Let’s talk about a River City ripoff…Sir Macca and the Cheeseheads…looking into the CFL crystal ball…the return of Kirk Penton?…sexism at the NHL combine…Unhappy Jack and the Jets…Cam Neely’s hissy fit and memories of Fergy…Uncle Sam’s NBA TV nightmare…and other things on my mind

Another Sunday smorgas-bored…and I wonder if the Blue Bombers will ever get to play a game at Lambeau Field…

I am not accustomed to telling others what to do with their money.

Oh, sure, I sometimes wonder why folks spend considerable chunks of their well-earned—or ill-gotten—coin on certain things. You know, like a Nickelback or Luke Bryan concert. Or that phony fist fight a couple years ago between wife-beater Floyd Mayweather Jr. and the planet’s most-vulgar athlete, Conor McGregor. Or an Adam Sandler anything.

But, hey, it’s your dime. Spend it as you like.

I will, however, make an exception in the case of the National Football League dress rehearsal featuring the Oakland Raiders and Green Bay Packers, proposed for Aug. 22 at Football Follies Field In Fort Garry. Tickets are priced from $75 to $340 (plus taxes, plus fees, plus your child’s university tuition)…and people are actually buying them.

To borrow a phrase from one-time tennis wingnut John McEnroe: “You CANNOT BE SERIOUS!”

Think about it, kids. Folks in Oakland will watch those same Raiders play the Los Angeles Rams on Aug. 10 for the equivalent of 13 loonies and couch change. Yet the tariff in Good Ol’ Hometown is $75-$340?

We haven’t seen a ripoff like this in River City since the night Dave Hanson ripped the rug off Bobby Hull’s head.

It couldn’t be more of a sham if the two teams were named Con and Job.

So, yes, you can count me as shocked that all the $75-plus seats were snatched up in less than 24 hours. I mean, we’re talking about Winnipeg here. The Ojibway word for Winnipeg is “wholesale.” Peggers wouldn’t buy a corned beef sandwich from Oscar’s Deli unless it was a bargain. Which, of course, it is. Yet they’re shelling out large dollars for faux football (read: exhibition season).

Go figure.

Someone suggested an NFL game in Winnipeg is comparable to a Paul McCartney concert. I agree. The Raiders haven’t been any good since the 1970s and neither has Sir Paul.

Sticking with Sir Macca and the Packers, the former Beatle played Lambeau Field, home of the Cheeseheads, on Saturday night as part of his Freshen Up Tour. Tickets went for $55.95 to $279.95, but they were fetching as much as $3,500 on the secondary market. Imagine that, spending $3,500 just to listen to Silly Lambeau Songs.

I have no quibble with the NFL invading three-down football territory. It’s not like the locals will stop watching or supporting the Winnipeg Blue Bombers simply because Aaron Rodgers and his American Cheesehead pals are coming to town. It might, in fact, confirm what some of us have believed since we were knee high to Kenny Ploen and Leo Lewis—our game is more entertaining than theirs.

Dave Dickenson

My goodness. The Canadian Football League season is already upon us, with the fun starting on Thursday in the Hammer. I swear, it seems like only yesterday that Dave Dickenson of the Calgary Stampeders was squawking about the “fucking Canadian mafia” in Winnipeg.

I’ve already made my 29th annual prediction of a Grey Cup parade for downtown River City in November, and it doesn’t matter that my previous 28 forecasts were incorrect. (Hey, if meteorologists can be wrong every day, I can be wrong once a year.) This will be the order of finish in the CFL this season:

West Division
1. Winnipeg
2. B.C.
3. Edmonton
4. Calgary (crossover playoff spot)
5. Saskatchewan

East Division
1. Hamilton
2. Toronto
3. Ottawa
DNF. Montreal

Playoffs
Calgary def. Toronto
B.C. def. Edmonton
Hamilton def. Calgary
Winnipeg def. B.C.

Grey Cup: Winnipeg def. Hamilton

I hope the kickoff to the CFL season brings Kirk Penton back to his keyboard. Kirk’s take on all things three-down football for The Athletic are must-reads, notably the insider musings from league coaches, GMs, scouts and upper-management types.

If it’s a good read you’re looking for (and who isn’t?), you’ll want to check out Katy Strang’s piece on the NHL rookie combine in The Athletic. It’s lengthy, but worth the time because it provides incredible insight, including this cringeworthy gem:

“One agent mused that the later in the week the combine goes, the more some teams’ scouting staffs get bored and start screwing around for a laugh. But sometimes teams cross a line.

“Take the example of one current NHL player, who recalled his most vivid memory of the combine interview process. The wide-eyed teenager entered the room for an interview with the team, sat down and, rather than being questioned, was met with this jaw-dropping remark instead from one of the team’s high-ranking executives:

“So, I heard you’re a pussy.”

Like I said, it’s cringeworthy, but not at all shocking. That kind of degrading, sexist hockey-speak has been around since road apples were used for pucks and Eaton’s catalogs were shin pads, and hokey slogans like “Hockey Is For Everyone” won’t drown out the misogyny choir. It’s also the reason why any gay players remain hidden so deep in the closet that a team of coal miners can’t find them.

Unhappy Jack

Did he or didn’t he? Aaron Portzline of The Athletic says he did. Ken Robinson says he didn’t. But, to date, Jack Roslovic has neither confirmed nor denied that he asked for a one-way ticket out of Dodge at some point during the Winnipeg Jets’ latest National Hockey League crusade. Unhappy Jack certainly whinged about a lack of ice time, but so did his on-again, off-again linemate Mathieu Perreault and, no doubt, every other guy that head coach Paul Maurice forgot about (hello, Nic Petan). Hockey players bitch about ice allotment on every team, in every town, from peewee to beer league to pro, and I suspect it’s highly prevalent among young players with les Jets. I suppose that’s what passes for “ruffled feathers” these days.

If Coach Potty Mouth put Roslovic, Twig Ehlers and Kyle Connor together, he might have the fastest forward unit in the NHL. Also the most timid.

Had to laugh at a line in Mad Mike McIntyre’s column on Unhappy Jack. “The Roslovic trade bombshell was just another log on the fire for the ‘everything is broken’ crowd out there when it comes to the Jets,” he wrote in the Drab Slab. Apparently it hasn’t occurred to Mad Mike that he’s the dude who created the “everything is broken” mob with his fact-free “rotten to the core” yarn in early April. Since that initial installment of his whodunit novel Scandal, Jets Wrote, speculation and gossip have been running at full gallop, no surprise given that Mad Mike has yet to provide any hard-core evidence of corruption.

Cam Neely

Watching Boston Bruins president Cam Neely toss a water bottle in unrestrained fury during Game 5 of the Stanley Cup final reminded me of the night John Ferguson, then GM of the Jets, dumped an entire bucket of ice cubes from his press box bunker onto the Buffalo Sabres bench in the old barn on Maroons Road. Fergy was a beauty.

Pedro Martinez, definitely a righty.

Luke Fox of Sportsnet offered an interesting take on the Neely water-bottle toss, inspired by a non-penalty call that led to St. Louis Blues’ decisive score in a 2-1 win: “So this is how we find out Cam Neely is a lefty. The uncalled penalty was so blatant and so instrumental to the outcome of the game and, possibly, the championship that the president of the Boston Bruins stood up enraged in the press box, snatched a water bottle with his left hand and, in one fluid motion, whipped it against the wall like Pedro Martinez.” Ya, just like Pedro. Except for one thing: Martinez wasn’t a freaking lefty. He tossed right-handed for the Dodgers, the Expos, the Red Sox, the Mets and the Phillies. The only thing Pedro ever did with his left hand was toss Don Zimmer to the turf.

I’m not saying officiating in this spring’s Stanley Cup tournament has been all bad, but it’s not a good sign when the zebras skate onto the ice to the tune of I Go Blind by Hootie and the Blowfish.

Dumbest headline of the week was delivered by Sportsnet: “U.S. TV ratings aside, Raptors-Warriors is dream matchup for NBA.” Oh, for sure. The NBA should ignore the fact that most folks in the world’s greatest basketball nation are watching Gilligan’s Island reruns instead of the hoops championship series. Viewership in the U.S. has reached 10- to 12-year depths. Game 5 in the Republic of Tranna, with the Jurassics positioned to put away the Golden State Juggernaut, could be the lowest-rated final match ever in Trumpland. This is a dream matchup for the NBA like Carmen Electra and Dennis Rodman were a dream couple. We’re talking nightmare, kids.

Women’s hockey update: XVI Sports and Sportsground in Sweden have joined forces to produce all games in the SDHL on TV next winter. It’s a six-year, multi-million dollar deal. All that’s missing is a network partner to come on board. Meanwhile, the grand sum of 18 players have signed with National Women’s Hockey League outfits in the U.S., with the Boston Pride leading the way with eight players. That ought to make the Pride a shoo-in for the title. Except they don’t have a goalie.

Christine Sinclair

And, finally, boffo start to the women’s World Cup, with host France beating South Korea 4-donut. Our soccer ladies take to the pitch vs. Cameroon on Monday, and if this is Christine Sinclair’s final whirl with our national side I hope she goes out in a blaze of glory.

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Talking turkey on the telephone with Kevin Cheveldayoff

As a free service (no pay wall here), we bugged Kevin Cheveldayoff’s cellphone, his burner phone, his Dick Tracy wrist watch radio/TV and his land line (the guy’s still a bit old school) to listen in on trade talks between the Winnipeg Jets general manager and his National Hockey League counterparts.

Kevin Cheveldayoff

Sound of a cellphone ringing (to the tune of the Jerry Springer Show theme music)…

“Hello…Chevy speaking.”

“Morning Chevy. Stevie Y here in Motown. How are things in Pegtown?”

“Oh, you know, Stevie. Same old, same old. We’ve already had 21 homicides and the year isn’t half over, you can’t drive half a block without your SUV being swallowed by a pothole the size of Texas, the WiFi still sucks, and mosquito season has already started—you should see the size of some of those suckers, Stevie; as big as Buff. On top of that, I feel more like a prison warden than a GM.”

“How so?”

“What, you guys don’t have the Internet in Detroit, Stevie? You haven’t heard that I’m dealing with more malcontents than Dr. Phil? There’s so much scrapping in my dressing room that my owner, Mark Chipman, had to create a new position in the ivory tower—Executive VP in Charge of Ruffled Feathers.”

“Who’d you hire?”

“No one. Chipper said we couldn’t afford Oprah, Dr. Phil, Springer or Maury Povich, so we just put it on Zinger’s plate.”

“Isn’t Zinger the dude who used to sew and wash Teemu’s jock strap?”

Stevie Y

“Yup. Same guy, Craig Heisinger. He’s our Mr. Everything, except he does all his good work behind the scenes. People here think I’m a bit of a recluse, but Zinger’s got me beat all to hell. I can’t find the guy half the time I need him. It’s like he’s a member of the Green Party…you hear about him but you never really see him. Anyway, what’s on your mind, Stevie…wait…let me guess: You’re calling about Jacob Trouba.”

“You win the cupie doll, Chevy. I’d like to bring Trouba home to Michigan. What’s it gonna take to pry him away from you?”

“Jacob’s gonna cost you Dylan Larkin and a first-round pick in this month’s entry draft.”

“Are you daft, man? I give you Larkin and Mrs. Ilitch will have my left nut. She’s a dear, sweet lady, but my owner can be tougher than 10 days at hard labor. Sorry, Chevy, but Larkin is a non-starter. Especially if you want a first-rounder on top of that. You know the old saying, Chevy: I was born at night, but not last night.”

“Guess we can’t do business then, Stevie. I need a No. 2 centre like Zdeno Chara needs a straw to eat his food. I coughed up two first-rounders—plus Brendan freaking Lemieux—in the last two years trying to plug the hole at centre, and what do I have to show for it? Squat. If I don’t get it right with Trouba, Chipper will have both my balls. Anyway, Stevie, I’ve got another call…good talk though.”

Kyle Dooby-Dooby-Doo

Sound of Dick Tracy wrist watch radio/TV buzzing (to the tune of Fiddler on the Roof)…

“Hello…Chevy speaking.”

“Chevy, my main man, my main dude…Kyle Dooby-Dooby-Doo calling from the Centre of the Universe, where you can’t swing a cat without hitting a Toronto Raptors fan or Drake. What do you say we scratch each others backs?”

“I don’t see how we can help each other, Kyle. We’re both in cap hell. That’s a big problem.”

“There are no problems, Chevy, just challenges. If we get creative, you can have the No. 2 centre you need—Nazem Kadri—plus some added frills and I can have the top-pair defenceman I need.”

“One of those added frills would have to be a first-rounder this month, Kyle.”

“Ouch. No can do, amigo. Already gave that baby away. But here’s what I can do for you: I’ll give you Nazem Kadri, Nikita Zaitsev, Nic Petan and the talking rights to Ron Hainsey for Jacob Trouba and a year’s supply of Pride rainbow tape, because hockey is for everyone.”

“Ron Hainsey?! I know you people in Toronto are big on dinosaurs these days, what with the Raptors leading the NBA final and all, but the last thing I need is a Jurassic defenceman like Hainsey. And Nic Petan? My coach Paul Maurice has already ruined the kid’s career once, why would we let him do it again?”

“Guess we can’t do business then, Chevy. Maybe it’s just as well, though. I hear Trouba won’t sign long term with a Canadian team.”

“Well, Toronto is close to his home in Michigan and his good buddy Bogo is in Buffalo, so…oops, got another incoming call, Kyle. Gotta go.”

Ken Holland

Sound of land line ringing (no music, just Bring! Bring! Bring!)…

“Hello…Chevy speaking.”

“Good morning, Mr. Cheveldayoff. This is Miss Tulip from Mr. Holland’s office in Edmonton…could you stay on the line for his call please?”

Lengthy pause (Nickelback elevator music playing in the background)…

“Hi Chevy. Kenny Holland here. Sorry about the wait.”

“That’s actually kind of rude, Ken. I mean, you called me, so why should I be put on hold?”

“Sorry, man, but that’s the Oilers’ way. They fire so many people around here that no job is safe for more than five minutes. So I let my girl Miss Tulip make the calls for me. If I’m still the GM by the time she’s finished dialing, I pick up. Anyway, I hear Patrik Laine is available.”

“Where did you hear that?”

“Some blog called The Fourth Period.”

“Fake news, Ken. Patty isn’t going anywhere. Hey, the kid had an off-year, but when an off-year is a 21-year-old kid scoring 30 goals he’s a keeper.”

“Too bad. I was hoping to pair Laine with Jesse Puljujarvi. I figure if I could get another Finn on board, Jesse might finally find his way in the NHL.”

“Who would you be willing to send my way? Like I told Stevie Y and Dooby-Dooby-Doo, I’m looking for a live body and a first-rounder this month. That’s my starting point.”

“How does Ryan Nugent-Hopkins sound? That’s the No. 2 centre you need. I’ll give you the Nuge, our first-rounder, which is eighth overall, and I’ll toss in the Looch, Milan Lucic.”

“C’mon Kenny. You mean you’ll toss me a bloody anchor! Offering me the Looch is like offering a drowning man a glass of water. Who do you take me for, Peter Chiarelli?”

“Hey, didn’t mean to insult you, Chevy, but you know that great feeling you get right after your first dump in the morning? That’s the feeling I’m gonna have when I unload the Looch. But, okay, I’ll take him off the table. You can have the Nuge and our first-rounder, and you give me Laine.”

“Nope. Not gonna happen, Kenny. But you can have Nik Ehlers instead. Playing with Connor McDavid, he’ll score 40 by accident. And I’ll add Sami Niku.”

“Okay, Chevy, the Nuge and our first-rounder it is for Nik Ehlers and Sami Niku. Done deal. Just out of curiosity, Chevy, how will you tell your guys that they’ve been traded?”

“Same way I always do it…I tell Buff to toss their clothes into the ice tub.”

About the Winnipeg Jets making Hayes…get ready for another Nashville-Winnipeg donnybrook in Beard Season…no one will be singing the Blues…Nic gets a taste of popcorn in The ROT…Tradey and other oddballs on TSN…L is for loser and Ottawa…

Another smorgas-bored…and I hope you had better things to do than watch the entire NHL trade centre gab-a-thon on either TSN or Sportsnet…

I must confess, kids, Kevin Cheveldayoff fooled me.

Chevy

I had him figured for a thumb-twiddler at the National Hockey League shop-and-swap deadline on Monday, mainly because he’s known since July uno last year that he needed to fix the hole that Paul Stastny filled at the close of business last spring.

I mean, eight months. Nada. What, his phone wasn’t working all that time?

So, call me cynical, but I wasn’t confident the Winnipeg Jets general manager had an ace hidden up his sleeve and he’d pull it out at the 11th hour, providing the local hockey heroes with a winning hand as Beard Season approaches.

As we now know, Chevy did not dither or twiddle on D-day. He made more moves than a hustler in a singles bar.

Kevin Hayes

Chevy’s big catch—literally and figuratively—was Kevin Hayes, a tall drink of water who doesn’t carry the same cred as Stastny but will certainly do in a pinch. Let’s just call the now-former New York Rangers centre Stastny Lite until he proves otherwise.

Some might look at Hayes as a consolation prize, because the main object of Chevy’s affection (or so we’re told) was home boy Mark Stone, who found Las Vegas and the Golden Knights more to his liking. And yes, now that you mention it, it is somewhat annoying that the guys les Jets want to keep or to bring on board continue to make Bugsy Siegel’s desert town their preferred locale. First Stastny, now Hayes. Who will they want next in Glitter Gulch? Burton Cummings?

Mark Stone

At any rate, the bottom line is that Chevy did what he had to do, and if you prefer to look at the Hayes transaction as settling for second best, so be it. It’s still a good get, and it better positions les Jets in their quest to secure the extra home date in Beard Season.

Otherwise, Chevy’s handiwork was mostly meh.

Some pundits, mind you, were heard touting the added presence of Matt Hendricks as beneficial, because he’s “good in the room” and you never want savvy to be in short supply, especially on such a young outfit. There is, however, a lurking danger: Head coach Paul Maurice seems to harbor a peculiar fascination for veteran forwards of limited skill, and he might be inclined to go ga-ga over Hendricks and give him first-line minutes. You know, like he did with Chris Thorburn, who was also “good in the room.” It took the jaws of life to pry him away from Maurice, and I don’t think anyone is interested in Chris Thorburn, The Sequel.

So let’s just say Hendricks won’t be the difference between les Jets and the Nashville Predators, unless Coach Potty Mouth loses his mind. Then all bets are off.

Wayne Simmonds

Once all the cards were dealt and chips were played on Monday, how do les Jets stack up against their Central Division foes? Well, the Nashville Predators certainly bulked up with the additions of Mikael Granlund and wrecking ball winger Wayne Simmonds. Although betrayed by his scoring touch this crusade, Simmonds can be a force and perhaps a difference-maker in a nasty, bitter seven-game series. Les Jets don’t have anyone who compares to Simmonds. They are, however, stronger down the middle and better in goal because, you know, Pekka Rinne. Unfortunately, the home boys have become a train wreck on the backline, otherwise Chevy wouldn’t be bringing in Bogdan Kiselevich and Nathan Beaulieu, who’s pretty much been a washout since his name was called 10 shouts after Rink Rat Scheifele’s at the 2011 auction of freshly scrubbed teenagers. Here’s my guess: Les Jets and Nashville will meet in the second round of Beard Season, they’ll knock the slobber out of each other for seven games, nobody will survive to play the Western Conference final, so the San Jose Sharks will win by default.

What about the St. Louis Blues, you ask? What about them? Don’t be fooled by their recent run of good fortune. Once the puck stops hitting Jordan Binnington, they’ll be back to run-of-the-mill.

The downside of Chevy’s day: He needed to make a bigger play to prop up the backline, notably on the left side. Been saying that since October. He didn’t. That might prove to be les Jets’ undoing in the Stanley Cup runoff.

Nice to see Jets recluse forward Nic Petan catch a break and land on his feet with the Maple Leafs in the Republic of Tranna. I hope GM Harry Potter isn’t bringing him to The ROT just so he can sample the popcorn in the Scotiabank Arena press box.

Quick observations from TSN’s Trade Centre gab-a-thon on Monday: Does the filter between Dave Poulin’s grey matter and mouth work? I mean, host James Duthie and his cast a-plenty announced that the Vegas Golden Knights and Mark Stone have agreed on an eight-year contract extension, yet less than an hour later Poulin was telling us “There’s not going to be eight-year deals anymore.” It’s also known that the Ottawa Senators offered Stone and Matt Duchene eight-year deals. We ought not be surprised, though, because Poulin is among the mooks who left the NHL scoring champion, Connor McDavid, off his all-star ballot last year…I’m not sure why, but some of the buffoonery made me laugh, most notably when panelist Jeff O’Dog attacked ugly mascot Tradey for stealing food. Mind you, I could have done without seeing O’Dog’s butt cleavage…Tradey is one bad-ass mascot who, among other things, gave us the finger, and Duthie’s running commentary was giggle-worthy. The didn’t-see-that-coming kicker arrived at the end, when SportsCentre anchor and CFL on TSN host Rod Smith was revealed as the man inside the Tradey costume. Made me laugh out loud…Who in the name of Giorgio Armani dresses and grooms Steve Simmons? The Postmedia Tranna columnist joined former The Reporters gum-flappers Bruce Arthur and Michael Farber to dissect the events of the day, and he looked like a cross between Boxcar Willie and a circus clown. I mean, it’s one thing to be a scrubface, but he might want to prune those chin whiskers. As for the shirt and necktie, Bozo wants them back. I only mention Simmons’ appearance because there’s no way a female panelist on TSN would be allowed to go on camera looking like a railyard hobo. It’s a classic double standard…As for the Jay-and-Dan clown act: Why?

Eugene Melnyk

There’s little point in declaring winners and losers after the trade deadline, because we won’t know that until June. There is, however, one exception in the Loser category: The Ottawa Senators. Mark Stone, Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel—all shipped out the same week. Eugene Melnyk—still there. That’s an L of an outfit.

And, finally, to sum up what Chevy said when asked what went wrong in his bid to land Stone, he said he wouldn’t comment on comments. I have no comment on that comment.

Winnipeg Jets: It’s the Tao of Freddy that makes Paul Maurice do the things he does

I don’t like it. I don’t like it at all.

I mean, Paul Maurice is telling us that Nick Petan cannot play against a big, strong, heavy team like the St. Louis Blues because the game might be too big, strong and heavy for him.

Seriously. When asked to explain the rationale behind making slick Nic a healthy scratch for Sunday’s matinee at the Little Hockey House on the Prairie, that’s exactly what the Winnipeg Jets head coach advised news scavengers scant seconds after his troupe, which included a pair of knuckle-draggers dragging down the fourth line, were found wanting in a 4-2 loss.

“Figured it’d be a style of game like this,” was coach PoMo’s abrupt reply.

He then pursed his lips, jutted out his jaw and scanned the room with cold, blue eyes, very much playing the tough-guy role and daring anyone to pursue this line of questioning.

No one did. There was a lengthy, pregnant pause…then a query about lessons learned.

The Petan predicament, however, must be pursued.

There are, to be certain, much larger lads plying their trade in the National Hockey League. Many of them work for the aforementioned big, strong and heavy Blues, who enjoy leaning on little people. Petan is little by today’s shinny standards, standing just 5-feet-9 and tipping the scales at 179 pounds after a big meal. He is not a physical force on the frozen ponds of the NHL. Unlike the man who skated in his stead as a fourth-line forward on Sunday, Anthony Peluso, he uses his hands for things other than bouncing them off the skulls of foes.

In short, Petan is a skill player. He is everything that Peluso is not.

Yet, Maurice opted for the latter over the former on Sunday afternoon. There was Peluso, mainly leashed to the end of the pine, his skates touching the ice for all of four minutes and 59 seconds. He contributed zero shots, zero points, took the obligatory roughing penalty, and only once did he summon his brawn to bump into someone wearing St. Louis linen. In other words, he did nothing in what amounted to hockey’s version of a street fight. Supposedly his kind of game. Supposedly the kind of game that Petan cannot play.

But wait. Aren’t most outfits in the Central Division configured similar to the Blues? Big, strong and heavy? Nasty? In your face? Push always comes to shove?

“We’re going to get that in our division from every team all year,” defenceman Jacob Trouba confirmed post-match.

So where does Petan fit in? Will coach PoMo lean toward sacrificing skill and inserting sturdier sinew into his lineup whenever he sees the whites of a Central Division foe’s eyes? If so, can he be successful with a starting 12 up front that includes both of his guard dogs, Peluso and Chris Thorburn?

To me, this is not a Ginger-or-Mary Ann debate. One guy, Petan, can play hockey. The other guy, Peluso, cannot. Unless this is 1975 and the Philadelphia Flyers are running amok on a scorched-earth crusade, there is absolutely no circumstance under which Anthony Peluso gives the Jets a better chance to win a hockey game. None. Only a closet Freddy Shero would believe othewise.

Truth be known, I’ve long suspected Maurice of being an adherent of the Tao of Freddy, an outdated coaching philosophy that values brash, abrasive bullies as much as, if not more than, a collection of fancy-Dans who give thought to a soft, saucer pass rather than a slew-foot. It’s a notion I have tried mightily to reject, even in the perpetual presence of the aforementioned Thorburn, but there is no logical explanation for a ruffian like Peluso to play ahead of Petan other than the Tao of Freddy is at work.

Sigh.

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.

Winnipeg Jets: Don’t listen to the experts, lend an ear to the Two Hens in the Hockey House

Okay, we’ve heard from all the “so-called” experts, many of whom have sifted through the tea leaves and now are forecasting a rather splotchy future for the Winnipeg Jets.

No playoffs for you!” they yelp.

Well, stop it right there. Most of your “so-called” experts have no more “so-called” expertise than most lumps sitting on a bar stool. Oh, sure, having a byline or holding a microphone under an athlete’s chin is cool, but all it really tells us is that they get paid for their prognostications, however hallucinatory those prophecies might be. False prophets, that’s what they are.

what if lady answer lady2For the real poop on the Jets as they set out on a fresh National Hockey League crusade Thursday night against the not so big, bad Bruins in Beantown, I sought my favorite go-to girls—The What If Lady and The Answer Lady, fondly known as the Two Hens in the Hockey House.

They’ve got the gossip, they’re glib and they deliver the goods. So take it away, ladies…

What If Lady: What if the Jets’ prized freshman Nik Ehlers wins the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie this season? Does that make general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff a genius?

Answer Lady: Actually, our Danish Delight prefers to be called Nikolaj, not Nik. So let’s nip Nik in the bud and make it Nikolaj. Can Nikolaj win the Calder Trophy? Sure. If Connor McDavid breaks a leg or retires. So Chevy still won’t be a genius.

What If Lady: Are you surprised that the Jets are letting Andrew Copp wear No. 9?

Answer Lady: I’m absolutely shocked! I mean, I thought Dustin Byfuglien threw that sweater in the ice tub with the rest of Evander Kane’s clothing.

What If Lady: Did Copp call Bobby Hull and ask his permission to wear No. 9 like Kane did a few years back?

Answer Lady: That would be like George Strombouloupouloupoulous calling Ron MacLean to ask permission to use really bad puns. Or like P.J. Stock calling Don Cherry for permission to turn his granny’s drapes into a sports jacket. No one requires B. Hull’s permission to do anything.

What If Lady: That’s disrespectful. What if Hull hadn’t signed with the World Hockey Association in 1972?

Answer Lady: There’d be no Jets 2.0. But that’s down to Ben Hatskin more than Hull. Benny is the father of pro hockey in River City as we know it. There should be a statue of him inside or outside the Little Hockey House on the Prairie.

What If Lady: I see where the New Jersey Devils are erecting a statue to honor Martin Brodeur. What if the Jets erected a statue of a player? Who would it be?

Answer Lady: They had a statue years ago. His name was Sergei Bautin. When last seen, he was part of the rubble after the wrecking ball whacked the old Winnipeg Arena.

What If Lady: Getting back to Evander Kane, what if he scores 50 goals for the Sabres this season? Does that mean Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff made a bad trade when he shuffled our resident bad boy off to Buffalo?

Answer Lady: Bartenders and servers at pubs and restaurants in Winnipeg won’t think so.

What If Lady: Don’t you think Kane got a bit of a bum rap in Winnipeg with all that dine-and-dash stuff? There was never any proof that he weaseled out on his tabs, was there?

Answer Lady: Nope. He got the bum’s rush for a bum rap.

What If Lady: Speaking of paying or not paying, both Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien become unrestricted free agents at the end of this season. What if the Jets can’t afford to keep both of them?

Answer Lady: They’ll unload big Buff because he’ll fetch far more in return. Chevy won’t let happen to Byfuglien what he let happen to Michael Frolik, which is to say let him skate away for zip.

What If Lady: The Jets will definitely miss Frolik because he was a Jack of all trades kind of guy. Do you think Alexander Burmistrov can fill that Swiss army knife role?

Answer Lady: Ah, yes, the prodigal son. Born-again Burmi. It’s almost like he’s a rookie again. After two years in Mother Russia, it’s uncertain what he’ll deliver. Hopefully, it won’t be a bad attitude. I always liked the guy. If the bolts in his neck are screwed on tight, I see him as a Fro Lite.

What If Lady: Speaking of light, I note that Mark Scheifele has put on 15 pounds of muscle. Does this mean he’ll no longer fall down as often as Bambi?

Answer Lady: Once a Bambi always a Bambi. But I have an inkling that this will be a true breakout season for Scheifele. Dancing Gabe will be doing the Scheifele Shuffle in the aisles. It’ll be all the rage at Whiskey Dix.

What If Lady: What are you saying? That the Jets are a bunch of post-game party boys?

Answer Lady: Hey, they’re young. They’re wealthy. As far as I know, they all like young women and young women like young, wealthy hockey players. If the skate fits…

What If Lady: I can’t imagine any of them being as bad as Keith Tkachuk or that Kane kid in Chicago, but what if the team veterans can’t keep the youngsters on the straight and narrow?

Answer Lady: I think we all know what happens when one of the Jets’ young stallions strays from the herd. That’s right, his track suit ends up in the ice tub. I really don’t see it as an issue or a concern.

What If Lady: What are your concerns heading into this season?

Answer Lady: Two words: Chris Thorburn. Two more words: Anthony Peluso.

What If Lady: Seems to me a couple of spare parts should be of little concern, so why them?

Answer Lady: Goons in hockey have rapidly gone the way of the bare-faced goaltender, yet here we have the Jets with not one but two low-talent, back-alley thugs on the roster. They bring nothing but bruised bare knuckles to the table.

What If Lady: But what if there’s nobody to ride shotgun for smaller, skilled guys like Ehlers and Nic Petan?

Answer Lady: You don’t need that kind of guard dog today. What’s Peluso going to do if someone runs one of the Smurfs? Throw his box of popcorn at the ruffian from his perch in the press box?

What If Lady: You mention Ehlers and Petan. Are those two, along with guys like Scheifele, Jacob Trouba, Adam Lowry and Copp, proof positive that Cheveldayoff’s draft-and-develop blueprint is a stroke of genius?

Answer Lady: Good grief. You sound like someone who writes for the official newspaper of the Winnipeg Jets. Look, it’s not like Chevy invented sliced bread or the curved blade. Sam Pollock did that. To date, though, it would seem that Chevy’s bird dogs have flushed out some dandy prospects. I can’t say that there’s a Jimmy Mann or Sergei Bautin in the bunch.

What If Lady: Last question…what if the Jets are out of the playoffs this season?

Answer Lady: Can you say Auston Matthews?

 

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.

Winnipeg Jets: A heavy influx of youth won’t be Kevin Cheveldayoff’s next move

And now, for his next trick, Kevin Cheveldayoff will…

Actually, let’s begin by saying what the man who generally manages the Winnipeg Jets will not do in the wake of his club’s ouster from the Stanley Cup tournament—he will not jerk his knee. Neither one of them.

If we’ve learned anything about Cheveldayoff during his stewardship of the local National Hockey League outfit, it’s that he is a man with a slow hand. Many of us, myself included, had him figured for a dithering, do-nothing dullard whose management-by-paralysis methods were stunting the growth of a team that arrived in River City with a ready-made core. A few bold strokes and it would have been playoff worthy.

Except Cheveldayoff didn’t do bold strokes. Instead, he preached patience. Draft and develop.

Many of us believed him to be gun shy. That he functioned in fear of being fleeced by a wiser, more deal-savvy NHL general manager, who would pick his pocket and expose him as hopelessly inept.

We now know otherwise, don’t we?

In banishing both Evander Kane and Zach Bogosian to Buffalo in February, an initiative that spurred the Jets toward a much-anticipated post-season perch, Cheveldayoff proved that dashing and daring are part of his makeup. He wasn’t gun shy after all. Just cautious in how he used his bullets.

So what now?

The Winnipegs have taken that next step, the one Jets Nation had been awaiting since the club set up shop at the Little Hockey House on the Prairie in 2011. This is a playoff team. As it turns out, it isn’t a good enough playoff team, because the Disney Ducks got the brooms out and swept the locals away in four games, the minimum number required to move on to the second round of the NHL’s championship tournament. Those four games revealed the Jets to be short on top-end skill, short on depth, short on elite goaltending and short on the experience required to close the deal.

Thus, Cheveldayoff must roll up his sleeves and do some heavy lifting.

No doubt, he will receive ample advice. All unsolicited. Indeed, we are hearing yelps from the rabble, and the body is still warm. Get rid of Dustin Byfuglien, they bray. He is a defensive liability, with gusts up to disastrous. Put Toby Enstrom on the next stage coach out of Dodge, they insist. Too small, too easily pushed around by the big, bad dudes in the Western Conference. Surely the time has arrived for Ondrej Pavelec, despite a run of magnificence at the tail end of the regular season, to occupy another team’s blue paint. And let’s not forget the captain, Andrew Ladd, whose penchant for taking ill-timed and thoughtless penalties appears to be both chronic and unfixable. Gotta get rid of him, too.

Well, save your oxygen. None of this is going to transpire any time soon.

There is always an emotional reflex at the conclusion of a crusade, like that which the Jets completed with their 5-2 loss to the Ducks on Wednesday night. People see the good. They believe the club is positioned to become a perennial playoff participant. But they also see the not-so-good, the components that left the Jets lacking. They want change. Swift change. Perhaps even voluminous change.

Already I have heard noise about a substantial youth movement. Bring in Connor Hellebuyck to play goal. Josh Morrissey is ready for prime time. Ditto Nik Ehlers and Nic Petan.

Sorry, but you don’t want to go there. Put those four players in the Jets lineup and what do you have? The Edmonton Oilers. A team full of flash and dash and one that gets the No. 1 pick in the NHL entry draft every summer.

Consider, for example, Mark Scheifele. He’s young, talented, enthusiastic, determined. He now has two seasons on his resume. How well did he perform in his playoff baptism? He drowned. That’s how well. Jacob Trouba, destined to become a stud defenceman, struggled mightily. How did Adam Lowry measure up against the cagey antagonist, Ryan Kesler? And you want to add four more neophytes to the stew?

I would be shocked if Cheveldayoff goes that route. It’s a recipe for disaster.

I’m sure the Jets GM will, as is his wont, take a measured approach to roster reparations this off-season. If I’m wrong (that’s been known to happen) and the Jets ice a lineup that includes a combination of Scheifele, Trouba, Lowry, Hellebuyck, Morrissey, Ehlers, Petan and Andrew Copp next October, be prepared for a long season.

And forget about the playoffs.

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.

Don’t blame Chris Thorburn for being Chris Thorburn

It is 2:07 in the morning where I live. Rain is performing a delicate tap dance on my window, a gentle reminder that the wet season soon shall be in full voice for those of us who long ago fled to the left flank of the country to escape winter’s wrath.

I’ve always regarded that as a favorable exchange. White stuff for wet stuff. Many to the distant east of our little island don’t understand this. How, they wonder, can we function with rain. Every. Single. Day. For five months. They posit that it must be “soooooo depressing.” Well, it can be. But it isn’t the rainfall that has kept my eyes open for the past hour and a half this morning. It’s Chris Thorburn.

If Chris Thorburn wasn’t Chris Thorburn, you see, I’d likely be REM right now.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not blaming Thorburn for my lack of shuteye. I cannot blame the rain for being wet, and I cannot blame Chris Thorburn for being a skill-challenged, fourth-line, sometimes-third-line (do I hear second line?) Winnipeg Jets winger. I blame myself because I care. About Chris Thorburn.

He is a much-maligned man. It’s as if the sole purpose of his backside is to accept the swift kicking feet of the frustrated faithful of Jets Nation. He’s absorbed more public floggings than Gary Bettman during the last lockout and the Arizona Coyotes circus. And what are Thorburn’s trespasses? Well, he had the bad manners to accept a three-year contract worth $3.6 million. His use of his nightly allotment of seven-eight minutes ice time is an exercise in non-productivity. And, as stated, he is a skill-challenged, fourth-line, sometimes-third-line (do I hear second line?) winger.

I submit, however, that it is not Thorburn’s fault that he is placed in a position whereby the hockey puck and his hockey stick often conspire to make him look every bit the fool.

Kevin (The Possum) Cheveldayoff takes the rap for that. Paul Maurice is his willing accomplice. These are the two men who insist on the existence of Chris Thorburn. The general manager does so with the ill-advised use of Mark Chipman’s and David Thomson’s piggy bank, while the head coach does so via his on-ice deployment. They have determined that if the Jets are to fail to qualify for the Stanley Cup tournament for a fourth successive spring, they shall fail with Chris Thorburn.

It’s unfair to Thorburn, but he has become the measuring stick for the advancement of this National Hockey League outfit. As long as there’s room in the Jets lineup for a player whose usefulness is limited to his bare knuckles (and even that’s a stretch, given the current anti-fisticuffs climate), it is seen as the spinning of wheels. Kevin the Possum and coach PoMo can talk all they like about a cupboard that is no longer bare. A cupboard that now includes Nik Ehlers and Nic Petan and Josh Morrissey, among other prospects. But those kids aren’t in River City. Thorburn is. And he will be next season. And the next. That’s what many of the faithful find confusing. They hear much tall talk about the big picture, but they cannot see Thorburn in that picture. At any price.

Thus, they lash out at him.

Thorburn is the wrong target, though. If you think he belongs on a slow train ride to the Rock, reserve your cat o’ nine tails for the aft half of general manager Kevin the Possum and coach PoMo. He wouldn’t be the player he is today if not for them. Literally.

In the meantime, I need some sleep because I have a two-mile walk in the rain ahead of me this morning, and I can already hear the exchange with my doctor.

“Patti Dawn,” he’ll say, “you look like you didn’t sleep a wink last night.”

“I didn’t,” I’ll reply.

“Why not? Something troubling you?”

“It’s Thorbs.”

“Thorbs? I don’t believe I’m familiar with that particular ailment. Does it hurt?”

“Only when I watch and only for about seven-eight minutes a night.”

“There’s a simple remedy for that, young lady—less ice.”

“Don’t tell me, doc. Tell Kevin the Possum and coach PoMo…they’re the ones who have a bad case of Thorbs.”

(Editor’s Note: It doesn’t actually rain every day for five months of the year where I live. We just tell everyone from the east that so people like Don Cherry and Glenn Healy don’t move here.)

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.