The River City Renegade


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Winnipeg Jets: A heavy influx of youth won’t be Kevin Cheveldayoff’s next move

And now, for his next trick, Kevin Cheveldayoff will…

Actually, let’s begin by saying what the man who generally manages the Winnipeg Jets will not do in the wake of his club’s ouster from the Stanley Cup tournament—he will not jerk his knee. Neither one of them.

If we’ve learned anything about Cheveldayoff during his stewardship of the local National Hockey League outfit, it’s that he is a man with a slow hand. Many of us, myself included, had him figured for a dithering, do-nothing dullard whose management-by-paralysis methods were stunting the growth of a team that arrived in River City with a ready-made core. A few bold strokes and it would have been playoff worthy.

Except Cheveldayoff didn’t do bold strokes. Instead, he preached patience. Draft and develop.

Many of us believed him to be gun shy. That he functioned in fear of being fleeced by a wiser, more deal-savvy NHL general manager, who would pick his pocket and expose him as hopelessly inept.

We now know otherwise, don’t we?

In banishing both Evander Kane and Zach Bogosian to Buffalo in February, an initiative that spurred the Jets toward a much-anticipated post-season perch, Cheveldayoff proved that dashing and daring are part of his makeup. He wasn’t gun shy after all. Just cautious in how he used his bullets.

So what now?

The Winnipegs have taken that next step, the one Jets Nation had been awaiting since the club set up shop at the Little Hockey House on the Prairie in 2011. This is a playoff team. As it turns out, it isn’t a good enough playoff team, because the Disney Ducks got the brooms out and swept the locals away in four games, the minimum number required to move on to the second round of the NHL’s championship tournament. Those four games revealed the Jets to be short on top-end skill, short on depth, short on elite goaltending and short on the experience required to close the deal.

Thus, Cheveldayoff must roll up his sleeves and do some heavy lifting.

No doubt, he will receive ample advice. All unsolicited. Indeed, we are hearing yelps from the rabble, and the body is still warm. Get rid of Dustin Byfuglien, they bray. He is a defensive liability, with gusts up to disastrous. Put Toby Enstrom on the next stage coach out of Dodge, they insist. Too small, too easily pushed around by the big, bad dudes in the Western Conference. Surely the time has arrived for Ondrej Pavelec, despite a run of magnificence at the tail end of the regular season, to occupy another team’s blue paint. And let’s not forget the captain, Andrew Ladd, whose penchant for taking ill-timed and thoughtless penalties appears to be both chronic and unfixable. Gotta get rid of him, too.

Well, save your oxygen. None of this is going to transpire any time soon.

There is always an emotional reflex at the conclusion of a crusade, like that which the Jets completed with their 5-2 loss to the Ducks on Wednesday night. People see the good. They believe the club is positioned to become a perennial playoff participant. But they also see the not-so-good, the components that left the Jets lacking. They want change. Swift change. Perhaps even voluminous change.

Already I have heard noise about a substantial youth movement. Bring in Connor Hellebuyck to play goal. Josh Morrissey is ready for prime time. Ditto Nik Ehlers and Nic Petan.

Sorry, but you don’t want to go there. Put those four players in the Jets lineup and what do you have? The Edmonton Oilers. A team full of flash and dash and one that gets the No. 1 pick in the NHL entry draft every summer.

Consider, for example, Mark Scheifele. He’s young, talented, enthusiastic, determined. He now has two seasons on his resume. How well did he perform in his playoff baptism? He drowned. That’s how well. Jacob Trouba, destined to become a stud defenceman, struggled mightily. How did Adam Lowry measure up against the cagey antagonist, Ryan Kesler? And you want to add four more neophytes to the stew?

I would be shocked if Cheveldayoff goes that route. It’s a recipe for disaster.

I’m sure the Jets GM will, as is his wont, take a measured approach to roster reparations this off-season. If I’m wrong (that’s been known to happen) and the Jets ice a lineup that includes a combination of Scheifele, Trouba, Lowry, Hellebuyck, Morrissey, Ehlers, Petan and Andrew Copp next October, be prepared for a long season.

And forget about the playoffs.

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: WTF, Dustin Byfuglien sounds like a broken record

Top o’ the morning to you, Dustin Byfuglien.

Feel like talking today? Didn’t think so. I mean, after your insightful chin-wag with news scavengers on Tuesday, you probably need to give your gums a rest. Besides, what’s left to say after you’ve already said, “We’re a team and if we stick together everything will be okie dokie” eight times? Or was it nine times? Do I hear 10?

You sounded like one of those old vinyl records when the needle gets stuck. “We’re a team and if we stick together…we’re a team and if we stick together…we’re a team and if we stick together…”

I really hate it when that happens. You’ve got to get up off the couch, lift the needle ever so gently, move it ever so slightly, lower it ever so gently so as not to inflict any further damage, then retreat to your comfy couch. A real pain, that’s what it is. You probably don’t know much about vinyl records, though, do you Buff? Too young.

Me, I still play vinyl. Not into iPads and iPods and phones that are smarter than me. Yes siree, give me an LP, a turntable, a good set of headphones and when I hear that needle touch that black slab of vinyl…well, that’s the ephiphanical moment, isn’t it?

But I digress.

This isn’t about broken records, Buff (can I call you Buff?). It’s about you and your Winnipeg Jets, who, I must emphasize, will be okie dokie if you all stick together…all stick together…all stick together. Trouble is, one more misstep in your best-of-seven Stanley Cup scuffle with the Disney Ducks and you’ll all be sticking together on the first tee at St. Charles Golf Club rather than at the Little Hockey House on the Prairie.

Speaking of the Little Hockey House, that was some kind of magic we witnessed on Monday night, wasn’t it? Welcome to the Winnipeg Whiteout, indeed. Those fans, what can I say? They really gave Ryan Kesler the gears. Talk about an ugly Duckling. That crowd was louder than Don Cherry’s suit. And it was extra special to have ol’ Grapes and Ron MacLean bring Curmudgeon’s Corner to Pegtown for Game 3 of your best-of-seven skirmish, don’t you think? And Gary Bettman, the National Hockey League commish, was in the house, too. Said there was no place he’d rather be (as if).

But, again, I digress.

Here’s the deal, Buff: Enquiring minds wanted to get your take on the goings-on of yourself and your mates who are sticking together…sticking together…sticking together in their quest to secure the first NHL playoff victory in franchise history, dating back to the days in Atlanta. I’m pretty certain that’s what the boys and girls on the beat sought when they came calling on Tuesday. Rather than enlighten them, though, you repeated your “stick together” mantra ad nauseum. That’s lame, man.

Don’t get me wrong, Buff. You don’t answer to the media (obviously). It isn’t your job to make their job any easier than most people already mistakenly think it is. They want boffo sound bites? Send ’em over to Blake Wheeler’s locker. I’m told he’s full of brilliant bons mots, although they also say he can be a tad testy.

The thing is, doing it your way made you come across as a doofus. A XXXXXL doofus.

Oh, I’m sure there are those who thought it was cute how you put the jackals of journalism in their place by serving up your dumb answer to their questions. “Atta boy, Buff,” they’ll say. “You sure Phil Kesseled the media.”

But no. All you did was look and sound dumb.

Not surprisingly, your head coach, Paul Maurice, launched an enthusiastic and, at times, snarky defence on your behalf. He assured one and all that you are a “kind and civil and giving” man. And that must be true, because, according to coach PoMo, you dug down deep and summoned up the strength to fight off the urge to drop about a thousand F-bombs on the assembled news scavengers. How large of you. You really are kind and civil, if not giving of your thoughts.

After all, we all know that nothing spells c-i-v-i-l-i-t-y like being able to control a tongue that very much wants to tell the media to “eff off,” right?

Such piffle.

Look, Buff, you don’t have to like news scavengers. You don’t have to enjoy the to-and-fro with them. You don’t have to like their questions. A lot of them are stupid (the questions, not the scribes/broadcasters). But, just like you, they have jobs to do, and right now they’re a whole lot better at their jobs than you’ve been at yours.

Your play vs. the Ducks has been…dismal. The penalty you took with that cheap shot on Corey Perry in Game 3 was a particularly galling, boneheaded bit of business. Why, if I weren’t such a kind and civil person, I’d really tell you what I think.

Actually, I will tell you what I think, Buff: You’ve been F-bombing brutal…you’ve been F-bombing brutal…you’ve been F-bombing brutal…you’ve been F-bombing brutal…

Sorry if I sound like a broken effing record.

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: Nice brain fart by the captain, Andrew Ladd

Notes on a napkin while munching on pizza and watching the Winnipeg Jets and Disney Ducks do their thing in Game 2 of their Stanley Cup tournament series…

Pre-Game: You know you’re getting old when you need to take an afternoon nap just so you can stay up to watch an entire National Hockey League playoff game that commences at 7:30 p.m. Kind of sad, wouldn’t you say?…The Gab Four on Sportsnet—Daren Millard, Damien Cox, P.J. Stock and some dude named Billy Jaffe—are prattling on about the Edmonton Oilers winning the draft lottery and the right to make Connor McDavid their next mistake. My first two thoughts: 1) How can Craig MacTavish screw this one up; 2) Can he decline the No. 1 pick in June?…McDavid really looks excited about the prospects of going to Edmonton, doesn’t he? I’ve seen happier mugs on death row. Can’t blame the kid, though. I mean, who the hell wants to go to Edmonton?…Actually, on second thought, maybe McDavid looks creeped out because he’s sitting in the red chairs with George Stromboloupouloupouloupoulous. There’s definitely something creepy about Boy George…Fashion note: P.J. Stock is wearing the ugliest neck tie I’ve ever seen…It’s official, there is one man on TV more annoying that Glenn Healy. His name is Damien Cox, who doesn’t speak to us as much as he lectures us while staring creepily into the camera. I think Cox thinks he’s profound, whereas in fact he delivers nothing noteworthy and really, really, really creeps me out as he stares creepily into the camera…So far, this is all very creepy…I dislike these two anthem games. Drop the puck already…I don’t know who cuts Corey Perry’s hair, but I’m guessing it’s the equipment manager with the skate sharpener. If the Ducks big winger actually goes to a barber or hair stylist for that hatchet job, he should sue.

First Period: The pizza’s ready. Pepperoni, piles of smoked chicken and extra cheese. Gonna put on a pound or two tonight. No problem. Just go for a long walk along the ocean shore on the morrow…Good to see Mathieu Perreault back in the Jets lineup. The guy looks like Frank Zappa with that wild mane and facial foliage…My, my my. This is big boy hockey. That’s some serious body belting going on. The Ducks can give as good as they get, though…I don’t know about you, but I’m so glad Rogers didn’t assign Bob Cole to handle the play-by-play for this Jets-Ducks joust. Dave Randorf isn’t my idea of Danny Gallivan, but it’s night and day between him and Cole. First of all, he’s got a full head of hair and a full set of teeth, but he also knows the names of the players and can tell us who has the puck. What a concept…Ryan Kesler can play on my team…No scoring. Just a lot of banging for 20 minutes.

Second Period: It’s great that the Jets are doing all this banging, but I think it might be a good idea if they actually tried to play some offence. What happened to that strong possession team we watched all season? Who drew up the game plan for the playoffs? Claude Noel?…I don’t know about you, but the way this thing is unfolding, I’m already thinking we’re headed for overtime. Maybe double OT…Is there something wrong with the color on my TV? Bruce Boudreau’s face is the same shade of orange as the Ducks uniforms. The Ducks rolly-polly coach looks like he got his tan from a spray can…The Ducks are trying to be too fancy. Gary Galley is right—shoot the thing…Hey now! What’s this? Adam Pardy scores to put the Jets up 1-zip. The last time Adam Pardy scored a goal I was still young enough that I didn’t have to take an afternoon nap so I could stay up to watch a 7:30 hockey game. Actually, it was four years ago. Way to go, Adam…The zebras convene for a chin-wag to determine if Lee Stempniak interfered with Ducks goaltender Freddie Andersen. No way, Jose. That was a good goal…I take back what I said about Ryan Kesler. He’s a complete doofus.

Third Period: Arithmetic wasn’t my strongest subject when I was a wee kid in Grade 1, but I could count to six. Apparently two linesmen and two referees cannot count to six, because the Ducks have six skaters on the ice. That’s one too many. No call, though. It’s one thing to ignore some of the nasty stuff and let the boys be boys, but you have to call too many men..I don’t like the tone this game has taken. It occurs to me that it’s just a matter of time before the Ducks get the equalizer…Brain fart! Brain fart! Brain fart! And it’s by none other than Andrew Ladd, the Jets captain. He clips his counterpart with the Ducks, Ryan Getzlaf, near the right ear with his stick and he’s off to the bin for two minutes. Gonna be costly, mark my words…Yup. A Cam Fowler shot goes off Patrick Maroon’s right glove and past Ondrej Pavelec. 1-1. Great leadership with that stupid penalty, Laddy boy…Now it really looks like OT, but something tells me the Ducks aren’t done yet. They’ve really taken it to the Jets this period…WTF? Jakob Silfverberg scores! With just 21 ticks remaining in regulation. Geez, Louise…Jets Nation will be whining about the officiating after this 2-1 loss. This isn’t about the skunk shirts, though. It’s about the Jets’ preoccupation with banging and crashing and not enough attention to generating offence…Prediction: The Ducks are up 2-zip in this best-of-seven series, but I say it returns to Anaheim tied 2-2.

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 Sport Media: Oh, nuts! Tiger Williams is naked and pawing his private parts

Having been there and done that, I know what it’s like to be part of the the jock sniffer’s gig in the build-up to a major sporting event.

Basically, you write a lot but say little that the lumps on bar stools around town don’t already know. It is all so much blah, blah, blah and yadda, yadda, yadda. By the time they drop the puck, you’re ready for a few pints and a long nap. But, hey, your cranky editor demands that the space between the display ads be filled, so you search and probe for story angles that might include everything from how often Jacob Trouba trims his toenails to whether or not Dustin Byfuglien likes onions on his cheese burgers.

It’s a grind and I do not envy the boys on the beat who have been cranking out copious amounts of copy in advance of tonight’s opening argument in the best-of-seven shinny disagreement between the Winnipeg Jets and Disney Ducks.

Quite frankly it’s overkill. I mean, seriously. Twenty-eight pages in the Winnipeg Sun devoted to all things Jets and Ducks? Correct me if I’m wrong, but it’s a hockey game, right?

Ah, but this isn’t just the playoffs for the Ducks and Jets, is it? Nope. It’s also showtime in the rag trade, which is to say the newspaper biz. Why, this is such a big deal that even news side guys from both the Sun and Winnipeg Free Press have weighed in on the matter. Tom Brodbeck of the Sun felt obliged to remind us that the Jets are a unifying force in River City, while Bartley Kives of the Freep referenced Winnipeg’s legendary whiteout, submitting that the sight of a building bulging with 15,004 Jets junkies adorned in white garments is “creepy” in a Nazi sort of way.

I don’t recall newsies joining the cock-a-doodle-to chorus back in the day, but different things float the boat in jock journalism in the 21st century.

Whatever, although the Jets and Ducks have yet to exchange hostilities in the marathon known as the Stanley Cup tournament, the scribes are in playoff mode, sans the chin whiskers. Both the Sun and Freep have dispatched two newshounds apiece to Orange County to chronicle the early goings-on, and that number shall swell once the fray finds its way to the Little Hockey House on the Prairie and River City, which has been a National Hockey League playoff-free zone for the past 19 years.

By that time, the Jets and Ducks shall be two games into their to-and-fro and, hopefully, the yadda, yadda, yadda will focus on the events of the first two thrusts rather than the blah, blah, blah that has been served up to this point.

Covering the NHL playoffs is, as mentioned, a grind, and is further complicated for River City scribes due to a two-hour time difference between home and Anaheim. Yet, it can also be most rewarding if the participants provide the right kind of material.

My lasting memory from working the Stanley Cup tournament dates back to the early 1980s, and it stems from an off-ice occurrence as opposed to something that transpired on the freeze.

I was in the employ of the Calgary Sun and the Flames were engaged in bitter combat with the Vancouver Canucks. In that particular series, Tigers Williams of the Canucks and Lanny McDonald of the Flames had beaten the bejeebers out of one anothef four four games. I’m here to tell you that they tattooed each other black, blue and every other color of the rainbow. When it was over, I made my way to the Vancouver changing room for a word of wisdom, or two, from Tiger. I found him sitting solo in a corner stall, as naked as a porn start on a movie set, and I introduced myself.

“Ya,” he said, “I know who you are. The stuff you’ve been writing on the series has been fair.”

“Thanks,” I replied. “What I’d like to talk about is…”

“Oh, wait,” he said sharply. “Just a second.”

He then stood, reached into the left pocket of a sports jacket, withdrew a gold watch and tugged it on to his left wrist.

“There,” he said, “now we can talk.”

With that, he sat and began scratching his balls and penis while I lobbed questions his way. Straight goods. I had a very hairy, bare-naked man (save for the wrist watch) sitting before me pawing at his not-so-private parts during the entirety of a 10-minute chin-wag. It didn’t occur to him for a scant second that his behavior was boorish in the extreme.

I recall thinking, as I exited the Canucks’ boudoir, “Oh, man, I didn’t sign up for this.”

The reason why Tiger Williams could not submit to my interrogation without first strapping on his wrist watch escaped me that night, as it does to this day. It was a baffling bit of business, but I must report that he was as obliging and polite as a naked man pawing at his private parts can possibly be.

Somehow, I don’t believe the boys and girls on the beat will be confronted with a similar scenario in the next fortnight, but if so, I remind them that what happens in the room stays in the room.

I mean, I realize they’ll be trying to fill 28 pages of Jets copy, but hopefully they would kindly spare us the intimate details of an encounter of the Tiger kind. We really don’t need to know if it’s true that all men are created equal, do 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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Dis the Disney Ducks? Winnipeg Jets Nation doesn’t want to go there yet

So, it’s the Winnipeg Jets vs. the Disney Ducks in an opening-round skirmish of the Stanley Cup tournament. Puck drops on Thursday evening

Gotta get a hate-on. Gotta dis the other guy. Trouble is, there’s nothing to hate. Nothing to dis.

First of all, you don’t trash talk the Disney dudes. You don’t trash talk anything connected with Disneyland. Not even the Disney Ducks of Anaheim.

Yes, Ducks is a stupid name for a National Hockey League team, but none more so than Penguins or Flyers. And, let’s face it, the name Jets isn’t exactly dripping with dynamics or creativity, is it. Cripes, man, it isn’t even original. It’s a recycled ripoff from bygone days when Winnipeg was a member of the Western Canada Hockey League before becoming a force in the World Hockey Association and, later, a NHL outfit that did nothing other than break your heart every spring and stick a dagger into it in 1996.

But we aren’t prepared to reopen the name debate and mention how Jets’ co-bankroll Mark Chipman was bullied into regurgitating it, are we?

Second, Walt Disney’s head isn’t stored in a beer cooler. That’s myth. Faux lore, not folklore. Despite what you might have read, Walt’s noggin is not a skull-cicle. Even if it were, one block of ice hardly compares to the 750,000-plus frozen heads that trudge around Winnipeg from November to March every year.

So, no, you don’t trash talk the man who gave us Cinderella, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Sleeping Beauty, Pinocchio, Dumbo and Bambi, who now plays for the Jets and wears No. 55.

Just like Walt’s head, dissing Disney ain’t cool.

You also leave Mickey and Minnie alone. I’m a big fan of the mice.

If you’re a member of Jets Nation, you can’t even trash talk the city of Anaheim. I mean, it’s in Orange County. That’s in Southern California. You know, sun, sand and surf, 365/24/7. Orange County sounds refreshing. Fruity. Citrusy. It conjures images of orange groves. Not at all like Winnipeg on the Frozen Tundra, whose images are snow drifts and snow plows. Sounds harsh. Cruel. C-c-c-c-c-old.

More to the point, how can anyone in River City trash talk a town that has never lost the NHL franchise it was awarded? The Ducks were hatched in 1993. They’ve survived in SoCal longer than the original Jets NHL franchise lasted in Pegtown. Anaheim has only required one kick at the cat. Winnipeg is working on its second. So here’s the scorecard on lost franchises: Winnipeg 1, Anaheim 0.

And, let’s not forget, Anaheim has won the Stanley Cup. For those of you keeping score at home, Winnipeg/Arizona is the sole survivor of the WHA which has yet to lay claim to hockey’s holy grail.

Peggers, and Canadians in general, like to look down their noses at U.S. Sun Belt cities that are home to NHL outfits. We pooh-pooh their very being. We see the empty pews in their ice palaces and we snicker. Rudely. To us, ice is for skating. To them, ice is something you put in your cocktail. Yet, an outfit from the Great White North has not brought the Stanley Cup home since 1993. In the ensuing years, the big, silver chalice has been housed in Anaheim, Los Angeles (twice), Tampa and Dallas.

Good grief, we mock the Sun Belters, yet we’re giddy because five Canadian-based outfits qualified for this spring’s Stanley Cup tournament, which commences Wednesday night, and two of them are guaranteed to advance to the second round. Oh joy.

The point is, Jets Nation can’t trash talk Anaheim or the Ducks because because they don’t have any ammunition. Anaheim and the Ducks have it all.

I have no doubt that the Jets and Ducks will strap on a good bit of nasty before their best-of-seven Stanley Cup playoff joust is history, but dis the Disney dudes before the puck is dropped? Sorry, can’t go there. Not until the first elbow is raised in anger, and I have a hunch Ryan Getzlaf will have something to do with it. Now there’s a Disney Duck we can dis.

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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Let the mind games begin…the Winnipeg Jets and Disney Ducks already have

Gentlemen, start your mind games.

Oops. Too late.

Both Bruce Boudreau and Paul Maurice have already spread the butter of faux flattery on a National Hockey League playoff series that figures to be bold, brash, belligerent and bitter.

Let’s start with Boudreau.

“They’re playing as good a hockey as they’ve played all year,” the head coach of the Western Conference banner-winning Disney Ducks said when interrogated about the Winnipeg Jets by the Orange County Register. “It would not surprise me if everybody picks them and we’re underdogs.”

So there you have it. When the Ducks and Jets commence their best-of-seven throw-down on Thursday night under the watchful eyes of Minnie, Mickey and good, ol’ Goofy in Orange County, it is Team Quack that shall be assigned the role of dark horse. It matters not that the Ducks were 10 points superior to the Jets over the long haul of an 82-game regular season, or that they won 43 actual hockey games (regulation/overtime) compared to the Jets’ 36, which was fewer than any of the 16 outfits participating in this spring’s Stanley Cup tournament.

Bruce Boudreau says his Ducks are underdogs, so it must be so.

But wait. Jets coach PoMo has something to say about that.

“We’re a huge, decided underdog in this series,” Maurice advised news scavengers who assembled for his club’s dress rehearsal on Monday. “They finished first, best team in the Western Conference. We didn’t.”

He tried mightily to say it with a straight face. Almost pulled it off, too. Didn’t work, though. Maurice wasn’t fooling anyone, no matter how hard he bit down on his lip.

Make no mistake, he and the Jets believe they can better the Ducks, just as Boudreau and his Ducks know they can beat the Jets. Both bench jockeys play the poor, pitiful me card because blowing smoke up your opponent’s butt is a more preferable tactic than providing bulletin board material.

So who is the favorite? The Ducks of course.

True, Boudreau’s boys had the benefit of repeatedly kicking sand in the faces of Pacific Division 98-pound weaklings like the Edmonton Oilers and Arizona Coyotes, whereas the Jets were required to go to-and-fro with the likes of St. Louis, Chicago, Nashville and Minnesota. But 109 points is 109 points is 109 points. And 43 regulation and/or overtime victories trump any number of wins collected via the increasingly annoying and gotta-get-rid-of-it gimmick known as the shootout.

Put any kind of spin on it that you like, but the Ducks’ record dictates that they enter the fray as the favorite.

BEACH BLANKET BUFFOONERY: So how do fans prep for the NHL playoffs in Southern California? They go to the beach, naturally.

Oh, yes, it was all about sand and surf Sunday at Newport Beach, where an assortment of ducklings gathered at Balboa Pier to raise a ruckus for their hockey heroes. Billed as the Paint it Orange beach party, the Power Players (a bevy of beach babes) and team mascot, Wild Wing, laid out what was billed as Southern California’s largest rally towel.

How convenient. A towel is handy when they decide to surrender.

GET A GRIP, GARY: My, my, my…Gary (La La) Lawless of the Winnipeg Free Press was waxing oh so eloquently the other day in an effort to put perspective on NHL playoff hockey returning to River City for the first time since 1996.

Trouble is, he got lost in his own moment.

“There are new heroes,” he wrote. “Hawerchuk and Carlyle and King can gracefully step aside now. They are now memories. No longer haunting vessels of lost glory?”

Glory? The NHL Jets? Sure, if you call losing to Vancouver, Calgary or Edmonton every year in the playoffs glory.

Will these Johnny-come-latelies ever learn that the only glory years for the Jets took place in the 1970s, when the club won a trio of World Hockey Association titles? There was no glory in the NHL years.

One more thing, La La: Stop telling people what to wear to home games. You’re sounding like a True North Toady again.

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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Swimming in a sea of Canuckleheads; Winnipeg Jets over the Disney Ducks in 6 games; and who sprinkled Ondrej Pavelec with Dominik Hasek dust?

I am already seeing it. Canuckmania.

People are wearing the jerseys with the big C-shaped, angry Orca on the chest. Flags flutter from car windows. It is all the talk in my favorite watering hole and, no doubt, most pubs on the left flank of the land. I live a short hop across the water from the B.C. mainland, and make no mistake about one thing—Victoria is Vancouver Canucks country.

One might assume that the reality that I, a member of Jets Nation, am surrounded by Canuckleheads to be discormforting. Not at all. If anything, I am quietly humored by their zeal, particularly those among their number who seldom discourse on matters of athletics but now give voice to the goings-on of the National Hockey League and the commencement of the Stanley Cup tournament.

Why is the Canucks orca such an angry whale?

Why is the Canucks orca such an angry whale?

For example, just yesterday afternoon the boys on the bar stools in Bart’s Pub were prattling on, in not-so-hushed tones, about the Canucks’ upcoming engagement with the Calgary Flames, when one of them squeezed a mention of the Winnipeg Jets into the chin-wag.

“Did you see how the Jets got in?” he asked without expecting a reply. “They lost their last game. Got shut out. And they make the playoffs!”

The inference, of course, was that the Winnipegs had exercised the very bad manners of using a back door to gain entrance to the tournament. That they had not won their way in. This while the Jets were, at that very moment, featured on a corner TV, laying a 5-1 licking on the Flames to earn their 99th point of the regular season, just two fewer than the Canucks.

My instinct was to correct this fellow. I mean, if blanking the Wild in Minny, the Blues in St. Loo and the Avalanche in mile-high Denver—three shutouts in succession, on the road, in the final week of a 6 1/2-month campaign—is his idea of backing into the playoffs, well…whatever.

I chose to sit in silence, listening as they shifted their deliberations to the Canucks’ goal crease, an area of considerable concern given that the starting goaltender, Ryan Miller, had, until Saturday night, spent seven weeks on the shelf due to a wonky right knee. The consensus: Understudy Eddie Lack should start when Team Orca opens playoff hostilities vs. the Flames on Wednesday night in Van City.

That, of course, bears no importance for me. My area of interest would be the blue paint at the Jets’ end of the rink once they face off against the Disney Ducks in the Magic Kingdom on Thursday. But no one out here wishes to discuss Ondrej Pavelec, the Jets goaler who apparently has been sprinkled with Dominic Hasek dust and whose net has been a puck-free zone for a few ticks less than 187 minutes. Do the math. That’s three-plus games.

Pavelec’s play is among the reasons why the Jets qualified for their first post-season crusade since arriving in River City in 2011, and he shall be among the reasons the Winnipegs upstage the Ducks in their opening-round skirmish.

Oh, yes. That is an early prediction. Jets over Ducks. In six games.

I say that not only because Pavelec has become inpenetrable, but because Bruce Boudreau is head coach of the Disney Ducks. Bruce Boudreau-coached teams and playoff hockey are not a favorable combination. They do not win. Ever. They implode.

Which means…the Jets shall advance to Round Two of the tournament, whereupon they shall rattle sabres with none other than the Vancouver Canucks, who shall vanquish the Flames.

80s-logo-homeThis puts me in a bit of a pickle. As mentioned, I am surrounded by Canuckleheads, a tribe of very sore losers prone to rioting whenever their universe does not unfold as it should. I have made no secret of my affections for the Jets, which positions me as the enemy in these here parts. I fear the worst. I shall not, however, be intimidated should the Jets meet the Canucks. That’s not the Paul Maurice way. I shall proudly display the Jets logo.

That, I hasten to point out, would be the Jets logo circa 1970s-80s. I still cannot embrace the current logo, which is…well, as one Canucklehead asked yesterday, “What exactly is that Jets logo supposed to be?”

“I don’t know,” I answered. “Just like I don’t know why that Orca whale on the Canucks logo is so angry. I guess it’s because the Canucks have been in the NHL for almost half a century and they still haven’t won the Stanley Cup. You know, just like the Maple Leafs.”

Logo wars aside, I hope the Jets and Canucks do meet in the second round of the Stanley Cup tournament for a couple of reasons: 1) It would be a one-anthem series; 2) it would guarantee one Canadian outfit a berth in the Western Conference final.

So bring it on, Canuckleheads.

 

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.