When is a gay football player not a gay football player? When Steve Simmons says so

This just in: Michael Sam isn’t gay. He never happened.

No, really. That guy who played rush end for the Montreal Alouettes on Aug. 7? The guy with the name Sam stitched on the back of his No. 94 jersey? Not gay. Not real.

As much as we believed we were eye witnesses to an historic moment that hot August night in Ottawa, there’s never been an openly gay performer in the Canadian Football League. We know this because Little Stevie Blunder says so.

“In reality,” Steve Simmons scribbles in his weekly serving of three-dot alphabet soup for the Toronto Sun and its sister sheets in Sun Media, “pro football still awaits its first openly gay player.”

I see. We are to ignore the reality that Sam actually joined the fray for 12 plays against the homestanding RedBlacks this month. Expunge it from the official record, kids. According to the Steve-O-Meter, apparently it takes more than one game and one dozen snaps of a football to qualify you as a gay man playing professional football.

As for the reality that Sam was a seventh-round draft pick of the St. Louis Rams and participated in preseason play? Not gay, didn’t happen. And the reality that he was on the Dallas Cowboys practice roster? Not gay, didn’t happen. And the reality that an ESPN reporter, Josina Anderson, filed a live report about Sam’s showering habits while with the Rams? Not gay, didn’t happen. And the reality that he was engaged to be married to another man? Not gay, didn’t happen.

But wait.

In one sentence, Little Stevie tells us that “pro football still awaits its first openly gay player,” but in another he tells us “Michael Sam was openly gay.”

Now I’m confused.

How can a man be openly gay at home, at church, at the market, at the theatre, on Dancing With The Stars, in the locker room…but not when he’s in full (albeit futile) frolic on a football field?

I think this is what Little Stevie is actually trying to tell us in his awkward way: Your gayness only counts if you’re a good football player. If you show some staying power. If, on the other hand, you are some shmuck who plays a mere 12 downs and records zero quarterback sacks and zero tackles, your gayness scores a big, fat zero on the Steve-O-Meter. You don’t exist and neither does your gayness.

What a wheeze bag.

In reality, Michael Sam is the first, and only, openly gay man to compete in a CFL game. That’s how he shall be remembered, even if only as a footnote, although Little Stevie Blunder is having none of that, either.

Asked by Bryan Hayes on TSN’s The Reporters on Sunday morning how people will reflect upon the Sam saga now that he has walked out on the Alouettes, thus likely signaling the end to his football journey, Little Stevie had this to say:

“I don’t think it will be remembered.”

I think it might be wise of Simmons if he were to steer his scribblings and comments clear of social issues.

I mean, this is a man who staked claim to the moral high ground when he pooh-poohed Roger Goodell for the NFL commish’s horrid handling of the Ray Rice domestic violence case, yet his credibility in that area took a serious drubbing when he posted a happy birthday tweet to Floyd Mayweather, a convicted and serial hitter of women. Simmons repeatedly has referred to John Farrell as “Benedict” Farrell because the Red Sox skipper bolted the Toronto Blue Jays for Boston. Yet, in the 1980s, Little Stevie signed on with the Calgary Herald while still drawing pay from the Calgary Sun. Pot, meet kettle.

Now he’s reduced the arrival of Michael Sam, the first openly gay man to play professional football, to nothingness.

Stick to what you know best, Little Stevie—stalking Phil Kessel and his hot dog stands.

rooftop riting biz card back sidePatti Dawn Swansson has been writing about Winnipeg sports for more than 40 years, longer than any living being. Do not, however, assume that to mean she harbors a wealth of sports knowledge or that she’s a jock journalist of award-winning loft. It simply means she is old and comfortable at a keyboard (although arthritic fingers sometimes make typing a bit of a chore) and she apparently doesn’t know when to quit. Or she can’t quit.
She is most proud of her Q Award, presented to her in 2012 for her scribblings about the LGBT community in Victoria, B.C., and her induction into the Manitoba Sportswriters & Sportscasters Association Media Roll of Honour.

Winnipeg Jets: Hope for a future without Chris Thorburn or Anthony Peluso

Time for a reality check, kids.

I realize you’re all giddy about the package of prospects Grand Master Kevin Cheveldayoff and his bird dogs collected this weekend in the sunshine of Sunrise, Fla., but I have this real nasty (some call it annoying) habit of providing a pinch of perspective to all things Winnipeg Jets. Thus, I feel obligated to remind you that, come October when the local lads commence their 2015-16 crusade, no player in the opening-night lineup will be named Kyle Connor or Jack Roslovic.

There will, however, be a winger named Chris Thorburn. And most likely another named Anthony Peluso.

Sigh.

I don’t know about you, but I tend to use Thorburn and Peluso (the former more than the latter) as measuring sticks vis-a-vis the growth of the National Hockey League franchise, on-ice division. The way I have it figured, as long as either is wearing Jets linen, he is clogging the club’s developmental arteries.

I mean, Grand Master Chevy has been working this gig since the Atlanta caravan rolled into River City in 2011. He’s been the overseer of five NHL entry drafts. He has laid claim to 38 freshly scrubbed wannabe Jets, including the aforementioned Connor and Roslovic this weekend. Each year he leaves the annual garage sale to a hail of hosannas (mainly from his lap dogs in the local media) for his handiwork in adding another set of trinkets to his collection of teenage talent.

And yet we are left with Chris Thorburn and Anthony Peluso. Still.

Double sigh.

The fact that not one of the Grand Master’s recruits has been capable of kicking Thorburn or Peluso to the curb leaves me to wonder if the scouting staff is found to be wanting, or if the coaching crew requires a session with Dr. Phil.

Feel free to discuss among yourselves.

A Gift from Sweeney Odd: Don’t run off with the notion that I’m sour on Grand Master Chevy’s fancy footwork in Florida.

I realize this June crap shoot is all about stocking the organizational Hope Chest and not meant to address present-day needs. And, by most reckoning, Chevy and his bird dogs did boffo business.

Let’s be honest, though. Because the Jets GM tried and failed to move up in the entry draft pecking order, he was at the mercy of the 14 outfits handing out jerseys and ball caps before his first call. The selection of Kyle Connor with the 17th shoutout was not a stroke of genius. It was Christmas morning.

Seriously. The only thing Don (D’oh!) Sweeney didn’t do for the Jets was wrap a ribbon around the American schoolboy. The Boston Bruins newly minted GM, hereafter known as Sweeney Odd, had a shot at Connor with No. 13. He passed. He had a shot with No. 14. He passed. He had a shot at No. 15. He passed. We can only assume that Sweeney Odd’s mind had fogged over after dealing away Dougie Hamilton and the Looch, Milan Lucic, and he awoke the morning after the draft asking, “I did what?”

Whatever the case, Kyle Connor was an unexpected gift from Beantown, which is why this thing is a crap shoot.

Stars ‘n’ Gripes: Some patriotic noses might be out of joint in Jets Nation because the club is beginning to look as American as John Wayne movies and apple pie.

Well, just chill.

I mean, adding four U.S.-born draftees (Connor, Roslovic, Erik Foley and Mason Appleton) doesn’t convince me that Grand Master Chevy has hatched some sort of diabolical plot to satisfy a fetish for Uncle Sam’s lads. This isn’t like Mikhail Smith’s make-work-for-Russians project in the 1980s, whereby the GM of the day attempted to transform the roster into the Central Red Jets (where have you gone, Sergei Bautin?).

There’s substantial supporting evidence that suggests Americans play the game at a rather lofty level (hello, Patrick Kane). To ignore them would be folly.

Draft Day Notable Quotable: “The No. 1 characteristic of a Toronto Maple Leaf is a good human being. Period. So if you don’t fit that, you’re not going to be here,” says bench boss Mike Babcock.

What are we to make of that when Phil Kessel is given his marching orders?

Typing-Before-Thinking Tweets: This from Steve Simmons of Sun Media on possible NHL expansion—“Just what no real hockey fan asked for: Expansion.”

Really? I’m sure the good people in Quebec City who have been involved in an ongoing crusade to bring the NHL back to Le Ville will be disappointed to discover that they aren’t “real” hockey fans.

This from Damien Cox of Sportsnet after the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup—“Best era of Chicago hockey I’ve seen, even the best Hull years.”

Unless he was watching the Blackhawks from his mother’s womb, his crib or during nap time at day care, it’s a serious stretch for Cox to pass himself off as an eye witness to the “best” of anything re Chicago and Bobby Hull. Cox, you see, wasn’t even on his mother’s breast when the Hawks won the Stanley Cup in the spring of 1961. He was born in August that year, four months after the fact. The Blackhawks also visited the Stanley Cup final in ’62 and ’65, at which time Cox would have been eight months and three years old, respectively.

rooftop riting biz card back sidePatti Dawn Swansson has been writing about Winnipeg sports for more than 40 years, longer than any living being. Do not, however, assume that to mean she harbors a wealth of sports knowledge or that she’s a jock journalist of award-winning loft. It simply means she is old and comfortable at a keyboard (although arthritic fingers sometimes make typing a bit of a chore) and she apparently doesn’t know when to quit. Or she can’t quit.
She is most proud of her Q Award, presented to her in 2012 for her scribblings about the LGBT community in Victoria, B.C., and her induction into the Manitoba Sportswriters & Sportscasters Association Media Roll of Honour.

Paul Maurice: Does the Winnipeg Jets coach enjoy his parry-and-thrust with the media?

A little bit of this, a little bit of that and a whole lot of opinion in a weekend wrap…

I’m not quite sure what to make of Paul Maurice vis-a-vis news scavengers.

I watch him work the Fourth Estate during his press gatherings and he is serious, sometimes sharp, snappy and abrupt. Coach PoMo often answers a question before it has been completely framed, which is to say he interrupts, hinting at a pinch of impatience. It seems to be his way of saying, “I’ve got things to do, let’s get to the point.” I sometimes see a smug man, with gusts approaching snarky.

Even on those occasions when he slips into light-hearted mode and kibitzes with his interrogators, his jabs at jocularity seem tempered.

At the same time, this Winnipeg Jets head coach is obliging, thoughtful, articulate, respectful and he’s media savvy, in a much different way than his predecessor, the joy-seeking Claude Noel, who was forever feeding scribes and talking heads with bons mots that made for brilliant, knee-slapping sound bites but offered little substance.

I really can’t determine if Maurice enjoys this part of his job or if he’d rather be elsewhere. My guess would be it’s the latter, but he surely understands that it is part of his job and he is better at it than most National Hockey League bench bosses.

HITHER & YAWN: I have added a new item to my Bucket List—appearing on TSN’s Off the Record with Michael Landsberg. I figure it’s the Canadian sports TV equivalent to being on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. It’d be a cool gig, especially the Next Question segment……So, how do you spell desperate? Evander Kane spells it: B-u-f-f-a-l-o. I say that because Kane is “very excited” about shuffling off to Buffalo, which tells us how desperate he was to get out of River City. I mean, if you’ve ever been to the upstate New York burg (I have), you know that it isn’t Shangri-la. But good luck to Kane and the Buffalo McDavids next hockey season…If the Winnipeg Blue Bombers make big noise in Canadian Football League free agency and no one hears it because the Winnipeg Jets trade Evander Kane a day later, did it really happen? I mean, poor Kyle Walters. The Bombers general manager went about the task of upgrading his last-place product by signing five bodies, and it was greeted with a yawn…We all know there are many differences between the CFL and National Football League. Here’s the latest: The NFL stages its neutral-site games in London in the U.K. The CFL goes to Fort McMurray, Alta., where a team from Toronto is the home side and a team from Alberta is the visitor…Has Kirk Penton of the Winnipeg Sun become the best football beat writer in Canada? If it isn’t Penton, it’s either Paul Wiecek of the Winnipeg Free Press or Herb Zurkowsky of the Montreal Gazette.

fish wrapTHE WRITE STUFF: Very disappointed to see a scribe from the Republic of Tranna, Mike Koreen, in Moose Jaw to cover the Scotties Tournament of Hearts for Sun Media. Nothing against Koreen as a scribe, but readers of the Winnipeg Sun would be much better served if one of their own was on site. To date, we’ve read about Richard Hart coaching Team Canada (Rachel Homan from Ottawa), a piece on Kerry Galusha and Tracy Horgan discussing the new pre-qualifying portion of the Canadian women’s curling championship, and a feature on Lori Olson-Johns of Val Sweeting’s Alberta foursome. The only item on Jennifer Jones and her Buffalo Girls was a pre-event advancer for their Monday night skirmish with defending champ Homan. The Winnipeg Free Press, meanwhile, has staffer Melissa Martin in Moose Jaw to deliver daily dispatches about Jones and Co. Score one for the Freep…The most complete coverage of the Scotties can be found in the Heart Chart, the daily sheet produced in Moose Jaw by former Winnipeg Sun sports editor and longtime curling journalist Dave Komosky. He has ex-Saskatoon Star Phoenix sports scribe Cam Hutchinson riding shotgun, and the two of them are putting out a boffo product…So, Doug Brown scribbles a column for the Winnipeg Free Press about the horrors of pro sports dressing rooms. Good idea. Except the former Blue Bombers defensive lineman provides zero anecdotal evidence from his 20 years in football to support the notion that they can be raunchy, nasty, bad-news bunkers that foster bullying. Thus, he didn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know. He used a lot of really big words, though, which often seems to be the purpose of the exercise…This penetrating analysis from Gary (La La) Lawless of the Freep on the Jets post-season push: “The key for the Jets as they hope to secure a playoff berth for the first time since returning to Winnipeg will be to collect points on as many nights as possible over the remaining 24 games.” Well, duh. What was your first clue, Sherlock?

bow wow bungalowBOW WOW BUNGALOW: Little Stevie Blunder Simmons of the Toronto Sun has stepped in it again (he never fails to fail). This was his take on the Jets large trade featuring Evander Kane and Zach Bogosian going to the Buffalo McDavids…

“I seem to be in the minority on this, but I don’t think the Winnipeg Jets won the Evander Kane trade handily. I break it down this way: Tyler Myers for Zack (sic) Bogosian is one developing defenceman for another. Slight edge to Winnipeg. Now Buffalo gets Kane, a proven commodity with mounds of baggage in exchange for a late first-round pick, Claude Lemieux’s son and a minor leaguer. They may get something for Kane or they may end up with nothing. Late first-round picks are no sure thing. Buffalo gets a sure-thing NHL player in Kane to play alongside whichever centre they draft first in June.”

So, let’s see: He spelled Zach Bogosian’s first name incorrectly. He didn’t bother to identify Claude Lemieux’s son as Brendan Lemieux and, worst of all, he ignored the fact that the Jets also received Drew Stafford in barter from Buffalo. That would be the same Drew Stafford who’s already paid dividends, scoring one goal in regulation time and the shootout winner in the Jets 5-4 verdict over the Red Wings in Detroit on Saturday night.

Enjoy your stay in the Bow Wow Bungalow, Stevie.

rooftop riting biz card back sidePatti Dawn Swansson has been writing about Winnipeg sports for more than 40 years, longer than any living being. Do not, however, assume that to mean she harbors a wealth of sports knowledge or that she’s a jock journalist of award-winning loft. It simply means she is old and comfortable at a keyboard (although arthritic fingers sometimes make typing a bit of a chore) and she apparently doesn’t know when to quit. Or she can’t quit.
She is most proud of her Q Award, presented to her in 2012 for her scribblings about the LGBT community in Victoria, B.C., and her induction into the Manitoba Sportswriters & Sportscasters Association Media Roll of Honour.

Winnipeg Jets: It’s not who you give up in a trade, it’s who you receive in return

A little bit of this, a little bit of that and a whole lot of opinion in a weekend wrap…

Okay, as Howie (Squeaker) Meeker was wont to say, “Hold it! Stop it right there!”

All you people who keep pointing to Tyler Seguin as the poster boy for trades gone bad, you’re either forgetting or ignoring one very significant factor. To wit: The Boston Bruins, who had their fill of the youthful-but-seemingly troubled Seguin, are in a playoff position, tenuous as it might be. The Dallas Stars, with whom Seguin has blossomed into an elite scorer, are not.

Thus, the fact that Seguin is joint leader of the National Hockey League scoring derby heading into Tuesday night’s matches does not support the notion that the Bruins erred horribly when they sent him packing to the Lone Star State, lock, stock and bad attitude.

Let’s ignore what might have been, because there is no way of measuring where Seguin would be today had the Bruins exercised greater patience and allowed their maturity-challenged forward to clean up his act. (I think, however, it’s reasonable to suggest he would not be atop the NHL scoring tables were he still with the Bs.) Based purely on the numbers, two of the players Boston accepted in barter for Seguin—Louie Eriksson and Reilly Smith—have matched his points output. Seguin is 29-30-59, Eriksson and Smith are a combined 22-36-58.

Meanwhile, the likelihood is that Eriksson and Smith will still be playing hockey after April 11, which marks the close of the NHL’s regular season business. Barring a remarkable surge in fortunes, Seguin and the Stars will be golfing or fishing. So you tell me who wins the trade.

Which brings me to Evander Kane and the Winnipeg Jets.

Because Kevin Cheveldayoff, aka GM Groundhog, has never arranged an NHL player-for-NHL player transaction, there is a fear that a) he will be fleeced and b) Kane will move on and, like Seguin, develop into an elite scorer.

Sorry, but no risk, no reward.

Most likely, Kane will be the largest talent in any deal Cheveldayoff concocts. That doesn’t mean he loses the trade. It isn’t so much what you surrender as what you receive in return. If, in barter, he acquires bodies that enhance the Jets and positions them as a perennial playoff participant, what does it matter how Kane performs in Buffalo or Pittsburgh or New Jersey of Vancouver? He isn’t doing it here. Period.

Let’s put it another way: The mistake wasn’t the original Jets dealing away a 24-year-old David Babych. The blunder (arguably the biggest is Jets 1.0 history) was accepting Ray Neufeld in the exchange.

The same lesson is to be learned from the Tyler Seguin saga. It isn’t so much about giving up on a young talent too soon, it’s about the return. It’s about the end game. It tells me that it’s okay to unload Evander Kane, who’ll be 24 the next time he pulls on an NHL jersey. Just don’t give him away for a song.

I’m not convinced GM Groundhog is the right man for that job, but if I can figure it out I’m sure he can, too.

TELLY TALK: My, my my. That was an epic rant Don Cherry unloaded from his Bully Pulpit on Curmudgeon’s Corner this past weekend. We heard all about “savages” and “barbarians” like Ron MacLean who eat seal meat, hockey goons who got a raw deal and should still be working in the NHL, and Evander Kane is a “jerk” who ought to be “ashamed” of himself. I’d hate to think what the Lord of Loud would say if he discovered that Kane had a baby seal burger for lunch…Caught a bit of the press conference for the Gordie Howe gathering in Saskatoon on Sportsnet. It included Wayne Gretzky, two of the Howe boys, Mark and Marty, and Brett and Bobby Hull. I’m sorry, but whenever I see Bobby Hull now I think spousal abuse…What a shame that Mathieu Perreault of the Winnipeg Jets shaved his facial foliage. That was a killer beard. The good news is they found Jimmy Hoffa when they cut the thing off…Would it be too much to ask of Hockey Night in Canada host George Stromboloupouloupoloupolous to wear a sports jacket that actually fits? The thing he squeezed himself into Saturday night would have looked tight on a chihuahua or something of a similarly small stature. Like Johnny Gaudreau…The gab guys on TSN’s The Reporters with Dave Hodge gave the Jets some talk time this past Sabbath morning. Bruce Arthur of the Toronto Star advised us “this is the year the Winnipeg Jets got interesting.” Actually, Bruce, there are those of us living in the colonies who’ve found the Jets interesting ever since they arrived in Winnipeg. Arthur also advised us that Evander Kane is “a 25-to-30 goal scorer.” He said it twice. Fact is, Kane is nothing of the sort. He has scored plus-20 goals exactly once in half a dozen NHL seasons…The sartorially challenged P.J. Stock wore a track suit instead of his off-the-Wallmart-rack business suit for his Stock Exchange gig on HNIC. It was a dig at the Jets and Kane. It think it was supposed to be funny. It wasn’t.

LAST CALL: This from Little Stevie Blunder Simmons of the Toronto Sun/Sun Media on The Reporters, speaking about the Winnipeg Jets and Evander Kane:

“This has been a dressing room or a team without leadership for the past couple of years, inside that room. There’s a leadership issue inside that room.”

One question: You know this how, Toronto Boy? Please enlighten us. If this information comes from your many visits to Winnipeg and the Jets’ boudoir, tell us. If it comes from reliable informants in the Jets’ boudoir, tell us. If not, stick to skewering the Maple Leafs.

rooftop riting biz card back sidePatti Dawn Swansson has been writing about Winnipeg sports for more than 40 years, longer than any living being. Do not, however, assume that to mean she harbors a wealth of sports knowledge or that she’s a jock journalist of award-winning loft. It simply means she is old and comfortable at a keyboard (although arthritic fingers sometimes make typing a bit of a chore) and she apparently doesn’t know when to quit. Or she can’t quit.
She is most proud of her Q Award, presented to her in 2012 for her scribblings about the LGBT community in Victoria, B.C., and her induction into the Manitoba Sportswriters & Sportscasters Association Media Roll of Honour.

Sports media: Who critiques those who critique?

I have been asked (more than once) why I am such a loud critic of mainstream sports media, most notably the lads who record the daily deeds of play-for-pay practitioners in Winnipeg.

The reason is quite basic: Because they’re there. And, because they’re there, it has long been—and remains—my position that jock sniffers ought not to be exempt from the same performance-based scrutiny and assessments that they themselves place on those who work in the business of frolic, whether their target is a player, coach, management or ownership.

Let’s consider the recent scribblings of Gary Lawless as an e.g.

He has written a stinging, aggressively worded piece advocating the ouster of Gary Etcheverry, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers beleaguered defensive co-ordinator. He skewered the man. He wants him fired. No muss, no fuss, just kick him to the curb. Now.

“(Head coach Mike O’Shea) should Band-Aid his defensive co-ordinator and move on,” Lawless writes. “Tear it off quickly to minimize the pain. Keeping Etcheverry on staff is the wrong move from the tactical and survival perspectives. The entire city wants Etcheverry clipped. No one would question the move.”

Lawless cannot be discredited for delivering opinion (assuming it has a foundation in fact and fair analysis). That, of course, constitutes a large part of his gig as main sports voice at the Winnipeg Free Press. It is, however, one thing to act as the self-appointed adjudicant of all things Bombers and quite another to presume to speak for the totality of a populace. While others perhaps share his views, Lawless’s column speaks for himself and the Freep, not an entire city (unless I missed something and he actually won last month’s mayoral election). For him to believe otherwise suggests he is an extremely vain or horribly misguided man.

Those who follow this blog know that Lawless is among my favorite whipping boys. He and Little Stevie Blunder (Steve Simmons of Sun Media) have often been in my crosshairs, for a variety of reasons. Both are columnists and radio/TV commentators. They are public figures who flog other public figures. Thus, I ask: Should it not work both ways?

Ah, but who critiques those who critique?

Where in our newspapers or on their websites do we find writers taking writers to task? William Houston and Bruce Dowbiggin once scribbled sports media columns in the Globe and Mail. Gone. Chris Zelkovich did the same for the Toronto Star. Also gone. The print sports media in Canada does not eat their own. Not publicly, anyway. Privately, it’s a different head of lettuce. They are very much disposed to ransacking the reputations of other scribes.

Bottom line: If it’s sports media critique you seek, there’s only one place it can be found—in the blogosphere. And the MSM guys don’t like it.

I have written that there is no creature roaming the third rock from the sun with thinner skin than a print sports journalist. I have been advised, for example, that Lawless refuses to read my blog because I have been too biting in my criticism. Yet he freely trafficks in naysaying on a weekly, if not daily, basis.

As do most others in sports media.

Last week, I listened to Daren Millard, Scott Morrison and Gord Stellick of Sportsnet criticize the Hockey Hall of Fame selection committee for bypassing Eric Lindros yet again. Then I listened to Dave Hodge criticize those who would criticize the HofF selection committee (without naming names, of course).

Yet, no matter how long and hard I search, I cannot locate a sports talk show on Canadian television that critiques sports talk shows on Canadian television.

Mainstream sports media (print division) in our country offers much to critique, not just for what is written and shown, but in its very makeup. It is, for the most part, a fraternity of white heterosexual men. An old boys club, if you will. Females need not apply because we all know women know diddly about sports, and men don’t want their daily dose delivered by a girl. And the thought of a gay man writing sports…ugh. Go cover the ballet, Nancy boy.

It isn’t much different on the electronic side. The chin-waggers on discussion panels are all white heterosexual men, the notable exception being TSN’s Off the Record. Host Michael Lansberg has often featured female voices, but not necessarily media-based female voices.

So, yes, I lift a loud voice in critique of the media. I’ve been there and I’ve done what they’re doing. And if they’re going to be there, I want their there to be top-drawer and all-inclusive.

rooftop riting biz card back sidePatti Dawn Swansson has been writing about Winnipeg sports for more than 40 years, longer than any living being. Do not, however, assume that to mean she harbors a wealth of sports knowledge or that she’s a jock journalist of award-winning loft. It simply means she is old, comfortable at a keyboard (although arthritic fingers sometimes make typing a bit of a chore) and she doesn’t know when to quit.
She is most proud of her Q Award, presented to her in 2012 for her scribblings about the LGBT community in Victoria, B.C.

Hey, look who’s talking about the Winnipeg Jets now

During my youth, the family would often enjoy a roast beef dinner on Sunday, then leftovers the following day. So that’s what we have on the menu this morning, kids—weekend leftovers.

Well, lookee here. The natterbugs on TSN’s The Reporters with Dave Hodge have discovered life beyond the borders of the Republic of Toronto. Hockey life. In the colonies. You read that right. Do not adjust your computer screen. The Gab Four actually mentioned the Winnipeg Jets and Calgary Flames during their chin-wag. At the top of the show.

This, of course, would be their version of slumming. Or dumpster diving.

Each Sabbath morning, you see, host Hodge and his regular accomplices—Bruce Arthur, Michael Farber and Little Stevie Blunder (Sun Media’s Steve Simmons)—gather for an exercise in gum-flapping, and it is normally a Tranna devotional. How about them Blue Jays? Are the Raptors for real? Why aren’t the Argos feeling the love? Phil Kessel is fat and why can’t he be more like Wendel Clark?

Yadda, yadda, Harold Ballard.

So there they were on Sunday morning, discussing National Hockey League outfits not named the Maple Leafs. And players not named Kessel, Phaneuf or Lupul. One of those players not named Kessel, Phaneuf or Lupul was Ondrej Pavelec. Mostly, they gave him props for the Jets’ early-season success, although Farber went rogue by saying the much-maligned backstop remains “a below-average NHL goaltender and in the wash that will come out.”

Farber, by the way, called him “Pavlich.” Arthur called him “Ondredge Pavlich.” Simmons opened with something that sounded like “Ondrez Pavlek.”

I’m sure the’ll get it right once they actually watch On-dray Pav-e-lets and the Jets play a game.

NILL AND VOID: Is it too early to demand a recount on that Jim Nill-for-executive of the year award?

Nill is one of the good guys. A longtime exec with the Detroit Red Wings, the former Jets 1.0 forward was saluted far and wide for his reshaping of the Dallas Stars during the past summer. He did boffo work, most notably the recruitment of Jason Spezza. Yet when the Dallas general manager opened his lids this morning and glanced at the NHL standings, he was seeing Stars—at the bottom of the Western Conference heap.

So what’s the scoop, Jim boy?

“When you dig a hole, and then try to fill it back in, it never seems like there’s enough dirt to fill it back in,” he says. “So then you have to go find extra dirt. We’re really close to filling in the hole, but we have to all find a little extra dirt.”

Right. It’s dirty work, Jim, but someone’s gotta do it.

RANDOM THOUGHTS: Bobby Hull’s original Jets jersey, circa 1972-73, fetched $122,057 at auction. How did ex-bride Joanne overlook that valuable piece of linen when she sold all his keeper trophies and memorabilia at her screw-Bobby garage sale during the 1970s?…I like Elliotte Friedman. He’s a pro and it’s obvious that he’s well-respected in hockey circles. But sometimes I wish he’d stop his 30 thoughts at about 20 thoughts…Hands up anyone who’s shedding tears for Patty Roy, coach of the woeful Colorado Avalanche. Didn’t think so…Isn’t it time someone called the Hometown Hockey Tour what it really is—a make-work-for-Ron MacLean project? There have been some good features, but it’s so sugary that I fear too much of it might send me into diabetic shock…Watching Curmudgeon’s Corner on Saturday night, I couldn’t help but think Don Cherry was playing a dangerous game of chicken with Rogers Media. Either they grant the Lord of Loud more time to spew from his Bully Pulpit, or they fire him…Is it just me, or does anyone else think there’s sometimes a greasy, groupie feel to George Strombouloupouloupoulous when he has a special guest in the Hockey Night in Canada red chairs? I thought he was going to ask Wayne Gretzky for an autograph on Saturday…Speaking of Gretzky, during his chin-wag with Stromboy, he said, “The greatest thing about the hockey players is they’re wonderful people.” I’m not sure the women on the receiving end of C-bombs from two Ontario Hockey League players would agree…When I learned that the New York Rangers were auditioning Tomas Kaberle, I thought it rather odd. If not desperate. But then they lost to the Edmonton Oilers, 3-1 at home. According to Larry Brooks of the New York Post, the Blueshirts looked like “an uninterested house-league team put together at the last minute.” I guess Kaberle would fit in after all…Out here in the boonies, we prattle on about Western Conference superiority. So how is it that the New York Islanders can go into Los Angeles, Anaheim and Phoenix and win three straight games? Phoenix I understand. The others I don’t…Couldn’t believe it when Steve Simmons of Sun Media confessed he doesn’t know what a beer snake is. Then I remembered his home base is Toronto. Maple Leafs fans are too busy tossing jerseys on the ice to make beer snakes.

rooftop riting biz card back sidePatti Dawn Swansson has been writing about Winnipeg hockey and the Jets for more than 40 years, longer than any living being. Do not, however, assume that to mean she harbors a wealth of hockey knowledge or that she’s a jock journalist of award-winning loft. It simply means she is old, comfortable at a keyboard (although arthritic fingers sometimes make typing a bit of a chore) and she doesn’t know when to quit.
She is most proud of her Q Award, presented to her in 2012 for literary contributions to the LGBT community in Victoria, B.C.

The numbers game: My eyes and ears still tell me more about a hockey player than Corsi or Fenwick

When I watch Dustin Byfuglien play hockey, I see a combination of power and dominance, dash and daring. I also see a man marching to his own drum, which is to say a player prone to mental escapes and going rogue. I see mistakes, major gaffes that too often result in the puck finding its way into the back of his own net.

What I don’t see, are his Corsi and Fenwick numbers.

When I watch Andrew Ladd play hockey, I see determination and intensity. I see a night of honest, earnest toil. I also see a tendency toward brain cramps that too often result in petty penalties, particularly in the offensive end of the rink.

What I don’t see, are his Corsi and Fenwick numbers.

When I watch Evander Kane play hockey, I see speed and strength and I see gravel in his guts. I see a reservoir of raw skill and an unyielding will to succeed. I see boundless, youthful enthusiasm. I also see the erraticism and cheek of youth.

What I don’t see, are his Corsi and Fenwick numbers.

That doesn’t mean I walk in lockstep with Steve Simmons, Dave Shoalts and other card-carrying members of hockey’s Flat Earth Society who engage in unseemly squabbling and sandbox-style name-calling with those who promote new-wave analytics.

More to the point, I distance myself from them. I find them to be dismissive, full of disdain and full of themselves.

I mean, in a discussion about the numbers nerds who have infiltrated the National Hockey League and populate the blogosphere, Sun Media’s Simmons unfurls plumage with 50 shades of pomposity, saying, “They think I’m a moron, to be honest. Not someone who’s covered the NHL for 34 years, not someone who coached hockey for 25 and is a level 3 instructor, not someone who ran hockey schools. I’m a moron.”

Shoalts, meanwhile, confesses to a deep-dish dislike for “Most hockey analytics geeks. Aside from having no sense of humor, they all act like they are the true sages of hockey simply because they came up with a few equations to state the obvious. The team that has the puck most usually wins. No kidding, Sherlock. That’s been true since Lord Stanley was talked into spending 35 bucks to buy a certain cup.”

The Globe and Mail scribe also catalogues stats-savvy types under the descriptive “kind of annoying.

The temptation, of course, is to lob grenades in their direction, because the stats discourse shouldn’t be a personal tit-for-tat tally of how many hockey games you’ve witnessed from the press box or which group possesses a healthier sense of humor. It should be about the degree of merit and value of numbers, when placed against the merit and value of intangibles.

In one sense, I am onside with the Flat Earthers, in that I use my eyes first and foremost in any evaluation of a hockey player. I look at Winnipeg Jets‘ prospect Nikolaj Ehlers, for example, and I don’t need Corsi and Fenwick to tell me there is a lengthy, productive NHL career in the dynamic Dane’s future. The skills are obvious. So here’s what I need to know about Ehlers: What is his compete level? What are his work habits? What fuels his engine? What is his intelligence level? Is he a team guy or a me guy? Does he come undone in dire circumstance?

Stats can’t answer those questions. Ice time will.

Having said that, once there is enough of a sample size, the numbers will tell me if I want Ehlers on the ice for a faceoff in the defensive zone when the Jets are protecting a one-goal lead. That’s the value of numbers.

The idea is to play to your strengths and to your opponent’s weaknesses. In many instances, numbers can tell us this. But so do intangibles. Unlimited talent is wasted on a player who doesn’t give a damn or who is a cancer in the changing room. A player of lesser skill can be of equal, or greater, value to a team due to his work ethic.

Personally, I place higher worth on the intangibles. What my eyes tell me. What I hear from people who know. Let me put it this way: Bobby Orr was the best hockey player I’ve ever seen and I don’t have a clue what Corsi and Fenwick would say about his game. I just know I want him on my team.

rooftop riting biz card back sidePatti Dawn Swansson has been writing about Winnipeg sports for more than 40 years, longer than any living being. Do not, however, assume that to mean she harbors a wealth of sports knowledge or that she’s a jock journalist of award-winning loft. It simply means she is old, comfortable at a keyboard (although arthritic fingers sometimes make typing a bit of a chore) and she doesn’t know when to quit.
She is most proud of her Q Award, presented to her in 2012 for her scribblings about the LGBT community in Victoria, B.C.