The River City Renegade

Don’t blame Chris Thorburn for being Chris Thorburn

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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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