Let’s talk about a Grey Cup game on the frozen tundra…Tin Foil Man…comedy acts in Edmonton…Puck Finn’s chin whiskers…Akim Aliu’s message…faux fans in footy…the Six and the NWHL…an end game for Ponytail Puck…Naomi Osaka’s bankroll…and so long Eddie Haskell

A Grey Cup game in December. In Canada. Maybe in Winnipeg. Perhaps in Edmonton. Possibly in Regina.

That’s the latest bit of zaniness to drift out of the Canadian Football League bunker in the Republic of Tranna, and it appears that Commish Randy Ambrosie and his three-downs overlords are actually serious about possibly taking the Rouge Football showcase event to one of their frost-bitten burgs.

The way they have it figured, once there are only two teams still standing, the outfit with the superior record from a sawed-off season (eight, maybe nine, maybe 10 games) gets home field for the Grey Cup showdown, and that could mean the wind-ravaged, very frozen tundra of the Prairies.

Ya, that makes sense. You know, like building igloos in Arizona makes sense.

Hey, don’t get me wrong. I enjoy all those campfire tales about all those wacky-weather Grey Cup games of yore—the Mud Bowl and the Fog Bowl and the Wind Bowl and the Ice Bowl and the Snow Bowl.

But do we really need a Hypothermia Bowl?

Think of the poor sap who’d be first to kiss the Grey Grail. It’ll take the jaws of life to pry the guy’s lips from the metal mug. No amount of Botox would make him right again.

Maybe that’s why Commish Randy and pals have gone hat in hand to the feds for $150 million. They’ll need the loot for lawyers when surviving players file a class-action lawsuit seeking compensation for cruel and unusual punishment.

Look, we all know the mercury on The Baldies is apt to dip low enough to freeze the brass monkeys off Commish Randy once we arrive at December. So if—and that’s an if as large as an O-lineman’s appetite—there’s a 2020 CFL season that concludes during the Christmas shopping crunch, they’re setting themselves up for the ultimate football folly.

B.C. Place Stadium

Let’s face it, there’s only one logical locale for any Grey Cup skirmish in the last month of the year—the comfy, climate-controlled confines of BC. Place Stadium in Vancouver, even if Rouge Football isn’t much more than a rumor on the Left Flank.

What matters is that there’ll be a roof to keep the large lads in pads dry and warm as they argue their case for three-downs bragging rights.

So Commish Randy and the overlords might want to rethink that host city thing before they find themselves gathered in a frost-bitten burg, wondering why they rolled the dice on a minus-30C day when post-game lattés on an outdoor patio was available.

If (there’s that word again) there’s a Grey Cup game in December, it won’t be a first. There have been four since the CFL was formed in 1958, the last on Dec. 3, 1972, and each of those skirmishes took place in Southern Ontario, which has never been mistaken for the Canadian Prairies.

The CFL isn’t planning a “shortened” season or an “abbreviated” season or a Coles Notes version of a season. It’ll be a “truncated” season, don’t you know. Oh, yes, news snoops have fallen in love with the word “truncated,” the way Jesus favored the word “blessed” and Brian Burke loves to talk about “truculence.” They can’t file a dispatch without informing us that any 2020 CFL crusade will be “truncated,” and I imagine copy from the Grey Cup game will go something like this: “The truncated season came to a close on the Flattest of Lands today with much truculence and more than 30,000 blessed empty seats. Only seven players were forced from the game due to hypothermia, with another six treated for severe frost bite. MVP quarterback Zach Collaros began the day with 10 fingers, but finished with eight. Lawsuits pending.”

This has nada to do with sports, but I thought I’d share it nevertheless. While walking home from a pub yesterday (for the first time in more than two months), I saw a man with tin foil on his head. True story. I did a triple take to confirm I was seeing what I thought I was seeing. Yup. Tin foil. On his head. He was loitering on the sidewalk, but I’m not sure if he was waiting for a bus or the Mother Ship. Either way, I wasn’t keen on approaching Tin Foil Man to inquire.


Things that make me go hmmm Vol. 1: A comedy club in Edmonton has been forced to shut down because belly laughs are a risky bit of business during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s how Alberta’s top doc, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, explained it: “If it’s a comedy club or some kind of performance where you’re going to have an entire room of people laughing or cheering at the same time, there is some increased risk to those activities.” Hmmm. “Some kind of performance” that has a room full of people yukking it up. Apparently the good doctor has seen Milan Lucic play.

Things that make me go hmmm Vol. 2: Sticking with the Wild Rose Country/comedy theme, Jason Kenney has decided that Winnipeg is neither a major city nor a National Hockey League locale. “Edmonton has the lowest level of COVID-19 infections of any major city in North America, certainly lower than any other NHL city,” the Alberta premier stated in making his pitch for E-Town as a hub burg once the NHL hits the reboot button. Well, okay, let’s do the math. Active cases as of Friday: Edmonton 58, Winnipeg 3. Hmmm. E-Town hasn’t outscored Good Ol’ Hometown that badly since the Oilers-Jets playoff series of the 1980s.

Puck Finn’s bad beard.

Speaking of the Jets, Patrik Laine did the Zoom thing with news snoops the other day, and among his many sound bites was a vow to never again grow his terrible beard. (“Once was enough.”) Puck Finn also suggested that his game will be “terrible” whenever the NHL is back in go mode, because he’s been away from the freeze for two months. I don’t know about you, but I’m more interested in Puck Finn’s one-timer than his scruffy chin whiskers.

Seriously, are Puck Finn’s chin whiskers, his Lamborghini, his golf game, and his video games newsworthy? I suppose they are during a pandemic, and it makes you wonder why more NHL players don’t spice up their sound bites with a sprinkling of personality.

Akim Aliu

There’s very little fresh messaging provided by Akim Aliu in the essay he has written for The Players’ Tribune. He tells us that hockey “isn’t” for everyone, a mantra some of us have been chanting for quite some time, so I’m guessing many among the rabble wish he would just shut his squawk box and disappear like summer wages. Except that isn’t how this works. As long as racism, sexism, homophobia, misogyny, bigotry, hazing, etc. exist in hockey, people like Aliu need to speak their truth, and it doesn’t matter that he was a fringe NHL player. Ugly is ugly, and hockey’s underbelly is ugly. Or did you miss the charming comments a group of young players made about women a couple of weeks ago? Again, there’s nothing new in Aliu’s message, but that doesn’t make it any less important. I just wonder how many people are paying attention.

A Bundesliga soccer match between Borussia Moenchengladbach and Bayer Leverkusen on Saturday featured 13,000 life-size, cardboard cutouts (of actual people) in the stands. The bad news: Cardboard fans are hell on beer sales. The good news: No long lineups to the washrooms. 

Footy side FC Seoul has apologized for using female sex dolls as faux fans during a recent match. I agree. Putting dummies in the seats at sports events is a really bad idea. But enough about Drake.

Now that I’ve mentioned Drake, it’s worth noting that the National Women’s Hockey League expansion franchise in the Republic of Tranna is called the Six, a term coined by hip hop guys Jimmy Prime and Oliver North (El-Khatib) and popularized by Drizzy upon the release of his album Views From the 6. The question is: Will anyone in The ROT view the Six when Ponytail Puck returns?

Anyone who follows women’s hockey knows the game is a mess, with the NWHL and the Dream Gappers (Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association) offering very different road maps toward a sustainable operation that pays the workers a “living wage,” whatever that might be.

Commish Dani Rylan is convinced her NWHL can achieve that end without the NHL serving as a sugar daddy, whereas it’s NHL or bust for the Dream Gappers. Or is it?

Jayna Hefford

Consider this snippet from a natter between PWHPA head Jayna Hefford and the Ice Garden website on May 20…

Ice Garden: “Obviously the NHL is the endgame here but is that the only endgame you see or do you also see possibly a league with private investors, like large-scale private investors getting involved?”

Hefford: “We would never say it has to be the one and only way but there’s a number of things that we’ve communicated publicly that should be involved in a league.”

But wait. Now consider what Hefford told news snoops on April 23…

“We believe there needs to be an affiliation with the NHL. We’re adamant that there needs to be a connection there. We believe it’s the only way the women’s game will survive and grow.”

So either Hefford doesn’t know her own end game or, more likely, her pants are on fire.

Well, allow me to provide, once again, the Coles Notes version of the PWHPA agenda: The NWHL drowns in a sea of red ink; the NHL adopts the self-orphaned Dream Gappers and Ponytail Puck lives happily ever after.

Muppet heads Fozzy Bear and Colby Armstrong.

The squawk boxes at Sportsnet continue to suck up to PWHPA membership/allies with ass-kissing commentary, the most recent example delivered by muppet head Colby Armstrong on Hockey Central at Home during a blah-blah-blah session with Canadian national team member Natalie Spooner.

“Thanks for joining us,” Colby began. “Great seeing you as always and…we see you a lot, like we really get to see you a lot, and especially through this we get to see you out there a lot advocating for women’s hockey. I have three little girls and you know they love you. They’re big fans. What’s it like being a role model?

“I’ve been able to watch you and see you deal with a lot of people and fans and little girls, and I think you have a great personality for it, so I think it’s worked out.

“You’re a very social person, like, fun to be around, high energy, probably the, you know, the person in the room or in the gym that keeps it bumping. You love singing, you love dancing…people follow Natalie Spooner on her, what do you have Instagram? I don’t have it. I tell my wife, we watch your stuff all the time. You found a way to entertain. Ya, very entertaining.”

I swear, after chewing on all that sugar, I hope Spooner booked a dental appointment.

Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams.

Here’s a female athlete who doesn’t require faux hosannas or a sugar daddy—Naomi Osaka. According to Forbes, the Japanese-born, American-raised, two-time Grand Slam tennis champion earned more coin ($37.4 million) in a 12-month time frame than any woman in history. Yup, Naomi is in front of Serena Williams ($36 million) at the pay window, and you can probably bet the farm that they’ll be the only two women among the biggest money-makers in sports when Forbes releases its annual Top 100 list this week. Naomi slides in at No. 29 and Serena is at No. 33. If there are any other women in the group, my guess is you’ll find them on a tennis court.

Eddie Haskell

And, finally, Eddie Haskell is dead. Long live Eddie Haskell (in reruns). For all you youngsters in the audience, be advised that Eddie Haskell, played by Ken Osmond, was one of the regular characters on the 1950s-60s feel-good sitcom Leave It To Beaver, and he was a smart-ass kid. Here’s how Paul Farhi of the Washington Post describes him: “Eddie Haskell was a sneaky little rat, a two-faced suck-up and a tinpot bully. A punk who stirred up trouble.” That’s spot on, although I might have added the word “smarmy,” because Eddie was the kid your parents didn’t want you hanging with at home or on the street. Ironically, bad boy Eddie grew up to be policeman Ken in real life.

Misogyny in hockey: Boys dropping C-bombs is as old as the game itself

(Reader advisory: This essay contains coarse language that some might find offensive.)

Only one man has called me a cunt.

I ask that you trust me when I tell you that I did not say, nor did I do, anything that should have positioned me on the receiving end of such a vile, disgusting epithet. Suffice to say, I was working as a cover girl at a popular nightclub and this male patron was of the misguided notion that his stuff didn’t stink. He believed himself to be exempt from paying our $5 cover charge. I thought otherwise and told him so. Politely.

“You’re such a cunt,” he said as he stepped through the entrance doors.

“Excuse me?” I responded, in full recoil.

He stopped, turned back and took two steps toward me.

“I said,” he repeated, “you’re such a cunt.”

So there you have it. Two C-bombs in less than a dozen seconds.

I was not impressed. Nor was management. He was escorted from the building by a rather large lad with much muscle power.

Now, it’s my understanding that the use of the word “cunt” is not on the A-list of insults in other parts of our world. It is, after all, just a word. We do not, however, live in “other parts” of the world. Here at home, “cunt” carries radioactivity. It is toxic and hostile in the extreme. It is deep, intense and has unmatched shock value. It is sooooo degrading.

It is with this in mind that I ponder Greg Betzold and Jake Marchment, two young men who have achieved considerable notoriety for launching C-bombs. Because both are performers in the Ontario Hockey League, our great game itself is under assault for its culture of mysogyny and entitlement. This saddens me.

It also saddens me when a male athlete says something stupid then follows with a forced mea culpa in an attempt to convince us that what he said isn’t who he is.

A case in point would be the aforementioned Betzold.

The Peterborough Petes forward goes on the dating app Tinder and calls a woman a “dumb stupid cunt.” Not only that, he posits that she has a post-university future in “taking dick for a living.” So, she’s also a whore-in-waiting.

What does this tell us? Well, it tells me that Betzold is not the type of fellow I want my daughters dating. But let’s not leap to any assumptions. Calling a young woman a “dumb stupid cunt” and a whore isn’t really who Greg Betzold is. A mysogynist? Nope. Not Greg Betzold. We know this because he has posted an apology on Twitter assuring us that his comments “do not reflect my true values or views.”

Well, yes they do, Greg. What we say is who we are.

I have never met Betzold. Probably never will. I doubt, however, that this was the first time he’s dropped a C-bomb on a girl. Ditto Marchment, who, in a nasty Tinder exchange with a lass professing she had better things to do than spread her legs for the Belleville Bulls captain, branded the woman an “ugly cunt.”

I roamed countless hockey changing rooms, both at the Junior and professional level, during 30 years in jock journalism dating back to the late 1960s. They are, if nothing else, testosterone-fuelled, alpha, frat-boy man caves, where the C-bomb would rank a close second or third to “fag” or “mother fucker” as the slur du jour. They are vain, vulgar dens. Trust me. This is how hockey players talk in chamber. Thus, the coarse language used by Betzold and Marchment is not fresh fruit. It’s just that the majority who occupy these chambers aren’t so thick that they use hockey-speak on social forums such as Tinder or Twitter.

Basically, Betzold and Marchment, a Los Angeles Kings chattel, have brought the masses inside the changing room. Those unaware that such a culture of mysogyny and entitlement existed are now up to speed.

Not surprisingly, the deep-thinkers in the OHL’s ivory tower are unamused, which is why they’ve told both Betzold and Marchment to go away for the next 15 games, presumably to gaze at their navels and contemplate the reaction if someone were to label either of their mothers a “dumb, stupid, ugly cunt.”

I’m not prepared to cut either Betzold or Marchment an inch of slack. Can’t go there. What I can do, however, is perhaps provide a pinch of perspective.

The theatre that is junior hockey mostly plays out in the nooks and crannies of the country. Junior hockey is Penticton and Pembroke and Portage la Prairie and Prince Albert. The players, mostly 16-19 years of age, have been spirited from the shelter of home and are now big fish in small ponds. They are fussed and fawned over. They are rock stars in small communities. It must be emphasized that they’re also horny, teenage boys for whom getting laid is as simple as spreading peanut butter on a piece of toast. I mean, go to any rink where the Junior game is played and you’re guaranteed to find teenage girls prepared to lift their skirts so they can tell friends that they’ve bagged themselves a hockey player.

That doesn’t make it acceptable to speak of, or treat, women like trash, but galloping hormones and the players’ pack mentality refuse to recognize societal standards.

Some, of course, handle the entitlement with greater grace than others, and I suppose it’s fair to suggest that Betzold and Marchment have some work to do in this area. But they are a product of their environment. Not their home environment, because I doubt very much that they learned to call women “dumb, stupid, ugly cunts” while gathered around the dinner table with mom, dad and little sister. Hockey has made them this way.

The OHL has been applauded for acting swiftly and forcefully in the Betzold-Marchment case. A 15-game suspension is, to be certain, a harsh piece of penance to deliver, but I can’t help but take a cynical, if not dim, view of the sentence. Is the punishment designed to grow the players as people or simply to prevent their sexist, degrading comments from surfacing on social media? I hope it’s the former but I fear it’s the latter.

It’s sad that nothing has changed since I rode the iron lung with a Major Junior hockey outfit through Western Canada during my cub reporter days in the early 1970s, and I’m not sure what, if anything, can be done to facilitate the expungement of mysogyny in junior hockey.

Here’s a place to start, though, boys: Never, ever call a woman a “cunt.” Not unless you have one of your own. That would be entitlement.

rooftop riting biz card back sidePatti 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.