The River City Renegade


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About the “True North!” tribal chant…Ducky talks up the Rink Rat…Winnipeg Jets are signing jockeys…salute to Doc Holliday and Mad Dog…and a concussed sports scribe

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

I understand why the faithful who flock to the Little Hockey House on the Prairie bow to a corporate god by shouting “True North!” during the singing of O Canada at Winnipeg Jets matches.

Honest, I get it.

Ol’ Lefty, Troy Westwood

I mean, Puck Pontiff Mark Chipman and his deep-pocketed co-bankroll, David Thomson, delivered a National Hockey League franchise to them after so many bleak winters in the wilderness, thus the giddy rabble is grateful and the full-throated “True North!” cry has become their tribal chant.

But (you knew there was going to be a but, right?)…

As much as I promote freedom of expression and I get where Jets Nation is coming from, the “True North!” ritual has a cringe-inducing element to it. Whenever I hear the salute to their corporate god, True North Sports & Entertainment, it sounds rather nerdy. If not flat-out cheesey.

I am reminded of this due to a sparring match between Troy Westood and Jeff Veillette in the cesspool of anger and ugliness known as Twitter.

Westwood, of course, is among the stable of talking heads at TSN 1290 in River City and, like most talking heads, he sometimes shoves his left foot (the same one he once used to hoof field goals for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers) into his mouth. Veillette, meanwhile, works out of the Republic of Tranna as an editor/writer at Leafs Nation and managing editor of hockey content for the Nation Network.

Here is their weekend to-and-fro:

Veillette: “Someone just TRUE NORTH’d the anthem at the Toronto FC game. Worst tradition in all of pro sports. Get that out of this stadium.”

Westwood: “Jeff, I believe I speak for the majority of Manitobans here while inviting you to go outside and play hide and go f yourself. #TRUENORTH.”

I assume Ol’ Lefty uses that mouth to kiss his loved ones, but, hey, we’re all adults on Twitter and F-bombs and insults are as commonplace as Jets loyalists who believe the Puck Pontiff can do no wrong, regardless how much he charges for a glass of beer at TLHHOtheP or how often he feeds at the public trough.

Not surprisingly, the Westwood-Veillette thrust-and-parry aroused the rabble, and their respective Twitter feeds featured a few more F-bombs and much banter that came across as the squawkings of school kids whose mothers wear army boots and whose dad can beat up the other guy’s dad. Seriously. Toronto sucks…Winnipeg sucks…Toronto sucks…Winnipeg sucks.

For the record, I don’t think either city sucks. I just prefer not to live there. Or there.

At any rate, Veillette got up a whole lot of Peg noses with his pooh-poohing of the “True North!” tribal chant and calling it the “worst tradition in all of pro sports.” (I can think of at least one worse tradition—annually failing to win a professional shinny title for 50 years. Mind you, Veillette wouldn’t know much about Maple Leafs lethargy because he’s barely off his mother’s breast milk, so we shouldn’t confuse him for someone whose hockey knowledge extends beyond knowing Auston Matthews’ sweater number.)

What I wonder is why Peggers get so bent out of shape whenever some dude from the Republic of Tranna slags Pegtown. So Jeff Veillette isn’t fond of the tribal chant. Boo flipping hoo. You want to shout “True North!” then do it. Even if the rest of the country thinks it makes you sound like a bunch of doofuses. You and I know there’s plenty to like about good, ol’ Hometown, and if I can find time between sandbagging for the annual springtime flood and swatting mosquitoes I might be able to think of some of them. (Oh, relax. I’m just kidding. I don’t want or need Ol’ Lefty lobbing F-bombs in my direction.)

Barrie Colts coach Dale Hawerchuk

Really enjoyed the Sportsnet Q&A between Luke Fox and Jets legend Dale Hawerchuk. Ducky, head coach of the Barrie Colts in the Ontario Hockey League, provided some good insight on present-day Jets centre Rink Rat Scheifele: “He was a dream kid coming into junior hockey. His attitude surpasses so many people’s. He loves walking into the rink, grinning ear to ear, and can’t wait to work hard. He almost makes the coach’s job easier because he pushes the pace all the time, and everyone tries to keep up. People don’t know this: They think I really steered Winnipeg onto Mark. No. Winnipeg called me once. They said, ‘We just interviewed this kid. Is he really for real?’ That was their only question. I said, ‘Oh, ya. He’s the real deal.’ He blows you away when you meet him—you see the passion in his personality, and he brings it out in his game.”

I note the Jets have signed Sami Niku, a Finnish defenceman who weighs less than the food on Dustin Byfuglien’s dinner plate. Seriously. One hundred and 68 pounds? I guess that makes him Toby Lite. Not to worry, though. If the hockey thing doesn’t work out for Niku, they’re always looking for jockeys at Assiniboia Downs.

Speaking of the Downs, which went to the post for its 60th season on Sunday, there’s a 4-year-old filly out there called Dink of the Year. Who knew that someone would name a race horse after Ryan Kesler?

Paul (Mad Dog) Robson

Nice to see old friend and former newspaper colleague Bob Holliday earn the Historical Award for his work with the St. Vital Museum, and Paul Robson, my former bossman (publisher) at the Winnipeg Sun and one-time general manager of the Blue Bombers is to be invested into the Order of Manitoba. One day during his stewardship at the Sun, Robson overheard me mention that Troy Westwood, Bob Cameron and Chris Walby were “really good guys.” He stepped forward to join myself and a few other sports scribes in our little corner of the newsroom and said, “Let me tell you something about football players. They’re all a–holes. Every one of them. It’s just that some of them are bigger a–holes than the others. Don’t let those guys fool you into thinking they’re not a–holes.” That from a guy whose nickname when he played for the Bombers was Mad Dog. I still don’t agree with Robson. Westwood, Cameron and Walby were among the good guys in football. And so was Paul (he was also my favorite publisher).

Did I read Steve Simmons right? Did he actually label former players involved in a concussion lawsuit against the NHL “opportunists?” And they’re hopping on “an apparent gravy train?” Yup, that’s what he wrote. Farther down in his Postmedia column, however, he submits, “In my view, the current players are not properly protected by the NHL system.” I see. Former players whose coaches shoved them back onto the ice scant seconds after suffering head trauma (shake it off, kid; it’s a long way from your heart) are “opportunists” looking to make an easy buck, but it’s today’s players who are being mistreated. Seems to me there’s a least one sports writer who’s been concussed and needs to spend some time in the quiet room.

Patti Dawn Swansson has been scribbling about Winnipeg sports for 47 years, which means she’s old and probably should think about getting a life.

 


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Winnipeg Jets: From Big Buff to boffo biffies, these two ladies have the scoop

what if lady answer lady2

It’s a Triple H day because we have two Hens in the Hockey House—The What If Lady and The Answer Lady. 

Naturally, our favorite go-to girls have their pulse on all that matters in Jets Nation, including the uber significant issue of shorter beer lines and more potties at the Little Hockey House on the Prairie. Oh, yes, if there’s a point of discussion involving your Winnipeg Jets, the two ladies are—pardon the bad pun—flush with information about the National Hockey League outfit.

 

Take it away, ladies…

What If Lady: There are reports that Ondrej Pavelec showed up at training camp with a new body. What if his new body is as bad as his old body?

Answer Lady: Can you say Connor McDavid?

What If Lady: What if the Jets traded Pavelec to the Toronto Maple Leafs for James Reimer, even up?

Answer Lady: Toronto GM Dave Nonis would be out of a job, head coach Randy Carlyle would be out of a job and the Leafs would be drafting Connor McDavid next summer.

What If Lady: I really liked what I saw of that Nikolaj Ehlers kid at the rookie tournament in Penticton. He’s so fast. So skilled. He’s the Great Dane! What if he plays that well in the main camp?

Answer Lady: There’s only one thing preventing Ehlers from starting this season with the Jets—food. I mean, the kid’s a twig. Fear not, though. He’s a keeper. Not this year, but most likely next October after a year of mom’s home cooking has kicked in.

What If Lady: It sounds like Teemu Selanne really wanted to play another season. He said in his biography that he even considered signing with the Jets a year ago. What if Teemu had played for the Jets last season?

Answer Lady: He’d be Poh’d at Claude Noel and Paul Maurice instead of Bruce Boudreau, because they would have given all Teemu’s minutes to Chris Thorburn.

What If Lady: ESPN The Magazine ranks the Jets No. 97 out of the 122 major pro sports franchises in North America for fan experience. I think that really sucks. I doubt it if anyone from ESPN has ever been to a game in Winnipeg? What if someone from ESPN actually attended a game at the MTS Centre? Would our ranking go up?

Answer Lady: No, it would plummet to the bottom because the battery in the poor guy’s rental car would freeze during the game and he’d he’d get mugged by one of our charming citizen’s of no-fixed address while waiting for a tow truck.

What If Lady: Mark Scheifele and Jacob Trouba had really good rookie seasons. I don’t believe in a so-called Sophomore Jinx, but what if one or both of them regresses?

Answer Lady: I have spoken with my personal analytics department and the propeller heads assure me that there are Corsi reasons and Fenwick reasons why this will never happen. After crunching numbers, they say the % of probability is approximately = to the ratio of TOI divided by ESG + a certain % of salary cap against the balance of $ owed. It’s all Greek to me, but I believe the probability of both Scheifele and Trouba going into the tank is remote, but the possibility of one hitting the skids is high.

What If Lady: A lot of NHL teams created an analytics department or hired fancy-stats people this past summer. I didn’t hear anything about it from the Jets, though. What if they’ve missed the boat in this growing and increasingly important area of the business?

Answer Lady: I’m told Craig Heisinger is analyzing the analytics and Zinger will present his analysis of analytics to general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff as soon as he wakes up from his summer nap.

What If Lady: There’s been so much talk about the young players at camp this year. Guys like Nic Petan, Josh Morrissey, Nik Ehlers and Adam Lowry would give the Jets a whole new look if they make the big club. But what if youth isn’t served?

Answer Lady: Youth shall be served. His name is Adam Lowry. He’s a Western Conference forward—big and skilled. Get used to seeing him. You’ll like him.

What If Lady: Five teams from the Central Division made the playoffs last season—Chicago, St. Louis, Colorado, Dallas and Minnesota. I can’t see the Jets overhauling any of those clubs, so it looks like another non-playoff year in River City. What if they’re out of contention by the trade deadline?

Answer Lady: Say adios to Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd or Toby Enstrom. Take your pick.

What If Lady: Evander Kane sure seems to get in a lot of hot water over saying and doing the silliest, little things and he always seems to be the subject of trade rumors because of it. I have a personal theory that he does it just to provoke the media. So what if the media wise up to his shenanigans and stop writing and talking about the goofy stuff? What if they write and talk about his on-ice efforts only?

Answer Lady: Environment Canada will issue an emergency weather warning—hell has frozen over.

What If Lady: Evander has been bragging about scoring 50 goals in a season. I’m a big Kane fan, so I think that would be brilliant. But what if he only scores 19 again?

Answer Lady: Can you say Jack Eichel?

What If Lady: True North spent $6 million this summer for renovations to the MTS Centre, and that included a whack of new toilets. I hear they’re boffo biffies, but what a waste (pardon the bad pun). What if they had spent that money on another player or two instead?

Answer Lady: You want to talk about spending money on crap? Try $19.5 million on crappy goaltending. Try $3.6 million on a crappy fourth-line forward who belongs in the AHL. What’s another $6 million for a bunch of biffies when you’ve already tossed more than $20 million down the crapper on two players?

What If Lady: That’s kind of harsh. True but harsh.

Answer Lady: Okay, our work is done here for today. Let’s go check out those new toilets on the 300 Level. I’ve got some beer to get rid of.

What If Lady: Me too. Those shorter beer queues are simply marvy.

 

fish wrap

 

We now interrupt our regularly scheduled cheekiness to bring you this important weather alert: Hell hath frozen over.

That’s right, kids, at least one local news scavenger has discovered what some of us have known for quite some time—Evander Kane likes to yank the media’s chain.

Gary (La La) Lawless, who oft serves up heaping helpings of Kane-imosity, recently offered a fresh take on the Winnipeg Jets polorizing left winger, and he has decided to play nice. For now.

Kane spends the working portion of his life in Winnipeg,” girthsome Gary writes in his Winnipeg Free Press column. “When he’s here, he visits hospitals and donates time and money to helping others less fortunate than he. What else do we want from him? A signed affidavit he likes it here? Enough already.

Early on, Kane’s act caught some of us off guard and rubbed the wrong way at times. Over time, it’s become apparent that Kane is comfortable in the spotlight and not afraid to stir the pot with his well-followed Twitter and Instagram accounts.

The kid is cheeky. Give me his looks, youth, talent and money and the resulting sideshow would make Evander look like a wallflower.

Some of us, this writer included, need to offer up a bit of a mea culpa.

Kane is no villain, even if he sometimes likes to play one. And if you think he doesn’t know what he’s up to and isn’t aware of the reaction he’s about to produce, you haven’t been paying close attention. Kane is smart and calculating.”

As far as mea culpas go, I’d say that’s a good start. Well done, La La.

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.