As usual, Marie-Philip Poulin showed impeccable timing. Ditto Laura Stacey.
It’s unlikely to stall what appears to be a systemic attack on all things LGBT(etc.), but the two members of Canada’s national women’s hockey team delivered a note of high joy on Friday by announcing their engagement, and I suppose if anyone writes the Poulin-Stacey love story the Book Police will goose step forward and demand it be removed from library and school shelves.
The banning of books, of course, is an long-used weapon in the arsenal of forces that have mobilized against the LGBT(etc.) collective, but it is being unholstered more frequently, some say at an alarming and worrisome rate.
It is a Triple-P offensive—parents, pastors, politicians—meant to keep LGBT(etc.)-themed books beyond the reach of our youth, for fear they might discover the existence of people who don’t fit the cookie-cutter model preferred by the puritans.
I call it Tooth Fairy-ism.
The Triple P people tell their kids about the Tooth Fairy and how he/she magically appears to leave money under the pillow in exchange for a fallen ivory, but they don’t dare let them learn that gay people exist. Reality be damned. The less gay literature available, the less likely our children are to be “groomed” or “brainwashed” seems to be the prevailing logic. Better that they believe in the Tooth Fairy.
Yet what are they to do about Poulin and Stacey?
They can have every book on every shelf in every library or school removed and it won’t erase the reality that the two women are gay and plan to wed. Our youth will know about it because they have the Internet in the palms of their hands. They read and some of them probably still watch TV. Many among them also watch and read about sports, so they know Poulin and Stacey are Olympic Games and world champion hockey players. They know about Marie-Philip’s knack for scoring winning goals (2010, 2014, 2022 Olympics, 2021 world tournament), and that she’s Canada’s reigning female athlete-of-the-year.
Perhaps they were unaware that she’s gay, but not after Friday morning when both Poulin and Stacey posted news of their engagement on social media, with pics.
Those glad tidings came at a moment in time when the LGBT(etc.) collective needed a pick-me-up.
Aside from book bans, there’s been a growing anti-LGBT(etc.) sentiment in sports, notably the National Hockey League, whereby seven players—Ilya Samsonov, James Reimer, Eric and Marc Staal, Ivan Provorov, Ilya Lyubushkin, Andrei Kuzmenko, Denis Gurianov—refused to participate in Pride night activities this season due to either religious beliefs or Russia’s gay propaganda laws (or so they said). Meantime, four franchises—New York Rangers, St. Louis Blues, Chicago Blackhawks, Minnesota Wild—backtracked on plans to have players wrap themselves in rainbow-themed jerseys during warmup.
It was confirmation that the NHL’s trademark rallying cry of “hockey is for everyone” is a bogus bit of business.
More recently, former NHLer Andrew Shaw gave voice to the Raw Knuckles Podcast and victim blamed one-time Chicago Blackhawks prospect Kyle Beach for falling prey to sexual advances and assault by video coach Brad Aldrich. The way Shaw has it figured, Beach “put himself in the wrong position.” (Shaw, we should point out, was also once suspended for spewing a homophobic slur directed at an on-ice official.)
It’s all rather tawdry stuff, but now we have Poulin and Stacey to deliver the warm-and-fuzzies.
Same-sex partnerships/marriages are not rare among female athletes, and hockey seems to be the clubhouse leader for gay unions. We’ve already had Gillian Apps-Meghan Duggan, Caroline Ouellette-Julie Chu and Jayna Hefford-Kathleen Kauth exchange vows, and now Poulin-Stacey are heading down the aisle.
Moreover, the Canadian national team is a beacon for diversity and inclusiveness. Every time they step on the ice it’s a Pride night. The outfit that claimed gold at the 2022 Olympic Games featured seven out lesbians—Brianne Jenner, Erin Ambrose, Emily Clark, Melodie Daoust, Jill Saulnier, Jamie Lee Rattray, Micah Zandee-Hart—so we can add Poulin and Stacey to that roll call.
It stands as the gayest group of athletes to win gold in any Olympics, in any sport.
If the book banners have their way, kids will no longer be able to read about these athletic role models in school or at the library, but that won’t make them less real of less visible.
Who they are and what they’ve accomplished can’t be erased or undone by the fanatics convinced there’s a global-wide gay agenda to hijack the minds of kids from kindergarten to high school.
Tooth Fairy-ism is a real thing, except it doesn’t deal in reality.
Marie-Philip Poulin and Laura Stacey, on the other hand, are real. Delightfully real.
Once again, we are hearing a loud chorus of “stick to sports” from the peanut gallery.
Oh, yes, there are many among the rabble who believe it’s extremely ill mannered for jock journos to opine on anything other than goals, slam dunks, double faults, birdie putts, pitch counts, pitch clocks, and if Aaron Rodgers will ever get a new zip code.
Thus, they yelp for the stifling of sports scribes, in the same way and at the same volume Archie Bunker would try to stifle Edith.
A prime example would be the Twitter missive my good friend Paul Friesen of the Winnipeg Sun received the other day: “STFU. Sports journalists commenting on social or political issues are the worst. No clue. Take your f—— agenda and shove it where the sun don’t shine.”
It’s a classic “stick to sports” rant, one of the many I’ve read on social media since Ivan Provorov started the Rainbow Resistance Movement in the National Hockey League.
I doubt the Philly Flyers defender meant to become a Pied Piper the January night he pooped on his team’s Pride-theme party by declining to wear a rainbow jersey, but it’s become follow the leader—James Reimer, Eric and Marc Staal, Ilya Lyubushkin and Andrei Kuzmenko have also opted out of a gesture meant to welcome the LGBT(etc.) community to the NHL.
Not surprisingly, numerous jock journos have delivered a stern tsk-tsking to the Defiant Six (and counting), because a great many of the scribes/talking heads lean left, politically and socially.
As an e.g., there was a collective gasp and they choked on their Cheerios when childhood heroes Bobby Orr and Jack Nicklaus pumped Donald Trump’s tires in advance of the last U.S. presidential election. They saw it as the greatest betrayal since Judas puckered up and planted a smooch on Jesus’ cheek, or at least since Roger Clemens took his syringes from Fenway Park to the Bronx.
The scribes and talking heads were told then, as they are today, to shut the hell up and stick to sports.
Except that isn’t how it works.
Sports is not a stand-alone cosmos. It’s been intersecting with politics and social issues since David forced Goliath to tap out.
Roll back to the early 20th century, when Jack Johnson and James J. Jeffries threw down for the world heavyweight boxing championship. Their tiff in Reno, Nev., on July 4, 1910, wasn’t billed the ‘Fight of the Century’ because it featured two great gladiators. It was about race and white supremacy, and that’s how the boys at ringside wrote it.
Here’s Max Baethahar of The Daily Gate City the day before the bout: “On Monday we are to see the consummation, the battle of the century, the battle of giants, a contest for physical supremacy between the white and black races.”
After Johnson kayoed Jeffries in the 15th round, race riots promptly broke out across America. At least 17 Black people and two whites were killed. That, not boxing, was the talking point.
When Jackie Robinson broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier in 1947, the dean of America’s Black sports scribes, Fay Young, delivered this message to his Chicago Defender readers: “Robinson will not be on trial as much as the Negro fan. The Negro fan has been the ‘hot potato’ dodged by managers who would have taken a chance by signing a Negro player. The unruly Negro has and can set us back 25 years…The Negro fan can help Robinson. The Negro fan can ruin him. Robinson is an American citizen, an ex-army officer, a ball player and a gentleman. Let us try and meet his qualifications as a gentleman. If you Chicagoans have got to raise a lot of hell, do a lot of cussing, go somewhere else.”
Was Young supposed to write about Robinson’s batting average when Blacks across America were celebrating one of their own who went where none had gone before?
Think Cassius Clay, who joined the Nation of Islam and became the draft dodging Muhammad Ali.
New York columnist Red Smith likened him to “those unwashed punks who picket and demonstrate against the (Vietnam) war,” while Dick Young of the New York Daily News assailed the brash heavyweight titleholder for his religious beliefs, writing, “He is a braggart, but that’s no crime or there wouldn’t be enough jails. The shame of it is that Clay will be used by the Black Muslims, to shill for their brand of hate-mongering. I do not believe Cassius Clay or anyone who thinks like him is good for my country. He is for separatism. He is for black man against white man.”
They were writing about a political and social issue of the 1960s, not jabs and knockout punches.
Similarly, German Chancellor Adolph Hitler and his white supremist Aryan Nation received as much ink in the leadup to the 1936 Olympics in Berlin as Jesse Owens. During the opening ceremony, some non-German athletes acknowledged Hitler with a Nazi salute, and swatstika symbols were in abundance. When Pete Rose lost his baseball career to gambling, the scribes scribbled about athletes and vices. When washout quarterback Johnny Manziel beat up a woman, they wrote about the evils of domestic violence. When John Carlos and Tommie Smith protested the oppression of Black people in the United States—and when Colin Kaepernick took a knee to protest social injustice—that’s what the jock journos focused on. When Donald Trump called any NFL player who took a knee during the Star Spangled Banner “a son of a bitch” and advocated for his firing, social unrest was the topic du jour.
Does anyone truly believe the 1972 Summit Series between Canada and the Soviet Union was strictly about hockey bragging rights? It was Us vs. Them. Our way of life (democracy) vs. their way of life (communism).
After Paul Henderson delivered the decisive score 34 seconds from time in Game 8, this is what he told Dick Beddoes of the Globe and Mail: “When I scored that final goal, I finally realized what democracy was all about.”
Today, the talking points are equal pay, equal rights, misogyny, sexual orientation, racist team nicknames/logos, Pride nights, gender identity, etc., and opinionists in the toy department deal with it. They must deal with it. Otherwise, they aren’t doing their jobs.
Last June the New York Times instructed its subsidiary The Athletic to keep out of politics: No expression of political leanings on social media or any platform. That’s just stupid. Can you imagine where we’d be if TSN told Rick Westhead that both Hockey Canada and Soccer Canada were off-limits to his deep dives?
Corey Masisak of The Athletic asked the aforementioned Reimer this question after the San Jose Sharks goaltender declined to wear a Pride jersey: “What are your thoughts on transgender people?”Reimer’s response: “My beliefs in Christ, what I think the Bible says on that stuff.” What he “thinks” The Bible says? He doesn’t know? Then what’s his beef with wearing a Pride jersey?
Not sure what Ron MacLean was going on about in a gum-flapper with Brian Burke last week on Hockey Night in Canada, but he mentioned something about Aristotle and the “human approach to ethics.” He then asked the Pittsburgh Penguins president how we find a “compromise or a middle ground.” Compromise? Middle ground? On ethics? Sheesh.
Few athletes will keep me up long past my bedtime. Caitlin Clark is one of them. My eyeballs were glued to the flatscreen on Friday night as she put the final touches to a 41-point performance in Iowa Hawkeyes 77-73 win over the previously unbeaten South Carolina Gamecocks. I’m not a huge hoops fan. I think the last game I watched from tipoff to final buzzer featured the Los Angeles Lakers and Jerry West when he was a player not an NBA logo, and I haven’t seen a minute of the NCAA men’s tournament. But I’ve taken a gander at Caitlin and the women’s March Madness twice now, and I like what I see. That’s riveting theatre.
An example of anti-female bias in sports media: On TSN’s overnight SportsCentre last Sunday/Monday, there was no mention of the Toronto Six winning the Premier Hockey Federation title until the show was into its 40th minute. There was just one 20-second highlight, the winning goal in a 4-3 OT game. Over at Sportsnet, they couldn’t find room for the Six until the 53rd minute. On the print side, the Toronto Sun completely ignored the Six’ success vs. Minnesota Whitecaps. That’s what they think of the world’s sole professional women’s hockey league.
Hey, it’s National Hockey Card Day on April 15. Just in time for spring, when the kids are hauling their bikes out of storage and looking for something to stick between the spokes to get that clackety-clack-clack-clack sound.
I note the name Wally Buono will be added to the B.C. Leos Wall of Fame in August. You mean he wasn’t there already?
Now that Jennifer Jones has added a Canadian mixed doubles title to her resume, does any doubt remain that she’s the finest curler ever produced on Manitoba pebble?
So, many times Manitoba champion Mike McEwen is going green, which is to say he’ll now be skipping a team on the Flattest of Lands, with Colton Flasch, Kevin and Dan Marsh as his accomplices. The boys will be curling out of Saskatoon, and I think one thing is certain: Mike won’t look any better in green than Matt Dunstone or Chelsea Carey did. Kermit the Frog looks good in green, Manitoba curlers don’t.
And, finally, some interesting stuff in weekly newsletters from Drab Slab sports editor Jason Bell and sports columnist Mad Mike McIntyre.
Let’s start with Bell. Writing about the highs and lows of getting a scoop and being scooped, he says: “There also comes a time when you tip your hat to the competition. And I’ll do that publicly to Winnipeg Sun columnist Paul Friesen, who wrote this week about the sexism, racism and hate that Gimli curler Kerri Einarson and her team has been subjected to online—during and after their latest effort at the world women’s championship. It’s ugly. And it’s ever so sad.”
Imagine that, acknowledging you got your butt booted and tipping your chapeau to a foe. Nice touch.
Meantime, I found Mad Mike’s newsletter interesting because he delivered his personal rankings of favorite NHL cities and barns.
Cities: 1. Winnipeg. Cheesy, sure, but there really is no place like home. Yes, even when winter refuses to pack its bags as we approach April. 2. New York City. Of course, this covers three teams in the Rangers, Islanders and Devils. The Big Apple simply can’t be beat. 3. Calgary. Some close friends and family members live there, so a visit is always a highlight. 4. Minneapolis/St. Paul. Same as above. 5. Vegas. Fairly self-explanatory, I would think!
Barns: 1. Madison Square Garden (New York). The World’s Most Famous Arena is truly incredible. 2. T-Mobile Arena (Las Vegas). The atmosphere is tough to beat. 3. Bell Centre (Montreal). A shrine to hockey history. 4. United Centre (Chicago). The best anthem in sports, hands down. 5. Scotiabank Arena (Toronto). The spotlight is bright. The stage is big.
That got me to thinking about my own time on the NHL beat for various rags, most notably the Winnipeg Tribune and Sun.
Cities: 1. Quebec City. Such character. Such beauty. Such lovely people. 2. Montreal. I love the joie de vivre of the French. 3. Los Angeles. Never mind the earthquakes and smog. I got to ride an elevator with Hawkeye Pierce of M*A*S*H once, and he was the spitting image of Alan Alda.
Barns: 1. Montreal Forum. The ultimate shinny shrine and best hot dogs in the world. 2. Maple Leaf Gardens. A bit of a dump, but so much history. 3. Chicago Stadium. Loudest room I’ve ever been in.
I took a deep sigh before beginning this essay because, you know, it’s 2023 and Pride nights at a hockey rink near you shouldn’t be a thing anymore.
Yet here I am, talking about the same old thing. (Another sigh.)
As far as I can determine, Pride nights at sporting events are designed to convey one basic message to a specific, marginalized group. To wit: Members of the LGBT(etc.) collective are welcome.
And it’s meant to be a broad-stroke embrace, a virtual hug not just for fans, but employees, as well.
“You’re lesbian? A gay man? Bisexual? Transgender? Queer? Etcetera? It’s all good. Come on down and join all the heteros to sample some of our over-priced hot dogs and beer in our safe space!”
So what does it say when a National Hockey League franchise’s most-visible, highest-paid and fawned-over employees—the on-ice workers—decline to play along?
Ivan Provorov didn’t want to play along two months ago on Philadelphia Flyers Pride Night, so he flashed the religion card after refusing to wear a team-approved jersey in support of the LGBT(etc.) community.
“My choice is to stay true to myself and my religion,” the Russian Orthodox rearguard explained, without actually explaining anything.
Perhaps James Reimer of the San Jose Sharks can explain it to us, because he joined the NHL’s Rainbow Resistance Movement on Saturday. While his comrades adorned themselves in LGBT(etc.)-themed jerseys in a pregame frolic, the veteran goaltender remained hunkered down in the players’ lair, perhaps quietly wondering why Jesus spent three-plus years roaming the countryside mostly in the exclusive company of 12 hand-picked men, one of whom betrayed him with, yes, a kiss.
“I am choosing not to endorse something that is counter to my personal convictions, which are based on the Bible, the highest authority in my life,” was Reimer’s reasoning in a Sharks-sanctioned statement.
He later told news snoops this: “I get what the message is. I think people are trying to support the community and I’m sure people in the community feel marginalized. For me, to some extent, that’s what you want to do is you want to love them, but what I keep reiterating is where it intersects with a Christian…you love them, but you can’t support the activity or lifestyle.”
Hmmm. Who knew that being gay was an “activity?” Or a “lifestyle?”
But if by “activity” Reimer means sex, yes, gay people are guilty of having sex, just like heterosexual men and women. If by “lifestyle” he means a 9-to-5 job, or feeding the homeless, or going to movies and dinner parties and church every Sunday, or getting married and raising families, or shopping for groceries, yes, also guilty, yer honor. You know, just like heterosexual men and women.
Hockey is an “activity.” Many gays are very good at it.
So did the Bible allow Reimer to root, root, root for Canada during the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in China? There were seven out lesbians on that Canadian team that struck gold. Brianne Jenner, one of those lesbians, was the tournament MVP. Did the Bible allow him to cheer for our soccer women who collected the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics? There were four out lesbians, one non-binary player and an out coach on that outfit.
I’m guessing that because Reimer is of good Manitoba stock, he was fully on board with our hockey and soccer sides.
But, hey, heaven forbid he slip a rainbow-colored jersey over his head, lest he turn into a pillar of salt, like Lot’s wife.
Both Reimer and Provorov are right about one thing, though: It is a “choice” to support or pooh-pooh an LGBT(etc.)-friendly initiative, but it’s such a convenience to have the Bible, or any other religious dogma, to use as a defensive reflex when the predictable, yowling mob arrives to collect its pound of flesh on social media.
I just wonder if they believe the entirety of the Holy Book, or do they pick and choose which chapter and verse to accept as gospel? Do they buy into the Jesus walking on water story? How about the multiplying of loaves and fish? Water into wine? Raising the dead?
Whatever the case, spewing scripture earned Provorov and Reimer a public flogging, but it’s all good because their employers have their backs: “It’s okay to be anti-gay as long as you thump a Bible.” As if.
None of this is to ignore the New York Rangers and Minnesota Wild, two franchises that reneged on Pride Night promotions promising rainbow togs to be worn pregame, then auctioned in support of LGBT(etc.) causes. Both clubs declined to come clean on the reasoning behind the twin about-face, except, of course, to issue statements pledging unwavering support for the LGBT(etc.) community, even as their unwavering support wavered. Ditto the Sharks on Saturday.
I think we all know where this thing is headed: Pride nights will remain on team calendars, but players no longer will be paraded in rainbow-themed warmup garb. Thus, anti-gay players on NHL rosters (I like to think they’re in the minority) won’t be required to hide behind the Bible anymore. They can keep their religion and anti-gay bias on the QT.
This isn’t purely an NHL issue. Five pitchers with the Tampa Bay Rays didn’t want to play along on Pride Night last June, when the Major League Baseball club asked players to wear uniforms adorned with rainbow sleeve patches and rainbow TB lettering on their caps.
“A lot of it comes down to faith, to like a faith-based decision,” Jason Adam told news snoops. “So it’s a hard decision. Because ultimately we all said what we want is them to know that all are welcome and loved here. But when we put it on our bodies, I think a lot of guys decided that it’s just a lifestyle that maybe—not that they look down on anybody or think differently—it’s just that maybe we don’t want to encourage it if we believe in Jesus, who’s encouraged us to live a lifestyle that would abstain from that behavior, just like (Jesus) encourages me as a heterosexual male to abstain from sex outside of the confines of marriage. It’s no different.”
I turned on my flatscreen this week and the 1970s NHL broke out: Anthony Stewart was on Sportsnet promoting meathead hockey. Luke Gazdik was on Sportsnet telling us that “there is a major need” for fighting in hockey. “This is what I did for a living, so I truly love this part of the game.” And on the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League banning fisticuffs: “I think it’s a bit of a joke.” (Holy cement head, Batman!) St. Louis Blues trotted out rasslin fossil Ric Flair to crank up the crowd and the home side. Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington went off his nut (again), challenging the Minnesota bench, then turning total meathead by attacking Wild players. Marc-Andre Fleury raced from one end of the freeze to the other in a bid to chuck knuckles with Binnington. The men in stripes kept the two goalies from scratching each other’s eyes out. Brayden Schenn said a goalie fight would have been boffo for “viewership and ratings and talking about the game.” Good grief. Did I nod off and miss a successful coupe d’état by Vince McMahon and Triple H? Is the NHL now a WWE sideshow?
If you missed it (and my guess is you did), a burger joint beat the bankers last weekend to win what The Canadian Press described as the “coveted” 2023 Secret Cup. Translated, that means Team Harvey’s one-upped Team Scotiabank in the final skirmish of this winter’s Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association series of glorified scrimmages. The frolic was conducted in Palm Desert, Calif., where it was mostly ignored, but it did produce the PWHPA’s 1,189th photo-op with Billie Jean King.
Now that the PWHPA has ceased storming barns hither and yon, we await official word that the women have formed a second professional league to compete against the Premier Hockey Federation, with teams representing cities or states/provinces, not burger joints and banks. Ponytail Puck couldn’t make a go of it with two loops in 2019, when players were basically paid with food stamps and Canadian Tire money, so word that salaries will be in the $55,000 range makes this is an extremely iffy bit of business. That doesn’t mean it’s doomed before they drop the puck, but a roster of 20 at $55,000 per player is a $1,100,000 payroll. Couple that with the PHF’s per team salary cap of $1.5 million in 2023-24, and I’m not convinced there’s a market for competing leagues. Especially if the PWHPA invades already established PHF locales.
Wow, some unexpected goings-on during the Juno Awards last weekend. Hockey star Connor McDavid made a cameo appearance to intro his “friends” and newly minted Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductees Nickelback, then an Avril Lavigne intro was hijacked by a woman with her bare boobs hanging out. It’s believed she’s the lead singer for a new all-girl group, Nippleback.
Separatist Pierre Karl Péladeau has been Lord of the Montreal Larks for more than a week now, and there hasn’t been the slightest hint of buyer’s remorse from Monsieur Pierre. His takeover of the CFL orphans seems to be popular in La Belle Province, and he and his $1.9 billion bankroll certainly are a godsend to the eight teams that won’t be required to foot the bill for the Larks had they remained foster footballers. It’s a 100 per cent good-news story. So why do I expect the other shoe to drop? Maybe I just don’t trust billionaires.
Here’s Jack Todd of the Montreal Gazette on the Larks freshly minted papa gâteau: “It’s not inconceivable that Péladeau’s tenure as owner of the Alouettes could become an audition of sorts for the NHL. If eight other CFL owners can swallow their distaste for Péladeau’s politics, perhaps some future NHL commissioner less obdurate than Bettman will be open to repatriating the Nordiques.
“For the present, we’ll keep an open mind. The Alouettes were desperately in need of a local owner, preferably French-Canadian, with passion and deep pockets. Péladeau checks all the boxes.
“Yes, Péladeau has his weaknesses. But in the CFL galaxy, he is a superstar, a charismatic billionaire with a chequebook and a plan. We wish him luck.”
This just in: Hell has frozen over! I say that because the Football Reporters of Canada has opened the door to the ultimate Old Boys Club and invited Vicki Hall to enter. Yup, Vicki will become the first female to join 100-plus men in the media wing of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame later this year, but don’t ask me why it took them so long to acknowledge a woman. I’m just surprised that Vicki’s the first, because I thought it would have been a pioneering female football reporter from the 20th century who got the call. One of Robin Brown, Joanne Ireland, Ashley Prest or Judy Owen would have been my choice, but I guess the football reporters don’t have me on speed dial. Either that, or I was in the john when they called for my input.
Just so no one runs off with the wrong notion, that isn’t a slight against Vicki, a deserving inductee who earned her chops at the Edmonton Journal and Calgary Herald. But she didn’t have to deal with a horse-and-buggy thinker like Cal Murphy, who took absurd measures to prevent females from entering the Winnipeg Blue Bombers changing room in the 1990s. Both Brown and Prest dealt with the Winnipeg GM/coach’s roadblocks, and I’d say that alone qualifies them for sainthood and a spot in the Football Hall.
Hey, check it out. The ReStore outlet at 60 Archibald St. in Good Ol’ Hometown has been peddling Saskatchewan Roughriders gloves for a buck a pair. Yup, just $1. That’s a tough sell in Winnipeg, though. According to 3DownNation, they moved just five pair last week.
Now that I’ve mentioned 3DownNation, let me go on record as saying it’s a fabulous site, full of info and opinion on all things Rouge Football.
Old friend young Eddie Tait, who isn’t so young and doesn’t have a full head of hair anymore, continues to churn out the quality stuff for the Bombers website. It doesn’t seem so long ago that Eddie left the daily grind of newspaper deadlines behind to join Winnipeg FC, and I’d say typing with two Grey Cup rings hasn’t soured his skill. His stuff is better than ever.
Oh, dear, FIFA has expanded the men’s World Cup futbol tournament from 64 to 104 games. You know what that means, don’t you? That’s right, an additional 3,600 dives (4,600 if Italy qualifies) and an extra 400 minutes of fake injury time (500 if Italy qualifies).
I’m not sure what to make of the current state affairs among our Pebble People. I mean, is it good that the same small clutch of curlers keeps winning the big baubles? Check out the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in the past 10 years: The champion skips have been Kerry Einarson (4), Jennifer Jones, Chelsea Carey and Rachel Homan (2 apiece). At the Brier, Brad Gushue (5), Kevin Koe (3), Brendan Bottcher and Pat Simmons (1 apiece), have gone home with the Tankard. Further, on the men’s side, the recently concluded Brier was the first time since 2013 that an Alberta team wasn’t in the final. Has everybody else forgotten how to play the game?
Here’s the odd part for me: I’m delighted that Einarson and her gal pals from Gimli keep winning the Scotties, but I long ago grew weary of watching Gushue win the Brier.
Former Canadian and Olympic champion Ryan Fry says he’s slid from the hack for the last time, but I’m not buying it. I’m wagering we’ll see Small Fry back on the pebble before the next Olympic Trials.
And, finally, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will replace Tom Brady at quarterback next season with Baker Mayfield or Kyle Trask. That’s like replacing Einstein with Homer Simpson as class valedictorian.
American fighter planes are shooting down UFOs like it’s a game at the county carnival. Three shots for two bits! They took one out over Alaska and another in our air space in the past week. Geez, why can’t they just capture one of the things and ask someone on board what everyone wants to know: Which planet is Connor McDavid from?
Aaron Rodgers plans to go on a four-day, four-night darkness retreat, whereby he’ll sit in a room as dark as the inside of a cow and do nothing more than gaze at his navel between bowel movements. Rodgers vows that once he emerges from his hideaway, Green Bay Packers fans will no longer be in the dark (pun intended) about his future—either he’ll still be QB of the Pack or he’ll be in a New York state of mind and join the Jets in Gotham. Don’t believe a word of it. He’s going into hiding because the voice from his tin foil hat told him “the aliens are coming, the aliens are coming!”
It’s about our Canadian female futbol playersgoing on strike: Much ado about nil. For now. Stay tuned, because we haven’t heard the last of this soccer squawk, and I hope the women get what they want, and deserve.
This just in: According to an Angus Reid poll, only in our three Prairie provinces do Canadians prefer Rouge Football over the American game. Well, duh. I could have saved ol’ Angus the time and money on his survey of 1,515 adult Canuckleheads. I mean, anyone who knows pork rinds from pizza can tell you that the Canadian Football League is a happening in Manitoba, Alberta and on the Flattest of Lands, but it’s meh, with gusts up to “I really don’t give a damn,” in the rest of the country. Question is, what can CFL commish Randy Ambrosie and the Lords of Rouge Football do about it? Not much, if anything. After all, one-third of CFL outfits are based in Ontario, where only 31 per cent of the populace prefers the three-downs game over four downs, a field the size of a cocktail napkin, and the fair catch. But, hey, enjoy today’s Super Bowl skirmish between the K.C. Chiefs and Philly Eagles. I’m sure the commercials will be boffo. Ditto Rihanna.
Top prop bets for Rihanna’s halftime show today: 1) Rihanna forgets lyrics. +10000. 2) Janet Jackson joins Rihanna on stage. +100000. 3) There’s a wardrobe malfunction and we see nipple. Pick ’em.
Andrew Harris will be back for one final fling with the Grey Cup champion Toronto Argos, then the great running back will bid adieu to Rouge Football and take charge of football operations for Vancouver Island Raiders of the B.C. Football Conference. You’d think moving from the Republic of Tranna to tiny Nanaimo would be a huge culture shock. But, in this case, no. Harris will go from playing professional football in front of friends and family to coaching Junior football in front of friends and family.
John Candy, the late, great funny guy and one-time co-bankroll of the Argos, attempted to lure Joe Montana out of San Francisco to play quarterback for the Boatmen at the front end of the 1990s. The plan was to use the legendary 49ers QB to put the Argos and CFL on the map. Trouble was, Joe Cool couldn’t find Canada on the map.
Just wondering: What part of pregnancy do the deep-thinkers with Curling Canada not understand? Seriously, did they all skip Birds & Bees 101 in high school? Pregnant is pregnant, whether a woman plays on a top-seeded team or one of the bottom-feeder outfits at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, beginning Friday in Kamloops. Oh, sure, it’s terrific that a pregnant Selena Njegovan was finally given the okie-dokie to join in the fun (off the ice) with her gal pals on the Kaitlyn Lawes team, but Curling Canada took more backward steps than Ginger Rogers before doing the right thing.
So, LeBron James has passed my all-time fave hoopster, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and now sits atop the list of leading point-producers in NBA history. Sorry, but I won’t be impressed until I see LeBron sitting in the cockpit of a jumbo jet in a remake of Airplane!.
On the subject of Hollywood and hoops, I note they’re giving us a redo of the classic film White Men Can’t Jump? There’s a new title, though: White Men Still Can’t Jump but Steve Nash Would Like a Second Opinion.
A couple of weeks ago, sports editor Jason Bell of the Drab Slab was tooting the horn about his paper’s unparalleled curling coverage. “I venture to say,” he ventured to say, “no media outlet in Canada makes it a priority to cover local curling like we do.” So why was there nothing about the Manitoba men’s championship on the sports pages after Day One of the rock fest in Neepawa?
Mad Mike McIntyre submits that curler Jennifer Jones just might be the greatest athlete ever produced in Manitoba. Yup, better than all the hockey players, Olympians, football stars, etc. Interesting. Might even be accurate. Except for this: The Drab Slab sports columnist doesn’t have the chops to make that call. He doesn’t cover curling. He doesn’t write about curling. I wonder if he’s ever talked to one of our elite curlers. So how can he measure Jones, a curler, against the rest of the jock field? He can’t.
Mad Mike also says Clara Hughes and Cindy Klassen are tied “for the title of Canada’s all-time most-decorated Olympian,” with six Games trinkets. Uh…no. Penny Olesksiak has seven swimming medals, and lickety-split skater Charles Hamelin and sprinter Andre De Grasse also have collected six Oly trinkets each. It’s not difficult to take two minutes to Google this information.
Duval County, Fla., has banned books about baseball legends Hank Aaron and Roberto Clemente from elementary schools, because the two tomes—Henry Aaron’s Dream and Roberto Clemente: Pride of the Pittsburgh Pirates—mention racism and segregation. Apparently, politicos expect young kids in Florida to live in the real world, just as long as they don’t learn what it’s like to live in the real world until they’re in high school.
Is J.T. Miller of the Vancouver Canucks as surly as he seems? I swear, the guy smiles about as often as it snows in Lotus Land.
Gotta say this: I was so disappointed when many among the rabble scurried to social media last Sunday and chose to disrespect Bonnie Raitt after she won the Grammy Award for Song of the Year, Just Like That. They were saying they’d never heard of her. One scoffed at Grammy voters for handing trinkets to “random people.” Good grief. The woman is a music legend. How is it possible that she’s escaped their notice? Shame, shame. Just Like That is a fabulous song. A story song told without bells and whistles, smoke or fireworks, and without 20 bumping, grinding background dancers grabbing at their crotches. It’s a woman, her voice and an acoustic guitar. And it’s beautiful. Bonnie Raitt is beautiful.
And, finally, nothing on TV today makes me laugh out loud like the Kayak commercial featuring the really lousy sketch artist. Gets me giggling every time. It’s the funniest ad since the “your girlfriend looks like Mom” eggs bit.
Another Sunday morning smorgas-bored…and, yes, I realize I said I’d be going into hiding for a month—unless stupid happens. Well, stupid happened…
So, Evander Kane and the Reaves brothers, Ryan and Jordan, engaged in a bit of name-calling on social media last week, the kind of empty-headed “my pop can beat up your pop” banter normally reserved for children in the schoolyard.
Ordinarily, this sort of exercise in manhood-measuring would be ignored.
I mean, if three grown men choose to sound and act like total nincompoops, have at it, boys. It isn’t the first time, nor will it be the last, especially in Kane’s case.
Except in his zest to discredit Reaves and Reaves as too frail or frightened to engage in fisticuffs, old friend Evander referred to his foil as “sisters,” and we all know that’s steering smack talk in the wrong direction. One guy labeling another guy a girl is a sexist trope that belongs in the same dust bin as anti-gay slurs, and it only serves to confirm that dinosaurs still walk among us.
Kane, of course, ought to know better.
The San Jose Sharks forward is co-founder of the Hockey Diversity Alliance, a group that, according to its website, aims to “inspire a new and diverse generation of hockey players and fans.” It also boasts of making the game “accessible and safe for everyone.”
One assumes that would include the 50 per cent of the population identifying as female, yet here we are, HDA co-founder Kane dipping into his trash talking tool box and using girls/women as an instrument to sissify Ryan Reaves, an on-ice foe with the Vegas Golden Knights, and Jordan Reaves, a D-Lineman with the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
That is so 20th century.
No surprise that Kane was quick to delete his offensive tweet and deliver this mea culpa: “My intention wasn’t for it to come across that way at all. I would like to apologize for using that term and to anyone who was offended by it. But remember no ones (sic) perfect, especially if your (sic) on Twitter.”
Here’s the deal with Kane, though: This wasn’t the first time he’s popped a stupid pill and let his thumbs do his talking.
I direct your attention to June 2013 when, observing a National Basketball Association playoff game, Kane suggested Chris Bosh “looked like a fairy going to the rim.” Much tsk-tsking about his homophobic comment ensued, but Kane would have none of it.
“Man there’s a lot of overly sensitive people on here,” he tweeted in defiance. “It’s unreal how some of you on here turn nothing into something so wrong. As I have said before and I’ll say it again if you can’t handle real talk #clickunfollow if you can’t handle it.”
Not until he engaged in a “real talk” parlez-vous with Patrick Burke of the You Can Play Project, also his employers with the Winnipeg Jets, did Kane retreat into recovery mode, apologizing and vowing “this will not happen again.”
Well, it has happened. Again. Only this time the National Hockey League veteran is slagging women instead of gays.
Kane and those of his ilk remain hard-wired to the notion that being female equals lesser-than. It’s been drilled into them, and they’ve heard the echoes of sexist language for so long that using it as weaponry in a volley of smack talk is as routine as ordering a cup of java at Tim’s. No matter how lame and antiquated it might be, it’s one of the two main go-to insults in men’s sports. Still.
But it’s particularly objectionable when the dreck is coming from Kane’s cake hole. He’s a Black man who props himself up as a holier-than-thou champion of diversity, yet he’s once again exposed himself as a chump in that arena, if not a fraud.
I’m thinking women, lesbian or straight, are tired of hearing the same dog-eared tropes from male athletes. I know I am.
Get some fresh material, boys.
Stupid Pill No. 2: Some among the rabble, and at least one news snoop, thought the Kane-Reaves dumb-and-dumber routine was boffo banter. You know, good for some boys-will-be-boys, knee-slapping yuks. Mad Mike McIntyre of the Drab Slab described it as “a refreshing change of pace,” and “a breath of fresh air.” No. Any discourse that includes the demeaning of women is just plain wrong. But whatever floats his boat, I guess.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for trash talking—if it’s witty, clever and humorous. What Kane and the Reaves bros delivered was funny like a dog bite.
Stupid Pill No. 3: Cris Collinsworth, one of my favorite TV gab guys, was gobsmacked and “wow, just blown away” to discover that “ladies” in Pittsburgh are football savvy. “They had really specific questions about the game,” he gushed during NBC’s coverage of last Wednesday’s Steelers-Baltimore Ravens skirmish. Imagine that. Some women actually know a pigskin from a pedicure. Why, I’ll just bet that the really, really smart ones don’t even need their hubbies, beaus or Collinsworth to mansplain the difference between a false start and false labor. I declare, if this keeps up, we’ll see women officiating and coaching in the National Football League any day now. Oh wait. Been there, doing that.
I’ve got a “specific question” for Collinsworth: Does he know what century this is?
Stupid Pill No. 4: I don’t know who writes Jermain Franklin’s copy at TSN, but the SportsCentre anchor might want to call someone in rewrite. Talking about Forge FC’s footy skirmish v. Haitian side Arcahaie last week, Franklin suggested a win by the Hamilton 11 “would officially put Canadian soccer on the map.” Excuse me? Jermain Franklin, meet Christine Sinclair and our national women’s soccer side, winner of two Olympic bronze medals and a Pan Am Games gold. I dare say, before Alphonso Davies came along, if you were to ask anyone in our vast land to name a Canadian soccer player, the most likely answer would have been Christine Sinclair. So I don’t know what map Franklin is looking at, but mine has had Canadian soccer on it for many years, and it wears a ponytail.
I tested my theory on Saturday, asking my friend Cullen to name a Canadian soccer player. He is not a sports fan. I doubt he’s ever watched a full game of soccer in his life, even if he wears a Pacific FC mask. He pondered for about 15 seconds, then said, “Christine.” Point made.
Stupid Pill No. 5: Steve Simmons of Postmedia Tranna has called out the Tranna Jurassics for “hypocrisy” in their kid-glove treatment of Terence Davis, a young player charged with assault after allegedly smacking his girlfriend in a New York City hotel.
Rather than put distance between themselves and Davis, Jurassics ownership/management is allowing the National Basketball Association to handle the investigation, thus he’s in attendance for training exercises in Tampa until a court appearance on Dec. 11.
“It is his presence alone that sends the worst of all possible messages to those who care about the Raptors,” Simmons harrumphed. “It says the Raptors will stand up for what’s right, just not necessarily when it affects them. It says the Raptors will proudly wave flags for all the issues that matter, but when it involves one of their own, a young, promising, second year player of some magnitude, who was arrested in late October and charged with several counts of assault—essentially charged with domestic violence—they either say nothing, trip over their own words, or try to say they are respecting the process here.”
That would be fine, except…this:
Here’s Simmons on woman-beater Johnny Manziel in September 2017: “Personally, I think the CFL is stronger, maybe more fun, possibly more fan-appealing, with Manziel playing or trying to play the Canadian game.”
And here he is when the woman-beating Manziel joined Hamilton Tabbies in May 2018: “Where do I sign up?”
And here he is on Euclid Cummings in March 2018, after the former B.C. Lions lineman was charged with sexual assault, assault and uttering threats to cause death: “Don’t like the fact the CFL voids contracts after players are charged with a crime. Being charged is one thing. Being convicted is another. CFL shouldn’t play judge and jury here with people’s lives.”
So, if you’re keeping score at home, Simmons gets all giddy about the arrival of a woman-beating quarterback to the Canadian Football League, he believes the leaders of Rouge Football had no business punting a guy who beat and threatened to kill women, yet the Jurassics are bad guys for refusing to have one of their players drawn and quartered before his day in court.
That level of hypocrisy is a special kind of stupid.
I don’t know if this will pass the sniff test, but noted Tranna Jurassics groupie Drake is marketing scented candles, one of which supposedly smells just like the rap star himself. Hmmm. Can’t help but wonder if the candle smells like Drake before or after he’s been chasing his hoops heroes around a basketball court for two hours.
Speaking of rappers, on the heels of his acclaimed gig as boxing commentator at the Mike Tyson-Roy Jones Jr. fossil fight last weekend, Snoop Dogghas created what he’s calling The Fight Club, a series of boxing cards featuring knuckle-chucking between pro athletes, actors, musicians and social media celebs, but no boxers of note. Which, I suppose, makes it a real Dogg-and-Phony show.
Quick questions: If Snoop pulls off his quirky boxing cards, does that make it a legal Dogg fighting ring? If so, does Michael Vick land the commissioner’s gig?
According to TMZ, some crackpot took a swing at Tyson while the former heavyweight boxing champion was signing autographs following his dust-up with Jones Jr. in L.A. No arrests have been made, but police are searching for a man who’s lost his mind.
Rare job posting: Queen Liz II is looking for a personal assistant. If interested, apply to The Royal Household. So that’s what we’re calling Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle these days? A household?
Saw this headline on the CBS website the other day: “How to watch Jaguars at Vikings.” Hey, it’s the Jaguars. There’s only one way to watch them—with your eyes closed.
If dispatches drifting from the Republic of Tranna are accurate, the Blue Jays are poised to sign every free agent who stepped onto a Major League Baseball diamond this past season. Except Dr. Anthony Fauci. The good doctor will require an emergency Trumpectomy on Jan. 20 and he isn’t expected to fully recover in time for training camp.
A tip of the bonnet to Jason Bell of the Drab Slab for his fantastic feature spread on the Manitoba Major Junior Hockey League. It’s the kind of copy a local newspaper is supposed to deliver.
Also kudos to Mad Mike McIntyre for his piece on Allan Walsh, the sometimes-too-vocal player agent who gets up so many NHL manager noses. More of same please, Mad Mike.
Nice to see Murat Ates has returned to the fray, which is to say the Winnipeg Jets beat for The Athletic. If you count yourself among the hard-core Jets mob, you’ll want to dive into his deep dive on the local hockey heroes, but be warned: You might want to brew a pot of java and settle in, because his state-of-union is longer than a Winnipeg winter.
The Jets aren’t feeling the love according to Pierre LeBrun of the Athletic. He quizzed 15 NHL coaches/execs/scouts on an all-Canadian division in the NHL, and nine of 15 peered into their tea leaves and had the Jets on the outside looking in, which is to say a fifth-place finish or worse, assuming there’s a 2021 crusade. That isn’t unexpected, I suppose, given that GM Kevin Cheveldayoff has basically ignored his most-pressing need—defence. Still, I don’t see the Jets worse than any outfit other than the Tranna Maple Leafs, so I say they finish as high as second and as low as fifth.
Let’s see if I’ve got this straight: The cash-strapped CFL has declared itself open for business at noon tomorrow, meaning the nine Rouge Football outfits can commence getting signatures on player contracts. Yet this is the same bunch that went panhandling on Parliament Hill last spring/summer, looking for anywhere from $30 million to $150 million to put an abbreviated season in motion. So, with zero revenue coming in, they’ll pay these players how?
The Vancouver Canucks have kicked anthem singer Mark Donnelly to the curb because he’s an anti-masker. Guess that rules out an appearance on The Masked Singer.
And, finally, I tuned in to The Voice this season, and I’m really not sure why. Perhaps it was boredom, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover that not one of the coaches’ chairs is occupied by the insufferable Miley Cyrus, and that the Blake Shelton/Adam Levine bromance is no longer a thing. Having said that, the current coaches—Kelly Clarkson, John Legend, Gwen Stefani and her squeeze, cowboy Shelton—might be the the most dishonest group of people not working in the White House. I mean, they tell us every singer is fantastic, every performance is better than fantastic, no one is ever off-key, they’re already superstars, every performance is better than the previous warble, and they could listen to every singer all day every day. I swear, they’re feeding us so much sugar, I have to book a dentist appointment after every show.
A Monday morning smorgas-bored…and adios to November and let those sleighbells ring…
I have sometimes wondered if sports editors and scribes consciously ignore female sports, or if it’s simply because they’re wired that way.
You know, like it’s a sexism gene that carries a built-in bias.
I mean, because it’s scientifically accepted that male athletes are bigger, stronger and faster—as are the major pro sports leagues—it seems to me that there’s an automatic reflex to play a guys’ story at the front of the sports section and relegate the women’s article to the back pages, if not spike the thing.
Consider hockey as a prime e.g.
The Canadian Women’s Hockey League was ignored out of business. There was scant game-day, or off-day coverage, in print or on air. Only when the CWHL turned out the lights did mainstream media sit up and take notice. Basically, they attended a total stranger’s funeral and gasped, “Oh, what a shame.”
When the Toronto Six of the National Women’s Hockey League anointed Digit Murphy head coach, it was like a tree falling in the forest. No one there to hear it? Guess it didn’t happen.
When the NWHL outlined its blueprint for a 2021 crusade last week, trumpeting a six-team tournament Jan. 23-Feb. 5 in a Lake Placid, N.Y., fan-free bubble, it was a three-paragraph brief on the last page of a 12-page sports section in the Toronto Sun. I found no mention of it on the Toronto Star website. That, even though there’s a franchise in the Republic of Tranna.
When was the last time we read anything about the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association and its Dream Gap Tour?
Let’s face it, unless it’s Canada v. U.S.A., Ponytail Puck is an afterthought in mainstream media. Why is that? Is it because the decision-makers know the finest female players in the world strain mightily to beat teenage boys at the Midget AAA or prep school level? And since they don’t cover Midget AAA or prep school level shinny, the women don’t warrant coverage either? Or is it the sexism gene?
Whatever the case, if Canadian newspapers aren’t prepared to write about the best female shinny players on the planet, what hope is there for other sports?
Oh, sure, female Olympic athletes are granted their due every two years, but none of the boys on the beat cover rhythmic gymnastics or synchronized swimming by choice. They hold their noses and do so because it’s a small, inconvenient price to pay for an all-expenses-paid trip to Greece or Tokyo or London or Rio.
Olympic Games aside, it’s almost as if a female athlete or women’s event must include a circus side-show element to attract serious attention.
We’ve seen plenty of the novelty acts, like the Kendall Coyne Schofield skedaddle and the 3-on-3 game during National Hockey League all-star hijinks, and Phil Esposito using Manon Rheaume as a publicity stunt in goal. And, of course, most recently we watched Sarah Fuller become the first female to participate in an NCAA Power 5 football game on Saturday.
It was as if Sarah had discovered a fool-proof vaccine for COVID-19, the way folks carried on, but she didn’t actually do anything other than breathe, unless one considers a 30-yard pooch kickoff and walking off the field without touching a foe a remarkable athletic accomplishment. But, hey, there were 21 male football players on the field and one female soccer player, so her presence certainly warranted ink and air time, and Sarah received more of each than any female footy player in a non-World Cup or Olympic year. Eat your heart out, Megan Rapinoe.
But, sans the carnival-barker component, mainstream media doesn’t seem interested, and it’s a sticking point they struggle to get past.
Early last month, SE Steve Lyons of the Winnipeg Free Press wrote about “being as equitable as possible” in terms of female/male coverage. So how is he doing since then?
Let’s just say that, to date, he talks a good game, but doesn’t deliver.
His Freep published 30 times in November. Copy/pics strictly about female athletes were featured on the front page of the section just five times—curler Kerri Einarson, retired volleyball player Tammy Mahon, WNBA, a pic of Kim Ng (the story was on the inside pages), and an Andrea Katz column. Total stories/briefs devoted to women in 30 days: 13/7.
That’s equitable like an Archie comic is deep reading material.
Over at the Winnipeg Sun, the picture is much more bleak. Females (curlers) found their way to the sports front once—repeat, once—in 29 editions. Total stories/briefs devoted to women: 9/1.
Pick up a daily newspaper—any newspaper—across our vast land and it’s the same.
Lyons has taken a step toward correcting the imbalance of sports coverage in the Drab Slab, bringing Katz on board to focus on the distaff side of the playground, and she made her first appearance on Saturday. The actual column failed to tell us anything many of us didn’t already know, but one assumes (hopes) it will become more informative and shine a light on our fabulous female athletes.
Credit to Lyons. It’s a starting point, which is a whole lot more than I can say for the lord and masters at Postmedia.
Here’s a prime example of the sexism gene at play: On Nov. 20, the Drab Slab ran golf stories on Tiger Woods and his son Charlie, the RSM Classic in Georgia and a brief on the Joburg Classic in Johannesburg. Meanwhile, there wasn’t a single word on the LPGA event that featured Canadians Brooke Henderson and Alena Sharp. Two days later, there was a full story on each of the men’s tournaments, while the Pelican Women’s Championship was a sports brief.
Initial reaction to Sarah Fuller suiting up to handle kicking chores for Vanderbilt on Saturday: Seriously? Vanderbilt has a football team?
As much as Sarah’s participation in a major men’s college football game was newsworthy and hailed as a significant moment, many on social media dismissed the occasion as Tom-foolery and at least one prominent American jock journo, Jason Whitlock of Outkick the Coverage, gave it a long, hard crapping-on. “I don’t believe she played football,” wrote Whitlock, who’s scribbled for the Kansas City Star, ESPN and Fox Sports, among others. “She scored a point in the culture war. The people who believe the only difference between men and women is in how they choose to identify consider Fuller a poor woman’s Jackie Robinson. She broke big time football’s gender barrier. But did she? Sarah Fuller received a standing ovation for kicking the ball 30 yards or so and high-tailing it to the sidelines to be greeted by the winless head coach using her to save his job. This wasn’t Jackie Robinson 2.0. It was Make A Wish. Treating Sara Fuller like she’s a special-needs kid does not uplift the cause of equality.” Harsh, but not entirely inaccurate.
By the way, if you’re wondering why Vanderbilt recruited Sarah’s right leg rather than someone from the school’s men’s soccer side, there is no men’s soccer side. It was shut down in 2006.
It was a bit of the old, a bit of the new for the Drab Slab last week, with SE Lyons pulling his buddy and former columnist Paul Wiecek out of moth balls and introducing Katz on the same day. Nothing wrong with bringing Wiecek back for a cameo appearance. The guy can write. And he actually managed to scribble an entire essay without taking a cheap shot at Jacob Trouba, so I guess he’s mellowed since walking away from the columnist gig a couple of years ago.
Fabulous series from Paul Friesen of the Sun on the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ journey to their 2019 Grey Cup win. It was a very readable, insightful, nine-part epic, even if there was no rhyme nor reason to the way the geniuses at Postmedia handled it. I believe they published Part One at the start of the pandemic and delivered the final installment this past Friday. Seriously, it took less time to film all the Rocky and Godfather movies combined. In reality, the Friesen series began on Oct. 9 and concluded on Nov. 27, and we had to guess on which days it would appear. Sometimes it was one day between installments, other times it was eight or nine days. Shabby. But oh so Postmedia.
A huge tip of the bonnet to home boy Don Duguid, one of my favorite people. The former world curling champ and longtime gab guy for the People’s Network has been appointed to the Order of Canada, and I trust that meets with everyone’s approval.
Just wondering, when the Winnipeg Jets brought Dave Lowry on board last week, did they hire their next head coach at the same time?
I saw highlights (if you want to call it that) of Charles Barkley playing golf the other day, and I’m lost to find an accurate description for Sir Charles’ swing. But a milking cow trying to climb a tree comes to mind.
Mike Tyson informed news snoops that he smoked a joint or two prior to his fiftysomethings fist-fight v. Roy Jones Jr. on Saturday night. It’s also been reported and confirmed that anyone who actually paid to watch the two boxing fossils fight was also on drugs.
Loved this tweet from Rob Vanstone of the Regina Leader-Post on the Tyson-Jones Jr. tiff: “This fight will be scored by using the 10-point rust system.”
I didn’t watch Tyson-Jones Jr., but you’ll never convince me that it was a more entertaining old geezer dust-up than Joe Kapp v. Angelo Mosca, two Canadian Football League legends who’ve never exchanged Christmas cards. If you missed it, Peanut Butter Joe offered Big Angie a flower; Big Angie told him to “stick it up your ass.” Big Angie attempted to cocobonk Peanut Butter Joe with his metal cane; Peanut Butter Joe lashed out with a right fist to the jaw. Down goes Big Angie! Down goes Big Angie! A Grey Cup week classic.
December arrives on the morrow, so I grant permission to one and all to begin playing Christmas tunes.
This from Steve Simmons of Postmedia Tranna: Former lickety-split champion of the track, Donovan Bailey, is “Canada’s greatest modern Olympian.” Really? Let me count the ways Bailey, a two-time gold medalist, falls short:
Clara Hughes: Only Olympian in history to win multiple medals in both the Summer and Winter Games—1 gold, 1 silver, 4 bronze.
Cindy Klassen: Six medals—1 gold, 1 silver, 3 bronze.
Hayley Wickenheiser, Jayna Hefford: Five medals—4 gold, 1 silver.
Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir: Five medals—3 gold, 2 silver.
Charles Hamelin: Five medals— 3 gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze.
Marc Gagnon: Five medals—3 gold, 2 bronze.
Francois-Louis Tremblay: Five medals—2 gold, 2 silver, 1 bronze.
Lesley Thompson: Five medals—1 gold, 3 silver, 1 bronze.
Caroline Ouillette: Four medals—4 gold.
Jennifer Botterill, Becky Kellar, Meghan Agosta: Four medals—3 gold, 1 silver.
Kathleen Heddle, Marnie McBean: Four medals—3 gold, bronze.
Gaetan Boucher: Four medals—2 gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze.
Eric Bedard: Four medals—2 gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze.
Victor Davis: Four medals—1 gold, 3 silver.
Denny Morrison: Four medals—1 gold, 2 silver, 1 bronze.
Adam van Koeverden: Four medals—1 gold, 2 silver, 1 bronze.
Penny Oleksiak: Four medals—1 gold, 1 silver, 2 bronze
Kim St-Pierre, Cherie Piper, Colleen Sostorics, Gillian Apps, Charline Labonte: Three medals—3 gold. Danielle Goyette: Three medals—2 gold, 1 silver.
Carolyn Waldo: Three medals—2 gold, 1 silver.
Rosie MacLennan: Two medals—2 gold.
Either Simmons doesn’t consider any of the above to be “modern” Olympians, or he can’t count.
Why the Winnipeg Sun continues to run Simmons’ Tranna-centric copy is an ongoing mystery, and it continues to get up my nose. In his most recent alphabet fart, he prattled on about attendance at Blue Jays games, the Maple Leafs payroll, Auston Matthews, Blue Jays play-by-play guy Mike Wilner, the Blue Jays pursuit of free agents, Terence Davis of the Tranna Jurassics, Masai Ujiri and Bobby Webster contract situations with the Jurassics, the Toronto FC payroll, sports gambling in Ontario, Serge Ibaka leaving the Jurassics, a new ballpark for the Republic of Tranna, and the Argos losing the 1971 Grey Cup game. This is what Postmedia believes people in Good Ol’ Hometown want to read on a Sunday morning? The Winnironto Sun? Spare me.
And, finally, the RCR has topped the 50,000 mark in views for the year, which is my cue to retreat for a spell. I shall return Christmas week and not a day sooner. Unless, of course, stupid happens before Santa touches down. In the meantime, thanks for dropping by.
Rather than the usual Sunday morning smorgas-bored, I give you the top 50-plus movers and shakers in Good Ol’ Hometown over the past half century.
This isn’t one of those hum-drum, greatest-athlete lists. We’re talking positive impact, what a sports figure did to enhance the local sporting landscape, whether that meant the wow factor of Teemu Selanne’s 76-goal rookie season or Harvey Warner keeping the ponies at a full gallop out at Assiniboia Downs.
And, while our play-for-pay jocks tend to gobble up the big headlines on a day-to-day basis, it’s often the owners and managers and coaches and administrators who make things happen when we aren’t staring at the scoreboard, and that also means our amateur playing fields, where we have a rich tradition of magnificence and the impact has been significant.
So here’s the list of the 50-plus most-impactful movers and shakers in Winnipeg sports dating back to 1970, and I should warn you that this list includes jock journos, because once upon a time before the Internet, 24-hour TV and social media, there was a gadget called the radio. Not every game was televised or live streamed. We needed our newspapers and radios to take us to the action.
One final note: Remember, this is only one person’s opinion, so don’t get your knickers in a twist if you don’t see the name of one of your faves.
1. Ben Hatskin: Well, this is the ultimate no-brainer. It’s like naming Pope Francis to an all-Catholic team. I mean, Benny didn’t just bring the Winnipeg Jets and the World Hockey Association to Good Ol’ Hometown in 1972, he hijacked Bobby Hull from the Chicago Blackhawks in a shocking coup that reshaped the shinny landscape. Without Benny’s derring-do, there would have been no National Hockey League Jets 1.0 and no Jets 2.0.
2. Mark Chipman: The Puck Pontiff filled the void left by the 1996 departure of the Jets to Arizona, but his Manitoba Moose of the International Hockey League and the American Hockey League were just the appetizer. Aided by billionaire David Thomson’s bulging bankroll, there was an NHL rebirth in River City in 2011, with the Atlanta Thrashers moving north. Oh, and did I mention that along the way Chipman and Thomson built a downtown arena?
3. Bobby Hull: The Golden Jet informed Hatskin and the other WHA renegade owners that it would take $1 million dollars for him to leave the Blackhawks and pull on a Jets jersey in ’72. Done deal. The Hull signing legitimized the WHA, and other top-level players soon followed. And, remember, Robert Marvin was also part of the ownership group that took the Jets into the NHL.
4. Michael Gobuty/Barry Shenkarow: I know, I know. Michael is the guy who let Wayne Gretzky get away. Mook. But don’t hold that against him. Michael and his ownership group kept the Jets afloat in the late 1970s, allowing for one final, rewarding whirl in the WHA by purchasing the contracts of a group of Houston Aeros, including Terry Ruskowski, Morris Lukowich, Rich Preston and Scott Campbell. He also recruited John Bowie Ferguson, and Michael offered a loud and influential voice in the NHL’s decision to absorb the Jets and three other WHA franchises in 1979. As for Barry, talk about shooting the messenger. By the time the whole thing went south for Jets 1.0, he was front man for the ownership group that sold the club to American buyers, who then loaded up the truck and bugged out to Arizona, lock, stock and jock. So Barry became the fall guy. But it’s a bad rap. No locals were willing to dig into their deep pockets to purchase the franchise and lose millions of dollars every year, so he/they really had no choice.
5. Cal Murphy: Cantankerous, curmudgeonly and very funny, Cal ruled the Winnipeg Blue Bombers roost with an iron fist from 1983-96, as either head coach or general manager. Along the way, there were three Grey Cup championships, one heart transplant, and one human rights kerfuffle over female news snoops in the locker room. He also brought the Grey Cup game to Good Ol’ Hometown for the first time, and became a vocal advocate for organ donations. Today there’s a pigeon perch of Kindly Cal outside Football Follies Field In Fort Garry.
6. Wade Miller: The leader of the Canadian Mafia inherited a Sad Sack, laughing stock-level Bombers team and the longest title drought in the Canadian Football League when he was anointed CEO in 2013. He was more like the CE-D’oh! in the early years, but Wade ignored the wolves howling at his door and stuck by his fellow hosers, GM Kyle Walters and sideline steward Mike O’Shea. Today the Bombers reign as Grey Cup champions, with money in the bank, and only the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed Miller down.
7. Dr. Gerry Wilson/Billy Robinson/Don Baizley: No North American shinny side tapped into the European hockey market as swiftly, deeply and as eagerly as the Jets, and it was this trio of forward-thinkers that brought the first wave of Scandinavians to Good Ol’ Hometown in the mid-1970s. Dr. Wilson caught the first glimpse of Anders Hedberg and Ulf Nilsson and alerted Robinson, the Jets main bird dog. Robby scampered across the big pond to Sweden and liked what he saw, signing both players pronto. Lars-Erik Sjoberg and Curt Larsson came along for the ride, and player agent Baizley took them under his wing. Championship parades ensued.
8. Anders/Ulf/the Shoe: It’s no exaggeration to suggest Anders and Ulf revolutionized the game once in partnership with Hull. They made magic with their swashbuckling, freestyle frolicking on the local freeze, but it was Sjoberg—the Shoe—who stirred the drink from the back end. Together, they dominated the WHA and—damn them!—also provided Glen Sather with the blueprint for his Edmonton Oilers dynasty of the 1980s.
9. John Ferguson: So, here’s the irony—he was the cad who lured the ultra-popular Hedberg and Nilsson away from Portage and Main to make them stars on Broadway, then the Rangers fired Fergy and he joined the Jets to oversee their final WHA title and aid the entry into the NHL. Go figure. Full of bluster and occasional rage, Fergy made certain that life around the Jets camp was never boring, which sometimes meant kicking holes in walls and dumping buckets of ice on the opposing team’s bench. As Jets GM, he assembled a string of formidable NHL outfits during the 1980s, even if he couldn’t quite get them over the hump. Stars like Dale Hawerchuk, Teemu Selanne, David Babych, Thomas Steen and Dave Christian were drafted during his watch, and we won’t talk about Jimmy Mann.
10. Clara Hughes: When they name parks, playgrounds and schools in your honor, and when they put your pic on a postage stamp, you know you’ve done something right. Clara is a two-sport Olympian—speed skating and cycling—and the only athlete in history to win multiple medals in both the Summer and Winter Games. But it’s her advocacy on behalf of mental health and children’s sports/recreation that makes Clara truly impactful. She’s a leading voice in the Bell Let’s Talk campaign, and she’s donated/raised many thousands of dollars for various causes.
11. Cindy Klassen: She has as many shiny Olympic trinkets as Clara Hughes (six), including one gold medal, so Clara’s two-sport bona fides is all that separates the two world champion speed skaters.
12. Chris Walby: If ever there’s been a larger-than-life athlete, it was Bluto—all 6-feet, 7-inches and 300-plus pounds of him (give or take a Big Mac and a six pack). Bluto grabbed grass and growled for the Bombers from 1981-96, collecting three Grey Cup rings, nine CFL all-star nods, two top O-lineman awards, and a bust in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame. But it wasn’t just what he did on the field and his size that made Bluto stand out. He was among the great characters in Rouge Football, a good-time Charlie and a deliverer of delicious quotes. No surprise he became a talking head on CBC’s football coverage, even if English sometimes seemed to be his second language.
13. Dale Hawerchuk: He came to the Jets as a freshly scrubbed 18-year-old from Cornwall, and much was expected of Ducky. He delivered. Winnipeg HC went from the free space on the NHL’s bingo card to the best shinny outfit this side of the Edmonton Gretzkys, and Ducky was the centrepiece.
14. Jennifer Jones: The only thing Jennifer hasn’t won is the Brier, and that’s only because the boys won’t let her play. There’s never been a finer female curler in our country, even if some in Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia might want to point to Sandra Schmirler and Colleen Jones and debate the issue. Well, let ’em hash it out. We know they’re wrong.
15. Jill Officer: It will be interesting to monitor how Jennifer gets along without Jill throwing second stones. They were together almost as long as Mick and Keith, but Officer retreated from competitive curling in 2018. Jill’s haul is the same as Jen’s: An Olympic gold, two world championships and six Scotties titles in her trophy case. Also one park named in her honor.
16. Teemu Selanne: Like Anders and Ulf, the Finnish Flash wasn’t in Good Ol’ Hometown for a long time, but it sure was a good time. Those 76 goals in his freshman NHL crusade had the burg in a buzz, and it’s a record that will stand as long as there are frozen ponds for kids to skate on. Teemu might have been the most popular Jet ever, give or take Ducky.
17. Don Duguid: The Digit toddled off to two world curling championships as a skip and never lost a game. Yup, 17-0. Dugie then thought it would be a swell idea to go on TV and tell the rest of us how to curl, which he did for 29 years until someone at the CBC had a brain fart and let him go. And just the other day he was made a member of the Order of Canada for his wonderful work as a curler and teacher of the game.
18. Ray Turnbull: His friends called him Moosie, and he had scads of friends in and beyond the curling community. A true visionary, Moosie’s impact began at the Mother Club on Granite Way, but his influence spread across the globe when he buddied up with Don Duguid for instructional clinics to curling curious nations beginning in the 1970s. So he’s largely to blame for the rest of the world catching up to us on pebbled ice. A broadcasting icon with TSN from 1984 to 2010, Moosie coached no fewer than 17 world champions.
19. Frank McKinnon: Those who knew him best would probably tell us that Frank never slept, because he didn’t have time for zzzzzzs. How busy was he? Let me count the ways: Five years president and 20 years on the executive board of Hockey Manitoba; 10 years commissioner of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League; founding father of the Centennial Cup tournament and the inaugural World Junior championship; first chairman of the board of Hockey Canada; two years director Sports Federation of Canada; four years vice-president Canadian Olympic Association; founding member of the Manitoba High Schools Athletic Association. Frank was based in Carman, but he spent enough time in Good Ol’ Hometown to qualify for this list.
20. Donny Lalonde: The Golden Boy was in the ring with Sugar Ray. Yes, that Sugar Ray, as in Leonard. He even put the boxing legend on the canvas—one of only two men to do so—scoring a fourth-round knockdown in their 1988 bout at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. Alas, Sugar Ray ruled the day, battering Lalonde about the ears in the ninth round and scoring a TKO. But it’s enough that the Golden Boy went from working out in the old firehall gym on Talbot Avenue in Elmwood to champion of the boxing world’s light heavyweights.
21.Jeff Stoughton: It’s easier to break out of jail than win the Manitoba men’s curling championship, but Jeff wore the Buffalo on his back 11 times. Crazy, man. A two-time world champion and three times the best at the Brier, Jeff also has two Canadian Mixed titles on his resume. Once he retired his tuck delivery and his spinorama showtime shtick, he took to coaching and administration, first helping Kaitlyn Lawes and John Morris strike gold in Mixed Doubles at the Seoul Olympics, and he’s now coach and program manager for the national men’s team.
22. Coleen Dufresne: When you spend 17 years coaching and another 15 as athletic director at the University of Manitoba, you’ve had an impact on more young people than you can count. Coleen, who wore the Maple Leaf as a player at the 1976 Olympic Games, coached U of M Bisons women’s basketball teams to three national championships and five Great Plains Athletic Conference titles. She is a member of the Basketball Manitoba Hall of Fame in three categories—builder, coach and player—and the Canada West Hall of Fame.
23. Garth Pischke: Tom Hanks talked to a volleyball in the movies, but Garth made people talk volleyball in real life. Nobody put the W in the word “win” like Garth. He won a staggering 1,353 games in his 38 seasons as mastermind of the U of M Bisons men’s volleyball team, losing just 414 times. Chew on that and digest it—1,353-414. Who does that? Only Pischke, the winningest coach in collegiate V-ball history, on either side of the border. A two-time Olympian and six-time MVP at the Nationals as a player, Garth coached the Bisons to nine national titles and was named the Manitoba amateur athlete of the 20th century.
24. Brian Dobie: If this was just about being a nice guy, the U of M Bisons football coach would be at, or near, the top of the heap. Lovely man. He’s been sideline steward of the Herd since 1996, a gig that came on the heels of a 21-year watch with Churchill Bulldogs in high school grid. Do the math. Coach Dobie has been impacting the lives of teenagers and young men for close to half a century. Oh, and he’s also a five-time Canada West coach-of-the-year and a USports coach-of-the-year, plus he brought the Vanier Cup to the Fort Garry campus in 2007.
25. Vic Pruden: There was no women’s or men’s intercollegiate basketball program at the University of Winnipeg (nee United College) until Vic came along, so all the hoops glory stems from there. The annual Wesmen Classic was Vic’s brain child, ditto the Fort Garry Invitational. The Wesmen Classic became such a landmark event that it had to be shuffled from Riddell Hall to the Winnipeg Arena, and was televised nationally. Vic was also founder and first president of the Manitoba Basketball Coaches’ Association.
26. Coach Tom Kendall/University of Winnipeg Lady Wesmen: Few took notice of women’s hoops back in the day, but then along came coach Kendall and his fabulous University of Winnipeg Lady Wesmen who, from October 1992 to November 1994, never lost a game. Eighty-eight teams tried to topple them, and 88 teams failed. Even fabled UCLA coach John Wooden was talking about the Lady Wesmen. Under Kendall’s watch, the Lady Ws went 101-2, with three national titles.
27. Coach Mike Burchuk/U of W Lady Wesmen volleyball team: The U of W women’s hoopsters received the 250-point newspaper headlines for their 88-game winning streak, but the women on the volleyball court trumped them with 123 consecutive Ws from January 1987 to January 1989. That included a 58-0 record in 1987-88 and, along the way, the ladies won six consecutive national titles and beat the NCAA champion Texas Longhors and a pro team, the Minnesota Monarchs.
28. Jennifer Botterill: It should be enough to say that Jennifer is the only female player ever inducted into the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame, but we’ll also mention that she’s a three-time Olympic champion, five times a world champion, two times the Patty Kazmaier Award winner as the top player in U.S. women’s college hockey, twice the MVP at the world championship, and she once had an 80-game scoring streak (beat that, Connor McDavid!). If young girls are looking for a role model, Jen’s it.
29. Paul Robson: Can a sports list be complete without a guy named Mad Dog on it? We think not. So come on down, Mad Dog Robson, architect of the Winnipeg Football Club’s return to glory in the 1980s, a Lazarus-like rebirth that included the 1984 Grey Cup championship crusade, the first in 22 years. His handiwork as assistant GM/GM included going stealth to lure Chris Walby out of Montreal, hiring Cal Murphy as sideline steward, and engineering the Dieter Brock-for-Tom Clements trade. Paul was also once publisher of the Winnipeg Sun, but we won’t penalize him for that.
30. Harvey Warner: It’s probably safe to say the ponies wouldn’t be galloping at Assiniboia Downs if not for Harvey and his Manitoba Jockey Club. Harvey is a founding father and current president of the MJC, which took possession of the Downs in 1993. It’s never been an easy ride for Harvey and cohorts like Darren Dunn and Sharon Gulyas out at the racing oval on the western edge of Good Ol’ Hometown, but they’ve managed to keep the barns open and the horses fed and watered. So, yes, the reins have been in the right man’s hands for 27 years.
31. Mike Riley: When Leo Durocher coined the phrase “nice guys finish last,” he certainly wasn’t thinking of a guy like Mike Riley. Aside from bringing the Grey Cup home twice in his four years as sideline steward of the Bombers, Mike might be the most decent man to ever coach a pro team in Good Ol’ Hometown (John Paddock would be second in line), and that counts for something on my scorecard.
32. Milt Stegall: The Turtle Man would be higher on this list, except for one thing—every time I look at his hands, I don’t see any Grey Cup rings. For all his personal accomplishments—all-time TD leader in CFL history with 147 and a Most Outstanding Player award—the Bombers had just four winning seasons in his 14 crusades. No player ever looked better while mostly losing, though, and he’d be the first to tell you that. Milt continues to be a Bombers booster as one of the gab guys on TSN’s CFL coverage, and that’s always a good thing.
33. Sam Katz: Full disclosure—I’m not fond of Sammy. I think him to be a snake oil salesman. If he told me today is Sunday, I’d double check the calendar. But he brought professional baseball back to Good Ol’ Hometown, and the Winnipeg Goldeyes frolic in a beautiful, downtown ballyard thanks to Sammy.
34. Andy Van Hellemond: Whistleblowers don’t always get respect, but Andy Van did. The kid weaned on the frozen ponds of Isaac Brock was, arguably, the best man to ever pull on a striped shirt, and he was also a trend-setter, becoming the first on-ice official to wear a helmet, in 1984. The NHL made lids mandatory for the zebras four years later (a grandfather clause allowed some to officiate sans head protection until 2006-07). Andy Van refereed 1,475 regular season games, 227 in the playoffs and 19 Stanley Cup finals, all records. He was named Manitoba’s referee-of-the-century.
35. Sylvia Burka: Before Clara Hughes and Cindy Klassen and Susan Auch, there was Sylvia Burka, three times a world speed skating champion. She has held over 40 Canadian speedskating records, and once set a world indoor cycling mark at one kilometer. She won 12 national cycling titles. But her true legacy can be found in the skate marks she left for others to follow.
36. Dawn McEwen: I suppose you could say Dawn is to Team Jennifer Jones what Ringo Starr was to the Beatles. She seems content in the background while Jones, Kaitlyn Lawes, Jill Officer and Cathy Overton-Clapham attracted most of the attention, but without her lead stones and robust sweeping they wouldn’t have become the finest female outfit in Canadian curling history. Dawn has an Olympic gold medal, two world titles and five Scotties crowns in her trophy case, so don’t even think of her as a spare part.
37. Kaitlyn Lawes: She branched out from throwing third stones for Jennifer Jones to strike Olympic gold with John Morris in the debut of mixed doubles at the Winter Olympic Games. So she has a nice collection of two gold trinkets, a world championship and a Scotties title.
38. Susan Auch: Although never making it to the top level of the Olympic podium, Susan made speed skating front page news in Good Ol’ Hometown with two silver medals and a bronze in the Winter Games, three gold in World Cup racing in 1995, three Manitoba athlete-of-the-year honors and a Canadian athlete-of-the-year salute. There’s a Susan Auch Oval out at the Cindy Klassen Recreation Complex and a Susan Auch Park in Transcona, and she’s now CEO of Speed Skating Canada.
39. Troy Westwood/David Asper: Board member Asper came up with the concept and gave the Banjo Bowl it’s name, but it was the spinoff of a quote from Ol’ Lefty, the former Bombers place-kicker who, in an interview prior to a 2003 playoff skirmish, called Saskatchewan Roughriders fans “a bunch of banjo-picking inbreds.” Much caterwauling from the Flattest of Lands ensued, and the Banjo Bowl was born in 2004. It’s the most-anticipated event on the local sports calendar every year, and it’s been strictly SRO since 2005. When he wasn’t trash talking Flatlanders, Ol’ Lefty was hoofing more field goals (617) and more points (2,745) than anyone in Bombers history.
40. Connie Laliberte: They called her the Ice Queen, but underneath that cucumber-cool exterior burned a competitive bonfire. Connie gave every female curler in Manitoba something to aim for when she became the first Buffalo Girl to win the world crown, in 1984. She also won three Scotties titles and today is the high performance director for Curl Manitoba.
41. Sandy Riley: The former sailor (1976 Olympic Games) and former president of the Manitoba Sports Federation served as chair of Winnipeg’s 1999 Pan American Games, an event that helped revive the sagging spirit of a city that had lost its NHL franchise only three years earlier. As a bonus, it attracted the attention of Ol’ Cigar Breath, Cuban strongman Fidel Castro, who used his Revolution Day address to go on a mini-rant about mysterious “traps and tricks and schemes and filth” that encouraged his athletes to clamber over the wall to freedom. Cuban defectors aside, the Pan Ams were an artistic and financial success. More latterly, the Riley family donated $500,000 toward construction of the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame.
42. Dayna Spiring: It doesn’t matter that Dayna wasn’t on the receiving end of any passes, nor did she hoof any field goals or tackle any running backs. The lady was a champ in her first year as Chair of the Blue Bombers board of directors, and she became the first woman to have her name engraved on the Grey Cup. For young girls and women, that makes her Dayna Inspiring.
43. Desiree Scott: A former star and coach with the U of M Bisons, the lady they call The Destroyer joined our national women’s soccer side in 2010, and she’s now just one of five to have earned 150 caps. Along the way, she’s collected two Olympic bronze medals and participated in three World Cup tournaments. Away from the competitive pitch, Desiree is heavily involved with soccer camps for KidSport and she’s an ambassador for the Homeless World Cup.
44. Bill Wedlake: A head coach for 32 years, first at St. John’s High where he won two provincial titles, then 16 years at the U of W, Bill was also athletic director at the downtown campus for eight years. A co-founder of the Winnipeg Invitational tournament, he’s written three books on coaching and is a former president of the National Association of Basketball Coaches.
45. Mo Glimcher: If you think it’s tough dealing with teenagers these days, consider Mo Glimcher’s gig—he had 30,000-40,000 kids under foot every year between 1975 and 2016. Mo retired after 41 years as Executive Director of the Manitoba High Schools Athletic Association, and I’d say he’s earned a master’s degree in babysitting.
46. Bob Picken: There are three major sports operatives in Good Ol’ Hometown—the Jets, the Blue Bombers, and curling. Yes, curling. Our Pebble People don’t make the big bucks like the Jets and Bombers, but they don’t want for media exposure, due in large part to jock journos like Pick. Pebble People have never known a better media friend than Pick, whose magnificent pipes blessed the airwaves of CJOB, CKY and the CBC for half a century. He played the game, served as president of the Manitoba Curling Association, worked with both the Canadian Curling Association and the World Curling Federation, and there’s a bonspiel at the Thistle named in his honor. Pick made certain that curling was never back-page news or filler at the end of a sportscast.
47. Jack Matheson: Admittedly, there’s bias in this choice, because Matty gave me my start at the Winnipeg Tribune, but his sassy and brassy sports column was the only absolute must-read in town during the 1970s. And when Furnaceman fired him up for his daily rants on CJOB, it was must-listening. Matty set an incredibly high bar as a sports scribe, and no one has come close to reaching it since the Trib folded.
48. Friar Nicolson: There’s no way of knowing how many young men and women went into broadcasting because of the curmudgeonly Friar, but I’d suggest the number is closer to 50 than one. The longtime play-by-play voice of the Jets, Friar is the man who lured Knuckles Irving to CJOB in 1973, and he also gave one-time do-everything CKY/CTV voice Peter Young his start in the gab game. That’s serious impact.
49. Bob Irving: When Knuckles became the voice of the Blue Bombers, Don Jonas and Chuck Ealey were the starting QBs and Dieter Brock was a little-known rookie who answered to the name Ralph. Bud Riley was the head coach, and there have been 14 more since Knuckles moved in behind the mic. So he goes back some, and he’s still going. At least he was until COVID-19 interrupted regularly schedule play-by-play. We assume (hope) the well-liked and highly respected Knuckles will be back for a 46th season once the pandemic is in the rear-view mirror.
50. Don Wittman: How versatile was Witt? Well, we know he covered the CFL and the NHL and tennis and the Olympics and world-class track and top-flight curling during close to half a century with the CBC, but he also broadcast cricket. Ya, cricket. Witt traveled the globe and was on site to call the Ben Johnson race in Seoul and Donovan Bailey in Atlanta, but home base was always Winnipeg.
A Monday morning smorgas-bored…and welcome to the 71st November of my lifetime…
So, I’m doing some research the other day and I stumble upon this May 9 headline from the Boston Globe:
“50 years later, Bobby Orr remains gracious, humble, and incomparable.”
Few have been describing Robert Gordon Orr as gracious, humble and incomparable in the past few days. More like dumb, ignorant and fallen idol.
All that because the great No. 4 has outed himself as a hard-core Trumpite who plans to scratch an X next to the name Donald Trump on his ballot for tomorrow’s U.S. presidential election.
Lest there be any doubt about his political posturing, Orr took out a full-page ad in the New Hampshire Union Leader last week to confirm his unwavering devotion to the current resident at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW in Washington, D.C., trumpeting Trump as “the kind of teammate I want.”
I’m not sure what Derek Sanderson or Eddie Westfall or Wayne Cashman or Pie McKenzie have to say about that, but I suspect one or two of Bobby’s former big, bad Bruins teammates might be cringing.
Many among the rabble and numerous pundits certainly are.
I mean, this is Bobby Orr. Canadian icon. Squeaky-clean boy next door. The greatest player in National Hockey League history on many scorecards, including mine. And he’s marching in lockstep with a man known to put children in cages, who believes groping women is harmless horseplay, who wouldn’t know the truth if it slapped him on his orange face? That’s who Bobby Orr has cozied up to?
What, he couldn’t find a better pair of boots to lick?
The same could be said, of course, for golf great Jack Nicklaus and Brett Favre, one-time flinger of footballs and renowned flip-flopper. They, too, are confirmed Trumpites. But we don’t care about them so much on this side of the great U.S.-Canada divide.
It’s Orr who has taken a paddywhacking in print and on social media, as if he’s the product of Satan’s loins.
Stu Cowan, Montreal Gazette: “It’s always a sad day when your childhood sports heroes let you down. I’ll never again look at Orr with the same boyhood wonder. (The endorsement of Trump) hit me like an open-ice bodycheck. It shouldn’t have because I’ve been around pro sports as a journalist long enough to know that sometimes the less fans know about their heroes away from the field or arena, the better off they are. But this one did hurt. I’ll sadly scratch him off my hero list. The stain of Trump just won’t wash away.”
Damien Cox, Toronto Star: “Sadly, Orr’s comments reek of appalling ignorance, of a man who has watched too much Fox News. He says he just wants ‘my grandchildren to know the America that I know’ and then chooses to cast Trump as some sort of victim.”
Ted Wyman, Winnipeg Sun: “It’s not easy for many sports fans to hear that men they have held as idols for the last half century would endorse a political candidate known for his racism, his sowing of divisiveness in his country and his thorough disregard of the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic. Like most golf fans, I’ve always revered Nicklaus. Like most Canadians, I’ve always idolized Orr. Like many, I’m bitterly disappointed in them.”
Bruce Arthur, the Toronto Star/TSN: “These guys are wealthy. They’re really rich and Donald Trump wants to airlift money from the poor to the rich, and that helps them. This tells you a lot about Bobby Orr and Jack Nicklaus, what they value in life and what they don’t have to worry about.”
Cathal Kelly, Globe and Mail: “On one level, Orr’s and Nicklaus’s statements took some stones. Neither of them needs the hassle. This opens them up to all sorts of nastiness from the other faction. On the other level, it is dumb beyond measure. Not because of their choice (though that is also dumb), but because two giants of their respective games felt the need to announce it. The United States is tilting sideways for a bunch of reasons. This is one of them.”
Well, let me say this about that: Must be nice to be so filthy rich that you can afford to take out a full-page ad in a newspaper. But I’ll robustly defend Bobby Orr’s right to be as horribly wrong about Donald Trump as any of the other lemmings wearing a MAGA cap. His choice. And if you don’t like it, don’t put halos on athletes.
Last week in America: The sports power couple of hoops great Sue Bird and soccer star Megan Rapinoe announced their wedding engagement and, one day later, U.S. senator and Trumpite bootlicker Lindsey Graham of South Carolina told “every young woman” that “there’s a place for you in America if you are pro-life, if you embrace your religion, and you follow traditional family structure.” Which means there’s no “place” in Graham’s America for a woman who’s won Olympic gold for Uncle Sam in basketball and another women who’s won Olympic gold for Uncle Sam in soccer, because they’re lesbians. Lindsey Graham is a special kind of messed up.
Why is it that whenever I watch men’s tennis highlights, there’s a trainer rubbing down one of Milos Raonic’s broken-down body parts, or either Denis Shapovalov or Felix Auger-Alliassime are tossing racquets?
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: The Drab Slab is kicking butt when it comes to coverage of lower-tiered sports in Good Ol’ Hometown. I know this because I monitored both the Freep and Winnipeg Sun sections during the past three months, and both rags do boffo work on the big-ticket beats—Blue Bombers, Jets, Moose, Goldeyes and Valour FC. But it’s a rout otherwise. Here’s the tally on coverage of local/amateur sports (excluding pro teams):
August ……..1 article
September….7 articles, 3 briefs
October…….10 articles Totals………18 articles, 3 briefs
Seriously, 122-18. That reads like a Harlem Globetrotters scoreline.
Do readers want more local coverage? My experience tells me they do, but the suits at Postmedia in the Republic of Tranna won’t let them have it in the Sun. And that’s wrong. So don’t point accusing fingers at the Sun’s Scribblers Three—Paul Friesen, Ted Wyman, Scott Billeck. It isn’t their fault. It’s a corporate call.
Here’s something I found interesting: In a recent edition of his morning Playbook feature on the Drab Slab website, sports editor Steve Lyons took issue with commissioner Randy Ambrosie and the aborted Canadian Football League crusade. “It’s been a little over two months since the CFL cancelled its 2020 season,” he wrote. “Since then, a Stanley Cup has been awarded; Game 1 of the World Series was last night; the NFL is into Week 7; LeBron James won another NBA title; heck, even the upstart CPL had a championship. The CFL? Silence.” Notice something missing there? That’s right, no mention of the Women’s National Basketball Association starting and completing a season, nor the National Women’s Soccer League commencing its Fall Series. Unfortunately, that’s the default position for too many upper-management people in sports media—female sports is an after-thought. Or no thought at all.
I’m still reading and hearing that the signing of Dylan DeMelo improves the Winnipeg Jets defence. That simply is not true. Repeat after me: DeMelo was with the Jets last season. That’s not an improvement. It’s status quo. So the glass-is-half-full pundits can cease with their false narrative any time now.
There’s talk of the Ontario Hockey League going to pure pond hockey this winter, which is to say no bodychecking. Hmmm. If they had that rule when I was a kid, I might still be playing.
And, finally, Agent 007, Sean Connery, is dead and I still don’t know what I’m missing, because I’ve never watched a James Bond movie. Loved Sir Sean in Finding Forrester and The Untouchables, though.
Another Sunday morning smorgas-bored…and someone told me that I really should quit while I’m ahead, but I’ve never been able to get ahead…
So, according to the pundits, the acquisition of Paul Stastny was supposed to accomplish two things for the Winnipeg Jets:
1. Fill the long-standing need for a second-line centre.
2. Put a happy face on Patrik Laine and put the skids on the galloping gossip that has hounded Puck Finn for more than a year.
Well, insofar as the first point of the equation, we can continue to debate the pros and cons of the Jets reeling in the aging Stastny—and I’m squarely on the con side of the discussion—but it’s probably best that we allow his play in Winnipeg HC’s next National Hockey League crusade to settle the argument.
As for point No. 2, good luck with that.
It took less than a week for one of TSN’s hockey “insiders” to fan the flames of L’Affaire Laine once again, and this time it isn’t a campfire. It’s a bonfire with possible gusts up to a five-alarm inferno.
Here’s what LeBrun told host James Duthie last Thursday:
“There’s been some scuttlebutt around the National Hockey League of late that Patrik Laine may not show up at camp if he’s not dealt by the Winnipeg Jets.
“I reached out to his representation agents, Andy Scott and Mike Liut, to get some clarity and they absolutely deny that. That Laine has not asked for a trade, he’s not threatening to not be at camp if he’s not dealt.
“Having said that, his agents also made clear that it’s fair to say that given that Laine knows his name has been in trade discussions as we’ve talked about here, and given that his usage in the lineup the last couple of years has been a constant topic of conversation, the fact that he doesn’t get consistent first-line minutes, his agents Mike Liut and Andy Scott do confirm that it probably would be mutually beneficial to both the player and to the team if Patrik Laine is traded and that there is clear communication between them and Kevin Cheveldayoff, the GM of the Winnipeg Jets, about this.
“Now I spoke to Kevin Cheveldayoff on this day. And he reiterated that he’s looking at all options when it comes to trade and that Patrik Laine remains a big part of the organization.
“What I would say, not Cheveldayoff, is that he’s not going to just trade Patrik Laine for the sake of it, that it’s going to have to be something that makes sense for the Winnipeg Jets. But I will say this, as Andy Scott, the agent for Patrik Laine, said to me, there is a clear understanding between both sides about where this is probably headed.”
Now, you can pooh-pooh LeBrun’s bona fides as an “insider” if you like, but one thing should be abundantly clear by now: Patrik Laine will remain the centrepiece of trade rumors until a) Chevy hands him a one-way ticket out of town or b) Puck Finn signs long term. Nothing else will dim the natter.
I’m just surprised that so many among the rabble and in mainstream media are surprised that it’s come to this.
I mean, I don’t have my feet on the ground in Good Ol’ Hometown, but this is how I read the room 16 months ago: “You think Patrik Laine’s agent hasn’t noticed how the (Jacob) Trouba saga played out? If it’s true that Puck Finn’s nose is out of joint, all he has to do is sign a two-year bridge deal, take les Jets to arbitration down the road, then force a trade.”
So how has it played out to date? Laine signed a two-year bridge deal, he’s eligible for arbitration after next season, and already his two mouthpieces sound like they’re trying to force a trade.
Yet I keep hearing and reading that the Jets are in control of this game of chicken. To a point, that’s true. But they can only delay Puck Finn’s departure if that’s his intent. They can’t stop him. Just like they couldn’t stop Evander Kane and they couldn’t stop Trouba.
We don’t know who or what is up Laine’s nose. His beef could be with the captain, Blake Wheeler, or the head coach, Paul Maurice, or maybe he’s bought into the silly “Winnipeg has lousy WiFi” nonsense. If it’s Wheeler, it wouldn’t be the first time two teammates refused to exchange Christmas cards. If it’s Coach PoMo, it’s not like there’s never been conflict between a bench boss and a worker (for evidence see: Bowman, Scotty). If it’s the city, he isn’t the first guy who’s wanted out of Dodge.
Whomever or whatever, I repeat what I wrote in February 2019: “I doubt Puck Finn will finish his career in Jets linen.”
But, hey, what do I know? Like I said, I don’t have feet on the ground. Except I predicted in 2012 that Evander Kane would one day walk into Chevy’s office and demand a new postal code. He did that very thing—repeatedly—and Chevy obliged, in 2015. In September 2018, I peered into the tea leaves and predicted Trouba would be gone in less than two years. He left the building nine months later. So tell me I’m wrong about Laine.
Interesting read from Scott Billeck of the Winnipeg Sun on the challenges Chevy faces in attempting to lure top-drawer free agents to Good Ol’ Hometown, and also navigate his way around no-trade clauses. “There’s no happy ending for this,” he writes. “It’s an ongoing problem for the Jets. What it does underscore is the need to ensure the team is a winner, by whatever means possible, and in spite of unfavorable geography. And it means the organization needs to be that much more creative when it comes to recruitment. Getting players in the door begins with a pitch that centres around winning the Cup. For most, that’s the dream. If you can show a pathway to that dream, you can probably get folks into the house. And that’s when perceptions die and new ones are made, and the word spreads. Winnipeg’s advertising comes via word of mouth. There just has to be something enticing other than frigid winters. And it may be as simple—and as difficult—as putting a winning product on the ice.”That’s fair analysis, but it’s worth remembering that the original Winnipeg Jets lineup was crafted 100 per cent on guys who chose to play in Good Ol’ Hometown, including the most significant free agent signing in pro hockey history—Bobby Hull, at the time the game’s glamour guy. Every player on that team came to River City without kicking and screaming. So can anyone tell me exactly when Winnipeg became the armpit of hockey? I’d really like to know.
When I hear the San Jose Sharks have signed Patrick Marleau, it tells me that they’ve already tapped out on next season.
And what is Kyle Dubas trying to prove in the Republic of Tranna? The Maple Leafs haven’t won the Stanley Cup since 1967, so the kid GM thought it would be a swell idea to sign Marleau’s former running mate Jumbo Joe Thornton who, coincidentally, broke into the NHL that same year. Okay, okay. Jumbo hasn’t been around quite that long. But Dubas seems to be setting up a Fossil Factory in the ROT, with Jumbo Joe, 41, and Jason Spezza, 37, on board.
Scant seconds after becoming one of the newest Maple Leafs, Wayne Simmonds did the Zoom thing with news snoops and warned foes that “I can punch your head off if need be.” He calls what he does on a hockey rink “functional toughness.” Back it the day we called it “goon.”
I keep hearing about all the free agents still available in the NHL, but the top free agent in sports right now is Chelsea Carey, champion curler without a team to call her own. We don’t know how this season will shake down for our Pebble People, but it’s hard to imagine a two-time Scotties queen being stuck on the outside looking in with her nose pressed against the window.
On the subject of our fab provincial Pebble People, the deep thinkers at the Manitoba Curling Hall of Fame want to know what you think. They’re looking to name the Most Notable Team in local lore, and that’s where you come in. The MCHF is accepting votes until Dec. 5 for its 25 Most Notable Teams and, really, this should be a no-brainer. I mean, it doesn’t get more “notable” than winning Olympic Games gold, so Jennifer Jones and her gal pals Kaitlyn Lawes, Jill Officer and Dawn McEwen have to be at the top of the heap. It doesn’t hurt that they were also Canadian and world champions, and they had longer sustained success than any foursome I can recall. Next in line would be the Digit, Don Duguid, and his gang from the Granite—Bryan Wood, Jim Pettapiece and the Arrow, Rod Hunter—who went 17-0 to win back-to-back world titles in 1970 and ’71. Completing my top three would be Bronco Braunstein and his team of brother Ron, Moose Turnbull and Jack Van Hellemond. Still just school kids, the teenagers copped the Manitoba men’s title then fell one game shy of winning the 1958 Brier in Victoria, losing to Matt Baldwin of Alberta in a one-game showdown.
Fans of fist fighting were shocked to hear Mike Tyson on Good Morning Britain last week. In a natter with hosts Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid, the former heavyweight boxing champion was muttering unintelligibly and slurring his words badly. Hey, cut the guy some slack. It can’t be easy to talk with your mouth full of Evander Holyfield’s ear.
Sticking with boxing, I stayed up well past my bedtime Saturday to watch Teofimo Lopez and Vasiliy Lomachenko chuck knuckles in a lightweight title bout. At the end of the night, Lopez had four belts. Hmmm. Four belts—sounds like the Rat Pack at closing time.
So, the Houston Astros have been drummed out of the Major League Baseball playoffs (karma, baby). Some teams run out of pitching, some teams run out of hitting. Some teams run out of time. I guess the Astros ran out of trash cans.
Is there a Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher with a worse post-season record than Clayton Kershaw of my Los Angeles Dodgers? Kershaw will be in Cooperstown one day, but it won’t be due to anything he’s done in the World Series or playoffs. The guy’s 175-75, .697, 2.43 ERA in the hum-drum of spring and summer ball, but a dismal 11-12, .478, 4.31 ERA when it matters most. And, to think, some people have compared him favorably to Sandy Koufax. Ya, like a box of Timbits is fine dining.
Some good reads in the past week: Paul Friesen’s series on the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ journey to the Grey Cup; Freezer’s running mate at the Winnipeg Sun, Ted Wyman, dishes on Hockey Hall of Famer Serge Savard; Luke Fox’s Q&A with Brian Burke on the Sportsnet website.
When the National Women’s Hockey League restructuredits business model and assigned founder and commissioner Dani Rylan Kearney to a lesser role last week, shouldn’t it have been a big deal in the media? No women would be drawing pay to play shinny if not for Dani, who gave the NWHL its jump start in 2015, but her removal from the big office was a blip at best in most newspapers, websites and on air. Seems to me the story, and Dani, warranted better play than that.
Speaking of not getting their due, it’s about Sue Bird: Not many hoopsters can boast of her bona fides. When Seattle Storm won the Women’s National Basketball Association title recently, it was her fourth. You know, the same number as LeBron James has won in his NBA career. Sue also has four Olympic gold medals, four FIBA World Cup titles, five EuroLeague titles, two NCAA titles, one national high school title, five Russian National League titles, two Europe Super Cup titles, she’s the all-time WNBA assists leader, she’s started the most games in WNBA history, she’s an 11-time WNBA all-star, a two-time EuroLeague all-star and a former Naismith college player of the year. She’s the High Priestess of the Hardwood, but somehow manages to fly under the radar of most mainstream media. Shame that.
And, finally, this is the 50th anniversary season for the Manitoba Major Junior Hockey League, and I’d say that calls for some sort of special feature piece in either or both of the Winnipeg dailies. So why hasn’t either the Sun or Drab Slab done something about it?
Another Sunday smorgas-bored…and, speaking of flattening the curve, here’s something else that’ll probably fall flat…
Did I miss a memo?
I mean, all I heard three months ago was this mantra: COVID-19 is “bigger than sports.” Athletes said it, league leaders said it, owners said it, medics said it, the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker and your neighborhood bookie said it.
It became the most-repeated creed since the Sermon on the Mount. Or at least since Richard M. Nixon tried to convince us that he was “not a crook.”
Thus, power brokers pulled the plug on every athletic event known to the human species—including the Olympic Games—and, hey, while we’re at it, let’s shutter the Canada-U.S. border for the first time since the British put a torch to the White House. We’ll open it again once squints in lab coats have a handle on this pesky coronavirus thing, because it’s “bigger than sports.”
News snoops and opinionists brayed in concert, even though jock journos recognized that there would be a scramble to fill sports pages and air time with quality content while every league remained in lockdown.
No doubt about it. This was a three-alarm pandemic. Much “bigger than sports.” Still is, actually.
Except here we are today and apparently COVID-19 has become an inconvenience no worse than a bad case of zits or rump rot.
Seriously. The squints have yet to discover a vaccine. Medics don’t have a handle on long-term effects of the coronavirus. There is no herd immunity. To mask or not to mask remains a debate. People are still dying. All hell is breaking loose in the United States. But, hey, the girls and boys have been without their play things long enough, so let’s allow the athletes back into the playground. After all, “sports is bigger than COVID-19.”
Now, I haven’t heard any among the decision-makers actually say that aloud, but that’s only because words tend to get muffled behind those pesky coronavirus face masks.
Oh, wait. In their rush to return to the playgrounds at the elite level of professional jockdom, the power brokers forgot to put on their face masks. Either that or, like Donald Trump, they don’t believe they’re necessary, even as the pandemic eats away at the United States like termites on a two-by-four.
Whatever the circumstance, the Toronto Blue Jays requested permission to flee a COVID-19 hot zone, Florida, and transport their bats, their balls and, perhaps, a fresh wave of COVID-19 to the Republic of Tranna. And, sure enough, Trudeau the Younger has given them the okie-dokie to commence training exercises in The ROT.
Moreover, Trudeau the Younger shall give ponder to the Tranna Nine’s wish to contest the home portion of their 60-game Major League Baseball crusade at home, allowing outfits from the COVID-ravaged U.S. to cross the uncrossable border and wander among the rabble willy-nilly. Even as 38 MLB players/employees have already tested positive for COVID-19.
I’m no epidemiologist, but I’d feel safer telling Mike Tyson his face tattoo looks stupid.
Meantime, the National Hockey League plans to establish hub bubbles in the Republic of Tranna and Edmonton, allowing players/attendants from two dozen American-based clubs to cross the uncrossable border and put locals at risk.
Oh, sure, they’re telling us the shinny elite will be going about their daily business in a safety zone sealed tighter than the tombs housing little green people at Area 51, but that isn’t as simple as stuffing last night’s leftovers into a Ziploc bag. Anyone who’s spent time observing young, testosterone-fueled athletes can tell you they don’t tuck themselves in when the street lights go on. To some, curfew and a wake-up call arrive at the same hour in the a.m.
Trust me, after a month in lockup, even downtown Edmonton will begin to look like Shangri-La, and a few of the boys (probably the St. Louis Blues led by Brett Hull) will make a jail break in search of peeler bars and those mountain ranges and streams Alberta Premier Jason Kenney promised them.
I suppose I shouldn’t care, because I’m safely removed from the fray, and if the deep thinkers in E-Town and the Republic of Tranna want to expose their rabble to a hike in COVID cases, who am I to squawk?
But I’d really like to know how and when the pandemic being “bigger than sports” became a case of sports being “bigger than COVID-19.”
I realize I can be a total ditz at times, a circumstance that plagues me with increasing regularity as I slide deeper into my dotage, but it confounds me how fan-free NHL games would make anyone in E-Town or The ROT giddy. I mean, oh joy, they get to watch the Oilers and Leafs on TV. You know, just like the rest of us.
Count veteran essayist Terry Jones of Postmedia E-town among the giddy. Once the Alberta capital had been confirmed as one of the two zip-lock shinny sites, he could scarcely contain his glee. “Edmonton in the summer is a festival city and this year all those festivals have been cancelled,” the dean of Canadian jock journos wrote. “But with proper social distancing, you can have a hockey festival. It’s going to be fun to see what Edmonton can create. Imagine big screen video boards erected around town and fans watching games in their cars Drive-In Movie style with Dog & Suds style car hops delivering food and beverages.” Ya, sure, and maybe the Fonz, Richie, Potsie and Ralph can drop by for the ceremonial faceoff.
I’m not saying the E-Town-proud Jonesy is wrong to wave pom-poms for his burg. Hometown boosterism is one of his admirable qualities, and I get a kick out of it, no matter how delusional it might be (especially when the topic is curling). But a roller-blading car hop asking, “Would you like fries with your order of COVID-19?” wouldn’t be my idea of a good time. I’d be surprised if the majority in northern Wild Rose Country share Jonesy’s enthusiasm for a COVID Carnival.
Similarly, why would any among the rabble in Good Ol’ Hometown want to welcome nine Canadian Football League outfits for a Coles Notes version of a no-fans, three-downs season? What, mosquitoes the size of St. Bernards and potholes the size of the Bermuda Triangle aren’t enough to deal with without adding an invasion of Yankee Doodle Dandies into the mix? If anyone can tell me what’s to be gained by trucking hundreds of Americans across the uncrossable border into Winnipeg, I’m prepared to listen.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers voice Knuckles Irving is fully onside with the large lads in pads assembling in River City to grab grass and growl at Football Follies Field In Fort Garry. “We’ve been saying for weeks on the CJOB sports show that Wpg is the obvious choice as a CFL hub city, IF it comes to that,” he tweeted. “And it might come to that, but it hasn’t yet. NOTHING has been finalized. When it is and the CFL decides ‘hubbing it” is the way to go, hello Winnipeg!!”
I mentioned this a week ago, but it bears repeating now that the feds have allowed the Blue Jays to nestle in The ROT: Perhaps they’ll explain why the Winnipeg Goldeyes are forced to call Fargo, N.D., home this summer. Oh, that’s right, Trudeau the Younger and cronies don’t want non-essential workers crossing the uncrossable border. Apparently Charlie Montoyo is essential but Rick Forney isn’t.
The Washington Redskins will likely change their team name (money talks). The Cleveland Indians will think about changing their team name. The Seattle NHL expansion franchise remains a Team To Be Named Later. Meanwhile, New York Knicks fans are hoping James Dolan changes his name to the Billionaire Formerly Known As Owner.
I note that Vlad (The Bad) Putin has signed a one-way deal to rule Russia until at least 2036, about the same time Tom Brady is expected to show signs of slowing down.
Speaking of lifetime contracts, the New York Mets continue to pay Bobby Bonilla to not play baseball. The Amazin’s top up Bonilla’s bank account by a whopping $1,193,248.20 each July 1 and will do so until 2035, even though he last wore their double-knits in 1999. If nothing else, the Bonilla deal gives new meaning to Casey Stengel’s lament about his 1962 Mets: “Can’t anybody here play this game?” Bonilla doesn’t have to.
Imagine getting paid all that money to do absolutely squat. You know, like the Kardashians.
So David Price of the Los Angeles Dodgers has decided to skip the 2020 MLB season. That’s different. He doesn’t normally disappear until the playoffs.
What’s this? The Drab Slab plans to eliminate reader comments on July 14? Shame that. There’ve been days when the readers’ thread was more interesting and entertaining than the articles.
It’s fair to wonder what fantasy world Evander Kane exists in. I mean, the co-creator of the Hockey Diversity Alliance did the Zoom thing recently and claimed that the misdeeds of white athletes, such as Brendan Leipsic, are nothing more than “a footnote” on sports pages and TV.
“This guy does what he does, has a group message where he’s saying some not so good comments, to put it lightly,” Kane began. “I go on TSN and I’m trying to look for the article. I’m thinking, ‘Big story, career over, it’ll be at the top of the page’ because every time something happened to me or another Black player, top of the page, blowing up, front-line news. They want to make sure everybody can see it.
“I’ve got to scroll all the way down and there’s a little blurb. It’s not ‘Brendan Leipsic makes horrific comments about player’s girlfriend’ or ‘Makes misogynist comment or fat shames,’ it’s ‘Brendan Leipsic apologizes for comments.’ How generic and undetailed is that for a headline?’
“From my own personal experience, they want to make it as detailed as possible. They want to overstate it, blow it up. They want to portray you in such a negative light that it gathers so much attention. When it comes to white players, it’s a footnote.”
What a load of complete crap.
Leipsic’s conversation about women was front-page news, not a footnote, in the Winnipeg Free Press, the Winnipeg Sun, the Washington Post, the Globe and Mail, the National Post and numerous other dailies and websites. Headlines included descriptives like “Misogynistic and reprehensible,” and “vulgar” and “offensive.” He’s been drummed out of the NHL. And he’s a white guy.
Drew Brees is also a white guy. He took a royal beating for a regrettable (stupid) comment about not respecting athletes who kneel during the American national anthem.
Johnny Manziel is a white guy. He’s been battered fore and aft for a string of ugly trespasses.
Josh Hader, Kevin Pillar, Ryan Getzlaf, John Rocker, Curt Schilling, Andrew Shaw, Brock Lesnar, Tyson Fury are among numerous white guys who’ve been called out in print and on air for homophobic/racist/sexist natter.
Just like Kane himself.
You might recall a tweet the then-Winnipeg Jets forward posted during an NBA playoff game in 2013: Chris Bosh of the Miami Heat “looked like a fairy going to the rim.” When challenged on the homophobic tone of the tweet, he stood firm, responding, “Man, there’s a lot of overly sensitive people on here. It’s unreal how some of you on here turn absolutely nothing into something so wrong. As I have said before and I’ll say it again if you can’t handle real talk unfollow.”
Ya, that’s the guy I want heading up a Diversity Alliance.
And, finally, my favorite tweet last week was delivered by old friend/broadcaster Peter Young: “In early 70s while teaching grade 9 Phys Ed one class was devoted to mild version on Sex Ed. One 14 year old female on fill in the blank question. ‘Most sexual diseases are transmitted in the area of the REGINA.’” So I guess former Blue Bombers head coach Mike Kelly was right when he called the Saskatchewan capital the “crotch of Canada.”