Goal or coal: Sports Santa has stocking stuffers for jocks and Jills

Okay, Sports Santa, time to do your thing. You know the drill. Make your list, check it twice, tell us who’s been nice, naughty and flat-out nasty this year.

What will it be, goodies or a lump of coal or two in those Christmas stockings?

naughty santaCOAL: Kyle Walters, because he lied. The man who generally mismanages the Winnipeg Blue Bombers insisted that the signing of University of Manitoba Bisons grad Jordan Yantz to a tryout contract was not—repeat, NOT— a publicity stunt.

“He’s a legitimate quarterback prospect,” Walters told news scavengers. “Jordan is going to come in and compete for a spot on our roster at quarterback. We feel he has shown all the tools needed to play this position at the professional level, and we look forward to watching him compete in camp. This isn’t a charity case.”

Liar, liar. His pants were a three-alarm fire.

Yantz had about as much chance of earning employment with the Canadian Football League club as Walters has of being appointed GM of the Dallas Cowboys. He was given less than a handful of reps at practice and, although dressing for one preseason exercise, head coach Mike O’Shea refused to send him into the fray to take a snap.

COAL: That’ll be three lumps of the black stuff for O’Shea. Actually, make it an entire coal bin. First for gagging his assistant coaches, who are not allowed to speak to news scavengers; second for refusing to deliver an honest evaluation of his players and/or their performance without first having an opportunity to “watch the film;” and third for his role in the Jordan Yantz sham.

Jennifer Jones, Kaitlyn Lawes, Jill Officer and Dawn McEwen.
Jennifer Jones, Kaitlyn Lawes, Jill Officer and Dawn McEwen.

GOAL: Jennifer Jones, Kaitlyn Lawes, Jill Officer and Dawn McEwen, champions of all the land’s lady curlers. The Buffalo Girls won the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, no small feat, and how they were overlooked as a team-of-the-year finalist in balloting by the Manitoba Sportswriters & Sportscasters Association is a mystery. Apparently, their continued success in Canadian and Olympic curling has become ho-hum. Shame, that.

GOAL: The Montreal Alouettes, for having the junk to sign Michael Sam, who became the first openly gay man to perform in the CFL.

COAL: Michael Sam. What a wasted opportunity. Rather than make a strong statement for LGBT athletes, he bugged out on the Alouettes not once, but twice. He played one game at rush end, recorded zero sacks and zero tackles, was made to look the fool on one play, then skipped town and, once back in the U.S., he prattled on about the CFL being beneath his talent level.

COAL: Steve Simmons, scant days after the debut of Sam, an openly gay man playing for the Alouettes, the Toronto Sun scribe, whose work oft appears in the Winnipeg Sun, wrote: “In reality, pro football still awaits its first openly gay player.” Apparently, Little Stevie Blunder is much like that tree falling in the forest…it doesn’t happen unless he’s there to see and hear it.

GOAL: Kevin Cheveldayoff, the Winnipeg Jets general manager who proved he actually has a pulse by arranging for Evander Kane’s ticket out of River City. Unloading the underachieving, injury-prone problem child was a master stroke, especially given that Kane was done for the season. We don’t see a whole lot of big trades in the National Hockey League, and many of us didn’t think Chevy had it in him. We were wrong. Unfortunately, he went back into hibernation and hasn’t been seen nor heard from since. Sort of like that tree falling in the forest.

COAL: Cheveldayoff for allowing the very useful Michael Frolik to skate off to Calgary. For zip. Nada. If he does the same with Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien, say goodnight, Chevy.

COAL: To every professional athlete who hit a woman this year.

Chris Thorburn
Chris Thorburn

GOAL: Chris Thorburn, the much-maligned man who continues to do everything asked of him by the Jets and is now the franchise leader in games played. Too often he is a fourth-liner dressed up as a third-line forward (with gusts up to the first line when head coach Paul Maurice loses his mind) and his very existence on the roster speaks to a disturbing lack of depth, but I admire his stick-to-itness.

GOAL: Bryan Little of the Jets for his understated excellence. No, he wouldn’t be the No. 1 centre on every NHL outfit, but he can play on my team anytime.

COAL: Gary (La La) Lawless, late of the Winnipeg Free Press and now a talking head with TSN. Give him the entire coal bin. While still the loudest voice at the Freep, he sucked up to Blue Bombers management by repeatedly telling readers that it takes more than 1 1/2 or two years to rebuild a broken-down CFL franchise. Hello? Can you say Edmonton Eskimos and Ottawa RedBlacks, Gary? La La also asked the dumbest question of the year, when he wondered aloud if Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea was going to “give up,” even though his club was a mere two points removed from a playoff spot with six games yet to be played.

GOAL: Jonathan Toews, a Winnipeg product and class act who captained the Chicago Blackhawks to another Stanley Cup championship.

COAL: Wade Miller, CEO of the Blue Bombers. Because he’s Wade Miller, CEO of the Blue Bombers.

GOAL: Mo Glimcher, grand poobah of the Manitoba High Schools Athletic Association. Mo, one of the truly good guys, will be sacking his bats after 40 years with the MHSAA, giving giving the executive director plenty of spare time to attend Bandy tournaments across the globe.

GOAL: Dan Halldorson passed away in November and the Brandon/Shilo golfer was remembered for his vital role in keeping the pro tour in Canada alive and well.

GOAL: Take a bow Joe Pascucci of Global and Knuckles Irving of CJOB. Joe was inducted into the media wing of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame, while Knuckles was awarded the CFL’s Hugh Campbell Distinguished Leadership Award.

Big Buff is no fan of three-on-three shinny.
Big Buff is no fan of three-on-three shinny.

COAL: Dustin Byfuglien dissed the NHL’s 3-on-3 overtime format, saying, “It ain’t hockey. It’s stupid.” Yo! Buff! If you weren’t huffing and puffing so badly after three periods, you’d probably enjoy a little pond hockey.

COAL: The Reporters with Dave Hodge on TSN moved from Sunday mornings to Monday afternoon. I can do Sunday mornings, but I don’t do Monday afternoons. Move it back.

GOAL: Old friend Teemu Selanne had his Disney Ducks jersey No. 8 raised to the rafters at the Honda Center in Anaheim early in the year and, during a lengthy speech, the Finnish Flash actually thanked the small people—the cleaning lady and the Zamboni driver. Class act to the end.

COAL: Paul Maurice, head coach of the Jets. See Peluso, Anthony. That’s why.

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.

New look for Toron-D’oh! Maple Leafs…adios Mo Glimcher…the prodigal coach learned from Schultzie…and a worthy inductee for the MSSA Media Roll of Honour

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

Two possibilities for a new Toronto Maple Leafs logo.
Two possibilities for a new Toronto Maple Leafs logo.

So, what do you do when you last participated in a Stanley Cup parade about the same time the Beatles were putting the finishing touches to their landmark album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band?

You change your clothes.

That, at least, is the whisper from the Republic of Tranna, where the ghost of Humpty Harold Ballard continues to haunt the Maple Leafs, now oh-for-4 1/2 decades and in no danger of sprouting playoff beards at the conclusion of their current crusade. Dang it, though, if the Leafs are going to keep losing (they will), they’re going to look spiffy doing it. Next season, you see, the storied National Hockey League franchise shall celebrate its centennial by freshening up that drab, old, blue-and-white wardrobe that dates back to King Clancy.

Apparently, this won’t be a minor tweak. There’ll be a new uniform. Perhaps an added color. A redesigned, hip logo. Do I hear a name change to reflect their last Stanley Cup title in 1967?

Actually, all I hear is the sound of all those cash registers going ka-ching!

The Winnipeg Jets are closer to the bottom of the NHL’s Western Conference tables (three points) than they are to the playoff line (five points). I knew the local hockey heroes would be tooth-and-nail to qualify for the Stanley Cup tournament, but I must confess I didn’t see Auston Matthews in their future.

I note that Connor Hellebuyck is now flavor of the month in Jets Nation. You know, just like Michael Hutchinson was at this time last season. The thing is, backup goaltenders are very much like backup quarterbacks in football—they’re often the most popular player on the team. I’m not proposing that Hellebuyck is anything other than the real deal, understand. I’m just saying that the jury will be out on the rookie goalie until he’s gone through the NHL a time or two. Having said that, here’s a prediction: Once incumbent Ondrej Pavelec returns from licking his wounds, Hellebuyck will remain with the Jets and Hutchinson will be demoted to the Manitoba Moose of the American Hockey League.

So, Mo Glimcher is sacking his bats, is he? Well, good for him. I recall the day when Mo was a complete pain in the ass, begging us at the Winnipeg Tribune to open up some space for whatever rinky-dink sport he happened to be trumpeting at the time. He’d even try to bribe us with various goodies, like donuts. Silly boy. Like, what sports writer/editor is going to let donuts sway him or her? Try beer, Mo. Anyway, Mo is one of the truly good guys in Manitoba jockdom, and he’s earned his day of rest once he leaves his post as executive director of the Manitoba High Schools Athletic Association. Melissa Martin did a terrific piece on him in the Winnipeg Free Press.

Also worth a read is Paul Wiecek’s article about concussions and dementia among former members of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. The Freep sports scribe talked to, among others, Janet Ploen, wife of legendary quarterback Ken, about the ravages of time and the lingering effects of long-ago injuries. It’s compelling stuff and a topic that isn’t going to go away, what with greater awareness of concussions in the Canadian Football League and other major sports organizations.

Paul LaPolice
Paul LaPolice

The prodigal coach has returned and, while head man Mike O’Shea didn’t prepare a fatted calf to celebrate the third coming of the Blue Bombers recycled offensive coordinator, he did one better—he allowed Paul LaPolice to speak. To news scavengers. Question is, was this a one-off? O’Shea, after all, likes to hear the sound of just two gums flapping and one tongue wagging. His. I suppose it doesn’t matter if he gags LaPolice, though. I mean, LaPo will have plenty of opportunity to speak his piece at the press conference when he’s introduced as O’Shea’s replacement as head coach.

Among other things, LaPolice advised news scavengers that, due in part to his analyst’s gig with TSN the past couple of years, he’s a better coach than the guy who was unceremoniously dismissed in his second go-round with the Bombers in 2012. Who knew hanging out with Schultzie could be so enlightening?

Bravo to my good friend Dave Komosky, who will be inducted into the Manitoba Sportwriters & Sportscasters Media Roll of Honour next month. This is a richly deserved and long, long overdue accolade. Davey Boy, as I affectionately call him, has been among Canada’s pre-emminent curling scribes since the early 1970s, when we both learned at the knee of Jack Matheson at the Winnipeg Tribune, and I can only wonder why it took members of the MSSA so long to acknowledge the former Winnipeg Sun and Canwest News Service sports editor’s contribution to jock journalism. Point is, they finally got it right.

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.