Let’s talk about things I’m not going to write about…

I was going to write about Dustin Byfuglien this morning.

I was going to say that I don’t live in his grey matter, nor am I a fly on Kevin Cheveldayoff’s office wall, so most of what I’ve read and heard about Big Buff since he chose to gaze at his navel rather than play hockey this winter is equal parts gossip, falsehood and speculation.

Big Buff

News snoops, of course, have spent countless hours trying to get the skinny on Big Buff’s retreat from the fray last September, but they’ve been unable to drill to the nub of the matter because a) True North Sports+Entertainment is less revealing than a nun’s habit, and b) Byfuglien takes his right to remain silent more seriously than a guy handcuffed in the back seat of a cop car.

So I was going to suggest we just call it the Great Untold Story of this Winnipeg Jets crusade, and accept that it’s apt to remain that way.

I mean, Big Buff has always made like a street mime, and general manager Chevy’s lips are forever tighter than a pensioner’s budget, so why would we expect them to suddenly spill the goods? It’s not like they owe the rabble the wherefore and why of the one-of-a-kind defenceman’s refusal to join his mates in their teeter-totter National Hockey League season.

Or do they?

The faithful, after all, are invested in the Jets, financially and/or emotionally, so an argument can be made that True North is obligated to come clean on the Byfuglien file. I agree.

Except that’s not how this will play out.

Chevy

TNSE is a private company, even as it pigs out at the public trough, and it won’t fall prey to any urge or moral obligation toward full disclosure re the intimate details that have led to the expected termination of Big Buff’s contract. It will be strictly need-to-know tidbits of Chevy-speak while someone else at True North reminds the rabble that, “Hey, we slashed beer and hot dog prices not so long ago, and you want the truth, too?”

Byfuglien, meanwhile, has a right to his privacy, even if he’s been the biggest fish in the smallest of the NHL’s ponds since the Atlanta caravan rolled into River City in 2011.

So go ahead and point accusing fingers at TNSE or Chevy or Byfuglien if you feel the need to vent and identify villains, but none of us knows the true story, and we’ll see Don Cherry back on TV talking about poppies and immigrants before we ever hear sound bites from Big Buff on his wonky ankle, the $14 million in salary he’s sacrificed, his favorite fishing hole, or his innermost thoughts.

And I’m totally okay with that because, as captain Blake Wheeler was saying the other day, “He doesn’t owe anyone anything.”

But I’m not going to write about any of that.

Kyle Connor

I was going to write about trade rumors this morning, because the NHL’s shop-and-swap deadline is only two weeks away and that usually means we’re apt to find James Duthie kneeling on a nearby church pew, praying that nothing significant goes down before his annual marathon and time-filling buffoonery on TSN.

James, for example, will be offering a few Hail Marys that the Jets don’t ship their perennial 30-goal man Kyle Connor to the Colorado Avalanche in barter for Bowen Byram in advance of D-Day on Feb. 24, but Mad Mike McIntyre of the Drab Slab informs us that Duthie might want to toss a few Our Fathers and at least one Apostles Creed into his prayer mix. He’s been hearing chatter, you see, and it’s all about Connor for Byram, a wet-eared rearguard with Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League. Although “loathe to play the role of gossip monger,” Mad Mike does that very thing because a “source” advises him that a Connor-for-Byram swap “has legs.” Mad Mike adds that he doesn’t see the deal happening, but what the hell, why not fling it out there and see if it sticks because, you know, he’s “loathe to play the role of gossip monger?”

But I’m not going to write about that this morning, because stranger things have happened (see: Gretzky, Wayne) and Mad Mike might be on to something. Or not.

Willie Jefferson

I was going to write about the Winnipeg Blue Bombers this morning, because one quarterback, Chris Streveler, has swanned off to Arizona and another, Matt Nichols, bolted to the Republic of Tranna, where he might be joined by defender extraordinaire Willie Jefferson.

I was going to say I don’t blame Nichols, because he was no longer the flavor of the month in River City, but I’m not sure where Willie’s head is at. I mean, the Bombers are champs of Rouge Football and the Tranna Argos are Grade A chumps with a following you can fit in a phone booth, with room to spare for a couple of circus clowns. Maybe Willie thinks he can stretch a $200,000-plus salary as far in The ROT as he can in Good Ol’ Hometown, and I suppose that’s doable if he doesn’t mind living in a lean-to.

But I’m not going to write about that, because it’s Willie’s business and the Canadian Football League’s most outstanding D-man has managed to get along just fine without my input. I just hope he doesn’t get stuck in traffic on the way to that empty ballyard the Boatmen play in.

Bill Murray

I was going to write about the Pebble Beach Pro-Am golf tournament this morning, because Nick Taylor will be in the final pairing with ol’ Lefty, Phil Mickelson this afternoon, and you might not know that Nick was born in Good Ol’ Hometown. He honed his skills in Abbotsford, B.C., but we can still claim him as one of our own.

But I’m not going to write about that, because my guess is the CBS cameras will be showing us more of Bill Murray making an ass clown of himself than the Nick and Phil duel.

Mike McEwen and Reid Carruthers

I was going to write about curling this morning, because there’s a very real possibility that someone not named Mike McEwen or Reid Carruthers will win the Manitoba men’s championship this very day. Jeff Stoughton was the last skip not named McEwen or Carruthers to wear the Buffalo on his back at the Brier, and that takes us back to 2014.

Jason Gunnlaugson sits in the catbird seat today, already booked into the final at Eric Coy Arena in Charleswood, and I submit that a changing of the guard would be a refreshing bit of business.

But I’m not going to write about that, because I wouldn’t bet against McEwen and Carruthers.

The scene at the Honda Center in Anaheim on Saturday night.

I was going to write about Ponytail Puck this morning, because the American and Canadian national sides wowed the rabble on the final three stops of their Rivalry Series. The Yankee Doodle Damsels got the better of our women twice (4-1 for the five-game series), but the real story was the head counts: 7,006 in Victoria, 8,467 in Vancouver, and 13,320 in Disneyland on Saturday night. Boffo stuff.

But I’m not going to write about that, because one reader called me a hypocrite for failing to fork out $20-$30 and walk across the street to watch the Victoria skirmish. I explained to him that I’m an old-age pensioner on a fixed income, living below the poverty line, and if the choice is between a hockey ticket and food I’ll take the hot meal every time. I’m not sure he bought my reasoning, but it’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

I was going to write about our terrific soccer and hoops ladies this morning, because both outfits have qualified for this summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo, and I’m not sure we’ll be saying the same thing about our men’s sides.

But I’m not going to write about that, because I’ll probably be called a hypocrite if I don’t purchase air fare to Japan and watch the women in person.

Charlie Hustle and the Hustler

I was going to write about Donald Trump this morning, because the American president and noted hustler is campaigning to Make Pete Great Again. That would be Pete Rose, listed as persona non grata by Major League Baseball for gambling on games while skipper of the Cincy Reds. The Donald believes Charlie Hustle got a raw deal when he was blackballed, so he wants Rose on the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot.

But I’m not going to write about that, because The Donald knows a good hustle when he sees one and this is fake news.

And, finally, I was going to write about that Skip The Dishes guy this morning, because I find myself wondering if I’m the only person who thinks he’s become the most annoying man on TV.

But I’m not going to write about that, because I’m too tired to write about anything.

Oh, woe is TSN…cutting off Kevin Cheveldayoff in mid-sentence…trading to land Auston Matthews…and putting the C on a Winnipeg Jets jersey

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

Note to self: Get a life.

I mean, I tuned in to TSN’s Trade Centre at the crack of 5 o’clock Monday morning and didn’t pull the plug until the clock struck midnight (figuratively) on the deadline for National Hockey League players to be dispatched hither and yon. Actually, make that hither and yawn.

Jennifer Hedger
Jennifer Hedger

I’m not sure what rates as the main highlight during the first 5 1/2 hours, listening to Jennifer Hedger tell us what the O’Dog, Jeff O’Neill, was having for lunch (apparently, wrapping cheese around munchies is “genius”), or Hedger catching a cotton missile Marty Biron launched from the T-shirt cannon.

Host James Duthie described it as “painful.” Yup, that bad.

Oh, well, I suppose it beat watching Gino Reda herd lamas in the parking lot (see 2015 TSN Trade Centre).

Truer words have never been spoken: When asked by Duthie what to expect from the Winnipeg Jets at the NHL trade deadline, TSN reporter Sara Orlesky answered, “I’m not expecting much.” Many of us have learned to never expect much from Jets management. Ya, okay, that’s a bit of a cheap shot, but it doesn’t make it any less true. They’ve made one NHL player-for-NHL player in five years.

What was unofficial general manager Mark Chipman telling the fawning faithful in Jets Nation when he gave official GM Kevin Cheveldayoff the okie-dokie to send captain Andrew Ladd on his merry way to the Toddlin’ Town last week? Try this: Those first five years in River City? Ignore them, kids. We’re starting over.

How typical, also dismissively rude, of TSN to cut off Cheveldayoff in mid-sentence during his post-deadline presser and go directly to the Republic of Tranna so we could hear the precious bleatings of Maple Leafs GM Lou Lamoriello. Doesn’t matter that Cheveldayoff was saying a whole lot of nothing. Lamoriello said even less.

So, the people who own the Jets have unveiled plans for True North Square in River City. There’ll be four towers built, the first of which is to be completed by the summer of 2018 and the others by the end of 2019. Terrific. True North Sports & Entertainment can change the entire face of downtown Winnipeg in less than four years but they can’t win a playoff game in five years.

Is it just me or does anyone else find it odd that Jets head coach Paul Maurice says Chipman will have a say in which skater has the C stitched onto his Jets jersey? “We’re going through a process,” PoMo told news scavengers when asked about an heir to departed captain Ladd. “We have some strong candidates and management and ownership will be involved.” Is Saint Mark really that much of a control freak? I mean, it seems to me that choosing a team captain would be down to the players and coaching staff. Why would anyone outside the changing room be given a voice?

I get a kick out of people who’d never heard of Marko Dano the day before the Chicago Blackhawks shipped him to the Jets in barter for Ladd and are now telling us what a brilliant prospect he is. Spare me. Dano is only 21 and he’s being passed around like a reefer at a 1960s pot party. Something doesn’t add up.

Auston Matthews
Auston Matthews

The Jets will have two first-round shouts in the NHL auction of freshly scrubbed teenagers in June. Assuming they don’t win the draft lottery, I say they package those two picks in a deal that fetches them the No. 1 overall selection. It’s the only way they’ll land Auston Matthews.

No surprise that Peter Chiarelli would wait until the draft lottery in April before making sweeping changes to the Edmonton Oilers roster. I mean, if the Oilers win the lottery and lay claim to first call (for the gazillionth time) in the entry draft, GM Chiarelli would be positioned to pluck Matthews from the pool of hot-shot teens, which would make it a whole lot easier to part with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle or even Taylor Hall in exchange for the blueline/goaltending help he desperately needs.

Would there be enough ice time in Edmonton for both Matthews and Connor McDavid playing centre? Well, the Oilers made it work back in the day with Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier. So, sure.

I know there’s a rule about tampering in the NHL, so shouldn’t someone in the ivory tower in Gotham have a chat with Florida Panthers’ co-bankroll Doug Cifu about him flapping his gums re Andrew Ladd before the trade that sent him to Chicago? “He’s a great player, a character guy, obviously Dale (GM Tallon) knows him very well,” Cifu told the Florida Sun-Sentinel. “I’m not going to comment on discussions, but he’s a great character, a great hockey player, he really is.” If that isn’t tampering, it’s as close as damn is to swearing.

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.

 

About conspiracy theories…calling out Paul Maurice…Evander being Evander…and other things on my mind

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

Let’s suppose the conspiracy theorists on Planet Paranoia are correct when they posit that National Hockey League gendarmes are overly zealous in meting out punishment to the Winnipeg Jets.

I mean, we’ve witnessed Dustin Byfuglien being banished to the sin bin simply for being big, have we not? Meanwhile, the skunk shirts look the other way when Anton Stralman of the Tampa Bay Lightning derails smurf-like Nikolaj Ehlers with a knee-on-knee hit and, scant seconds later, he renders a vulnerable Bryan Little loopy with a wallop to the head.

Dirty, rotten refs have it in for the Jets, right?

Paul Maurice
Paul Maurice

But let’s back it up for a moment. If it’s true that the Jets are getting the short end of the judicial staff, they have only themselves and their head coach, Paul Maurice, to blame.

I direct your attention to remarks made by coach PoMo and the aforementioned Little last season, at a time when the Jets were rapidly developing a reputation as an in-your-face band of ruffians and spending more time in stir than any other outfit in the NHL.

You play an aggressive, tight-gap game, you have more confrontations on the ice,” an unapologetic Maurice told news scavengers. “The concern is when you get the reputation of being the highest-penalized team, you lose the benefit of the doubt. It’s, ‘It must be a penalty, it’s Winnipeg.’ We talk about it…I don’t want to lose any of that other piece…if the byproduct being we’re taking more penalties, then we have to do that, because playing a different game won’t be to our strength.”

Here’s centre Little providing the backup vocals:

We like to play on the edge a bit. We like to make things hard on the other team. We’ve got some big guys, some fast guys that play physical. Sometimes that’s going to happen, we’re going to take penalties playing that way.”

Thus, you call the penalty parade a conspiracy, I call it the cost of doing business the Jets way. And when you cannot kill penalties, the Jets way doesn’t work.

I realize that referee Francois St. Laurent has become Public Enemy No. 1 in Jets Nation, first for turning a blind eye to Stralman’s misdeeds the other night in Winnipeg’s 6-5 loss to the Lightning in Tampa and, second, for giving Maurice the heave-ho after two periods. Let’s keep one thing in mind, though: There were two men wearing arm bands that night, the other being Dan O’Rourke. He could have ticketed Stralman for either the hit on Ehlers or Little.

Much has been made of St. Laurent being caught on camera laughing after he’d dismissed Maurice. It surely was, from a league standpoint, not a good optic. But, hey, watching a grown man lose his mind can be humorous.

After Maurice came completely unglued and was given the night off by St. Laurent, Paul Wiecek of the Winnipeg Free Press called out the Jets coach. In non-subtle language, Wiecek suggested that Maurice is very much a part of the problem in his club’s current crusade, which has turned into a total tire fire. For this, the Freep scribe has been tarred and feathered. It’s as if he has attacked motherhood. Well, I applaud Wiecek for having the gonads to take an unpopular position. Why should Maurice be a sacred cow? It’s not like he’s the second coming of Scotty Bowman. He’s been coaching in the NHL for 18 years. His clubs have made the playoffs five times in those 18 seasons. Whatever he’s been selling, not many have been buying.

As I have written, it’s the Tao of Freddy Shero that makes Paul Maurice and, by extension, his players do some of the things they do. I think of this every time I see coach PoMo dispatch Anthony Peluso over the boards, at times in tandem with the regretable Chris Thorburn. There are only two reasons why Peluso is a member of the Jets: His left fist and his right fist. Actually, there’s a third reason: The head coach believes his is a better club with the first two reasons on the roster. That, of course, is horribly misguided thinking, but it’s the Jets way.

Why do so many people assume that NHL officials aren’t disciplined for shoddy work? I harbor little doubt that someone in the league hiearchy will have a fireside chat with Francois St. Laurent. We just won’t hear about it, that’s all.

Steve Yzerman
Steve Yzerman

Is it just moi, or do others find it interesting that Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman ended rampant speculation about Steven Stamkos by advising the world that he would not be dealing his captain prior to the Feb. 29 NHL trade deadline? Speculation ceased. Similarly, GM Marc Bergevin of the Montreal Canadiens publicly squashed any notion that he’s about to move P.K. Subban. Yet in River City, mum’s the word from GM Mark Chipman and his puppet Kevin Cheveldayoff. They continue to let captain Andrew Ladd twist in the wind. It’s the Jets way, I guess.

Jennifer Jones is skipping a Manitoba team wearing Canada’s colors at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Grande Prairie, Alta. Kerri Einarson and her gal pals from the East St. Paul Curling Club are wearing the Manitoba buffalo on their backs. Manitoba-bred Chelsea Carey is skipping the rep from the host Wild Rose Country. All this made-in-Manitoba flavor and the Winnipeg Sun does not have a scribe on the scene. Shame, that. Blame it on the madness that prevails at Postmedia.

Buffalo, meet the real Evander Kane. Yup, he’s a wild and crazy guy who marches to his own drummer, and if that means swanning off to the Republic of Tranna for the National Basketball Asssociation all-star hijinks and missing practice, then that’s what he’ll do. Damn the consequences, which, in this case, was a one-game sit-down. Get used to it, Buffalo. There’s more to follow.

Pro boxers are a swell bunch, aren’t they? The heavyweight champion of all the world’s fist-fighters, Tyson Fury, is an admitted mysoginist and homophobe. Multi-division champion and now-retired (supposedly) champ Floyd Mayweather Jr. is a serial woman-beater who has spent time behind bars for whacking his children’s mother about the head. And now we have Manny Pacquiao going off on an anti-gay rant. If you missed it, Manny asks, “Do you see animals mating with the same sex?” (Actually, Manny, same-sex behaviour is quite common in the animal world.) He adds, “Animals are better because they can distingush male from female. If men mate with men and women mate with women, they are worse than animals.” Yo! Manny! Bite me.

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.