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MSM vs. sports bloggers: The Flat Earth Society’s fear of hockey’s fancy numbers is ego-based

“Anyone who believes the Los Angeles Kings won the Stanley Cup because the club hierarchy believes in advanced statistics is an idiot.”

Steve Simmons, Sun Media

“It’s one part of the puzzle. You’ve got a big puzzle that’s 100 per cent. Maybe it’s a five-per center or a seven-per center, but a five- or seven-per center, whatever it may be, when you look at how close the league is, it does mean something. When you’re making decisions, it’s a tool.”

Ron Hextall, former Kings assistant general manager and current Philadelphia Flyers GM, on the value of advanced statistics

Ever since I was a kid fresh out of Grade One, when the subject of ciphering was called arithmetic rather than mathematics, I have harbored a disaffection for numbers crunching.

I wasn’t very good at it back then, you see. Actually, I was gawd awful. I failed Grade One arithmetic.

As a consequence, I spent a good portion of my summer vacation on the front porch, staring through a screen at all the other neighborhood children in full frolic on the street, sidewalks or lawns. While they engaged in their playful, pleasurable pursuits such as hop-scotch, skipping rope, roller skating, running through the sprinkler, playing ball or swapping bubble gum cards (yes, that’s what kids did in the mid-1950s), I wrestled mightily with the addition, subtraction, multiplication and division problems my mother had prepared for me in my scribbler.

I took no comfort in this. Arithmetic was a fearsome foe. An enemy on the level of brussel sprouts and spinach. No less quarrelsome was the notion that, since I was on the inside looking out at my friends in romp, I surely must have been the dumbest kid on the block, a suggestive that has gnawed at my self-worth ever since.

It was a painful time and, upon reflection, it perhaps explains my initial hesitancy to fully embrace the new-wave Corsi, Fenwick, PDO numbers that have been introduced to hockey.

I mention this because of Steve Simmons and his allies in hockey’s Flat Earth Society, a group of arithmophobes and/or neophobes waging war with the propeller heads who have penetrated puckdom with their percentages and probables. It could be that Little Stevie Blunder and the others failed Grade One math, too. Could be that they remain scarred.

So, when they see unfamiliar numbers—or, as Simmons describes them, “strange numbers”—they are threatened. They cannot comprehend. Thus, they circle the wagons and bleat about protecting their beloved game against the marauding blogger-nerds who lay seige with an arsenal of equations, slide rules and spreadsheets.

It doesn’t occur to them that theirs is a crusade without merit. Without hope. They have been Custered.

Almost across the board, National Hockey League outfits have embraced new-age analytics by creating a Department of Propeller Heads (see: Maple Leafs, Toronto; Devils, New Jersey; Oilers, Edmonton; Kings, Los Angeles; Blackhawks, Chicago; etcetera). Yet there is no surrender in the Flat Earth Societites. They won’t stand down until an NHL game sheet no longer looks like an algebra exam they once flunked. So they soldier on, like so many Lt. Hiroo Onadas hiding out in the jungle and conducting a guerilla campaign 29 years after the World War II bullets had stopped flying.

The question many of us ask is this: Why?

simmons statsI mean, Simmons and the Flat Earth Society write/talk like hockey analytics are as much a threat as the ebola crisis. In an age of information they reject information. Go figure. So what, pray tell, lies at the root of their refusal to yield to the large ball of fancy/advanced stats rolling toward them like that big boulder chasing down Harrison Ford in Raiders of the Lost Ark?

I believe the answer is contained in one word: Ego.

Simmons has no reservations about self-worth. His ego is as large as he is loud. In any discussion of sports, the Sun Media columnist believes his to be the most intelligent voice in the room. And the sole truth. Lest there be any doubt, he will shout above your side of the debate because he believes he who shouts the loudest wins the argument. He will also take your opinions and “strange numbers” and hurl them “out the window” because you are most certainly an “idiot” or a “weasel” or “you need to learn hockey.”

Many of us recognize that name-calling in a verbal to-and-fro is the refuge of the ill-informed or those who have exhausted all counterpoint, yet Simmons too often positions himself in both areas.

Mainstream sports scribes like Simmons and Damien Cox of Sportsnet reject the notion that someone outside mainstream media (read: bloggers) might know something they don’t know. They believe bloggers to be beneath bottom feeders. After all, the MSM guys went to journalism school. They’ve been sniffing jocks for 20-30 years. They sit in a press box, not in their mama’s basement. And let’s never forget the preferred argument in support of their perceived superiority over the blogger—“We attend practice.”

The MSM scribe’s ego simply cannot accept the reality that someone working out of his, or her, basement can produce copy as good, if not better and more informative, than he who attends practice.

Well, let me tell you what sports scribes do during practice: They quickly take note of who’s playing with whom and who’s hurt. They then engage in an exercise in one-upmanship, whereby each takes a turn telling the others about his adventures covering the Super Bowl, the Grey Cup or the Olympics. That is usually followed by a rousing and animated discussion on which of the Gilligan’s Island girls they’d rather boink, Ginger or Mary Ann.

Trust me. Been there. Listened to it. It was one reason for my tendency to stray from, rather than run with, the pack.

The jock sniffers in MSM must understand that they no longer are where it’s at. Sports bloggers are a significant force with something to say. And, contrary to stereotyping, they aren’t a bunch of greaseball, ill-educated, nerd monsters who need a bath and troll from mama’s basement. One survey found that the majority are college grads and 29 per cent have graduate degrees. Quite frankly, the sole advantage MSM scribes have over bloggers is access and, unfortunately, the majority of them don’t know how to use it or they flat out abuse it (that’s an article for another day).

It’s time to stop arguing whether a hockey puck is flat or round. It’s both. So someone tell Steve Simmons and his pals that they can come in from the jungle. They don’t need to shout anymore.

rooftop riting biz card back sidePatti Dawn Swansson has been writing about Winnipeg sports for more than 40 years, longer than any living being. Do not, however, assume that to mean she harbors a wealth of sports knowledge or that she’s a jock journalist of award-winning loft. It simply means she is old, comfortable at a keyboard (although arthritic fingers sometimes make typing a bit of a chore) and she doesn’t know when to quit.
She is most proud of her Q Award, presented to her in 2012 for her scribblings about the LGBT community in Victoria, B.C.

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Winnipeg Sports: Ondrej Pavelec’s new body and Dave Ritchie’s hall-of-fame induction are both mysteries

Cheat Shots from the Cheap Seats, Vol. 2…

If we are to believe the gospel according to Allan Walsh—and why wouldn’t we, since player agents never lie except when they move their lips?)—Ondrej Pavelec has “totally changed his body.”

What can I say? I just hope he doesn’t have Gump Worsley’s body now.

Actually, when word arrived from Walsh that his client, the worst starting goaltender in the National Hockey League, had “totally changed his body,” I couldn’t shake this image of lipstick on pigs.

I suppose that’s kind of harsh, but I think it’s safe to say that I know more about changing bodies than most. I changed mine “totally” five years ago. Sorry to report that it didn’t transform me into an elite NHL goalie. So unless Pavelec has become Dominik Hasek’s body double, the Winnipeg Jets’ most significant weakness remains their most significant weakness.

SUB-STANDARD STANDARDS: Dave Ritchie in the Winnipeg Football Club Hall of Fame? You’re kidding me, right?

Ritchie wore the headset for five-plus seasons with the Blue Bombers. His clubs had one first-place finish, one appearance in the Grey Cup game (a loss to a vastly inferior Calgary Stampeders outfit) and they were sub-.500 three times. He had a losing record in the playoffs.

If this is what qualifies as a hall-of-fame career, then Doug Berry and Paul LaPolice best prepare their acceptance speeches for next year. I mean, Berry got the Bombers into a Grey Cup game. Ditto LaPolice. They both lost, too.

Ritchie’s inclusion in the Hall class of 2014 is wrong. Period.

THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE LA LA: You’re not likely to find critics of the Dave Ritchie honor among the local media. He made their jobs easier with quotes that could be one part acidic, one part home-spun blarney and two parts Yogi Berra. His gift was gab. News scavengers were smitten by Ritchie’s folksy charm. They giggled about his grumpy, old man persona. They were John Boy or Mary Ellen to his Grandpa Walton. So, it’s agreed, he was a hall-of-fame interview. He was not a hall-of-fame coach…So, I’m listening to Craig Button on TSN 1290 and he advises host Rick Ralph that the Jets are “two years behind Anaheim.” Since it was radio, I don’t know if Button said it with a straight face, but, if so, the TSN hockey analyst’s credibility took a serious whack. I mean, the Ducks finished first (116 points) in the Western Conference last season and were a sniff away from ousting the L.A. Kings in the Conference semifinal. They had two of the top five scorers in the NHL, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. Does that sound like the Jets to you in two years? Didn’t think so…Belated bravo to Paul Edmonds, freshly minted radio play-by-play voice of the Jets. In the discussion about his appointment, someone actually compared Jets TV voice, Dennis Beyak to Danny Gallivan. Ya, and I’m Doris Day. When I watch the Jets on TV, I tune out Beyak and catch the opposing team’s feed. I prefer to stay awake…I get a kick out of analysis of the Jets. A summer of management by paralysis renders any attempt at analysis an exercise in nothingness. Unless there’s a major surprise at Camp PoMo next month, the Jets are no better or no worse than last season…It’s about those Bombers “signature” uniforms: It’s no longer the Blue and Gold; it’s the Blue and Bird Droppings…I haven’t taken the Ice Bucket Challenge yet. But my building was out of hot water the other day, so does a cold shower count?…I see it’s still the season of silly superlatives with River City scribes. First we had Gary (La La) Lawless of the Winnipeg Free Press describing Bombers quarterback Drew Willy as “part Joe Montana, part Johnny Unitas, part John Elway.” Now we have Ted Wyman of the Winnipeg Sun labeling the rookie starter as a “growing legend.” I think the Bombers would settle for Willy being part Ken Ploen. You know, the part of him that won Grey Cups. Until then, there are no comparisons to be made to anyone and there is no growing legend…We can stop wondering if GM Kyle Walters made a wise choice when he anointed Mike O’Shea head coach of the Bombers, because La La Lawless assures us that he is the “supreme leader. He’s the right man for this team. And this town. He’s the right coach for this franchise.” If that sounds familiar, it ought to. Gary La La said the very same thing about Jets GM Kevin (The Possum) Cheveldayoff: “We all have our views and opinions on the Jets in this city. Here’s mine: Kevin Cheveldayoff is the right guy for this job, this market and this set of circumstances.”…Love Bomber linebacker Derek Jones’s description of O’Shea: “He’s a big, scary dude.”

rooftop riting biz card back sidePatti Dawn Swansson has been writing about Winnipeg sports for more than 40 years, longer than any living being. Do not, however, assume that to mean she harbors a wealth of sports knowledge or that she’s a jock journalist of award-winning loft. It simply means she is old, comfortable at a keyboard (although arthritic fingers sometimes make typing a bit of a chore) and she doesn’t know when to quit.
She is most proud of her Q Award, presented to her in 2012 for her scribblings about the LGBT community in Victoria, B.C.


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Winnipeg Blue Bombers: Two Saskatchewan Roughriders fans walk into a bar and…

So, I’m sitting in my local watering hole yesterday, engaged in casual, catch-up conversation with cab driver Mike, when in struts Doug. He is one of the Green People, and it’s the first time I’ve fixed eyes on him since his Saskatchewan Roughriders won the Grey Cup last November. Thus, I am in dread.

“Greetings from the city of champions,” is his opening gambit.

“City of champions?” I say. “You just get in town from Edmonton?”

“No, Regina.”

“Regina? How in the name of Ron Lancaster do you figure Regina is the city of champions?”

“We’re Grey Cup champs. We’ve won four Grey Cups now.”

“Ya, one for each of your teeth.”

Not surprisingly, Doug is attired in all Rider green, but there’s something different, something new. It was his top, a rather foofy looking thing. Kind of like something you’d see on a drag queen.

“That’s an interesting outfit you’re wearing, Doug,” I observe.

“Isn’t it great?” he replies with the hee-haw glow of a prairie bachelor boy heading out on a Sadie Hawkins Day date. “Bought it at the Regina airport on my way out of town. It’s one of the Riders new signature uniforms.”

“Is that so. Whose signature? Ru Paul’s? You look like a refugee from Drag Race.”

And so it went. The banter between Doug and myself always is a to-and-fro of cheap shots and silly insults, most notably as we approach the Day Before Labor Day Classic and the Banjo Bowl, the front and back ends of the annual home-and-home set between my Winnipeg Blue Bombers and his Greenies from Saskatchewan. Not that the rivalry requires additional juice, but interest is amplified this Canadian Football League season because the Big Blue and Gang Green enter the fray in a tug-o-war over third place in the West Division. Each outfit has six victories.

So, in a salute to this exercise in flatland football, I give you my annual salute to Green People…

What are five things you’ll never hear a Roughriders fan say?

1) I’ll take Shakespeare for 1000, Alex.

2) I thought Graceland was tacky.

3) Too many deer heads on the wall detract from the decor.

4) Trim the fat off that steak.

5) Has anybody seen the sideburns trimmer?

***

Q: How do you keep a Roughriders fan busy?

A: Write ‘Please Turn Over’ on both sides of a piece of paper.

Q: What did the Roughriders fan say to his wife when she gave birth to twins?

A: Okay, cousin Mary, who’s the other father?

Q: What does a Roughriders fan with a job say to a Bombers fan?

A: Would you like fries with that?

Q: Santa Claus, the tooth fairy, an intelligent Roughriders fan and an old drunk are walking down the street together when they all spot a $100 bill. Who gets it?

A: The old drunk. The other three are mythical creatures.

Q: What do you get when you put the girlfriends of a dozen Roughrider fans in one room?

A: A full set of teeth!

Q: How do you get a former Roughrider away from your front door?

A: Pay for the pizza.

***

  • Did you hear about the Riders fan who died during the fan club’s annual pie-eating contest? The cow kicked him in the head.
  • The only difference between Bigfoot and a knowledgeable Riders fan is that Bigfoot has been spotted.
  • The reason Roughriders fans smell so bad is so blind people can hate them, too.
  • Did you hear about the Roughrider terrorist who tried to blow up the Bombers’ team bus? He burned his lips on the tailpipe.
  • How can you tell if a Roughriders fan is a married man? There’s tobacco juice running down both doors of his pickup.
  • What are the vital statistics of Miss Saskatchewan Roughrider? 36-24-26…and the other leg is the same.
  • How do you get Miss Roughrider out of your dorm room? Grease her hips and push.
  • What do Roughrider fans use as birth control? Their personalities.
  • How many Roughrider fans does it take to eat an armadillo? Two. One to do the eating, and one to watch for cars.
  • How did the Roughrider fan die from drinking milk? The cow fell on him.
  • Why do Roughrider fans like smart women? Opposites attract.
  • What’s the definition of mass confusion? Father’s day in Regina.
  • Why do seagulls fly upside down over Regina? There’s nothing below worth crapping on.
  • Did you hear that the Premier’s home in Saskatchewan burned down? Almost took out the whole trailer park!
  • As I was walking home from work last week I noticed a Saskatchewan Roughriders season-ticket nailed to a tree. I thought to myself ‘I’m having that!’ ’cause you can never have enough nails, can you?
  • What do you do if Darian Durant throws a grenade at you? Pull the pin and throw it back.
  • Do you know why the Roughriders are like Chinese food? Because you beat ‘em once and half an hour later you want to play ‘em again.
  • What do the Roughriders and the Pope have in common? They can both make 30,000 people stand up and scream, “Jesus Christ, man!”
  • What’s the difference between the Riders defensive backfield and a bikini? At least the bikini can cover something.
  • How many Roughrider jokes are there on this page? Only two. The rest are true stories.

rooftop riting biz card back sidePatti Dawn Swansson has been writing about Winnipeg sports for more than 40 years, longer than any living being. Do not, however, assume that to mean she harbors a wealth of sports knowledge or that she’s a jock journalist of award-winning loft. It simply means she is old, comfortable at a keyboard (although arthritic fingers sometimes make typing a bit of a chore) and she doesn’t know when to quit.
She is most proud of her Q Award, presented to her in 2012 for her scribblings about the LGBT community in Victoria, B.C.


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Winnipeg Jets: Did Evander Kane say his teammates lack ‘passion’ and is he boycotting local radio?

Ever wonder how a spark turns into a bonfire, turns into a brush fire, turns into a grass fire, turns into a prairie fire, turns into an inferno in the forest?

Simple: A writer takes one sentence, he twists it and he turns it and he torques it until its shape suits his agenda and then some editor plops an inflammable headline on top of it. Next thing you know, all hell breaks loose and an athlete, or his hired mouthpiece, has a five-alarm fire to extinguish.

Allow me to show you how fast-and-easy it is to ignite controversy when the media plays fast-and-easy with words:

Last week, a couple of gab guys with Team Radio 1040 in Vancouver tracked down Evander Kane on a golf course. What ensued was a six-minute, 11-second chin-wag in which Jeff Paterson and Stu Walters lobbed questions at the oft-maligned Winnipeg Jets left winger. It was puff stuff, as one might expect from a tete-a-tete conducted in the vicinity of a putting green and on a sun-splashed day on the West Coast. Kane wanted to tee off and the gab guys didn’t want to tee him off. So they all played nice.

There was, however, one moment during the discussion that could have caused a scandal-seeking scribe or editor to stir. Kane was asked about Jets head coach Paul Maurice.

He’s a fiery guy,” he replied, “but he’s a fair guy and I think that passion that he brings should hopefully rub off in the room with certain guys.”

Aha. Did you just hear what I just heard?

Hopefully,” PoMo’s passion rubs off on “certain guys” in the Jets boudoir. I think that warrants italics: “Certain” guys.

Could it be that…yes, Kane is telling us that his teammates lack ‘passion!’ Not all of them. Just some of them. “Certain” of them. We don’t know exactly how many of them are passion challenged, and we don’t know their identities, but we can guess because we now know that they exist in the National Hockey League outfit’s boudoir. These players ought to be outed. Kane must name names.

Break out the 72-point type, boys! We’ve got the story for our sports front! Kane’s opened his mouth and inserted his foot again! Make the headline read: Evander Kane calls out teammates; says they lack ‘passion.

See how simple that was? I turned one benign sentence into nine words of tabloid-style sizzle and scandal.

Paterson and Walters, for their part, ignored the keg of dynamite sitting on their laps. A golf course, after all, is no place to be going all Mike Wallace and 60 Minutes on a hockey player during his summer down time. So they recognized the comment for what it was worth: nothing. It’s a basic reality that some athletes perform with a higher level of passion than others. Nothing to see there.

Quite frankly, I’m more interested in why Kane’s voice has found its way on to Vancouver air twice in the past half dozen weeks, yet I haven’t heard a peep from him on River City radio or in Pegtown print in that time.

I realize, of course, that he summers in Lotus Land, with a side trip or two to take some provocative selfies in Las Vegas, but that doesn’t explain why Winnipeg radio doesn’t get him on its air. Now that I think of it, though…perhaps they can’t get him. Could it be that Kane has declared local air space to be a no-speak zone. Is he boycotting the local media?

Surely that’s it. Kane repeatedly appears on Vancouver radio because that’s where he wants to play. It’s part of his plot to engineer a trade to his hometown Canucks.

Now that’s positively scandalous! Break out the 72-point type again, boys—not!

rooftop riting biz card back sidePatti Dawn Swansson has been writing about Winnipeg sports for more than 40 years, longer than any living being. Do not, however, assume that to mean she harbors a wealth of sports knowledge or that she’s a jock journalist of award-winning loft. It simply means she is old, comfortable at a keyboard (although arthritic fingers sometimes make typing a bit of a chore) and she doesn’t know when to quit.
She is most proud of her Q Award, presented to her in 2012 for her scribblings about the LGBT community in Victoria, B.C.


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Winnipeg Jets: Why is Andrew Ladd’s favorite a ‘mishap’ but Evander Kane’s favorite is a ‘scandal?’

Let me see if I’ve got this straight:

In one corner, we have Andrew Ladd, who favorites a tweet taking a whack at management and it’s a “mishap” that causes “a bit of a stir.”

In the other corner, we have Evander Kane, who favorites a tweet suggesting he move to the Philadelphia Flyers and it’s a “scandal alert” that “ignites speculation.”

Is it just me or am I staring at a double standard here?

I mean, the captain of the Winnipeg Jets favorites a tweet that mocks the summertime siesta of general manager Kevin (The Possum) Cheveldayoff and he gets a free pass. It is a “mishap.” Headline writers, normally pit bullish if they catch a whiff of controversy, are tripping over each others’ dangling participles in their zest to offer many mea culpas for el capitán. After all, Andrew Ladd is a good foot soldier, isn’t he? He wears a ‘C’ on his jersey.

Yet when the National Hockey League club’s problem child favorites a tweet putting him in Flyers linen, the headline writers are on full red alert. It is a 72-point, bold-face “scandal.” That nasty Evander Kane is being his bad ass self again. He hates Winnipeg. He hates playing for Jets. He wants out of River City like O.J. wants out of stir.

Someone please tell me I’m wrong about this. You can’t because you know I’m right.

For those of you coming in late, Ladd favorited a tweet by someone with the calling card @sliiiiip, who wrote: “I just found a video that sums up the #NHLJets offseason magnificently!” It directs you to an extremely annoying and irritating YouTube video that shows us some grappling dude named Bryan Alvarez chanting “minus five stars” for 10 minutes So, Ladd favorites the tweet, which inspires these deadlines:

  • Andrew Ladd’s Twitter mishap was ‘accidental’
  • Jets captain Ladd ‘accidentally’ favorites tweet by fan critical of GM Cheveldayoff
  • Ladd says ‘favorite’ the result of bad hands
  • Andrew Ladd caused a bit of a stir
  • Captain Ladd believes Jets are flying in the right direction

We now take you back to late June, during the week of the NHL entry draft, at which time Kane’s name was being tossed around like confetti at a wedding (do people still do that?). The Jets left winger was rumored to be going anywhere from Buffalo to Boston to Bugtussle, so Philly fanatic Dan Schmidt tweeted: “Yes, @RonHextall, bring us Evander Kane.” Kane pushed the favorite button. And…

  • Scandal Alert: Evander Kane favorites Tweet advocating trade to Flyers
  • Jets Evander Kane favorites tweet that encourages trade to Flyers
  • Evander Kane’s Response to Fan’s Tweet Ignites Speculation

So, for Ladd it’s a big “oops, his finger slipped and he hit the wrong key” and for Kane it’s “look, that bad ass is giving us the finger again.”

Shame, shame.

rooftop riting biz card back sidePatti Dawn Swansson has been writing about Winnipeg sports for more than 40 years, longer than any living being. Do not, however, assume that to mean she harbors a wealth of sports knowledge or that she’s a jock journalist of award-winning loft. It simply means she is old, comfortable at a keyboard (although arthritic fingers sometimes make typing a bit of a chore) and she doesn’t know when to quit.
She is most proud of her Q Award, presented to her in 2012 for her scribblings about the LGBT community in Victoria, B.C.


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Winnipeg Jets: Evander Kane goes tree-climbing and the local media doesn’t notice—go figure

kane beauty2I’ve been waiting…and waiting…and waiting. And still I wait and wonder when we’ll read a 72-point headline scolding Evander Kane for his most recent moment of media-generated mischief.

What, you ask, has our shinny scalawag done this time?

Well, he climbed a tree. Actually, it was a tree stump. An extremely large, moss-backed tree stump in Vancouver’s lovely Stanley Park. A very buff, very chiseled Citizen Kane scaled the monster as part of a photo-shoot for Sportsnet Magazine’s annual The Beauty of Sport edition, and the evidence of his clamber has been available at a newsstand near you for a week now.

Yet somehow this has escaped the notice of the scandal masters at River City’s two dailies.

Where are the headlines? Where are the pics? Where are the columns, fatted with the kind of self-righteous condemnation normally reserved for actual wrong-doers, that advise us the Winnipeg Jets’ resident rascal is punching his own ticket out of town if he doesn’t straighten up and fly right? I mean, if having letters shaved into his hair and disregarding traffic tickets becomes front page news, surely tree-climbing and flaunting his flesh should land hockey’s Huck Finn in another steamy pile of pooh-pooh.

Apparently not. The tsk-tskers have been silent.

So if Evander Kane climbs a tree in the forest and nobody in the Winnipeg media notices, did it really happen?

I must say, this is a most curious bit of business. It is a mystery on joint footing with the JFK assassination, the Bermuda Triangle and Kevin (The Possum) Cheveldayoff’s addiction to Ondrej Pavelec. After all, since the Atlanta caravan rattled into River City in 2011, the Kane scrutiny has outstripped all other storylines about the National Hockey League franchise. The mainstream media have taken more than their pound of flesh from the 23-year-old winger.

Yet now that they have him treed—literally—they walk away. Go figure.

Perhaps we’re witnessing a shifting of tides. Ya, that’s it. News scavengers and their tale-torquing editors are no longer interested in the continuing Off-Ice Adventures of Evander. Our Citizen Kane is free to climb as many trees, take off as much clothing, go to as many bars, ignore as many bill payments and tweet as many selfies as he likes. Nothing to see there, kids. Let’s move along.

If only.

I can’t explain why the mainstream media failed to pick up on the Kane photo-shoot. I’m just glad they didn’t, because it was a mole hill they surely would have turned into a mountain, especially during the Dog Days of August when there is a scarcity of spice in shinny stories. I’m uncertain how they would have given the story a bit of nasty, but I’m sure they’d have been up to the challenge.

Alas, I fear this is just a ceasefire. We all know the first question the jackals will lob Kane’s way the moment he surfaces for training camp next month: “Do you want to be in Winnipeg and play for the Jets?”

From that moment on, the circus will be back in town and Kane is going to wish he’d never come down from that tree.

(Editor’s Note: If you want to see what kind of body it takes to be an elite athlete, purchase a copy of Sportsnet Magazine, The Beauty of Sport or go here .)

rooftop riting biz card back sidePatti Dawn Swansson has been writing about Winnipeg sports for more than 40 years, longer than any living being. Do not, however, assume that to mean she harbors a wealth of sports knowledge or that she’s a jock journalist of award-winning loft. It simply means she is old, comfortable at a keyboard (although arthritic fingers sometimes make typing a bit of a chore) and she doesn’t know when to quit.
She is most proud of her Q Award, presented to her in 2012 for her scribblings about the LGBT community in Victoria, B.C.

 


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Toronto Maple Leafs: Legends Row and more appropriate statues

rooftop riting biz card back sideWhen I heard there was big news about the Toronto Maple Leafs and a statue, my first thought was that perhaps they’d traded Dion Phaneuf.

My second thought? I sure hope he isn’t coming to Winnipeg to join the Jets.

Silly me. We all know that Jets general manager Kevin the Possum doesn’t make trades, so no worries about adding another pigeon perch to the Jets blueline corps.

As it turns out, the deep thinkers in the Leafs’ ivory tower (now there’s a contradiction in terms) plan to honor the giants of a National Hockey League franchise that long ago lost its luster. The idea is to plop a Legends Row statue outside the Air Canada Centre in the Big Smoke, and we know for certain that former Leafs’ captain Teeder Kennedy will be among the players honored. The others remain shrouded in secrecy.

Little wonder.

I mean, they’re dealing with a 30-foot slab of granite in the form of a players bench. It would take at least 10 players to fill it. A dozen at the most. How in the name of Humpty Harold Ballard are they going to come up with that many Leafs legends? They tell us Teeder and two others will be unveiled in early September. So they’re stuck at three.

That’s going to be a short bench. Sort of what current head coach Randy Carlyle has to deal with.

Cracking wise aside, there are many legends in the Leafs’ closet. Honest. There are. It’s just that all of them played before the invention of color TV. So the difficulty isn’t in compiling a list of Leafs legends—it’s finding enough hockey people in Toronto who can reflect that far back to make informed choices.

I could assist them. I’m so old I remember Tim Horton before he became a pot of coffee and a box of Timbits. I recall watching the Leafs on our family’s rabbit-eared, black-and-white boob tube during their glory years of the 1960s. I still know the players and their jersey numbers: The Chief, George Armstrong, No. 10; the Big M, Frank Mahovlich, No. 27; Davey Keon, No. 14; Bobby Baun, No. 21; Johnny Bower, No. 1; Allan Stanley, No. 26; clear the track here comes (Eddie) Shack, No. 23; Bob Pulford, No. 20; Dickie Duff, No. 9; Carl Brewer, No. 2; Red Kelly, No. 4; Tim Horton, No. 7; Billy Harris, No. 15.

No doubt some of those guys will find a spot on the bench. It would be fitting if Eddie Shack made the final cut, because the bench is usually where Punch Imlach planted him.

At any rate, by the time sculptor Erik Blome puts down his hammer and chisel, there’ll be a bench full of legends for the Leafs’ legions to gawk at and pigeons to poop on whenever they’re in the vicinity of 40 Bay St. in Tranna.

It’s a nice touch. Classy. So unLeaf-like.

I should point out that there are reports (unconfirmed) that the Leafs don’t want their younger generations of fans to feel left out, so they plan to erect a statue near the old Maple Leaf Gardens to symbolize what the franchise has been all about since the last Stanley Cup parade in 1967.

Here are some candidates:

leaf statues