning the east times the 20% chance of a Canadian team winning the west makes 4%. By contrast, the 80% chance of an American team winning the east times the 80% chance of an American team winning the west yields an all-American Stanley Cup final probability of 64%.
Is this right? And if it is ... why do we put up with it? The two top teams in Canada haven't met for the hockey championship of Canada since 1989. And, statistically speaking, it's not due again for another seven years. In some countries it happens every year. Sweden, Finland, Russia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Switzerland ...
What if there were an annual championship for Canadian hockey? All the best teams could play. We could have a trophy. Maybe the Governor-General would donate one!
AIK beat Segeltorp 2 to 1, with Maria Rooth (picture) scoring the game-winning goal in overtime. MODO beat Örebro 5 to 1 in the consolation match. AIK are the Calgary Oval X-treme of Swedish clubs, with five national team members on their roster.
I've been thinking about which team or teams to follow next season. Fife Flyers in Scotland have a couple of interesting stories developing (new league; rink fire), but I think it'd be instructive to contrast Swedish women's hockey with the dysfunctional world of the Canadian senior women hockey leagues. Dysfunctional, you say? Check out the NWHL final standings.
I would have let this slide by if someone in Sweden hadn't pinged our site looking for Alexandra Palm. The Swedish women's clubs decide their champion this weekend. See here. Wednesday MODO beat Brynäs 5 to 4, Segeltorp topped Skellefteå 4 to 2, AIK decimated Växjö Lakers 10 to 1, and Örebro defeated the Kungsbacka Kings 3 to 1. Today MODO meet Segeltorp, and AIK meet Örebro. The gold medal game is tomorrow. I'm kind of pulling for Segeltorp, shown here in the blue and white. (Notice the sunlight in that photo. When do you ever see sunlight in a Canadian rink?) (Unless that's outdoors.) (And those are the junior boys and not the women.)
[AIK won 12 to 1 over Örebro. Segeltorp shut out MODO 5 to 0. The final should be good. Go Segeltorp! Wait a minute, Maria Rooth plays for AIK. I've heard of her. She has hockey cards, for Pete's sake. Well, go Segeltorp, anyway!]
The Kvalserien is four rounds into its ten round schedule. The big surprise so far is Malmö, upon whom I have dumped all season, who have won all four of their games. Our team Skellefteå are second, with Södertälje close behind. Skellefteå play a home and home with Malmö next. The outcome of those two games will go a long way toward deciding whether Skellefteå remains in the Elitserien.
The quarter-finals of the SM-slutspel are winding down. Färjestad and Linköping disposed of their opponents Mora and Luleå in four straight. The other two series have gone to seven games and wrap up today. Hard to see Färjestad not winning it all.
[HV71 and MODO won. So the semifinals are Färjestad versus Linköping, and HV71 versus MODO.]
Meanwhile, the finals in bandy, Sweden's outdoor hockey cousin, are about to go between Hammarby and Edsbyn. Five out of six Sportbladet readers predict a Hammarby win. Bandy is played on an ice-covered soccer pitch by teams of eleven players each, policed by referees with coloured cards in their pocket, and there's a hand rule. Come to think of it there's a hand rule in hockey too: no hand passes. I'll bet you'd never have guessed that Canada is a member of the Federation of International Bandy. Hammarby is one of Sweden's most venerable sports clubs, but they haven't been to the Elitserien since 1985. I guess it all goes toward the bandy.
Sometimes I wonder if the profession of newspaper journalist even exists any more. It would seem papers have given up trying to cover everything that's newsworthy, and instead pick and choose events that advance a plotline. The Ottawa Citizen, for instance, is working on two stories: 1) governments can't be trusted with money; and 2) terrorists are coming to kill you. Over the past decade the Citizen has fine-tuned its presentation so as to display the word fear or terror on the front page every day if possible. Why? Isn't the world a hundred times safer since World War Three was called off in 1989? It is, but conservatives need to control, and the Citizen (along with most newspapers owned by people rich enough to own newspapers) is a conservative paper. The thinking is that if you can distract the readers into worrying about whether they're safe, they won't wonder about whether they're free, and you're halfway to getting a Conservative majority, and all that brings.
But here the Sun has scooped them. TERROR FEARS is a perfect headline. It's so generic it could cover any disaster, real or imagined. It's a plain, featureless blob of anxiety. TERROR FEARS would make a great title for a history of this peculiar decade, or maybe a novel by Kafka. Oh, wait...
The CIS university women's hockey champioships are under way in Ottawa. The teams are McGill Martlets, Alberta Pandas, Laurier Golden Hawks, Aigles Bleues de Moncton, Manitoba Bisons and Ottawa Gee Gees. McGill are heavy favorites, not the least for having Olympian Charline Labonté in goal. The tournament is professionally organized with several major sponsors, including the Canadian Armed Forces who clearly see the event as an opportunity to recruit women.
In this evening's game the host Gee Gees were outclassed 5 to 0 by their blue and yellow opponents from Laurier. My favorite Ottawa defenceman Christine Allen seemed to spend the second period in the penalty box. Ottawa did get one crossbar. Players of the game were Kim Kerr for Ottawa and Andrea Ironside for Laurier.
The championship game is Monday, televised on the Score. [Pandas 4, Martlets 0.]
Labonté and crew reflect on the competition.
Yes, the Hawks really have a player named Ironside.
The store where I work is offering this piece on eBay right now. Tsoona Stella's "Cannibal Woman", carved in 1988, has been part of the inventory for many years, and now will probably be heading back to BC or WA, so I'm feeling kind of nostalgic about her. Who did she eat?
I recently took the Which Science Fiction Writer Are You? quiz and discovered that I'm Hal Clement. I subsisted entirely on a diet of science fiction from ages 13 to 16, but I don't recall reading any of his stuff. I came close to reading all of Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Poul Anderson and, yes, Edgar Rice Burroughs. But no Clement. So I got on eBay and bought a Book Club edition of Mission of Gravity (1954), and have just finished it. And now I know who I am.
The thing I like about Clement (or should I say Stubbs; Clement was his middle name), and the thing that readers who like him like about him, is the fun he has with scientific fact. He gathers together a set of physical properties for his locale and these provide the story logic. The setting for Mission of Gravity is a huge planet spinning so rapidly that it's about twice as wide at the equator as it is from pole to pole (see cover illustration), which means that the effect of gravity varies from latitude to latitude. The behavior of hydrogen, methane and ammonia under these conditions create plot points of their own. The physiology and psychology of the indigenous characters (caterpillars with a fear of falling) flow logically from the setting. He sets the rules, then follows them, making the book an enjoyable mental game. Which is what science fiction ought to be. Two quibbles though: wouldn't the air pressure vary from latitude to latitude? And would humans and caterpillars really get one another?
This is old school, "hard" science fiction, which I don't think gets written much anymore. But, with all these new exoplanets coming into view, maybe it's time for a second hard wave. Here's a title: Hot Jupiter!