Month: February 2023
Let’s talk about TSN and the NHL shop-and-swap deadline…Manitoba power at the Scotties…TSN curling crew so good it’s “unbelievable”…Boo Boo, Yogi and Aaron…a goalie goal vs. the Canucks…and other things on my mind…
Top o’ the morning to you, James Forbes Duthie VI.
Well, just five more sleeps before D-Day in the National Hockey League, and I find myself wondering how much shuteye you’ll actually get this week.
I mean, they (whoever they are) say no news is good news, but you know different, don’t you, James?
If there’s no news next Friday, you and your braying cast of thousands at TSN are hooped. You’ll have nine hours of blah, blah, blah time to fill, and multiple replays of Jeff O’Neill in a food fight with a fake horse won’t keep viewers interested or entertained. Hey, I mostly get a kick out of O’Dog’s grumpy, middle-aged man shtick, but you counting the mustard and ketchup stains on his shirt isn’t my idea of must-see TV.
Marty Biron shooting Jennifer Hedger with a t-shirt cannon won’t get the job done, either, and don’t get me started on Gino Reda wrangling lamas in a parking lot.
You’ll want meat on those bones, James, meaning you’ll need the cooperation of 32 general managers, some hell bent on providing their team with an 11th-hour facelift in advance of the final push toward the Stanley Cup runoff, while others will be tearing down like roadies just before the circus pulls out of town.
Unless you’ve got some big names to blab about, James, your annual yakety-yak-yakathon at the NHL trade deadline will fall flatter than any stretch of road in Saskatchewan. You’ll be the kid hoping for a shiny, new bike Christmas morning only to find a pair of socks and a pack of underwear under the tree.
Already lopped off your TSN Trade Bait Board are Timo Meier, Bo Horvat, Vladimir Tarasenko, Ryan O’Reilly, Ivan Barbashev and Jonathan Toews, and I doubt the NHL GMs will be inclined to keep some shiny objects in reserve just to save your show. Thus, if guys like Erik Karlsson, Patrick Kane, Jacob Chychrun and Vlad Gavrikov get new postal/zip codes before Friday, valid talking points will be as scarce as bikers at a Barry Manilow concert. Why, if the situation gets too bleak, your gum-flappers are apt to be breaking down the Frank Mahovlich trade of 1968.
You won’t recall the Big M deal, James, because you were still in diapers when the Toronto Maple Leafs shipped Mahovlich, Pete Stemkowski, Garry Unger and the rights to Carl Brewer to Motown, where the Red Wings shed themselves of Paul Henderson, Norm Ullman, Floyd Smith and Doug Barrie in barter.
That’s what passed for a blockbuster back in the day, James. Live bodies. Nowadays, the GMs can’t seem to trade anyone without first getting the okie-dokie from club bean-counters, who move American greenbacks like they’re playing with Canadian Tire money.
A case in point would be Shea Weber, whose contract travelled from Glitter Gulch to the Arizona desert last week. It matters not that the once-great defender and ruffian will never see the inside of Mullett Arena in Tempe, or step on the freeze again. A piece of paper says he’ll help Arizona get to the $61 million salary cap floor, so the Coyotes are all in, even though they now have more dead weight than a graveyard.
Then there’s Ryan O’Reilly, late of the St. Louis Blues and freshly minted member of the Maple Leafs. It couldn’t have been just a straight-up trade, like a couple of kids swapping bubble gum cards. No sir. The Minnesota Wild felt obliged to get involved, and now three teams are paying what’s left of the veteran forward’s wages.
Is that what your viewers want to hear from you and the natterbugs, James? Nine hours of money chatter? I think not. Hell, I got bored writing about it for three paragraphs.
Difference is, I can get up and walk away from my computer. Maybe have a snack. Take a piddle. Water the plants. Turn on the flatscreen. But you’re stuck in place, James, trying to prevent an outbreak of nation-wide yawning. Tough gig.
I don’t envy you, man. By the end of the marathon, you’ll be staring at the camera through squinty eyes and with your arm likely strapped to an IV drip. But you won’t run out of things to say, not as long as the Maple Leafs exist. You might even find time during your nine hours on air to squeeze in a mention or two about the NHL’s Canadian-based franchises not named Maple Leafs. You know, the teams in Montreal, Ottawa and out here in the colonies. I realize that might be against TSN policy, but I’m guessing you’ll have reached your Auston Matthews-Mitch Marner-Willy Nylander quota by the fifth hour, so show the outriders some love.
Whatever the case, good luck to you, James. Just remember: Goofiness is good, but most of us really don’t need, or want, to see O’Dog’s butt cleavage when he and Pierre LeBrun are scrapping over the last box of Timbits.
What’s the over/under on how often Duthie and his minions mention Butch Goring on Friday? I mean, no NHL shop-and-swap deadline gabfest is complete without reference to the gold standard of all 11th-hour transactions: Goring from the Los Angeles Kings to the New York Islanders in exchange for Billy Harris and Dave Lewis in March 1980.
I’m torn. Do I want Kerri Einarson and her gal pals from Gimli to snare a record-sharing fourth successive Scotties Tournament of Hearts title, or do I want Jennifer Jones to make history with a seventh championship? It’s kind of like choosing between a winning ticket in Lotto 6/49 or Lotto Max. Either way, you can’t lose, and an all-Manitoba final tonight in Kamloops would be boffo, so I’ll be root, root, rooting for Einarson in this afternoon’s semifinal.
I can’t think of a broadcast team in any sport that does a better job than TSN’s curling crew of Vic Rauter, Russ Howard, Joanne Courtney, Cathy Gauthier and Bryan Mudryk. They’re knowledgeable, insightful, playful, and they seem to genuinely enjoy working together. But, for gawd’s sake, Vic, Russ and Bryan have to stop calling critical shots “unbelievable.” A draw to the four-foot in the fifth or 10th end isn’t “unbelievable.” It’s been done a gazillion times in rinks around the globe. It’s “unbelievable” how often the believable in sports is “unbelievable.”
I’m not sure what was going on with the Rachel Homan team at the Scotties, but it seemed to me that skip Tracy Fleury was reduced to a spare part. Homan and Emma Miskew did all the talking, while Tracy stood in the background looking like a teenage girl who wasn’t invited to the prom. It was kind of sad.
Tip of the bonnet to Dave Komosky, this year’s recipient of the Paul McLean Award, given to a media type for contributions to curling. Davey’s been scribbling the good stuff about Pebble People since the very early 1970s, first at the Winnipeg Tribune then the Saskatoon StarPhoenix and Calgary Herald. He eventually found his way back to Good Ol’ Hometown, working for the Winnipeg Sun, the Drab Slab and CanWest News Service, but most notably as the maestro who puts together various Curling Canada publications, like the Tankard Times, the Heart Chart and the Eye Opener. I’m totally pleased for my dear and longtime friend.
A second tip of the bonnet to Ted Wyman, curling and football scribe extraordinaire at the Winnipeg Sun. Ted reached the 20-year milestone with the tabloid on Friday and, given Postmedia’s relentless push to destroy the rag trade in Canada, I’d say he’s earned his survivor’s badge.
Speaking of survival, Aaron Rodgers has emerged from the darkness after a brief stay in his Oregon hibernation cave. There’ve been no sightings of Boo Boo or Yogi Bear, though.
Other than the bleak darkness, the Green Bay Packers quarterback (for now) wasn’t exactly roughing it. His cave was 300 square feet and equipped with a queen-size bed, hot and cold running water, a bathroom, and two meals a day were offered. Now that I think about it, that’s exactly how I live, and thousands of seniors can say the same thing. Only difference is he did it as a lark, we do it out of necessity.
Did you know there’s such a thing as the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame? True story. You can’t make this stuff up. It’s located in Milwaukee and the bobblehead dolls start at $30 US plus $8 shipping, although fans can also purchase signed bobbleheads for $60. Apparently, the autographed Aaron Rodgers bobblehead comes with a authenticated piece of tin foil to confirm he wore it on his head while hiding out in his darkness cave.
Here’s some penetrating analysis from Greg Millen last week re the Calgary Flames: “If you’re not scoring, ya gotta find ways to score.” I’m so glad he cleared that up for us.
As if the Boston Bruins weren’t good enough already, now they have the leading goal-scoring goaltender in the NHL, Linus Ullmark, who lit the lamp to close out the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday night. And, really, can this crusade get any worse for the Canucks?
Steve Simmons of Postmedia Tranna is shaking his fist and telling kids to get off his lawn again. “There should be a rule for all these phony websites writing about the next trade that isn’t happening: If you don’t know an NHL general manager, if he doesn’t know you, then please go away,” he writes in his weekly alphabet fart. Here’s a better idea: Simmons can go away, or he can simply stop reading the “phony” websites.
A woman in Steinbach, Man., called 911 because she was put off by the lengthy lineup at a Burger King drive-thru. And here I thought people dialed 911 after they ate fast food.
Let’s talk about Kyle Walters’ handiwork and future…dreaming of Regina?…maybe the Hollywood Hunk can buy the Larks…bullying Christine Sinclair…Tiger, tampons and TSN…and other things on my mind…
Top o’ the morning to you, Kyle Walters…
Well, that wasn’t too painful, was it?
Oh, sure, you watched some good people—Greg Ellingson, Rasheed Bailey, Dakota Prukop, Michael Couture, Casey Sayles—walk away in the initial thrust of Canadian Football League free agency, but I doubt you were inclined to take a leap off the Richardson Building because of it.
More to the point, Kyle, the bulk of your heavy lifting had already been done, so I’m guessing you’re satisfied with your handiwork in the grand scheme of things. You might even be feeling a bit smug, although I hope not because fat and sassy is never a good look on a general manager, especially one whose team was found wanting in its final assignment last November.
No doubt that loss still rankles, Kyle. I mean, your Winnipeg Blue Bombers had no business bowing to the Toronto Argos in the Grey Cup game, and I like to think a toe-stub like that tends to keep a GM’s head out of the clouds.
The thing is, while eight other Rouge Football GMs were in full-on Repatch, Repair and Reload Mode, you spent Valentine’s Day welcoming an old friend, Kenny Lawler, back to play catch with Zach Collaros, then you called it a day. No muss, no fuss and, as you informed news snoops, Winnipeg FC is still in “that winning mode.”
I’d certainly suggest your Bombers are the morning-line favorite, Kyle.
What’s not to like? The best QB in the three-downs game, Collaros, will be flinging the football to Lawler, Nic Demski, Dalton Shoen, Drew Wolitarsky and, surprisingly, Rasheed Bailey, who left coin on the table elsewhere to give it another whirl in blue and gold.
Look around you, Kyle. See anything on the western hemisphere of the CFL to match that bunch of pass-catchers? Zach will need five footballs to keep all those hands happy.
On the D-side of the pig’s hide, it’s business as usual, with the Twin Js—Jefferson and Jeffcoat—Adam Bighill, Jake Thomas, Winston Rose, and accomplices still in harness, and I doubt they’ve mellowed any. If anything, they’re apt to be playing with extra snarl, knowing they allowed a Grey Grail three-peat to get away in November.
That’s not to say your work is done, Kyle. There’s still the matter of place-kicking.
I think everyone from Hizzoner Gillingham to your paper boy knows you can’t go into the 2023 crusade relying on Marc Liegghio’s right leg. He kicks like Rob Gronkowski, and if you fixed an eyeball on Gronk’s gimmicky field goal attempt during last weekend’s Super Bowl hijinks you’ll know what I’m saying.
I don’t have to remind you that the Argos beat your Bombers by one point in the Grey Cup game, Kyle, which means the difference was one botched Liegghio convert. I could also point out that his potential winning FG vs. the Boatmen never got past the line of scrimmage. Yup, blocked. Oh, and need I remind you that he flubbed two point-after tries in the West Division final?
But, as I said, you know all about that stuff, Kyle, and I’m not here to rip open old wounds. I mean, reciting Liegghio’s failings would be too much like yanking the wings off a house fly. You know, easy pluckings.
Suffice to say, you know what you have to do.
In the meantime, Kyle, it’s about you. You’ve been at this GM gig for 10 years, and you transformed Team Rag Tag into Team EOL (Envy of League). You’ve earned two Grey Cup rings and missed out on a third when Liegghio stubbed his toe. And yet there are no just rewards. You’re working without a net, which is to say no contract extension, and you can shrug your shoulders and play the role of the good soldier by telling news snoops “it is what it is,” but that doesn’t make it right.
I assume CEO Wade Miller is set for life if he has no inclination to take on a different challenge, and he and the Board have taken care of head coach Mike O’Shea. So what do the deep thinkers have against you? Do you attend formal functions in bare feet? Do you not bathe? Bad breath? Hey, maybe you make arm pit farts in mixed company.
Whatever the case, Kyle, it’s wrong. You’ve done boffo work, including this year by keeping most of the key components in place, and I don’t want to hear about a salary cap on football operations.
Do they expect us to believe there isn’t enough coin for the GM? That you’ve priced yourself out of the market? Pish posh.
Winnipeg FC has become the flagship franchise in Rouge Football in large part due to your handiwork, Kyle. You’ve delivered the goods and now it’s time for them to do the same thing.
Until then, enjoy what’s left of your down time and, for gawd’s sake, get a kicker.
Some interesting troop movement during the first week of trading places in the CFL, notably just to the west of Good Ol’ Hometown, where QB Trevor Harris and pass-catcher Jake Wieneke arrived on the Flattest of Lands. I’m not convinced that makes the Saskatchewan Roughriders a better team, though. I mean, if they can lose in Montreal they can lose in Regina. But at least Gang Green got rid of a headache, Duke Williams.
Harris says his move to The Flattest of Lands is “a dream come true.” Come on, man. Who you trying to hoodwink? No one dreams of going to Regina. No one goes there unless they’ve lost a bet. Even Al Capone had the good sense to hide out in Moose Jaw.
Add the name Rob Vanstone to the growing list of longtime jock journos who’ve left the sinking ship Postmedia. Rob’s done at the Regina Leader-Post, and I’ll miss reading his stuff. But he hasn’t gone far. He’s now senior journalist and historian with the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
Montreal Larks are orphans again, which means teams that can’t afford a hit to the bottom line will take another hit to the bottom line. Unless, of course, commissioner Randy Ambrosie and the Lords of Rouge Football can find a new sugar daddy/mama lickety-split. Last time the Larks were dropped off in a basket at the league door, it cost the community-operated outfits in Winnipeg, Edmonton and on the Flattest of Lands a pretty penny to keep them in food, clothing, shelter and capable QBs. I can’t imagine anyone is interested in a redo. Get your butt in gear, Commish Randy.
Hey, if Hollywood hunk Ryan Reynolds strikes out in his bid to become a minority owner of the Ottawa Senators, maybe he can pick up the tab for the Larks.
I don’t know about you, but I find it kind of weird watching Jennifer Jones curl without Dawn McEwen and Kaitlyn Lawes. It was strange enough when Jill Officer went MIA, but now it’s like the Golden Girls sans Sofia, Blanche and Dorothy. Hey, Jennifer has four fab, young playmates—Karlee Burgess, Mackenzie Zacharias, Emily Zacharias, Lauren Lenintine—but it’s going to take some getting used to as the Scotties Tournament of Hearts unfolds this week in Kamloops.
A few weeks back, Drab Slab sports editor Jason Bell was bragging on his paper’s curling coverage, writing, “I venture to say no media outlet in Canada makes it a priority to cover local curling like we do. We might just be the ONLY media outlet other than the wire service and national broadcaster scheduled to cover the bulk of the upcoming national Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Kamloops, B.C., next month.” Really? Well, the Scotties slid from the hacks on Friday, and there was no story on it in the Freep. Today, all I could find was wire copy from Canadian Press, the same story that’s in the Winnipeg Sun. So enough with this “our stuff don’t stink” BS.
Just wondering: Is it my imagination, or is every national sports organization on Our Frozen Tundra corrupt? It sure as hell seems that way.
The way Soccer Canada has treated our national women’s side falls in the extreme range of disgraceful. I mean, bullying Christine Sinclair? Who does that? Next I suppose they’ll steal lunch money from panhandlers. Whatever our guys were given to prep for the men’s World Cup, that’s what the women deserve during its run-up to their World Cup later this year. It’s rather basic.
Oh, boy, the deep-thinkers at the Winnipeg Free Press have weighed in on the great Canadian futbol fight, and it’s a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black.
“This dispute is not just about resources. It’s also about respect,” one of the geniuses writes. “Women’s sport has chronically been devalued and dismissed, and often ignored entirely. It would be a shame for the beautiful game to continue to be marred by such ugly gender inequalities.”
Excuse me? Say again? Ugly gender inequalities?
It is to laugh.
The editorialists at the Drab Slab might want to fix an eyeball on their own sports pages, where male/female coverage is equal like a bologna sandwich is a steak and lobster dinner.
On average last year, the Freep ran 358 articles per month exclusive to male sports, compared to 55 for females. Yup, 358-55. To date this month, it’s 221 male, 47 female. In today’s paper, there are two articles on local college men’s hoops on the sports front. Local women’s college hoops is a brief, buried in the back of the section.
Freep editorialists are correct in saying female sports “has chronically been devalued and dismissed, and often ignored entirely.” So do something about it or zip it.
Former National Hockey League bench puppeteer Marc Crawford is on the outs with the Swiss National League. His crime: Spewing anti-gay bile. Crawford now coaches ZSC Lions, and he had a major meltdown in the waning seconds of a game last week. Seems he didn’t approve the work of Finnish official Mikko Kaukokari, so he shouted something about the ref performing oral sex. It’s not the first time the bolts in Crawford’s neck have come undone, and I can only imagine what horrid things he says when the cameras and mics aren’t near him.
I fell asleep at halftime of last Sunday’s Super Bowl skirmish, so I missed the Rihanna gig. But I understand she did some crotch-grabbing. Makes me wonder how Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan and Miss Peggy Lee sang all those great songs without groping their nether regions.
Based on late night/early morning SportsCentre on TSN, the top story in the wide, wide world of sports on Saturday was…wait for it…the NBA slam dunk contest. Good grief.
I watched SportsCentre in the small hours of Saturday morning, and there was a five-minute segment on the Genesis Invitational golf tournament near the top of the show. Every breath of it was devoted to Tiger Woods. There was zero mention of Max Homa, who’d taken 11 fewer swings than Woods and whose name was atop the leaderboard. Matter of fact, all 59 golfers in front of Woods were ignored. Every ooh and ahh from the natterbugs was reserved for Woods. Same thing this morning. It was three minutes of Woods, and zero mention of leader Jon Rahm, who’s a mere 12 shots ahead. Sigh. I truly thought Woods would be a sidebar on the PGA Tour this year, not the lede. Silly me.
Did Woods really hand Justin Thomas a tampon after outdriving him on the ninth hole in the opening round of the Genesis Invitational? Yup, sure did. And the two pro golfers giggled like a couple of frat boys on a panty raid.
Others were less amused.
Sarah Stirk of Sky Sports described the prank as “crass” and “extremely disappointing.” She added: “It was seemingly done in jest. To me it was laddy, blokey behaviour, passing him the tampon effectively saying: ‘I’ve outdriven you, you’re driving the ball like a woman’.
“(That is) effectively the inference of the incident that happened and that to me says females, women, are inferior to men. Women should not be portrayed as being inferior to men in any walk of life and certainly on a sporting landscape.”
Here’s Christine Brennan of USA Today: “He employed basic misogyny to insult his good friend Thomas, a knee-slapper of a dig against female athletes: You hit the ball like a girl!”
Tiger told news snoops that the prank was nothing more than “fun and games. It was just friends having fun. We play pranks on one another all the time.”
My question: Did Woods go to the corner store and buy a box of tampons, or did he steal it from his 15-year-old daughter Sam’s stash?
Let’s talk about a little of this and a little of that
Tweets that won’t make it to Twitter…
American fighter planes are shooting down UFOs like it’s a game at the county carnival. Three shots for two bits! They took one out over Alaska and another in our air space in the past week. Geez, why can’t they just capture one of the things and ask someone on board what everyone wants to know: Which planet is Connor McDavid from?
Aaron Rodgers plans to go on a four-day, four-night darkness retreat, whereby he’ll sit in a room as dark as the inside of a cow and do nothing more than gaze at his navel between bowel movements. Rodgers vows that once he emerges from his hideaway, Green Bay Packers fans will no longer be in the dark (pun intended) about his future—either he’ll still be QB of the Pack or he’ll be in a New York state of mind and join the Jets in Gotham. Don’t believe a word of it. He’s going into hiding because the voice from his tin foil hat told him “the aliens are coming, the aliens are coming!”
It’s about our Canadian female futbol players going on strike: Much ado about nil. For now. Stay tuned, because we haven’t heard the last of this soccer squawk, and I hope the women get what they want, and deserve.
This just in: According to an Angus Reid poll, only in our three Prairie provinces do Canadians prefer Rouge Football over the American game. Well, duh. I could have saved ol’ Angus the time and money on his survey of 1,515 adult Canuckleheads. I mean, anyone who knows pork rinds from pizza can tell you that the Canadian Football League is a happening in Manitoba, Alberta and on the Flattest of Lands, but it’s meh, with gusts up to “I really don’t give a damn,” in the rest of the country. Question is, what can CFL commish Randy Ambrosie and the Lords of Rouge Football do about it? Not much, if anything. After all, one-third of CFL outfits are based in Ontario, where only 31 per cent of the populace prefers the three-downs game over four downs, a field the size of a cocktail napkin, and the fair catch. But, hey, enjoy today’s Super Bowl skirmish between the K.C. Chiefs and Philly Eagles. I’m sure the commercials will be boffo. Ditto Rihanna.
Top prop bets for Rihanna’s halftime show today:
1) Rihanna forgets lyrics. +10000.
2) Janet Jackson joins Rihanna on stage. +100000.
3) There’s a wardrobe malfunction and we see nipple. Pick ’em.
Andrew Harris will be back for one final fling with the Grey Cup champion Toronto Argos, then the great running back will bid adieu to Rouge Football and take charge of football operations for Vancouver Island Raiders of the B.C. Football Conference. You’d think moving from the Republic of Tranna to tiny Nanaimo would be a huge culture shock. But, in this case, no. Harris will go from playing professional football in front of friends and family to coaching Junior football in front of friends and family.
John Candy, the late, great funny guy and one-time co-bankroll of the Argos, attempted to lure Joe Montana out of San Francisco to play quarterback for the Boatmen at the front end of the 1990s. The plan was to use the legendary 49ers QB to put the Argos and CFL on the map. Trouble was, Joe Cool couldn’t find Canada on the map.
Just wondering: What part of pregnancy do the deep-thinkers with Curling Canada not understand? Seriously, did they all skip Birds & Bees 101 in high school? Pregnant is pregnant, whether a woman plays on a top-seeded team or one of the bottom-feeder outfits at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, beginning Friday in Kamloops. Oh, sure, it’s terrific that a pregnant Selena Njegovan was finally given the okie-dokie to join in the fun (off the ice) with her gal pals on the Kaitlyn Lawes team, but Curling Canada took more backward steps than Ginger Rogers before doing the right thing.
So, LeBron James has passed my all-time fave hoopster, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and now sits atop the list of leading point-producers in NBA history. Sorry, but I won’t be impressed until I see LeBron sitting in the cockpit of a jumbo jet in a remake of Airplane!.
On the subject of Hollywood and hoops, I note they’re giving us a redo of the classic film White Men Can’t Jump? There’s a new title, though: White Men Still Can’t Jump but Luka Doncic and Nikola Jocic Would Like a Second Opinion.
A couple of weeks ago, sports editor Jason Bell of the Drab Slab was tooting the horn about his paper’s unparalleled curling coverage. “I venture to say,” he ventured to say, “no media outlet in Canada makes it a priority to cover local curling like we do.” So why was there nothing about the Manitoba men’s championship on the sports pages after Day One of the rock fest in Neepawa?
Mad Mike McIntyre submits that curler Jennifer Jones just might be the greatest athlete ever produced in Manitoba. Yup, better than all the hockey players, Olympians, football stars, etc. Interesting. Might even be accurate. Except for this: The Drab Slab sports columnist doesn’t have the chops to make that call. He doesn’t cover curling. He doesn’t write about curling. I wonder if he’s ever talked to one of our elite curlers. So how can he measure Jones, a curler, against the rest of the jock field? He can’t.
Mad Mike also says Clara Hughes and Cindy Klassen are tied “for the title of Canada’s all-time most-decorated Olympian,” with six Games trinkets. Uh…no. Penny Olesksiak has seven swimming medals, and lickety-split skater Charles Hamelin and sprinter Andre De Grasse also have collected six Oly trinkets each. It’s not difficult to take two minutes to Google this information.
Duval County, Fla., has banned books about baseball legends Hank Aaron and Roberto Clemente from elementary schools, because the two tomes—Henry Aaron’s Dream and Roberto Clemente: Pride of the Pittsburgh Pirates—mention racism and segregation. Apparently, politicos expect young kids in Florida to live in the real world, just as long as they don’t learn what it’s like to live in the real world until they’re in high school.
Is J.T. Miller of the Vancouver Canucks as surly as he seems? I swear, the guy smiles about as often as it snows in Lotus Land.
Gotta say this: I was so disappointed when many among the rabble scurried to social media last Sunday and chose to disrespect Bonnie Raitt after she won the Grammy Award for Song of the Year, Just Like That. They were saying they’d never heard of her. One scoffed at Grammy voters for handing trinkets to “random people.” Good grief. The woman is a music legend. How is it possible that she’s escaped their notice? Shame, shame. Just Like That is a fabulous song. A story song told without bells and whistles, smoke or fireworks, and without 20 bumping, grinding background dancers grabbing at their crotches. It’s a woman, her voice and an acoustic guitar. And it’s beautiful. Bonnie Raitt is beautiful.
And, finally, nothing on TV today makes me laugh out loud like the Kayak commercial featuring the really lousy sketch artist. Gets me giggling every time. It’s the funniest ad since the “your girlfriend looks like Mom” eggs bit.
Let’s talk about Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hull & the Fourth Estate
“The measure of a man is not complete without peeking into his shadows.”
—The Wise Woman of the Village.
And so it was with Bobby Hull, flawless as a hockey player yet cursed with deep, disturbing imperfections that made many among us uncomfortable.
It has been a week less a day since we learned of the Golden Jet’s passing to the great misty beyond, and much has been written and said about the man’s Jekyll/Hyde duality—1) the athletic entertainer whose mix of dash, daring and brute strength on frozen ponds had fans springing from their seats and onto their feet as if they’d been sitting on hot coals; 2) the cad whose inner demons compelled him to rough up women and speak favorably of Adolph Hitler.
There are a great many among the rabble who choose to open Door No. 1, preferring to blot out Hull’s trespasses, to pretend the spousal abuse and the conviction for assaulting a police officer never happened. And did he really say those wild things about Hitler and Black people? Naw. Not their Robert Marvin Hull. Not the good, ol’ Ontario farm boy who would spend hours smiling and signing autographs for adoring urchins, for women smitten by his matinee-idol looks and hypnotic charm, and for men who wanted to be just like him.
Their Bobby Hull was the 50 goal-scorer, the blond-haired Adonis whose slap shot sent shivers coursing up and down the spines of goaltenders playing with their bare faces hanging out. Even the puck-stoppers with the good sense to wear protective face covering cringed at the sight of Hull swooping down on them, like a jet-fueled bird of prey.
That’s what the Hullites saw. That’s all they wanted to see.
But Bobby Hull was a human being who happened to be a very good hockey player, not the other way around.
No doubt many an essayist/opinionist has grappled with the good/evil balancing act since Hull’s death, at age 84, became a matter of public record. Do they put on the fanboy/fangirl goggles and focus solely on the niceties of a luminous career? You know, all those goals, his awards, his meet-and-greet, back-slapping public persona, his visits with sick kids, his charity works, how his escape to the Winnipeg Jets changed the professional hockey landscape and put megabucks into other players’ pockets. Or do they dare shine a light into the darkness?
No one really wants to speak or write ill of the dead, but to make Hull’s flaws vanish is a flight into dishonesty.
Do we write the story of Richard Nixon without mentioning Watergate?
The Hullites are free to sanitize the Bobby Hull story by scrubbing away the nasty bits like crude graffiti on a downtown building, and they shouldn’t be ridiculed for divorcing the player from the man and deifying their hockey hero. But essayists/opinionists are duty bound to deliver the goods, and they aren’t obliged to delay their musings until the body is below soil or has become ashes in an urn.
Timing seems to be the Hullites’ bugaboo. They’re royally PO’d that the body was still warm when media vultures stopped circling and descended to peck away at the carcass.
Bruce Arthur of the Toronto Star: “Bobby Hull was a great hockey player and a cripplingly miserable human being.”
David Shoalts in the New York Times: “If ever there was an N.H.L. star whose spectacular feats on the ice were diminished by his misdeeds away from it, it was Bobby Hull.”
Mark Lazerus of The Athletic: “The truth matters. The truth is relevant. And the truth in Hull’s case is complicated—historic and horrible, triumphant and abhorrent.”
Apparently, this was extremely bad manners.
Except for this: They weren’t scribbling anything that hadn’t been written, or said, while Hull was still drawing oxygen. He’d heard and read it all, as did his see/hear-no-evil followers.
I have my own thoughts on Hull, forged from personal interaction and observation.
I had a front-row seat during the leadup to the Golden Jet’s defection from the Chicago Blackhawks to the Jets in 1972. Vic Grant was our man on the beat, and he would enter our corner of the Winnipeg Tribune newsroom to tell us that he’d just spoken with Benny Hatskin, who assured him that Hull was a lock to join the upstart local shinny side in the upstart World Hockey Association. We would scoff and douse him in rude laughter.
There was no better player on the planet than Bobby Orr at the time, but Hull was still the National Hockey League’s glam guy. He was fresh off another 50-goal season, his fifth, and a first-team all-star. The likelihood of him leaving the Toddlin’ Town for a backwater burg on Canada’s frozen tundra was about the same as Joe Namath coming to Good Ol’ Hometown to play quarterback for the Blue Bombers.
Our little to-and-fro with Vic went on for months, but ended on June 27, 1972, when Hull and his bride, Joanne, and their kids stood before a mob of thousands at Portage and Main. Benny Hatskin was there, too, the Jets owner brandishing one of those oversized, cardboard cheques worth $1 million US. The rabble didn’t have to pinch themselves to believe it was real, they could actually reach out and touch the Golden Jet, who would play/coach for the princely sum of $2.75 million.
Thus, the hero worshiping commenced, and there was little Hull could do wrong, certainly not in the eyes of the gobsmacked masses and a fawning Fourth Estate.
I began working the Jets beat when it was near closing time for Hull, and I was there for last call. He was always an approachable, obliging sort, but I’ll never forget my initial visit to the Jets lair, when I sought sound bites from young Kent Nilsson, a dazzling player in his freshman whirl.
While talking to Kenta, I noted the Golden Jet and Lars-Erik Sjoberg (The Shoe) standing nearby, both of them clad only in white towels wrapped around their flat midsections. This was their conversation as they gave me the once-over:
The Shoe: “It looks like we’ve got a new reporter with the team.”
Hull: “Just another asshole to try and stir up shit.”
Ya, nice meeting you too, Bobby.
I never had a great amount of interaction with Hull. I would ask questions if the situation dictated, he would provide straightforward, almost scripted, replies. There was no kibitzing or friendly banter. He’d made it abundantly clear what he thought of me on first glance, and I remember sensing a deep emptiness about him, like a man caught in a country song.
On road trips, one minute I would observe him making someone’s day with a flash of that infectious smile in an airport or hotel lobby, then I’d hear the most vulgar language pass through his lips the next. Some news snoops toadied up to Hull, but I didn’t know if I liked him or disliked him.
As the Golden Jet approached the end of the runway, I penned a piece suggesting it was time for him to move on to the next stage of his life, if not another NHL outfit. He was 47 days and 18 games into a return from a one-year retirement. He had four goals and 10 points in 18 games. He had just skipped out on two assignments, one because he arrived late for a game and was told to go home, the other because he had a hissy fit.
“The Golden Jet has been reduced to a single-piston prop and it’s not a pretty sight,” I wrote. “If Hull stays on there’s a good chance he’ll end up bowing out much like Willie Mays, who stumbled and fumbled around the outfield for the New York Mets in his final year. The time has come.”
General manager John Ferguson supported my critique.
“I don’t think Bobby has helped our hockey club at all,” he told me. “He’s really a very undisciplined hockey player. I don’t know if he can adapt.”
Hull never wore Jets linen again. He and I never spoke again.
Until those final 18 games in 1979, Hull mostly had been a marvel on the ice, notably when playing in concert with the Swedes—Ulf Nilsson, Anders Hedberg and The Shoe. They breathed fresh life into his career, and he had their backs in helping to ease the transition from the European game to the bench-clearing bare-knuckling that was 1970s hockey in North America.
Away from the freeze, life wasn’t so warm and fuzzy. Joanne filed for (and was granted) divorce, citing mental and physical cruelty, and she pawned off many of hubby Bobby’s nick-nacks at a garage sale (she called it an auction) at their Tuxedo home. Their squabble over child custody and maintenance payments played out in a courtroom and appeared on the pages of both daily newspapers in Good Ol’ Hometown, also on the nightly news. (Hull served as his own lawyer in part of the trial, a decision that was much more laughable than laudable.)
The dirty laundry was out there for all to see, so what we’ve been reading this past week isn’t fresh stew in the pot. Today’s jock journos are merely stirring what’s been on the burner for decades. Hull and his apologists had heard it all.
And, just so you know, Hull acknowledged his Jekyll/Hyde duality in a 2010 natter with the National Post, when Sean Fitz-Gerald invited him to “write the first sentence of a story you would write about Robert Marvin Hull.”
“They were the best of times, they were the worst of times. Doing a little plagiarism from A Tale of Two Cities. And they were,” Hull answered.
Death is perhaps the greatest inconvenience of life, because we are no longer available to defend ourselves, but Hull was not inclined to make apologies when given the opportunity.
In his 2011 book The Devil and Bobby Hull, author Gare Joynce writes this: “Hull says that he looks back and likes what he sees. He says that he has lived a great life, that he has lived it to the fullest. ‘I’d do it all again,’ he says.”
In the final reckoning, Hull left thousands upon thousands of people in rapture during his 84 years, and none among them is wrong for treasuring and sharing those memories. Their boy has been taking a beating and they’re barking back.
Alas, the once-fawning Fourth Estate isn’t wrong, either. They can’t look the other way, not if there are truths that need telling.
Yes, there are things that should be left out of the official obit, but not out of the bio.