Tag Archives: development

Millennials? They’re Just Like Us — Wait and See

By Jason Menard

The focus on London’s urban planning seems to revolve around attracting and retaining the cherished millennial demographic: a young, tech-savvy, generation that’s eschewing cars, embracing public transportation, looking to live downtown, and focused on consolidating its living, entertainment, and dining options into a three-block radius.

Millennials: the name has changed, but the song remains the same.

In short, they’re me 20 years ago. Or my parents 40+ years ago. Or my grandparents 60+ years ago. And, chances are, they’re likely the same as you, your parents, and your grandparents were. Continue reading

A Successful London? Stop Swinging for the Fences and Focus on Fundamental Small Ball

By Jason Menard

Instead of swinging for the fences and missing, London needs to play small ball, work on the fundamentals, and build a winning team.

For many baseball fans, there is nothing like the spectacle of a home run. But if that round-tripper comes in a losing cause, then what’s the point? Bunting, advancing the runners, and hitting-and-running may not make the highlight reels, but it will help you win.

And in the end that’s all that matters. Continue reading

Betting on London’s Future? Let’s Gamble Responsibly

By Jason Menard

Supporting a casino doesn’t mean you’re doubling down on vice. Nor do we need to hedge our bets. Instead, if we gamble responsibly, a new casino could be a productive addition to our community.

But to make this a winning hand, we have to make sure we’re playing the right game at the right table. Continue reading

At What Cost Idealism?

By Jason Menard

Heritage advocates in this city can’t not pay for their cake and expect not only to eat it, but for the baker to decorate it in exactly the fashion they want. At some point, we have to put our money where our ideals are.

I think you would have a hard time finding people who would oppose a City of London with full-capacity commercial towers, restored and vibrant heritage buildings that pay homage to their legacies while serving to build our city’s future, and fully protected green spaces representative of the beauty of our community’s soul.

I also think you will have an equally hard time finding people who are willing to pay for it. Continue reading

Stunting Our Juniors’ Development

By Jason Menard

As fans and supporters of the game of hockey, we’re all interested in protecting the game at all levels. But are we doing so at the expense of the players? And is it now time to recognize special players as such – and not hold back their development?

Currently, players with junior eligibility who don’t stick on a National Hockey League roster must be returned to their junior-level hockey club, as opposed to being sent down to a team’s minor-league affiliate. But is this really the best option for all of these players – and is it finally time for one of hockey’s sacred cows to be put on ice?

By sending a player back to junior, an NHL club is able to avoid having a year count against the player’s rookie contract. And, in consideration of the new collective bargaining agreement which sees players eligible for unrestricted free agency far sooner than before, that extra year can mean one more year that a player will suit up for the squad in the prime of his career. Essentially, they get a year’s development on a junior team that essentially provides them an extra roster spot for their minor league franchise. Think of it as the hockey equivalent of a tax shelter – you get all the benefits of the player’s development, without the necessity of losing a contract year.

For the junior squad, it’s a no-brainer. Generally, the players that are on the NHL bubble are the ones who will find their way on to the team’s top lines, turning what may be a moribund franchise into a Memorial Cup contender. The fans benefit by seeing their elite athletes and favourite skaters back in their local uniforms, up close and personal.

But what about the players themselves? Once all the business and financial interests have been met, where does the player’s development fit in? And who’s to say that sending a player down to the junior level isn’t simply wasting a year of development in a sport that offers notoriously short careers. Is it not time to admit that age ain’t nothin’ but a number when it comes to certain special hockey players and a one-size-fits-all approach to eligibility may, in fact, be hindering these players’ development?

At the end of this year’s NHL’s training camp, we’ve seen two players come agonizingly close to sticking with the big club, only to be among the very final cuts back to junior: Edmonton Oilers’ prospect Rob Schremp who was returned to the London Knights, and Montreal Canadiens’ highly-touted rookie Guillaume Latendresse who was sent down to the Drummondville Voltigeurs – both despite having outstanding training camps that almost found them on an NHL roster.

In the end, for both players, the numbers game had much to do with their demotion – unfortunately, it wasn’t the numbers they were putting up on the ice, it was the numbers on theirs and other players’ contracts. Whether there were other players on the cusp with guaranteed contracts, one-way deals, or simply the realization that these players would benefit from more ice time than what they would get on an NHL roster, both players found themselves back in the junior ranks — back in familiar haunts with markedly different results.

Latendresse, visibly disheartened by his demotion, struggled a bit at first but has picked up the pace to record nine goals and eight assists in 11 games. Conversely, Schremp has been toying with the opposition, registering 14 goals and 41 total points in his 10 games back in the green and gold. Which begs the question that if these players are either bored or dominating in the junior ranks, is their respective development being best served by playing with other 17-20 year olds? Will the Colorado Avalanche’s Wojtek Wolski progress as rapidly in Brampton following an impressive NHL stint that saw him rack up two goals and four assists in just nine games?

Or should these players be allowed to ply their trade in the American Hockey League – the NHL’s primary development league – against older and more talented players? Should they receive the benefit of developing their skills against a consistently higher level of competition, comprised primarily of other NHL wannabes and used-to-bes?

Yes, the fans in London, Drummondville, Brampton, and other junior cities would lose out on seeing some of these special players for another year. But junior hockey will survive. The loss of Rick Nash, despite remaining eligibility, didn’t hurt the Knights’ chances during last year’s Memorial Cup run – organizational depth, solid coaching, and astute management were as important to the team’s victories as any particular player.

The fans support the logo on the front of the jersey, not the name on the back. Junior hockey fans, who are remarkably devoted to these players who spend three years – maybe four tops – with their club, should want the best for these young players. And the best isn’t always a return to junior.

Obviously, we don’t want NHL clubs decimating the junior ranks, populating the professional leagues with junior-aged players, but perhaps it’s time to offer clubs a special designation that can be applied to one prospect a year – should they so choose. This designation would allow NHL clubs to apply the tag to one borderline player and have him play in the AHL (or whatever minor-league affiliate).

That way, the truly special players who have learned all they can from junior, will be able to progress against more skill-appropriate competition. The junior ranks wouldn’t be devoid of all talent – and even the NHL teams may not choose to use the designation each year.

In the end, the NHL teams that have drafted these players have only one interest – to make sure that the player maximizes his development to become a functioning member of the NHL squad. They’re not going to take a kid who’s not ready for prime time and put him in a league where he’s over his head – but they should also be allowed to move him to a level where he’s not skating rings around the competition.

And that’s truly in the players’ best interests.

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

Retail Freeze – It’s Cold Enough, Thanks

By Jason Menard

To think, just a little while ago there were discussions about a commercial land development freeze. It’s nice to see that Hyde Park’s heating up, but we’re certainly feeling the chill out in the South-Least!

Yes, those of us in the Pond Mills/Glen Cairn and surrounding areas can only shake our collective heads in disbelief as the city’s talking heads lament the saturation of market share in the Southwest and North part of the city, while our neck of the woods gets left out the discussion – again.

Our city planning and commercial development is totally out of whack, choosing to cater to the whims of the more affluent and trendy areas, than servicing regions that are woefully under-served and undervalued.

Southeast London is a wonderfully diverse region filled with people and families that span a myriad of social and cultural spectra. We feature a mix of well-to-do and not-so-well off. There are new families living close by those who have sown family roots in the area over a quarter-century ago.

Yet instead of appreciating our region, new developments – whether they’re cultural or economic – continually head to the same locations. So forgive us if, while you’re debating where to put yet another Wal-Mart or big box store, we come up with a few colourful suggestions as to where to stick it.

The argument can be made that the Southeast end of the city can rightly be called the gateway to London. With easy access to the 401 off of Highbury Ave (the old 126) the area appears to be ripe for exploitation. There’s an existing market clamouring for support, new developments such as Summerside that would relish the idea of local shopping convenience, and even smaller towns such as Dorchester whose residents would appreciate the shorter drive to retail opportunities.

Instead, we’re stuck with an eyesore of a retail space that’s a shopping centre in name only and that’s never given the area an opportunity to prove itself. The east end of Commissioners Road is a hit-and-miss retail environment with no firm anchor to which to tether. If those other regions of the city are too spoiled with riches to welcome a new retail development, then simply ride that gift horse to our neck of the woods – we’ll be glad to find it a home.

In addition to affluent families, the southeast end features a number of families requiring financial assistance. These families would relish the opportunity to have a worthwhile retail opportunity within walking distance. If our vaunted city planners cared to think outside the box a little, they’d see that any commercial development – whether it be a big box store, movie theatre, or even a large-name restaurant – would draw patrons from surrounding regions and stimulate economic growth and development in the area.

In other cities, large-scale retail operations like Costco, IKEA, and Sam’s Club prefer a location next to major highways. Save for the original Costco, all of our big box retailers have been placed in the less-accessible regions of our fair city. And yet an area just minutes from the highway remains neglected.

The concern for our community is that instead of being a place where people stay for generations, it is rapidly becoming just a stepping stone to other areas of the city. Instead of establishing roots, new families are setting up shop for a couple of years, only to move to other better-serviced areas.

The potential is there. New ownership at the Pond Mills Centre and a rezoning of the land on the South East corner of Commissioners and Highbury may mean that development is on its way.

It’s time to start treating the Southeast end of the city more like a gateway to London than its doormat. We need to find an answer to developmental tunnel vision — there’s so much more to London than just Westmount and Masonville.

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved