Talk about flying under the radar. In the case of cyclist Ryder Hesjedal the radar wasn’t even turned on. Hesjedal made history on Sunday when he won the prestigious Giro D’Italia cycling race, the first Canadian to win the event. The Victoria product was also the first Canadian to wear the leader’s pink jersey during a Giro race and the first to win any Grand Tour event.
He’s the toast of European sport, where cycling is huge. He now goes on to the Tour de France as one of the favourites. He’ll be an international star and might even get into the Olympics in London this summer if everything breaks properly for him.
But until the last few days, it was easier to find Waldo in the Canadian sports media than any mention of Hesjedal. One exasperated reader e-mailed us, “Why is Canada’s sports media … ignoring what Ryder Hesjedal from Victoria, B.C., is doing in the Giro d’Italia. … Don’t you think he should be hogging the sports spotlight until the end of the Tour de France, unless he is unable to complete that race?”
Well, um, it’s like this, see. Okay, we have no great reason why Canada’s media roiled over While The Men Watch at the same time as Hesjedal made sports history in Italy. Maybe if he’d given profane, terse press briefings à la John Tortorella he might have grabbed more face time on the Canadian networks and in the newspapers. Instead, Canada caught up to Hesjedal very late in the race and then made it clear we were with him, win or tie.
Why? As mentioned before, Hesjedal mounted his charge at the Giro concurrent with the NHL playoffs. (Playoffs lacking a single Canadian team for a month, mind you. But still the playoffs.) If you want to pass unpopular legislation, this is the time of the year to do so. Canadians have had brief bursts of enthusiasm for cycling when Steve Bauer was a threat in the Tour de France, and various Canadians won medals at the Olympics in the sport. Even though Clara Hughes, Lori-Anne Muenzer and Curt Harnett brought glory to Canada, the sport remains a quadrennial curiosity to mainstream Canada.
You also have to consider the blowback from the repeated drug scandals and revelations of Floyd Landis, Michael Rasmussen and (allegedly) Lance Armstrong. There is a fatigue in the media and population over discovering that cycling’s heroes are juiced. The sport’s inability to stay clean has exasperated even its biggest supporters.
Hesjedal is not responsible for any of this. He can only race clean and try to rehab the sport’s image. Certainly Canadians will wish him the best in the Tour de France. The Canadian media will now fixate on him in July. TSN, which has the TV rights, will no doubt give him the star treatment. But everyone will have one foot on the brake as they do so. Fool us once, shame on you. Fool us twice …
It was the highlight of Game 6 of the Eastern Conference final between New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers. No, not the overtime goal by Adam Henrique, silly. It was Elliotte Friedman’s interview with Donald Trump in which he asked the mogul if he’d consider buying the Devils, who are in big financial trouble. On a night when Don Cherry wore an Easter bonnet jacket, The Donald was the story. (He’s not buying any time soon, apparently.) Friedman tells Usual Suspects that they’d been trying to catch Trump since the Washington series. Finally, on Friday, they got their chance between periods. “It was an interesting scene,” Friedman told us. “He was sitting in his seat while people photographed him from all directions. A Prudential Center security guy wasn’t sure about letting us through, but we flagged down Mr. Trump’s friend, who asked him if he wanted to talk to Hockey Night in Canada. He said sure.
“He wanted to know what I was going to ask him, but the Devils question wasn’t planned. I thought of it while listening to his answer about owning an NHL team. He was really good about doing it.”
So what reaction did Friedman get to his brush with Apprentice greatness? “Best e-mail I got was from someone who saw my haircut and said mine looked worse than his.”
* New Math: Okay, maybe we were a little harsh on that Los Angeles sportscaster who called the puck a ball and couldn’t get any of the Kings’ names straight. Maybe local U.S. sportscasters knows nothing about any sport, not just hockey.
That’s the impression left by Miami ABC sportscaster Sasha Andrade who thinks the local NBA team, the Heat, might face either the “Celtics or the 69ers” in the Eastern Final. We think she meant the ‘76ers of Philadelphia. Then again, maybe not.