Let’s talk about when Patrik Laine is traded, not if…a circus act on the mound for Blue Jays…writing off Tiger, or not…more whinging from news snoops…where’s Chelsea Carey going to curl?…baseball oddballs…old school hockey coverage…and other things on my mind

Another Sunday morning smorgas-bored…and I saw the sky yesterday for the first time in more than a week…

Evander Kane wanted out. Gone. Age 23.

Jacob Trouba wanted out. Gone. Age 25.

Patrik Laine…well, we don’t really know what notions swirl about in Puck Finn’s grey matter, but if he wants a new postal code there won’t be anything the Winnipeg Jets can do to prevent him from escaping Good Ol’ Hometown.

For now, the Finnish winger is on lockdown for the 2020-21 National Hockey League crusade, whenever that might begin and end, but then he becomes a restricted free agent with the right to plead his case before an arbitrator should the Jets refuse to drive a Brinks truck up to his doorway. You know, just like Trouba before him, and I doubt Puck Pontiff Mark Chipman and general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff are keen on retracing those footsteps.

Which means the pundits need not look for a pot to stir. They’ve got it.

Laine’s shelf life with the Jets has been a matter of conjecture dating back to July 2019, when Elliotte Friedman went on his 31 Thoughts podcast and word-painted the Finnish winger as pouting Patty.

“Laine is a whole big discussion, right?” he said. “He didn’t leave happy last year. Some of that was his own fault. He wasn’t as good as he could be, and I think he chafed under some of the leadership there. Like, the guys at the top of that food chain are hard-driving guys. They expect you to buy into the program, and I think that they felt he didn’t buy in enough, and I think he felt that some of the things they wanted were ridiculous. So you gotta bridge that, too.”

A month later, Chris Johnston of Sportsnet was in Lahti, Finland, for a natter with Puck Finn, who said, “You never know where you’re going to play next year, so I’m just prepared for anything.” Then along came Pekka Jalonen of the Finnish publication Iltalehti, suggesting Laine’s nose was out of joint because he was required to skate alongside the NHL’s equivalent of beer-leaguers.

And now, Friedman has his hand on the stirring stick once again, saying this on 630 CHED in Edmonton last week:

“I think the thing about Winnipeg that’s gonna be interesting is gonna be Laine. There’s something going on there. I don’t know if Laine’s not happy or whatever it is. I think he wants to play with Scheifele, I’m not sure that that’s what Winnipeg is looking at right now. You know, there’s something there. And I think that Winnipeg realizes that it’s not gonna be easy to sign him when the time comes, and they’re gonna have to…they might have to trade him before they want to trade him. It’s possible. It’s certainly out there, it’s possible.

“I don’t think…you know, what they did with Trouba, is they kept on extending him until they had to make the deal, right? I don’t know that that’s going to be their plan for Laine, but I think they realize that the closer this gets to unrestricted free agency, you know, the more likely that they’re gonna have to make a move. If you’re trading that guy, the return has to be enormous. You’re talking about a market that saw them trade Teemu Selanne, so you don’t want to see that again.”

So what is the rabble to make of that? Same as we did a year ago. Not much.

Note how Friedman framed his comments: “I think” and “I don’t know” and “I think” and “I’m not sure” and “I think” and “I don’t think” and “I don’t know” and “I think.”

In other words, “I think” he’s spitballing again, but “I’m not sure.”

The thing is, that’s what news snoops do. They speculate. Sometimes some of what they say and/or write sticks, and I guess that’s how a guy like Friedman comes to be known as an insider and gets to sit and schmooze with the retired players on the Hockey Night in Canada panel.

I’m not saying he’s wrong about Laine, because I doubt the big Finn will be wearing Jets linen for the duration. Few do. If any of the local hockey heroes goes start to finish in Good Ol’ Hometown, my guess is it’ll be Rink Rat Scheifele, but I wouldn’t want to wager more than the price of a pint on it.

It’s usually a matter of when, not if, even for a 22-year-old who’s scored 36, 44, 30 and 28 goals in his four NHL crusades.

Evander Kane

I wrote something very similar about Evander Kane for Arctic Ice Hockey in December 2012. Said Kane and Winnipeg weren’t a happy mix, and suggested he’d stomp into Chevy’s office one day and demand to be put on the next stage out of Dodge. We now know that’s exactly what happened every off-season, and they parted company in February 2015. The same thing is apt to happen with Laine if head coach Paul Maurice insists on having him line up alongside third- and fourth-rate centres. There won’t be a tub of ice water involved, but he’ll be gone.

Friedman described the recent Eric Staal-Marcus Johansson trade as “a Zeus-like thunderbolt.” So that’s what passes for a major deal in the NHL these days? A 35-year-old guy who’s already building a retirement home in barter for a 29-year-old 40-point guy? Head for the storm shelter and batten the hatches if the Jets deal Puck Finn or Twig Ehlers.

Bill Johnson has agreed to generally manage the Arizona Coyotes. Hey, I can think of worse jobs. Cleaning up after the circus elephants comes to mind.

Speaking of circus acts, no need to send in the clowns—they’re already here and they’re pitching for the Tranna Blue Jays. The New York Yankees played T-Ball with Jays hurlers last week, scoring 43 runs and swatting 19 dingers in a three-game series. Only the Venus de Milo has worse arms.

Tiger Woods

If you watched the first two rounds of the U.S. Open, you’ll know that Tiger Woods’ universe didn’t unfold as he would have liked, thus he won’t be around to wear a red shirt today. But expecting Tiger to win the U.S. Open is kind of like handing Michelangelo a box of crayons and telling him to redo the Sistine Chapel. It was painful to watch the great golfer hack his way around Winged Foot. The thing is, I wouldn’t be too hasty in writing him off for the Masters in November. Augusta National won’t be as punitive as Winged Foot, where the rough is thicker than a tub of tar, and the Masters has a history of being kind to golfers in their forties (seven 40-plus champions, including Tiger last year).

It took Michelangelo four years to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, or about the same amount of time it takes for a Bryson DeChambeau tee shot to land. I swear, there hasn’t been this much talk about air time since Howard Stern arrived on radio.

I don’t know about you, but I really miss the Pre-Pandemic Era of pro sports. You know, a time when all those mega-millionaire athletes lived in a vacuum instead of a bubble.

Mark Spector

On the subject of bubbles, when, oh when, will sports scribes clue in to the reality that the rabble simply isn’t interested in their petty gripes and grievances?

The latest example of jock journo whinging came from Mark Spector of Sportsnet, who delivered this tweet from the NHL bubble in Edmonton: “Biggest challenge for writers by far in Zoom era: Putting together a cogent piece when you get just one question per Zoom. No follow-ups, no working your way to the money question. Just a bunch of quotes that have little to do with each other, and a deadline. Go!”

Oh, the humanity.

Predictably, response from the rabble was swift, harsh and lathered in sarcasm. To wit:

“This sounds difficult, a little too difficult if you ask me. I think it’s best that you retire, it’s just too difficult.”

“Wah wah wah. MSM bitching and moaning again. Health care workers. Teachers, Police. They are facing real challenges.”

I trust that’s cogent enough for Spector.

You know you’re getting long in tooth (if you have any teeth left) when you see someone of your vintage trending on Twitter and you assume she or he has died. Mind you, it can work the other way, too. On Friday morning, for example, I noted that Jimi Hendrix was trending and thought, “What? Jimi’s alive?” Nope. Still toes up.

Chelsea Carey

I don’t know about you, but I could use a Canadian Football League fix right about now. Grew up with Rouge Football. Love Rouge Football. Autumn just isn’t the same without Rouge Football. And now I fear the worst. I mean, if I’m this bummed out about no three-downs football, how am I going to feel if there’s no Scotties Tournament of Hearts or Brier? I’ll be needing me some Chelsea Carey and Kerri Einarson and Jen Jones and Tracy Fleury and Mike McEwen before long.

A landing spot for Chelsea Carey was the main mystery in advance of the 2020-21 curling season. The two-time Scotties Tournament of Hearts champion lost her entire team last spring, and there were whispers that she would be returning to her home in Manitoba, already the bully on the block. Throw Chelsea into the mix with Einarson, Jones and Fleury and you’d have a draw that’s tougher to get out of than the rough at Winged Foot. It’d be the most difficult task on Canadian pebble, although I’m sure some near-sighted scribes in Alberta would be more than happy to argue the point. And that’s okay, just as long as they know they’re wrong.

Nobody covers curling as well or with as much depth as the girls and boys on the beat in Good Ol’ Hometown, so I’m surprised none of them have picked up a phone and asked Chelsea about her plans.

Jimmy Piersall doing the backwards home run trot.

Had to laugh at Josh Donaldson getting ejected from a game last week for kicking dirt on home plate at the completion of his home run trot. Reminded me of Jimmy Piersall, noted for all sorts of oddball antics during his Major League Baseball career, like running the bases backwards after hitting his 100th dinger and wearing a Beatles wig during an at-bat.

No surprise that mainstream sports media (print division) mostly ignored the Yanic Duplessis coming-out story. As I’ve emphasized numerous times, jock journalism in Canadian newspapers is a white, male and heterosexual enterprise, thus they’re unable to deliver lived-experience accounting of social issues like homophobia. The rag trade is marginally more diverse today than when I broke into the business in 1969, and it hasn’t progressed since I left in 1999. If anything, it’s become less diverse, with fewer female sports scribes.

I believe the Winnipeg Sun and Drab Slab have now talked to every current and former member of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers about life during a pandemic. They’re free to move on to a fresh topic any time.

Based on the early returns, there can be just one reason why the Drab Slab dispatched Mad Mike McIntyre to the Jason Kenney Mountain Retreat in Edmonton for the short strokes of the Stanley Cup runoff—to say they’re there, as if it’s a feather in their cap. I mean, they’re spending oodles of coin for what? A feature on Derek Laxdal that drones on to the point of inducing extreme drowsiness? A natter with Scott Oake? (Hey, there’s nothing but high respect and admiration for Scotty in this corner, but I can do without his take on the E-Town bubble.) Worst of all, play-by-play game stories? Seriously. Play-by-play gamers? Sigh. There are no words, except to say that style of coverage is older than everything that’s older than old school. How’s Mad Mike filing his copy? Pony Express? Carrier pigeon? Telegraph?

It isn’t enough anymore to tell readers what they’ve already seen on TV/online or read on the Internet. A sports section should be as much a conversation pit as the gab fests on our flatscreens, meaning analysis, opinion, in-depth features (not fluff) and interpretation of the news, not just the listing of scores and delivering dreary, same old-same old game stories with the predictable cookie-cutter quotes. Frankly, I can’t remember the last time I read a game story.

For the record, I’m not telling the bean-counters at the Drab Slab how to spend their money—or, in this case, how to waste their money—but the next time publisher Bob Cox goes hat in hand to the feds, demanding subsidies for his newspaper, remind him that he’s squandered thousands of dollars on Stanley Cup copy that could have been written from Good Ol’ Hometown.

And, finally, put a major sports event in Edmonton and you just know it’ll be done right. Commonwealth Games, World Cup soccer, the Brier, the Grey Cup, Stanley Cup bubble, you name it, E-Towners get ‘er done. But they still don’t curl as well as Winnipeggers.

There’s something special about these Bombers…McDavid was McOrdinary…a tweet from a twit…and other things

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

Mike O'Shea
Mike O’Shea

Gadzooks! Bombers win! With some dashing and daring!

It’s a good thing head coach Mike O’Shea didn’t listen to me and fire special teams coach Mike O’Shea last month after the Winnipegs soiled the sheets in Montreal, because he didn’t just dial up one fake punt in the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ 29-26 defeat of the B.C. Lions on Saturday night in Vancouver. He did it twice. Just to confirm the first one wasn’t an accident, I suppose.

Winnipeg’s special teamsters also blocked a punt, which resulted in an Ian Wild touchdown. And they blocked an extra point attempt. And they forced a fumble.

Then there was Sergio Castillo, whose right leg replaced that of defrocked place-kicker Lirim Hajrulla-oops. All Castillo did was hoof two PATs and five field goals in five attempts, the last of which sealed the deal and was his first game-deciding three-pointer since high school.

Special teams always has been O’Shea’s specialty. It’s finally paid off for the Bombers.

If I’m Wally Buono, general manager of the B.C. Lions, I’m having a fireside chat with Andrew Harris. Not due to anything Harris has or hasn’t done on the field, understand. It’s about the B.C. running back running off at the mouth. Although still drawing a paycheque from the Leos, Harris is already openly discussing a new area code once his current contract expires at the conclusion of this Canadian Football League season. And, given that his daughter, Hazel, and other family reside in his hometown Winnipeg, Harris makes no secret that area code 204 would be favorable. I admire his frankness. It’s refreshing. But if I’m Buono, I don’t want to be signing cheques for an employee who’s already talking like the door has already hit him in the butt.

Chris Thorburn
Chris Thorburn

A Friday morning headline should have read: Blind Squirrel Finds Acorn. The squirrel in this instance would be Chris Thorburn, who actually scored a goal the other night when the Winnipeg Jets beat the Bruins, 3-1, in Beantown. Well, he sort of scored. Upon further review, which is to say evidence provided by super slow-mo replay, David Krejci of the Bruins, not the much-maligned Thorbs, flipped the puck past Boston goaler Tuukka Rask. Doesn’t matter. A goal is a goal is a goal. Atta boy, Thorbs.

In his National Hockey League baptism against the St. Louis Blues, Connor McDavid was McOrdinary, yet there were four pics of the Edmonton Oilers rookie on the Sportsnet website front page the following morning, while this was a headline on the TSN website: McDavid shows flashes of brilliance in debut. How many pics will we see and what will the headlines say when he actually does something other than skate fast? Make no mistake, McDavid is going to be a dynamic player, but I believe we need to turn down the volume on the McHype and McRhetoric. Just let the kid play.

So, now that TSN talking head Aaron Ward is spending the weekend behind bars on domestic misdemenour charges, will the media eat their own, meaning will they skewer the former NHL defenceman the way they did Ray Rice, Slava Voynov, Greg Hardy and other sports figures who’ve roughed up women? Just asking.

Pariah Pete Rose
Pariah Pete Rose

Baseball pariah Pete Rose thinks Josh Donaldson is a wuss. A real wimp. The way Pariah Pete sees it, the Toronto Blue Jays third sacker displayed extremely bad manners when he let a silly little thing like a rattled brain remove him from Game 1 of the Jays American League Division Series vs. the Texas Rangers. “I just don’t understand,” Rose harrumphed in his miscast role as analyst on Fox Sports. “I got a little light-headed how many times in my career? I still went out there and played.” What’s the problem, Pete? Lose your over/under wager with Donaldson out? Take a nap, man.

It’s agreed. Officiating in Game 2 of the Rangers-Jays joust was atrocious. Home plate umpire Vic Carapazza, for example, had a strike zone that was, at times, larger than Pete Rose’s ego, and, at other times, smaller than Pete Rose’s credibility. But Carapazza and the other boys in blue didn’t silence Blue Jays’ bats. Texas pitching did that. Blaming the umps for a loss in a baseball game is a copout 99 times out of 100.

Anyone for some genuine sour Grapes? Well, look no further than Donald S. Cherry’s bully pulpit on Hockey Night In Canada. There’s no surprise, of course, that the conspiracy theorists are in full-throated voice these days, what with the Blue Jays trailing the Rangers 0-2 in their best-of-five engagement. But I didn’t expect to see and hear Cherry use his Curmudgeon’s Corner platform to suggest there’s a sinister figure lurking behind the grassy knoll. “We’re getting stiffed,” the Lord of Loud laments. “You know why we’re getting stiffed? Because they do not want a Canadian team in the final.” I, for one, refuse to believe that. At least until I see them fly the Canadian flag upside down.

bow wow bungalowTwit of the week is Steve Simmons, Toronto Sun columnist who tweeted: “Under the department of dumb: Booing PK Subban. Great player. Local guy. Charitable. You should all applaud.” Hoo boy. Tsk-tsking Maple Leafs loyalists for giving P.K. Subban the Bronx cheer when he and the hated Montreal Canadiens were in the Republic of Tranna last week is some special kind of stupid. Even dumber is Little Stevie Blunder telling Leafs Nation to shower Subban with hossanas. For sure, Stevie. That’s what they should do. And while they’re at it, they can also root, root, root for an autumn snow storm and the second coming of Rob Ford. I’m not certain if Simmons writes this sort of stuff to get a rise out of the rabble of if he truly believes it, but for his twit tweet he earns a stay in the Bow Wow Bungalow.

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.