Let’s talk about riding off into the sunset after scribbling about the sports scene in Good Ol’ Hometown for (not quite) half a century

I wasn’t going to post this essay until June 14.

That date, you see, marks the 50th anniversary of my first byline article in the Winnipeg Tribune, and I always wanted to be like Vince Leah and scribble about sports in Good Ol’ Hometown for at least half a century.

Well, as Maxwell Smart used to say, “missed it by that much.” One month and change.

And I’m okay with that.

I mean, Uncle Vince is a legend whose longevity as a chronicler of local jockdom shall forever remain unmatched. Indeed, unchallenged.

He’s won more awards than Meryl Streep, among them the Manitoba Order of the Buffalo Hunt, and I’m not in the order of anything, except maybe the Order of Bull Droppings, and we all know that’s how more than a few folks have described my scribblings at the Trib, the Winnipeg Sun and on this blog. So, be certain, there’s no attempt here to parallel my career with his.

In truth, Uncle Vince and I share just two commonalities: We both wrote sports at the Trib and we walked out the door the same day, figuratively if not literally, and neither of us had a choice.

Actually, there is one other thing: Neither of us covered a Stanley Cup parade, but I’ll get to that in a moment.

The point is, I’m finally riding off into the sunset, 49 years and 11 months after my initial byline article, a brief report on the 1971 Manitoba Amateur Hockey Association annual meeting tucked into the back pages of the sports section, along with Harold Loster’s horse racing copy.

I’d like to tell you it was a glittering piece of wordsmithing but, in reality, it was unremarkable and totally forgettable, which would explain its positioning on the back pages.

It did, however, serve as the starting point of a career-long, unbreakable link to hockey and, most notably, the Winnipeg Jets.

As much as I covered every sport known to man, it always seemed to come back to hockey for me, and the Old Barn On Maroons Road became my second home.

I watched the Portage Terriers win the Centennial Cup there in May 1973; I watched The Shoe and the Jets parade around the freeze with the Avco World Trophy exactly six years later; I watched one Soviet side and one Russian side win World Junior titles there; I watched the 1981 Canada Cup there; I watched the Jets’ National Hockey League home debut there in ’79 and I watched them say goodbye there on the Day of the Long Faces in ’96. I played alongside Eddie Shack in Schmockey Night there, and I skated with the West Kildonan North Stars against the Winnipeg Monarchs there. Hell, my birth certificate is so dog-eared that I watched Billy Mosienko play there.

So, ya, local hockey and I were a thing. Still are, albeit from a considerable distance.

Back in the day, people would ask me about the Jets, wondering if their favorite player was a good guy or a bit of a twit, or if Fergy really was as tough as 10 miles of gnarly backroad. Even now, whenever I visit Cool Aid here in Victoria to collect the meds that keep me on the green side of the sod, Jim in the dispensary always wants to talk about “your Jets.”

Yes, he thinks of them as my Jets because it’s guilt by association.

The folks out here on the Left Flank, you see, know just three things about Good Ol’ Hometown: 1) It’s bitterly cold, 2) the Jets, 3) the Blue Bombers. In that order.

I’ve spent the past 21-plus years listening to rude laughter about “Winterpeg” and jokes about the Jets and cheap shots about the Bombers, although our football heroes nipped that in the bud in November 2019 when they took custody of the Grey Cup, and it’ll serve all the wise acres right if the Bombers never have to give the thing back.

If only the Jets had been able to do the same with hockey’s holy grail.

A Stanley Cup parade. Was/is that too much to ask? I mean, I’ve covered/watched some damn fine local shinny sides, but the Jets always came undone like a school kid’s shoelace when the games mattered most. I don’t have to tell you it’s happening again this year, although we shouldn’t be surprised given that the general manager, Kevin Cheveldayoff, twiddled his thumbs at the National Hockey League shop-and-swap deadline last month. Damn him.

But I won’t be here to praise or bury the Jets as they play out the string this year. I’m fresh out of cheek, irreverence, sarcasm, cynicism and goof-balling around. My snark tank is also empty.

I’ll continue to root, root, root for them, of course, because I’ve always wanted the Jets, Bombers, our curlers and all local athletes/outfits to succeed, which is most sports scribes’ dirty, little secret. They’ll tell you they don’t cheer for the home side, but don’t believe them. Oh, they don’t rah, rah, rah and siss-boom-bah out loud, but they want to see the locals succeed. It’s human nature, and I have personal knowledge that a good many of them are human. Honest, they are. The trick, of course, is to not allow a fondness for the girls and boys you cover to creep into your copy.

Anyway, I’m outta here, kids, 49 years and 11 months after the first hot-lead byline.

In closing, if I were to offer one morsel of counsel to jock journos hither and yon, it would be this: Take your job seriously, but not yourself. You aren’t splitting the atom, you aren’t running into a burning building to rescue small children, you aren’t digging water wells in a Third World country. So have fun with the gig. And, remember, the people you’re writing about are just that—people. They aren’t athletes who happen to be humans, they’re humans who happen to be athletes.

Adios and thanks kindly for dropping by. I’ve always appreciated it.

22 thoughts on “Let’s talk about riding off into the sunset after scribbling about the sports scene in Good Ol’ Hometown for (not quite) half a century”

  1. Sorry I won’t be able to read your writings anymore. I thoroughly enjoyed them. You brought back memories of reading Jack Matheson’s columns. All the best , stay safe.

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  2. Thank you for all the great reads, I have always looked forward to your posts. Congratulations for a job well done and I wish you a very long, healthy and fun retirement!

    Sent from my iPad

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  3. All the best, Patti. My Sunday mornings aren’t going to be as fulfilling without being able to read your scribbling. You’ve got a way with words that most of us in the biz only dream about. Your material was always top-notch from start to finish. Am proud to have shared the occasional press box with you. Cheers!

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    1. Thanks so much Bruce. Met a lot of truly wonderful people over the years, and you’re definitely one of them.
      I’ll keep reading your weekly offerings in the western papers. It’s always good stuff.
      Take care and thanks for always being nice to me back in the day.

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  4. Sad news for me, Patti. I will greatly miss your observations and your humour. You posted three of my lines in your year end column — a surprise and a great honour for this Winnipegger. So thank you for that. Wishing you an enjoyable retirement, which isn’t as easy a gig as some people reckon.

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    1. I’ve been retired since 2015, and the blog gave me something with which to humor myself in the small hours of the morning. That’s when I did my writing.
      I’ll fill that time with other writing projects now.
      Keep up with your fun stuff and I expect to see some of it included in Dwight Perry’s Sideline Chatter.

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  5. When it’s time to hang’em up, so be it… always tough [sad actually] to see someone [distinctive in one’s life] decide it’s time to leave – but understood! Hoping health isn’t the cause! Enjoyed catching up with you and this blog. You’ve always been fair and straight to the point and for a ‘girl’ 🙂 pretty much bang on! Was it you that scored the winning goal on me at ‘that’ Schmockey Night…? I know i got the bucket of water for sure…! Anyway enjoy full time retirement but know that you have permission to re-boot this medium and say what you think… Thanks PDS/RCR… ‘ENJOY’…!!!
    [btw ‘thanks’ for the mention back a few months back, grand kids got a kick…] GT

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    1. Thanks for dropping by on a regular basis, Gordie.
      Not sure about scoring on you in Schmockey Night, but I was a sniper. I can only remember playing on a line with Eddie Shack, and Ray Jauch was our coach.
      You’re welcome about the mention. You and Joe Daley have always been my favorite goaltenders.

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  6. I spent the first 65 years of my life in wpg before moving to a small town in south west Ontario in 2010 to be close to grandchildren. Reading your articles always brought me back home and your personality and sense of humour always brought a smile to my face. I so looked forward to your latest scribbling. You will be greatly missed. My Sunday morning routine will never be the same. I hope you enjoy your well deserved retirement.

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  7. Hey PDS … this is a sad day for anybody that has the pleasure to read your musings on sports … all sports … On a personal note I want to thank you for your time at Winnipeg Hockey Talk plus your support over the years. I hope you have a change of heart and bless us with more of your brilliant writing but I totally understand if you don’t. Good Luck my friend.
    YOU are loved and will be missed

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    1. Thanks so much, Mitch. It’s kind of you. Keep up the fight on WHT. We need somebody to make sure the Jets are flying straight.

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  8. Patti Dawn, I have enjoyed your postings even though I know little about hockey, or any other sport for that matter outside of curling! 😁 For me it wasn’t so much whether I agreed or disagreed with your enlightenment. It was the truth that you are one of the most gifted, thought provoking and entertaining writers I’ve loved over the years. The milestone may be “one month and change” away but what so many have reaped the benefits of, does not make it any less impactful. God willing, I still hope to make a trip to Victoria one day and share a brew at that local watering hole you frequent. 😊. Stay well.

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    1. Hi Deb. A visit to a pub with you would be a true treat. Something to hopefully look forward to. Take care and, as always, thanks for the kind words and support.

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  9. Patti:

    Surprised to read that you are going to stop your sportswriting. I enjoyed the River City thoughts when I remembered to take a look. Liked at your comments about how sports reporters dressed. Wasn’t Jimmy B a sharp dresser? LOL As for being a goal scorer, I don’t remember that. Maybe when you were playing peewee at Bronx Park. Dutch and I often would laugh about the day you and Sinc went at it at River Heights. We always said that Dave Sinclair had to intercede to protect his “little” brother. Take care and stay safe.

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    1. Hi Kent…
      Funny the things people remember, like my dustup with Big Sinc. When I was working at a golf club out here, the head pro brought me a clipping from a seniors newspaper about our Tuesday afternoon hockey, and it mentioned that exchange with Big Sinc.
      So I’m glad it provided some giggles for you and Dutch, aka the Dipsey Doodle Dandy of Tuesday afternoon shinny.
      As for my scoring exploits, I’ll have you know that I led Little NHL in scoring at Melrose Park in 1961, and led GWMHA Juvenile in scoring two years running while with Bronx Park and East End Barons, and I was the MVP of the 1969 Juvenile city-wide tournament, which my Barons won. I still have the newspaper clipping to prove it. And I participated in the Jets first ever rookie training camp when Fergy asked me to step into the lineup to replace one of his top draft choices. I set up the first goal that night.
      So there.
      Anyway, really good to hear from you. I understand Dutch has run into a spot of health trouble, but who hasn’t at our age?Always liked Dutch. Good man. Fun guy. Give him my best.
      Again, great to hear from you. Hope you’re well and as healthy as can be.
      Take care, old friend.

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  10. You get to a certain age where you need to sometimes check in on the personalities you admire to make sure they’re still kicking. I haven’t stopped by in a while but I had a twinge of intuition that I should see if you were still writing and sadly I found your swan song. Goes to prove the old saying you can’t buy one second of time, so let me say I’ve thoroughly enjoyed your writing over the years. You approach your subject matter with a cleverness and cheek that most sports journalists fail to perceive little own emulate. May your pastures be green and may the wind be at your back (coming from Winnipeg that means something!)

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