Some red cards and yellow cards for you, you and you, and one “Gooooooooal!” for the Fab Four

It occurs to me that in honor of the FIFA Women’s World Cup, it’s time for some red cards, some yellow cards and a big salute…

red cardI don’t know who to red card first, Kyle Walters or Mike O’Shea.

I suppose it should be Walters, the chap who, as chief cook and bottle washer of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, extended a training camp invitation to Jordan Yantz. He said this was the real deal. Said the former University of Manitoba Bisons quarterback would be granted “every opportunity to win a job.”

“This isn’t a charity case, this isn’t any of that for-the-good-of-the-Canadian-quarterback stuff,” the Bombers GM told scribes.

As if.

This was such an obvious charity case that it probably qualifies as a tax writeoff.

The Bombers had two dress rehearsals in advance of their 2015 Canadian Football League crusade that commences on Saturday night in Yantz’s home town of Regina, and he never took a snap in either game. That’s what passes for “every opportunity” in Bomberland?

Walters gets a red card for the load of BS he dumped on news scavengers, and head coach O’Shea gets a red card for not giving Yantz at least one set of downs.

yellow card2Here’s the ultimate irony for Tiger Woods: By shooting three rounds in the 80s this year on the PGA Tour, including one in the just-concluded U.S. Open, he is now playing just like your basic weekend hacker but he no longer gets to play on weekends.

I’ve tried to think of another athlete of Woods’s stature who has experienced such a harsh, hurried and more inglorious plummet from the summit than His Royal Randiness. No one comes to mind. Yes, the skills of others, such as Willie Mays and Muhammad Ali, eroded over time and it was painful to watch their careers wither before our eyes. But with Tiger…well, this is cliff diving into a cement pond.

red cardOn the subject of vanishing acts, either Michael Sam has been placed in a witness protection program or he’s part of a David Copperfield now-you-see-him-now-you-don’t illusion. I say that because, in a day and age when seemingly everyone (except me) has a phone that is part camera, part tape recorder and part video recorder it’s astonishing that there has not been a peep from Sam since he bugged out of the Montreal Alouettes training camp.

The last confirmed sighting of Sam was almost two weeks ago. Where is TMZ when we need them?

I don’t know who’s been counseling Sam since he came out as gay, but I wouldn’t hire those people to advise me on what time of the day is best to brush my teeth. The Oprah reality thing, the Dancing with the Stars thing, the disappearing act…odd, odd, odd. Once he was out a gay, the advice should have been simple: Just play football, Michael.

gooooooool nuI call up the Winnipeg Free Press sports section and I see these bylines and/or column flags: Ed Tait, Paul Wiecek, Gary Lawless, Tim Campbell, Melissa Martin, Scott Billeck, Jeff Hamilton, Jerrad Peters and Doug Brown. That’s nine local scribes.

I call up the Winnipeg Sun sports section, meanwhile, and I see these bylines and/or column flags: Paul Friesen, Kirk Penton, Ken Wiebe and Ted Wyman (in cameo appearances). That’s four local scribes.

Cripes, man, the Freep can field a complete baseball team while the Sun can barely scrounge up enough guys to enter a bonspiel or have a decent game of poker.

Custer’s 7th Cavalry was the last outfit outnumbered this badly.

So quiz me this: How is it that the Fab Four at the Sun somehow manages to fight the good fight against the Nattering Nine at the Drab Slab? Either one side is punching above its weight or the other side is pulling its punches, because the boys at Team Sun don’t get beat often and they manage to get in some good licks of their own.

Thus, it’s kudos to the Sun.

Still, I’d like to see them add a voice or two to give the section a bit more wallop. A female voice would be a welcome addition, too.

yellow card2Okay, we’ve got the Winnipeg Jets, named after the hockey outfit formerly known as the Winnipeg Jets.

We’ve got the Manitoba Moose, named after the hockey outfit formerly known as the Manitoba Moose.

We’ve got the Winnipeg Goldeyes, named after the baseball outfit formerly known as the Winnipeg Goldeyes.

Is there no one in River City with an imagination? I mean, seriously. Three professional sports franchises and not an original handle in the bunch?

I know Mark Chipman, co-bankroll of Jets the Sequel, was bullied into naming his club after the dead and buried Jets of yore, but what’s his excuse for the regurgitation of the Moose? As for Sammy Katz and his Goldeyes, I didn’t like the name when he introduced it in 1994 and I don’t like it today. Mention the Goldeyes to me and I assume you’re talking about the St. Louis Cardinals farm team that played out of Winnipeg Stadium in the early 1960s.

So I say thank goodness for Uncle Vince Leah, the legendary sports scribe who named the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

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.

The boys on the football beat in Winnipeg are second to none

It occurs to me that…

There is no city in the Great White North with as superb a stable of scribes detailing all things three-down football than River City.

Start with Ed Tait of the Winnipeg Free Press. Best beat writer in the whole land. His accomplice at the Freep, Paul Wiecek, and Kirk Penton over at the Winnipeg Sun complete a menage-a-terrific that keeps readers fully informed of the goings-on of not only the Winnipeg Blue Bombers but the entirety of the Canadian Football League.

I also like Herb Zurkowsky in Montreal and the tandem of Rob Vanstone and Murray McCormick in Regina, but the quality and quantity that Messrs. Tait, Wiecek and Penton churn out is unmatched.

* There were fewer, if any, finer people on the Winnipeg/Manitoba sports scene than Frank McKinnon.

Frank McKinnon
Frank McKinnon

Frank, who passed away at age 80 last week, was the first person I interviewed and quoted in a byline story as a rookie reporter for the Winnipeg Tribune. It was at a Manitoba Amateur Hockey Association annual meeting, and he was gracious, obliging and generous with his time. We spoke often over the ensuing 30 years and the former head of hockey in the province never changed. He always was a delight.

When I reflect on all the truly wonderful people I met during my time in mainstream jock journalism, Frank’s name is at the top of the good-guy list, alongside former player agent Don Baizley and University of Manitoba Bisons football coach Brian Dobie.

* I’m wounded. Crestfallen. And it’s all Gary (La La) Lawless’s doing.

La La, you see, has made an attempt to find a proper place in the pecking order of hockey homebrews for Jonathan Toews, the Chicago Blackhawks centre who’s three wins away from adding to his collection of Stanley Cup rings. The main mouthpiece in the Freep sports section reckons that legendary goaltender Terry Sawchuk is the pre-eminent Manitoba born-and-bred shinny star. How did he arrive at this conclusion? Well, he claims to have talked to a number of writers and former scribes who cover(ed) the local shinny scene.

Well, I’ve been following hockey in Winnipeg since the 1950s. I’ve been scribbling about it for the past 44 years. Nobody’s been at it longer. Alas, my phone still isn’t ringing, so I assume it still ain’t La La calling. Perhaps I was out or in the shower when his call came. Or maybe he just didn’t call.

This hurts, Gary. You never write or phone anymore. Is it something I wrote?

* If you’re looking for an example of what some sports scribes do when they’re bored with themselves, take a looksee at this Cathal Kelly offering in the Globe and Mail last week.

Cathal Kelly
Cathal Kelly

Kelly piddles on our prairie cousins in Edmonton because…well, because, in the world according to Cathal, Edmonton has the bad manners to not be the Republic of Toronto. Apparently, Edmonton is supposed to behave like the backwater burg Kelly believes it to be and excuse itself from hosting elite sporting events. You know, like the FIFA Women’s World Cup that commenced with Canada’s 1-nil verdict over China on Saturday afternoon at Commonwealth Stadium in The Chuck.

He cites the 2011 WWC as an example of how things ought to be done. That footy extravaganza was showcased in Berlin’s Olympic Stadium, a stately, magnificent structure that, again, in the world according to Cathal, makes Commonwealth seem like a shelter for the homeless.

“It’s actively ugly,” Cathal gripes about Commonwealth. “The field is circled by a track—the perfect bush-league touch that says ‘high school.’ “

Berlin Olympic Stadium, complete with track around soccer pitch.
Berlin Olympic Stadium, complete with track around soccer pitch.

Ah, yes. Nothing says high school quite like a running track around a football pitch. You know, just like the running track that encircles the football pitch in the BERLIN OLYMPIC STADIUM!

We wouldn’t want the facts to get in the way of a good hissy fit, though, would we, Cathal? You just go right ahead and rant. Stomp your little feet and hold your breath. Perhaps one day your beloved Republic of Toronto will grow up to become a city big enough to host a prestigious event like the FIFA Women’s World Cup.

For now, though, it’s shut out of the soccer circus and I’m afraid you’ll have to settle for the Pan American Games in July. Those would be the same Games that Winnipeg has already hosted. Twice.

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.

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

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

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

Seriously.

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

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

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

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

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

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

rooftop riting biz card back sidePatti Dawn Swansson has been writing about Winnipeg sports for more than 40 years, longer than any living being. Do not, however, assume that to mean she harbors a wealth of sports knowledge or that she’s a jock journalist of award-winning loft. It simply means she is old and comfortable at a keyboard (although arthritic fingers sometimes make typing a bit of a chore) and she apparently doesn’t know when to quit. Or she can’t quit.
She is most proud of her Q Award, presented to her in 2012 for her scribblings about the LGBT community in Victoria, B.C., and her induction into the Manitoba Sportswriters & Sportscasters Association Media Roll of Honour.

Sam Katz buys the Winnipeg Jets and other stories you’ll read (or not) in 2015

Read all about it! Before it happens!

That’s right, kids, we’ve gone crystal ball gazing and we see considerable intrigue and unrest during the next 12 months, not the least of which is the sale of the Winnipeg Jets. Here are some of the stories you’ll be reading (or not) in 2015…

  • EDMONTON— The Edmonton Oilers have won the draft lottery but traded the first overall pick to the Winnipeg Jets in exchange for Evander Kane, Ondrej Pavelec, Dustin Byfuglien and future considerations.

The decision has been heavily criticized, with a headline in the Edmonton Sun screaming: “OILERS PUNK’D OUR DRAFT!”

“We did nothing of the sort!” an angry Oilers general manager Craig MacTavish raged an hour before being fired. “That’s typical trash tabloid journalism! I realize the easy thing to do and the right thing to do would have been to keep the No. 1 pick and use it to take either Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel. But sometimes doing the right thing is the wrong thing and, for us, doing the wrong thing is the right thing to do. Besides, if anybody can screw up a draft with both McDavid and Eichel in it, it’s Kevin Lowe and myself. We don’t need the headache. We might never use our first-round draft again.”

Kane, meanwhile, was delighted to be leaving Winnipeg.

“Sweet,” he said before dashing off to take care of unpaid parking tickets. “Edmonton is a lot closer to Vegas.”

  • WINNIPEG—The Winnipeg Jets have selected Connor McDavid with the No. 1 pick and presented him with jersey No. 10, with Dale Hawerchuk’s blessing.

“That’s just ducky,” the modest McDavid said during a signing ceremony at Portage and Main. “They wanted to give me No. 9 now that Evander is gone, but I thought that would be disrepectful. The No. 9 is a storied number in Winnipeg Jets history. I’ve got a lot to prove and a long way to go before anyone can call me the next Doug Smail.”

  • WINNIPEG—The future considerations in the big Edmonton Oilers-Winnipeg Jets trade is Chris Thorburn.

“You know how when you’re a young guy and you go out drinking with the boys? And then you wake up the next morning beside some chick you’ve never seen before? And there’s a tattoo of a heart with her name on it on your ass and you say, ‘What the hell have I done?’ ” Jets GM Kevin (The Possum) Cheveldayoff said at a press gathering. “Well, I woke up this morning and realized that Thorbs’s contract was the tattoo on my ass. I mean, three years at $1.2 mill per? What was I thinking? We’ll miss Thorbs in the room…wait…actually we won’t.”

  • LAS VEGAS—The season ticket drive for a proposed team in Las Vegas has stalled at 37 people, but the city has been awarded a National Hockey League franchise, nonetheless. Team officials are ecstatic.

“This gives us three more season ticket subscribers than the Florida Panthers and five more than the Arizona Coyotes,” said a team spokesman. “We can’t wait to start losing $25-to-$30 million a year.”

  • LAS VEGAS—Owners of the Las Vegas franchise have announced that the team name will be Craps. After a name-the-team contest, the most popular suggestions are Black Jacks, Rat Pack, Gamblers, Sinners, Bandits, Slots, Strip, Caesars, Snake Eyes and Craps. The expansion club’s 37 season ticket holders chose Craps.

“It’s only appropriate that the team be called Craps,” a club spokesman explained while working a one-armed bandit at Caesar’s Palace. “First of all, putting a team in Sin City is a real gamble. It’s a roll of the dice, so to speak! Secondly, once the rest of the league offers us their rejects in the expansion draft, what do you think our roster will look like? The absolute shits, that’s what it’ll look like! Craps!”

  • LAS VEGAS—The winner of the Name-the-Vegas Team contest has received a lifetime pass to every Celine Dion show on the Strip until the end of time.

“Can I get tickets to see David Copperfield make her disappear instead?” he asked.

  • TORONTO—After more than 30 years preaching from his bully pulpit on Hockey Night in Canada, Don Cherry has been fired following a rant in which he referred to Daniel and Henrik Sedin of the Canucks as “those two tooty-fruities in Vancouver.”

“What are you saying, Don?” asked Ron MacLean. “That the Sedins are gay?”

“You take it any way you want!” barked Cherry. “They’re two tooty-fruities in a tooty-fruity TOWN! Ya been to Vancouver lately? Nobody workin’…everybody smokin’ wacky-tobbacky…everybody kissy-huggin’ trees and little rodents…protestin’…and look what they did ta the joint after the Stanley Cup final in 2011! Almost burnt the joint ta THE GROUND! That was a DISGRACE! People all over the world saw that on TV and everythink…that’s what they think we’re like in Canada! A bunch of pot-smokin’ layabouts who like to play WITH MATCHES!”

Asked for a comment, a visibly shaken HNIC host George Stromboloupoouloulouloupooulous moaned, “The body’s not even cold yet and the scavengers are already plucking at the carcass. (Glenn) Healy wants Grapes’s Coach’s Corner gig and P.J. Stock wants his wardrobe. It’s going to get ugly around here. And I’m not talking about what Damien Cox sees in the mirror.”

  • WINNIPEG—Mega-billionaire David Thomson has sold his shares in the Winnipeg Jets to former mayor Sam Katz, who immediately engaged in a very public spat over the team name with co-owner Mark Chipman.

“I’ve never liked the name Jets,” said Katz, “and if you were to inject Mark with truth serum he’d tell you the very same thing. He only named the team Jets due to extreme pressure from fans. The guy caved. No spine. It was stupid to name the team after the original version of the Jets just because that’s what the majority of the people wanted. Who the hell cares what the fans think? I was mayor of this town for 10 years and I didn’t give a damn what the people wanted. I did what I wanted. And I want a new team name because the original Jets left town in 1996.”

Reminded by news scavengers that he named his baseball team Goldeyes, 30 years after the original Goldeyes disappeared from River City’s sports landscape, Katz remained defiant.

“If there’s one thing I learned a long time ago when I was bringing acts like the Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney to town,” he says, “it’s that what you say and what you do don’t have to be mutually agreeable. Just because I say I’ll do something doesn’t mean I’ll do something. That’s simple Politics 101.”

  • WINNIPEG—The Winnipeg Jets have become the first NHL team to place major ads on their uniforms, with a big, bold 7-Eleven Slurpee logo across the front of their jerseys.

“I think it’s a perfect fit for Winnipeg,” said co-owner Sam Katz. “This is the Slurpee capital of not only Canada, but North America and the entire world. As a former mayor of this town, I can confirm that no place sucks like Winnipeg! I also think there’s perfect symmetry, in that our corporate sponsors and Ondrej Pavelec’s save percentage are exactly the same—.711.”

  • WINNIPEG—The Winnipeg Sun has taken over from the Winnipeg Free Press as the “official newspaper of the Winnipeg Jets,” and there’s mixed reaction.

“This is awful news,” said Sun sports columnist Paul Friesen. “Now that we’re in bed with the Jets, do they expect me to become a toady for the hockey team, Thursday? Do I have to write that Kevin Cheveldayoff is a genius, Friday? This is the worst thing that’s happened to me since they asked me to write the annual Night Before Christmas column, Saturday.”

“This is great news,” said Freep sports columnist Gary Lawless. “Now that we’re not in bed with the Jets anymore, I can write mean and nasty stuff just like Friesen’s been doing all these years. Let him be the toady. I can say what I really, really, really think of Kevin Cheveldayoff and his dumb draft-and-develop plan. This is the best thing that’s happened to me since second helpings.”

“What do you think would be tougher to take?” asked Freep beat writer Ed Tait. “Somebody who’s wearing hob-nailed boots kicking you in the nuts, or watching a new Adam Sandler movie? I know that has nothing to do with the Free Press no longer being the official newspaper of the Jets, but I often think about things like hobnail boots and Adam Sandler movies when I watch the Jets play. I’m a happy camper either way.”

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.

Winnipeg sports media: Only half a dozen female sports writers in almost half a century

There are guy things and there are girl things.

Girls, for example, like shoes. Lots of shoes. We collect shoes like Adam Sandler collects bad reviews (does anyone other than 14-year-old boys actually think he’s funny?). Guys, on the other hand, are loath to discard their underwear.

Seriously. I know some guys with gitch older than a Bob Hope joke. Why, just last week, a friend of mine touched on that very topic. She had noticed that her hubby’s boxers were as tattered as Roger Goodell’s reputation, so she went on a shopping safari and, after bagging half a dozen pair of shoes, she made a pit stop in the men’s wear department.

“I bought him two packages of new underwear,” she advised me. “You would have thought I’d bought him tickets to the opera. He grunted something about his underwear being ‘perfectly fine.’ Good gawd! He’s still wearing the same skivvies he had in high school, and that was 50 years ago. I want to burn the bloody things, but I’m afraid I’d be breaking some kind of city ordinance against air pollution. What is it with men and their underwear?”

So, yes, there are guy things and there are girl things. Which is probably a good thing (ratty, old undies notwithstanding).

I am, however, curious about one thing that apparently is not a girl thing but should be a girl thing: sports writing, whether it be in newspapers or blogging.

It has been 45 years since I received my baptism in journalism. In that time, how many female sports scribes did I work with, or against, at the three Winnipeg dailies (Tribune, Free Press, Sun)?

a) 0
b) 5
c) 8
d) 12

The correct answer is b)—five. In close to half a century! Jack Matheson brought Peggy Stewart on board at the Trib during the 1970s and she was followed by Rita Mingo. The Freep, meanwhile, hired Barb Huck in the ’70s and Ashley Prest arrived on the scene in the late 1980s. Judy Owen worked the Blue Bombers beat, among others, for the Sun in the 1990s.

It can be said that, of the five, only Peggy Stewart was out of her element. The others were quality reporters, quality writers, quality people. Three of them—Barb, Ashley and Judy—have been inducted into the Manitoba Sportswriters and Sportscasters Roll of Honor.

So why just a handful of damsels?

I mean, women are cops, firefighters, business leaders, religious leaders, political leaders, education leaders, astronauts, boxers, blah, blah, blah and yadda, yadda, yadda. Yet, in River City, a Jill writing about jocks is as rare as a full set of natural teeth in an old folks home. Today, there is just Melissa Martin at the Freep.

The scarcity of distaff sports scribes extends to the blogosphere, as well.

I scrolled through five Winnipeg Jets sites and found the grand total of two female names—Cara and my own. We both contribute to Arctic Ice Hockey. There was no evidence of female authorship at Illegal Curve, Jets Nation, Winnipeg Hockey Talk or Winnipeg Whiteout.

I surely can understand a reluctancy on the part of women to join in the blogosphere fun, because it is very much a boys bastion and the lads can get rather raunchy. Also rude, crude and flat-out disgusting.

Once upon a time, for example, I contributed to Bleacher Report, but bailed for two reasons: 1) I wasn’t allowed to write satire (apparently, their readership is quite limited in scope and has difficulty distinguishing hard news from parody; 2) the comments were too often personal attacks about my gender and/or body parts as opposed to the issue at hand. (Go ahead and call me a boob if you like, but my boobs are off limits.)

Why would a woman wish to expose herself (no pun intended) to lewd language and the pitiable come-hithers of mysogynistic trolls?

Sara Orlesky
Sara Orlesky

There is also the issue of cred. Many men still harbor the notion that women don’t, and can’t, know sports. That, of course, is horse-and-buggy thinking, yet it remains a prime example of perception being reality. Many men don’t want a woman feeding them their sports information/opinion unless she looks like Sara Orlesky, who’s very good at what she does. Even at that, apparently it’s more important that Sara Orlesky look like Sara Orlesky than what she has to say.

That’s why Sara and all the women we see on TSN look like they just came in from a Glamour mag or Cosmo photo shoot. (The guys on TSN? Bridge trolls. I mean, have you ever watched The Reporters with Dave Hodge? It’s been suggested that Steve Simmons looks like a hamster with glasses. Nuff said about that.)

A girl doesn’t have to be Cosmo cover-worthy to write sports, though. She doesn’t have to be J.K. Rowling, either. As long as she knows her stuff and has a nice turn of phrase, she can look like Rosie O’Donnell and pull it off.

I have theories to explain why there aren’t more Jills writing about jocks in River City, but I don’t have an answer. Perhaps they aren’t given the opportunity. Perhaps it’s an anti-female bias. Perhaps they don’t want to put up with the BS from a boy-centric readership. Or perhaps they simply have better things to do, like shop for shoes.

I do know this, however: Half a dozen female sports writers in slightly less than half a century and two female bloggers is not a glowing example or endorsement of equality.

rooftop riting biz card back sidePatti Dawn Swansson has been writing about Winnipeg hockey and the Jets for more than 40 years, longer than any living being. Do not, however, assume that to mean she harbors a wealth of hockey knowledge or that she’s a jock journalist of award-winning loft. It simply means she is old, comfortable at a keyboard (although arthritic fingers sometimes make typing a bit of a chore) and she doesn’t know when to quit.
She is most proud of her Q Award, presented to her in 2012 for literary contributions to the LGBT community in Victoria, B.C.

Winnipeg sports: 45 years later, a look in the rear view mirror

It was 45 years ago this week when I first walked into a newsroom. It was 15 years ago when I last walked out of a newsroom.

Those who noticed the former were few. Those who noticed the latter were even fewer.

Somehow, though, I managed to sandwich a 30-year career in jock journalism between those two moments. I know I wasn’t the greatest sports scribe. Cripes, man, to this day I’m convinced I pulled a fast one on a whole lot of people because, with zero journalistic schooling and nothing but blind ambition as an ally, I managed to land gigs at the Winnipeg Tribune, the Toronto Sun, the Calgary Sun, the Toronto Star and the Winnipeg Sun. My copy appeared in every major daily in Canada, a handful in the United States and numerous magazines.

I worked as a color commentator on Winnipeg Jets radio and even hosted my own sports talk show on CJOB. Mind you, that only lasted about seven weeks. I quickly discovered that many of the people who call in to gab on jock radio need a life, which convinced me that I needed a life. So, shortly thereafter, I escaped from mainstream media. Full stop.

I point this out today for one reason: I have a regret.

I left quietly. Too quietly. It’s not that I desired fanfare and pomp and pagentry to accompany my exit, stage west. Quite frankly, I preferred my flee to freedom to be on the down low. That’s why I got behind the wheel of my 1991 Le Baron convertible one morning in early September 1999 and pointed her in the direction of the Pacific Ocean without alerting a soul.

I now, however, glance in the rear view mirror and regard that to have been an error in judgement. It would have been nice to clink some pint glasses together and perhaps shoot a game of pool with comrades while comparing battle scars.

So that’s what I’ll do today, 45 and 15 years after the start and finish lines.

(I should point out that I wasn’t a byline scribe from Day One. I began as the mail kid in the Winnipeg Tribune business office, then moved up to the fifth floor to run copy for the various departments in the newsroom. At the same time, I’d scribble non-byline pieces and rewrites for the boys in the sports department, just to get an early feel for the gig. It wasn’t until 1971 that my byline first appeared in print.)

These are my highs and my lows from 30 years of jock sniffing in Pegtown, plus another 15 as a freelancer/blogger on all matters of sports in River City. (I do believe that 45-year stretch means I have been scribbling about good, ol’ Hometown sports longer than any living creature.)

Matty
Matty

Best writer: Jack Matheson. Not even close. We all wanted to write like Matty. None of us ever did.

Best broadcaster: Don Wittman. Witt was more versatile than anyone in his biz. And very good at every sport he covered. On a personal note, while in high school I sent Witt a letter asking for advice on how to pursue a career in sports media. Imagine my shock when I answered the phone at home one afternoon and it was Don Wittman on the line, offering to meet me for coffee and a chin-wag. Those are the things you never forget.

Favorite broadcaster: Scott Oake. Scott is knowledgeable, glib and witty. He has fun. I like that.

Best pipes: Bob Picken. If Pick were in a room full of cackling hens, laughing hyhenas and braying jackasses, you’d still hear him above all else. His voice carried further than a telegraph wire.

Best play-by-play man: Friar Nicolson and Knuckles Irving. It’s sometimes hard for me to believe Knuckles is still broadcasting Bombers games. But he continues to do so with style, grace and know-how. And I understand his fear of flying is as intense as ever. As for Friar…I worked and travelled with him during the Jets final two World Hockey Association seasons and their first whirl in the National Hockey League. I was forever amazed how a man could lace his conversation with unvarnished profanity, yet never utter a four-letter word on air. I believe the closest he ever came to cursing on air was the night he called Peter Pospisil of Czechoslovakia “Peter Piss Pot.”

John Ferguson
John Ferguson

Most colorful person: John Bowie Fergsuon. Any guy who punches a hole in the wall of his press box bunker and hurls a bucket of ice on the visitors’ bench is either a nutbar or colorful. I choose the latter. Fergy and I had our battles, but I believe there was mutual respect.

Biggest blunder: I was instructed by Gus Collins to write a two-column brite to advise Trib readers that the Major League Baseball all-star game would be played the following evening. I referred to this mid-summer fixture as the “annual Fall Classic.” D’oh!

My favorite moment as sports editor at the Winnipeg Sun: Watching Judy Owen’s reaction when I assigned her the Winnipeg Blue Bombers beat. She was, as they say, over the moon. Some people believed I had lost my entire bag of marbles for putting a sports neophyte on a major beat, but Judy never let me down. I rate it as my most satisfying decision during two whirls as SE at the Sun.

Favorite beat: Local tennis. I covered every tournament at the Winnipeg Canoe Club and Winnipeg Lawn Tennis Club for the better part of a decade and grew very fond of the tennis crowd. Fun people. Obliging people. Appreciative people.

Favorite athletes: Chris Walby, Troy Westwood, Bob Cameron, Willy Lindstrom, Kent Nilsson, Anders Hedberg, Terry Ruskowski, Vic Peters, Pierre LaMarche.

Least favorite athlete: Mario Marois of the Jets. Just a miserable, miserable man.

Tommy McVie
Tommy McVie

Favorite coaches: Tommy McVie, Mike Riley, Cal Murphy, Muzz MacPherson.

Tommy provided the finest moment of slapstick when, during the Jets initial season in the NHL, he attempted to attack Al MacNeil, his coaching counterpart with the Atlanta Flames. Livid that his players were being bullied by the Flames’ ruffians, the Jets coach assailed MacNeil verbally, then decided he would get physical. Before attempting to scale the glass partition between the team benches, however, he removed his wrist watch and tucked it in a jacket pocket. He then removed the false teeth from his mouth—yes, he took out his tusks—and tucked the faux fangs in a jacket pocket. He then removed his neck tie. He then removed his jacket and made an aborted bid to scale the glass barrier. Alas, his feet kept slipping down the glass. He looked like one of those cartoon characters whose feet move 100 mph but go nowhere.

Free Press writer I most respected: Reyn Davis, who worked the Jets beat. I admired his way with words.

Most talented scribes with whom I worked (excluding Matty): Ed Willes and George (Shakey) Johnson.

Most enjoyable place to spend a summer Sunday afternoon: Assiniboia Downs or the Ballyard by the Forks.

Favorite non-athlete: Lawyer/player advisor Don Baizley, a gentleman.

Seediest promotions guy: Boxing gasbag Tom Burns. I actually liked Tom, but didn’t trust him as far as I could toss Don Lalonde. Tom also wore the worst hair piece on earth.

Least favorite team owner: Sam Katz of the Goldeyes. Sammy spoke out of both sides of his mouth when dealing with the two newspapers. He would tell our beat writer one thing, then tell the people at the Freep the real thing. What a donut.

Favorite moment: The night the Jets beat the Soviet national side.

Favorite quote I: After the local hockey heroes had toppled the mighty comrades, Ulf Nilsson, a Swede who had absorbed so much abuse at the hands, sticks and elbows of Canadians in his first season with the Jets, told me: “I’m proud to be a Canadian tonight.”

Best player to ever wear a Jets jersey: Kent Nilsson. He was in River City for a good time, not a long time, but nobody could match his skill set.

Best player to ever wear a Bombers jersey: Chris Walby. If someone asked me to describe what a Blue Bomber is supposed to play like, act like and talk like, I would point to Walby and say, “Like that big man over there.” It was rather odd that Bluto was a great quote, yet he seemed to speak a foreign language when doing color commentary on CBC. That aside, the big man was unparalleled.

Cal Murphy
Cal Murphy

Best chin-wags: Gab sessions in Cal Murphy’s office were special. The late Bombers coach/GM could be every bit the curmudgeon, but he was a funny, funny, dear man.

Worst moment I: Collapsing on an airplane while returning from Toronto with the Jets. It’s rather unsettling to be carted off a plane on a stretcher and whisked away to the hospital. The diagnosis was extreme fatigue. I survived to write another day, although many wish I hadn’t.

Most unusual reaction to a piece I’d written: After I had scribbled something about Winnipeg shinny fans showing extremely poor manners in booing the singing of O Canada en francais, a man called my home later that day and threatened to “bomb” my house. Yup, the kook was going to “blow it up” real good.

Worst day: When the Trib shut down. I cried and got drunk. But that’s all I have to say about that.

Favorite desker: Dave Connors, aka Homer. I would tell him how I wanted the sports front or a feature spread to look and he’d make it so much better than I had imagined.

Top story: The Bobby Hull signing at Portage and Main.

Top story maker: Ben Hatskin for signing Robert Marvin Hull.

Vic Peters
Vic Peters

Favorite group of athletes: Curlers, by far. I wish I had discovered curlers earlier in my career, but I spent enough time with them in the final decade to truly appreciate they’re a special bunch. Vic Peters was the best and Don Duguid was a close second.

Favorite event: The Brier. It’s a load of work, but a load of fun because of the people. It’s the only sports event I’ve covered since I left the every-day grind of journalism, and I did it twice as a freelancer.

Guys I cheered for (but not out loud): The boys from the Houston Aeros who joined the Jets for the final World Hockey Association season.

Worst moment II: Being at the L.A. airport with the Jets in the 1980s when a 6.something earthquake hit. There was serious panic in our terminal. Supposed tough guy John Ferguson was the first man out the door. Big sissy. Our flight to Vancouver was delayed, but not cancelled. If I remember correctly, it was the final flight out for the rest of the day.

Best quote II: I was sitting with Tom McVie during a Jets pre-season workout when Morris Lukowich burst in from the left wing and snapped a laser-like shot into the top corner.

“Watching that,” coach McVie told me, “is better than having sex.”

“Geez, Tom,” I responded, “that doesn’t say much for your wife.”

“Ya, but she didn’t score 60 goals last season.”

Oddball of oddballs: Mikhail Smith, general manager of the Central Red Jets. Mike was a hockey egghead, an intelligent, book wormish guy who had a different way of looking at, and doing, things. As GM of the Winnipeg Jets, he put in place a make-work-for-Russians project, whereby he seemingly sought to build a team comprised of nothing but comrades. It was an interesting time, but the Red Scare went unrewarded.

Most surreal event: The title fight between Don Lalonde and Sugar Ray Leonard at Caesar’s Palace in Vegas. It didn’t seem real that Lalonde, a local kid, was actually in the ring with a legend like Sugar Ray Leonard. It actually happened, though. Lalonde even put Leonard to the canvas before losing by knockout.

rooftop riting biz card back sidePatti Dawn Swansson has been writing about Winnipeg hockey and the Jets for more than 40 years, longer than any living being. Do not, however, assume that to mean she harbors a wealth of hockey knowledge or that she’s a jock journalist of award-winning loft. It simply means she is old, comfortable at a keyboard (although arthritic fingers sometimes make typing a bit of a chore) and she doesn’t know when to quit.
She is most proud of her Q Award, presented to her in 2012 for literary contributions to the LGBT community in Victoria, B.C.

Winnipeg Jets: The plan of no-plan has no beginning and no end, grasshopper

When is the future?

Like asking what size of shoes will fit the toddler’s feet at age 16, it is a most difficult question to answer, grasshopper. We won’t know until we’re there. But how do we recognize when we have arrived there? Since the future only exists in the now, we might be there already.

That would be most unfortunate if you’re a member of Jets Nation.

It has been three-plus years since the Atlanta caravan rolled into River City and began to morph into the Winnipeg Jets. In that span of time, considerable discussion about the National Hockey League franchise has focused on the future. But, again, when is the future?

There has been much talk about a five-year plan. Well, that is the Easter Bunny. It is the Tooth Fairy. It is the Sidney Crosby arrest in Ottawa. The five-year plan does not exist.

At least it does not exist in the minds of Mark Chipman and Kevin (The Possum) Cheveldayoff. To my knowledge, there is no recorded entry of either the club’s co-bankroll or its general manager citing a manifesto that states the future arrives in five, 10 or 20 years. It would, after all, be folly of Kevin the Possum to start his own clock.

Time is a concept. It, like the mythical five-year plan, does not exist for the Jets. There is no beginning and there is no end.

“We will have success,” Chipman assured Paul Friesen of the Winnipeg Sun last year. “I’m convinced of that. I wish I could give you a date and a definition of what that is exactly…”

But he cannot. Nor can Kevin the Possum. The Jets are not, however, without a plan.

“Our plan is very simple,” says Chipman. “It is about re-investment in our organization from top to bottom, from facilities to player personnel to key management.”

This, no doubt, explains the re-upping of Chris Thorburn for an additional three seasons of grunt work without productivity. It is a re-investment. As is the endorsement given the skill-challenged goaltender, Ondrej Pavelec, who has arrived for Camp PoMo with a leaner frame but also with much excess fat to trim from numbers that declare him to be the poorest and most-porous No. 1 keeper in the NHL.

This re-investment plan is a curious bit of business. I mean, re-investing in people who never fail to fail does not breed confidence in arriving at the future, whenever that is. It leans more toward folly, if not flat-out insanity. Much as Alan Watts described Buddhism as the religion of no-religion, re-investment is the plan of no-plan.

In reality, though, the Jets are not about re-investment. That’s simply a business catch-phrase Chipman tossed out. They are about hope. Hope is the true plan.

Chipman is crossing his fingers that he has the right person at the wheel in Cheveldayoff, who, in turn, is crossing his fingers that he has the right scouts in place, and the bird dogs, in turn, are crossing their fingers that the youngsters they advised Kevin the Possum to select at the entry draft develop into quality NHL performers.

So, bit parts like Thorburn and a second-string goaltender dressed up as a No. 1 are re-upped or endorsed as a bridge to happier days.

Alas, the Jets concluded business last spring as the bottom-dwelling outfit in the Central precinct of the NHL, and Kevin the Possum did nothing during the off-season to encourage optimism in a more favorable ending to the fresh campaign that shall be upon us in less than 30 days. The likelihood, therefore, is that the future will be put on hold. For a fourth straight year. Do I hear a fifth? And a sixth?

Chipman told Friesen that playoff participation is “100 per cent our expectation.”

That being the case, it’s time that time became a reality rather than a concept for the Jets. If the future is defined as shinny at the Little Hockey House on the Prairie in April-June, then Chipman must start Cheveldayoff’s clock.

When is the future? Jets Nation deserves to know.

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, comfortable at a keyboard (although arthritic fingers sometimes make typing a bit of a chore) and she doesn’t know when to 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.