Top o’ the morning to you, James Forbes Duthie VI.
Well, just five more sleeps before D-Day in the National Hockey League, and I find myself wondering how much shuteye you’ll actually get this week.
I mean, they (whoever they are) say no news is good news, but you know different, don’t you, James?
If there’s no news next Friday, you and your braying cast of thousands at TSN are hooped. You’ll have nine hours of blah, blah, blah time to fill, and multiple replays of Jeff O’Neill in a food fight with a fake horse won’t keep viewers interested or entertained. Hey, I mostly get a kick out of O’Dog’s grumpy, middle-aged man shtick, but you counting the mustard and ketchup stains on his shirt isn’t my idea of must-see TV.
Marty Biron shooting Jennifer Hedger with a t-shirt cannon won’t get the job done, either, and don’t get me started on Gino Reda wrangling lamas in a parking lot.
You’ll want meat on those bones, James, meaning you’ll need the cooperation of 32 general managers, some hell bent on providing their team with an 11th-hour facelift in advance of the final push toward the Stanley Cup runoff, while others will be tearing down like roadies just before the circus pulls out of town.
Unless you’ve got some big names to blab about, James, your annual yakety-yak-yakathon at the NHL trade deadline will fall flatter than any stretch of road in Saskatchewan. You’ll be the kid hoping for a shiny, new bike Christmas morning only to find a pair of socks and a pack of underwear under the tree.
Already lopped off your TSN Trade Bait Board are Timo Meier, Bo Horvat, Vladimir Tarasenko, Ryan O’Reilly, Ivan Barbashev and Jonathan Toews, and I doubt the NHL GMs will be inclined to keep some shiny objects in reserve just to save your show. Thus, if guys like Erik Karlsson, Patrick Kane, Jacob Chychrun and Vlad Gavrikov get new postal/zip codes before Friday, valid talking points will be as scarce as bikers at a Barry Manilow concert. Why, if the situation gets too bleak, your gum-flappers are apt to be breaking down the Frank Mahovlich trade of 1968.
You won’t recall the Big M deal, James, because you were still in diapers when the Toronto Maple Leafs shipped Mahovlich, Pete Stemkowski, Garry Unger and the rights to Carl Brewer to Motown, where the Red Wings shed themselves of Paul Henderson, Norm Ullman, Floyd Smith and Doug Barrie in barter.
That’s what passed for a blockbuster back in the day, James. Live bodies. Nowadays, the GMs can’t seem to trade anyone without first getting the okie-dokie from club bean-counters, who move American greenbacks like they’re playing with Canadian Tire money.
A case in point would be Shea Weber, whose contract travelled from Glitter Gulch to the Arizona desert last week. It matters not that the once-great defender and ruffian will never see the inside of Mullett Arena in Tempe, or step on the freeze again. A piece of paper says he’ll help Arizona get to the $61 million salary cap floor, so the Coyotes are all in, even though they now have more dead weight than a graveyard.
Then there’s Ryan O’Reilly, late of the St. Louis Blues and freshly minted member of the Maple Leafs. It couldn’t have been just a straight-up trade, like a couple of kids swapping bubble gum cards. No sir. The Minnesota Wild felt obliged to get involved, and now three teams are paying what’s left of the veteran forward’s wages.
Is that what your viewers want to hear from you and the natterbugs, James? Nine hours of money chatter? I think not. Hell, I got bored writing about it for three paragraphs.
Difference is, I can get up and walk away from my computer. Maybe have a snack. Take a piddle. Water the plants. Turn on the flatscreen. But you’re stuck in place, James, trying to prevent an outbreak of nation-wide yawning. Tough gig.
I don’t envy you, man. By the end of the marathon, you’ll be staring at the camera through squinty eyes and with your arm likely strapped to an IV drip. But you won’t run out of things to say, not as long as the Maple Leafs exist. You might even find time during your nine hours on air to squeeze in a mention or two about the NHL’s Canadian-based franchises not named Maple Leafs. You know, the teams in Montreal, Ottawa and out here in the colonies. I realize that might be against TSN policy, but I’m guessing you’ll have reached your Auston Matthews-Mitch Marner-Willy Nylander quota by the fifth hour, so show the outriders some love.
Whatever the case, good luck to you, James. Just remember: Goofiness is good, but most of us really don’t need, or want, to see O’Dog’s butt cleavage when he and Pierre LeBrun are scrapping over the last box of Timbits.
What’s the over/under on how often Duthie and his minions mention Butch Goring on Friday? I mean, no NHL shop-and-swap deadline gabfest is complete without reference to the gold standard of all 11th-hour transactions: Goring from the Los Angeles Kings to the New York Islanders in exchange for Billy Harris and Dave Lewis in March 1980.
I’m torn. Do I want Kerri Einarson and her gal pals from Gimli to snare a record-sharing fourth successive Scotties Tournament of Hearts title, or do I want Jennifer Jones to make history with a seventh championship? It’s kind of like choosing between a winning ticket in Lotto 6/49 or Lotto Max. Either way, you can’t lose, and an all-Manitoba final tonight in Kamloops would be boffo, so I’ll be root, root, rooting for Einarson in this afternoon’s semifinal.
I can’t think of a broadcast team in any sport that does a better job than TSN’s curling crew of Vic Rauter, Russ Howard, Joanne Courtney, Cathy Gauthier and Bryan Mudryk. They’re knowledgeable, insightful, playful, and they seem to genuinely enjoy working together. But, for gawd’s sake, Vic, Russ and Bryan have to stop calling critical shots “unbelievable.” A draw to the four-foot in the fifth or 10th end isn’t “unbelievable.” It’s been done a gazillion times in rinks around the globe. It’s “unbelievable” how often the believable in sports is “unbelievable.”
I’m not sure what was going on with the Rachel Homan team at the Scotties, but it seemed to me that skip Tracy Fleury was reduced to a spare part. Homan and Emma Miskew did all the talking, while Tracy stood in the background looking like a teenage girl who wasn’t invited to the prom. It was kind of sad.
Tip of the bonnet to Dave Komosky, this year’s recipient of the Paul McLean Award, given to a media type for contributions to curling. Davey’s been scribbling the good stuff about Pebble People since the very early 1970s, first at the Winnipeg Tribune then the Saskatoon StarPhoenix and Calgary Herald. He eventually found his way back to Good Ol’ Hometown, working for the Winnipeg Sun, the Drab Slab and CanWest News Service, but most notably as the maestro who puts together various Curling Canada publications, like the Tankard Times, the Heart Chart and the Eye Opener. I’m totally pleased for my dear and longtime friend.
A second tip of the bonnet to Ted Wyman, curling and football scribe extraordinaire at the Winnipeg Sun. Ted reached the 20-year milestone with the tabloid on Friday and, given Postmedia’s relentless push to destroy the rag trade in Canada, I’d say he’s earned his survivor’s badge.
Speaking of survival, Aaron Rodgers has emerged from the darkness after a brief stay in his Oregon hibernation cave. There’ve been no sightings of Boo Boo or Yogi Bear, though.
Other than the bleak darkness, the Green Bay Packers quarterback (for now) wasn’t exactly roughing it. His cave was 300 square feet and equipped with a queen-size bed, hot and cold running water, a bathroom, and two meals a day were offered. Now that I think about it, that’s exactly how I live, and thousands of seniors can say the same thing. Only difference is he did it as a lark, we do it out of necessity.
Did you know there’s such a thing as the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame? True story. You can’t make this stuff up. It’s located in Milwaukee and the bobblehead dolls start at $30 US plus $8 shipping, although fans can also purchase signed bobbleheads for $60. Apparently, the autographed Aaron Rodgers bobblehead comes with a authenticated piece of tin foil to confirm he wore it on his head while hiding out in his darkness cave.
Here’s some penetrating analysis from Greg Millen last week re the Calgary Flames: “If you’re not scoring, ya gotta find ways to score.” I’m so glad he cleared that up for us.
As if the Boston Bruins weren’t good enough already, now they have the leading goal-scoring goaltender in the NHL, Linus Ullmark, who lit the lamp to close out the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday night. And, really, can this crusade get any worse for the Canucks?
Steve Simmons of Postmedia Tranna is shaking his fist and telling kids to get off his lawn again. “There should be a rule for all these phony websites writing about the next trade that isn’t happening: If you don’t know an NHL general manager, if he doesn’t know you, then please go away,” he writes in his weekly alphabet fart. Here’s a better idea: Simmons can go away, or he can simply stop reading the “phony” websites.
A woman in Steinbach, Man., called 911 because she was put off by the lengthy lineup at a Burger King drive-thru. And here I thought people dialed 911 after they ate fast food.