About ponytails and pucks…the Hurricanes getting jerked around on Coachless Corner…someone is a piece of crap, and it isn’t Marcus Stroman…it all went wrong for the all-skip team…the write stuff on curling…and nobody does it better than Vic, Cheryl and Hurry Hard

A holiday Monday morning coming down in 3, 2, 1…and happy Louis Riel Day to those of you in Good Ol’ Hometown and happy Family Day to the rest of you…

Remember when Kendall Coyne Schofield raced against the boys and beat one of them during the National Hockey League all-star hijinx?

Jaws dropped. Eyebrows arched upwards. Gobs were smacked.

Kendall Coyne Schofield

“The moment three weeks ago impacted the world,” Coyne Schofield was saying Sunday afternoon in Detroit. “It changed the perception of our game.”

Well, yes, that singular dash around a San Jose freeze was supposedly a signature moment for women’s hockey. Prevailing logic (wishful thinking?) suggested the rabble—and mainstream media—would no longer have any choice but to sit up and take notice of Ponytail Puck.

Or would they?

Putting that theory to test in the past week were the top two female hockey outfits on the planet. Canada vs. U.S.A. in what was marketed as the inaugural Rivalry Series. Three games. (I’d call them “friendlies” except there’s no such animal as a “friendly” when Canadian and American women share a frozen pond.)

So how did it shake down? Depending on your individual barometer, the Rivalry Series was either enthusiastically received or largely ignored.

Let’s start with the head counts.

The women packed ’em in at Budweiser Gardens in London, with an SRO crowd of 9,036. Another 8,414 showed up for Game 2 at the home of the Maple Leafs, Scotiabank Arena in the Republic of Tranna. For Sunday’s rubber match at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, 9,048 watched Canada clinch the series with a 2-0 victory. Those are significant numbers. The Florida Panthers only wish. And, remember, these were exhibition skirmishes. Bragging rights were at stake, nothing more.

Perhaps that’s why news snoops paid only token notice.

Credit TSN for broadcasting all three games, but why not on the main channel? The women were assigned to the boondocks of TSN2, TSN4 and TSN5 while TSN1 featured American college hoops, the Daytona NASCAR RV Duel, Motoring TV and something called EOAN Man v Machine.

On the print side, it was mostly “oh, by the way” coverage.

Our national rag, the Globe and Mail, dispatched Rachel Brady to London to do a feature piece, but it used mostly wire copy from The Canadian Press to track the Rivalry Series. Columnist Cathal Kelly ignored the women because there were other topics in urgent need of his attention—skier Lindsey Vonn, a lack of charisma in baseball, golfer Matt Kuchar being a chintz, and fighting in men’s hockey. Not to worry, though. I’m confident he’ll find time to notice our women in 2022, since it’s an Olympic year.

Over at what passes for our other national rag, the Post, there is neither a sports department nor a sports section, so whatever.

The Toronto Sun has both sports department and section, but apparently no space for women’s hockey. It didn’t staff Game 2 in The ROT. It didn’t even run wire copy. Nada. This is the same sheet that counts Michael Traikos among its stable of scribes. He was so wonder struck and moved by Coyne Schofield’s race around the rink in San Jose that he posits the women should be allowed to play in future NHL all-star games. Not just serve as a novelty act in the skills shenanigans, understand. Participate in the actual game.Yet when the two greatest teams on the planet showed up in his neighborhood, either he was on vacation or he took a pass. Bottom line: The Sun completely ignored the women.

At the Toronto Star, columnist Dave Feschuk acknowledged the Rivalry Series, but he was flying solo. Wire copy was used to cover the actual game in The ROT.

Stateside it was much the same. The Detroit News hired a freelancer to work the deciding game, and the Detroit Free Press couldn’t be bothered, so it ran an Associated Press piece.

So, as much as I’d like to think Coyne Schofield is correct and her lap “impacted the world” and “changed the perception” of Ponytail Puck, the early returns indicate that it did nothing to move the needle in mainstream media.

That’s unfortunate, but not unexpected.

Having said all that, the women don’t do themselves any favors in advancing their game. If you call up the Canadian Women’s Hockey League or National Women’s Hockey League websites, you’ll read not a word on the Rivalry Series. If it isn’t important enough for them, should mainstream media care?

Curmudgeon Alert! Don Cherry is shouting and waving his fists at clouds again. Oh, yes, the Lord of Loud used his Hockey Night in Canada pulpit Saturday to launch into a full-throated, unhinged, rambling rant about the Carolina Hurricanes’ post-match antics, which include cornball and cringeworthy gimmickry like a game of Duck, Duck, Goose.

“These guys, to me, are jerks,” Grapes huffed and puffed. “This is, to me…and I’ll tell ya one thing, they better not do this in the playoffs. What I don’t understand, (head coach Rod) Brind’Amour’s a straight shooter, he always was. This is A JOKE!”

Then, using a tone that suggested the Canes don’t measure up to real men, he mocked and pooh-poohed them as “Young men expressing themselves for joy of winning.” (One assumes he would rather they do something manly, like chomp heads off live chickens post-match.)

Don Cherry and Ron MacLean

Then he was back to bombast: “Ya don’t do this thing in men’s professional hockey! What are these guys, JERKS OR SOMETHINK? And I’ll tell ya one thing, they do this in the playoffs, making fun of the other team…that is ABSOLUTELY RIDICULOUS. I know the rest of the people, I know all the broadcasters and everythink are afraid to say somethink like that, they’re jerks doin’ it. I know what I’m TALKIN’ ABOUT. You never do anythink like that. They’re still not drawin’, they’re a bunch of jerks AS FAR AS I’M CONCERNED! Imagine, Justin Williams doin’ stuff like that. Ridiculous.”

All that from a guy who was wearing a foofy sports jacket that made my eyes bleed.

Reason No. 8,958,001 why many athletes want nothing to do with news snoops: Steve Simmons.

The Postmedia Tranna gasbag wrote this about Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman in his weekly offering of three-dot cheap shots: “On Friday, Aaron Sanchez threw a bullpen session in Florida and came out afterwards and talked optimistically about his comeback and his blister-free fingers. On Saturday, Marcus Stroman threw a bullpen session in Florida and didn’t come out to talk. What a charmer.”

Just so we weren’t confused, Simmons doubled down on that tidbit with this: “Marcus Stroman is a piece of work or a piece of something else—you take your pick. One day, he wouldn’t show up for his scheduled Blue Jays spring training interview and the next day, Sunday, he wouldn’t shut up, tossing baseball grenades in all directions—sparing no one.”

Which compels me to suggest that, on Saturday, Steve Simmons was a “piece of something else” and, on Sunday, he was still “a piece of something else.”

Seriously, can Simmons not make his point without describing someone as a yard cigar? That isn’t a cute or clever turn of phrase. It’s the sort of stuff you expect to find on a blog. Come to think of it, I’m overdue for calling someone a yard cigar. I’ll have to work on that—not!

Briane Meilleur, Shannon Birchard, Val Sweeting, Kerri Einarson.

I don’t know about you, but I’m shocked that Kerri Einarson and her all-skip outfit out of Gimli failed to qualify for the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Sydney. That was the best team in Manitoba until the provincial Scotties, and now Einarson, Val Sweeting, Shannon Birchard and Briane Meilleur are watching the Canadian championship on TV. Go figure.

I must say that I enjoy reading Melissa Martin’s musings on the Scotties in the Drab Slab, and it’s nice to see that Ted Wyman of the Winnipeg Sun has feet on the ground in Novy. Can’t remember the last time the tabloid had someone on site at the Scotties, the Brier or a world championship.

Vic, Cheryl and Hurry Hard.

And, finally, I’ve written this before but it warrants repeating: The TSN trio of Vic Rauter, Cheryl Bernard and Hurry Hard Howard are as good as any team of talking heads that you’ll find on sports TV. Any sport. They’re informative, knowledgeable, witty and not shy about poking fun at each other. They also know enough to zip the lips when we want to hear what the curlers are saying. (Bryan Mudryk and Cathy Gauthier are boffo in the supporting role while Vic, Cheryl and Russ are sleeping in.)

Chelsea Carey’s Scotties championship was a made-in-Manitoba moment

Random thoughts and observations from a couch potato after a week watching the 2016 Scotties Tournament of Hearts from Grande Prairie, Alta….

A commercial that played on TSN during the Scotties was a promo for the province of Manitoba, finishing with the tag line “Canada’s Heart…Beats.”

They might want to change that slogan to: “Manitoba…where lady curlers rock!”

Chelsea Carey
Chelsea Carey

I mean, there have been some lean sporting times in the Keystone Province. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers haven’t won the Grey Cup this century and the Jets didn’t even exist for the first 10 years of the century (and, much like their football kin, all they do is lose).

The one undeniable and enduring source of sporting pride has been Toba’s curlers, most notably the women, starting with Jennifer Jones and her Olympic champion gal pals from the St. Vital Curling Club. But now we’ve also got Chelsea Carey and Kerri Einarson in the mix. The 2014 (Carey), ’15 (Jones) and ’16 (Einarson) queens of Toba curling claimed three of the four playoff perches at the Canadian women’s championship tournament. Never happened before. Not likely to happen again.

Oh, sure, I realize Carey now calls Wild Rose Country home, but that does nothing to disturb the reality that the freshly minted Canadian champion was weaned on the pebbled freezes of Winnipeg.

I like to think of Chelsea as a loaner to Alberta, not a keeper. I want her back one day.

  • You’ll have to excuse me for root, root, rooting for Chelsea Carey to win the Scotties, which she and her Calgary-based outfit did Sunday night. It’s personal. Her dad, Dan, and her Uncle Bill were childhood friends of mine. The former Brier champions lived across the back lane on Chelsea Avenue and I was on Melbourne in East Kildonan. Uncle Bill and I got into a scrape or two, as I recall, but nothing serious.
  • I don’t know if it’s my imagination of not, but it seems to me that the girls at the Scotties have more fun than the guys at the Brier. There’s a lot more laughter.
  • No disrespect to Jenn Hanna and her Ottawa outfit, who seem like lovely, young ladies and clearly earned their place in this field, but a Scotties without the Rachel Homan team is like a golf tournament without Tiger Woods when he was the world’s premier golfer.
  • After watching an interview with the thoughtful Hanna, I realized how much I miss talking to curlers. Of all the athletes I covered during my 30 years in mainstream jock journalism, none were more obliging, accommodating and genuine than curlers.
  • Can’t get enough of Amy Nixon, the Alberta third. She’s a delightful bundle of high-octane energy.
Bryan Mudryk and Cathy Gauthier
Bryan Mudryk and Cathy Gauthier
  • It’s 9:30 a.m., Bryan Mudryk. Do you know what broadcast booth you’re supposed to be in? The TSN announcer, who works so well in concert with Cathy Gauthier (another great Manitoba curler), went to the wrong booth for the opening draw on Thursday morning. Wake up, sleepy head. And maybe hit the pillow a wee bit earlier at night.
  • I really enjoy the self-deprecating humor Mudryk and Gauthier inject into their gab gig.
  • Name a sport, any sport, and you won’t find a better broadcasting crew than TSN’s Vic Rauter, Cheryl Bernard and Russ Howard. There’s a folksy charm to their banter, especially between Vic and Russ, and Howard has perfected the art of being brutally honest without being brutal.
  • I never get tired of watching Jennifer Jones’s final shot to win the 2005 Scotties. It still gives me goose bumps.
  • So nice to see Vic Peters in the house at Revolution Place. Vic, a former Brier champion, is Manitoba second Liz Fyfe’s pop and he tends to stand or wander on his own when his girl is playing, something Gauthier noted when the TSN cameras caught up with him one morning. “There he is with all his friends,” she joked as Vic stood surrounded by unoccupied seats. “I love Vic.” Everybody loves Vic Peters, truly one of the nicest people on this planet.
  • My favorite line from the tournament was delivered by Saskatchewan skip Jolene Campbell, who was greeted with nothing but silence when talking to her third, Ashley Howard, at a critical juncture in one game. “I was waiting for you to say something,” Campbell said to Howard. “It’s like talking to my husband.” That’s the beauty of live mics on the curlers. It’s so real.
  • Karen Sagle and Brit O'Neill
    Karen Sagle and Brit O’Neill

    Love the ‘do on Ontario third Brit O’Neill. That’s some kind of funky hair.

  • Unless I missed it, it went without mention that O’Neill is one of two openly gay women to participate in the 2016 Scotties. She’s partners with Ontario lead Karen Sagle in life and at the curling rink. If there was a husband-wife combo on a team in the national mixed championship I’m certain it would be worth noting, so why wouldn’t TSN advise viewers that O’Neill and Sagle are a couple?
  • Hey, they freed the nipple! The morning after a minor tempest arose about curling moms having to go off-site to breast feed their wee ones, Scotties organizers arranged for a special breastfeeding area for the curlers at Revolution Place. Nice touch, but there should have been a spot for the moms from the get-go. Talk about boobs. Hopefully, that’s already in the plans for the world women’s championship next month in Swift Current. Must keep those future curling champs well nourished!
  • Speaking of milking it, it’s about Bryan Mudryk and nicknames. If you want to hang a nickname on a lady curler, Bryan, it’s probably not a good idea to include the word “Slasher.” Mudryk took to calling P.E.I. skip Suzanne Birt the “Island Assassin” early in the tournament, and he wondered if the handle would stick. Nope. Not after he mistakenly called her the “Island Slasher.”
  • I felt so sorry for Saskatchewan skip Jolene Campbell when she missed her final shot, a seemingly routine hit-and-stick, against Alberta on Thursday night. It was so jaw-dropping in its sudden-deathness. I wept for her. Literally.
  • Is anyone a fan of the relegation system at the Scotties? I’m not. Under no circumstances should provinces like B.C. and New Brunswick be required to participate in a pre-tournament mini-tournament to gain entry.
  • If Chelsea Carey and her Alberta team hadn’t won Sunday night’s final against Krista McCarville and her gal pals from Thunder Bay, I would be demanding a Parliamentary inquiry. That isn’t meant as a slight to Northern Ontario, but the girls from Wild Rose Country were the top outfit in the field, from start to finish.

Patti Dawn Swansson has been writing about Winnipeg sports for 45 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 in 2015.