I know, I know. You’ve probably had it up to your chin whiskers with chatter about Puck Finn, what with those pesky boys at TSN putting him near the top of their trade bait board, and every other pundit with a basement and a keyboard sending him to Philly or Carolina or Buffalo or Montreal or New Jersey or Minnyhaha or the Rocky Mountain foothills.
I swear, Dr. Richard Kimble didn’t move around this much on The Fugitive. The kid has been traded more often than a 1960s bubble gum card.
Except he hasn’t gone anywhere, has he Chevy? You brought him into the National Hockey League as a Winnipeg Jet, and he remains a Jet today.
Question is, will you be giving him a new postal code?
Just so you know, I don’t think pulling the trigger on a trade involving Puck Finn would be the biggest gaffe since the Edsel rolled off the assembly line, even if there’d be considerable hand-wringing and teeth-gnashing among the rabble. Hell, the “you can’t ever, ever, ever trade Laine” mob is already in full squawk, invoking the name of Teemu Selanne.
You remember Teemu, of course, Chevy. The Finnish Flash. Wowed ’em with 76 goals in his first NHL crusade. Record still stands. Probably forever.
I’m guessing you remember John Paddock too, Chevy. Very nice man. A real salt-of-the-earth product by way of Oak River, and they don’t come much more honest and sincere than folks from rural Manitoba. But John’s name will go down in infamy as the man who sent Teemu to Disneyland. Memories are long and easily stirred, Chevy. They don’t want you making the same mistake.
But it isn’t wrong to part with Laine and his 138 goals. It’s only wrong if you don’t do it right.
I shouldn’t have to remind you that the Edmonton Oilers won the Stanley Cup less than two years after sending Wayne Gretzky to Tinseltown. Yes, Chevy, I realize the Oil hasn’t done much of anything since, but their Stanley Cup drought isn’t due to the Gretzky deal. It’s because Slats Sather also parted company with Mark Messier and Jari Kurri and Kevin Lowe and Glenn Anderson and Grant Fuhr. And that’s not to forget Paul Coffey, who skipped town before Gretzky. Unload that many Hockey Hall of Famers and it’s a long road back.
In your case, Chevy, it’s not like you have a boatload of can’t-miss hall of famers, even if your head coach, Paul Maurice, believes there’ll be a statue of Rink Rat Scheifele outside the Little Hockey House On The Prairie some day, right next to a likeness of Ducky Hawerchuk.
Fact is, Chevy, Laine might be the closest thing you have to a hall of famer, which explains the angst among the rabble.
Since he’s still a sprig in hockey terms, we can assume that Puck Finn’s most productive and finest playing days are in front of him. What that means is uncertain. Will it be a steady diet of 35-goal seasons? I’m sure 31 other NHL GMs would settle for that. The fear, though, is that Laine will go all-Ovi and put together a string of 40-plus, or even 50-plus, crusades in another locale. There’s no one else on your roster with that potential, Chevy. Not Scheifele, not Twig Ehlers, not Kyle Connor. And certainly not the captain, Blake Wheeler.
Wheels is one of your mistakes, Chevy. You should have sent him packing instead of signing him to a ridiculous five-year contract extension, and now he’s dug in like a tick in an Alabama dog’s ear. He’s 34 with four more seasons and a no-movement clause in his deal and, because Coach PoMo insists on blessing him with first-line minutes, Laine’s been required to skate alongside a hodge-podge of plug-and-play centre-ice men.
That 2C dilemma might become your undoing as Jets GM, Chevy. You’ve had three years to solve it and the best you’ve done is a couple of rent-a-centres in Paul Stastny and Kevin Hayes. Now it’s strongly suggested that dealing Puck Finn might be your only solution.
It’s a fine mess you’ve gotten yourself into, Chevy.
I realize we’re suppose to wash our hands a lot these days, but I must say it’s discomforting to think you might feel obliged to wash your hands of a 22-year-old right winger with 40/50-goal potential, simply because you and the coach harbor the misguided belief that an aging, sloth-like Wheeler is a better bet at right wing. Now and down the road.
But, again, trading Laine is only the wrong thing to do if it isn’t done right.
We await your next move with anticipation, Chevy. Have a nice day.
Another Sunday morning smorgas-bored…and, like the National Hockey League draft lottery, a lot of this probably won’t make sense to anyone…
I once saw a monkey figure out a Rubik’s Cube, but I’ll wager that the same smart-ass monkey couldn’t figure out the NHL draft lottery process.
Ideally, the first shout-out at the annual auction of teen talent would go to the NHL’s Sad Sack outfit, the Detroit Red Wings, who gave new meaning to the term “bottom feeder” in a season never completed. But no. The ping-pong balls didn’t bounce the Winged Wheel’s way in Phase 1 of the lottery on Friday night, and a Team To Be Named Later will pluck can’t-miss-kid Alex Lafreniere from the pool of NHL wannabes. The TTBNL might actually be named Pittsburgh Penguins, who narrowly edged the Red Wings in the Eastern Conference standings by a mere 47 points, and, as Brian Burke emphasized on Sportsnet, that’s “nothing short of a disgrace.”
Burkie was in full-throated rant mode post-lottery, and he went off on the NHL in a natter with David Amber. The former NHL general manager and league exec said: “I think it makes our league look really bad. I think it makes our league look Mickey Mouse, and we’re not Mickey Mouse.” Perhaps not, but Goofy and Dopey come to mind.
So, after Phase 1 of the lottery, the Edmonton Oilers have a chance to win the No. 1 pick and land Lafreniere. Of course they do.
Let me see if I’ve got this straight: In March, one basketball player tested positive for COVID-19, putting the brakes on the entire sports world and, at the same time, launching a stampede to the toilet paper aisles that resembled the California gold rush of the mid-1800s. Yet now, with many dozens of athletes in many sports testing positive, it’s go-time for the NHL, the National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball? What part of “deadly virus” do they not understand?
Just between you and me, I’m more excited to see toilet paper back on the shelves than shinny on the ice, hoops on the hardwood, and rounders in the ballyard.
It’s an old debate: Public figure vs. private citizen. Does the rabble have the right to know that Auston Matthews has tested positive for COVID-19? Steve Simmons of Postmedia Tranna thinks so, thus he wrote the story even though Matthews and the Toronto Maple Leafs preferred to keep it on the QT. Others, like TSN and Sportsnet, ignored it. Why? Because they’re part of the Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment structure, and they don’t think an employee’s personal health information is any of our business. Seems to me it should be up to the athlete. If Matthews had chosen to disclose his “upper body injury,” fine. If not, you can’t convince me we’re better off knowing about it. Unless he’s going to be sitting next to me at the pub, it’s none of my bee’s wax.
Old friend Ed Willes of Postmedia Vancouver took a big-picture look at the Matthews situation, and he doesn’t like what he sees vis-a-vis the pro sports team-media dynamic, in terms of controlling the message. He laments “a landscape where every attempt is made to manage availability in order to create homogeneous storylines,” and adds this: “Maybe you don’t find this outrageous. But this comes at a time when both the business and the soul of traditional media is fighting to survive. We used to be an unbiased filter between the established order and the public. Sometimes we still are. But we’re losing our strong, independent voices. We’re losing our place and the public is losing something in the bargain. You can understand why teams and leagues, to say nothing of political parties and their leaders, like this arrangement. But you shouldn’t.” If he thinks sports teams are controlling the message now, he ain’t seen nothing yet. It’ll be worse on the other side of the pandemic. That genie is out of the bottle, and she’s not going back in.
Longtime Sports Illustrated scribe S.L. Price had this take on the Willes essay: “This is more important than it seems, a canary in the ever-darkening journalism coalmine.” A tad dramatic, perhaps, but likely true.
That was quite a sales pitch Alberta Premier Jason Kenney delivered in attempting to convince NHL Commish Gary Bettman that he’d be wise to set up shop in Edmonton for the Stanley Cup runoff. I mean, mountain vistas. Mountain resorts. Mountain lakes. Mountain waterfalls. Mustangs roaming wild and free. Who knew? Last time I was in downtown Edmonton, it looked a lot like downtown Winnipeg, only without the inferiority complex. But, hey, that was a couple of decades ago. Perhaps climate change means the Rocky Mountains have crept closer to the Taj West Edmonton Mahal. Does Greta Thunberg know and does she approve?
The Kenney video tweet supposedly was aimed at families of NHL players. While hubby/dad is busy playing hockey and living in a downtown hub bubble, mom and the kids can scatter hither and yon for fun and frolic. In other words: Come to Edmonton, but you probably won’t want to stay.
Vancouver, which actually features mountain vistas and oceanfront property for real rather than on propaganda material, is out as an NHL playoff hub bubble, and I’m not hearing a big squawk from anyone on the Left Flank of the land. That’s because B.C.’s top doc, Dr. Bonnie Henry, managed to get a handle on the COVID-19 count from the get-go, and no one’s in the mood for a backslide by bending quarantine rules for an NHL invasion. “We are doing very well, we have a good balance,” says the Rock Star Doc. “But under no circumstances was I going to compromise in any way the health of people here in British Columbia.” She’d have put a series on hold if players tested positive, and that wouldn’t work in Commish Gary’s world. Some suggest a hub bubble in Vancity would have meant $19 million in found money during a financially crippling pandemic, but what’s the cost of lives?
Loved Scott Campbell’s fun tweet about the Hockey Hall of Fame’s latest list of inductees, which includes former Oilers defender Kevin Lowe: “Another tough year for me not making HHOF, but nobody cares. How many Avco Cups did Lowe win, huh?!!” You tell ’em, Scotty. Your one World Hockey Association champion ring is worth all six of Lowe’s Stanley Cup rings. Or maybe not.
Quick now, name all eight female players elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame. Heck, name five of the eight. Betcha can’t do it. For answer, see below.
Now that you ask, yes, I believe Theo Fleury belongs in the HHOF based on the numbers he put up in the NHL and his success while wearing Team Canada linen. But, no, I’m not surprised that he’s been snubbed again. His on-ice bona fides are beyond challenge, but, as he wrote in his book Playing with Fire, “Hockey wants to be known as the school’s good-looking, clean-cut jock,” and that ain’t Theo Fleury. Confessions of off-ice antics that included excessive boozing, heavy drug abuse, womanizing, gambling and barroom brawling tend to be a turnoff to the purists.
Got a kick out of Mad Mike McIntyre’s take on the HHOF election process, which remains a deep, dark secret. “Because vote totals aren’t released, we have no idea how close Fleury came, who may have lobbied for his inclusion and who was against it,” he writes in the Drab Slab. “Compare that with how the NHL’s annual awards work, in which a couple hundred members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association reveal our ballots every year in the name of accountability and transparency, which is how it should be.” Every year? Spare us the back-patting, Mad Mike. The PHWA was a secret society for 49 years and didn’t play show-and-tell with its ballots until 2018, so pots shouldn’t be calling kettles black.
On the subject of pots and kettles, Damien Cox of the Toronto Star also took a run at the HHOF, asking this question: “Can anybody offer a plausible rationale for the secrecy?” Right. The guy who serves as executive director of the Lou Marsh Trophy voting committee is calling out the HHOF for a lack of transparency. That’s like Lance Armstrong trashing A-Rod for taking drugs. We’re never told exactly who and how many people are on Cox’s Lou Marsh selection panel, nor which jocks receive how many votes in Canada’s athlete-of-the-year balloting. We just know that a bunch of news snoops gather around a big boardroom table in the Republic of Tranna for snacks (presumably) and to bicker for a couple of hours. After that, they send up a puff of white smoke to alert the rabble that they’ve anointed the country’s top jock. That’s transparent like a jar of peanut butter.
Something only a news snoop from the Republic of Tranna would say, Vol. 3,692: “Everyone loves Vince Carter in Canada,” TSN gab guy Jay Onrait declared last week after the former Tranna Jurassics star retired. Well, speaking only for moi and not the entire nation, I’ve never understood the Vince Carter as God thing, and I think about him as often as I watch Friends reruns. Which is never. (Loved Phoebe Buffay, though.)
Kudos to Sportsnet, which has been featuring stories and video in support of gay athletes during Pride month, whereas TSN basically ignored the issue. “There’s a lot more out athletes who have made names of themselves in the media—people like Megan Rapinoe, Adam Rippon or Gus Kenworthy—so…the media are collectively much more aware of LGBTQ people in sports,” says Jim Buzinski, co-founder of the gay website Outsports. “But also, at some level, I think they get a little bit bored of it if there’s not a big name coming out.” So that explains it. TSN is bored. Or boring. (Seriously, have you been watching SportsCentre lately?)
According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, the Tranna Blue Jays have asked Trudeau The Younger for permission to play their MLB season at home. If that request is granted by the feds, perhaps they’ll also explain why the Winnipeg Goldeyes are calling Fargo, N.D., home this summer.
Funny how we develop a rooting interest for different sports outfits. My team in the English Premier League is freshly crowned champion Liverpool FC, and it has nothing to do with footy skill. I like them because of the Beatles and the team theme song, You’ll Never Walk Alone by another Liverpool band, Gerry and the Pacemakers. I couldn’t name three members of the LFC starting 11, but, hey, I know the names of all four lads in the Beatles’ starting lineup, and one who didn’t make the final cut (hello, Pete Best). You’re right, it’s probably a silly reason to root, root, root for LFC, so sue me.
And, finally, the eight female players in the Hockey Hall of Fame are Kim St-Pierre, Angela James, Cammi Granato, Hayley Wickenheiser, Geraldine Heaney, Angela Ruggiero, Danielle Goyette and Jayna Hefford. If you named them all without going to Google, I’m guessing you wear your hair in a ponytail.
This is a little segment I like to call: What they said/what they should have said.
In it, we consider the breathless sound bites delivered by sportsmen/women hither and yon and ponder what they should have said, or, in some instances, what I wish they had said.
Colorado Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic had been hesitant to confirm the return of head coach Patrick Roy, but he made it official on this National Hockey League season’s final weekend that the ever-combustible St. Patrick will, indeed, be stamping his feet and blowing gaskets behind the bench as he guides the Avalanche through another non-playoff journey next year.
What he should have said: “Are you kidding me? Have you seen what this guy’s like when he doesn’t get his way? He’s as loonie as a Canadian dollar. I had no choice but to bring him back as coach. You think I want to wake up and find a horse’s head at the foot of my bed one morning?”
Mark Scheifele, sitting on a career high 27 goals with just three matches remaining in a long lost NHL crusade, was doing the chin-wag thing with news scavengers when someone mentioned the possibility of a 30-goal season for the Winnipeg Jets centre, who no longer resembles Bambi on ice.
What Scheifele said: “It would definitely be huge. I’m definitely trying to push for it, but the most important part is to continue to play the right way and if they go in, they go in. And if not, I want to be happy with the effort I give each and every night and with a full 200-foot game. I’m definitely going to be going for it. But I’ve got to play the right way first.”
What I wish he had said: “Dude, you must be mistaking me for Evander Kane. I don’t give a shit about personal numbers. Don’t talk to me about 30 goals when we’re not going to the playoffs.”
Kevin Lowe, the former Edmonton Oilers defenceman, assistant coach, head coach, general manager, vice-president and president, is generally viewed as the guy wearing the black hat in The Chuck, because the once-mighty NHL franchise became a running joke under his watch. But that didn’t stop him from standing before a full house and pandering to the faithful post-game when the Edmonton Oilers bid farewell to their old barn, Rexall Place, last week.
What Lowe said: “(Edmonton has) the greatest fans in all of hockey.”
What he should have said: “It was nice of you dipsticks to actually get through another entire season of losing without tossing your Oilers’ jersey on the ice.”
Mother Russia backed up the truck and loaded on the entire roster for the world Under-18 hockey championship in North Dakota, replacing it at the 11th hour with the entire Under-17 squad. Speculation, not surprisingly, ran at a full gallop, with most observers believing the Russkies pulled the switcheroo because all of the Under-18s have been on the now-banned drug meldonium, thus they would not have passed drug testing. This left legendary goaltender and Russian Hockey Federation president Vladislav Tretiak with some ‘splaining to do.
What Vlad said: “(This was) a tactical decision by the coaching staff. I ask you not to give in to rumor and to speculate about what has happened.”
What he should have said: “Hands up anyone who believes there are still some clean athletes in the Motherland! But seriously, after Maria Sharipova got caught using meldonium, we knew the jig was up with these kids. It’s not like 1972 when we used all the illegal drugs we could get our commie hands on before we played Team Canada. They would have blown us out if we weren’t on the juice. Now if you’ll excuse me, my presence is requested in President Putin’s chamber and I understand he isn’t very pleased with me.”
Major League Baseball players and managers are struggling with the enforcement of a rule that prohibits a base runner from sliding hard into second base with the express purpose of breaking up a double play. Toronto Blue Jays skipper John Gibbons believes it cost his club a win and he used a sexist comment to express his distaste for the ruling.
What Gibby said: “It’s a joke. Maybe we’ll come out wearing dresses tomorrow. Maybe that’s what everybody’s looking for.”
What he should have said: “Ty Cobb will be spinning like a lathe in his grave. The game’s become a joke. I guess we’ll just have to take off our big-boy pants and play with our little-boy pants from now on.”
Golf great Ernie Els lived the worst possible nightmare on the first hole in the opening round of The Masters, taking six putts from inside three feet before his ball found the bottom of the hole. Upon arrival at the practice tee the next morning, Els was met with stony silence.
What Els said: “The players and caddies looked at me like I didn’t have any pants on.”
What I wish he had said: “My golf game sounds just like that broken-down jalopy my dad bought me when I turned 16—putt, putt, putt, putt, putt, putt.
The Winnipeg Jets finished the season on an impressive run, winning their final four matches, including a California sweep of the playoff-bound Disney Ducks, San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings. Still, it left the Jets in the Central Division cellar at close of business and swimming with all the other bottom feeders in advance of the NHL draft lottery. So what say you, goaltender Ondrej Pavelec?
What Pavelec said: “I don’t think you can be too excited about it because we are where we are.”
What he should have said and what I wish he had said: “I don’t think you can be too excited about it because we are where we are.”
Patti Dawn Swansson has been writing about Winnipeg sports for 45 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 in 2015.
That’s right, kids, we’ve gone crystal ball gazing and we see considerable intrigue and unrest during the next 12 months, not the least of which is the sale of the Winnipeg Jets. Here are some of the stories you’ll be reading (or not) in 2015…
EDMONTON— The Edmonton Oilers have won the draft lottery but traded the first overall pick to the Winnipeg Jets in exchange for Evander Kane, Ondrej Pavelec, Dustin Byfuglien and future considerations.
The decision has been heavily criticized, with a headline in the Edmonton Sun screaming: “OILERS PUNK’D OUR DRAFT!”
“We did nothing of the sort!” an angry Oilers general manager Craig MacTavish raged an hour before being fired. “That’s typical trash tabloid journalism! I realize the easy thing to do and the right thing to do would have been to keep the No. 1 pick and use it to take either Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel. But sometimes doing the right thing is the wrong thing and, for us, doing the wrong thing is the right thing to do. Besides, if anybody can screw up a draft with both McDavid and Eichel in it, it’s Kevin Lowe and myself. We don’t need the headache. We might never use our first-round draft again.”
Kane, meanwhile, was delighted to be leaving Winnipeg.
“Sweet,” he said before dashing off to take care of unpaid parking tickets. “Edmonton is a lot closer to Vegas.”
WINNIPEG—The Winnipeg Jets have selected Connor McDavid with the No. 1 pick and presented him with jersey No. 10, with Dale Hawerchuk’s blessing.
“That’s just ducky,” the modest McDavid said during a signing ceremony at Portage and Main. “They wanted to give me No. 9 now that Evander is gone, but I thought that would be disrepectful. The No. 9 is a storied number in Winnipeg Jets history. I’ve got a lot to prove and a long way to go before anyone can call me the next Doug Smail.”
WINNIPEG—The future considerations in the big Edmonton Oilers-Winnipeg Jets trade is Chris Thorburn.
“You know how when you’re a young guy and you go out drinking with the boys? And then you wake up the next morning beside some chick you’ve never seen before? And there’s a tattoo of a heart with her name on it on your ass and you say, ‘What the hell have I done?’ ” Jets GM Kevin (The Possum) Cheveldayoff said at a press gathering. “Well, I woke up this morning and realized that Thorbs’s contract was the tattoo on my ass. I mean, three years at $1.2 mill per? What was I thinking? We’ll miss Thorbs in the room…wait…actually we won’t.”
LAS VEGAS—The season ticket drive for a proposed team in Las Vegas has stalled at 37 people, but the city has been awarded a National Hockey League franchise, nonetheless. Team officials are ecstatic.
“This gives us three more season ticket subscribers than the Florida Panthers and five more than the Arizona Coyotes,” said a team spokesman. “We can’t wait to start losing $25-to-$30 million a year.”
LAS VEGAS—Owners of the Las Vegas franchise have announced that the team name will be Craps. After a name-the-team contest, the most popular suggestions are Black Jacks, Rat Pack, Gamblers, Sinners, Bandits, Slots, Strip, Caesars, Snake Eyes and Craps. The expansion club’s 37 season ticket holders chose Craps.
“It’s only appropriate that the team be called Craps,” a club spokesman explained while working a one-armed bandit at Caesar’s Palace. “First of all, putting a team in Sin City is a real gamble. It’s a roll of the dice, so to speak! Secondly, once the rest of the league offers us their rejects in the expansion draft, what do you think our roster will look like? The absolute shits, that’s what it’ll look like! Craps!”
LAS VEGAS—The winner of the Name-the-Vegas Team contest has received a lifetime pass to every Celine Dion show on the Strip until the end of time.
“Can I get tickets to see David Copperfield make her disappear instead?” he asked.
TORONTO—After more than 30 years preaching from his bully pulpit on Hockey Night in Canada, Don Cherry has been fired following a rant in which he referred to Daniel and Henrik Sedin of the Canucks as “those two tooty-fruities in Vancouver.”
“What are you saying, Don?” asked Ron MacLean. “That the Sedins are gay?”
“You take it any way you want!” barked Cherry. “They’re two tooty-fruities in a tooty-fruity TOWN! Ya been to Vancouver lately? Nobody workin’…everybody smokin’ wacky-tobbacky…everybody kissy-huggin’ trees and little rodents…protestin’…and look what they did ta the joint after the Stanley Cup final in 2011! Almost burnt the joint ta THE GROUND! That was a DISGRACE! People all over the world saw that on TV and everythink…that’s what they think we’re like in Canada! A bunch of pot-smokin’ layabouts who like to play WITH MATCHES!”
Asked for a comment, a visibly shaken HNIC host George Stromboloupoouloulouloupooulous moaned, “The body’s not even cold yet and the scavengers are already plucking at the carcass. (Glenn) Healy wants Grapes’s Coach’s Corner gig and P.J. Stock wants his wardrobe. It’s going to get ugly around here. And I’m not talking about what Damien Cox sees in the mirror.”
WINNIPEG—Mega-billionaire David Thomson has sold his shares in the Winnipeg Jets to former mayor Sam Katz, who immediately engaged in a very public spat over the team name with co-owner Mark Chipman.
“I’ve never liked the name Jets,” said Katz, “and if you were to inject Mark with truth serum he’d tell you the very same thing. He only named the team Jets due to extreme pressure from fans. The guy caved. No spine. It was stupid to name the team after the original version of the Jets just because that’s what the majority of the people wanted. Who the hell cares what the fans think? I was mayor of this town for 10 years and I didn’t give a damn what the people wanted. I did what I wanted. And I want a new team name because the original Jets left town in 1996.”
Reminded by news scavengers that he named his baseball team Goldeyes, 30 years after the original Goldeyes disappeared from River City’s sports landscape, Katz remained defiant.
“If there’s one thing I learned a long time ago when I was bringing acts like the Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney to town,” he says, “it’s that what you say and what you do don’t have to be mutually agreeable. Just because I say I’ll do something doesn’t mean I’ll do something. That’s simple Politics 101.”
WINNIPEG—The Winnipeg Jets have become the first NHL team to place major ads on their uniforms, with a big, bold 7-Eleven Slurpee logo across the front of their jerseys.
“I think it’s a perfect fit for Winnipeg,” said co-owner Sam Katz. “This is the Slurpee capital of not only Canada, but North America and the entire world. As a former mayor of this town, I can confirm that no place sucks like Winnipeg! I also think there’s perfect symmetry, in that our corporate sponsors and Ondrej Pavelec’s save percentage are exactly the same—.711.”
WINNIPEG—The Winnipeg Sun has taken over from the Winnipeg Free Press as the “official newspaper of the Winnipeg Jets,” and there’s mixed reaction.
“This is awful news,” said Sun sports columnist Paul Friesen. “Now that we’re in bed with the Jets, do they expect me to become a toady for the hockey team, Thursday? Do I have to write that Kevin Cheveldayoff is a genius, Friday? This is the worst thing that’s happened to me since they asked me to write the annual Night Before Christmas column, Saturday.”
“This is great news,” said Freep sports columnist Gary Lawless. “Now that we’re not in bed with the Jets anymore, I can write mean and nasty stuff just like Friesen’s been doing all these years. Let him be the toady. I can say what I really, really, really think of Kevin Cheveldayoff and his dumb draft-and-develop plan. This is the best thing that’s happened to me since second helpings.”
“What do you think would be tougher to take?” asked Freep beat writer Ed Tait. “Somebody who’s wearing hob-nailed boots kicking you in the nuts, or watching a new Adam Sandler movie? I know that has nothing to do with the Free Press no longer being the official newspaper of the Jets, but I often think about things like hobnail boots and Adam Sandler movies when I watch the Jets play. I’m a happy camper either way.”
Patti 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.
So, how bad was it? Well, let’s put it this way: As the end approached, I thought perhaps someone was about to give the Winnipeg Jets the shirt off his back.
That is to say, it was sweater-toss worthy.
I mean, the local hockey heroes delivered a frustrating, now-you-see-us, now-you-don’t performance against a road-weary Calgary Flames outfit that ought to have been running on fumes at the tag-along end of a six-game journey. So, surely the resulting 4-1 beatdown Sunday evening would fuel fury. Passion. And the hurling of a piece of clothing in protest.
But no. We weren’t in Edmonton or Toronto, Dorothy. Nary a piece of linen fluttered to the freeze at the Little Hockey House on the Prairie. By the time everyone stepped out into the darkening River City night, no one had surrendered their Jets jersey.
Hey, Winnipeg is known as Wholesale City. It’s not that we’re cheap. We’re just looking for a better deal. So when we’re forced to buy something at retail price, like a $200-plus tax Jets jersey, we don’t do it so the Zamboni driver’s kid can find something special under the Christmas tree.
We just can’t decide what do do first—throw away our Jets jerseys or our Bombers jerseys.
Those who occupy the pews at the shinny cathedral at Donald and Hargrave can’t get enough of the True North Kool-Aid and have fully bought into a draft-and-develop strategy that, to date, has been nine parts draft and one part develop.
If you fall into category No. 3, I hope this doesn’t come as a news bulletin, but it’s a very risky business that can take a very wrong turn.
Don’t misunderstand. I’m on side with draft-and-develop. To a degree. I just think there’s more to building a year-in, year-out competitive outfit than collecting National Hockey League wannabes and never-will-bes, and I point to theLos Angeles Kings as evidence. The group that won the Stanley Cup tournament last June was a collection of shrewd draft selections, workers acquired in barter and others recruited through free agency.
At the opposite end of the measuring stick, I give you the Edmonton Oilers. Here’s what a pure draft-and-develop plan has delivered (aside from eight years of emptiness):
The Oilers have had18 first-round picks this century. Five of those players are on the Edmonton roster today. Only one, Taylor Hall, is worth a damn.
And have I mentioned the Copper and Blue haven’t qualified for post-season play since 2006?
Little wonder they’re hurling sweaters on the ice at Rexall Place.
It’s easy to say the Oilers have been operated by a collection of managerial misfits like Kevin Lowe, Steve Tambellini and Craig MacTavish. But how can we be convinced that Jets general manager Kevin (The Possum) Cheveldayoff has more shinny smarts?
Based on a history of zero playoff appearances and the early returns this season, he doesn’t. But, hey, it’s early. So keep you shirt on, right?
Well, right now that’s the only difference between what’s going on in Edmonton and Winnipeg: We keep our clothes on.
Patti Dawn Swansson has been writing about Winnipeg hockey and the Jets for more than 40 years, longer than any living being. Do not, however, assume that to mean she harbors a wealth of hockey knowledge or that she’s a jock journalist of award-winning loft. It simply means she is old, comfortable at a keyboard (although arthritic fingers sometimes make typing a bit of a chore) and she doesn’t know when to quit. She is most proud of her Q Award, presented to her in 2012 for literary contributions to the LGBT community in Victoria, B.C.