Sunday, December 22, 2013

Ron Toigo: man of character

For some reason, Ron Toigo rubs me the wrong way.  I suppose its no new tale to tell - just another rich dude that feels he can say & do whatever he wants - and they are usually right.

Milan Lucic is from Vancouver, and played for the Giants.  His story is a good one - the Giants stumbled upon him, when no one else would give him a chance.  His junior career took off after that, with a strong performance in two Memorial Cups.

Lucic has had success in the NHL as well: a Stanley Cup championship as well as another finals appearance.  You'd think that Vancouver would be happy for their native son, but instead the locals want to fight him, and do nasty things to his family's church

Here's a Ron Toigo quote about the incident from the Province:

Ron Toigo, owner of the Giants, has been texting back and forth with Lucic and said the incident has hurt the player deeply.
“Milan has always been a great representative of our city,” said Toigo, who encouraged Lucic to take legal action. “He certainly doesn’t deserve this.

“This is absolute nonsense. He should be able to walk the streets of Vancouver.

“Things like this give the entire city a bad rap.”

Seems legit:  He feels that if you're enjoying the nightlife in downtown Vancouver, you shouldn't have to get punched in the face.  Got it.

Apparently this August, two current Giants got into an altercation at a house party, with two players being charged with assault.
Vancouver Giants owner Ron Toigo released a statement regarding Houck and Kulak:

"Due to an incident that took place on August 18 at a Tsawwassen house party, both players will be in court on November 20th to have these matters dealt with.

We cannot comment on the charges or the likely outcome at this time, and hopefully this will all be behind us after that court date.

What we can say is that our players are held to a higher standard and, for the most part, live up to that.

This is the first instance that we have had a player have to go to court and that is unfortunate.

Both Jackson and Brett have been, and are, exceptional people.

They have been good students, and have put in many hours of community service hours through school visits and the Read to Succeed program, Odd Squad with Chris Graham of the Vancouver Police, and hospital visits with the Giants' Christmas program.

Both these players have been, and are, very good citizens and have been good members of our community.

It is unfortunate that one negative incident gets the attention instead of all the good things that have been done.

They are both prepared to deal with whatever the court decides.

Please appreciate and understand that the players and anyone from the Vancouver Giants organization cannot comment on any of these legal matters. Thank You."

Seems legit:  He feels that if you're enjoying the nightlife in Tsawwassen, and you get punched in the face, its cool: those guys do a lot for charity and stuff.  Got it.

Toigo has a big heart - he loves to take care of his players at Christmas time:

In lieu of all the ruckus about the Winterhawks and their penalties for player benefit violations (PBVs), stories are coming out about what other teams might do for players, including one of about buying I-Pads as Christmas gifts. 
Vancouver Giants owner Ron Toigo admits that his club did exactly that a year ago. He said one of the corporate sponsors approached the club, offering up a deal for buying in bulk. He said that the Giants reported the purchase to the league and the league subsequently came up with a dollar limit on gifts. Toigo would only say that it’s a “couple hundred dollars.” 
He says multiple clubs did the same thing, although he wouldn’t name the other teams.
That situation differs from the Winterhawks’ snafu, in that Portland didn’t report specific actions and then quarrelled about them when they were questioned. 
“The league knew about what we did,” Toigo said.

Like everyone else, Toigo demands a level playing field in this league:

“I think it's a sad day for both the league and Portland Winterhawks when it gets to this point,” Toigo commented Thursday during a media gathering to promote Saturday's Trevor Linden Night at Pacific Coliseum. “There are rules we all live by and operate by and when you don't, there are consequences for it. Everybody abides by them for the mostpart and when it doesn't happen, consequences are levied by the league. This probably, definitely, tops them all.”
“This was not something that was done in a vacuum,” Toigo said. “It isn't something Ron Robison did half-heartedly. The process was very sound. It was done by professional agencies and the data was there for Ron to make his call. It was very significant in his opinion and, as a result, he levied what he felt was just.”
“The league has to be set up in such a way that Moose Jaw and Swift Current have just as much a chance as Vancouver, Portland and Calgary,” Toigo said. “The group in Portland did a good job bringing that franchise back to life and it's unfortunate it has come to this. I imagine they are going to go through the appeal process (to the Board of Governors) so I don't think this story is over now by any means.”
Toigo conceded he is anxious for the day it will be over.
“I know the sooner this is behind everybody, and the league gets back to business-as-usual, the better it is for everybody,” he concluded.

As usual, he's 100% correct:  Ipads for the whole team is simply the Christmas spirit (and a case discount), but an Iphone for one guy is worthy of losing 5 first round draft picks.  Hit the nail on the head with that one.

You wanna know what's definitely not a player benefit violation?  Armani suits:

Give the man two minutes for looking so good. 
Vancouver Giants star centre Gilbert Brule was resplendent in his new Armani suit Wednesday as he and his mates departed for Moncton , N.B., and the Memorial Cup junior hockey championships.
The suits were a gift from majority owner Ron Toigo, who likes to plow his profits back into the team. 
"Ron's a great guy and he always does nice things for us," said Brule. "For winning our league, he gave us all these suits. And they're nice suits. They're great. We got shirts and ties and everything, too."

You always hear rumblings about CHL teams paying players under the table - even though the WHL never alleged that against Portland.  Its hard to find anything to link to about direct accusations of this practice, but there are a few out there:

Toigo has also been a target of speculation during his time in the league for sweetening the pot for players, starting with skilled forward Brent Ascroft when Toigo owned Tri-Cities, to the 2004/2005 Vancouver Giants when the perk cupboard was full for the likes of Czech goaltender Marek Schwarz, Slovakian defenceman Andrei Meszaros and Canadian phenom Gilbert Brule.
Then there were the days when perks were commonplace in the league.
Brian Shaw, the late owner of the Portland Winter Hawks, was demanding in the 1980s, but renown for his generosity, offering players extra cash and trips to Hawaii based on performance during the heyday of the Hawks.
He probably wouldn't think much of today's WHL landscape, but then again, he would probably find a way around it.
Now, it's a matter of not getting caught.
Rick Wile is sports director at Radio 'NL

Another 2004 first rounder from the former Czechoslovakia will be joining Schwarz in Vancouver this fall. Ottawa pick (23rd overall) Andrej Meszaros is leaving Dukla Trencin, despite the chance to play for the Slovak senior national team.

So, it looks like the Czech agent for Schwarz, Jaromir Henys, is twisting his client's arm to play for the Giants? Why?

$$$$$$ Money, of course.
From the comments of Henys, he states that Vancouver is a lovely city with a good hockey team, yada yada yada...but it's also obvious that he believes coming to the WHL will get Schwarz him an NHL contract faster...and that, folks, equals 'bling bling'

Henys and his agency will not make that much money from Schwarz playing in Europe, but once Schwarz and Meszaros (who also falls under the same agency) sign their first NHL contracts, the commission from that contract is all the incentive that they need to push their kids into the CHL.

What role do the Giants have in all of this? I can't say for sure, but I speculate if the Giants weren't making some 'side' payments to Schwarz's agent to get him to push their clients towards Vancouver. If Schwarz and Meszaros were openly willing to come to the CHL, you'd better believe they would have been drafted (CHL IMPORT DRAFT) much higher than they were.

With the two faced approach that Toigo takes to every other example, are we to think for one second that he wouldn't cut a check to a junior player, particularly in the 90's or 00's when it was more common?  Seems to me the more he squawks about a subject, the more likely he's guilty of the same offense.

The Houck and Kulak incident is current, and unresolved.  It always amazes me that we don't see this sort of thing every week:  we are talking about a 22 team league made up of teenage boys.  I was a teenage boy for a few years, and I couldn't cross the damn street without doing something stupid and getting arrested.

I don't want to cast these two players as villains, but I do ask one thing:  who is paying their lawyer bills?

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