Let’s talk about when Patrik Laine is traded, not if…a circus act on the mound for Blue Jays…writing off Tiger, or not…more whinging from news snoops…where’s Chelsea Carey going to curl?…baseball oddballs…old school hockey coverage…and other things on my mind

Another Sunday morning smorgas-bored…and I saw the sky yesterday for the first time in more than a week…

Evander Kane wanted out. Gone. Age 23.

Jacob Trouba wanted out. Gone. Age 25.

Patrik Laine…well, we don’t really know what notions swirl about in Puck Finn’s grey matter, but if he wants a new postal code there won’t be anything the Winnipeg Jets can do to prevent him from escaping Good Ol’ Hometown.

For now, the Finnish winger is on lockdown for the 2020-21 National Hockey League crusade, whenever that might begin and end, but then he becomes a restricted free agent with the right to plead his case before an arbitrator should the Jets refuse to drive a Brinks truck up to his doorway. You know, just like Trouba before him, and I doubt Puck Pontiff Mark Chipman and general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff are keen on retracing those footsteps.

Which means the pundits need not look for a pot to stir. They’ve got it.

Laine’s shelf life with the Jets has been a matter of conjecture dating back to July 2019, when Elliotte Friedman went on his 31 Thoughts podcast and word-painted the Finnish winger as pouting Patty.

“Laine is a whole big discussion, right?” he said. “He didn’t leave happy last year. Some of that was his own fault. He wasn’t as good as he could be, and I think he chafed under some of the leadership there. Like, the guys at the top of that food chain are hard-driving guys. They expect you to buy into the program, and I think that they felt he didn’t buy in enough, and I think he felt that some of the things they wanted were ridiculous. So you gotta bridge that, too.”

A month later, Chris Johnston of Sportsnet was in Lahti, Finland, for a natter with Puck Finn, who said, “You never know where you’re going to play next year, so I’m just prepared for anything.” Then along came Pekka Jalonen of the Finnish publication Iltalehti, suggesting Laine’s nose was out of joint because he was required to skate alongside the NHL’s equivalent of beer-leaguers.

And now, Friedman has his hand on the stirring stick once again, saying this on 630 CHED in Edmonton last week:

“I think the thing about Winnipeg that’s gonna be interesting is gonna be Laine. There’s something going on there. I don’t know if Laine’s not happy or whatever it is. I think he wants to play with Scheifele, I’m not sure that that’s what Winnipeg is looking at right now. You know, there’s something there. And I think that Winnipeg realizes that it’s not gonna be easy to sign him when the time comes, and they’re gonna have to…they might have to trade him before they want to trade him. It’s possible. It’s certainly out there, it’s possible.

“I don’t think…you know, what they did with Trouba, is they kept on extending him until they had to make the deal, right? I don’t know that that’s going to be their plan for Laine, but I think they realize that the closer this gets to unrestricted free agency, you know, the more likely that they’re gonna have to make a move. If you’re trading that guy, the return has to be enormous. You’re talking about a market that saw them trade Teemu Selanne, so you don’t want to see that again.”

So what is the rabble to make of that? Same as we did a year ago. Not much.

Note how Friedman framed his comments: “I think” and “I don’t know” and “I think” and “I’m not sure” and “I think” and “I don’t think” and “I don’t know” and “I think.”

In other words, “I think” he’s spitballing again, but “I’m not sure.”

The thing is, that’s what news snoops do. They speculate. Sometimes some of what they say and/or write sticks, and I guess that’s how a guy like Friedman comes to be known as an insider and gets to sit and schmooze with the retired players on the Hockey Night in Canada panel.

I’m not saying he’s wrong about Laine, because I doubt the big Finn will be wearing Jets linen for the duration. Few do. If any of the local hockey heroes goes start to finish in Good Ol’ Hometown, my guess is it’ll be Rink Rat Scheifele, but I wouldn’t want to wager more than the price of a pint on it.

It’s usually a matter of when, not if, even for a 22-year-old who’s scored 36, 44, 30 and 28 goals in his four NHL crusades.

Evander Kane

I wrote something very similar about Evander Kane for Arctic Ice Hockey in December 2012. Said Kane and Winnipeg weren’t a happy mix, and suggested he’d stomp into Chevy’s office one day and demand to be put on the next stage out of Dodge. We now know that’s exactly what happened every off-season, and they parted company in February 2015. The same thing is apt to happen with Laine if head coach Paul Maurice insists on having him line up alongside third- and fourth-rate centres. There won’t be a tub of ice water involved, but he’ll be gone.

Friedman described the recent Eric Staal-Marcus Johansson trade as “a Zeus-like thunderbolt.” So that’s what passes for a major deal in the NHL these days? A 35-year-old guy who’s already building a retirement home in barter for a 29-year-old 40-point guy? Head for the storm shelter and batten the hatches if the Jets deal Puck Finn or Twig Ehlers.

Bill Johnson has agreed to generally manage the Arizona Coyotes. Hey, I can think of worse jobs. Cleaning up after the circus elephants comes to mind.

Speaking of circus acts, no need to send in the clowns—they’re already here and they’re pitching for the Tranna Blue Jays. The New York Yankees played T-Ball with Jays hurlers last week, scoring 43 runs and swatting 19 dingers in a three-game series. Only the Venus de Milo has worse arms.

Tiger Woods

If you watched the first two rounds of the U.S. Open, you’ll know that Tiger Woods’ universe didn’t unfold as he would have liked, thus he won’t be around to wear a red shirt today. But expecting Tiger to win the U.S. Open is kind of like handing Michelangelo a box of crayons and telling him to redo the Sistine Chapel. It was painful to watch the great golfer hack his way around Winged Foot. The thing is, I wouldn’t be too hasty in writing him off for the Masters in November. Augusta National won’t be as punitive as Winged Foot, where the rough is thicker than a tub of tar, and the Masters has a history of being kind to golfers in their forties (seven 40-plus champions, including Tiger last year).

It took Michelangelo four years to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, or about the same amount of time it takes for a Bryson DeChambeau tee shot to land. I swear, there hasn’t been this much talk about air time since Howard Stern arrived on radio.

I don’t know about you, but I really miss the Pre-Pandemic Era of pro sports. You know, a time when all those mega-millionaire athletes lived in a vacuum instead of a bubble.

Mark Spector

On the subject of bubbles, when, oh when, will sports scribes clue in to the reality that the rabble simply isn’t interested in their petty gripes and grievances?

The latest example of jock journo whinging came from Mark Spector of Sportsnet, who delivered this tweet from the NHL bubble in Edmonton: “Biggest challenge for writers by far in Zoom era: Putting together a cogent piece when you get just one question per Zoom. No follow-ups, no working your way to the money question. Just a bunch of quotes that have little to do with each other, and a deadline. Go!”

Oh, the humanity.

Predictably, response from the rabble was swift, harsh and lathered in sarcasm. To wit:

“This sounds difficult, a little too difficult if you ask me. I think it’s best that you retire, it’s just too difficult.”

“Wah wah wah. MSM bitching and moaning again. Health care workers. Teachers, Police. They are facing real challenges.”

I trust that’s cogent enough for Spector.

You know you’re getting long in tooth (if you have any teeth left) when you see someone of your vintage trending on Twitter and you assume she or he has died. Mind you, it can work the other way, too. On Friday morning, for example, I noted that Jimi Hendrix was trending and thought, “What? Jimi’s alive?” Nope. Still toes up.

Chelsea Carey

I don’t know about you, but I could use a Canadian Football League fix right about now. Grew up with Rouge Football. Love Rouge Football. Autumn just isn’t the same without Rouge Football. And now I fear the worst. I mean, if I’m this bummed out about no three-downs football, how am I going to feel if there’s no Scotties Tournament of Hearts or Brier? I’ll be needing me some Chelsea Carey and Kerri Einarson and Jen Jones and Tracy Fleury and Mike McEwen before long.

A landing spot for Chelsea Carey was the main mystery in advance of the 2020-21 curling season. The two-time Scotties Tournament of Hearts champion lost her entire team last spring, and there were whispers that she would be returning to her home in Manitoba, already the bully on the block. Throw Chelsea into the mix with Einarson, Jones and Fleury and you’d have a draw that’s tougher to get out of than the rough at Winged Foot. It’d be the most difficult task on Canadian pebble, although I’m sure some near-sighted scribes in Alberta would be more than happy to argue the point. And that’s okay, just as long as they know they’re wrong.

Nobody covers curling as well or with as much depth as the girls and boys on the beat in Good Ol’ Hometown, so I’m surprised none of them have picked up a phone and asked Chelsea about her plans.

Jimmy Piersall doing the backwards home run trot.

Had to laugh at Josh Donaldson getting ejected from a game last week for kicking dirt on home plate at the completion of his home run trot. Reminded me of Jimmy Piersall, noted for all sorts of oddball antics during his Major League Baseball career, like running the bases backwards after hitting his 100th dinger and wearing a Beatles wig during an at-bat.

No surprise that mainstream sports media (print division) mostly ignored the Yanic Duplessis coming-out story. As I’ve emphasized numerous times, jock journalism in Canadian newspapers is a white, male and heterosexual enterprise, thus they’re unable to deliver lived-experience accounting of social issues like homophobia. The rag trade is marginally more diverse today than when I broke into the business in 1969, and it hasn’t progressed since I left in 1999. If anything, it’s become less diverse, with fewer female sports scribes.

I believe the Winnipeg Sun and Drab Slab have now talked to every current and former member of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers about life during a pandemic. They’re free to move on to a fresh topic any time.

Based on the early returns, there can be just one reason why the Drab Slab dispatched Mad Mike McIntyre to the Jason Kenney Mountain Retreat in Edmonton for the short strokes of the Stanley Cup runoff—to say they’re there, as if it’s a feather in their cap. I mean, they’re spending oodles of coin for what? A feature on Derek Laxdal that drones on to the point of inducing extreme drowsiness? A natter with Scott Oake? (Hey, there’s nothing but high respect and admiration for Scotty in this corner, but I can do without his take on the E-Town bubble.) Worst of all, play-by-play game stories? Seriously. Play-by-play gamers? Sigh. There are no words, except to say that style of coverage is older than everything that’s older than old school. How’s Mad Mike filing his copy? Pony Express? Carrier pigeon? Telegraph?

It isn’t enough anymore to tell readers what they’ve already seen on TV/online or read on the Internet. A sports section should be as much a conversation pit as the gab fests on our flatscreens, meaning analysis, opinion, in-depth features (not fluff) and interpretation of the news, not just the listing of scores and delivering dreary, same old-same old game stories with the predictable cookie-cutter quotes. Frankly, I can’t remember the last time I read a game story.

For the record, I’m not telling the bean-counters at the Drab Slab how to spend their money—or, in this case, how to waste their money—but the next time publisher Bob Cox goes hat in hand to the feds, demanding subsidies for his newspaper, remind him that he’s squandered thousands of dollars on Stanley Cup copy that could have been written from Good Ol’ Hometown.

And, finally, put a major sports event in Edmonton and you just know it’ll be done right. Commonwealth Games, World Cup soccer, the Brier, the Grey Cup, Stanley Cup bubble, you name it, E-Towners get ‘er done. But they still don’t curl as well as Winnipeggers.

About Bo’s next move…why not the Winnipeg Blue Bombers?…MVP by default…Milt Stegall’s bowel movements…PM Trudeau The 1st getting his kicks…the CFL’s Mexican cruise…empty words from the commish on domestic violence…and other Grey Cup things on my mind

Monday morning coming down in 3, 2, 1…and, no, I didn’t do the couch potato thing all day Sunday because TSN’s pre-joust blah, blah, blah is too much for moi…

It’s all about Bo.

If Bo Levi Mitchell chooses to exit the Canadian Football League stage south, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers become a better team. Perhaps even a championship outfit.

If, however, Mitchell keeps his horse hitched in Calgary, we can expect same old, same old.

Bo Levi Mitchell, MVP.

Yes, I realize the Stampeders are Grey Cup champions this morning largely due to the stingiest defensive dozen in the land, but this is a quarterback league. Mitchell is either QB No. 1 or 1A, give or take a Mike Reilly. He’s to the Stampeders what Sam Malone was to Cheers. What Simon was to Garfunkel. Remove him and you’re left with meh.

And meh would work for the Bombers, not to mention every other outfit in the western precinct of the CFL.

Kyle Walters

Naturally, Winnipeg FC general manager Kyle Walters will do some tinkering of his own between now and the opening kickoff next summer, but the most significant impact on the Bombers’ future fortunes hinges on what Mitchell does if a National Football League outfit comes pitching woo.

Consider the landscape should he try his luck in Trumpville: An elite QB in Edmonton, a Tier 2 QB in Winnipeg, no QB in Calgary, no QB in B.C., no QB in Saskatchewan.

I can feel the earth shifting under my feet, and it isn’t because I live in a high-risk earthquake zone.

Mitchell’s iffy status is the main storyline now that we’ve tucked another CFL season into the archives. The rabble in Calgary will be understandably antsy, but there are folks in four other western outposts who would be delighted to see him pack his bags.

The Canadian Mafia: Mike O’Shea, Kyle Walters, Wade Miller.

So, if you’re a Blue Bombers loyalist, go ahead and ask “Why not us?” I mean, the Bytown RedBlacks came into existence five years ago, same as The Canadian Mafia that oversees all things Blue and Gold. Yet the RedBlacks have been to the Grey Cup game three times, winning once. The Bombers have done diddly. Meanwhile, in those same five years, the Stampeders have been to the large game four times, winning twice. The Bombers still have squat. The main difference? Behind centre. The RedBlacks had an elite QB in 2016, when Smilin’ Hank Burris led them to their CFL title, and Trevor Harris emerged as a top-drawer QB this season. And, of course, the Stampeders have Bo Levi. So talk all you like about coaching and management, but it still comes down to the quarterback.

I think Mitchell was anointed most valuable player in the Grey Cup game by default. He did nothing extraordinary in the Stampeders’ 27-16 victory over the RedBlacks on Sunday at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, but that was in keeping with the 106th edition of our national football championship. It was an unremarkable, drama-free skirmish that featured just one pulse-racing moment—a 97-yard TD sprint by Terry Williams of the Stampeders. It didn’t help, of course, that the large lads were playing on an ice-skating rink.

PM Trudeau the 1st

Snippets from the 106th GC game: Well, Team Blah Blah Blah on TSN got off to a crappy start, thanks to Milt Stegall. After Matt Dunigan mentioned how much he enjoyed sampling the liquid refreshments available during the week in E-Town, Stegall thought it would be a swell idea to share his experiences with pre-game bowel movements (defecate is the word he used) back in the day…Shortly thereafter, Hank Burris made a bizarre analogy about getting a kiss from a girl on a first date, and Dunigan insisted that he got a lot more than that. I think Stegall had another bowel movement on the spot…I assume TSN will bring back Davis Sanchez as one of the gab guys next season. Hopefully someone will have removed the bag of marbles from his mouth by then…My goodness. Micah Johnson of the Stampeders is a scary physical specimen. Sara Orlesky looks like tiny figurine beside him…Nice to see Brian Williams join the gab-a-thon. He’s a very good broadcaster and a very nice man…When the politicos came onto the field for the coin toss, I couldn’t help but wonder whatever became of the ceremonial kickoff. As I recall, Prime Minister Trudeau The 1st was quite adept at kicking a football…It figures. The first dude to make an impact play is Jonathan Rose, the one guy who ought not be on the field. The RedBlacks defender gooned a game official in the East Division final and his appeal of a one-game suspension should have been heard long before kickoff time on Sunday. It’s an obscenity that he was available to pick off a Bo Levi Mitchell pass…Okay, who stole Trevor Harris and what did you do with him? Did he get stuck in an elevator back at the hotel?…I kept waiting for John Hufnagal’s yappy, little lap dog, Dave Dickenson, to start squawking, but Coach Chihuahua was on his best behaviour all day. Bummer. I was hoping for some comic relief…I know Bo Levi comes across as cocky, arrogant and uppity, but I like the Calgary QB…Milt Stegall started the day by talking about bowel movements. Maybe it’s fitting that this game was kind of crappy, too…That was quite the celebration in the Stampeders’ changing room. I swear, they were acting like a bunch of drunken curlers.

Randy Ambrosie

I’d wager that every male news snoop who lent an ear to Randy Ambrosie during Grey Cup week in E-Town knows a woman who has been abused—physically, emotionally, sexually.

Yet they ignored the hot air the CFL commish spewed about domestic violence.

“In every case when we’re in possession of information that makes it absolutely clear that something terrible has happened, that is absolutely in contravention of our philosophy and policy on violence against women, we’re compelled to act,” he said.

Such hypocritical tripe. Those words are as empty as a hobo’s bank account.

Johnny Rotten

What, Johnny Manziel smacking his former girlfriend in the head wasn’t terrible enough? Tossing her about like a rag doll wasn’t terrible enough? Dragging her by the hair wasn’t terrible enough? Threatening to kill her wasn’t terrible enough?

Apparently not.

The man who had Colleen Crowley “scared for my life” was welcomed by Ambrosie’s CFL. Open arms. TSN’s blah-blah-blah boys created a Cult of Johnny that glorified him to the point of constant nausea.

Well, let’s for a moment forget that Manziel is a lousy quarterback on a lousy Montreal Alouettes outfit. Instead consider this possibility: This woman-beater could one day be the starting QB in the Grey Cup game. Is that the optic Ambrosie is looking for in his phony quest to “end violence against women?”

Better question: Would news snoops actually challenge him on his BS in that scenario? Probably not, because they’re 99 per cent men.

Crisis lines in Calgary and E-Town will be on overload in the wake of the Grey Cup game. We know this because a University of Calgary study advises us that reports of domestic violence in Cowtown hike 40 per cent when the Stampeders are in the large match. In the host city, meanwhile, Mary Jane James of the Sexual Assault Centre says there’s always an increase in sexual violence after a major sports event, “most particularly against women.” Maybe they can get Ambrosie to help out on the switchboard.

Hard for me to accept that the Winnipeg Sun didn’t have feet on the ground in E-Town. Time was when the tabloid would dispatch two scribes to Grey Cup city. This time around, the puppeteers at Postmedia told Paul Friesen and Ted Wyman to stay home, so it was left for Edmonton scribes to handle big individual award wins for Beastmo Bighill and Stanley Bryant of the Blue Bombers. That simply won’t do. If you have a team in the league, you must be at the most significant event. But, hey, this is just another example of Postmedia treating the Sun like the red-headed, freckle-face stepchild. They aren’t allowed to work the Brier, Scotties or world curling championships anymore, so why would Postmedia send them to the Grey Cup?

The Winnipeg Free Press, of course, did the right thing and dispatched young Jeff Hamilton to the Saudi Alberta capital, and he delivered with a boffo piece on Bighill, the Bombers linebacker named top defensive player in the land.

Would have been nice if the Freep also had a columnist on site, but it doesn’t appear that the Drab Slab is in any hurry to replace the now-retired Paul Wiecek. Must be a cost-cutting thing. But, hey, now that newspapers soon will be feeding at the public trough (expect Freep publisher Bob Cox to be at the front of the welfare queue), perhaps a fresh voice is on the way.

Really good piece from Steve Simmons of Postmedia Tranna about Grey Cup week. He delivers some wonderful anecdotes that speak to the CFL’s appeal and its every-man vibe. The yarn about Ricky Ray wearing a tux and riding a bus to the awards banquet is boffo.

Alas, Simmons had to go and spoil it by shouting and waving his fist at clouds the very next day. He wants hotel lobbies to be declared horse-free zones, and let’s have no more talk of sex.

“The horse in the lobby thing was terrific theatre and excitement when it began in 1948,” writes the Debbie Downer of the Postmedia chain. “It was kind of fun, occasionally, over the years. It represented the crazy, wild spirit of those who attended the event. Now it’s staged and boring and unnecessary. I watched on Friday as the horse was paraded by bagpipers and surrounded by cellphone photographers in the lobby of the Chateau Lacombe hotel in Edmonton. If a horse can look either confused or frightened, this one did. There was no joy in any of this. It was just theatre of the absurd. And we should stop doing this. It has no meaning or spontaneity anymore.

“The same thing has happened to the annual Jim Hunt Grey Cup question. It used to be funny when the late great Shaky Hunt would ask at the coach’s news conference about their policy regarding players having sex on the week of the game. It isn’t funny or unique anymore, especially to the coaches who know it’s coming and have a staged answer of sorts. Jim Hunt passed away 12 years ago. His question has lived on until now. It’s time to put the question to rest.”

If you’re interested in contacting Simmons, you can find him at grumpyoldcoot.com.

And, finally, I think it’s great that the CFL has established a foothold in the United Mexican States. Now if they can only do that in the Republic of Tranna.