About a suspension for Big Buff…homerism in the River City media…another Drab Slab sports columnist bites the dust…Paul Wiecek’s parting cheap shot at former colleagues…Winnipeg Blue Bombers getting lost in Winnipeg Jets hype…a hissing contest in Lotus Land…Rink Rat Scheifele the writer…coach PoMo is No. 10 with a bullet…and more hypocrisy in the media

A Sunday smorg on Turkey Weekend in Canada…

Dallas Stars 5, Winnipeg Jets 1…I guess the local hockey heroes will have to settle for an 81-1 record this season.

Since you asked, yes, Dustin Byfuglien should have been given the remainder of the night off after his attack on Dallas defenceman Connor Carrick on Saturday.

Big Buff

Got a kick out of the biased, homer reaction to the Byfuglien assault on Carrick. Troy Westwood of TSN 1290 tweeted “Atta boy Buff,” and Mike McIntyre of the Winnipeg Free Press described it as a “careless cross-check.” As if. This was a brutal attack—from behind—on an unsuspecting, defenceless foe whose face was planted into the boards by Big Buff. Well after the whistle. Somehow I doubt Ol’ Lefty Westwood or McIntyre would pass it off as a meh moment had it been one of the Stars attacking, say, Josh Morrissey from the rear and driving his kisser into the woodwork. They’d be squawking about a match penalty, a game misconduct and a suspension, which Byfuglien deserves. But, hey, when you work for the broadcast rights holder or the official paper of the Jets, I guess you see a different game.

Speaking of the Freep, the Drab Slab chews up and spits out sports columnists like sunflower seeds in a baseball dugout.

If my scorecard is correct, Paul Wiecek is the fourth guy to either walk away from—or be pushed out of—the position since 2004, so once a newbe is on board it’ll be five in 14 years. That’s an alarming amount of foot traffic for such a highly coveted gig.

Now, I understand that the rag trade has changed greatly this century and the rats continue to scurry from what appears to be a sinking vessel (meaning the overall print business, if not the Freep). Jock journos across the continent have abandoned newspapers in favor of digital enterprises or they’ve defected to pro sports outfits, and the Drab Slab has been hit as hard, if not harder, than most sheets.

Here’s who the Freep has lost in recent years:

1) Tim Campbell (went to nhl.com);
2) Gary Lawless (went to TSN 1290 before the Vegas Golden Knights);
3) Ed Tait (went to bluebombers.com);
4) Wiecek (he’s going for a long walk on a beach).

That’s a big wallop. And it would seem the columnist gig in the Freep’s toy department doesn’t hold the stature it did in the days of Maurice Smith and Hal Sigurdson.

Ed Tait

Not at all surprised that Wiecek couldn’t resist the urge to take one final cheap shot, but I thought his target would have been one of his favorite whipping boys, Mike O’Shea and his “goofy shorts” or Jacob Trouba (“liar, liar”). Instead, he took aim at former colleagues Campbell, Lawless and Tait, each of whom defected from the Freep and now puts food on the table by working for pro outfits.

“I also won’t be taking a job as a shill for a sports team or league, as so many others now seem to do,” he wrote in his farewell column. “There is journalism and then there is everything else. Any former reporter who tries to tell you that having their paycheque now signed by the same people they are covering ‘really isn’t all that different’ is hoping to delude you. And if they actually believe that nonsense, then they’re deluding themselves, too.”

Can you say arrogant, kids?

Knuckles Irving

Interesting that Wiecek would dump on someone like Tait when longtime and greatly respected voice of the Bombers, Bob Irving, is saying this about the former Freep and Winnipeg Sun football scribe: “He is fair, objective and even critical of the team he works for when it’s warranted. A consummate pro and incredibly respected as such across the land.” That was after Tait had worked with Knuckles on CJOB’s broadcast of the Bombers-Bytown RedBlacks skirmish in Ottawa on Friday night. Irving’s description of Tait is spot on. Wiecek, on the other hand, is full of crap.

Jacob Trouba: One of Paul Wiecek’s favorite whipping boys.

When Wiecek first landed the columnist gig at the Drab Slab, I applauded his appointment. He’d been a terrific reporter on both newsside and on numerous sports beats, and he’s a very good writer. I quite enjoyed his early offerings. They were pointed, opinionated and seldom shy. Over time, however, his copy grew increasingly bitter, angry and deeply mean-spirited in tone. It had a haughty, elitist, my-stuff-doesn’t-stink vibe. He used his print pulpit for obscene and unrelenting attacks on Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach O’Shea and Jets young defenceman Trouba (he’s “a liar, petulant, a malcontent, impetuous, the biggest loser, reckless, greedy, phony, selfish, a problem”). They were personal in nature and totally unprofessional. He never disguised his complete contempt for bloggers, newspaper defectors like the aforementioned Campbell, Lawless and Tait (“flacks and hacks”), and professional athletes (“coddled millionaires”). Reading him in the past year, I often got the impression that he was merely “mailing it in.” He became a blogger with personal axes to grind, rather than a journalist.

So here’s what I’m wondering this fine October morning: With the Winnipeg Blue Bombers heating up as it cools down, will the rabble notice?

I mean, the frost is fresh on the pumpkin and these crisp, autumn days and nights are made for football. The kind of football we saw Friday from Ottawa, where the Bombers were required to work extra time before subduing the Bytown Redblacks, 40-32. It was remarkable, entertaining theatre that left you wanting more. And I expect the Bombers to deliver more of same in the remaining three assignments on their Canadian Football League calendar.

But here’s the rub: The boys are back in town.

That is to say the Jets juggernaut invites its first sacrificial lamb of the 2018-19 National Hockey League crusade to the Little Hockey House On The Prairie on Tuesday, and my fear is that Winnipeg FC is about to be swallowed whole by Scheifele, Wheeler, Laine et al, plus an unfortunate bit of scheduling.

The Bombers’ next skirmish is Saturday vs. the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Should be a sizable head count at Football Follies Field in Fort Garry. But then what? Due to a bye week, the large lads are out of sight and out of mind for 13 days, during which time les Jets have half a dozen home dates, including a visit from the Tranna Maple Leafs. I’ll be shocked if the Bombers are anything more than an afterthought by the time the Calgary Stampeders roll into town on Oct. 26. What will that game attract, 20,000? Less?

I hope I’m wrong because the Bombers are on a significant roll that would stretch to four successive Ws with a win over Gang Green on Saturday, so they’re worthy of our attention.

Jonathon Jennings

That’s a nasty bit of business going on between B.C. Lions general manager Ed Hervey and the agent for quarterback Jonathon Jennings. If you missed it, Hervey called out Jennings during a chat with Ed Willes of Postmedia Vancouver, saying: “Will he reach elite status? That’s in his hands. That comes down to how much time you commit to pre- and post-practice film work and working with the coaches. I’ve been around some good quarterbacks and they lived around the (practice) facility. The good ones usually do. No knock on Jonathon, but you rarely see him around the facility enough to give you any indication that he’s ready to take it to that level.” To which agent Bardia Ghahremani responded: “Jonathon is one of the first to arrive to work every day. Ed would know this if Ed weren’t one of the last.” Total burn. The end result will be Jennings getting a new postal code next season.

Rink Rat Scheifele

Enjoyed Rink Rat Scheifele’s column on the TSN website last week. Among other things, the Jets centre offered this nugget: “You haven’t done anything until you’ve won a Stanley Cup. When you get that close, anything short of the ultimate goal is failure.” Now, if one of the boys on the beat had written that, the rabble would be calling the news snoop a negative SOB, or something less flattering. But since it’s Scheifele, everything’s cool.

A tip of the bonnet to Coach Potty Mouth, Paul Maurice. The losingest coach in NHL history is now the 10th winningest coach in NHL history with 649 Ws. If nothing else, you have to admire the guy’s stick-to-itness. Coach PoMo should pass both Mike Kennan and Pat Quinn to move into eighth place before the current crusade is in the books.

As far as I’m concerned, it’s ABH in the Major League Baseball playoffs—Anybody But Houston. Can’t root, root, root for a team that hired a guy who beats up women.

And, finally, Steve Simmons of Postmedia Tranna hopped on a horse called Faux Righteousness this weekend, calling out Brian Burke of Sportsnet for “hypocrisy.” If anyone knows about hypocrisy, it’s Simmons. He dumps all over Ray Rice for beating up his wife, yet he writes about Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s “dignity” and glorifies the champion boxer, even though he’s a convicted wife beater. He brands John Farrell a traitor for defecting from the Toronto Blue Jays to the Boston Red Sox, even though he defected from the Calgary Sun to the Calgary Herald to the Toronto Sun.

Winnipeg Jets: Dale Hawerchuk is revered, Evander Kane is reviled and Kevin Cheveldayoff is The Possum

Dale Hawerchuk had street cred as a hockey player and, perhaps more important, as a citizen. His street cred was borne of a 53-goal season. Six 40-plus goal seasons. Half a dozen 100-plus point seasons. A Calder Trophy. And he married a Manitoba farm girl, Crystal.

Okay, it’s agreed that Evander Kane is Public Enemy No. 1 in River City.

The guy is about as welcome as mosquitos at a picnic table. He probably couldn’t get himself a free lunch at a soup kitchen. Heck, Kane likely couldn’t score a pint on the house if he bellied up to the bar with Mike O’Shea and Drew Willy as his wing mates on a Friday night at the Palomino Club.

Ya. I’m told it’s that bad.

So here’s what I would like to know: What is Kane’s crime?

There’s a school of thought, of course, that suggests he wants out of Winnipeg. That he feels as if playing hockey in River City is the equivalent of cleaning up after the circus elephants. We’ve been hearing that since he arrived with the National Hockey League club’s caravan from Atlanta in 2011. Well, to the best of my knowledge, we’ve never heard any such words fall from Kane’s tongue. When asked about it point blank, he acts like a ninny and skates around the issue without providing a yes or no answer.

Thus, it’s all gossip. Innuendo. Rumor. Kane, himself, has yet to approach general manager Kevin (The Possum) Cheveldayoff and request a trade. Not for public consumption, anyway.

Why, then, is the young Winnipeg Jets left winger so disliked?

I mean, Dale Hawerchuk demanded his ticket out of Dodge, yet he is revered in River City.

The difference, of course, is that Ducky had street cred as a hockey player and, perhaps just as important, as a citizen. His street cred was borne of a 53-goal season. Six 40-plus goal seasons. Half a dozen 100-plus point seasons. A Calder Trophy. And he married a Manitoba farm girl, Crystal.

One other thing: There was no belief that Ducky considered his adopted hometown the crotch of the country.

Ducky wanted a new postal code for one reason: GM Mike Smith.

Some of you might not be old enough to remember comrade Mikhail, who generally (mis)managed the Jets in the late 1980s and early ’90s. He was, shall we say, a different head of lettuce. Rumpled in a slept-on-the-street sort of way and an egghead who viewed hockey not so much as sport but science, he had a degree in Russian studies and a fascination, if not a fetish, for players whose names ended with the letters ‘ov’. Under comrade Mikhail’s watch, the Jets had more Ivans and Igors and Sergeis and Vladimirs than the Kremlin. Or the Moscow phone book. Winnipeg was Red Square West. That’s why I called them the Central Red Jets back in the day.

Anyway, Hawerchuk was caught up in, and eventually swept away by, the undertow of comrade Mikhail’s diabolical plot to paint the town red.

As with the Kane scrutiny, gossip abounded about Ducky being dispatched hither and yon. Chicago Blackhawks coach Iron Mike Keenan and his Jets counterpart, Bob (Mud) Murdoch talked about a one-for-one swap: Denis Savard for Hawerchuk. Prior to the 1989 NHL trade deadline, there was discussion of a deal that would have sent Ducky to Philadelphia for Dave Poulin, Scott Mellanby and one of their the Flyers’ No. 1 picks.

“And three of Bobby Clarke’s kids,” was comrade Mikhail’s cheeky reaction to the reports. “And two of Jay Snider’s cars.”

To that point in time, Hawerchuk had made no trade request or demand. He was, however, wavering.

“I would accept a trade more easily now than I would have a year ago,” he said. “I’m tired about reading bull in the papers. I’m tired of coming to the rink with a negative-type attitude here. Maybe it’s best for the hockey club to get a few players for me. That’s not saying I want to be traded.”

Both Hawerchuk and comrade Mikhail were singing from the same sheet in the songbook by the end of that season.

“He basically would like a change,” the GM told reporters. “He’d like an opportunity to go to another team and play in another organization.”

Shortly thereafter, Ducky was shuffled off to Buffalo in barter for Phil Housley, Scott Arniel, Jeff Parker and an exchange of first-round draft picks (the Jets chose Keith Tkachuk). It was a favorable deal for the Jets, certainly the best return anyone could have expected.

Despite his defection, Hawerchuk is revered and considered hockey deity in River City. And rightly so.

Kane, meanwhile, is reviled.

I still don’t know what crime Kane has committed, other than he enjoys yanking everyone’s chain. I do know this, however: Dale Hawerchuk earned the right to request a trade because he earned his street cred through his deeds. To this point in time, Evander Kane has done and earned squat.

You know, just like The Possum, whose management by paralysis has paralyzed the Jets.

(FOOTNOTE: I invite your comments. I do not, however, welcome some of your comments. If you believe what I’ve written is the natterings of a nincompoop and belongs at the bottom of a bird cage, let ‘er rip. Tell me why. I enjoy healthy debate. That can be fun. If, on the other hand, your idea of a critique is to attack/insult me about my gender or sexual orientation, then we aren’t going to get along. Let’s put it this way: It is permissible to question the size of my IQ, but not the size of my boobs. Bottom line: I don’t get paid to write this crap, so play nice, kids.)