Okay, it’s official. Patrik Laine has put more noses out of joint than Mike Tyson in his prime.
Everyone from the Golden Boy to Dancing Gabe is PO’d at the gum-flapping Finn, and it’s only a question of exactly how much tar and feathers it will take to coat his 6-feet-5 frame.
But let’s take a deep breath and a step back, shall we?
Puck Finn isn’t going anywhere just because he shot off his gob—again—and some egos might have been bruised during a 24-hour news cycle.
Oh, sure, it might sound like he wants out, and the blah, blah, blah he’s spewed this summer indicates he wouldn’t kick, scream and hold his breath if Kevin Cheveldayoff were to send a text to Switzerland today, informing the fed-up Finn that he’s got a new postal/zip code.
But do you really think the Winnipeg Jets didn’t see this coming?
The local shinny side knew exactly what it was getting when it marked its territory and claimed Laine with the second shoutout at the 2016 grab bag of teen talent known as the National Hockey League entry draft. By then Puck Finn was already filling notebooks and delivering the kind of sound bites that had news snoops fairly swooning at the prospect of jotting down his bon mots for the next 15 years or so.
June 2016, talking about Auston Matthews: “I think we’re quite even and he’s better than me in some stuff and I’m better than him in some of the things. I wouldn’t say that one of us is better than the other. I think we’re quite even right now.”
September 2016: “I know how good I am. I can say that. It’s not a problem for me. If it’s a problem for somebody else, it’s not my problem. I don’t care what people think. I know I’m a good player. I’m going to stick with that.”
Back then, that meant he had swagger. Confidence. A cocksure strut. The gift that keeps giving.
When Puck Finn backed up the bravado with a 36-goal snot-nose season, followed by 44 snipes as a super soph, he could have scaled the Legislative building on Broadway Avenue and piddled on the Golden Boy and none among the rabble would have batted an eye. Except to say “Betcha Auston Matthews can’t do that.”
Yet here we are today and the faithful want Laine’s mom to wash his mouth out with soap or, at the least, get out the needle and thread and stitch her son’s loose lips together. Even some news snoops want him to zip it.
But why? What has Laine said that’s a get-out-of-Dodge offence?
True, when Chris Johnston of Sportsnet traveled to Lahti for a chin-wag with Puck Finn in mid-August, Mrs. Laine’s boy provided some sound bites that were less than rah, rah, rah for the home side.
“You never know. It’s still a business, you’ve got to be prepared for anything,” he told Johnston. “But, ya, you never know where you’re going to play next year, so I’m just prepared for anything. I’ve got nothing bad to say about Winnipeg, you know? It’s been good so far.”
That ignited a bit of a brush fire and now, almost a month later to the day, he’s skipping more stones across the ocean and an inferno rages.
Puck Finn thinks head coach Paul Maurice is a bit of a tool. The guys he’s forced to skate alongside are beer-league slugs. If only he had someone special to feed him the biscuit, instead of being saddled with Bryan Little, he’d pot 50 goals for sure.
And he’s supposed to say what? I don’t want more ice time? I don’t want to skate with the best guys?
First of all, Puck Finn remains an unsigned restricted free agent. An offer sheet from a predatory outfit is a possibility. What if Chevy and Puck Pontiff Mark Chipman choose not to match (highly, highly unlikely)? So Laine is “prepared for anything.” Makes sense to me.
Is Laine insulting Little and others by saying he’d prefer different playmates? Well, maybe we should let Chevy answer that. After all, the GM has insulted Little the last two springs by surrendering first-round draft picks to bring in rent-a-centres for the playoff push. Apparently Chevy doesn’t believe Little is up to the task, either.
Is Laine insulting Maurice? Hardly. Who among us hasn’t done some serious head scratching over Coach Potty Mouth’s deployment of personnel? The guy juggles more than a street busker. He’s blind to his favorites (hello Chris Thorburn, Mark Stuart) and he allows young talent to rot on the vine (hello Nic Petan).
But that’s for us to say and not Laine, right? As if.
Let me remind you of something else Puck Finn said last November: “You always have to think about what you’re going to say, but you have to be yourself. That’s the most important thing; just be yourself, and say what you think.”
So Laine is saying what he thinks and that’s no longer cool because he had the bad manners to score only 30 goals last winter?
Well, don’t say you weren’t warned. In early June 2016, I wrote this: “Is the Flamboyant Finn and his loose lips a fit for the Winnipeg Jets or will he give them fits?”
Looks like Puck Finn’s gift of the gab might actually be the Curse of the Gob, but I’m guessing that 110 snipes in three NHL seasons means the Jets will learn to live with it.
As for news snoops who want Laine to zip it? As tennis great John McEnroe once said to a chair umpire: “You CANNOT be serious!”
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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?
The bloom is off the petunia in the Republic of Tranna.
We know this to be so because it finally has occurred to easily swayed news snoops in The ROT that Wayne Gretzky and Bobby Orr don’t actually skate with the Maple Leafs.
Turns out it was a case of mistaken identity. Auston Matthews is actually Auston Matthews, not No. 99. Morgan Rielly is actually Morgan Rielly, not No. 4. Les Leafs are actually a work in progress, not the 1980s Edmonton Oilers. Pond hockey is fun to watch but not actually sustainable. The juggernaut is actually a jugger-not! Who knew?
Certainly not the scribes and natterbugs in The ROT who’d been howling hosannas about Matthews and Rielly at a deafening and, yes, annoying volume. It was as if the two youthful Leafs had invented vulcanized rubber, the Zamboni and Coach’s Corner.
Alas, troubled times have arrived.
Les Leafs seemingly became National Hockey League d’oh! boys overnight. There were zero goals in a stumble against the Pittsburgh Penguins. There was one score in a faceplant vs. the St. Louis Blues.
In an attempt to dig to the root of these missteps, les Leafs, normally off duty on the Sabbath, were summoned and assembled yesterday. Not for a practice, though. This was what multi-millionaire head coach Mike Babcock described as a “reality therapy meeting.”
No word if Dr. Phil was brought in as a guest coach, or if Oprah was on standby with her couch.
So when les Leafs arrive at The Little Hockey House On The Prairie for their Wednesday night skirmish with the Winnipeg Jets, be gentle with them, kids. They’re in therapy, don’t you know.
Les Leafs, of course, come to town sans gifted forward William Nylander, who remains back home in Europe awaiting a contract offer he can’t refuse. I hope he isn’t holding his breath. I mean, let’s say, for the sake of discussion, that reports of the unsigned restricted free agent’s asking price are accurate. Hmmm, $8.5 million. That’s Leon Draisaitl money. Well, just because the Edmonton Oilers are stupid doesn’t mean the Maple Leafs have to be.
So let me see if I’ve got this straight: The Montreal Alouettes were down to their final play on Saturday afternoon, scrimmaging on the Tranna Argonauts’ 48-yard stripe, thus it was Hail Mary time in a 26-22 game. And what does Larks head coach Mike Sherman do? He yanks his starting quarterback, Johnny Manziel, and inserts a cold Antonio Pipkin behind centre because he had “fresh legs.” What exactly did Sherman expect Pipkin to do? Toss the football with his feet? Unless Johnny Rotten is incapable of flinging a football 50 yards, Sherman’s reasoning makes no sense at all. It was boneheaded coaching.
Manziel showed us what he’s all about when he dashed away in a huff the moment Pipkin’s fresh legs failed to avoid the Argos’ pass rush and he was sacked on the final play in the Larks’ loss. No mingling with the boys on the field after the fact. No hand shakes or job-well-done words for his mates and foes. Just sprint and pout (his legs look real “fresh” as he ran away). Hey, I don’t blame the guy for being PO’d, but scurrying off in a hissy fit is a bad, spoiled-brat optic. And it confirms that Johnny Rotten is all about Johnny Rotten.
An unidentified Canadian Football league coach or GM delivered this gem to Kirk Penton of The Athletic: “Manziel’s better than you think. No quarterback can win with that group of offensive linemen Montreal is putting out there.” Not true. Pipkin won two of four starts with the O-lineman that the Alouettes are “putting out there.” It’s just the 0-6 Johnny Rotten who can’t win with them.
Why is the CFL keeping the head count for the Als-Argos skirmish at BMO Field a secret? I mean, so what if you see more people at Chris Walby’s backyard BBQ? Give us the attendance figure already.
This week’s CFL power rankings… 1. Calgary (12-4): Still the team to beat.
2. Saskatchewan (11-6): Where did that offence come from?
3. Winnipeg (9-7): Back to work this week.
4. B.C. (9-7): Winning for Wally.
5. Ottawa (9-7): A playoff bye for Bytown?
6. Hamilton (8-8): Losing Speedy B is huge.
7. Edmonton (8-9): Wholesale changes are a-coming.
8. Toronto (4-12): Blah, blah, blah.
9. Montreal (3-13): Yadda, yadda, yadda.
If you’re a parent with a child playing football, you might want to take a peek at the latest issue of The Manitoba Teacher, where you’ll find an excellent feature by one of my favorite people and former colleague Judy Owen. She gets into the safety measures local leagues are taking in an attempt to curb injuries, and Winnipeg Blue Bombers greats Chris Walby and Troy Westwood offer input. It’s good stuff.
Still no freshly minted sports columnist to replace the departed Paul Wiecek at the Winnipeg Free Press. I thought they’d have had someone in place the moment Wiecek walked out the door, because a sports section without a columnist is like a church without prayer. A pub without pints. Sinatra without a song. As good as the Drab Slab’s foot soldiers are in the toy department—and they are good—the section needs a lead voice. Someone to arouse the rabble. And I need someone to critique.
So, Johnny Miller plans to pull the plug on his golf analyst gig with NBC Sports after the Phoenix Open in early February next year. Shame. Although pompous, Miller is blunt and goes directly to the point. He’s never been afraid to ruffle feathers. He and tennis great John McEnroe are the two most honest game analysts/color commentators on sports TV. Apparently Paul Azinger will move into Miller’s seat at NBC. He’s good, but he’s going to hear a lot of “He’s no Johnny Miller” when he cushions his comments.
John Morris tells Ted Wyman of the Winnipeg Sun that his hurry-hard days in men’s curling are done, and he’ll now focus on mixed doubles. That’s one of those good news, bad news things. It’s good that Johnny Mo will continue to curl, because he’s a colorful guy who knows how to fill news snoops’ notebooks and deliver quality sound bites. But, since mixed doubles is still in its infancy and sits on the periphery of the game, he won’t be as visible. So file that part of his decision under not so good.
The low-key, subdued farewell is among the quirks of world-class curling. Johnny Mo steps away from the men’s game and there’s no fanfare, even though he is among the most-decorated Pebble People of all time. Intense (sometimes to a fault) and combative, Johnny Mo did it all on the pebble. This is a hall of fame curler. His resumé includes multiple Olympic, world and Canadian championships and, of course, he collaborated with Kaitlyn Lawes to reach the top step of the podium in the inaugural mixed doubles event at the Winter Games in South Korea last February. But there will be no teary-eyed press gathering like we see when a hockey, football, baseball or hoops great bids adios. Legends like Morris, Kevin Martin, Jeff Stoughton, Elisabet Gustafson, Colleen Jones, Dugie et al go quietly into the night. Or to the broadcast booth. It’s the curler’s way.
And, finally, Rihanna apparently rejected an offer to headline the halftime show at next year’s Super Bowl, so we’re stuck with Adam Levine and Maroon 5. Personally, I’m not into either performer’s music, but I know whose wardrobe I’d like to see malfunction.
Now that Josh Morrissey is back on board, here’s what I’m curious about: Will the rabble—and at least one prominent jock journo—speak and write the same evil about him as they did Jacob Trouba during the past two years?
Trouba, you’ll recall, failed to surface for Winnipeg Jets training exercises in 2016 and he’s been Darth Skater ever since. It’s as if he’s responsible for all that raw sewage pouring into the city’s river system.
Morrissey was MIA for the first three days of Camp PoMo. Does that make him Darth Skater Lite?
I mean, from what I can determine there’s just one difference between the two young National Hockey League defenders: Trouba declared a desire to get out of Dodge prior to his contract impasse, which stretched into November of ’16, and his hankering for a new postal/zip code became a matter of public record. Morrissey, meanwhile, has expressed no such yearning. The only comments he delivered for public consumption during his prolonged contract discussions sounded like a 1960s love-in: Love the Jets. Love my teammates. Love River City. Want to be on board for the long haul. We’ll get a deal done.
Well, now that the deal is done (two years, $6.3 million), I’m hoping that Morrissey will be spared the unharnessed hostility heaped upon his blueline accomplice, and that’s as it should be.
Like Trouba before him, Morrissey has done nothing wrong.
“You make your decision and you stand up for what you believe in and I wouldn’t expect him to take anything less that what he feels he’s worth,” Trouba was saying the other day, not long after the local lads had assembled for their initial pre-season frolic.
The notion that these players should happily lap up whatever Kool-Aid that Puck Pontiff Mark Chipman and his main bidder, Kevin Cheveldayoff, are serving is absurd.
Let’s be clear: Morrissey and les Jets had agreed to disagree until Sunday. That doesn’t make him a malcontent or a bad guy.
Here’s my thought on those third jerseys les Jets unveiled on Friday: That’s the biggest swing and a miss since mighty Casey struck out for the Mudville Nine. Seriously. Has a beer league team reported a set of stolen sweaters?
Here’s my thought on Tyler Myers playing on the left side of les Jets defence: Egads.
Much has been made of the fact that Jets goal-scoring maestro Puck Finn shed 14 pounds and the worst set of chin whiskers in hockey history during the summer. Here’s betting that if the puck isn’t going in early and often for Patrik Laine, the bread-butter-and-eggman beard grows back.
Speaking of facial foliage, I note that the Tranna Maple Leafs have scrapped their ban on beards. Yup, players can now sprout chin whiskers. Most excited about the new directive is forward Mitch Marner. It gives him something to look forward to when he finally reaches puberty.
I find it interesting that les Leafs and Air Canada would lift their respective restrictions on beards at the same time. As for extra baggage, Air Canada is still charging a fee and Ron Hainsey is still with the Leafs.
It’s a given that everyone in sports lives on Planet Pinocchio, which is to say they tell fibs. It’s part of their DNA. But it’s difficult to determine whose pants were on fire in Montreal recently, when les Canadiens ownership/management and former captain Max Pacioretty engaged in a “he said/he said/no I didn’t” peeing contest.
Geoff Molson, team bankroll: “We’re just going to focus on telling the truth, and that’s that a (trade) request was made. When the request was made to look at making a trade, we started to actively go after that.”
Marc Bergevin, general manager: “Last season, he asked for a trade. I will not go into details. But that’s a fact.”
Pacioretty: “There’s no truth to that. And I can confidently say that.”
Pacioretty is now with the Vegas Golden Knights. No one is denying it.
If you’re looking for some good reading (and you know you won’t find it here), check out Dan Myers’ nhl.com piece on Minnesota Wild head coach Bruce Broudreau and the 9/11 tragedy, and New York Islander goaltender Robin Lehner’s first-person account in The Athletic on his winning battle with the bottle, depression and suicidal notions. As my first sports editor, Jack Matheson, would tell us whenever we wrote something that caught his fancy, it’s “damn good” stuff. Very powerful.
Is it mere coincidence that Antonio Pipkin had his worst day at the office scant hours after TSN’s favorite lousy quarterback, Johnny Manziel, shot off at the mouth about losing his job as the Montreal Alouettes starter?
Pipkin was beyond dismal in the Larks’ 32-14 loss to the B.C. Lions on Friday night, throwing for less than 100 yards and four interceptions, including a pair of late Pick Sixes. What I found myself wondering while watching the carnage was whether or not Johnny Rotten’s rant during the leadup to the skirmish impacted on Pipkin’s performance.
“They traded half of an organization I feel like in terms of what they gave up to get me here,” Manziel had told news snoops. “I would think I would get a chance to come in and still play. That’s where maybe it’s a little bit lost on me. Missing the game because of the concussion and then not getting to play once I was back, it’s been frustrating for sure. Because I felt like there was a lot of hope and a lot of faith in me being the guy here and how quickly that’s changed in two weeks is tough.”
Sounds to me like the bleating of an entitled, me-first rich kid.
To recap, Manziel started two games behind centre for Montreal. He was gawdawful in his Canadian Football League debut, and only marginally better the next time out, when he suffered a concussion. He was 0-2. In his absence, Pipkin won two of three assignments, pumping oxygen into the lifeless Larks and establishing himself as the No. 1. Apparently, none of that registered with Johnny College. Despite missing three days of practice with the flu, he’s convinced he should have been at the wheel vs. B.C.
It’s believe he’ll miss the next month of the season due to hurt feelings.
Oh, joy, Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao are going to exchange punches again for a gazillion dollars in December. How will they bill the fist fight between the two boxing fossils, The Wife Beater vs. The Homophobe? And how many suckers will actually pay to watch it?
The is too funny: Last week, Steve Simmons of Postmedia Tranna wrote, “I really hope the Maple Leafs pick a captain soon—so everybody can just shut up about it. The captain stuff: Relatively meaningless.” So what’s the first snippet in Simmons’ latest notes column about? You guessed it. The Leafs “relatively meaningless” captaincy. Does he even read his own stuff before hitting the send button?
I began covering tennis in 1971, when the premier players in the country made the first of their annual summer pilgrimages to the har-tru courts of the Winnipeg Canoe Club for the Canadian National tournament. In the ensuing years, I witnessed no small amount of brattish behaviour, perhaps the most memorable being a classic hissy fit from the tightly strung Dale Power, who, after an unexpected loss, hucked all his racquets and other paraphernalia into an open construction pit that was to become the badminton wing of WCC. In tennis, the men were the divas (hello John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, Ilie Nastase). McEnroe became a pathetic caricature of himself. Connors was a narcissistic boor. Nastase was a lewd, crude oinker. So where does the great self-promoting female crusader Serena Williams fit in with the bad-ass boys? I’d say she’s a combination of McEnroe and Connors—a narcissistic caricature.
And, finally, chair umpire Carlos Ramos, he of the Serena Williams foofaraw at the U.S. Open, dinged Marin Cilic of Croatia with a code violation for racquet abuse in his Davis Cup match vs. Sam Querrey of the U.S. today. Cilic did not call Ramos a “liar” or a “thief,” nor did he mention anything about parenting or fighting for equal rights. Apparently, he simply played on. What a concept.
You know you aren’t teacher’s pet when you appear in a public service announcement about the evils of drinking and driving and the rabble boos.
What did Winnipeg Blue Bombers fans do after Saturday’s football game? Go to the airport and boo bad landings?
I mean, welcome to Philadelphia North, kids.
I don’t know if Matt Nichols is a drinking man, but what transpired at Football Follies Field in Fort Garry on Saturday afternoon might be enough to drive him to it. The guy had a bad day at the office and it’s like he kicked a Girl Guide off his front porch. After stealing her cookies.
But this is what happens when you’re the starting quarterback for the Blue Bombers and you keep throwing the football to the wrong people, which Nichols did early and often in Winnipeg FC’s latest face plant, a 32-27 loss to a Saskatchewan Roughriders outfit that failed to find the end zone on offence.
You normally win in the Canadian Football League if you limit the other guys to field goals, which the Bombers defensive dozen did in this annual renewal of the Banjo Bowl. It was a job well done.
Alas, Nichols was so inept that even his biggest booster finally noticed. That would be head coach Mike O’Shea, who’d rather pull out his back teeth with a pair of rusty pliers than pull his starting QB. This day, however, the coach had seen enough of Nichols by the time the large lads broke for recess, so he instructed him to stand on the sideline and observe while understudy Chris Streveler attempted to undo the mess he’d created.
Shortly thereafter, the drinking-and-driving PSA popped up on the big screen at Football Follies Field and down rained the boos on Nichols.
He couldn’t be less popular if he made rabbit stew out of the Easter Bunny.
But seriously. Booing a guy during a PSA for drunk driving? Get a grip, people.
Here’s the deal: There is no quarterback controversy in the Bombers coaching bunker. Unless there’s intervention from on high (hello, Wade Miller), Nichols, not Streveler, will be behind centre when Winnipeg FC returns to the fray against the Montreal Alouttes two weeks hence.
“Matt deserves another chance to play and lead this team to victory because he’s done it so many times. Matt’s won a helluva lot of games for us,” O’Shea said, not long after watching Nichols implode with five first-half interceptions (two were nullified due to Saskatchewan infractions) that included a pair of Pick Sixes.
He also mumbled something about reviewing film and allowing the sour taste of a fourth straight misstep to disappear before making a “rash” decision because “that wouldn’t be good for anybody.”
The thing is, what’s good for O’Shea might not be good for Miller, chief cook and bottle washer with Winnipeg FC.
It’s worth noting a comment a CFL coach or general managerdelivered recently to Kirk Penton of The Athletic: “I wouldn’t want to be around Wade Miller if the Bombers lose on Saturday. He’s a guy who loves the Bombers, wants to win a championship and when he isn’t happy everyone (bleeping) knows it. Heads are going to roll over there if things don’t change fast. Wade’s not going to put up with bull shit excuses.”
Just curious: Did Andrew Harris actually play in Saturday’s skirmish? The official stats sheet indicates the Bombers running back had 10 carries and one reception. I must have been making lunch at the time.
Old friend Troy Westwood started it all when, as the left foot of the Bombers in 2004, he called our prairie neighbors “a bunch of banjo-pickin’ inbreds.” Thus, the Banjo Bowl was born. Seemed like good-natured, harmless banter at the time, but what about today? Well, Roughriders radio gab guy Rod Pedersen asked this on Twitter: “Are you offended by the term Banjo Bowl?”
Results: 3,451 votes;
92 per cent “No;”
8 per cent “Yes.”
I’ve always been on Colin Kaepernick’s side in the Great American Kneeling Debate, but the slogan for the 30th anniversary of Nike’s Just Do It campaign baffles me a bit: “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” Are they telling us Kaepernick sacrificed “everything” by taking a knee during the playing of the Star-Spangled Banner at National Football League games? Okay, he’s been blackballed by NFL team owners, but, according to Business Insider, the now-out-of-work quarterback collected $39.4 million on the three-year contract he signed with the San Francisco 49ers in 2014. Overall in a short NFL career, he made in excess of $43 million. Numerous sources place his net worth at $20 million or more. He bought a New York City condo for $3.21 million in 2016. He sold his home in San Jose last year for $3.075 million. And you know Nike isn’t paying him mice nuts to be its pitch man. Try eight figures. This is not a man who sacrificed “everything” and is getting by on food stamps and whatever spare change he can collect on a Manhattan street corner.
I don’t own any Nike sports gear or clothing, so I won’t be joining the Just Burn It protest of Nike apparel for the sweat shop giant’s new ad campaign featuring Kaepernick, who’s brought more people to their knees than the Pope. But I wouldn’t put a match to it if I did. If I’m going to light something on fire, it’ll be the Blue Bombers playbook, not the Nike swoosh.
The Tranna Maple Leafs plan to enter their 2018-19 National Hockey League crusade sans the letter C stitched on any player’s sweater. Officially, which is to say according to general manager Kyle Dubas, that’s because they’ve yet to determine who’s “best suited to handle” the heft that comes with wearing a patch of cloth that weighs about an ouce. Unofficially, it’s because they don’t want to put John Tavares’s nose out of joint. Ditto Auston Matthews’ beak.
Speaking of noses out of joint, some Quebec politicos are having a proper hissy fit now that tennis diva Genie Bouchard has become an official resident of the Bahamas, where she won’t be taxed on all that money she collects for losing tennis tournaments and posing half naked in fashion mags and Sports Illustrated. “I think we should live where we were born, where we learned to play tennis and pay taxes in our country,” whinges Francois Legault, leader of the Coalition Avenir Québec. Well, let me say this about that: I was born and learned to play tennis in Winnipeg. If it’s all the same to Mssr. Legault, I’ll stay in Victoria, which is not a haven from taxes but a haven from Winnipeg winters.
So, Blake Wheeler signs and extension with the Winnipeg Jets and TSN props up Dave Poulin to tell us what it means. Why do they insist on trotting Poulin out as a hockey expert/analyst when he was among seven people who didn’t believe Connor McDavid was the NHL’s top centre-ice man last season. The Edmonton Oilers captain was the scoring champion for cripes sake. His peers awarded him the Ted Lindsay Award as the game’s premier player. Yet Poulin saw something different. He voted McDavid off the island and listed Nathan MacKinnon, Anze Kopitar and Evgeni Malkin on his all-star ballot. It’s believed he also voted Mrs. Howell as the hottest babe on Gilligan’s Island, ahead of both Ginger and Mary Ann.
This from Kate Beirness of TSN on Steve Nash, inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame on Friday: “A playmaker who was more creative on the floor than anyone we had seen before.” Anyone? She would know this how? I mean, she’s 34 years old. Why do these young people insist on talking like they were there back in the day? It’s irksome. She never saw Bob Cousy. Oscar Robertson. If she saw Magic in his prime, it was from her crib or playpen. It’s fair for Beirness to talk about the traffic in her lane, but don’t talk about the traffic in my lane.
Serena Williams went all John McEnroe on chair umpire Carlos Ramos in the U.S. Open women’s final on Saturday in Gotham, and it was ugly. She was ugly. Williams turned her 6-2, 6-4 loss to Naomi Osaka into an unhinged crusade for motherhood (“I have a daughter and I stand what’s right for her!”) and women’s rights. Ramos is “sexist” (also a thief for giving her two code violations and penalizing her a game). “This is not fair,” she whinged. “This has happened to me too many times. This is not fair. This is not fair. It’s not fair, it’s really not. Do you know how many other men do things, that do much worse than that? It’s just not fair.” Williams’ pity party hijacked what should have been a night of celebration for Osaka, a first-time tennis grand slam champion. Osaka was full of grace. Williams was a complete disgrace.
And, finally, something you never thought you’d see: An openly gay man referencing his partner in a hoops hall of fame induction speech. That would be Rick Welts, chief operating officer of the Golden State Warriors, who spoke lovingly of his partner, Todd Gage, on Friday night. It was a beautiful thing.
I cannot survive in a 140- or 280-character world, so here are more tweets that grew up to be too big for Twitter…
Jill Officer has yet to utter the R-word. Retirement. She insists she’s just taking “a step back.”
Well, okay. If she says so.
I mean, Officer can define her retreat from elite curling with the terminology of her choosing, but she wept openly last month after going public with her decision. You don’t cry if you’re staying. You cry when you’re leaving.
Thus, there’s no escaping the fact that we have arrived at the end of an era. An unparalleled era.
Officer, of course, has been playing Thelma to Jennifer Jones’s Louise since…well, since about the same time the fictional Thelma and Louise were on the lam, leading cops on a catch-us-if-you-can romp across America. That classic chick flick arrived on the big screen in May 1991. Curling’s two J Girls united shortly thereafter, and foes and friends have been chasing them ever since.
A quarter century. Who stays together that long? The Lone Ranger and Tonto. Homer and Marge. Mick and Keith. Fish and chips. That’s about it.
Here’s some time perspective: One of the J Girls’ teammates on the Canadian rep at the world women’s championship in North Bay the past week, fifth Shannon Birchard, wasn’t even in her mama’s womb when Officer and Jones first joined forces. The outfit’s third, Kaitlyn Lawes, had yet to begin grade school.
And it’s been quite the trip that skip Jen and second Jill have taken us on since that day in the early ’90s when the teenage Jones pulled the teenage Officer aside for a chit-chat by a Coke machine at the Highlander Curling Club in Winnipeg, whereupon they forged a partnership that has produced provincial (nine), Canadian (seven), Grand Slam (15), world (two) and Olympic titles. (Did I mention it was an unparalleled era among Manitoba curlers?)
Following Canada’s drama-drenched 7-6, extra-end victory over Sweden (brilliant game) on Sunday, there’ll be two curtain calls for the 42-year-old Officer in Grand Slam of Curling competition, then she’ll ease away, making only cameo appearances for the world-champion Jones team, which includes lead Dawn McEwen and will add Jocelyn Peterman to throw second stones next season.
This world title was the ideal, also appropriate, way for Officer to leave the big stage. One final run for glory. One final crown. And a perfect (14-0) storybook ending.
It was a beautiful thing.
Terrific Jill Officer story from Paul Wiecek, longtime curling scribe and now columnist with the Winnipeg Free Press: “For the longest time, she would come to every major curling event the Jones team was competing in with these little chocolate curling rocks she’d buy at Morden’s in Winnipeg before she left. She’d tie a little ribbon around those chocolate rocks and attach a thank you card. And then, win or lose, Officer, who was a TV reporter back in the day, would come up to the media bench at the end of those curling events and hand those cards and chocolates to the reporters who’d been covering her team, just to thank us for the coverage. You know who else I covered over the last three decades who gave me a thank you card? Nobody.” I can relate. After covering the 1997 Brier in Calgary, I received a thank you card in the mail. It was from the late, great Vic Peters, his bride Deb, and their kids, Elisabeth, Kassie and Daley. That card sits atop my bookcase, 21 years after the fact. Curlers are wonderful and Peters, who left us almost exactly two years ago to this very day, was a total treat.
This is an equal-opportunity blog, folks. That is, any and all who do, say or write something stupid in sports are fair game for scorn, ridicule, rude laughter and no-insults-barred cheap shots. No exceptions. Sacred cows do not exist. Unless, of course, I harbor a special fondness for someone (hello, Tessa Virtue), in which case nary a discouraging word shall be written.
With that in mind, it’s only fair that I direct your attention to an analysis delivered prior to the first puck drop of the Winnipeg Jets current National Hockey League crusade. To wit:
“It appears that the Western Conference road to the Stanley Cup is likely to go through Northern Alberta. If not, it’ll be Southern Alberta, where the Calgary Flames are shaping up to be a force. The trouble with the Jets—aside from the people behind the bench—is geography. Until they prove otherwise, they’re still the third best outfit on the Canadian Prairies.”
And what goomer wrote that tripe? Guilty, yer honor. Yup, it was little ol’ moi. D’oh! D’oh! D’oh!
But, hey, it’s not the dumbest thing I’ve ever scribbled. I once referred to the Major League Baseball all-star game as the “annual Fall Classic,” even though it’s played in July. And, of course, there was the time I mentioned something about Doug Flutie being nothing more than a fair-weather quarterback, only to then watch him win a Grey Cup game in a blizzard.
So, ya, Brain Cramps ‘R’ Me.
I find little or no consolation in the knowledge that the Edmonton McDavids and Flames fooled the majority of those who observe the goings-on of the NHL. I mean, seven of 16 “experts” at Sportsnet picked the McDavids to win the West. Fifteen of 16 forecast either the McDavids or Flames to finish with the highest points total among the seven Canadian clubs. Over at USA Today, the boys and girls on the beat had the McDavids finishing first in the Pacific Division, with Calgary in third. Yet, once the Stanley Cup tournament commences next month, the McDavids and Flames will have their noses pressed to the window, watching the fun from the outside. Sigh. The difference between me and the scribes/talking heads at Sportsnet and USA Today? They get paid to be dumb. I don’t. Sometimes life just isn’t fair.
This week’s Steve-ism from Steve Simmons of Postmedia Tranna dates back to a Dec. 12 tweet, in which he wrote: “With four points tonight, @cmcdavid97 moves into 3rd in NHL scoring behind Steve Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov. McDavid be back in the scoring lead within 10 days, I figure, maybe sooner.” Connor McDavid moved atop the scoring chart on Saturday night, meaning Simmons missed the mark by 92 days, or three months. Yup, another guy getting paid to be dumb.
Going from dumb to dumber, we give you this headline from the Winnipeg Sun last week: “Jets Connor for Calder?” Oh, shut the front door! I like Kyle Connor. He’s been the second-best contributor named Connor on the Jets roster this crusade. So, I agree, the kid’s boffo. But the NHL’s leading freshman? As if. Donald Trump will give up golf, Playmates and porn stars before that happens. Mathew Barzal of the New York Islanders is your top frosh. No debate. After that, it’s Brock Boeser and the rest. And it won’t have anything to do with Connor doing his thing in out-of-the-way Winnipeg. “Everything goes under the radar when you play in Winnipeg,” says Jets captain Blake Wheeler. Road apples! Dale Hawerchuk didn’t go under the radar. Teemu Selanne didn’t go under the radar. Barzal will win because he’s had the better rookie season, to date by 29 points.
Lest we forget, the Jets have Don Sweeney to thank for Connor’s 28 goals, because the Boston Bruins general manager passed on the University of Michigan winger on three consecutive shout-outs during the first round of the 2015 NHL entry draft. Odd bit of business, that. Sweeney Odd, we hasten to add, also overlooked Barzal and Brock Boeser to instead claim Jake DeBrusk, Jakub Zboril and Zachary Senyshyn. So let’s do the math: The trio of Connor, Barzal and Boeser have combined for 77 goals and 178 points this season. The three guys the Boston GM swooped in on have contributed 14 goals and 39 points to the Bruins’ cause. Difference: 63 goals, 139 points. Sweeney Odd gets to keep his day job, though, because his club is already selling playoff tickets.
So, it only took the Professional Hockey Writers Association half a century to do what they’ve been demanding of everyone from Clarence Campbell to Harold Ballard’s parole officer since forever—full disclosure. Oh, yes, in recent balloting, 81.3 per cent of the jewels of puck journalism agreed that voting on the NHL’s annual year-end trinkets ought to be made public. PHWA vice-president Frank Seravalli of TSN declared this “a big moment.” I hope he didn’t pull a muscle patting himself on the back. I mean, if 81.3 per cent were in favor of complete transparency, 18.7 per cent still prefer the process be kept hush-hush. In other words, they don’t have the balls to defend their choices for the Hart, Norris, Lady Byng, Masterton, Calder, Selke and Smythe nick-nacks. If ever there was a vote that should have been unanimous, that was it.
Best lip service of the week comes from Tranna Blue Jays manager John Gibbons: “My experience in this game is that sometimes it’s better to be smart than stupid.” Sometimes? You only want to be unstupid sometimes? Tells me it’s gonna be another long baseball season for the Tranna Nine.
If Rory McIlroy had his druthers, the ‘P’ in PGA Tour would stand for Prohibition. Yup, McIlroar wants them to turn off the taps at golf tournaments. “I think they need to limit alcohol sales on the course,” he said after the third round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational last weekend. Imagine that. An Irishman calling for a ban on booze. St. Patty is spinning. But McIlroar is serious. By his measure, too man fans are getting banjo’d, Magooed, gee-eyed and jarred at PGA events. “It used to be you bring beers on the course, but not liquor,” he went on. “And now it seems like everyone is walking around with a cocktail. So I don’t know if it’s just people walking around with beers in their hand, that’s fine.” Ya, we all know that no guy drinking beer has ever gotten loud, obnoxious and blethered. Slainte, Rory.
So, Martina Navratilova is having herself a proper, little hissy fit after learning how much the BBC stuffs into John McEnroe’s pay envelope ($210,000-$280,000) for flapping his gums during the Wimbledon fortnight. The tennis legend is “not happy” and “it’s shocking” that Johnny Mac earns 10 times the $27,000 she collects. “It’s still the good old boys’ network,” she says. “The bottom line is that male voices are valued more than women’s voices.” Get a grip, girl. You’re both getting paid by the word, and McEnroe never shuts the hell up.
Seriously, although the BBC is guilty of gender pay inequity, the McEnroe-Navratilova situation isn’t a he-she thing. It’s a talent thing. He’s the best tennis talker. Is he 10 times better than her? That can’t be measured, but I’ll submit he’s superior by a considerable margin. His work load is also considerably heavier. Look, Al Michaels reportedly earns $5 million per year to talk football on NBC. His sidekick, Cris Collinsworth, collects $1 million, or thereabouts. They sit in the same broadcast booth, for the same length of time; they watch the same players and the same game. Yet one hauls in $5 mill and the other $1 mill. It’s the same 5-1 ratio with Joe Buck and Troy Aikman over at Fox Sports. Nothing to do with gender.
And, finally, I’ve heard little quarrel about the Canadian Football Hall of Fame class of 2018—Hank Ilesic, Scott Flory, Baron Miles, Brent Johnson, Frank Cosentino, Paul Brule and Tom Hugo.
One dissenting voice, however, comes from Steve Simmons (I know, what a surprise). He wonders why Tricky Dick Thornton, the all-purpose player with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Tranna Argonauts in the 1960s and early ’70s, and Leo (The Lip) Cahill, former head coach and general manager of the Boatmen, continue to be snubbed.
“It’s a shame and overdue because both were significant to the success of the Canadian Football League and for reasons I’ve never ascertained, have been pushed aside on an annual basis,” he writes.
I agree with Simmons on Thornton. Makes no sense. Ya, sure, he was a non-conformist. He wore his hair long, he wore an earring, he had a Fu Manchu mustache, he wrote poetry and sucked up to the media. But he also played every position but percussion in the symphony orchestra. And played them all exceptionally well.
As for Cahill, he was a charming, colorful character but a career .500 head coach. He never won the Grey Cup.
I cannot survive in a 140-character world, so here are more tweets that grew up to be too big for Twitter…
Came across an interesting item on social media the other day, whereby folks were listing their all-time favorite athletes. Not a greatest athlete list, understand. A fave list. Here’s mine:
Wilma Rudolph: So sleek, so elegant. Such regal bearing. The Italians called her La Gazzella Negra and, to the French, she was La Perle Noir. I adored the American sprinter who blossomed from sickly child (polio, double pneumonia, scarlet fever) into an Olympic champion sprinter. She wowed the world at the 1960 Games in Rome, skedaddling to three gold medals. Once back home in Clarksville, Tenn., she insisted that a parade/gala in her honor include all townsfolk, and history records it as the first fully integrated municipal event in town history.
Martina Navratilova: When the tennis legend defected from the former Czechoslovakia in 1975, she was a high school kid with everything going against her. English was not her first language. Family and friends were on the other side of the world. Fear of being seized and hauled back to her homeland by thugs in trench coats was ever-present. She had a fondness for Big Macs and large fries. And, as we discovered a few years later, she was a lesbian, which was a lot less cool then than it is now. But, as she was to tell news snoops in early September of ’75, “I wanted my freedom.” Once untethered from the leash of communist state suppression, Navratilova became the greatest player of her generation. To some, the greatest ever. And she’s long been a leading voice in the LGBT community.
Sandy Koufax: I should have been mad at Koufax on Oct. 6, 1965. The Los Angeles Dodgers—my team—were in Minneapolis to engage a hefty-hitting Minnesota Twins batting lineup in Game 1 of the World Series. Koufax, the premier pitcher in Major League Baseball, should have been on the mound. Instead, it was Don Drysdale, who, although no slouch on the hill, was no Koufax. But I couldn’t get mad at the great lefthander because his reason for taking the day off was unassailable—it was Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar. Sandy Koufax was my favorite player long before he deferred to his faith by declining to start Game 1, but his decision still resonates with me, much more than any of the other-wordly numbers that he posted during the 1960s. It was a shining life lesson, even for a Roman Catholic kid. (p.s. The Dodgers won the Series, with Koufax pitching successive shutouts in Games 5 and 7, the latter on only two days rest.)
Bjorn Borg:He was the anti-Johnny Mac. While John McEnroe would disrupt matches with volcanic eruptions of petulance, Borg played tennis with a Zen-like calm, utilizing an assortment of two-fisted, cross-court backhands and top-spinning forehands to disassemble foes en route to 11 Grand Slam championships, including five successive Wimbledon titles. I admired the Swede’s calm amidst chaos, his unflappable resolve, and his quiet intensity—all wrapped in a cloak of mystery—as much as I did his groundstrokes. To this day, I wonder what made Borg tick.
Arnold Palmer/Rafael Nadal: Okay, this is cheating. But I couldn’t decide between Rafa, the king of clay court tennis, and Arnie, the king of golf. Arnie and Sandy Koufax were my go-to guys as a kid, Rafa is my go-to guy in my dotage. Arnie was a swashbuckler, daring and charismatic, and universally respected and admired as a sportsman and, more important, as a person. Rafa arrived on the tennis scene with bulging biceps, sleeveless tops and pirate pants. “Different,” I thought upon seeing him for the first time. Well, vive la difference! Rafa adorns himself in regular tennis togs now, but there’s never been anything regular about his game. Especially on clay. And the Spaniard seems like such a nice, young man.
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers offed the RedBlacks, 33-30, in Ottawa on Friday night, in large part because Mike O’Shea managed to stay out of his own way. I guess that means the natterbugs will have to squawk about something other than the head coach’s short pants this week. Maybe they can blame him for that scuzzy brown tap water in River City.
Upon further review, further review was ruining the game, so bravo to commish Randy Ambrosie and Canadian Football League team poobahs for taking away every head coach’s favorite toy—the challenge flag. Well, okay, the sideline stewards aren’t exactly hanky-free. Each coach is still allowed to toss one yellow hanky each game, but that beats a total of six potential challenges per match.
In the world according to Paul Wiecek of the Winnipeg Free Press, changing the coach’s challenge rule this deep into the season makes the CFL head office a “clown show.” It’s “amateur hour.” Actually, it’s quite the opposite. The real “clown show” was coaches using frivolous challenges to challenge nothing but the integrity of the game and spirit of the rule, which is to “get it right.” I watched all four games last week and that “clown show” is definitely over. No more hanky-panky from the coaches.
Oh boy. Some people just don’t pay attention. We’re only at the front end of August and already Freep sports editor and Wiecek’s Grumpet twin, Steve Lyons, is promoting folly. “Best place to finish might be fourth in the West” for the Bombers, he advises us. That way, they’d earn a crossover post-season berth and play the patsies in Eastern Canada. Repeat after me, Mr. Lyons: No, no, no, no, no…nine times no. No West outfit has successfully navigated the eastern route to the Grey Cup game. Never. Ever. In nine tries. And you think it’ll work for the Bombers? Ya, just like attempting a 61-yard field goal worked at B.C. Place last November.
So, champion sprinter Usain Bolt lost some of the lickety-split in his long legs and was beaten to the finish line in his final individual race at the world track and field championships in London. No big deal. Sandy Koufax lost the final game he ever pitched for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Muhammad Ali lost his final fight (badly). Babe Ruth grounded out in his final at-bat. Hey, stuff happens. I just wish Bolt hadn’t lost to a guy, Justin Gatlin, who’s twice been told to go away for failed drug tests.
Pete Rose, Major League Baseball’s all-time hit leader, has been holding his own poor Petey pity party since being banned for betting on games while managing the Cincinnati Reds, and the one-time jailbird has actually found sympathetic ears. In an ESPN sports poll conducted by Luker on Trends between November 2016 and last February, Rose was No. 50 on a list of most popular athletes in the U.S., active or retired. Only two ballplayers—Derek Jeter at No. 13 and Babe Ruth, No. 30—finished ahead of him in voting by 6,000 people 12 and over. I wonder what the Rose-ites have to say now that their hero has confessed to having had sex with a 16-year-old girl while he was in his 30s, married and a father of two. The man is a scuzzy as the brown tap water in Winnipeg.
Outfielder Matt Joyce of the Oakland Athletics is “beyond sorry” for using a gay slur during a hissing contest with a fan in Anaheim on Friday night. I’m sorry, but it’s “beyond sorry” that male pro athletes are still using homophobic language as their go-to slurs in 2017.
Patti Dawn Swansson has been scribbling mostly about Winnipeg sports for 47 years, which means she’s old and probably should think about getting a life.