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Mainstream sports media: Don’t blame them if they don’t get the whole story; blame the system

I don’t think I could work in mainstream sports media today.

Oh, I could write in MSM. I would love to write in MSM again. But I couldn’t work in it. Too many inconveniences. Too much protocol. Too many 140-character bites that say nothing. Too much in-house video. Too many scribes tweeting and texting instead of telling it like it is. Too much thin skin. Too much distance between scribe and subject. Too little respect.

I suppose this might come across as the banal bleatings of an old bag burrowed in a time warp, but that simply isn’t so. Yes, I’m old school. Cripes, man, I’m so old school they should name a wing of the old school after me. That, however, does not mean I’m the anti-Steve Jobs. More to the point, I’m all for the new-fangled gadgetry. It just isn’t for me.

Give me a notebook, a pen, a tape recorder and a keyboard and I’ll get ‘er done, as Matt Dunigan is wont to say.

I find myself in ponder of such matters this day due to a recent pilgrimmage to Winnipeg, which, thankfully, fell shy of living up to its slanderous nickname of Winter-peg. It was warm, welcoming and, much to my delight, several springlike celcius above zero upon my arrival, thank you. That made for rather slushy snow-shoeing, but nary a discouraging word shall be heard during a January thaw.

At any rate, during my three-day escape to good, ol’ Hometown in the middle of nowhere, I had occasion to chin-wag with numerous MSM sports scribes and talking heads, each of whom I hold in great regard. They are talented, clever, humorous, witty and oh…so…cynical. (After one gum-flapping session, I retreated to my hotel room and wondered aloud if I had been as derisive during a three-decade stretch as a jock journalist. The answer, of course, was “yes,” although I like to think my 15 years removed from that biz has served to mellow myself and my musings.)

There is, of course, very good reason why sports scribes are cynical—they work on Planet Pinnochio. That is to say, people are always lying to them. Every minute of every hour of every day, an athlete or coach or manager or team owner is telling a news scavenger a big, fat fib and his/her nose grows longer than a Winnipeg winter. This breeds cynicism and leads to spillage, like mistrust.

Here’s something else that sports scribes are up against: Access that really isn’t access.

I have often wondered why there is a dearth of personality pieces in our sports pages. You know, feature articles to remind us that we’re dealing with people first and athletes second. Time was (sorry, I’m going old school on you again) when we would write about the people who played the games, not simply the score, the goal collectors and division standings. We hadn’t even heard of Corsi or Fenwick. We got to know the players, coaches and managers. I had John Ferguson’s home phone number. And Chris Walby’s. And Cal Murphy’s. I could call them and let them tell fibs day or night.

Well, we don’t read personality pieces because the scribes aren’t granted the time. It isn’t their editors holding them back. It’s the system.

Yes, news scavengers have access to team personnel. Very limited access. Some players actually monitor the number of times they face the press. They document the number of questions. The minutes. Players do it in Winnipeg. They do it in Toronto. They do it in Vancouver and Calgary and Edmonton and Montreal and Ottawa. A one-on-one chin-wag is as rare as a Grey Cup parade on the downtown streets of River City. It’s all so structured and team dictated now. And if a player doesn’t appreciate the tone of a question, sorry, time’s up. Gotta go. That’s why we’ve seen and read about those unfortunate Phil Kessel-reporter scenarios in the Republic of Tranna.

Why do you think you hear so many dumb questions? It isn’t because the scribes and talking heads are dumb. It’s because they don’t have the time to sink their teeth into meaty subject matter. Hence, you get dumb questions and even dumber answers.

Bottom line: Don’t blame mainstream sports scribes for any absence of what I call “people pieces” in our news sheets. How do you write about people if you can’t get to know them?

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 and comfortable at a keyboard (although arthritic fingers sometimes make typing a bit of a chore) and she apparently doesn’t know when to quit. Or she can’t 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., and her induction into the Manitoba Sportswriters & Sportscasters Association Media Roll of Honour.

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NHL cancels Heritage Classic in Winnipeg: Here’s why

The top 10 “real reasons” why the National Hockey League has postponed the Heritage Classic game at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg:

10. NHL commish Gary Bettman drank Winnipeg tap water during meetings with Jets and Bombers, got nasty case of the runs, refused to negotiate with Jets governor Mark Chipman or Blue Bombers CEO Wade Miller from inside toilet stall.

9. Can’t find 40,000 people who will stop curling long enough to watch an outdoor hockey game.

8. Bombers refuse to change name of Ken Ploen Way to Teemu Trail, Ducky Drive or Jimmy Mann Motorway for the weekend.

7. Dancing Gabe doesn’t do outdoor hockey.

6. Bombers demand the Jets pay territorial penalty for Mick E. Moose invading Buzz and Boomer’s turf.

5. First official mosquito fogging of year in Fort Garry scheduled for same day.

6. Bombers refuse to replace statue of legendary coach Bud Grant with statue of Alpo Suhonen.

3. If held in March, entire city too busy sand-bagging for annual spring flooding.

2. Slurpees freeze at 30-below.

And the No. 1 reason why the Heritage Classic has been postponed: If the Bombers are involved, everybody knows it’s all Joe Mack’s fault.

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 and comfortable at a keyboard (although arthritic fingers sometimes make typing a bit of a chore) and she apparently doesn’t know when to quit. Or she can’t 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., and her induction into the Manitoba Sportswriters & Sportscasters Association Media Roll of Honour.


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Heritage Classic: Are those big, bad Bombers pooping on Jets’ party?

My, my, my…don’t we have our knickers in a knot. Or, to put it in more seasonal and appropriate terms, our frozen noses are out of joint.

I’m quite uncertain if the citizenry of any other burg in the Great White North would react so angrily to the postponement of a gimmicky game of pond hockey, but the fine folk of Winnipeg have adopted a mob mentality and appear prepared, also poised, to arm themselves with pitch forks and torches and advance on Football Follies Field in Fort Garry.

There, the menacing marauders will find Wade Miller, villain. The Grinch who has stolen their Heritage Classic.

Miller, of course, is Grand Poobah of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, a forlorn Canadian Football League outfit that has made an art form of never failing to fail since the last Grey Cup parade on the downtown streets of River City. That was in 1990. In each of the ensuing seasons, they’ve popped the top on a fresh crusade, only to conclude it by either watching the Grey Cup game from the comfort of their man caves or falling short in the championship match.

It is, however, one thing for Miller to oversee Cirque du Bombers. It is quite another to impose the whims of his Sad Sack outfit on the Winnipeg Jets and National Hockey League. Apparently, he has some kind of nerve.

Why would anyone think it's too cold for an outdoor NHL game in Winnipeg during the winter?

Why would anyone think it’s too cold for an outdoor NHL game in Winnipeg during the winter?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

True North Sports & Entertainment, the do-no-wrong entity that owns and operates the Winnipegs, and the NHL desired to host the outdoor Heritage Classic, a joust featuring the Jets and a yet-to-be-identified foe, in mid-December. Sort of an early Christmas gift for Jets Nation. Miller and the Bombers are fully onside with the concept of an outdoors shinny match in their playground. Just not in mid-December. That’s not distant enough from the 2015 Grey Cup game they shall host, Nov. 29 at Football Follies Field. And it’s too close to Santa’s arrival. They’d prefer February or March 2016.

So, the Bombers, True North and the NHL have agreed to scuttle the whole thing. The Jets won’t be playing hockey on a frozen football field come next winter.

And who do you suppose is wearing the black hat? You guessed it. Miller and the Bombers.

They are seen as self-serving, short-sighted, tinytown thinkers who torpedoed the project for fear that a Heritage Classic scant weeks post-Grey Cup would funnel revenue away from the Bombers’ coffers and into the True North/NHL piggy bank. Joe and Josphine Phan’s entertainment dollar, after all, stretches only so far. They might have to choose one event over the other. Or take out a second mortgage to attend both the Grey Cup game and the Heritage Classic, plus put presents under the tree. Miller doesn’t want to risk it. He figures it’s best he not run with the big dogs. For this, he has been battered fore and aft in comment threads. He didn’t take this much of a beating during his 10 years as a Rudyesque special teams demon for the Bombers.

But, what has actually been lost here? It’s a postponement, not a cancellation. Does it really matter if the Heritage Classic is held in December 2015 or 2016 or ’17 or ’18 or ’19 or ’20?

I could be wrong, but I have a hunch Old Man Winter will make an appearance in Winnipeg, as scheduled, in 2016 and beyond. There will be white stuff on the ground and piled high on street corners and parking lots. There will be sub-zero temperatures. Block heaters will be mandatory. Round tires will go square. Exhaust fumes will fill the air. Ponds will be frozen. And people will be playing outdoor shinny.

The Winnipeg Jets shall be among them. So chill.

In the meantime, my fear is the fallout. That is to say, what price will Miller and the Bombers pay for the delay of the Heritage Classic? People are talking about boycotting the football club. Cancelling season subscriptions. Boycotting the Grey Cup game.

Good grief.

Folks waited 15 years to get an NHL team back in River City, yet they are bent out of shape because they must wait an extra year, minimum, to sit on an outdoor perch that is a telescopic three or four postal codes removed from the ice surface. During winter’s worst bite.

“Damn that Wade Miller,” they yelp! “Who does he think he is to deny Peggers the right to freeze their assets off?”

From where I sit, he’s a guy doing his job.

 

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 and comfortable at a keyboard (although arthritic fingers sometimes make typing a bit of a chore) and she apparently doesn’t know when to quit. Or she can’t 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., and her induction into the Manitoba Sportswriters & Sportscasters Association Media Roll of Honour.


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Winnipeg Jets: A tough-talking coach and a tough team to play

If it’s true that a team assumes the personality of its coach, then it’s easy to see why the Winnipeg Jets play hockey the way they do and why they have fooled so many people.

I mean, you look at their puppet master, Paul Maurice, and the first two words that come to mind are not “tough guy.” More like “book worm” or “bean counter.” Coach PoMo looks tough like Clark Kent or Buddy Holly look tough. Start with the eye glasses. Black, horned rimmed and science-project nerdy, if he were in junior high school he’d be a wedgy waiting to happen.

Coach PoMo’s hair doesn’t help, either. It’s thinning and in rapid, middle-age retreat, like a neglected lawn. Another few years and he’ll have enough forehead to start a second face.

Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice

Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice

It’s only when Maurice opens his mouth that you realize what you see isn’t what you get.

The Jets’ bench jockey talks like a tough guy. His voice is bottom-of-the-barrel deep. Commanding and no-nonsense. He often speaks with a clenched jaw, as if he is clamping down—hard—on an irksome thought that requires his immediate attention and deserves the back of his hand. He sniffs a lot, like a pug at the end of 10 rounds. It is clear he does not suffer fools well. There is a street fighter in Maurice, someone with a hidden fury who’s prepared to throw down on you at the very hint of defiance.

And so it is with his Jets.

You look at the Winnipegs’ roster and it is found wanting when measured against those of the Chicago Blackhawks, St. Louis Blues and Los Angeles Kings. Yet there they are, in lockstep with the Blackhawks, two points in arrears of the Blues and distancing themselves from the Kings, who entered this 2014-15 National Hockey League fray as defenders of hockey’s holy grail, the Stanley Cup.

The inclination, even this deep into a crusade that began with scant hope of achievement and even less promise, is to suggest the other shoe has yet to drop. That the Jets shall awaken one morning, perhaps not long after this weekend’s all-star recess, and collectively say, “Who are we trying to kid? We aren’t this good.”

Just don’t count on it.

The Jets, you see, have assumed the Maurice mentality. They are street fighters. They are—dare I say it?—truculent. Which is why they win games they have no business winning. It explains how they can skate into the United Center in Chicago and, challenged by the Blackhawks to a bash-and-bang bit of roller derby on ice, they give as good as they get. And win.

In short, the Jets don’t take any crap.

Maurice calls it “teamness” where “everybody takes care of everybody else.”

One, of course, could point to the Daniel Carcillo-Mathieu Perreault crosscheck episode in the Toddlin’ Town on Friday night and suggest it didn’t look that way. That the Jets’ reponse to their hottest hand being harpooned and rendered unavailable by the Chicago pest was less than adequate. That they had lost the plot. This repeat offender should have been drawn and quartered, right? Well, a case could be made that the time wasn’t right to deploy the assault squad. There was a hockey game to be won. The bill collector could perhaps visit Carcillo another time, another place.

The Jets might choose to not seek retribution for Carcillo’s callous act, but on no level would that be in disagreement with the reality that they can be a rather beligerent bunch with gusts up to ornery. We shouldn’t expect that to change as long as Maurice is riding herd.

You are who you are as a team,” says Maurice, his jaw clenched, “and you have to be true to that.”

That’s a tough guy talking…even if he doesn’t look the part.

HITHER & YAWN: I realize he’s a broadcasting legend, a wonderful man and he still has the great chops, but listening to Bob Cole describe a hockey game is painful. It’s anybody’s guess who has the puck. It’s like trying to guess the number of jelly beans in the jar…So, what was this week’s lesson for “all you kids out there” from the resident curmudgeon on Coachless Corner on Saturday night? Just this: Be like Phil Kessel—if you score the most goals, kids, don’t sweat the little details like backchecking. “Kessel…forget it comin’ back,” Don Cherry bleated. “Just score goals. He’s your magic guy with the hands. Forget backchecking. Let him go.”…Is it just me, or does anyone else sometimes forget that Ottawa actually has a team in the NHL?…Mark Hunter, director of player personnel for the Toronto Maple Leafs, on junior phenom Connor McDavid: “He could play in the National Hockey League right now and get 50, 60 points, I think. That’s how good I think he is.” Not if McDavid played for the Leafs. They only score one goal every four games...So, the Disney Ducks retire Teemu Selanne’s jersey No. 8 in an elaborate ceremony that takes a little more than 90 minutes. The L.A. Kings retire Rob Blake’s No. 4 in a ceremony that takes 35 minutes. The Buffalo Sabres raise Dominik Hasek’s No. 39 to the rafters in a ceremony that takes less than 20 minutes. At this rate, jersey-retirement ceremonies soon will last about as long as a Hollywood marriage…This from Roberto Luongo, courtesy Ed Willes of the Vancouver Province: “People don’t understand how hard it is to be a goalie in a Canadian market. You have to wear the pressure during the game; then, after the game, you have to answer every question about every goal. ‘How did that one go in? Why did that one goal in?’ And it’s after every game. You can’t escape it.” Somewhere, Ondrej Pavelec of the Jets is nodding in agreement.

THE FAB WHO? Blake Wheeler is my new fave Jet. I like the way he plays, first of all, but when I discovered he can name the Beatles—all four of them—I was sold on the Jets big winger.

The folks at NHL.com have this fun feature called Puck Personalities, you see, and Wheeler was one of 14 players asked to provide the names of the most famous rock band in history. How did they score? Let’s just say this: If they were this bad at hockey, they’d all be playing in beer leagues.

Except Wheeler, who was the sole player of the 14 who rattled off John, Paul, Ringo and George—in that order—while the others…so sad.

Erik Karlsson wondered if “John Something?” was a member of the Beatles. Claude Giroux asked about “McArthur?” and Kyle Okposo figured a lad named “Paul Ringo” was one of the Fab Four. It was left for Henrik Lundqvist to sum up the exercise by saying, “This is awful, by the way.”

Yup, it was.

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 and comfortable at a keyboard (although arthritic fingers sometimes make typing a bit of a chore) and she apparently doesn’t know when to quit. Or she can’t 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., and her induction into the Manitoba Sportswriters & Sportscasters Association Media Roll of Honour.


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You want a statue? Start with Ben Hatskin at Portage & Main

Okay, kids, let’s connect the dots…

Without Ben Hatskin, there would have been no Winnipeg Jets 1.0.

Without Winnipeg Jets 1.0, there would have been no Bobby Hull.

hatskin_hullWithout Bobby Hull, the World Hockey Association would have lasted about three weeks.

Without the WHA surviving seven seasons, there would have been no National Hockey League franchise in River City.

Without an NHL franchise in River City, there would have been no Winnipeg Jets 2.0.

Got it? Good.

So let’s have no more talk of erecting a bronze statue in tribute to Teemu Selanne until we first salute the founding father of professional hockey in Pegtown, Ben Hatskin.

If you missed it, the latest bit of bronze bafflegab has been delivered from the print pulpit of Gary (La La) Lawless.

“It’s time,” La La writes in the Winnipeg Free Press, “for a permanent form of tribute to Teemu Selanne to be esablished here in Winnipeg. The idea of a bronzed statue of Selanne in his shooting-a-glove-out-of-the-air pose seems perfect. It’s arguably the most memorable moment in Winnipeg hockey history.”

No. It is not. Perfect or arguable.

I suppose we can forgive Gary La La his bombast, because he is, after all, a Johnny-come-lately who, I’m guessing, was hundreds, if not thousands, of miles removed from the intersection of Portage and Main on June 27, 1972. If I’m wrong and he was, indeed, in the vicinity of our famous street corner or among the throng of thousands who skipped school, called in sick or left work early to choke traffic and witness the signing of Robert Marvin Hull that afternoon, then shame on him for not recognizing that as our lunar landing vis-a-vis professional hockey.

There was, of course, play-for-pay shinny in Pegtown prior to Benny giving birth to the Jets. Alf Pike, Billy Mosienko and the boys skated into town in 1955 to form the Winnipeg Warriors and win the Western Hockey League championship. History, however, records that as an abbreviated enterprise that vanished after six seasons.

14677853So make no mistake, Ben Hatskin is the sire of shinny as we know it in River City.

“I don’t think the NHL would have ever been in Winnipeg without the vision that Ben Hatskin and others had to bring the WHA to Winnipeg in ’72,” is how current Jets co-bankroll, Mark Chipman, put it to Ted Wyman of the Winnipeg Sun. “The credit for the name that we still use today begins and ends there. And signing Hull completely legitimized the league and gave Winnipeg a chance to be the gold standard team within the league.”

Let us, therefore, be clear: All things Jets, versions 1.0 and 2.0, are the offspring of Hatskin’s mind optics. The NHL never would have given Winnipeg a first glance, never mind a second glance, if not for that June day in 1972.

Thus, you want a statue? Start at Portage and Main, where Ben Hatskin and Bobby Hull changed the course of hockey history with two strokes of a pen.

That is the most memorable moment in Winnipeg hockey history, not Teemu Selanne’s celebration after one of his 76 goals, antics that today would be viewed as hot-dogging and likely earn a stern scolding from the resident curmudgeon on Coach’s Corner.

You didn’t have to be there to know this.

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 and comfortable at a keyboard (although arthritic fingers sometimes make typing a bit of a chore) and she apparently doesn’t know when to quit. Or she can’t 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., and her induction into the Manitoba Sportswriters & Sportscasters Association Media Roll of Honour.


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All about Teemu Selanne, cleaning ladies and which Jet drank 20 beers

A little bit of this, a little bit of that and a whole lot of opinion in a weekend wrap…

You know Teemu Selanne is a very special person when, during a 13-minute delivery Sunday at the Honda Center in Orange County where they raised his Anaheim Ducks jersey No. 8 to the rafters, he thanks the cleaning lady. And the Zamboni driver.

Seriously.

It is, of course, common practice for honored athletes to acknowledge teammates, coaches, club owners, dressing room staff, front office staff, friends, family and fans, but not many mention the very little people. Selanne did that, and more. I cannot recall an athlete—ever—thanking a cleaning lady. Until the Finnish Flash.

As one who has scrubbed other people’s floors and toilets for a living for the past 6 1/2 years, I have one word for Selanne’s mention of charwomen—priceless.

Hither and Yawn: So sad to hear of the passing of Shawn Coates, former media guru with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and top dog with Football Manitoba. Shawn joined the Canadian Football League outfit not long after I left River City, so I never got to know him, but I’m advised he was one of the truly good guys…Exactly why was Dustin Byfuglien penalized in the first minute of Saturday’s joust between the Jets and Los Angeles Kings? For hitting Anze Kopitar too hard?…Hands up anyone who thinks we’ll ever see Big Buff playing forward for the Jets again. Didn’t think so…Some fine work by local scribes in the past week. Paul Friesen of the Winnipeg Sun tracked down both Terry Simpson and John Paddock to get their takes on the trade that sent Teemu Selanne to Orange County. Simpson was head coach of the Winnipeg Jets at the time of the deal, while Paddock, the general manager, pulled the trigger on the trade. Meanwhile, kudos to Winnipeg Free Press sports editor Steve Lyons for dispatching hockey scribe Tim Campbell to Anaheim ahead of the Selanne number-raising ceremony. Campbell’s interview with the Finnish Flash was excellent…Nice to see Paul Wiecek of the Freep in the Wheat City to spread the word about Nolan Patrick, the Brandon Wheat Kings gifted, 16-year-old forward and son of Steve Patrick and nephew of James Patrick, both former National Hockey League players. It was, as usual, top-drawer work from Wiecek…Cool of the Winnipegs to wear Jets 1.0 jerseys with Selanne’s name and No. 13 during the pre-game warmup for their assignment vs. the Disney Ducks on Sunday…The Continental Cup, which wrapped up this past weekend in Calgary, is very quirky curling, but I like it. I also like the TSN curling gab crew of Vic Rauter, Russ Howard and Cheryl Bernard, who has replaced the highly respected Linda Moore. After all these years, Rauter’s “Make the final…” still doesn’t sound stale and he still knows enough to let the other two people in the booth do most of the talking…At each of the major curling competitions in this country, a daily event newspaper is produced by the Canadian Curling Association. At the Brier, it’s the Tankard Times. At the Scott Tournament of Heats, it’s the Heart Chart. At the Continental Cup, the Canada Cup and the World Championships (when in our country) it’s the Morning Cup. The man who performs most of the leg work, much of the writing and lays out the package is former Winnipeg Sun sports editor and longtime curling scribe Dave Komosky, who hangs his hat in St. Norbert. It’s boffo stuff…Shrewd, veteran move by Ted Wyman, who unshackled himself from his duties as sports editor at the Winnipeg Sun to accompany the Jets on their junket to Arizona and California. I mean, who wouldn’t want to escape Pegtown in January for a bit of sun and shinny in the desert and La La Land? Wyman has what we call moxie.

Bottoms up, boys: Loved this quote from Teemu Selanne on one major difference between NHL players when he broke in with the Jets in the early 1990s and today…

“We’d go out, and some guys would have two beers, and some would have 20. After the game, you’d take the helmet off and get beers, first thing. Now, it’s protein shakes. I don’t think guys knew what was good food for you. When I came into the league, guys were still smoking. Now, I don’t even know one guy off the ice who smokes.”

What our old friend didn’t tell us is who among the early 1990s Jets was drinking 20 beer after a game. But we can guess, can’t we?

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 and comfortable at a keyboard (although arthritic fingers sometimes make typing a bit of a chore) and she apparently doesn’t know when to quit. Or she can’t 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., and her induction into the Manitoba Sportswriters & Sportscasters Association Media Roll of Honour.


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Teemu Selanne: A beacon of goodness still shining bright after all these years

My first memory of watching a live sporting event in Winnipeg is colored in a dozen shades of vagueness.

I can see myself sitting in the pews of the old barn on Maroons Road, as Billy Mosienko and the Winnipeg Warriors whirled about the local freeze. I do not, however, recall their foe that evening, or which side won, which side lost or if the skirmish ended in a stalemate. I don’t recall the year, just the vintage. It was sometime between 1955 and ’60. I can’t say if the popcorn was good or bad, although I imagine it was scrumptous because when you’re a sprig of less than 10 years popcorn is generally good. And I can only guess that I attended the Western Hockey League match with family members, most likely my father and older brother.

I do know this, though: After that experience, I was hooked on hockey.

It wasn’t just the game itself that left me spellbound. It was the atmosphere, as well. I had never sat among so many people. Excited people. Loud people. Mostly, they were men, a large percentage of them wearing hats and neckties. I remember feeling so tiny, like a speck of sand on a beach of humanity.

Odd thing is, when I picture that scene in my mind’s eye, it’s in black and white. Not color.

Why that is, I cannot explain. I mean, I know the Warriors wore gold with black trim and their opponents that night surely were adorned in jerseys of some colorful hue. Yet it is a black-and-white memory, slightly grainy and somewhat drab, like a freeze-frame from 1960s Moscow.

imageWhatever, I find myself in retreat to that evening more than a half century ago because of Teemu Selanne, who was to call that same old barn, the Winnipeg Arena, home from the autumn of 1992 until the frigid days of February 1996. And it occurs to me that in more than 50 years of watching hockey, also scribbling about hockey for two River City newspapers, I cannot think of a shinny star whose sheen has remained so intense for so long.

What’s that you say? Bobby Hull? Nope. Don’t wish to go there. All that glitters is not the Golden Jet, mainly due to the tarnish of off-ice improprieties. Domestic violence is never a favorable selling point and tends to serve as a dimmer switch on one’s legacy, so Hull, while still adored by thousands, is loathed by many.

A case, of course, could be made for Ulf Nilsson and Anders Hedberg. The passage of time has not been unkind to our favorite Swedes, who, almost 40 years after they spurned Pegtown for the glitz and glam of Gotham, remain hockey deity. Like Selanne, they were not with us for a long time. Just four years. But they helped usher in a different, more artistic, swashbuckling way of playing the game and produced two World Hockey Association championships for the Winnipeg Jets.

The adulation directed toward Selanne, however, is otherworldly.

It’s one year shy of 20 since the Jets general manager of the day, John Paddock, peddled the Finnish Flash to Anaheim in exchange for a string of beads named Chad Kilger and Oleg Tverdovsky, yet Selanne still is a rock star. When they raise his No. 8 to the rafters tonight at the Honda Center prior to the Jets joust with the Disney Ducks, no small squadron of River City rooters will have made the pilgrimage to Orange County, Calif., to witness the ceremony.

So, what makes Selanne so special? Why travel halfway across a continent to watch some hokey jersey-raising salute to a guy who played just four of his 22 National Hockey League crusades in Jets linen?

welcome-home-teemu-selanne-from-winnipeg-jets-fans-12-17-111Well, it’s about those 76 goals in his rookie season…unthinkable. Unparalled. Never to be matched. Ever. Perhaps the singular, greatest achievement in the history of River City sports. Any sport. So, that would be the starting point in any attempt to explain Selanne’s immense and enduring appeal.

I believe it to be more than numbers, though. Much more. I think it’s as basic as this: Teemu Selanne is a good guy. No…he’s a great guy.

Many of us have become jaded by the blight of boorish behaviour of pro jocks. We see their names on police blotters and court dockets every day. They’re thugs, cheats, liars, murderers, con artists, rapists, wife beaters, child abusers, drug abusers, racists…name the crime, they’ve done the time.

That’s one reason I believe what most people see foremost in Selanne is his ample goodness. His earthiness. His one-of-usness. To us, he’s still that ever-smiling, unassuming, freshly scrubbed Finnish lad who likes us as much as we like him.

He remains a beacon for that reason, and none shine brighter.

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 and comfortable at a keyboard (although arthritic fingers sometimes make typing a bit of a chore) and she apparently doesn’t know when to quit. Or she can’t 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., and her induction into the Manitoba Sportswriters & Sportscasters Association Media Roll of Honour.