Let’s talk about Chevy-speak and Buffcapades…what fans “deserve” from the Winnipeg Jets…Looch=goon…snark from Finland…faulty football tea leaves…Simoni and Zach against one another in the Grey Cup game?…calling out the boss…Bianca bugs out…a pub punch-up…and facts as an option

Another Sunday smorgas-bored…and we can turn our clocks back, but we can’t turn back time…

It’s never a surprise when Kevin Cheveldayoff stands before a gaggle of news snoops, flaps his gums, then slays them with Chevy-speak.

The man who generally manages the Winnipeg Jets long ago mastered the art of gasbagging his interrogators, filling their notebooks and recording devices with such a high level of hollow blah, blah, blah that you’d swear he’s auditioning for a job on Parliament Hill.

So, of course, that’s what Chevy did the other day in San Jose when he poked his head out of the True North traveling gopher hole to address the curious case of Dustin Byfuglien, the reluctant blueliner.

Chevy

To say Chevy said nothing insightful or informative about Big Buff’s retreat from the fray is to say Rudy Giuliani has loose lips. Like, thanks Captain Obvious. The GM used up six minutes, 17 seconds worth of oxygen to deliver his empty message, and he repeated his nothingness so often that he used the word “again” 17 times. Mind you, I might have missed an “again” or two.

But, again (there’s that word again), why would any of us expect anything different?

That’s the way it’s been since 2011, and that’s the way it’s going to be as long as Chevy is Puck Pontiff Mark Chipman’s official mouthpiece. Mum’s the word. Always. You’ll get more out of a street mime. I mean, compared to True North, the people at Area 51 in Nevada are a bunch of blabbermouths.

Elliotte Friedman

The thing is, according to Elliotte Friedman of Hockey Night in Canada, this time Chevy had a reason for keeping his lips zipped: He’s under a National Hockey League gag order.

“The Jets have been told they can’t say anything, which is why Kevin Cheveldayoff has been so guarded in his comments,” reported Friedman, who went on to explain that Byfuglien’s unexpected, pre-season withdrawal was due to the wonky ankle he injured last winter.

Friedman also described a brewing standoff between Winnipeg HC and Big Buff’s camp as “emotional, heated” and “likely going to arbitration.”

So let’s recap the Buffcapades saga:

Big Buff

Big Buff arrived in Good Ol’ Hometown on the eve of the Jets training exercises, but he was a no-show at medicals. He was granted a leave of absence for reasons that were hush-hush, although speculators suggested the large lad was gazing at his navel, which is to say contemplating retirement at age 34. Suspended without pay, some among the rabble spied him in watering holes about town, then he disappeared Stateside, where medics took a scalpel to his wonky ankle last week, and it’s reported that he won’t be available until early 2020. If, that is, he’s of a mind to make himself available, or if the Jets still want him on their blueline.

There will, of course, be additional twists and turns to this clandestine caper, which head coach Paul Maurice initially wrote off as “nothing sinister.” I’m uncertain what Coach Potty Mouth’s definition of “sinister” is, but this all sounds quite sinister to me and, an NHL gag order notwithstanding, Chevy’s verbal stickhandling hasn’t been a good look for the Jets.

I’d tell you what he told news snoops the other day, except he didn’t tell them anything worth noting, so I’ll just paraphrase the essence of his six-plus minutes of gum flapping: “Again, you guys asked me to come out and speak, so here I am speaking, except, again, it’s complicated and I’m not saying anything, so, again, you know, I guess I’m not really speaking about something that, again, I can’t speak about.”

Pure, unvarnished gobbledygook, and the suggestion has been made by many among the rabble, also some news snoops, that they “deserve” better from Chevy and True North.

Well, okay, let’s take a look at that. What exactly does True North owe the faithful?

A winning team? Sorry, it’s strictly buyer beware. The only sure thing in sports is that TSN and Sportsnet will talk about Auston Matthews more than the Pope talks about Jesus. So icing a successful side is a hope, not mandatory.

Honesty? Everyone in hockey lies, and to expect the Jets to be an exception is pure Pollyanna.

Transparency? That would be nice but, frankly kids, True North isn’t obligated to tell us anything, even as they pig out at the public trough and make no apology for subsidies and tax breaks that help keep the bottom line in black, not red, ink.

I agree, it’s irksome, with gusts up to infuriating, and listening to Chevy prattle on like a Sunday preacher with nowhere to go makes my ears bleed the same way a Barry Manilow song does.

Here’s the bottom line, though: Again, revealing what goes on behind closed doors at True North isn’t part of Chevy’s mandate. That might not be what the frustrated flock wants or likes to hear, but it’s the reality of the situation.

While watching and listening to Chevy babble on the other day, it occurred to me that not answering questions he isn’t allowed to answer likely isn’t at the top of his to-do list. He had a root-canal vibe going. I’d like to say I felt sorry for him, but I didn’t.

One final thought on this matter: Isn’t it wonderful to have an NHL team to bitch about?

The Looch

Seriously, why is Milan Lucic still in the NHL? The Looch is a cheap imitation of a 1970s Broad Street Bully, and there shouldn’t be any room in the game for slow, plodding thugs whose sole purpose is to beat up people. His assault on Kole Sherwood of the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday was a throwback to the disgraceful goon days of Schultz, Saleski and Hound Dog, and I hope the league hurls the book at him.

Chances are you’re unfamiliar with a chap named Pekka Jalonen, so be advised he’s a Finnish sports scribe with some rather harsh, point-blank opinions on Winnipeg HC. For example, after the Jets had dispatched young defender Ville Heinola to their American Hockey League farm, Jalonen sent out this tweet: “It’s good for Heinola to get away from all that mess in Winnipeg and Jets awful defence. All he can learn there is how NOT to play.” The Iltalehta jock journo also found time to take a broadside at Bryan Little without actually naming him. “Patrik Laine is sentenced to a ‘Donut line’ (there is a hole in the middle).” Well, that Donut Boy in the middle scored a winning goal and helped set up another in two of the Jets’ last three Ws. But, I must say, I like Jalonen’s snark.

Okay, after watching the Calgary Stampeders and Saskatchewan Flatlanders struggle mightily against inferior foes in the final thrusts of the Canadian Football League regular season on Saturday, who’s prepared to write off the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the chase for the Grey Cup? I’m not. Ya, sure, they’ll have to win twice on foreign soil to get the job done, but there isn’t anything about either team that should keep the Bombers awake at night. My pre-season prediction was a Winnipeg-Hamilton Tabbies Grey Cup game, and I’m sticking with that.

On the subject of reading tea leaves, I have just one word for my CFL forecast last June—D’oh! I couldn’t have been more wrong if I’d told you Donald Trump is a Democrat. I had the large lads finishing in this order: West Division—Winnipeg, B.C., Edmonton, Calgary, Saskatchewan. East Division—Hamilton, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal. But, hey, how was I to know every starting quarterback in the league would land in the repair shop, and that the Montreal Larks would fire everybody before the opening kickoff?

Simoni Lawrence took out Zach Collaros.

Let’s play the ‘what if’ game. What if the Bombers knock off the Stampeders in the opening salvo of the Grey Cup frolic next Sunday? And what if they go on to beat the Flatlanders to earn a berth in the championship skirmish? And what if they become rulers of all they survey in Rouge Football for the first time in 29 years? And what if Zach Collaros is the winning quarterback and Grey Cup MVP? Who, then, gets the credit? Why, it’s Simoni Lawrence, of course.

Follow the bouncing ball and think about it:

  • Simoni set off an unpredictable chain of events when he had the bad manners to lay Collaros low with a nasty, illegal hit to the noggin on the third play of the season.

  • That thuggery sent Zach to the repair shop, whereupon Corn Dog Cody Fajardo emerged as a legitimate starting QB and the Flatlanders no longer had any use for Collaros.

  • The Flatlanders then conned the Tranna Scullers into taking the head case off their hands, but they really had no use for Collaros either, so they had him stand on the sidelines and count empty seats at BMO Field.

  • Bombers GM Kyle Walters noticed Zach counting all those empty seats and, with his season falling off the rails, placed an 11th-hour, Hail Mary phone call to the Scullers’ freshly minted GM, Pinball Clemons, asking for Collaros. The answer was, “Yes, take our broken quarterback, please.”

  • Shortly thereafter, the Calgary Stampeders beat Chris Streveler like a rented mule, putting him in the repair shop and Collaros behind centre.

All that, simply because Simoni Lawrence is a dirty football player.

Makes for a great Grey Cup storyline, don’t you think? Be even better if Collaros gets there and Simoni and the Hamilton Tabbies are across the line of scrimmage.

Paul Friesen

Sifting through a collection of commentary on the Andrew Harris snub in CFL year-end awards voting, the most interesting came from Paul Friesen of the Winnipeg Sun. “I din’t get a vote for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ most outstanding player nominees, but if I had received a ballot one of the names on it would have been Andrew Harris. In fact, No. 33 would have been on my ballot twice. Harris has been both the Bombers’ top player this season and their top Canadian. Slam-dunk. Nobody in their right mind would argue against that. While I defend their right to express their opinion through their ballots, I say they blew it.” Strong stuff, considering Friesen was calling out his boss, Sun sports editor Ted Wyman. Teddy Football was one of three voters who supposedly “blew it” by snubbing Harris due to his PED-related suspension this season, but I happen to think he made the correct call. So maybe I’m not in my right mind, either.

Bianca’s adios at the WTA finals in China.

Such a shame that our Bianca Andreescu had to bug out of the WTA finals in China because of a wounded left knee. Bianca delivered a dream season, winning three tournaments—Indian Wells, the Rogers Cup, the U.S. Open—and we can only hope some much-deserved down time can fix a body that has too often betrayed her. In the meantime, a coronation as Canada’s athlete of the year awaits.

Red Auerbach

Some truly strange stuff from Steve Simmons of Postmedia Tranna this week. He notes that Scotty Bowman coached nine NHL championship squads and “no one in history is close” to that number. Say what? I’m no Einstein, but I believe eight is as close to nine as damn is to cussing, and that’s how many Stanley Cup rings Toe Blake earned as head coach of the Montreal Canadiens. Meanwhile, Simmons maintains that Bowman accomplished something that “no one has done before in any professional sport.” Except Red Auerbach took home nine National Basketball Association titles with the Boston Celtics, including eight in a row, before Bowman had even stood behind an NHL bench. Mind you, Red and Toe were doing their thing while Steve was still in diapers, so I guess that doesn’t count.

There’s also the matter of Phil Jackson, who coached his ninth NBA championship squad the same year Scotty reached No. 9 in the NHL. Jackson then added two more. Apparently facts are optional for some sports columnists.

I note the most vulgar man in sports, Conor McGregor, stood before a judge in Dublin District Court last week and received a 1,000-euros ($1,120) fine for his unprovoked attack on an elderly chap in an Irish pub. “I assure you nothing of this nature will happen again,” vowed McGregor. Right. He’ll limit his criminal activity to throwing dollies through bus windows in the U.S. instead of punching out pub patrons in Ireland.

And, finally, a tip of the bonnet to Kirk Penton, inducted into the Manitoba Sports Media Roll of Honour on Saturday night. Kirk’s part of a long line of superb CFL beat writers in Winnipeg, and we won’t hold it against him that he left Good Ol’ Hometown for the kinder climes of Kelowna and a gig with The Athletic.

About Ugly Bowl 53 and a tit-for-tats halftime show…dinosaurs in the NHL broadcast booth…Connor McDavid and the Helicopter Line…the skinny on women’s curling in Manitoba…there goes Johnny…foreigners and three-down football…the Winnipeg Blue Bombers boss lady…and let’s play ball

Monday morning coming down in 3, 2, 1…and if you thought Super Bowl 53 was a bore, wait until you read Smorgas-Bored 187…

Adam Levine

Brief takeaways from the National Football League championship skirmish: Julian Edelman’s beard gives new meaning to the term “winning ugly,” don’t you think? I mean, it was the only thing uglier than the New England Patriots’ win over the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday…Final score: Patriots 13, Maroon 5, Rams 3…I don’t know how the Las Vegas bookies made out on Super Bowl wagering, but Adam Levine of Maroon 5 lost his shirt…Officially, Levine did not have a wardrobe malfunction during the halftime show. He was simply flashing his tats as opposed to Janet Jackson flashing her tit. I guess you could say it was tit-for-tats…Just wondering: Am I allowed to use the word “tit” on a family blog?…I’d like to write more about Super Bowl 53, but I think I’ll do what the Patriots and Rams did most of the day—drop back and punt.

Nick Kypreos

Contrary to popular belief, the dinosaur is not extinct. They are very visible, very vocal and you can find them flapping their gums on Hockey Night in Canada and/or Sportsnet.

Let’s start with Meatheadosaurus Nick Kypreos, who, just scant days ago, was seen and heard bellowing about Connor McDavid, suggesting the Edmonton Oilers captain take his hockey stick and “Send a message. Jam it down (an opponent’s) throat.” If that means a suspension for the National Hockey League’s most-dynamic offensive talent, “I don’t care. So be it.”

Same goes for Auston Matthews, the Tranna Maple Leafs highly skilled centre.

“There’s times when I wish Auston Matthews would (fight),” Kypreos told the Starting Lineup on Sportsnet 590 The Fan last week. “There’s times when I think Auston Matthews hopefully gets that in his game, especially around the playoffs.”

So Kypreos would rather have talents like McDavid and Matthews on the shelf or in the penalty box. Interesting.

Brian Burke

Next up is Truculentosaurus Brian Burke, who used his HNIC pulpit on Saturday night to promote rough house hockey and fisticuffs. Noting that elite performers Steven Stamkos and Evgeni Malkin had thrown down on each other, the bombastic former general manager said, “You love it when blue collar players do their job, you love it even more when white collar players step into the mud.”

Then, showing video of the Calgary Flames and Washington Capitals mucking about at the end of a recent skirmish, Burke gushed: “This is playoff intensity in February. It’s fantastic. Our league needs this type of intensity to bring people in and get viewers watching. It’s a critical part of our DNA, it’s a critical part of what we sell. This is good stuff.”

Yes, by all means, let’s sell more goonery.

Don Cherry

Not to be outdone, Lordofloudosaurus Don Cherry weighed in on the Winnipeg Jets.

“The big thing about these guys, they stick up for themselves,” he grunted.

Cue the fight films.

“This is a beauty. This is a pretty good fight, I have to say,” he had to say while we watched video of Brandon Tanev chucking knuckles with Trent Frederic of the Boston Bruins. “These guys stand up for themselves and that’s why, on the road, at home, they never lose at home, at that’s one of the reasons they win.”

There are numerous reasons to admire les Jets, but Cherry chose to highlight their pugilistic prowess.

These, understand, are three of the most prominent voices in hockey broadcasting, and they’re all singing from the 1970s Broad Street Bullies songbook: Let’s have less finesse and more fisticuffs.

Heidi Klum

That’s like telling Heidi Klum to act more like Simon Cowell.

The NHL has never been younger, faster and more highly skilled. It’s because knuckle-dragging neanderthals have been eliminated from the game. Isn’t it time someone removed them from the HNIC panel and Sportsnet, as well?

Checked out the Oilers-Montreal Canadiens skirmish on Sunday morning, and Oil head coach Ken Hitchock sent out his Helicopter Line to take the first faceoff—centre Connor McDavid and no wings. Actually, he had Milan Lucic and Ty Rattie on his flanks, but that’s like making Usain Bolt run a 100-metre race with a Steinway piano strapped to his back. No way the Oil qualify for the Stanley Cup runoff if that’s their top forward unit, which means there’ll be no Hart Trophy for McDavid.

Is old friend Randy Carlyle still employed, or have the Disney Ducks handed him his walking papers? Can’t see him surviving the season.

Jill Officer and Jennifer Jones

Caught the women’s final of the TSN Skins curling event and a few things came to mind: 1) It’s strange watching the Jennifer Jones team play without Jill Officer throwing second stones; 2) Jocelyn Peterman is a most capable replacement for Officer; 3) the women’s field in Manitoba is incredibly deep, but the last three champion skips are imports—Tracy Fleury, Ontario resident; Jones, Ontario resident; Michelle Englot, Saskatchewan resident.

Now that I think about it, Adam Levine would be ideal entertainment for a Skins game.

Johnny Miller

No more Johnny Miller on NBC golf broadcasts. This weekend’s Phoenix Open was his final gig. So who’s the best color commentator in TV sports now, John McEnroe or Tony Romo?

Commish Randy Ambrosie continues to spread the Canadian Football League’s wings in foreign countries. First it was Mexico, and now he’s finalized a working agreement with German football. Yo! Commish Randy! Three-down football is foreign to folks in the Republic of Tranna, Quebec and B.C., too. What do you say you do something to prop up those failing markets?

Dayna Spiring

A week ago I mentioned how both newspapers in Good Ol’ Hometown were out to lunch when Dayna Spiring became the first female board chair in the 89-year history of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. I wanted to know more about her, and couldn’t understand why none of the news snoop at the Drab Slab and Winnipeg Sun had picked up a phone to chat with her. Lo and behold, young Jeff Hamilton has done that very thing, and his feature on Dayna is excellent. Best takeaway on the Bombers boss lady: She isn’t shy about butting heads with CEO Wade Miller.

I must say the Drab Slab absolutely clobbered the Sun on the Kootenay Ice relocation story. It’s been a rout from the start.

And, finally, pitchers and catchers report to Major League Baseball training camps in less than two weeks. Does anyone know where Bryce Harper and Manny Machado are?

Winnipeg Jets: If I’ve got Georgia on my mind, Tom McVie’s teeth are missing

I cannot think of Atlanta without recalling the night the lights—and Tom McVie’s teeth—went out in Georgia.

Yes, it was theatre of the absurd in early November 1979 when a ransacked Winnipeg Jets’ roster skated south of the Mason-Dixon Line to do their thing at the Omni Coliseum, a facility that most of the local citizenry avoided whenever the playing surface had been converted from hardwood to ice.

Atlantans embraced hockey like they did Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman, who liked to play with matches and took a torch to the town during the American Civil War, leaving it a smouldering mess of burning buildings, dying embers and ashes.

Which, come to think of it, is pretty much what the National Hockey League had done to the Jets.

Kent Nilsson was among the players the Jets lost to the NHL.
Kent Nilsson was among the players the Jets lost to the NHL.

These Jets who skated into Atlanta were the skeletal remains of an outfit that, only six months earlier, had concluded the final World Hockey Association crusade with a third title. Gone were Kent Nilsson, Terry Ruskowski, Rich Preston, Barry Long, Kim Clackson and Paul MacKinnon, all but Preston the reclaimed spoils of a seven-year conflict between the NHL and WHA.

In their stead were willing and dogged, albeit less-impactful, skaters who, through determination and the demands of their taskmaster coach, McVie, were on a roll, unbeaten in five matches as they arrived in Atlanta.

That’s when the lights went out that night in Georgia.

Although not ruffians of the Broad Street Bullies ilk, the Flames, while suitably skilled, were a big and bothersome bunch who didn’t require a great deal of prodding before releasing the inner beast. And, after asserting themselves on the scoreboard with an 8-0 advantage, that puck pugnacity went on full display less than nine minutes from time, much to the enjoyment of a sparse gathering that surely numbered less than 10,000 but included a rather striking, blonde lass who sat directly behind the Winnipeg goal during the pregame exercises.

“The boys seem a bit distracted,” I joked with Reyn Davis of the Winnipeg Free Press.

“I wonder why?” he replied.

I’m not here to suggest that the fair maiden’s presence influenced the Jets’ performance that night, but she most assuredly served as a distraction because this southern belle seemingly believed that clothing was optional and she was not at all shy about displaying her ample assets.

Tom McVie, presumably with his teeth in.
Tom McVie, presumably with his teeth in.

At any rate, the Flames continued to give the Jets a different kind of dressing down on the ice and mayhem ruled the night. Phil Russell threw down on Dave Hoyda (twice), Willi Plett and Jimmy Mann went bare knuckles, Brad Marsh rag-dolled a much smaller Morris Lukowich, and two Flames tag-teamed a helpless pacifist, Mike Amodeo. Jets forward Jude Drouin thought that a bit much, thus he vacated the bench in an attempt to rescue his overwhelmed teammate. In scant seconds, the ice was a frozen sea of uncivil activity, with only McVie and his counterpart, Al MacNeil, tethered to the bench area.

If the scoreboard wasn’t enough to send McVie off his nut, the uneven brawl served as the trigger, and what ensued was something straight out of the Vince McMahon, WWE playbook. McVie began barking at MacNeil, like a yappy, little dog with his necked bowed. He got louder, his face turned redder and he stepped closer to the glass partition that separated the two coaches. Then he stopped. Calmly, McVie took off his sports coat. He took off his neck tie. He took off his wrist watch. He unbuttoned his shirt. He then—wait for it—took out his teeth! He tucked his tusks into a coat pocket. He now was ready to duke it out.

I turned to Reyn in our press box perch. His jaw had dropped.

“Did you see what I think I just saw?” I asked him.

“If you mean you saw Tommy take his teeth out, you did,” he confirmed.

MacNeil, meanwhile, had been barking back at McVie and, seeing the Jets coach disrobe, he also stripped off his neck tie.

McVie attempted to scale the barrier between the benches, but his tiny feet kept sliding on the glass. He gave it another go. And another. Eventually, Drouin returned to the Jets’ bench and re-engaged McVie with his better senses.

Once the dust had settled, eight players and McVie were given the remainder of the night off.

Al MacNeil went from Atlanta to Calgary with the Flames.
Al MacNeil went from Atlanta to Calgary with the Flames.

Reyn and I later found McVie near the Jets changing room. He was subdued, but not full of contrition, noting the disparity in the dimensions of two of the combatants, Brad Marsh of the Flames and the Jets’ feisty but pocket-sized Morris Lukowich.

“I can’t have my smaller players getting beaten up,” he said.

Over on the other side, MacNeil was more inclined to play the victim and make light of the ruckus.

“I told him if he wanted to come over, come over,” MacNeil said with a mischievous, impish grin. “He took off his tie and took out his teeth and started shouting obscenities. He was very irrational. I hope they do something about him. You can’t be letting people make threats like that, especially when he takes his teeth out.”

The NHL flashed a different set of sharp teeth, suspending McVie for three games and docking him $500 in pay.

After leaving Atlanta, the Jets went into a nose dive, winning just three of their next 12 assignments. But, hey, there was a sunny side to all of this: McVie managed to keep his chicklets in his head the remainder of the season.

Patti Dawn Swansson has been writing about Winnipeg sports for 46 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 in 2012 for her scribblings about the LGBT community in Victoria, B.C., and her induction into the Manitoba Sportswriters & Sportscasters Association Media Roll of Honour in 2015.