The River City Renegade

Yo! Mark Chipman! Butt out, you buttinski

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The floating rumor that Mark Chipman is a buttinski is not a rumor at all. It is fact.

The Winnipeg Jets’ co-bankroll and governor sat at a round table last month and admitted as much during a no-necktie chin wag with George Stroumboulopoulosboulopoulos, Hockey Night in Canada host and unabashed citizen of Habs Nation.

What we don’t know is this: How much of a buttinski is Mark Chipman?

Could it be that Saint Mark is the reason Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien remain unsigned, untraded and destined for unrestricted free agency, at which time the Jets shall receive diddly for two of the National Hockey League club’s more prominent pieces? I mean, based solely on his comments to Stromboy, Chipman has stuck his beak into the seemingly stalemated to-and-fro between Grand Master Kevin Cheveldayoff and the camps of Ladd and Byfuglien.

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Mark Chipman

“Chevy and I talk pretty much daily,” he said of his working relationship with general manager Cheveldayoff. “Those are his calls to make, but it would depend on the extent of the term or the quantum of the contract you’re talking about (that) would, to a certain degree, determine the level of involvement that he would require me. The lengthier the deal or the more impactful the deal, the more I would be involved on a consultant basis.”

I would submit that the re-signing and/or trading of your team captain, Ladd, and the oftentimes rogue reardguard Byfuglien would qualify as “impactful.”

So, is Chipman asking Cheveldayoff what he’s doing, or has he gone all Steinbrenner and is telling his general manager what to do?

It should be pointed out that this was not a one-on-one tete-a-tete between Saint Mark and Stromboy. Also flapping their gums were Geoff Molson, a product of a family of beer barons and le grand fromage of les Canadiens de Montreal, and Jeff Vinik, noted philanthropist and the money behind the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Here’s what each had to say about their involvement in signings/trades:

Geoff Molson: “The general manager is accountable for that, and he knows that. Marc (GM Bergevin) knows that. And so whether it’s a contract negotiation or a trade, I’m informed the whole way through because we talk almost every day. But I’m not calling the agent, I’m not calling the player. I’m helping Marc in his negotiations so we can be successful, or I’m encouraging Marc with questions. It’s easy for me to not get involved because they’re much better at making decisions like that than I am. I know my general manager is going to do everything he can to win hockey games.”

Jeff Vinik: “I meet or talk to Steve Yzerman once a week. I don’t find it necessary to check in more often than that. When it comes to a major player, you don’t want me making those decisions. You want Steve making those decisions.”

It’s interesting to note that both Molson and Vinik are clear in stating their modus operandi: They bow to the expertise of their respective general managers and get the hell out of the way.

Not so Chipman. He confesses that the more “impactful” the scenario, the more he sticks his thin, pointy beak where it doesn’t belong.

Wrong answer, Saint Mark.

Ya, sure, he owns the franchise and, by default, he must be made privy to the status of talks. But he’s not a hockey man. Having the largest office and a partner, David Thomson, with the deepest pockets in Canada doesn’t make Chipman any more knowledgeable than the lumps who sit on stools in sports bars or phone Radio Chin-Wag to promote conspiracy theories about sinister NHL skunk skirts plotting to keep the Jets below the playoff line.

Chipman has had a free ride from mainstream media and fans since the Atlanta Thrashers caravan rolled into River City and morphed into Jets 2.0 in 2011, but he must be called out if we find his fingerprints on the final reckoning of major trades and signings.

He has to do what Molson and Vinik do—get the hell out of the way.

Patti Dawn Swansson has been writing about Winnipeg sports for 45 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 in 2015.

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