Top o’ the morning to you, Mark Chipman.
Are you feeling a burning sensation in your buttocks these days? Well, it isn’t hemorrhoids, Mark. It’s the bonfire your head coach Rick Bowness lit last Thursday night, whereby he informed news snoops that he’d had it up to his chin whiskers with the Sad Sack manner in which your Winnipeg Jets go about their business.
“The same crap” is how Bones described their play in a 4-1 loss to Vegas Golden Knights, a surrender that ushered them out of the Stanley Cup tournament and ushered in another premature summer vacation.
It was a withering, scornful volley aimed mostly at your National Hockey League team’s elite and, naturally, local jock journos haven’t been shy about stoking those flames. Especially now that the workers have begun to bark back.
Oh yes, Mark, the poor dear millionaires with the eggshell-thin egos are crapping on the coach who had the (apparent) bad manners to crap on them.
I’d say it’s a fine mess you’ve gotten yourself into.
I don’t know if you read newspapers or pay attention to the talking heads online and on flatscreens, Mark, but scribes and natterbugs recognize that your Jets have issues that run deeper than your billionaire co-bankroll David Thomson’s pockets. Thus they’ve had the local shinny side rotating on the spit since its tail-between-the-legs ouster from the post-season party in Glitter Gulch, where they made like Rover and played dead on the Golden Knights’ command.
Here’s a sampling of what the boys on the beat are scribbling/squawking about…
Paul Friesen, Winnipeg Sun: “Whether Cheveldayoff stays or goes is obviously Chipman’s call. I’d be surprised if he makes the move. Hiring a savvy team president/advisor to help fill in for Cheveldayoff’s weaknesses makes some sense. From the core players to the front office, the Jets have milked what they can from this bunch.”
Scott Billeck, Sun: “This team desperately needed a new voice behind the bench. Now it badly needs a new vision behind the GM’s desk.”
Mike McIntyre, Drab Slab: “A no-holds-barred approach from veteran coach Rick Bowness in the immediate aftermath of Thursday’s embarrassing, playoff-ending defeat in Las Vegas should only accelerate—at Mach speed—what has become so obvious around here. The status quo has got to go. No doubt many, just like Bowness, are feeling ‘disappointed and disgusted.’ So now the question is what ownership is going to do about it. Trying to apply yet another shiny coat of paint when it’s clear the foundation is so deeply flawed would be a massive mistake. There must be tangible changes, along with full transparency about both the short and long-term vision from the organization so fans don’t feel like they’re being strung along. Memo to Mark Chipman, David Thomson and company: blow it up.”
Murat Ates, The Athletic: “Fans deserve better than platitudes that border on insults about fantasy hockey. They deserve the honesty Bowness gave them after Winnipeg’s loss to Vegas in Game 5. The Jets’ window to win before Connor Hellebuyck, Wheeler, Scheifele, Niederreiter, Dillon, DeMelo and most likely Dubois hit free agency is slamming shut. Winnipeg needs to move on from the players who contribute to the problem Bowness is picking at, to get returns which help the team stay competitive and to commit to a direction that fans can believe in. If the goal is to squeak into the playoffs and claw at gate revenue, name it. If the goal is to win the Stanley Cup, then name it and make it clear what the plan is to get there. The Jets are out of runway now. That 2024 free agency class is a ticking clock.”
Ken Wiebe, Sportsnet: “Make no mistake there are some solid pieces in the Jets’ organization, but the time has come to change the mix. And change it significantly. Shuffling the deck chairs isn’t going to be enough. That’s never been clearer than it is today. Don’t just take my word for it, invest the time in watching the way Bowness delivered the mic drop message that might just prove to be the impetus for a major renovation project.”
Harsh. Also to the point.
The thing is, Mark, it was your head coach who described your team’s performance in the finale vs. Vegas on Thursday as “the same crap,” so why would news snoops be inclined to disagree with Bones’ truth bomb?
They’re convinced something has to give, and they’re curious about your plans. Do you back up the truck and load on the deadwood (read: players)? Do you let GM Kevin Cheveldayoff keep his hands on the wheel? Do you really believe the rabble will buy into your ill-conceived and insulting “purchase season tickets or else” campaign after another crusade gone wrong?
As Friesen posits, it’s totally your call, Mark.
You’re the Puck Pontiff and we all know you’re a hands-on kind of guy (I prefer to describe you as a buttinski). I mean, if forensic scientists paid a visit to your workplace, they’d find your fingerprints and DNA on everything from the beer cups to the backup goaltender. Hell, they might even discover evidence that you change the oil on the Zamboni. It’s always struck me as control freakish, but, hey, the Jets are your toy and you’re free to do what you will with it.
Here’s the deal, though: You’re one of two constants in this play, Mark. The other is Chevy. You’ve had 12 seasons together to get it right and you’ve been found wanting for 12 seasons. Never failed to fail: That isn’t something one puts on a business card.
But why should you care what the nabobs of negativism think? You didn’t build your downtown fiefdom by listening to the serfs in Good Ol’ Hometown, no matter how legit their gripes might be.
You keep doing it your way, Puck Pontiff. Never mind that hitching your wagon to Blake Wheeler was a colossal miscalculation and only a fool would take his contract off your hands today. You, and only you, know what’s best for your Jets, right?
So why change, Mark? Unless, of course, it’s to do the right thing for a change.
Was that the sound of ruffling feathers we heard yesterday? Yup, sure was. Turns out that Captain Cranky Pants (without the ‘C’) Wheeler and a handful of accomplices figure Bowness got it all wrong when he administered a public flogging to the players scant seconds after they’d tapped out vs. Vegas, so he returned fire and it wasn’t friendly. “We could have had those discussions behind closed doors,” he said on Jets garbage bag day. “I didn’t agree with how he handled himself after that game. Regardless of what the message was, that could have been done more appropriately. He’s a person, too, so we don’t expect him to be perfect all the time. People make mistakes. We can all be upset and pissed off at each other, but let’s do it face-to-face. You guys (media) don’t need to be involved in that.” Interesting. They wouldn’t push back against Vegas, but they’ll push back against their coach’s sound bites.
Garbage bag day was also true confession time for the Jets, and assistant captain Adam Lowry delivered this interesting nugget: “We all still look at Wheels as the captain. He’s kinda the leader in the room. He knows what to say, when to say it. He’s knows how to approach things, he’s seen a lot of things.”
If anyone finds it surprising that Wheeler continues to hold sway in the changing room, I’ll remind you of something I scribbled last September, not long after Bowness had ripped the ‘C’ off his uni:
“Wheeler is now ‘C’-less, but he’s still in the dressing room and has no desire to fade into the background like an old piece of furniture destined for a yard sale. Anyone who thinks otherwise is “sorely mistaken,” he told news snoops, adding “I don’t envision changing my role at all” and “I’m still gonna be doing the things I would have done with the ‘C’ on my jersey.” It sounded more like a threat than a promise.”
And so it has come to pass. Wheeler remains the leader of the alpha dog pack and they’re still bitching at the end of another lost crusade. Somewhere on the East Coast, Paul Maurice is nodding knowingly.
Still trying to wrap my head around the reality that the Winnipeg Sun didn’t have boots on the ground in Sin City when the Jets performed their predictable pratfall. That’s just wrong.
Oh my. The Toronto Maple Leafs have advanced to the second round of the Stanley Cup spring runoff for the first time in 19 years. Just wondering: Did they mention it on SportsCentre and Sportsnet Central last night?
Now here’s a notion I’d be quick to get behind: Becky Hammon being anointed head coach the Toronto Jurassics. If we can believe various reports—and why wouldn’t we?—the decision-makers with the NBA outfit plan a sit-down natter with Becky to discuss her bona fides for the job, and if she gets the gig to replace the defrocked Nick Nurse it’ll be ceiling shattering. First, Becky is female and, second, she’s gay. Hiring a gay female as head coach in a land of alpha male giants would be such a 21st century thing. If it happens, the Jurassics will gain at least one more fan.
Things that make me go hmmm, Vol. 2,151: Four of the Canadian Football League’s nine outfits have been caught cheating, and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers were the main offenders, soaring $64,499 over the salary cap in 2022. Toronto Argos were next in line on the scofflaw list, spending $49,735 more than they were allowed to spend. Hmmm. Those two teams met in the Grey Cup skirmish last November on the Flattest of Lands. I guess what they say is true: If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying.
The Lords of Rouge Football have hopped into bed with the CBS Sports Network in United States, signing a partnership that’s reportedly worth $1 million. They’ll broadcast 34 games this year. Question is: Does anyone actually watch CBSSN? I have a hunch viewership will be similar to pickleball or frisbee golf.
It was Loonie Dogs Night last Tuesday at Rogers Centre in the Republic of Tranna, and public pig-out champion Joey Chestnut was in the house along with 28,917 other souls. While the Toronto Blue Jays and Chicago White Sox played nine innings of rounders, the gathering went to work on 51,629 Schneiders one-dollar hot dogs, a local record for gluttony. No word on how many of the 51,629 tube steaks that Chestnut scarfed down, but medics on site confirm they performed an emergency wienerectomy on a lumpy man with ketchup and mustard stains on his shirt.
Did you know there’s something called a Paternity List in Major League Baseball? It’s true. Players are permitted to skip out on 1-3 games for the birth of a child. Good thing they didn’t have that in boxing back in the day, otherwise George Foreman would have missed his entire career.
Just so you know, Foreman has 12 kids, including five boys, each of them named George but known as Junior, Monk, Big Wheel, Red and Little Joe when they’re sitting around the dinner table.
If you’re keeping score at home, this is what our Pebble People did in the three main global curling competitions this year: World women’s, bronze medal; world men’s, silver medal; world mixed doubles, nada. A cause for alarm? Only if this was the 20th century.
Interesting exchange between Eric Nehm of The Athletic and Giannis Antetokounmpo after Milwaukee Bucks had been drummed out of the NBA championship tournament:
Nehm: “Do you view this season as a failure?”
Antetokounmpo: “You asked me the same question last year, I think. Do you get a promotion every year? No, right? So, every year you work is a failure? Yes or no? No. Every year you work, you work toward something—to a goal—which is to get a promotion, to be able to take care of your family, to be able to provide a house for them or take care of your parents. You work toward a goal. It’s not a failure. It’s steps to success. Michael Jordan played 15 years. Won six championships. The other nine years was a failure? Exactly, so why you ask me that question. It’s the wrong question.
“There’s no failure in sports. There’s good days, bad days, some days you are able to be successful, some days you are not, some days it is your turn, some days it’s not. That’s what sports is about. You don’t always win. Some other group is gonna win and this year someone else is gonna win. Simple as that. We’re gonna come back next year and try to be better, try to build good habits, try to play better.
“So, 50 years from 1971 to 2021 we didn’t win a championship, it was 50 years of failure? No it was not. There were steps to it. And we were able to win one and hopefully we can win another one.”
Many among the rabble have saluted Antetokounmpo for his thoughtful perspective. Others have panned Nehm for his question, suggesting it was purposely inflammatory. Nonsense. It was a fair question and Antetokounmpo was both right and wrong with his answer.
Turning to another sport and another natter, it’s a good thing Emma Raducanu isn’t paid by the word. In a to-and-fro with news snoops prior to the Madrid Open, Britain’s No. 1 female tennis player used 58 words to answer 16 questions, which works out to 3.625 words per answer. That isn’t a press conference. It’s an audition for a gig as a street mime.
I don’t know if we’ll see our Genie Bouchard win another tennis tournament, but the quest to get there is keeping her from becoming a layabout. “I could just chill, I guess, for the rest of my life,” she tells The Telegraph. “I could sit on my couch and watch Netflix. And that sounds appealing, for sure. But after two days, I would go crazy. I want to be top 100 as soon as possible because then you start really feeling like a player on tour.” Genie’s right about chilling. Between tournament earnings ($6,785,645), product endorsements and taking most of her clothes off for Sports Illustrated, she’s amassed a small fortune and could live on Easy Street.
A swarm of bees disrupted play at the Mexico Open last week in Puerto Vallarta. All the golfers got hives.
Looking for a good read? Check out George Williams’ piece in the Drab Slab about two women who escaped Ukraine and found a home at Assiniboia Downs. As my first sports editor, Jack Matheson, would say, it’s “damn good” stuff.
Now that Aaron Rodgers is a member of the New York Jets, can we all get back to regularly scheduled living? Personally, it means that I can root, root, root for the Green Bay Packers again.
When I think of Packers quarterbacks, it’s Bart Starr, Brett Favre and Rodgers. Anybody else of note either played before my time or got lost on a darkness retreat.
It’s about all the glut of gambling ads in print, online and on our flatscreens these days: Pete Rose demands a recount.
Steve Simmons of Postmedia Tranna writes this: “Under the department of dumb: Edmonton fans booing Drew Doughty, who was brilliant for Canada at the 2010 and 2014 Olympic Games. And he would have been on two more Olympic teams had NHL players been sent in 2018 and 2022.” Now that is truly “under the department of dumb.” I mean, last time I looked, it was an L.A. Kings logo on the front of Doughty’s jersey when he was in E-Town, not our Maple Leaf. So boo him to your hearts content, kids.
And, finally, my heart skipped a beat on Saturday when I saw the name Willie Nelson trending on Twitter. I feared the worst. Turns out it was people with glad tidings for Willie on the occasion of his 90th birthday. Gee, ain’t it Funny How Time Slips Away?