Let’s talk about the silence of the Puck Pontiff…Barry Shenkarow didn’t hide…big bucks in the blurt box…Fake It Like Beckham…that ain’t chicken feed those pigeons are fetching…fiddle farting around on the snooker table…and other things on my mind

Another Sunday morning smorgas-bored…and you are not required to wear a mask to read this blog…

Is it just me, or does anyone else wonder what’s rattling around in the grey matter between Puck Pontiff Mark Chipman’s ears these days?

Mark Chipman, the Puck Pontiff.

I mean, with the National Hockey League ensnared in a state of iffiness re a 2021 crusade, and the players royally PO’d due to a proposed wave of wage rollbacks (again), wouldn’t you like to know what the Winnipeg Jets co-bankroll thinks about the current state of affairs?

Wouldn’t you like to hear his thoughts on the local shinny side playing in an empty Little Hockey House On The Prairie this winter?

Wouldn’t you like to know if he’d prefer to scrap a 2021 season rather than lose a small fortune paying six- and seven-figure salaries with no game-day revenue?

Wouldn’t you like to hear the Puck Pontiff’s take on the NHL owners’ ploy to renege on the agreement they willingly signed with the work force just this past summer?

Wouldn’t you like to know how he feels about the Jets frolicking in an all-Canadian division?

Wouldn’t you like to hear some assurance that, COVID-19 be damned, the Jets are here for the long haul, even as the pandemic gnaws away at his bottom line like termites on a two-by-four?

I know I would.

I won’t hold my breath, though, because the Puck Pontiff is not a man given to disclosure. He’s more guarded with his thoughts than a Rottweiler growling at the gates of a junkyard. The Kremlin was less secretive during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

But that’s his right, of course.

Chipman heads up a private company, True North Sports + Entertainment, so he isn’t obliged to make us privy to any secrets, dirty or otherwise. Except for one thing: There’s ample and rabid outside interest in the centrepiece of his fiefdom, that being an NHL franchise that pigs out at the public trough. The faithful flock to his Little Hockey House On The Prairie a minimum of 41 nights every year, give or take a pandemic, and many thousands of them also spend many thousands of dollars on Jets merchandise. Others purchase TV cable and/or Internet streaming packages to watch their hockey heroes as they fight the good fight hither and yon.

I’d say that warrants a word or two from the guy who signs the cheques, wouldn’t you?

Geoff Molson, the beer baron bankroll of the storied Montreal Canadiens, thought so, which is why he sat down for a natter with Herb Zurkowsky of the Montreal Gazette recently.

Among other things, Molson pooh-poohed any notion of a lost season, no matter how harsh the financial wallop, and he expressed a hope that there would be patrons in the pews before the close of business on a runted season.

“I really do think it’s the right thing to play,” he said. “I think we can get there. The thought of making a profit this year isn’t even in my mindset. It’s more about returning to play.”

Why can’t the Puck Pontiff poke his head out of the ivory tower and do the same?

Again, he’s under no obligation to address the faithful, but the right to remain silent is a good policy if you’re sitting in the back seat of a police cruiser, not when you’re at the wheel of an NHL franchise in the heartland of Canada.

I’d like to think that one or more of the girls and boys on the beat have requested an audience with His Royal Hockeyness during these most uncertain of times. If not, shame on them. If so (and I suspect that’s the case), shame on him and his hangups. Not so long ago, Mad Mike McIntyre of the Drab Slab confessed that he’s never engaged in a verbal parry-and-thrust with the Puck Pontiff. Not in four years on the beat, but not for lack of effort. Mad Mike assured us he has put in a bid to tap the Puck Pontiff’s brain pan more than once, only to be rejected each time. And that’s just wrong.

Barry Shenkarow

Back in the day, Benny Hatskin or Michael Gobuty or Barry Shenkarow were usually just a phone call away, and we were never required to genuflect and kiss their ring fingers before they agreed to talk to us. We had their home phone numbers, for cripes sake, and they knew where to find us. Did Shenkarow enjoy standing or sitting in front of the media mob, painting a gloom-and-doom scenario for the Jets 1.0 franchise? No. He didn’t. I can tell you there was always pain in his voice, sadness in his eyes and a great burden on his slender shoulders whenever he spoke. At times there was also anger. And extreme frustration. But he became the front man for the ownership group and accepted that his voice needed to be heard, even when there was nothing but sad tidings to deliver. Many among the rabble made Barry out to be the bad guy when it became apparent that the NHL couldn’t work in Good Ol’ Hometown in the 1990s, but no one could accuse him of hiding.

It occurs to me that if there’s one thing the rabble dislikes more than jock journos complaining about lousy press box food, tight deadlines and uppity athletes, it’s millionaire jocks and billionaire owners bickering over big bucks. That doesn’t play well at the best of times, so it’s particularly irksome during a global pandemic that’s forcing people out of work, out of homes and sending them to food banks. I mean, if NHL bankrolls get their way in the latest squabble with the NHL Players Association, Kyle Connor of the Jets won’t collect his $8 million salary for a 2021 crusade. He’ll have to get by on $4.4 million in U.S. coin. At the lower end of the pay scale, Jansen Harkins will have to make due on $385,000 instead of $700,000. I agree, boo-freaking-hoo. Hey, I’m all for the workers squeezing every copper they can out of owners trying to weasel their way out of an agreement they signed four months ago, but a money spat is a tough sell when the world is upside down.

On the subject of high finance, the most noted voice in the CBS sports blurt box, Jim Nantz, is looking for a hefty raise in pay from the $6.5 million he now collects for flapping his gums on the network’s NFL, college hoops, and PGA coverage. Nantz’ contract expires next summer and it’s a good bet that he’s aware his sidekick in the CBS football booth, Tony Romo, draws an annual stipend of $17.5 million. I’m sure he also knows that Fox Sports pays its do-everything squawk box Joe Buck $10.5 million per annum. I don’t know what the bookies in Vegas are thinking, but I’d say the over/under on Nantz’ next deal is $12 million.

If that isn’t obscene enough for you, consider this: England footy legend David Beckham will be paid $53 million over the next three years to do nothing. Becks has signed on as an ‘icon’ player in the EA Sports video game FIFA 21, and he’ll be making more money in fake footy than he did while kicking real balls for sides like Man U, Real Madrid and LA Galaxy. Makes for a nifty marketing promo, don’t you think—Fake It Like Beckham!

New Kim, a two-year-old female Belgian racing pigeon, recently sold for $1.9 million at auction. No bird has ever landed that large a windfall. At least not since Elin Nordegren flew the coop on Tiger.

If I owned a pigeon, I believe I would name it Clay.

The most vulgar man in sports, Conor McGregor, has signed to fight someone I’ve never heard of in the UFC octagon next month. I’m pretty sure I’ll be too busy to give a damn that night. Or any other night, for that matter.

Mike Lupica of the New York Daily News calls Derek Jeter “the most famous Yankee since Mickey Mantle.” Apparently Mike nodded off when Reggie Jackson arrived in Gotham and became Mr. October.

TSN has decided that the 1981 Edmonton E-Somethings are the greatest of all Canadian Football League championship sides. No argument here.

Some folks are quite giddy that the CFL has released a 2021 schedule, with a full 18-game crusade for each of the nine sides. Rick LeLacheur is, in fact, “beyond excited” at the prospect of his B.C. Lions performing in front of fewer than the 12,000 bodies that normally gather under the B.C. Place Stadium bubble top in downtown Vancity. What the Leos president and no one else in Rouge Football can tell us, though, is who’s footing the bill. I mean, if they couldn’t afford a mini-season in 2020, what makes anyone believe the three-downs game is good to go next summer/autumn? The schedule is nothing more than a goodwill gesture and, as I scribbled last week, it isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on unless the large lads are grabbing grass in June. Sorry to be a Debbie Downer about my favorite league, but it’s true.

The Edmonton Oilers owe a Dallas hotel $55,000 for two stays last season. And here I thought the World Hockey Association was dead.

A most foul wind blew during a recent match between world No. 2 Ronnie O’Sullivan and Matthew Stevens at the Northern Ireland Open snooker tournament. One of the participants farted, you see, and it was no silent bomb. “That was a very unfortunate noise there,” one of the commentators observed while the players and match referee glanced mischievously at one another. “I don’t know who it was from…I’ve got my suspicions.” Eventually, O’Sullivan won the match, 4-2, then copped a guilty plea, saying, “I’m taking full ownership of that one.”

Akim Aliu

The Florida Panthers have hired Brett Peterson, a Black man, as assistant general manager, which prompted this reaction from Akim Aliu of the Hockey Diversity Alliance: “It’s long overdue. We feel there’s a lot of people of color that are deserving of jobs and also people from different genders. Obviously women I think are very adapt at doing a good job in the game of hockey.” Ya, Aliu and his HDA think so highly of women in hockey that there isn’t a Mrs., Miss, Ms or Ma’am in the group. Go ahead. Call up the HDA website and you’ll see nothing but the faces and names of men. I contacted the HDA to inquire about its lack of diversity, but received no reply. Aliu and his boys-only club might want to practise diversity before squawking about diversity.

I get a laugh out of bandwagon jumpers in jock journalism, guys like Jack Todd, whose column has returned to the sports pages of the Montreal Gazette, and Steve Simmons of Postmedia Tranna. Todd called the Miami Marlins’ hiring of Kim Ng as general manager “the best thing that has happened to Major League Baseball since the Red Sox shook the curse. The time is now and Ng is the woman.” Simmons, meanwhile, wrote: “I wish I had a daughter to share this with.” I call BS on that. When was the last time either of them wrote about women’s sports, other than the Olympics when there’s no choice? Where were they when the Canadian Women’s Hockey League was still in operation and hungering for coverage? They didn’t notice the CWHL until the doors were shuttered. So they can spare us the faux concern.

Simmons, of course, has a long history of pooh-poohing female athletes and the games they play, and his recent list of the 50 most influential sports figures in the Republic of Tranna over the past 50 years tells us all we need to know about his thoughts on the distaff portion of the playground. His top-50 actually includes 59 people, all but one of them men. That’s right, in half a century, only one woman, tennis player Bianca Andreescu, made the cut. No Fran Rider and no Angela James, each hugely influential in Ponytail Puck and based in The ROT. One of them, James, is in the Hockey Hall of Fame and Rider should be.

I don’t know if anyone at the Winnipeg Sun has plans to compile a similar top-50 for the most influential sports figures in Good Ol’ Hometown during past half century, but I guarantee there’d be more than one woman included in the group. Benny Hatskin would top the list, of course, but you can be damn certain there’d be room for Clara Hughes, Jennifer Jones, Cindy Klassen, Connie Laliberte and Susan Auch, among other women.

And, finally, there’s only one thing worse than wearing a mask—not wearing a mask.

About the real villains in the Jacob Trouba-Winnipeg Jets saga…Marcus Stroman bashing in the media…fancy skaters winning a hockey trophy…T.O. to T.O.?…the CFL’s violence against women policy…a perfect choice for the Arthur Ashe Courage Award…and is Neymar still rolling?

I cannot survive in a 140- or 280-character world, so here are more tweets that grew up to be too big for Twitter…

Jacob Trouba

So, if I’m reading the rabble accurately, here’s the lay of the land for the Winnipeg Jets:

Connor Hellebuyck is an aw shucks, gosh-darn good guy because, like Rink Rat Scheifele and Twig Ehlers before him, he re-upped with no muss, no fuss.

Ditto Adam Lowry and Brandon Tanev.

Josh Morrissey is also every inch and ounce a gosh-darn good guy because, without the arbitration option, he will eagerly accept whatever coin the National Hockey League club tosses his way and utter nary a discouraging word. Again, no muss, no fuss.

And, of course, there’s ownership/management. They’re a bunch of swell dudes, too, because they’ve refused to cow to Jacob Trouba’s ridiculous salary demands and his trade ask of two years ago. Doesn’t matter that they lowballed him with a slap-in-the-face number ($4 million) ahead of their arbitration hearing on Friday in the Republic of Tranna. That’s just business.

Jacob Trouba…now there’s your resident villain.

Josh Morrissey

The Jets defenceman thinks he’s worth $7 million. The cheeky sod. Doesn’t he realize that les Jets are staring at a salary cap crunch? He’s thinking only of himself again, not the team. He’s arrogant, ignorant and selfish right? Run his Sad Sack heinie out of Dodge!

Except I don’t see it that way.

I mean, okay, once upon a time Trouba asked for a trade and temporarily withdrew his services. He filed for salary arbitration this summer and someone in an expensive suit stated his case on Friday morning. Last time I looked, none of that was included in our criminal code. He’s guilty of no wrong-doing.

Look, I could understand the scorn and hostility heaped upon Trouba had he been playing like a pylon and flitting about the countryside, acting like a dipstick of the Evander Kane ilk. Or if he’d said Good Ol’ Hometown is dark, cold and in dire need of a WiFi upgrade. But no. So, why is it that so many among the rabble think Trouba isn’t worth a roll of butt wipe, let alone the Jets’ shameful arbitration gambit of $4 million?

I just don’t get it.

Kevin Cheveldayoff

Frankly, I’m inclined to paint Jets management/ownership as the villain in the Trouba saga. I mean, if Puck Pontiff Mark Chipman and general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff truly want him on board for the duration, they have a peculiar way of pitching woo. Seriously. An opening bid of $4 million? Hey, I understand negotiations. Been there, done that, don’t wear the t-shirt. But in offering Trouba $4M, here’s what they’re telling their top-pairing D-man: “Love you loads, Jake, and it’s damn straight that we’ll keep sending you over the boards to shut down the other team’s best players, but we don’t believe you’re worth as much coin as Dmitry Kulikov, our third-pairing D-man. But, hey, don’t take it personal.” Of course Trouba will take it personal, then get out of Dodge five seconds after he becomes an unrestricted free agent two years hence.

For the record, here’s what Trouba said in May when interrogated by news snoops who sought insight re his thoughts on remaining in River City: “You get the sense there’s a little unfinished business with this team. We all have such good relationships on this team, it’s fun to be a part of. Ya, it’s a special team, you wanna play for a contender, and that’s what we have here. I haven’t put a whole ton of thought into it yet, the season just ended, but I’m sure in the next week or two, couple days, I’ll meet with my agent and we’ll go over stuff and we’ll see where it goes from there, let him talk to Chevy and I’m sure something will be worked out. Quicker the better.” So, was he sincere or were his pants on fire? Since neither you or I live or visit inside Trouba’s head, we don’t know. It’s total guess work, and the fact that his agent, Kurt Overhardt, and Cheveldayoff arrived at a contract impasse doesn’t mean Trouba lied.

Patrick Roy

Let’s say, for the sake of discussion, Trouba desires a new postal/zip code and is slumming in Good Ol’ Hometown until such time as les Jets peddle him or he’s a UFA. That makes him unique how? Apparently John Tavares wanted off Long Island (or out of Brooklyn). Scott Niedermayer and Zach Parise wanted out of Jersey (who doesn’t?). Zdeno Chara wanted out of Ottawa. Scott Stevens wanted out of Washington. Patrick Roy wanted out of Montreal. LeBron James wanted out of Cleveland. Twice. Shaq wanted out of Orlando. Roger Clemens wanted out of Beantown. Barry Bonds wanted out of Pittsburgh. Reggie White wanted out of Philly. Deion Sanders wanted out of Atlanta and San Francisco. A-Rod wanted out of Seattle. Reggie Jackson wanted out of Baltimore so he could become Mr. October in Gotham. David Beckam and Wayne Rooney wanted out of England. Need I continue? Suffice to say, athletes seeking a change in locale has been an every-day occurrence in hockey and every other professional sports league since the first skate blade touched a frozen pond.

Oddest comment on the Trouba situation was delivered, not surprisingly, by Paul Wiecek, the Winnipeg Free Press sports columnist whose obsessive hate-on for the Jets defender shows no indication of ebbing. The way Wiecek tells it, Trouba had the bad manners to “drag his employer to a salary arbitration hearing.” Oh, those poor, put-upon Winnipeg Jets. As if. It’s actually quite simple: If the Jets deploy Trouba as a top-pairing defenceman—which they do—they should pay him like one. Then he might not feel obliged to “drag” the poor dears to arbitration.

Marcus Stroman

Some really strange stuff from news snoops in the past week. Let’s start with Sportsnet gab guy Jeff Blair, who went off on Tranna Blue Jays temperamental pitcher Marcus Stroman:

“He’s got this idea that the Toronto media’s against him, yet the people who cover the team on a day-to-day basis—the people who have, frankly, the greatest reason to not like him—voted him pitcher of the year. He has this sort of make-believe grudge against a bunch of people who don’t have a grudge against him. The only thing I ever heard anybody say about him in this city that could possibly annoy him was that we don’t know if he’s good enough to be an ace. Well, we say that about everybody. There’s enough serious stuff going on in everybody’s lives right now that you don’t need a guy who kind of makes stuff up. At some point you wanna ask him, ‘Hey, that might have worked your rookie year. Well, grow up, stop it, be a pro, go about your business. Try to be a little real. Don’t try to create all these make-believe enemies. We don’t need it. Nobody needs that at this point. Maybe it’s time Marcus Stroman stopped being such a narcissist and, uh, you know, take a look around.”

Actually, maybe it’s time that Blair paid attention.

Steve Simmons of Postmedia Tranna has called Stroman a “jerk” and “an annoying kid who needs to grow up just a little.” Meanwhile, disgraced baseball broadcaster Gregg Zaun lashed out at Stroman for his animated antics following a Tranna win over the Los Angeles Angels in April 2017, saying, “Some of the behaviour rubs people the wrong way. I’m one of them. There’s no reason for it. It’s an unsportsmanlike way to behave. You just dominated somebody. Just high five your teammates and go back in the clubhouse and celebrate. I don’t understand why the flashing, the showboating, the rubbing it in people’s face. It ruins a perfectly good day. For people like me, it ruins a perfectly good day. There’s a way to behave on a Major League Baseball field and there’s ways not to do it. Maybe it’s this new generation. Everybody’s gotta have that dig-me moment.”

Those are just two examples of Stroman bashing. I’d say he has a legit reason for not cozying up to news snoops.

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir

I’m not sure what la-la zone the aforementioned Simmons was in when he wrote this gem: “Don’t know if a skating pair can qualify for the Conn Smythe Trophy (sic), but just passed (sic) the halfway point of the year, would anyone have a better case for athlete of the year than Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir?” Sigh. Canada’s top jock(s) receives the Lou Marsh Award, not the Conn Smythe Trophy, which goes to the most valuable player in the Stanley Cup tournament. And pairs fancy skaters have already won the Lou Marsh trinket twice: 2001 Jamie Salé and David Pelletier; 1959 Barbara Wagner and Bob Paul. Just the facts, ma’am. They aren’t hard to find.

I note the Edmonton Eskimos have dropped Terrell Owens from their negotiation list, which means the 44-year-old receiver is free to join any Canadian Football League outfit. A good landing spot would be the Republic of Tranna, where his presence might bump up Argonauts ticket sales. The head count for Saturday’s matinee vs. the Winnipeg Blue Bombers was 10,844, prompting Simmons to scribble this: “If you haven’t been to BMO Field for a football game, you’re missing something. The stadium is the star of this show.” What a truly stupid thing to write.

Really enjoyed The Beaches’ two-tune gig during down time of the Saskatchewan Roughriders-Hamilton Tiger-Cats joust on Thursday night at Timbits Field in the Hammer. You can’t go wrong with girls and guitars, and The Beaches really got after it with Money and T-Shirt. Good stuff.

So, Euclid Cummings is charged with sexual assault and his contract with the B.C. Lions is voided. Teague Sherman is charged with sexual assault and his contract with the Ottawa RedBlacks is voided. Johnny Manziel beats the hell out of his (former) girlfriend and he’s allowed to join the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and now the Montreal Alouettes. What part of its own policy on violence against women does the CFL not understand?

Truly wonderful choice for the Arthur Ashe Courage Award this year—the many victims and survivors of the horrible Larry Nassar and his decades-long campaign of sexual abuse. Seeing the women standing on stage, many of them hand-in-hand, at the ESPY Awards was powerful, moving stuff, and it brought to mind recent winners of the Ashe honor:

2018—the Nassar survivors.
2017—Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founder of Special Olympics.
2016—Zaevion Dobson, high school football player gunned down and killed while shielding two neighborhood girls during a drive-by shooting in Knoxville, Tenn.
2015—Caitlyn Jenner, filthy rich and famous reality TV diva who put on a wig, a gown and showed the world a pair of store-bought boobs.

Reminds me of the Sesame Street game: Which of these things doesn’t belong?

And, finally, just wondering: Did human tumbleweed Neymar fly home from the World Cup with his Brazil teammates, or did he roll home?