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The Neutral Zone

On Tuesdays at 11 a.m. Eastern, Brock Richardson and his panel of sports experts engage in a lively roundtable discussion about Parasports and professional sports news and newsmakers.

The Neutral Zone

On Tuesdays at 11 a.m. Eastern, Brock Richardson and his panel of sports experts engage in a lively roundtable discussion about Parasports and professional sports news and newsmakers.

December 6, 2022

Announcer':
Are you ready? Let's go. From AMI Central. Now circling in the neutral zone. Here's a pitch on the way. 36 yards for the wind. This. Here comes a big chance, the shot. Is. Is this the tagger? The Neutral Zone. This is as good as it gets. Now here's your host, two-time Paralympian, Brock Richardson.

Brock Richardson:
This is what we call a trifecta day for one Brock Richardson. And let me tell you what that means. So my normal Monday schedule goes as follows when we record this episode. I do Now With Dave Brown. Then I take a little bit of a break, come back around 12:30, start working on the Neutral Zone and then I wait for a while and then we do the Neutral Zone. Well, today no mas, because today I did NOW with Dave Brown as I normally do, check, done. Then I went away for about 20 minutes and then I got on to the pre-show meeting of Kelly and Company, check, done. And then I was 2:00 to 4:00 PM Eastern Time with Kelly and Company, check, done. I even got to speak with one Marc Aflalo on that program. If you haven't heard Monday's program, go back and tune in.
There's a contest taking place with Double Tap, which Marc is involved. That's done, check. And then right now I just jumped on and did this show. So before we carry on with this show, I just want to mention that all of this week is the last week of Kelly and Company named Kelly and Company. Kelly and Company will be going to television on January the 9th of 2023. So do tune in all the rest of this week. I will be there along with Kelly and a little bit of Danielle and I hosting. So great busy week upon us and it'll be kind of cool to land the plane on Kelly and Company and be a part of that. As to be honest, that's where I got my start from with this organization. So tune in for that all this week. Joining me now on the Neutral Zone is Josh Watson. Josh, how are you?

Josh Watson:
I'm doing well, Brock. It was a busy weekend. Lots of sports going on. Could have done without my Dolphins deciding not to play very well against San Francisco, but that's okay. Yeah, overall it was a very nice weekend. Got some Christmas shopping done, had a nice telephone chat with my girlfriend last night, so it was a good weekend.

Brock Richardson:
I love weekends like that when you get things done. And I'm sorry, as a Bills fan, I was very happy with said result of the Miami Dolphins.

Josh Watson:
I knew that was coming, I knew that was coming.

Brock Richardson:
I do root for the Miami Dolphins, but I need to put the Buffalo Bills ahead of the Miami Dolphins. Speaking of someone else's team who's not doing as good, the Green Bay Packers, Claire Buchanan. Claire, how are you?

Claire Buchanan:
I'm doing fantastic. I mean we did have a better-than-usual weekend as Packers fans, but it's rare these days, you're right. So it's a tough season as a Packers fan, but overall, yeah, had a great weekend and looking forward to this next week.

Brock Richardson:
Absolutely. Well, at this time we normally get into our headlines, so let's do it.

Announcer':
Neutral zone headlines.

Josh Watson:
Former Miami Marlin's manager Don Mattingly has been hired by the Toronto Blue Jays to be their next bench coach. Mattingly said in a video following the announcement that he plans to be an addition to this coaching staff and doesn't have any plans to change the already built foundation with current manager John Schneider.

Brock Richardson:
Congratulations to the California School for the Deaf Riverside football team who won their school championship with a 12 and 0 record. This means that they have become the first-ever deaf football team to win the championship. It must be noted that they played against individuals with no impairments whatsoever in this 12 and 0 record. So big congratulations to this team and honestly, I think we can all appreciate records like this and most of the time we compete against individuals who are like ability to our own, and in this case they did not do that. And so an extra special congratulations to this team for making some history.

Claire Buchanan:
Absolutely an impressive record. Pittsburgh Penguin's player Kris Letang is out indefinitely after suffering a stroke. The Penguins announced that he is not experiencing lasting effects and will continue to undergo tests. Hopefully, this is a quick recovery for him and it'll be interesting to see how this has effect on his career.

Brock Richardson:
Those are your headlines for this week. Let's check on our Twitter poll question. I'm going to read the question as it was written last week when this was in fact true. With the World Cup, a little over one week old, how much of it have you been taking in? Well, 45% of you were tied with a lot and a little, and then 10% said Canada's games. This week's question is a simple one. Do you think Canada's time at the World Cup was a success? Your answers are simply yes or no. Now, before we throw to our Twitter handles, I just want to find out from you guys, was it a success, yes or no, Josh?

Josh Watson:
For me, I'm going to say yes. And the reason is that I never believed that the 2022 World Cup was meant to be anything other than a precursor. We are a co-host along with the United States and Mexico in 2026. So the fact that we were able to qualify and compete, score a goal, I think are all milestones. The only milestone I think we did not reach is getting a win. I think that would've done wonders for our confidence going into 2026. But overall, I think if you really were to give the management some truth serum, you'd find out that this was probably better than they expected for this World Cup.

Claire Buchanan:
Absolutely. To tag along to Josh yeah, we would've liked to have had a win. That I think would've been the cherry on top to what we had going into with expectations. So to come out with our first goal for one, and to look forward to in four years, the entire world coming in and looking on Canada to really perform. Yeah, like you said, it's a stepping stone to, I think a really exciting future for soccer in Canada on the men's side because the women have shown that they've been really successful and now it's the men's turn.

Brock Richardson:
I honestly believe too, that this World Cup was, the lights were bright, the eyes were wide open, and I think that's going to be the case for four years from now. But the difference is we've been there, we've done that, so now we can embrace the home country. Whereas maybe if we didn't have Qatar as our starting point, maybe then at that point we're starting with our eyes wide open and the sweat beating off our brows. And I don't think that's the case for this one and moving forward, and I think that will serve better for soccer and Canada as a whole. You can have your say at our Twitter handles coming at you right now.

Announcer':
And welcome back to the Neutral Zone AMI broadcast booth. Play ball. And we are set to get this ball game underway. The first pitch brought to you by Brock Richardson's Twitter account @neutralzonebr. First pitch, strike. And hey gang, why not strike up a Twitter chat with Claire Buchanan for the neutral zone. Find her @neutralzonecb. And there's a swing and a chopper out to second base right at Claire, she picks up the ball, throws it over to first base for a routine out and fans, there is nothing routine about connecting with Cam and Josh from the neutral zone @neutralzonecamj and @jwatson200. Now that's a winning combination. This organ interlude is brought to you by AMI Audio on Twitter, get in touch with the Neutral Zone, type in @amiaudio.

Brock Richardson:
Now, before we delve into our guests today, I want to bring some context in the weeks ahead of the program. So I was in London, Ontario for the Canadian Boccia National Championships and I thought to myself, let's do some interviews on the fly. And we did those and due to some technical difficulties, they were unable to be aired on the podcast. And I had some really great conversations, including our guests coming up right now. But we're going to be doing these interviews again, but in the right format of our podcast. So with that said, our first guest of a few that's going to be joining us is the executive director of Boccia Canada, Peter Leyser, who is here to talk about the National Boccia Championships, which were in London, Ontario, and all the happenings within Boccia Canada. And he's joining us now from Ottawa, Ontario. Peter, thanks so much for doing this again for us.

Peter Leyser:
Thank you Brock, Josh, and Claire, appreciate the opportunity.

Josh Watson:
Peter, can we start by discussing the selection process and how the national championship ended up in London, Ontario at this particular venue?

Peter Leyser:
Sure, Josh. Generally speaking, we try to move it around the country and it was really Ontario's turn to host and through the Ontario Cerebral Palsy Sports Association and the London Cannonballs, they had actually submitted interest in hosting. So we had made the selection to go with them. In fact, actually, they were supposed to host in 2021, but because we missed a year with COVID in 2020, it got backed up to 2022. But what I wanted to say is that London themselves, they have a national event that they host. It's called Boccia Blast, separate from our Canadian Championships. It's been going on for 31 years and they do a great job. So they have the experience and expertise to be able to run a Canadian championship and host national events. So we had the utmost confidence in choosing them for sure. And the venue, I think you asked about the venue as well, Josh, just in terms of how we choose the venue, we look at accessibility, the location to make sure they have enough space for us and as well as cost quite frankly.

Claire Buchanan:
Once the city and venue have been chosen, how much conversation and cohesion is there between the host committee and the National Sports Organization, which in this case is Boccia Canada?

Peter Leyser:
Yeah, thanks Claire. It requires a ton of communication back and forth. It's really a cooperative effort to be able to put on the Canadian championship. So we have an agreement in writing and the agreement kind of outlines everybody's responsibilities from the host organizing committee to us as the national support organization. But even as you're working through that box and ticking everything off, you got to make sure there's constant communication. You're updating what's been done, what's been accomplished, what needs to be done.
So maybe about a year ago we would've been meeting with them on a monthly basis. It moves to bi-weekly, let's just say approximately four months out. And then when you're into the last two months, really meeting with them on a weekly basis with their chairs of the committees and their host organizing committee on everything, just the schedule and banquet and venue and all those types of details. So it gets quite intense and as you asked the question, I wish I could put a number to it in terms of how many hours we spent with them, but it's a lot.

Josh Watson:
One of the more underrated selections when putting on an event such as national championships is obviously a selection of a hotel. Can you talk to us about the importance of selecting a hotel that's both comfortable for the athletes and accessible?

Peter Leyser:
Yeah, it's critical. It's critical. Ideally, you want a location that's very close to the venue. We were fortunate this year there was a bit of a... There's about 20 minute drive between venue and the hotel, but we were able to shuttle people back and forth because sometimes athletes, they may have been done early in the day or four or five hours between the game and they want to go back to the hotel. So one of the considerations for the hotel is ideally located close to the venue. In a utopian world, and we've had it happen before, the venue and the hotel are the same. Located side by side type thing, the same organization. But that wasn't the case this past year. And really honestly, we're looking from an accessibility from a hotel standpoint just to make sure that every area of the hotel is accessible to our people.

Claire Buchanan:
With the sport of boccia being played by individuals who are wheelchair users, the specifics of hotels is very important when you are in regards to accessibility. Can you touch on a little more of specific things that you look to in hotels when having an event with mostly wheelchair users?

Peter Leyser:
Yeah, there's a lot, quite frankly. And one is we reach out to our athletes for them to tell us what they need. Because we don't necessarily have all the answers we want to ask people that are in wheelchairs. But some of the things we look at is, again, just to make sure that every aspect of the hotel is accessible. No stairs that you have to go up. There's either ramps or elevators. We look at the doors, for example, to get into your hotel room to make sure the doors are wide enough for wheelchair to get through. Ideally, we look for accessible washrooms. So the washroom doors are wide enough for chairs to go in. They may have a grab bar, perhaps roll-in showers. The reality is no hotel has, I don't know if it's a hundred-room hotel, they don't have a hundred fully accessible bathrooms, but as many as possible we will take. So obviously the newer builds are much greater from accessibility standpoint than an older hotel.

Brock Richardson:
We're joined by Peter Leyser, who is the executive director of Boccia Canada and he's here today talking to us all about the national championships and what goes on in putting on such a big and great event. You're listening to the Neutral Zone, I'm joined by Josh Watson and Claire Buchanan.

Josh Watson:
Now that you've had an opportunity to of step back and the national championships have finished up, you've done your debrief, how do you define success with an event like this?

Peter Leyser:
Yeah, that's a good question, Joshua. Well, there's a couple things. First of all is we do, we complete a survey to every single person that was involved, not just the athletes but their assistants, coaches, host organizing committee, our referees. So we're going to ask them questions about how were the meals, did we get those right? And how was the venue and how was the schedule and did you receive proper communications ahead of time? Was it easy to register? How was transportation? So we'll look at the kind of satisfaction results from our survey to anyone who participated in it. So that would be one.
The second, there's obviously a financial aspect to it, so we're not looking to lose money in this venture. We're not looking to carry a surplus either, quite frankly. But there's a financial aspect to it. And the third, and hopefully I can define this clearly is it sounds simple, but did we pull it off and I mean, did we pull it off in today's day and age when you have COVID out there, for example, was everyone kept safe? Did everyone go home safe and make it home safe and nobody caught any virus or anything like that? So that's something we look at quite frankly. It's just the safety of everyone as well.

Claire Buchanan:
Once the national championships have finished, it's a quick turnaround to really get focused on the next games. Can you give us a little insight onto what that will look like and where the next tournament will be located?

Peter Leyser:
Yeah, it's probably like the worst-kept secret, frankly. Everyone who was in London were talking about it and they generally know where it is. To be honest, Claire, we haven't dotted the I's and crossed the T's. We haven't formally signed the agreement with the host, so I won't make an announcement now, but we will wait early January to make the announcement. What I will tell you quite frankly is that we kind of go East, Central, West and we have been in the east and central more recently, so you can expect it to be west.

Josh Watson:
That's fair enough. Once the selection of that next host organizing committee has been made, how quickly do you begin a conversation with them after the current championships have concluded?

Peter Leyser:
Yeah, well, as they're putting in their bid to host, we're having conversations, so a lot of those conversations have already happened in terms of schedule and venue and hotel partners and things like that.

Peter Leyser:
But quite frankly right now, we're taking a breather until January. So just again, it ended on November 20th. Taking a bit of a breather, but we'll begin those discussions again with that new host in early January. Much the same as London, as you get closer, it moves to biweekly meetings. They grow in intensity as you get two months out type thing. But the point being, Josh, is you have pretty much solidified your host one year out is what our goal is. We have done that. We just need some paperwork to do that.

Speaker 2:
The organization is currently in Brazil representing Canada at the World Championships. In closing, can you talk a little bit about how that goes from an administrative standpoint?

Peter Leyser:
Oh gosh, yeah. So it's huge right now. We have probably the second biggest event during the quadrennial. Most national sport organizations work on the quadrennial, us from a Paralympic perspective, others from Olympic perspective. Right now, we have athletes in Rio de Janeiro. The competition starts tomorrow. We have eight athletes down there competing in nine of the 11 disciplines.
From administrative standpoint, it's pretty much all done in terms of registering and flights being booked. Frankly, everyone before they go there has to have a negative COVID test. The organizers need our passport pictures. We have to make sure that any additional luggage is declared before we actually even hop on the flight. So all that type of stuff has really been done, and now it's really just sit back and let the athletes do their thing. We'll have some communications around it from social media posts to media releases, for sure. But the admin part to head to Brazil, particularly in COVID times as well, it's quite a bit. We're fortunate to have a good team in place to be able to take care of all that.

Speaker 3:
Peter, you and I were talking quite a bit at the National Championships as I was the MC, and we did this interview on site. One of the things you mentioned to me was that there's an announcement coming out very soon regarding your selection for 2023. Can you touch on that a little bit, if you would?

Peter Leyser:
We choose a national team every year that represents Canada at international events. It's our national team. A certain percent of their score to be on the 2023 team is based on the Canadian Championships results from the previous year. Our 2023 team, certain percentage is based on the event we just had in London in 2022. We've had a national selection committee meeting. That's with our chair of our High Performance Committee and our coaches. They've made the decisions on who will go forward for 2023. We haven't officially announced that. We're doing that on December 19th.
But it's pretty important because all these athletes now are on our national team, they will train, they'll receive coaching, they will be immersed in our high performance culture. Frankly, these athletes also receive what's called the Athlete Assistance Program, carding. So to help offset some cost for training, they will receive carding, which honestly we're so grateful from the government of Canada. But these athletes train so hard, it would be great if we can give them more funding. But we can only give them what's available to us, and we're grateful for it.

Speaker 3:
Absolutely. Peter, thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview. We greatly appreciate it, and best of luck as the organization moves on from London and on to the next National Championships and beyond.

Peter Leyser:
Thank you so much, and I hope everyone has a happy holidays. We appreciate the time, and if you want to watch any of our games on next week, it's worldbaccia.com.

Speaker 3:
Awesome. Yes, and there will be lots of good games taking place today, as the podcast is released on Tuesdays. We appreciate it, Peter. Thanks so much again.

Peter Leyser:
Thank you.

Speaker 3:
That's Peter Leyser, executive director of Boccia Canada. If you like this interview or anything else we do on the program, here's how you can get ahold of us.

Announcer':
Hey, if you want to leave a message for the Neutral Zone, call now, 1-866-509-4545. And don't forget to give us permission to use your message on the air. Let's get ready to leave a voicemail.

Brock Richardson:
We have so much to discuss in this final third of the program, but I wanted to touch a little bit on Peter's interview. I was within the walls of the Canadian National Championships held in London, Ontario. And I've got to be honest with you, for whatever reason, and you guys can speak to this in your own careers too. But for whatever reason, when you're an athlete and you are participating at these events, you know nothing about hairs on fire, about fires being put out over here, over there, whatever the case is. And as Peter pointed out, London, Ontario has this ability to run it as if there are no problems.
And I'm not here to say that there weren't any problems. I wasn't within the walls enough to know whether there was or there wasn't. But there is always guys that ability as athletes to be able to look around and go, "All I have to do is plug in and play as an athlete." And those are the best types of events, aren't they, Claire? When we can just as athletes step in and say, "We're here to do a job, here's the job to do."

Claire Buchanan:
Absolutely. As athletes, you just want to show up and be able to just soak it in and go about the experience as an athlete. And speaking from the athlete side and now being a part and in the world of how those tournaments and stuff kind of come together on the other end, it takes a lot more than just a couple of people. And that's why the high performance staff in any sport is just invaluable. Every single person puts in so much effort no matter what sporting event you go into. And it's those people that make it so that athletes literally just have to show up and put in all the training and all the hours and kind of just enjoy the moment.

Josh Watson:
Even when you do run into situations where, as you say, the hair is on fire or everything is hitting the wall, it's important and it's valuable to remember that there is a whole group of people who are trying their best to do that. I know I've been in a few national championships through my sports where things didn't necessarily go exactly as they were supposed to. But you just have to remember that there's a group of people, they're trying their best, things happen and you roll with the punches as much as you can, and a good organizing committee will allow you to do that. So I'm quite certain having grown up around London that the folks there would do a fantastic job of looking after all of those athletes. So kudos to them for sure.

Brock Richardson:
Yeah, and let me also be, I don't want to be sitting here banging the drum of positivity because, there were some stuff that didn't go to plan and that's just the reality of it. And to me, it's how you bounce through that as an organization. Do you let one fire in the corner delve into 12 or do you just quietly put the one fire out and we just proceed like nothing took place. I remember speaking to one of the organizing committee members and I got there on Saturday. The event began on Thursday, but everyone was arriving on Tuesday or Wednesday, in some cases. But I remember I got there on Saturday and this is somebody I've competed with for years and she said to me, "Brock, I haven't even had a chance to go to the bathroom yet. That's how busy I have been on Saturday."
And those are the things that people don't realize, is that you just do until you stop and you realize, "Oh yes, I still have to deal with myself as a individual." Because as a host organizing committee, you want to put your best foot forward in putting on events and making it seem seamless. And that's what they did in this case. So congratulations to London for a great event and we'll be chatting more with another one of the individuals who's pretty high up in a couple of weeks to kick off the new year on the program. Speaking of another event that has been held in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia, this event has changed names. I don't know how many times it's changed names, but it is currently called the Para Ice Hockey Cup. Let me outline for you the format of the tournament. So this was a four team tournament, Canada, US, Italy and Czechia are also long form known as Czech Republic.
Things started out well for both Canada and the United States, taking care of business, beating both Italy and Czechia. Then we played the first round-robin game between Canada and the United States, and it was such a wonderful game to watch. It was 3-2 in overtime with the United States taking the edge. And this extended at this point to their 12th straight victory at the event alongside Canada, combining both the round robins and the preliminary battles that they had. Let's start here. Let's talk about the round robin games. Claire, what did you think of the round robin in general?

Claire Buchanan:
I was excited to watch Czechia and Italy because I have been watching them over the years and they just... It's those teams that you want to see each year get better and better and close that gap with the Canada and US teams. It was an exciting tournament and I think we all know that it's going to take some time for that gap to close, but it was exciting to see the improvement from even a year ago when we were watching Italy and Czechia play in other tournaments. So I love seeing a Canada, US matchup. We all do, but I'm really excited to see which team is going to be on both their coattails moving forward.

Josh Watson:
It was a very interesting round robin, even the Canada, US games, which are always close, were very entertaining. The tactics and the skill level seems to really be there considering that there were a number of new players on the Canadian team this year. Really enjoyed the games that Italy and Czechia played. It's remarkable to see Italy there when you consider that, as they mentioned on the broadcast, Italy only has 30 sledge hockey players in the entire country. Now granted it's not as big a country as Canada, but still only to have 30 players and still be able to field a competitive national team is pretty impressive.
And I mean, Czechia had just came in looking very strong considering their position. And it was interesting for me to see a couple of different teams because unfortunately I haven't been able to follow the teams as closely. So I remember this tournament when the iteration was Canada, the United States, and either South Korea or Japan and usually Russia or Norway. So it's always interesting to see which teams have risen to that sort of level and can be in that tournament and which ones may have fallen off for one reason or another.

Brock Richardson:
I would also say that, and I am going to say this as a North American, but I'm going to say that the game between Czechia and Italy was the most entertaining round-robin game there was. To me, it just seemed like both teams were evenly matched. It seemed that both teams were getting out for both of those games. Their goaltending was unbelievable. There was lots of good saves. Now, the one thing I will say is the first three combined shots were in the net for both teams, but then as the game wore on, you just saw everybody sort of feel more and more comfortable and it was such a wonderful game to watch.
As for Canada and the US, what can you say? I mean overtime game that that's what people would expect? We're going to talk about the Gold Medal game in a minute, which was a whole different bottle of wax, but same with the bronze medal game, which wasn't as close, but I thought overall it was a really nicely done round-robin. And yeah, sometimes in this case, especially when talking about the United States and Canada, you see in the round-robin game, one team doesn't necessarily always show its full cards. You kind of might see somebody hold back here and there, but in this case it wasn't the case for either round-robin game. It was very, very entertaining. Then we got on to the bronze medal game between Czechia and Italy and the result was a 9-0, Czechia.
To me, this was a game that just sort of felt like Italy kind of ran out of gas. I think they poured a lot of effort into the round-robin game and just kind of after a six-day event, the wheels kind of fell off. But they should certainly hold their head up high. Josh, to you about the bronze medal game.

Josh Watson:
It was a very interesting game I thought. In spite of the score that both teams played fairly well. I will say that Czechia just really seemed to have a very strong defensive play style going. And so anytime that they did turn a puck over, you would see two or three or four Czechia players coming back and in position to intercept passes or regain control. And so I think that was a large degree of what you saw in that score. Italy would try to mount an offence and it would get bogged down. It would get stymied. Czechia was very strong in that game. The goaltender was excellent, really played well.
Italy went into that game with their backup goalie. Unfortunately their starting goaltender did suffer an injury, I heard. Something about a finger injury, which I mean unfortunately those things happen. You're close to the ice and you've got sticks and pucks and all manner of things coming at you, especially as a goaltender. And so injuries do happen. So considering that he was a backup goaltender, I thought the poor guy did his best. I've been on the side of those scores and at some point it just doesn't become much fun. So I really was impressed with the effort that they were able to put forth.

Claire Buchanan:
Yeah, the preliminary round didn't show the same result as the bronze medal game did. And watching Italy, they definitely have a more sound neutral zone breakout and they're a lot more patient with the puck than Czechia is. But Czechia, like you said, they came into the game and into the tournament I think being one of the more physical teams. And I think they just wore them down and they really just were there kind of leaving it out all on the ice and in the bronze medal game. And I just don't think that Italy, one could keep up with that because you see with physical teams, you can wear down talent if you just... It's really hard to continue having to get back up and being knocked down and that'll take a lot of your energy out of the game just way more than without physical play. So I think in the end, Italy is definitely a better passing team, but they just couldn't handle the physicality that Czech Republic brought.

Brock Richardson:
Agreed. I'm going to let you guys go first on this gold medal game because I don't know what to say. So let me give you the breakdown of what took place and then I'll let my co-hosts talk about it and then I will fill in as we go. The gold medal game was on TSN3, which we saw Canada and the United States play each other. The end result was a 5-1 victory for the United States. I will say I was a little bit disappointed in Rogers in whoever put the name on the channel of what they were broadcasting. It was simply just written as hockey. End of statement.
And if you are trying to publicize the sport and you are trying to broadcast the sport, maybe putting a little bit more emphasis other than hockey may have drawn a little bit more attention other than those of us that knew the event was going on. But I digress. This means that Canada now has lost 13 straight times against the United States, as this tournament has gone on. They have not won a gold medal in nine years. Josh, help me. What say you about the Canada, US game?

Josh Watson:
The United States are incredibly strong. There's no other way to put it. I mean they are just fast. They are highly skilled. They are a puck moving team. They are a fast-moving team, and Canada just unfortunately hasn't caught up. Having said that, I do think we played them better this year than we have in the past. I can remember the Paralympic tournament in Beijing not too long ago, thinking that Canada was completely outclassed. And I didn't feel that this time. I felt like the addition of some younger players, some different players and a new head coach with maybe some different ideas has helped this team. But it's still a team in transition and they just have to get stronger. They have to get more cohesive. We have to break out a little better and we have to defend our goal better. At the end of the day, that's what it comes down to.

Claire Buchanan:
The energy shifted when... It was two key turnovers that really put the puck in the back of the net for two big goals. And it shows that our team has a lot of youth and inexperience to mesh well. It's going to mesh well eventually with the veterans, but it's going to take time. And this was one of the stages where you can bring in the rookies and get stuff going before a "major tournament" with the world championships or the Paralympics with and turning over the puck with a behind-the-back move in your defensive end, maybe not the best decision. And it's in those learning moments that it's going to come from teammates and coaches that are just going to make these players better because this next generation that Canada has is hungry. They know that Canada has gotten their butt whooped for years and quite frankly over a decade now of getting your butt handed to you.
And I think this young core coming in of rookies is tired of that. And again, with a new head coach in place as well, I think there's just a new fire and a different look and a different culture that hopefully is coming into play. And that preliminary game showed that if we play smart, we can play with these guys. Even if the US does hold back a little bit in the round robins like they usually do. But when you get the likes of Declan Farmer and Brody Roybol, just he had a hat trick in the gold medal game. You can't let that guy score three goals on you.

Josh Watson:
No, absolutely not. And those behind-the-back passes just as a goaltender, those just infuriate you. Because you're sitting there going, "If you weren't so cute with the puck, we wouldn't be in this mess."

Claire Buchanan:
Yeah, yeah. Well they had a couple neutral zone behind-the-back passes that actually worked. Cozzolino set up, I don't know who it was, but it was in that moment where you can see that they're trying to integrate it into their style of play. And yes, it does give you more options and it does feel nice with the stick handling. But yeah, right beside your goalie is not a prime location to do that.

Brock Richardson:
Okay. I have a couple of things to say. I have watched this team for the last, well, nine seasons. And everyone's talking about this young core Tyler McGregor leading as captain. All this is all wonderful. The problem I see is the following, and you guys might be able to help me with this, but the problem is, when I watched this game, I saw two things. One, I saw the United States have sustained pressure. Canada had no such luck as sustained pressure. When they got their opportunities, it was clear. And then their Captain McGregor would go, would score his hundredth goal. We're all happy, this is all good, but there was no depth to this team. And I hear both of you very loud and clear saying that this team is young, but where is the depth on this team? What can we point to and say, "This is the depth." I don't see it. The speed.
You are outclassed by speed with Brody Roybol and Declan Farmer when those two guys account for every one of your goals that was scored against you. When I said this on my morning update now with Dave Brown, it's like you have to stop those two, let somebody else beat you. It's that simple. Do something where those two can't go anywhere. And I mean this is going to sound crazy, but put three guys on those two, I understand that that leaves it... But let somebody else beat you. It's clear that the States are using those two athletes as people they're going to use from, and maybe it's because they're too crafty and they're good at their craft. But is it that simple guys? Or is there something I'm missing on this, Josh?

Josh Watson:
I don't know that there's anything you're missing, but what I would say to you is remember that this is a national team. So if you put two and three players on the likes of a Roybol or a Farmer, you're going to have somebody like a Wallace who's going to get the puck, be open and score himself. You have to play solid team defense and you have to find ways to break out of your zone. I have had the chance to play with Dominic at one time in my life when he was first starting in Sledge. I can tell you that he is a dynamic player. He is as much a scorer as anybody else on that team, but that may not be the role he's being asked to play. When you join, and Claire, you can speak to this better than I can, but when you join a national team, sometimes you are asked to play a different style of game than what you do at your club level.
So I think it's just a matter of, we've got new players, they have to figure out a system that's going to work and they have to figure out who's going to do what on this team.

Claire Buchanan:
Yeah, that's exactly it. At the club level, I can't remember the last time I played defense on the club level. You get into a mixed league like sledge hockey is, and yeah, my defensive spot gets taken by a six foot one dude that is much bigger than me and is going to defend in front of our net much better than I can. And so yes, you have to play your role and it's a conversation that has to continue and it might evolve into your role changing over time. But I really hope that with all these fresh faces, especially behind the bench, that they're trying new things. And I don't know about sticking four guys on Declan Farmer is going to get the job done. But yeah, I'm really excited for the young guys because they are talented and we see them at the club level and we play against them at the club level. And there's a ton of talent on that team and I think it's just a matter of time before it all meshes together. I hope one day that this turns around and I think it's closer than we expect.

Brock Richardson:
The other thing that I want to kind of put out there, and you guys will be able to speak to this more than I can, but I was puzzled by something. The game is 5-0. And we decide with about 90 seconds, two minutes to go that we're going to pull our goaltender and get a man advantage and they ended up scoring on this man advantage. Can it be something like that, that jump starts your team and you say, "Okay, we got one goal on the United States." Does it mean that much? Because I was sitting there thinking, "Wow, this is weird." And then when they scored, it was almost like this valve had been released where it's like, "Okay, we got one, we did this, we got..." Is it that simple or did you guys look at this and go, "Huh, what are we doing?" Claire?

Claire Buchanan:
The last time they played the States they lost 5-0. So I think at the end of that game to actually put the puck in the net and to do it off of such a play of pulling your goalie, that's almost unheard of in sledge hockey alone, let alone it actually turning into a goal. That's another beast is the power play unit. And special teams like that in sledge hockey is a really hard to navigate and actually have it meshed together and have it work just because of just how sledge hockey is. And I think moves like that are exactly what we need. We need someone behind the bench who is going to take a risky call and do whatever they can to make sure that, even in the last 90 seconds of a 5-0 game, that coach is making sure that they walk off the ice with at least a little bit more confidence than they had before the goal.

Josh Watson:
And the thing to kind of remember Brock, is a loss is a loss. Whether it's 5-0, whether it's 10-0, I've been in both. So to pull your goalie with two minutes left, while it is rare, it does happen. My coach has done it to me. And it literally is a spark because you can go through that entire game and come off the ice and think to yourself, "Man, we just couldn't beat this guy. What are we going to do? How are we ever going to beat this guy?" But then when you get one, it's like, "Okay, we got one. If we get one, we can get two. If we can get two, we can get three."
So it's just a matter of sometimes giving your team a little bit of a jolt, a little bit of a boost. And as you said Claire, it's rare, but it does happen. So good on them for trying it. It worked. And let's see, now that this coach has seen a Canada, US game up front, let's see what he comes up with. Because again, we know where the scoring comes from. We know what has to be done. It's now a matter of how do you do it.

Brock Richardson:
I look at the United States roster and I look at Roybol and Farmer, and both of those individuals are missing limbs, which that wouldn't affect your upper body. You'd be able to use your upper body as best as you can. The United States almost has this development program where somebody leaves Steve Cash as goaltender. He leaves, everyone thought, "Well, we're going to get a new goalie and we're going to be able to do this." Do you think Canada is tapped into the right markets to be able to put together this team? In essence, what I'm asking you is, do you believe in this core moving forth for the rest of this quadrennial? Claire?

Claire Buchanan:
That's a great question. I think that with this past selection camp, there's also a lot of new faces at the selection camp itself, including two of our women. So I really believe that they are making the effort to broaden where they are searching for the next generation of sledge hockey players. I think a big gap that they should easily mirror the United States is that, we don't tap into our veterans as much as the United States does. I don't know why that is. There's I think just as many opportunities to do so, I don't understand where that disconnect is, but if you look on the United States team and now and previously, a huge percentage of their athletes are veterans. And you just don't see that on the Canadian team. It's mind boggling because we do have the opportunity to do that. I don't understand why it's not happening.

Josh Watson:
Ultimately, I think we're doing our best. I don't personally know how invitations to selection camps are done. I do think we've relied a bit too much on our veterans in terms of our veteran players, I mean for a bit too long. And that's no shot against them. It's no shot against the Billies and the Greg's and the Brad's. They were great players. They deserved their place on the team, but you also have to groom your up-and-coming so that there's not this gap where, "Okay, we've been good for a while and now we have to take a step back while the next generation develops." There's got to be a way to develop and to have some success.

Brock Richardson:
Man, I think hearing the fact that some of the Canadian women Para Ice hockey players were at selection is a good step. Would I love to see one of those women crack a roster? 100%. I may be a little biased because one of my co-host is part of that program. But the point being the same, we're all talented. I just think we need to believe in the coaching staff, let them run their systems and run what they do and we'll see where we go from there. Nonetheless, Canada wins a silver medal and at the end of it all, a medal is a medal is a medal. That is the end of our program for this week. I would like to thank Josh Watson and Claire Buchanan. I'd also like to thank our technical producer Marc Aflalo, our manager of AMI-audio is Andy Frank. Tune in next week because you just never know what happens when you enter The Neutral Zone. Have a great week and we'll talk to you next week. Be safe, be well.