The River City Renegade


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Winnipeg Sports Media: This Gary Lawless column isn’t that bad…unless it really is

Many years ago, I was instructed by one of my first newspaper gurus that a headline should sell, tell and fit. That is, it should sell the story, tell the story and fit the layout.

It was with this in mind that I read a head/drop head in the Winnipeg Free Press sports section on Monday:

Jets better than they look
At least…well…unless they really aren’t

Huh? Say what? What are they telling us here? That the 1-4 Winnipeg Jets really don’t suck unless the 1-4 Winnipeg Jets really do suck? What a dumb headline, right? Nope. Kudos to the editor who wrote it, because it matched the criteria—it fit the layout, it sold me on the article because I now absolutely had to read it, and it surely summed up the accompanying piece which, in this case, was most unfortunate.

We’re talking about a Gary (La La) Lawless essay, an 846-word lump of nothing from a scribe who, as the Freep’s main sports columnist, is expected to deliver opinion. Insightful opinion. Knowledgeable opinion. Opinion with a biting edge. Opinion with wit. Opinion with humor. Opinion that will stir discourse in the pub. So, with the Jets in full free-fall to start the National Hockey League season and the rabble looking for answers, what did our intrepid, all-seeing, all-knowing word-pusher deliver?

This:

“The Jets aren’t this bad. Unless they really are.”

I see. In other news, the sky is blue. Unless it isn’t. Brad Pitt is a babe. Unless he isn’t. A pint of Blue is cold. Unless it isn’t. Tiger Woods likes blonde women. Unless he doesn’t. Kevin (The Possum) Cheveldayoff is a hockey genius. Unless he isn’t.

Well, now that we have all that sorted out…

Actually, I think I know what Lawless is up to here. If he rides the fence, there’ll be no need to later perform his customary flip-flop on the issue. You know, like how he flip-flopped on the matter of roster adjustments for the Jets. In June, he used his 800-word allotment to crusade for a major trade. This month, he insisted status quo must be maintained. In June, he wrote, “It doesn’t smell like crap in Bomberland anymore,” and more recently he wrote about “the stink of failure” still filling the air in Bomberland.

I’ve noticed that La La often writes about bad odors. I suppose that’s understandable, though, because his main subject matter is either a bottom-feeding hockey team or a bottom-feeding football team.

Unfortunately, he has chosen to write down to their level and that really does stink…unless it doesn’t.

fish wrap

Ranting Rosie

I’m uncertain who piddled in Rosie DiManno’s Corn Flakes, but the Toronto Star columnist, who makes cameo appearances on the sports pages, went off her nut recently.

It seems Rosie takes a dim view of patrons who hurl hockey sweaters on to the ice in an expression of displeasure for what they have been witnessing. There have been two such incidents at Toronto Maple Leafs matches this season, the first of which inspired DiManno to launch into a tantrum of epic loft.

She begins by evoking the memory of former Leafs head coach Pat Burns, for whom Rosie harbors an affection that flies dangerously close to the idol worship orbit. She mentions how the first commandment in the Gospel According to Burns was “Thy sweater shalt not touch the ground. Never. Ever. Or else.” Thus, when a customer at the Air Canada Centre lobbed his Leafs linen to the ice during a loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, Rosie stomped her feet and did the diva thing.

She labeled the guy a “moron who pulled a little hissy-fit.” He was a “drama queen” who “got ‘look-at-me!’ theatrical.” He was an “exhibitionist idiot.” And others like him were “stinky scuz in the stands.”

She wondered, “Whatever happened to just booing?”

Yo, Rosie! Someone surely had a hissy-fit, but it wasn’t the guy who tossed the sweater. So boooooo to you.

George Strombol-oops-olous

This doesn’t belong in the Fish Wrap file, but I couldn’t pass it up.

During the second intermission of City’s telecast of the Jets-Calgary Flames joust on Sunday night, host George Stromboloupoulouplouplouploupos made reference to our girl Jennifer Jones, the Olympic curling champion, telling viewers that she plays out of the “Vittle” curling club in Winnipeg.

No, Strombo.

A “vittle” is something Granny Clamplett used to serve Jed and Jethro for supper. It’s the St. Vital Curling Club. That would be Vital as in Va-tell.

rooftop riting biz card back sidePatti Dawn Swansson has been writing about Winnipeg hockey and the Jets for more than 40 years, longer than any living being. Do not, however, assume that to mean she harbors a wealth of hockey 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 literary contributions to the LGBT community in Victoria, B.C.

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Hey, Winnipeg Jets fans! Chevy knows hockey, so keep your shirt on!

So, how bad was it? Well, let’s put it this way: As the end approached, I thought perhaps someone was about to give the Winnipeg Jets the shirt off his back.

That is to say, it was sweater-toss worthy.

I mean, the local hockey heroes delivered a frustrating, now-you-see-us, now-you-don’t performance against a road-weary Calgary Flames outfit that ought to have been running on fumes at the tag-along end of a six-game journey. So, surely the resulting 4-1 beatdown Sunday evening would fuel fury. Passion. And the hurling of a piece of clothing in protest.

But no. We weren’t in Edmonton or Toronto, Dorothy. Nary a piece of linen fluttered to the freeze at the Little Hockey House on the Prairie. By the time everyone stepped out into the darkening River City night, no one had surrendered their Jets jersey.

Not even Chris Thorburn, Anthony Peluso or TJ No Dots. Oh drat.

This tells me one of three things:

  1. Hey, Winnipeg is known as Wholesale City. It’s not that we’re cheap. We’re just looking for a better deal. So when we’re forced to buy something at retail price, like a $200-plus tax Jets jersey, we don’t do it so the Zamboni driver’s kid can find something special under the Christmas tree.
  2. We just can’t decide what do do first—throw away our Jets jerseys or our Bombers jerseys.
  3. Those who occupy the pews at the shinny cathedral at Donald and Hargrave can’t get enough of the True North Kool-Aid and have fully bought into a draft-and-develop strategy that, to date, has been nine parts draft and one part develop.

 

If you fall into category No. 3, I hope this doesn’t come as a news bulletin, but it’s a very risky business that can take a very wrong turn.

Don’t misunderstand. I’m on side with draft-and-develop. To a degree. I just think there’s more to building a year-in, year-out competitive outfit than collecting National Hockey League wannabes and never-will-bes, and I point to theLos Angeles Kings as evidence. The group that won the Stanley Cup tournament last June was a collection of shrewd draft selections, workers acquired in barter and others recruited through free agency.

At the opposite end of the measuring stick, I give you the Edmonton Oilers. Here’s what a pure draft-and-develop plan has delivered (aside from eight years of emptiness):

The Oilers have had18 first-round picks this century. Five of those players are on the Edmonton roster today. Only one, Taylor Hall, is worth a damn.

And have I mentioned the Copper and Blue haven’t qualified for post-season play since 2006?

Little wonder they’re hurling sweaters on the ice at Rexall Place.

It’s easy to say the Oilers have been operated by a collection of managerial misfits like Kevin Lowe, Steve Tambellini and Craig MacTavish. But how can we be convinced that Jets general manager Kevin (The Possum) Cheveldayoff has more shinny smarts?

Based on a history of zero playoff appearances and the early returns this season, he doesn’t. But, hey, it’s early. So keep you shirt on, right?

Well, right now that’s the only difference between what’s going on in Edmonton and Winnipeg: We keep our clothes on.

rooftop riting biz card back sidePatti Dawn Swansson has been writing about Winnipeg hockey and the Jets for more than 40 years, longer than any living being. Do not, however, assume that to mean she harbors a wealth of hockey 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 literary contributions to the LGBT community in Victoria, B.C.


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Bobby Hull: Spousal abuse or not, they’ll still line up for his autograph

I believe I am on the side of the angels when I suggest men should not beat up women or children. Ever. I also believe most level-thinking people would agree.

What, then, are we to make of the legacy of Robert Marvin Hull vis-a-vis hockey in River City?

Ben Hatskin is, of course, the father of professional shinny in good, ol’ Hometown and should forever be recognized as such. It was his vision that delivered the World Hockey Association to Winnipeg and, more significant, it was Benny’s pie-in-the-sky dreaming and bulldog tenacity that brought us Hull in 1972.

That was a favorable development then. It remains so today.

Had Hatskin not convinced the game’s glam guy to accept a $2.75 million bribe and defect from the Chicago Blackhawks and the National Hockey League, the Pegtown sporting landscape would be noticably more barren, figuratively and literally. There would have been no Winnipeg Jets/NHL 1.0.There would be no Jets 2.0. This isn’t a “What came first, the chicken or the egg?” thing. We know what came first: Hatskin and the Jets/WHA. Then Bobby Hull. Then the NHL. Then Mark Chipman and the Manitoba Moose. Then the Little Hockey House on the Prairie. Then the Jets/NHL 2.0.

Thus, the three most noteworthy and influential figures in local lore are Ben Hatskin, Bobby Hull and Mark Chipman.

One of the three is recognized as a man who hits women. So, with the knowledge that Hull whacked his wife, Joanne, on the head with the steel heel of her own shoe and bloodied her, and because she was granted a divorce on the grounds of physical cruelty, mental cruelty and adultery, do we erase his accomplishments while he wore No. 9 in Jets linen? No. We cannot.

Hull still signed that $1 million WHA contract and agreed to accept an additional $1.75 million to coach and play for the Jets, a development which forever shifted the salary structure in not just hockey, but all major professional sports in North America. He still scored all those goals. He still made magic with Anders Hedberg and Ulf Nilsson. He still brought the first two of three WHA titles to Pegtown.

These realities are stored in memories. For some, they cannot be jarred loose.

I have made no secret of my dislike for Bobby Hull. I am repulsed by his behaviour. He is a cad of high rank. Yet I can separate the man from the hockey player. Just as I can so many other athletes who have led lives of imperfection and are guilty of being human beings.

I mean, retreat to Babe Ruth’s days. The great Bambino bounced from brothel to bar to brothel to bar. Yet he continued to swat home runs at a then-unparalleled pace. The game went on.

Ty Cobb was a nasty bit of business given to fits of anger and fisticuffs. He whacked a hotel elevator operator for being “uppity.” He slashed a security guard with a knife. He choked a woman. He thumped a disabled fan. He fought on the streets. Yet he continued to collect base knocks and steal sacks. The game went on.

Move ahead to the 1950s. In May of ’57, a group of New York Yankees gathered to celebrate Billy Martin’s 29th birthday at the Copacabana at 10 East 60th St. in Gotham. Martin, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Hank Bauer, Whitey Ford and Johnny Kucks engaged in a brawl with a bunch of bowlers that included Edwin Jones, who was decked by Bauer. The party-boy Yankees were required to appear before a grand jury. Yet they continued to put on their pinstripes and won the American League pennant, before bowing to the Milwaukee Braves in the World Series. The game went on.

You want a bad ass? Try former heavyweight boxing champion Sonny Liston.

After doing a two-year stretch in the brig for armed robbery and assaulting a police officer, ex-con Liston fought for a group linked to St. Louis underworld bad boy John Vitale. His contract was later taken over by mobsters Frankie Carbo and Blinky Palermo. Liston took the title from Floyd Patterson with a first-round knockout at Comiskey Park in Chicago on Sept. 25, 1962, and it was of little significance that the heavyweight champion of the world was a convicted felon run by the Mafia, who really “whacked” people. The game went on.

Muhammad Ali, long admired worldwide, was a serial philanderer who arrived in the Phillipines for the final fight in his Joe Frazier trilogy with his mistress in tow and his wife at home. He refused induction into the U.S. military, was convicted of draft evasion, drummed out of boxing, then returned three and a half years later to eventually regain his heavyweight crown. The game went on.

Fritz Peterson and Mike Kekich of the Yankees held separate press conferences on March 4, 1973, to announce they had swapped wives, children, pets and homes. Combined, they won nine games while wearing N.Y. pinstripes that year. The game went on.

In January of 1984, Craig MacTavish of the Boston Bruins got behind the wheel of his car. He was impaired. He killed a 26-year-old woman and was convicted of vehicular homicide. After spending a year behind bars, he renewed his NHL career with the Edmonton Oilers, and today is the team general manager. The game went on.

This is a tip-of-the-iceberg sampling of athlete misconduct from times that are often romanticized as kinder, more gentle, innocent. Yet the music never died.

If people were truly affronted and truly cared about the egregious trespasses of professional athletes, they would protest by refusing to purchase game tickets. They wouldn’t watch on TV or online. But they don’t do that, do they? The National Football League flourishes regardless how many players’ names surface on police blotters or on a court docket. Fist-fighter Floyd Mayweather Jr. continues to earn $30 million paydays regardless how many women he beats up. Convicted rapist Mike Tyson continues to earn a living simply for being Mike Tyson.

And so it is with Bobby Hull. He will be judged both as a hockey player and as a man, and I believe it’s safe to say that he will grade significantly higher for his achievements on a frozen sheet of water than for what he did behind the closed doors of his home.

That’s why they’ll line up for Hull’s signature the next time he surfaces in River City for an autograph session…and the queue will include women.

rooftop riting biz card back sidePatti Dawn Swansson has been writing about Winnipeg hockey and the Jets for more than 40 years, longer than any living being. Do not, however, assume that to mean she harbors a wealth of hockey 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 literary contributions to the LGBT community in Victoria, B.C.


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Don’t blame Chris Thorburn for being Chris Thorburn

It is 2:07 in the morning where I live. Rain is performing a delicate tap dance on my window, a gentle reminder that the wet season soon shall be in full voice for those of us who long ago fled to the left flank of the country to escape winter’s wrath.

I’ve always regarded that as a favorable exchange. White stuff for wet stuff. Many to the distant east of our little island don’t understand this. How, they wonder, can we function with rain. Every. Single. Day. For five months. They posit that it must be “soooooo depressing.” Well, it can be. But it isn’t the rainfall that has kept my eyes open for the past hour and a half this morning. It’s Chris Thorburn.

If Chris Thorburn wasn’t Chris Thorburn, you see, I’d likely be REM right now.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not blaming Thorburn for my lack of shuteye. I cannot blame the rain for being wet, and I cannot blame Chris Thorburn for being a skill-challenged, fourth-line, sometimes-third-line (do I hear second line?) Winnipeg Jets winger. I blame myself because I care. About Chris Thorburn.

He is a much-maligned man. It’s as if the sole purpose of his backside is to accept the swift kicking feet of the frustrated faithful of Jets Nation. He’s absorbed more public floggings than Gary Bettman during the last lockout and the Arizona Coyotes circus. And what are Thorburn’s trespasses? Well, he had the bad manners to accept a three-year contract worth $3.6 million. His use of his nightly allotment of seven-eight minutes ice time is an exercise in non-productivity. And, as stated, he is a skill-challenged, fourth-line, sometimes-third-line (do I hear second line?) winger.

I submit, however, that it is not Thorburn’s fault that he is placed in a position whereby the hockey puck and his hockey stick often conspire to make him look every bit the fool.

Kevin (The Possum) Cheveldayoff takes the rap for that. Paul Maurice is his willing accomplice. These are the two men who insist on the existence of Chris Thorburn. The general manager does so with the ill-advised use of Mark Chipman’s and David Thomson’s piggy bank, while the head coach does so via his on-ice deployment. They have determined that if the Jets are to fail to qualify for the Stanley Cup tournament for a fourth successive spring, they shall fail with Chris Thorburn.

It’s unfair to Thorburn, but he has become the measuring stick for the advancement of this National Hockey League outfit. As long as there’s room in the Jets lineup for a player whose usefulness is limited to his bare knuckles (and even that’s a stretch, given the current anti-fisticuffs climate), it is seen as the spinning of wheels. Kevin the Possum and coach PoMo can talk all they like about a cupboard that is no longer bare. A cupboard that now includes Nik Ehlers and Nic Petan and Josh Morrissey, among other prospects. But those kids aren’t in River City. Thorburn is. And he will be next season. And the next. That’s what many of the faithful find confusing. They hear much tall talk about the big picture, but they cannot see Thorburn in that picture. At any price.

Thus, they lash out at him.

Thorburn is the wrong target, though. If you think he belongs on a slow train ride to the Rock, reserve your cat o’ nine tails for the aft half of general manager Kevin the Possum and coach PoMo. He wouldn’t be the player he is today if not for them. Literally.

In the meantime, I need some sleep because I have a two-mile walk in the rain ahead of me this morning, and I can already hear the exchange with my doctor.

“Patti Dawn,” he’ll say, “you look like you didn’t sleep a wink last night.”

“I didn’t,” I’ll reply.

“Why not? Something troubling you?”

“It’s Thorbs.”

“Thorbs? I don’t believe I’m familiar with that particular ailment. Does it hurt?”

“Only when I watch and only for about seven-eight minutes a night.”

“There’s a simple remedy for that, young lady—less ice.”

“Don’t tell me, doc. Tell Kevin the Possum and coach PoMo…they’re the ones who have a bad case of Thorbs.”

(Editor’s Note: It doesn’t actually rain every day for five months of the year where I live. We just tell everyone from the east that so people like Don Cherry and Glenn Healy don’t move here.)

rooftop riting biz card back sidePatti Dawn Swansson has been writing about Winnipeg hockey and the Jets for more than 40 years, longer than any living being. Do not, however, assume that to mean she harbors a wealth of hockey 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 literary contributions to the LGBT community in Victoria, B.C.


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Hockey Night in Canada: A hip, new host, a ‘Swinn,’ a ‘Fede’ and the Fuddy and Duddy Show

Musings scribbled on a cocktail napkin while contemplating the birth of a shinny season and the birth of Rogers Media’s $5.2 billion multi-headed TV monster…

It might have been the dawning of a new era for Hockey Night in Canada, but it was the same old Don on Saturday night.

Donald S. Cherry sat in his Coach’s Corner bully pulpit alongside Ron MacLean, who plays Waldorf to the star’s Statler, and the old, grey grumps began their five-minute bitch bit by pouting about being “phased out” of HNIC, at the same time squabbling over a musical toy (Chippy) that Grapes had brought to the set. MacLean attempted to take Chippy hostage because he was “loud” and “irritating,” but Donald S. was having none of that.

The Lord of Loud then launched into his sermon, which sounded very much like a cut from his Hits of the 1980s soundtrack—the Toronto Maple Leafs are morons because they draft “U.S. college guys and a Swinn and a Fede” instead of good, old boys from Tranna and other outposts in Ontario.

I assume the U.S. college guys come from our neighbor to the south, but I’m not sure about the “Swin and Fede” that the Leafs drafted Sounds Scandinavian to me. Must be a couple of those dreaded “foreigners,” perhaps out of Gimli, just north of Winnipeg.

That aside, by the time Fuddy and Duddy were finished, it was painfully evident that one of them has nothing new to say and the other is tired of listening to nothing new. 

Rogers might want to “toy” with the idea of pulling the plug on the Fuddy and Duddy Show. Chippy can stay, though. Ditto the Swinn and the Fede.

EAR YE, EAR YE: My ears need a rest. Already. I mean, hockey goliath Rogers came at us with so many gab guys in its first four nights as the grand looking glass on Planet Puckhead that I’m not sure who said what to whom or who said what about whom on opening night Wednesday.

I know Glenn Healy said a lot of things about a lot of things that don’t matter, because whatever he says doesn’t matter. He also punctuated his blather with harsh hand gestures and a jutting jaw that suggest he’s angry about something, although he has nothing to be angry about. After all, most of us don’t get paid to annoy people, whereas Heals (that’s what his hockey buddies call him) receives a handsome stipend just for being the most annoying man on Canadian TV.

Surely the mute button was invented with Heals in mind.

SPELL CHECK: I have one main aim during the next seven months of a National Hockey League season that’s still wet behind the ears—learn how to spell Strombolopolopolopolopolopolous.

Hell, never mind learning how to spell it. I can’t even say George Strombolopolopolopolopolopolous in 25 words or less. I haven’t had this much trouble with a name since Winnipeg Jets defender-turned-forward Dustin Byfuglien arrived in River City with the Atlanta caravan in 2011. I still don’t know why it’s pronounced Buff-lin rather than By-foo-glee-en.

Anyway, I’ll just call the new face of Hockey Night in Canada and Rogers’ toy boy Strombo. Easy to say, easier to spell.

NUMBERS GAME: Rogers’ trumpet-tooters made a big whoop-dee-do about an average of 2.01 million puckheads tuning in for Strombo’s debut on the Montreal Canadiens-Toronto Maple Leafs telecast Wednesday on Sportsnet. Apparently, the other 33 million Canadians had something better to do than check to see if the boy toy would be wearing ear rings that night.

HNIC GOES GOTH: Okay, HNIC has a hip, new host in Strombo, who looks like he’s either on his way to, or just returning from, a goth gig (loved the skull ring he flashed during his chin-wag with Stephen Harper, noted politician and hoarder of hockey memorabilia in his man cave at 24 Sussex Dr. in Bytown). I’m on side with the new boy toy.

Still, there’s a bit of a cringe-worthy, “I’m a little kid who just got locked in the candy store” element to Strombo’s schtick. Like, he was having far too much fun during his little exhibition of foot hockey with Nick Kypreos, and does he really have to shake hands with Mark Messier before and after a two-minute tete-a-tete? I mean, it was the second intermission. It’s not like the Moose had just arrived on the mega-million-dollar set with all the new-fangled gadgetry. He’d been there from the top of the show.

I don’t know if there was a budding bromance at play or if Strombo just likes to slap skin.

AT THE BUZZER: So, Rogers shelled out $5.2 billion to put a fresh face on all things NHL in the Great White North, but they can’t afford a wardrobe consultant for P.J. Stock?…As is his norm, HNIC tongue-flapper Stock surfaced to give logic a lashing. During a rant suggesting the time had arrived for the Edmonton Oilers to give their roster a major makeover, he said, “I’m blaming the players, but I can’t blame them.”…Best bit on Saturday night featured Elliotte Friedman (no surprise there) and Damien Cox (big surprise). Their news, rumors and updates during the intermission was solid. Also on his game, as usual, was Scott Oake…After watching Sidney Crosby and his Pittsburgh pals dismantle the Maple Leafs, I’m wondering what the over/under is on Randy Carlyle’s gig behind the Toronto bench. I’m not sure he’ll last the month…Don’t normally take in the late-night games on Saturday, but felt obliged to check out the Jets and Sharks in San Jose. What a treat it was to see Dustin Byfuglien lose his mind…Was it just me, or did anyone else want to see Mark Messier shove his hockey stick up Nick Kypreos’s nose when the two former teammates gave a demonstration on positioning for a faceoff? It would have made for terrific TV.

AFTER THE BUZZER: The 30th anniversary of the Oilers’ first Stanley Cup crusade was a not-so-subtle reminder that of the World Hockey Association survivors—Edmonton, Winnipeg/Arizona, Quebec/Colorado, Hartford/Carolina—only the Jets/Coyotes have yet to hoist hockey’s holy grail. They couldn’t win on the frozen tundra, they can’t win in the desert, so we can’t blame the weather. Let’s blame Barry Shenkarow.

LAST SHOUT OUT: Sportsnet talking head John Shannon waxed glowingly of the Oilers outfits that won the Stanley Cup five times, saying they “changed the way the game was played for a decade.”

Whoa, Nellie.

It was the WHA Winnipeg Jets of Bobby Hull, Anders Hedberg, Ulf Nilsson, Kent Nilsson, Lars-Erik Sjoberg et al who changed the way the game was played. The Oilers were copycats.

Glen Sather, first a player then coach with the WHA Oilers and, later, coach/GM of the NHL Oilers during the 1980s, took note of the Jets’ free-flowing, criss-crossing, ad libbing style of play and said, “I think I’ll try me some of that.” Thus, he used the Jets as a blueprint once he started collecting future Hockey Hall of Fame players like Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Paul Coffey, Jari Kurri and others in Edmonton.

He built our team around watching Ulf Nilsson and Kent Nilsson and Bobby Hull, and he wanted that from day one,” Gretzky told Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal during the 1984 team reunion last week.

rooftop riting biz card back sidePatti Dawn Swansson has been writing about Winnipeg hockey and the Jets for more than 40 years, longer than any living being. Do not, however, assume that to mean she harbors a wealth of hockey 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 literary contributions to the LGBT community in Victoria, B.C.


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Winnipeg Jets: Only a perfect storm of a dozen “ifs” will get them into the playoffs

So, the dreamy-eyed romantics in the Rose-Colored Room have read the tea leaves and the Winnipeg Jets shall qualify for the Stanley Cup tournament if…

  • If Mark Scheifele avoids a sophomore slump and becomes a force of nature in his second National Hockey League season.
  • Ditto Jacob Trouba.
  • If Ondrej Pavelec becomes the second coming of Dominik Hasek.
  • If Michael Hutchinson is a legitimate NHL goaltender when Pavelec stumbles.
  • If Paul Maurice, who twice was fired and whose teams missed the playoffs nine times in his 13 complete seasons behind an NHL bench, morphs into Scotty Bowman, Toe Blake and Mike Babcock.
  • If Zach Bogosian finally realizes his immense potential and plays on par with studs like Drew Doughty and Shea Weber, or at least becomes a reasonable facsimile.
  • If Evander Kane scores more goals than every player on Planet Puckhead who isn’t named Steven Stamkos or Ovie.
  • If Mathieu Perreault is not Olli Jokinen.
  • If no core players are injured for lengthy stretches.
  • If the Colorado Avalanche are frauds.
  • Ditto the Minnesota Wild.
  • If the bottom four teams in the Pacific Division continue to flat-line.

I shall not dispute any of this. If it all transpires as the dreamy-eyed romantics in the Rose-Colored Room would have it, the Jets will close regular-season business no worse than fifth in the Central precinct and there shall be meaningful games played at the Little Hockey House on the Prairie in late April. I believe all in Jets Nation hope they’re right.

But (you knew, of course, that I was about to hit you with a big, bad but)…

You’re talking the perfect storm here. You’re talking about a universe unfolding in such a way that there is not a single misstep. Nary a one. Is this possible? I suppose it is. It’s also possible that TMZ will go the next seven months without reporting on a scandal. It’s possible that Winnipeg’s new mayor (hello, Brian Bowman) will build a bubble around River City to keep winter out. It’s possible that Charlie Sheen will…oh, never mind.

As much as I would like to link arms, light candles and sing Kumbaya with the romantics as the Jets embark on their latest crusade tonight against the formerly bankrupt, formerly orphaned, formerly Phoenix-now-Arizona Desert Dogs, I cannot.

Sorry, but we’re dealing with too many “ifs” here. “If” is the operative word for the Jets. If this happens…if that happens…if so-and-so can do this…if so-and-so can do that.

The biggest if of a dozen ifs is, of course, between the goal posts. Only elite-level ‘tending will pave a path to post-season participation, and Pavelec has done nothing to convince anyone—other than GM Kevin (The Possum) Cheveldayoff and coach PoMo—that he stands among the NHL’s tall timber. He does not pass the numbers test. He does not pass the eye test.

Apparently Pavelec had a good summer, though. Oh joy. I’m happy for him. The thing is, he has to have a great winter if we want to be talking about spring hockey.

Is that too big of an if? Yup. The Playoff Nazi says: No playoffs for you!
fish wrap

Living in La La Land

In this edition of Fish Wrap, we direct your attention to Gary (La La) Lawless, the flip, flop and fly columnist with the Winnipeg Free Press.

On April 2, under the headline “Status quo won’t do,” he wrote: “Losing can’t go on forever and there must be a day of reckoning. It has arrived. It’s time to give the Jets’ core group of players a boost, to trade a major part for a few smaller ones in order to supplement the talented heart of this team and help them reach their potential.

“It’s time to push the whole package along a bit and make tomorrow come quicker. Draft and develop is the right strategy, but that doesn’t mean the Jets can’t put a little booster in their fuel and speed the process along.

“(We’ve) been watching this movie for a while and are ready for a different ending.”

Today, under the headline “Quick fix unlikely for Jets,” he writes: “The smart guys who poke the Jets for not making enough racy transactions blithely ignore (the) facts.

“If you’re teaching a child to ride a bike and they fall off once, do you throw out the bike? Fall off twice, throw out the child? No, you stick to it and eventually have to chase a runaway stream of pigtails or turned-around baseball cap as the kid goes screaming down the street.

“The Jets aren’t ready to run away from anything. But the plan is progressing. No need to throw anything away just yet.”

So, seven months ago, the day of reckoning had arrived. It was time to trade “a major part.” Today, not so much. There’s “no need to throw anything away.” Hmmm. Seems to me Dr. Flip and Mr. Flop forgot to compare notes before hitting the print button.

rooftop riting biz card back sidePatti Dawn Swansson has been writing about Winnipeg hockey and the Jets for more than 40 years, longer than any living being. Do not, however, assume that to mean she harbors a wealth of hockey 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 literary contributions to the LGBT community in Victoria, B.C.


2 Comments

Oh, fart! I might just have to defect to Habs Nation if Chevy doesn’t shape up

I’m placing myself on waivers.

Seriously. I no longer believe I can be part of Jets Nation. Not in the wake of the Peter Budaj, Patrick Holland and Eric Tangradi ménage à mess that went down on the Sabbath and continues to spawn more head-scratching than you’ll see at a lice clinic.

First the Winnipeg Jets wanted Budaj. Less than 24 hours later, they didn’t want him. Now? The poor guy’s psyche has been gutted like the Montreal Forum in 1998. After all, this loyal foot soldier who served le bleu, blanc et rouge for the past three National Hockey League crusades has been banished to The Rock. Yes, in a shoddy exercise of heinous hocus pocus by the peculiar man who generally (mis)manages the Jets, Budaj has gone from the mecca of hockey, Montreal, to Portage and Main to the oft-angry shores of the Atlantic Ocean, where he shall stop rubber for the St. John’s IceCaps of Newfy Land. All that in less than 48 hours.

Quick! Someone order that man a shot of screech! He’s going to need it!

Surely Bye Bye Budaj is quietly cursing the fates that conspired to deliver him from a cushy job as Carey Price’s caddie to the demoralizing realization that not even the outfit with the worst starting goaltender in the NHL (hello, Ondrej Pavelec) has any use for him. I mean, it’s one thing for les Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin to deem you expendable. He has street cred. But when Kevin (The Possum) Cheveldayoff tells you that there’s no room for you in the Winnipeg goal crease…well, that’s like saying Charlie Sheen couldn’t use a good lawyer.

Lord knows what warped thoughts scatter through the grey matter that’s located between Kevin the Possum’s ears. Let’s just say the Jets general manager has irregular ways.

That’s why I’ve placed myself on waivers, hoping someone will take in a homeless wanderer. I’m confident, though. I’m certain there’s another hockey nation out there, waiting with open arms, when a refugee from River City comes knocking on the door.

My first inclination is to approach Habs Nation, because once upon a time—in a distant galaxy when Guy Lafleur had all his hair and the Roadrunner was a right winger named Cournoyer, not a cartoon character making sport of a hapless, conniving coyote—I pledged allegiance to Le Tricolore. Oh, yes I did. I worshipped at the shrine of le Club de hockey Canadien. Loved les Habitants, I did. Used to curse CBC most Saturday nights for force-feeding us one of the Hewitts and the Toronto Maple Leafs rather than treat us to Danny Gallivan and Les Glorieux, La Sainte-Flanelle.

I even made a weekend pilgrimage to Montreal one summer during the 1970s, just so I could wet my whistle at Brassierie Henri Richard on Avenue du Parc. It was a Saturday afternoon, the tavern wasn’t terribly active and the Pocket Rocket himself was working behind the bar. Served me a quart of brown pop with an O’Keefe label on it, as I recall, then signed a paper placemat that featured a caricature of the former Canadiens captain.

So, ya, I think the prodigal daughter might return. Trouble is, if I were to be plucked off waivers by Habs Nation, I’d have to root, root, root for P.K. Subban. Don’t know if I can go there.

I’m uncertain what it is about P.K., but I’ve never been able to warm to him. He’s brash. He’s cocky. He’s loud. He’s a showboat. And now I find out he farts in front of the net. Yes, he farts. In front of the net. On purpose. Is this why Peter Budaj requested a trade?

Time was when the Habs were known as the Flying Frenchmen. Now they’re the Flatulent Frenchmen.

Oh, the headline writers are going to have fun with this:

  • P.K. and Habs run out of gas in Beantown!

  • Habs’ defence running on fumes!

  • P.K. toots own horn!

  • Habs roar from behind, beat Bruins!

  • P.K. raises big stink about not getting C!

Yup, P.K. and confreres are going to be the butt of some really bad jokes, but here’s the deal: The Habs don’t stink. Kevin the Possum’s brain farts do.

Habs Nation, here I come! Maybe.

rooftop riting biz card back sidePatti Dawn Swansson has been writing about Winnipeg hockey and the Jets for more than 40 years, longer than any living being. Do not, however, assume that to mean she harbors a wealth of hockey 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 literary contributions to the LGBT community in Victoria, B.C.