York kinesiologist develops new hockey skill test

Scouting young hockey prospects is, at best, an inexact science. Something Lauren Sergio, of York’s School of Kinesiology & Health Science, Faculty of Health, is aiming to change with the help of her trusty “force field-creating robotic arm,” wrote The Globe and Mail Sept. 23.

Science fiction it’s not. Since 2003, the York kinesiology professor has spent two days each June running the top 100 NHL prospects through a hand-eye co-ordination test during the league’s annual scouting combine. In effect, it’s a way of measuring whether a player has “soft hands.” But Sergio believes it could become a predictor of whether a prospect will make it to the NHL or spend years toiling in the minors. “We want to see if there’s any way to predict performance,” she said. “It’s all about control.”

Even though training camps for the coming season are under way, NHL scouts and general managers are already looking forward to next year’s draft, when they will have Sergio’s findings in front of them at the draft table.

Sergio and her team are currently developing a formula that gauges the success each prospect has early on in their hockey careers – ice time, points etc. – and how those results compare to their Phantom tests. “The challenge is to come up with the best weighting factor,” she said. “So that, at the end of the [scouting combine] we can give the scouts all the scores and…tell them that this player has a 68-per-cent chance of being in the NHL in the next year, or two years, or three years.”

Sergio’s colleague in the Faculty of Health, Norman Gledhill, has run the fitness component of the scouting combine for the NHL for more than two decades, and was the one who initially suggested Sergio when the league asked for a way of testing hand-eye co-ordination. “We are constantly challenging ourselves to add more layers of information to what we give to all 30 teams, so in that sense Dr. Sergio’s research is valuable,” said NHL Central Scouting director E.J. McGuire.

In Quebec, cutting funding for arts is attacking the nationalist soul

If you think the arts community in English Canada has a hate-on for the Tories, you should ask the average Quebec actor what he or she thinks of them. In Quebec, culture and nationalism go together like Stephen Harper and a V-neck, wrote The Globe and Mail Sept. 23. Less than 1 per cent of Quebec artists identify themselves as “Canadian” and more than three-quarters of all artists in the province voted Yes in the 1995 sovereignty referendum, according to a study by York University political science Professor Alexandre Brassard Desjardins of Glendon College.

Young guns

A February 2008 Statistics Canada report entitled Firearms and Violent Crime revealed that more Canadian youth are using guns when committing acts of violent crime, wrote Regina, Sask.’s Briarpatch magazine in its September/October 2008 issue. Part of the problem, according to James Sheptycki, criminology professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, is that the public discussion of these issues, and of their potential solutions, too often falls into blind ideology and polarizing extremes. “Far too much complexity is lost,” Sheptycki says. “More nuanced discussion must emerge if the policies developed to tackle gun crime are to be effective.”

The myth in our culture surrounding the display and use of guns is powerful indeed. According to Sheptycki, “there are powerful cultural forces that create a mythology around gun uses, creating a pathway to criminality. Popular culture, through violent film, music and video games, often glorifies the use of arms. Some hip hop, for example, endorses profligacy and violence. Its speech and mannerisms are often intentionally threatening, and endorse socio-economic ascension through violent means.

In defence of securities regulators

One of the most remarkable aspects of the current financial crisis, as it has unfolded over the course of the last year, has been the notable absence of leadership, wrote Edward Waitzer, Jarislowsky Dimma Mooney Chair in Corporate Governance at Osgoode Hall Law School and the Schulich School of Business at York, in the National Post Sept. 23. Responsible officials in the US administration have reacted and made some tough decisions but, until late last week, there was precious little discussion about the long term and how to restore confidence and trust in the system. The President and presidential candidates have been absent or (perhaps worse) glib on the subject. The current election does not excuse such irresponsibility.

Plato spoke 2,500 years ago about mingling kinds of work or meddling with other people’s tasks as “the greatest wickedness.” There are a wide range of formal and informal methods that can be, and are, used to influence the policies and administration of securities regulators. Although independent to a degree, they are constantly subject to legislative control, judicial review and procedural standards. Unlike many political and governmental processes, their mission and performance is (or should be) relatively transparent to market participants. They should welcome input, accountability and feedback. They shouldn’t, however, have to suffer (or respond to) the idle exhortations of political leaders – particularly in times of crisis.

Forrest named Lions coach

York University on Monday announced the hiring of Kevin Forrest as head coach of the Lions men’s hockey team, wrote Canwest News Service Sept. 22.

Forrest is already familiar with the team, having spent the past two seasons as an assistant coach under Bill Maguire. “I am very excited to be the head coach of the men’s hockey team,” Forrest said in a statement. “I’ve always thought it would be an honour to lead the program and I am going to treat it as such. I am looking forward to guiding the team down the same path that Bill set up before me.’’

“We are thrilled to have Kevin leading the men’s hockey team,” said Jennifer Myers, York University’s director of sport & recreation. “It was important to us that we put someone in place who had a familiarity with the program, experience at the CIS level and who would create a smooth transition from last season. I believe we have found that mix in Kevin. He is respected by the athletes and I know he will continue to enrich the team in his new role.”

Cash-rich Japan makes a move

The move by Japan’s Mitsubishi group to acquire a stake in troubled Wall Street giant Morgan Stanley is part of a bid by Japanese banks to return to the world stage, wrote The Globe and Mail Sept. 23. But others doubt whether Japanese banks have the skill or the flare to become big global players. “Japanese banks have really been risk-averse,” said Mitchell Bernard, a consultant on Asian business who taught at York University’s Schulich School of Business. “They’re very timid and tentative.”

The consequence of miscalculation

Western media, combined with the adoption of a Cold War mentality and transparent rhetoric, are ensuring Russia will be forever unable to escape its dark past, wrote York alumna Meghan Lenchyshyn (BA ‘07) in an article about the recent conflict in South Ossetia, Georgia, in the St. Catharines Standard Sept. 23. Preparations are being made towards a new Cold War. But one very important fact has been ignored – it was Georgia that started this war. Russia was merely acting in response to the unwarranted attack on South Ossetia – a territory where Russian peacekeepers were already stationed as per international agreement.

The Standard noted that Lenchyshyn is a York political science graduate from Fonthill who would like to get into journalism or the foreign service. She is a member of The Standard’s community editorial board.