About taking ownership of Chelsea Carey…jock journos Cherry picking…a waste of space in the Drab Slab…and I’ll take Sara’s reports on TSN over Steve’s dangles on Sportsnet

Monday morning coming down in 3, 2, 1…and I’m hoping I’ve got my draw weight…

There are some things I’d be inclined to bet the farm on.

Like Simon Cowell insulting someone.

Chelsea Carey, Sarah Wilkes, Dan Carey, Dana Ferguson, Rachel Brown.

Like Donald Trump waking up Monday morning and tweeting about Crooked Hillary, fake news, witch hunts, or his round pal in North Korea, Rocket Man.

Like late-night TV jokester Stephen Colbert cracking wise about Trump and his tweets.

Like Rachel Homan drawing the four-foot. Especially when given two shots at the blue paint.

So, yes, it’s a good thing I don’t have a farm, because I would have lost it—lock, stock and swine—on Sunday when Chelsea Carey tugged on Supergirl’s cape in the Scotties Tournament of Hearts final and lived to talk about it.

Make no mistake, Carey and her gal pals from Wild Rose Country—Rachel Brown, Dana Ferguson, Sarah Wilkes—are deserving champions today because of their stick-to-it-ness (they trailed 5-1 after four ends) and their knack for making the right shot at the right time, thus forcing a foe’s hand. They were the best outfit throughout the nine days at Centre 200 in Sydney, finishing 11-2.

Rachel Homan

But, let’s face it, we haven’t seen Homan misfire like this since…well, since South Korea and the Olympic Games a year ago.

Tenth end, final stone: Homan hunkered in the hack with a red rock and the Canadian women’s curling championship in her right hand. Her path was unobstructed. Get slightly more than a nibble of the four-foot and the title was hers for a fourth time. Her rock, running on fumes by the time it arrived at the rings, curled and slid wide right. Tie game: Ontario 6, Alberta 6.

Extra end, final stone: Same deal, except this time Homan’s rock expired short of the blue, four-foot ring. Final score: Alberta 8, Ontario 6.

A few thousand jaws dropped. Rachel Brown shrieked. Carey, the winning skip, flashed one of those “Did I really see what I think I saw?” looks.

It was a shocking, unexpected moment, the kind that make sports so compelling.

And if you’re from Manitoba, you loved it because, as I like to remind people, Chelsea Carey is one of us. Born to the curling Carey clan that includes her dad Dan and Uncle Bill, both former Canadian champions, Chelsea was weaned on the pebble in Good Ol’ Hometown.

Yes, officially, Alberta gets the W, but we know better, don’t we?

Actually, let’s not be greedy. Let’s share. The Chelsea team curls out of the Glencoe Club in Calgary, so the folks in Cowtown can thump their chests. Ditto Edmonton, because Wilkes, Ferguson and Brown call E-Town home. Then there’s the coach, Dan Carey, who hangs his hat in Winnipeg. So let’s just say it was Prairie power.

Have you ever seen pure, unbridled joy? I have. I saw it in Rachel Brown the moment Homan’s rock died in the 11th end on Sunday. The broom toss, the shrieking, the jumping, the smile as big, bright and as wide as the Prairie sky…beautiful. Rachel, by the way, is a new mom, bringing Finn into the world four months ago.

Don Cherry

Donald S. Cherry’s recent rambling rant about the Carolina Hurricanes’ post-match tomfoolery inspired columns from two of the heavyweights in Canadian jock journalism, Bruce Arthur and Cathal Kelly, and I found their conflicting takes on the Lord of Loud most interesting.

Here’s Arthur in the Toronto Star: “Now 85, he makes less sense that he ever has, and is less vital to the hockey conversation than he has ever been. Fair enough. He’s been on since 1981.

“Saturday night was a typical Coach’s Corner: suit talk, goals by grinders, some non-sequiturs, some military content, very little in the way of analysis, and Ron (MacLean) handling Don like he was helping him cross a street and then letting him run.

“It’s the same old act every Saturday except he seems older than ever, and nobody knows when or how it might end. He is an old man, shouting at the camera the way he always has, playing his greatest hits, growing older as everyone watches, or stops watching.”

Here’s Kelly in the Globe and Mail: “I don’t find myself agreeing with him, but I still find Cherry delightful. His clearly genuine fury at the stupidest little thing and complete lack of filter is a lovely contrast from the way some other pundits treat hockey—like a cult they’re constantly worried they’ll be kicked out of. Don Cherry’s opinion is, for me, even more valid now because he has seen the tide shift and remains unchanged. Though his standing in the court of popular opinion has diminished, he’s still a king as far as I’m concerned.”

I don’t know about you, but I see the same Lord of Loud that Arthur does.

Kelly’s spin isn’t credible, given what he wrote while with the Star in March of 2012: “Cherry has famously been sliding into irrelevance for a while. His entire appeal is populist, and he’s started losing the people. Banging on about head shots and wimps isn’t getting Cherry anywhere.” So what is he? The king or irrelevant? I guess Grapes is the King of Irrelevance.

Speaking of irrelevance and things that need to disappear, I’d say the email blah, blah, blah between Drab Slab sports editor Steve Lyons and retired columnist Paul Wiecek has run its course. At one time I enjoyed their print banter, but the latest to-and-fro was an exercise in nothingness. Complete drivel. Seriously, forests were chopped down to provide the newsprint for that?

And, finally, I tuned in to Sportsnet’s Hockey Central trade deadline coverage right at the get-go (5 o’clock) of the gab-a-thon this morning, because I figured Brian Burke would have something interesting to say. But I bailed the moment Steve Dangle surfaced to read tweets. I mean, really? It’s 5 in the ayem and I’m listening to Steve Dangle read tweets? Does the term “get a life” mean anything? I switched to TSN Trade Centre, assuming James Duthie and his gang a-plenty would stick to the script. And, frankly, I’d rather listen to Sara Orlesky talk about the Winnipeg Jets and Kevin Hayes than Steve Dangle do anything.

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About the Winnipeg Jets at the NHL trade deadline…Dustin Byfuglien’s ice tub…the bullying and harassment of Puck Finn…Sportsnet’s meathead gets his wish…news snoops in E-Town have a pity party…the Buffalo Girls stink it up in Sydney…Jennifer Jones at the top of the heap…and other things on my mind

Another Sunday smorgas-bored…and I have a no-trade, no-movement clause, so don’t even think about telling me to get lost…

Who wrote the script for the Winnipeg Jets last week? Charles Dickens?

I mean, the past few days definitely were the worst of times and the best of times for the local hockey heroes.

Then, again, perhaps it was Robert Louis Stevenson with pen in hand, because this was strictly Jekyll-and-Hyde stuff—The Strange Case of the Mile-High Keystone Kops in Denver and the Rat Pack in Glitter Gulch.

Twig Ehlers

Whatever the case, we are left to ponder a Jets outfit that didn’t merely lay an egg vs. the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday, it served up a 12-egg omelette in the form of a 7-1 paddywhacking. To confound matters, Winnipeg HC followed by delivering an emphatic 6-3 wedgie to the Golden Knights 48 hours later in Las Vegas, a success that included significant contributions from glam-and-glitz guys Twig Ehlers, Kyle Connor and Patrik Laine, the prodigal goal-scorer who’d been wandering the wasteland for the better part of three months.

So what do we say about Team Topsy-Turvy with the National Hockey League shop-and-swap deadline upon us? The same as some of us said back in October: Help!

Les Jets were found wanting in last spring’s Stanley Cup runoff, falling seven bricks short of a full load, and that was with Paul Stastny on board. I’m uncertain what part of replacing Stastny that Kevin Cheveldayoff doesn’t understand, but it ought to be Priority One when the Jets general manager and his accomplices assemble in the Winnipeg HC trade war room on the morrow.

Chevy

Those same deep-thinkers might also be inclined to do something about their team’s Keystone Kopish defensive play. But, again, we said these things in October, so I’m at a loss to explain why we’ve arrived at the 11th hour and we’re still waiting for Chevy to take out his tinkering tools.

As assembled, I believe les Jets can get out of the Central Division if they secure home-ice advantage, but I don’t see them getting the best of the Calgary Flames or San Jose Sharks. My guess is that Chevy stands pat tomorrow. If so and les Jets fall short in their Stanley Cup quest, the lost opportunity is on him.

How do les Jets notify a player that he’s been traded? Dustin Byfuglien tells him he can find his track suit in the ice tub.

Best line about the NHL trade deadline was delivered by Brian Burke on Hockey Night in Canada: “It’s a four-aspirin headache for the general manager.”

Puck Finn

Now that Laine has freed himself from an epic goal-scoring funk, perhaps the leather-lungs in Jets Nation can turn down the volume on the trade-him, ship-him-to-the-farm, give-him-a-box-of-pressbox-popcorn blah, blah, blah. The noise in the past 2½ months has been as loud as it’s been irrational, confirming that Puck Finn is the victim of his own success. He lit more lamps than a Kentucky coal miner as an NHL freshman and sophomore, and nothing shy of 44 snipes is going to sate the rabble. At the least, his two goals in Glitter Gulch should shush the crowd. Until the next time, of course.

What’s this? Some among the rabble believe Puck Finn has been the target of bullying and harassment from news snoops and fans? Oh please. It’s professional sports. Criticism comes with the gig. Besides, it’s only bullying or harassment if you hear it, and I doubt Laine leaves his PlayStation gadgets long enough to stick his nose in a newspaper or lend an ear to yadda, yadda, yadda sports radio.

Nick Kypreos

Well, Nick Kypreos got his wish and I can only assume he’s pleased that Connor McDavid has been told to go away for a couple of games.

It wasn’t so long ago, you might recall, when the resident meathead on Sportsnet/Hockey Night in Canada suggested that McDavid forget about scoring highlight-reel goals and, instead, morph into a fellow meathead.

“I would have loved Connor McDavid to turn around and two-hand Lindholm,” Meathead growled on Hockey Central at Noon after the Edmonton Oilers captain had been sent careening into the boards by Hampus Lindholm in an early-January game vs. the Disney Ducks. “I don’t care. If Connor gets suspended a couple of games, so be it. Send a message. Send a message that I’m not taking this, okay? And Connor doesn’t have to fight, but pull the Mark Messier, pull a couple of old-time guys and say, ‘Listen, you wanna shove me into the boards? I’m gonna take my stick and I’m gonna jam it down your throat. I don’t care if I get two games, 10 games, I’ll make a hundred and 50, two hundred million dollars by the end of my career, I’ll spend 50 grand, I’ll spend a hundred grand just to send a message to you and everybody else. I ain’t taking this.’”

So McDavid lays Nick Leddy low with a shoulder to the head, and Sheriff George of the player safety department sends the Oilers captain to his room for two games. Plus, the kid is out $134,408.60 in pay. Just as Kypreos wanted.

Well, I’m sorry, but I fail to see the benefit of having the game’s most dynamic offensive performer sitting in stir. Just as I fail to see the benefit of having Kypreos spew rubbish on Sportsnet.

Free Connor McDavid! Pull the plug on Meathead!

Connor McDavid

You’ve got the Edmonton Oilers and you’ve got the Edmonton Wailers, otherwise known as the biased news snoops in E-Town. Many of them are crying foul on the NHL and Sheriff George for grounding their hockey hero. Some samples (reader advisory: Kleenex optional)…

Terry Jones, Postmedia: “The National Hockey League, repeatedly and consistently, punishes Connor McDavid for being Connor McDavid. Players are allowed to treat arguably the world’s greatest hockey player with all manner of spit and abuse with a minimal number of trips to the penalty box. But have McDavid, a first-time offender, create an unintentional hit to the head of New York Islanders’ Nick Leddy and he’s suspended for two games? This looks and smells like the NHL announcing to one and all that it treats its superstar player with the same rules of justice as all others. And that would be fine, if it were true and it worked both ways, but it doesn’t.”

Rob Tychkowski, Postmedia: “I never had much faith in George Parros. He has a tendency to overcompensate in these situations, ask Andrew Cogliano. But a multiple repeat offender who whacks someone on the head with a stick, that’s the guy who gets the break…if the NHL wants to treat him equally when it comes to infractions he commits, which it should, then maybe the NHL should treat him equally when it comes to the infractions he receives. That would be fair.”

Bob Stauffer, Oilers broadcaster: “Pretty ironic that a superstar player who doesn’t get protected by the officials gets no benefit of the doubt on a first-time infraction. There is a reason why the NBA kicks the NHL’s ass in the U.S. The NBA respects their stars, the NHL doesn’t!”

Wah, wah, wah.

Briane Meilleur, Shannon Birchard, Val Sweeting, Kerri Einarson.

If I had told you that Kerri Einarson and her all-skip outfit would fail to qualify for the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, and that the Tracy Fleury foursome would fail to make the championship round, and that Jennifer Jones would fail to execute a simple draw to the rings and her world championship crew would fail to make the playoffs—horror of horrors!—you would have called for the men in the white coats, right? I mean, no one of sound mind would have forecast such calamity for the Buffalo Girls at the Canadian women’s curling shindig in Sydney. So how do we explain what went down at Centre 200? Manitoba is supposed to be a powerhouse. No province does curling better. And we went 0-fer. Go figure. But, hey, we still lay claim to Chelsea Carey, don’t we? Damn straight, we do. Doesn’t matter that she curls out of Saudi Alberta. She’s one of us. So a win in today’s Canadian women’s curling final vs. Rachel Homan and her gal pals from Ottawa is a win for good, ol’ Toba.

Chelsea Carey

Speaking of Chelsea, if you’re looking for a good read, check out Melissa Martin’s feature on the Alberta skip and her pop, Dan Carey, in the Drab Slab. Melissa doesn’t mention that Dan is an old neighbor of mine from way back in the day (we’re talking the 1950s), but I won’t hold that against her. It’s a terrific piece.

One of the curlers detected a foul odor at Centre 200 in Sydney during Thursday’s play. She’s right. Something did stink. It was Tracy Fleury’s draw weight. Seriously. The Manitoba champ lost her touch somewhere between Gimli and the Maritimes, and it was painful to watch. I felt sorry for her.

Kaitlyn Lawes

In the department of Things That Don’t Make Sense: TSN assembled a panel of 31 “experts” to determine the greatest female curlers in history, and they voted Jan Betker the best to ever throw third stones. So far, so good. But those same 31 “experts” rated both Cathy Overton-Clapham (No. 6) and Kaitlyn Lawes (No. 7) among the top 10 players in history, regardless of position. Betker was nowhere to be found on that list. So how does it figure that two thirds, Cathy O and Lawes, are better players than Betker but not better thirds? I’d say the 31 “experts” have some explaining to do, but I won’t hold my breath waiting for their reasoning.

Jennifer Jones

Congrats to the fabulous Jennifer Jones, now the winningest skip in Scotties history, with 141 Ws. Even though she came up empty in Sydney and isn’t getting any younger, I doubt we’ve seen or heard the last of the great champion. I certainly hope not.

And, finally, Les (Ronny) Lazaruk and Joe Daley were blowing out prairie fires last week. Ronny had 60 candles on his birthday cake and the Holy Goalie had 76, so it was a three-alarm day for both. Ronny and Joe are genuinely good guys and two of my favorite people in sports. Belated happy birthday, boys.

Rio Olympics: The Media Squawk-O-Meter was on high alert

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

Now that the Five-Ring Circus has pulled out of Rio de Janeiro and environs, we can take a final reading of the Media Squawk-O-Meter as the boys and girls of the Fourth Estate navigate their way home.

Squawking, you realize, is a large part of every Olympic Games. It is, in fact, the sworn duty of news scavengers to alert readers back home to their special brand of misery. It’s not that we care about their hardships. We don’t. And they know we don’t care. But they cannot resist the urge to whinge about their food, traffic delays, lodgings, creature comforts, toilet paper, air quality, insects, blah, blah, blah. Apparently, it’s part of an unwritten code: When assigned to cover the Olympics, one must find something about the locals or the locale to squawk about and insert said inconvenience into one’s copy, otherwise no one will believe you actually have gone hither. Or yon.

It is permissible for the media to squawk about shattered glass in a bus window as the result of gunfire.
It is permissible for the media to squawk about shattered glass in a bus window as the result of gunfire.

There exists at least one other clause in the unwritten code by which the sports scribe is governed: Mention the number of Olympics you have attended as early and as often as possible, in the likely event that it failed to register with the reader the first dozen times.

Games covered, of course, impresses exactly zero people. I mean, a tree with 1,500 rings? That’s impressive. A jock journo with 15 Five-Ring Circuses on his or her resume? That just tells me he or she can count without using all fingers and toes and has discovered more to bitch about than most.

The point is, sportswriter squawking is as germane to the Olympics as Usain Bolt’s lickety-split, Michael Phelps’s wing span, or a boxing judge with one eye on the fight and the other on his take. And, with 28,000 accredited media for the Rio Olympics, that’s one serious group gripe.

They all do it. It’s just that some are louder than others, that’s all. There are also those, like Bruce Arthur of the Toronto Star, who can pull it off with humor or wit or satire, rather than a sledge hammer. And, in fairness, I should also like to emphasize that it isn’t always about minor inconveniences. I rather think that were I riding a media bus en route to a sporting venue and bullets shattered the window beside me, that would qualify as more than a petty annoyance.

At any rate, the Media Squawk-O-Meter was operating at a dizzying rate in Rio. Here are some of the gripes…

One of the flowers of Canadian jock journalism (and a personal favorite), Cam Cole of Postmedia, struck first with a tweet about there being just “one ATM to service a population of several thousand in Main Press Centre. Good job, good effort.” He then followed with “worst organization of a Games in my 16, hands down.” This was a brilliant bit of bitching. It showed veteran savvy and moxie. Only a seasoned scribe could have trashed the organizers and established his career Five-Ring Circus count before the Games began. Pure genius.

rio3Steve Politi of NJ.com was also quick off the starting blocks, with an essay about poluted Guanabara Bay. “When I put down the camera and finally look down at the water, I see the trash. It isn’t the piles of it you may have seen in photographs that have moved from here in recent weeks, but it is all around the boat. Plastic bags. Restaurant cups. Soda bottles. A sanitary napkin. The water is covered with a noticeable film, in all directions, making it look like a thick, green stew. But the biggest concern is what I cannot see. The bacteria. The viruses. The human excrement.” And you’re telling us what, Nick? That there’s no garbage in New Jersey?

Rosie DiManno of the Toronto Star didn’t bitch so much about the peculiarities of Rio as she did a nervy media back home who, from their sofas, had the bad manners to critique the work of news scavengers in Brazil. At the same time, Ramblin’ Rosie dumped a load of hooey on ill-mannered scribes and/or talking heads on site: “A bewildered shout-down also to media mooks in Rio loudly rooting for their country’s athletes along press tribune row. One simple rule: No cheering in the pressbox.” Yo! Rosie! The Chinese, Japanese, Turks, Brits, South Africans, Dutch, Brazilians or whomever you’re bitching about don’t have to play by your rules. Perhaps cheering in the pressbox is acceptable behaviour where they pin their press badges.

News scavengers’ preoccupation with food is fascinating. Doug Smith of the Toronto Star lamented the absence of golden arches at the journos’ feeding trough. “One thing missing: McDonald’s in the media centre. It’s a staple, an old friend waiting to greet you at the end of a long day and the decision to pull out of Rio might have made sense from a business sense but it’s screwing up tons of media types who miss it dearly.” Smith also bemoaned hanky-panky with pricing at an eatery near his hotel: “The nice menu that was printed in English was quite helpful the first two nights but it was somewhat of a surprise to me when I got there last night to see the prices scratched out by marker and raised a couple of Reals or so for each item. Yeah, a 20R fish dinner became a 22R fish dinner, the 4R appetizer is 6R now and the folks who run it sure know how to make a buck. Still gonna go because it’s so handy but we’ll be looking for somewhere else now more often, a place where the owners aren’t quite as blatant in their gouging.” Geez, Doug, you’re on expenses. Live a little.

They lined up for their Big Macs and Quarter Pounders in Rio, but not at the Media Centre.
They lined up for their Big Macs and Quarter Pounders in Rio, but not at the Media Centre.

King of the complainers had to be Steve Simmons of Postmedia, though. If there was anything about Rio he enjoyed, other than the competition (excluding dressage which, apparently, should be axed), I missed it. Some of his gems: “Green water. Polluted ocean. Wonky buses. Athletes held at gunpoint. So many robberies. I don’t need a second week.” Let’s see…he never had to dive into the green water, he never had to take a dip in the ocean, nobody put a gun to his head, and he wasn’t robbed. Only disruption in transportation impacted on his work. Yet he still wanted to bail. Hmmm. Oh, yes, there was also the weather: “No matter where you’re at it’s either too hot or too cold. A lot of us looking for just right.” Then there were the lineups: “These are the lineup Olympics. Lineup for food. Lineup for drinks. Lineup to pay. Lineup to get in to venue. Lineup to leave venue. Lineup to go to washroom. Lineup for just about everything.” Even when there weren’t lineups, he whinged: “This isn’t complaining. This is just how it is. You pay for a cold drink at concessions. You don’t get a drink. You get a receipt. You then move down the line. Even if there is no line. The four people behind the counter, near the drinks, do nothing until you get to the end of the counter. Then one of them may ask you what you want, or ignore you. Depends on the moment, and this is without a lineup.” Some advice for the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo, Stevo—stay home.

Smith of the Star wrote it best about media squawking re the numerous glitches during the Rio Olympics: “These weren’t the best Games I’ve been at—Barcelona and London and Sydney still top the list—but they weren’t the worst, either. That’s still Atlanta by a mile and it always will be. But enough of that, really; it’s tiring.” Amen to that, Doug. Amen.

Patti Dawn Swansson has been writing about Winnipeg sports for 45 years, longer than any living being. Do not, however, assume that to mean she harbors a wealth of sports knowledge or that she’s a jock journalist of award-winning loft. It simply means she is old and comfortable at a keyboard (although arthritic fingers sometimes make typing a bit of a chore) and she apparently doesn’t know when to quit. Or she can’t quit.
She is most proud of her Q Award, presented in 2012 for her scribblings about the LGBT community in Victoria, B.C., and her induction into the Manitoba Sportswriters & Sportscasters Association Media Roll of Honour in 2015.