About Rink Rat Scheifele and the Hart Trophy…Lites out for Dallas Stars…Humpty Harold Ballard’s harrumphing…Fergy hurling B. Hull under the bus…firing the coach mid-game…dumb Canadians and dumber Americans…and wrinkles in the broadcast booth

The final Sunday smorgas-bored of the year…and congratulations to all you men out there who began your Christmas shopping at 3 p.m. on Christmas eve and managed to finish before closing time at the mall. You are a credit to your species, such as it is…

Rink Rat Scheifele

It is with more than a smidgen of skepticism that I note the well-meaning boys on the beat have begun to pump Rink Rat Scheifele’s tires.

Ken Wiebe of the Winnipeg Sun describes him as “a bona fide Hart Trophy candidate.”

Jason Bell of the Winnipeg Free Press writes: “If the Jets maintain their altitude in the NHL standings, the 26-year-old from Kitchener, Ont., simply must be in the Hart Trophy conversation as the most valuable player.”

Bell’s accomplice at the Drab Slab, Mike McIntyre, joins the hallelujah chorus by scribbling, “No doubt Scheifele is a contender right now for the most coveted trophy in the sport.”

Connor McDavid

Yes, it’s all rah-rah-rah and sis-boom-bah for the Good Ol’ Hometown hero.

Trouble is, I have yet to hear the “Mark Scheifele for MVP” rallying cry from beyond Manitoba’s boundaries. Mostly, the Winnipeg Jets centre is mentioned in passing while scribes and broadcasters deliver gobsmacking praise for the work of Mikko Rantanen, Nathan MacKinnon, Ovie, Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, Mitch Marner, John Gibson, Johnny Gaudreau and, of course, Connor McDavid.

I’m not saying the Rink Rat doesn’t belong in the conversation, understand. I’m just saying he isn’t feeling the love hither and yon.

Mmmmmm, fast food.

Frankly, the Hart Trophy ought not be a talking point these days, but I suppose news snoops and opinionists were looking for something to write and gab about during the Christmas lull and before we embark on the dog days of the National Hockey League season. So, okay, let’s have at it. The most valuable player is McDavid. I mean, remove McMagnifique from the Edmonton Oilers lineup and the Oil would disappear faster than a Big Mac and a bucket of KFC on Air Force One. The same can’t be said about any of the other “candidates,” including Scheifele.

Jamie Benn, Jim Lites, Tyler Seguin

That wasn’t just a bus that Jim Lites hurled Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin under the other day. It was the entire Greyhound fleet. If you missed it, here’s what the Dallas Stars CEO had to say about his two top-salaried players (reader advisory: includes harsh language): “They are fucking horse shit, I don’t know how else to put it. We are a stars-driven league, and our stars aren’t getting it done. These guys are not good enough. They’re not good enough for me, they’re not good enough for the owner, and they’re certainly not good enough for the general manager.” That, be advised, was after a win. Good grief, what does the guy do after a loss? Pluck the wings off house flies? Kick small dogs? Force his players to listen to Celine Dion albums?

Humpty Harold

The thing that surprised me about the Lites rant was the reaction from hockey pundits (hello Nick Kypreos) who can’t recall anyone in NHL management/ownership going off on a player.

What, they’ve already forgotten about Humpty Harold Ballard?

Not much pleased Humpty Harold, the cranky and cartoonish crook who once bankrolled the Tranna Maple Leafs. He harbored a particularly strong distaste for female reporters (“If they want to take their clothes off and talk to the players, fine. But I warn them they’ll have a lot more trouble getting out than they did getting in.”), and he had no patience for timid hockey players. He lashed out at his workers as frequently as a priest prays, and Humpty Harold’s harrumphing always was on public record.

Of Inge Hammarstrom, Ballard once said the slick Swedish forward “could go into the corner with a dozen eggs in his pocket and not break any of them.” Laurie Boschman, one of the nicest kids you could meet, was “soft” because he had “too much religion.” It didn’t matter to Humpty Harold that young Laurie had been laid low with mononucleosis and blood poisoning. Bosch, he reasoned, was a known Bible thumper, ergo a wimp. Not surprisingly, neither Hammarstrom or Boschman lasted long in the Republic of Tranna.

Bobby Hull and John Ferguson

Closer to home, John Bowie Ferguson hurled Bobby Hull under the Greyhound early in the 1979-80 season, the Jets first in the NHL.

Hull, then 40, had come in from the cattle farm to end his retirement, and he struggled mightily due to rust and a wonky left shoulder. His personal numbers were modest (four goals, six assists in 18 starts) and the club functioned better without the Golden Jet in the lineup (6-7-1) than with him (5-10-3). So I called Fergy at home one night to get his take on Hull. Turns out it was a hot take.

“No, I don’t think Bobby has helped our hockey club at all,” the Jets general manager said with the bluntness of a sledge hammer. “Something is missing. He really is a very undisciplined hockey player and I don’t know if he can adapt. That freewheeling style would be fine if it was getting results. But it’s not.”

Hull never pulled on Jets linen again.

I recall one other public flogging, in the Western Canada Hockey League. Gerry Brisson, president and general manager of the Winnipeg Clubs, removed head coach George Dorman from behind the bench during the middle of a game! True story. It was November 1975. The Flin Flon Bombers were laying a licking on the Clubs, leading 4-1 through 40 minutes, and Brisson had seen enough. He therefore instructed Dorman to observe the final period from the pews in the old barn on Maroons Road, replacing him with the team trainer, Adam Tarnowski, who knew as much about coaching hockey as a cow knows about climbing trees. “I did it for shock value,” Brisson said after the fact. Didn’t work. His Clubs lost 5-2. More shocking than Dorman getting yanked in-game? He kept his job. That is correct. Brisson embarrassed the hell out of Dorman by forcing him to sit among the rabble, but he didn’t fire his coach. Go figure.

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir

I believe we have arrived at the end of the annual, year-end trinket giveaway for Jocks and Jills in the True North Strong and Free, and the best of our best during the past 12 months—as decreed by news snoops from the left to right flank of the land—are golfer Brooke Henderson, fancy skaters Tessa Virtue/Scott Moir and moguls skier Mikael Kingsbury. Any arguments? You bet. The girls and boys at The Canadian Press got it right by naming Henderson and Kingsbury the top female and male athletes and Virtue/Moir the best team, but those who voted for the Lou Marsh Trophy coughed up a hair ball. Henderson, not Kingsbury, should have won.

Brooke Henderson

Here’s why we shouldn’t take the Lou Marsh Trophy seriously: It’s a total clown act. I mean, consider Cathal Kelly of the Globe and Mail. He stumped for tennis player Daniel Nestor, who went 0-for-2018 and quit. Kelly’s boss, sports editor Shawna Richer, had a hissy fit when she couldn’t vote for a team (Virtue/Moir) as the winner of an individual award, so she left her ballot blank.

Then there’s Steve Simmons of Postmedia Tranna. He squawked in support of Connor McDavid, Kingsbury and Marc-Andre Fleury (really?), and pooh-poohed any notion that Henderson should be declared our top athlete. Why? Because lady golfers just don’t rate.

“The LPGA Tour is primarily a one-country pursuit,” he said on TSN radio. “You look at the leaderboards every single week and it’s the same country and it’s the same golfers and it’s the same five or six women. It is so Korean dominated there’s not even any other country that competes, compares.”

This is a guy who clearly does not have a clue, yet he has a vote. Here are some numbers from the LPGA Tour in 2018:

Wins by country: U.S.A., 9; South Korea 9; Thailand, 5; Canada, Japan 2 each; Australia, New Zealand, U.K., Sweden, Mexico 1 each.

Winners: 26 different champions in 32 events.

Multiple winners: 4 (Canadian, Japanese, Thai, South Korean).

Money leaders: Top 20—7 Americans, 5 South Koreans, 2 Thai, 2 Australian, 1 Canadian, Japanese, Spanish, English; Top 50—19 Americans, 10 Koreans; Top 100—34 Americans, 18 Koreans.

Clearly Henderson competes in a sport that is far more global than moguls skiing, and it is dominated by Americans moreso than South Koreans. These facts aren’t difficult to dig up, but Simmons has never been one to let facts get in the way of a misguided rant.

Oh, let’s not forget that the Postmedia chain of bare-bones sports departments anointed Henderson and soccer player Alphonso Davies as the top jocks in the land. Please give Postmedia CEO and noted skinflint Paul Godfrey a quarter and tell him to call someone who cares.

Serena Williams

Staying with the dumb and dumber theme, The Associated Press voters totally lost the plot in selecting Serena Williams and LeBron James as 2018 top jocks in Trumpland. Seriously. Exactly what did Williams do in 2018? Well, she put on a catsuit at the French Open and, a few months later, staged one of the most demonstrative, appalling, pathetic pity party’s in the history of professional sports. When not busy putting a horrible damper on Naomi Osaka’s U.S. Open victory, Williams won zero tournaments and was 18-6 overall. Meanwhile, gymnast Simone Biles won gold (four), silver (1) and bronze (1) medals at the world championships. Like Williams, King James won zip, yet still got the nod over Mookie Betts of the Boston Red Sox. The Mookster was the American League batting champion, the AL most valuable player, a Gold Glove winner, a Silver Slugger winner, and a World Series champion. That’s the baseball version of a royal flush. But, sorry Mookie, that just doesn’t cut it. And I thought our jock journos had dumbed down.

Doris Burke

And, finally, I’ll end the final Sunday smorgas-bored of the year with a quote from ESPN hoops broadcaster Doris Burke: “I promise you I’m not having plastic surgery. I’m 52. I’ve earned every wrinkle on my face. I actually like my wrinkles. And guess what? There are a lotta 60-year-old men who have wrinkles, no hair, glasses, and nobody gives a damn. It’s about time that woman my age or above, if she chooses to go into her 60s as an announcer, she should be allowed to do just that.”

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.