Sports On Pause

Richard Deitsch and Donnovan Bennett host a podcast about how COVID-19 is impacting sports around the world. They talk to experts, athletes and personalities, putting big news into perspective, highlighting great journalism and offering a window into the lives of people we normally root for in entirely different ways.

Recent Episodes
EP-14: The Only Game In Town
May 25, 2020
May 25, 2020
EP-14: The Only Game In Town

Golf. It seems like a sport that can safely be played during a global pandemic. Arguably, the safest. While the social aspect is important, at its core, golf is an outdoor, solitary pursuit. One person. One ball (hopefully). Eighteen holes. But during COVID-19, nothing is simple. Richard and Donnovan explore the opening of golf courses in Canada generally and how one club in the Greater Toronto Area — home to more than six-million people — is tackling health-and-safety restrictions.

Laurence Applebaum is the CEO of Golf Canada, the governing body for golf in the country. He discusses the guidance and support the organization has offered its more than 1,400 member clubs, whether this is an opportunity to flip flagging participation numbers, the economics of the sport at the leisure, amateur and professional levels, and more.

John Young is the COO of the Copper Creek Golf Group, which operates four clubs in Canada’s most populous province, and GM of the Copper Creek Golf Club, the CCGG’s flagship course. Donnovan visits Copper Creek to talk to Young about safety protocols, how the pandemic has impacted business and staffing, what he’s learned about the Canadian golf industry during the past few months and more.

COVID-19 Resources: (1) Golf Canada: COVID-19 Updates & Resources (2) Toronto Star: Doug Ford may yet have to make the hardest decision of the pandemic so far — shutting the province down again (3) The New York Times Front Page for May 24, 2020

This episode is scripted, produced and sound designed by Amil Delic, and hosted by Donnovan Bennett and Richard Deitsch. Adrian Cheddie assisted with archival support, and Dan Lorimer and Jeff Azzopardi provided production help. 

Audio Credits: 680 News and CityNews.

The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the hosts and guests and do not necessarily reflect the position of Rogers Media Inc. or any affiliate.

May 22, 2020
EP-13: Hockey At A Crossroads

In many ways, hockey is as Canadian as it gets. Its history is intertwined with that of the country; the nation and the sport came of age together, sharing an ethos. But hockey in Canada is at a crossroads. Participation numbers are trending down as costs rise and the demographics of the country change, leading to questions around inclusion and diversity within the game. And now, COVID-19 is threatening to put further strain on the sport at all levels.

Hockey 24 is a documentary that celebrates community hockey in Canada. Cassie Campbell-Pascall and Natalie Spooner both took part in the project, and they join Richard and Donnovan to discuss their roles and what they hope people will take away from the film. They also address concerns around the future of the sport, the divide in the women’s game between the NWHL and the PWHPA, how it can be bridged and more.

COVID-19 Resources: (1) Yahoo Sports: Ghost Olympians (2) Sportsnet: NHL, NHLPA working on 24-team conference-based playoff setup (3) Last Week Tonight with John Oliver 

This episode is scripted, produced and sound designed by Amil Delic, and hosted by Donnovan Bennett and Richard Deitsch.

Audio Credits: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the hosts and guests and do not necessarily reflect the position of Rogers Media Inc. or any affiliate.

May 19, 2020
EP-12: Handicapping The Betting Industry

COVID-19 has largely shut the sports-betting industry down. So, what has that meant? And what does it mean for the industry’s future? Donnovan and Richard are joined by two guests to investigate.    

David Purdum writes for ESPN Chalk. He talks about what gamblers have been betting on during the pandemic, what neutral sites might mean for oddsmakers, how in-arena betting could be a tactic to get fans back in person, the state of futures betting, and what the lack of disposable income post-coronavirus might mean for the industry.

Jay Kornegay is the Executive VP of Race and Sport Operations at the SuperBook. He discusses how his outfit plans to adjust betting lines in the new reality, what has shown some promise over the past couple of weeks, how Las Vegas will reinvent itself post-pandemic and the long-term opportunities for sports betting.

COVID-19 Resources: (1) ESPN: The Last Dance (2) The Athletic: Media Circus (3) Bloomberg: The new normal for gyms

This episode is scripted, produced and sound designed by Amil Delic, and hosted by Donnovan Bennett and Richard Deitsch. Jon Levett assisted with audio editing.

 Audio Credits: Jelle’s Marble Runs and Reuters.

The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the hosts and guests and do not necessarily reflect the position of Rogers Media Inc. or any affiliate.

May 15, 2020
EP-11: The Analytics Of COVID-19

Remember the fight in sports over the eye test and the data test? When Bill James was belittled for SABRmetrics? Or when battles between “mainstream media members” and “numbers nerds” in hockey were waged on Twitter? Well, the war is over. And while leagues, teams and media outlets continue to work on how to best fold data into their day-to-day operations and different sports have embraced the revolution at different rates, the “nerds” have won.

But in the medical and science communities, data and modelling have long played an important role in projecting and responding to public health emergencies. And amidst COVID-19, some sports data people have turned their efforts to providing information on the disease. 

David Yu is one of those people. He is the Hockey Analytics Lead at Sportlogiq and the mind behind COVID Projections, an open source modelling tool that collects and visualizes current and historical forecast data. He joins Richard and Donnovan to discuss starting the project, support from the medical community, the similarities between analyzing sports and the pandemic, and if we’re nearing a point of too much data in sports.

Dr. Dan O’Brien has specialized knowledge in telemedicine, digital health, robotic technology and gene editing. He talks with Donnovan about how we’re currently progressing in the fight against the novel coronavirus, the importance of accurate testing, when to expect a return to play.

COVID-19 Resources: (1) Bundesliga returns to play (2) Hearts and Smiles

This episode is scripted, produced and sound designed by Amil Delic, and hosted by Donnovan Bennett and Richard Deitsch. Jon Levett assisted with audio editing, and Dan Lorimer and Jeff Azzopardi provided production help. 

The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the hosts and guests and do not necessarily reflect the position of Rogers Media Inc. or any affiliate.

May 11, 2020
EP-10: What’s Next For Women’s Professional Sports?

While the world waits for the return of men’s professional sports, the women’s side of the equation has been somewhat lost in the conversation. In North America specifically, it’s been an important 12 months for women’s pro sports — but the question now is: What will happen to all of that momentum? Jayna Hefford and Kia Nurse join Donnovan and Richard to discuss.

In hockey, it’s complicated. Women’s visibility has been grown by their participation in NHL All-Star festivities, but in May 2019, the Canadian-based CWHL unexpectedly shut down, while the U.S.-based NWHL continued. Then a rift in the sport appeared when hundreds of players — including most of the biggest names in the game — formed the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association and boycotted the 2019–20 NWHL season in an effort to pressure for the formation of a single professional league. The NWHL carried on, worked with its players’ association on revenue sharing and more, and even announced plans to expand to Canada for the upcoming season. 

Hefford is a Hockey-Hall-of-Fame player, a former CWHL commissioner and the current PWHPA Operations Consultant. In many ways, she’s been the public face of the movement to pay professional players a living wage. She discusses how COVID-19 has impacted international and professional women’s hockey, what the general state of the economy might mean for the sport’s future and how the PWHPA has been supporting its members during the pandemic.

In basketball, the labour news was better. A new WNBA collective bargaining agreement raised minimum salaries and revenue sharing opportunities, added parental benefits, better travel minimums and more. But the season was supposed to begin in just a couple of weeks and is now in jeopardy. 

The New York Liberty’s Nurse is one of the bright young lights in the game. She talks about messaging from the league and WNBAPA during the pandemic, what she knows about returning to play, challenges faced by players with contracts in Europe and Asia, how her own personal sponsorships have been impacted by the pause and more.

COVID-19 Resources: (1) Triple Pundit: The Burdens of the Coronavirus Pandemic Are Largely Falling on Women (2) Forbes: What Do Countries With The Best Coronavirus Responses Have In Common? Women Leaders (3) ESPN: Heroes SC Feature (Dr. Leslie Bottrell and Kyle Lowry)

This episode is scripted, produced and sound designed by Amil Delic, and hosted by Donnovan Bennett and Richard Deitsch. Archival support by Adrian Cheddie, Jon Levett provided audio editing assistance, and production help from Dan Lorimer and Jeff Azzopardi. 

Audio Credits: 106.7 The Fan, CBS WUSA 9, CNBC, FOX Sports, KTLA 5 and The Rich Eisen Show,

The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the hosts and guests and do not necessarily reflect the position of Rogers Media Inc. or any affiliate.