About raw sewage and Paul Maurice…the Freep recruiting Shakey Johnson…a herd of Buffalo Girls at the Scotties…and idiocy in print

I cannot survive in a 140-character world, so here are more tweets that grew up to be too big for Twitter…

I see where the city of Winnipeg allowed five million litres of raw sewage to pour into the Red River earlier this month. That’s nothing compared to what Paul Maurice keeps pouring over the boards.

Winnipeg Jets head coach Maurice has lost the plot. Totally. Or he’s gone into tank-for-Auston mode.

Coach-Maurice-post-game-Dec-29-609x291
Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice

I mean, really. The Jets are down two goals vs. the New Jersey Devils, Maurice instructs his goaltender to vacate the net in favor of a sixth attacker in a final, frantic push to get a puck past Cory Schneider at the far end of the freeze, and one of his half-dozen wannabe heroes is Chris flipping Thorburn?

What am I missing here?

The last time Thorburn scored, the Prime Minister of Canada was a guy named Trudeau. Pierre, not Justin. Okay, so that’s a bit of an exaggeration. Thorburn actually has five snipes this winter. Trouble is, that’s his average over eight National Hockey League crusades. His career high is nine goals. He lights the lamp about as often as Adam Sandler makes a good movie. Thus, expecting Thorburn to come up with a big goal is like expecting Caitlyn Jenner to win a war of wits with Ricky Gervais.

So what is it that Maurice sees that the rest of us don’t?

Understand something here. I have no problem with Chris Thorburn being Chris Thorburn. The guy’s a gamer. Does whatever is asked of him.

My issue is with Maurice not recognizing that Chris Thorburn is Chris Thorburn.

So, after spending a few days to digest the ouster of old friend George (Shakey) Johnson as sports columnist at the Calgary Herald, here’s what I’m thinking: Why isn’t Winnipeg Free Press sports poobah Steve Lyons on the phone, making a pitch to bring Shakey home? The Freep hasn’t replaced Gary (La La) Lawless, who defected to TSN not so long ago. Since La La took his leave, columnist duties have been shared by the very capable Ed Tait and Paul Wiecek in something of a good cop, bad cop tandem. They’ve been cranking out boffo stuff. But Shakey Johnson is only the best sports writer in Canada (newspaper division). He got his start in River City, at the Winnipeg Tribune in the 1970s. It would be nice if he could finish it off in Pegtown.

chelsea carey
Alberta champ Chelsea Carey.

Can you say Buffalo Girls, kids? There will be a heavy Manitoba flavor to the Scotties Tournament of Hearts next month in Grand Prairie, Alta. Kerri Einarson and friends, of course, will have the Buffalo on their backs when the Canadian women’s curling championship slides from the hacks Feb. 20, but Winnipeg’s Jennifer Jones and gal pals (Team Canada) will join the freshly minted Manitoba queens in the annual rock fest. There’s more. Chelsea Carey of the famed Carey curling clan and a former Manitoba champion is also headed for Grande Prairie as the rep from Wild Rose Country. Chelsea knocked off defending Alberta champion Val Sweeting on Sunday. We’re talking three of the morning-line favorites, all from the Keystone province.

How do you write a story about the provincial women’s curling championship without telling readers that you’re writing about the provincial women’s curling championship? That’s a good question to ask Jim Bender of the Winnipeg Sun, because he managed to report on Sunday’s Manitoba Scotties Tournament of Hearts final between Kerri Einarson and Kristy McDonald in Beausejour without once mentioning the sport of curling. Tsk, tsk Big Jim.

I have long harbored great admiration for a number of sports scribes in our home and native land. I think of wordsmiths like Jack Matheson, John Robertson, Jim Taylor, Jim Coleman, Milt Dunnell, Dick Beddoes and current-day jock journalists Cam Cole and Bruce Arthur. Giants, each of them. But, in terms of pure writing talent, there are precious few about whom I have said, “I wish I could write as well as him/her.” Atop that list would be the legendary Trent Frayne, whose way with words was unequalled. There has not been a better sports scribe in the True North. Ever. After Trent, my personal fab four includes Allen Abel, Stephen Brunt and Shakey Johnson.

Nothing to admire in this quip from Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun: “The idiocy of social media: Fans arguing online who was the better Leaf, (Dave) Keon or Wendel Clark.” Apparently, no one is allowed an opinion unless it jives with Little Stevie Blunder’s. If he says Keon is the greatest of the Toronto Maple Leafs, cased closed. As if, Stevie. Talk about idiocy.

This from my very own self just 15 days ago: “Prediction: By the end of this month, the Jets will be in a playoff position.” D’oh! What a mook.

Ondrej Pavelec puts on his McHappy face on Dr. Puck’s couch

sports shrink3Twin sisters Dr. Patti Puck and Dr. Patti Pigskin are internationally renowned sports psychologists who specialize in what makes athletes/coaches/managers/owners/sports scribes/broadcasters tick.

Jocks the world over flock to their clinic, the River City Shrink Wrap, to have their heads examined. They don’t always have the right answer, but if loving the Winnipeg Jets and Blue Bombers is wrong they don’t want to be right.

(Today: Winnipeg Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec is on the couch.)

DR. PUCK: “Welcome, Ondrej. Good to see you again, dude. How long has it been since you were last on the couch? Two, three, four, five months?”

PAVELEC: “Fourteen days.”

DR. PUCK: “Seriously, dude? You were here just 14 days ago?”

PAVELEC: “You don’t remember? It was the morning after our game in St. Louis. Hutch was a sieve that night…let in four goals on seven shots. Coach PoMo put me in goal and I shut the door on those Blues. Made 18 straight saves. The boys rally and we tie that game, 4-4. Then some no-name defenceman takes a shot from centre ice and I don’t see the puck. Lose it in the crowd. It goes in. With 63 seconds left in the game. We lose, 5-4. Entire city of Winnipeg chants, ‘Ondrej sucks! Ondrej sucks!’ They call me an overpaid lush. They talk about my DUI. They want to send me to some place called The Rock. They say Pavi is the worst goaltender since Pokey Bandit.”

DR. PUCK: “That would be Pokey and the Bandit, dude. Pokey and the Bandit. They were two different goaltenders. Both lousy.”

PAVELEC: “Oh. Good to know. Anyway, fans want to trade Pavi for a bag of pucks after that St. Louis game. You don’t remember any of this?”

DR. PUCK: “Yes, yes…of course I do. I seem to recall you saying something about how envious you were of Andrew (The Hamburglar) Hammond of the Senators, because fans in Ottawa toss him McDonald’s hamburgers whenever he wins a game but fans in Winnipeg have been throwing empty shot glasses and mickey bottles at you most of this National Hockey League season.”

PAVELEC: “Ya, and Coach PoMo threw me under the bus.”

DR. PUCK: “That isn’t entirely true, dude. True, coach Paul Maurice was rather abrupt in his post-game remarks and didn’t appear to have your back that night, but if the dude truly wanted to hurl you under the bus he wouldn’t have called your number the last five games. Which, I hasten to add, have gone very well for the team and yourself. You’ve won ’em all, dude, you’ve only surrendered five goals, you shut out Ovie and the Washington Capitals, you were named the NHL premiere etoile of the week, and any fool can see you’re numero uno in the blue paint for the Jets again.”

PAVELEC: “Ya, entire city of Winnipeg now chants, ‘Pa-vi! Pa-vi! Pa-vi!’ like I’m big hero. Instead of telling me that I need to go on the wagon, they leap on to my bandwagon.”

DR. PUCK: “Which begs the question, with everything going so well, why did you book time on my couch, dude?”

PAVELEC: “Because I know these people of Winnipeg. I’m feeling the love right now, but the minute I soil the sheets it will be back to ‘Ondrej sucks! Ondrej sucks!’ No more ‘Pa-vi! Pa-vi! We love you Pa-vi!’ Just ‘Ondrej sucks! Ondrej sucks!’ I don’t want them to love Pavi just in thick times. I want them to love Pavi during thin times, too. Like they love Dancing Gabe.”

DR. PUCK: “Yo! Dude! You could feed the homeless, personally fill every pothole on our downtown streets, sand bag every river bank in the city this spring and invent an environment-friendly method of mosquito fogging, but doubters are going to doubt and haters are going to hate.

You’re a goaltender in a Canadian market. That’s the way hockey fans roll in the Great White North. You’re never going to feel the love 365/24/7…unless your name is Carey Price. And even Price experienced some rough patches in Montreal. It wasn’t so many years ago that a great number of Canadiens fans wanted the Habs to keep Jaroslav Halak and deep-six Price. Now Carey Price is a national treasure after winning a gold medal at the Olympics and where would the Habs be today without him? Hard to believe fans wanted shed of him, isn’t it?”

PAVELEC: “So it’s all starting goalies in Canada, not just Pavi in the Peg?”

DR. PUCK: “That’s right, dude. Fans in Vancouver turned on Roberto Luongo faster than you can say ‘Harold Snepsts is a dork.’ Cory Schneider became flavor of the month. And how long did that last? Ask Devan Dubnyk how much he misses Edmonton. It comes with the territory and you’re in good company. So don’t take it personal if fans in Winnipeg don’t throw you McDonald’s burgers. Right now you’re more popular than Dancing Gabe, so wear your McHappy face.”

PAVELEC: “That was a pathetic pun, Doc Puck, but Pavi feels much better now.”

DR. PUCK: “That’s wonderful, Ondrej. Now if you’ll excuse me, dude, my waiting room is more crowded than the men’s washroom during halftime at the Super Bowl…Joe Thornton and Doug Wilson are here for couples counseling, P.K. Subban is here to deal with his dive-oholic addiction, Don Cherry still can’t cope with the reality that there’s no more room in hockey for Colton Orr’s knuckles, and Phil Kessel and the Maple Leafs are…oh, please, don’t get me started on Kessel and the Leafs.”

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.