What are the Winnipeg Jets afraid of…Big Buff a man of many words…no Sun in Twang Town…and a non-diving Dane

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

It’s almost Groundhog Day. Does that mean Grand Master Kevin Cheveldayoff is about to poke his head out of his hiding hole and do something? Or say something?

chevy
Grand Master Kevin Cheveldayoff

That would be refreshing, since the man who does Saint Mark Chipman’s bidding hasn’t done or said much of anything since shuffling Evander Kane and Zach Bogosian off to Buffalo. For those of you keeping score at home, that was almost 365 days ago.

Chevy is the Howard Hughes of National Hockey League general managers. A recluse. He is the anti-John Ferguson.

When Fergy was at the wheel during the Winnipeg Jets’ initial whirl in the NHL, he took ownership of his deeds. Good (hello, Dale Hawerchuk) or bad (hello, Jimmy Mann). He didn’t hide from the faithful or news scavengers. From the moment he arrived in River City from Gotham until the day he was asked to leave, Fergy was up front and loud. His was the face and voice of the franchise.

What we now have with Cheveldayoff and the present-day Jets is complete non-accountability.

If there is a face and/or voice to this franchise, I can’t see it or hear it. No one can. Cheveldayoff says less than a street mime. The Winnipeg Sun recently requested an audience with the Grand Master for its three-part, state-of-the-union series on the Jets and was told, “Sorry, no can do. Chevy’s too busy doing stuff that is none of your business or anybody else’s business.”

That is so lame.

What I find myself wondering is this: Is Cheveldayoff standoffish by nature, or is he under some sort of gag order issued by team co-bankroll Saint Mark? I mean, it’s one thing for Chipman to operate a secretive society that suckles at the public teat in the form of tax advantages/subsidies and gaming revenue, but this isn’t about True North Sports & Entertainment profits. It’s about a hockey team, one in which the community has invested deeply, whether through ticket/merchadise sales or emotions. What is he afraid of?

If Chipman hasn’t instructed Cheveldayoff to keep his lips zipped, what is the GM afraid of?

Answering a few questions in advance of a looming NHL trade deadline ought not be an option. It ought to be an obligation.

big buff
Big Buff

On a similar theme, it was interesting to read dispatches from this weekend’s NHL all-star hijinks in Twang Town, Tennessee, because we discovered a side of Dustin Byfuglien seldom, if ever, seen in Winnipeg. Turns out Big Buff is humorous, witty, glib and an all-round nice guy who seemingly enjoyed his 25-minute parry-and-thrust with hockey scribes on media day. That Nashville scene, of course, would never take place in River City, because the Jets are so freakish about controlling the message that they shield their players from prying eyes and ears. News scavengers aren’t granted the opportunity or time to get to know players like Byfuglien as people and, by extension, Joe and Josephine Phan are also left out of the loop. Shame, that.

Not surprisingly, the Big Buff chin wag referenced his contract negotiations with the Jets. The all-star rearguard and pending free agent was asked point blank if his desire was to remain in Winnipeg, and, while he had some favorable comments about good, ol’ Hometown, part of his reply likely left a few in Jets Nation a tad uneasy. “I just want to put on a jersey, to be honest with you.” He didn’t say a Jets jersey. Apparently, any NHL jersey will do. He later said, “I wouldn’t want to go anywhere else, but business is business.” Reminds me of the answer Evander Kane delivered in July 2014 when Team 1040 Radio in Vancouver quizzed him on his status with the Jets: “Well, I think, um, I’m a Winnipeg Jet right now and, um, you know there’s been speculation and rumors for the three years since I got there. You know, we’ll see what happens, and we’ll carry on as if I’m a Winnipeg Jet.” We all know how that ended.

Sad, but not surprising, that there’s no Winnipeg Sun presence in Nashville. The tabloid was served by the Toronto-based Michael Traikos of Postmedia and Mike Zeisberger of the Toronto Sun. Get used to it, people. Meanwhile, the Winnipeg Free Press has its own man, Tim Campbell, on site. Score one for the Freep.

Best reads this week were delivered by the Freep’s Paul Wiecek, whose piece on Saint Mark Chipman is superb. It’s Wiecek at his best and a prime example that the Free Press is well-served with him in the columnist’s seat. Meanwhile, the much-maligned John Scott told it like it is in a Players Tribune article that offers insight and humanizes one of the NHL’s dying breed—the enforcer.

Tell me if this is coincidence or an attitude adjustment: On Jan. 7, the NHL dinged Nikolaj Ehlers $2,000 for diving/embellishment. It meant he was a repeat offender. To that point in time, the diving Dane had scored six goals and 13 points in 40 games. Since the NHL dipped into his pay envelope, the Jets freshman winger has scored six goals and collected nine points in nine games. Apparently, Ehlers has concluded that staying on his feet is more productive than flopping around like a European soccer player. Skating alongside linemates not named Chris Thorburn likely helps, too.

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 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 in 2015.

 

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About cantankerous columnists…best burgers ever…lumberjacks…Eskimos…and a commish with his head up his something or other

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

waldorf and statler
Waldorf and Statler or Terry Jones and Steve Simmons?

The boys on the beat are not impressed with Pegtown’s pigskin party. Not by a long shot.

“My report card of Grey Cup Week in Winnipeg: Just so-so,” is how Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun describes the hijinks in River City leading up to Sunday’s argument over Canadian Football League bragging rights. “Not as much fun as Winnipeg usually is at Grey Cup time. A touch disappointing.”

Sounds like Little Stevie Blunder is as bored as some of his readers.

But, hey, perhaps the Edmonton Sun‘s been-there, done-everything wordsmith Terry Jones has a different, more favorable take on the preamble to the CFL championship skirmish between the Edmonton Don’t Call Them Eskimos and the Ottawa RougeNoir.

Nope.

“It was a Grey Cup Week that didn’t quite make it,” he harrumphs. “Maybe it was just because this is Winterpeg and folks are still thawing out from the Grey Cup here in 1991, the all-time record for ridiculous, the coldest Grey Cup ever played with a minus 16 degree game time temperature.”

And here I thought Statler and Waldorf were a couple of cantankerous, grumpy Muppet characters, not two flowers of Canadian sports prose.

vj'sActually, I hasten to point out that Grey Cup week was not a colossal waste of time for old friend Steve Simmons. During his stay, he stumbled upon a River City treasure—V.J.’s Drive Inn, a greasy spoon on south Main Street that serves up “great, I mean great, cheap lunches,” he tweets. Oh, yes, the way to a sports scribe’s heart is through his wallet (even when he has an expense account), and how convenient that V.J.’s is located no more than a Henry Burris Hail Mary pass from the Fort Garry Hotel, where you’ll find the official CFL media hospitality suite. What better way to wash down those greasy double cheeseburgers and fatty fries than with an endless supply of free booze? Party on, boys.

I worked Grey Cup games in every CFL city and, in terms of hoopla, the worst host towns were, by far, Toronto and Vancouver. In 1994, when American interlopers from Baltimore arrived on the West Coast with the single-minded purpose of taking the three-down game’s holy grail south of the border, colleague Ed Tait and myself were caught off guard by the indifference of locals, especially given the fact their B.C. Lions were to meet the Stallions from Maryland. One morning as we stepped outside the Westin Bayshore, an elderly gent noticed a gathering of out-of-towners in the lobby and asked, “Is there something important going on this week?” To which Tait replied, “Yes, the Grey Cup.” The old fellow then asked, “The Greek what?”

loggersportsSo, Football Follies Field in Fort Garry has been declared a chainsaw-free zone when the Don’t Call Them Eskimos and les RougeNoir grab grass and growl in the 103rd Grey Cup game. That is to say, the Ottawa tradition of punctuating a touchdown by lumberjacks/jills sawing a log has been forbidden by the CFL. Loyalists of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers simply cannot understand this directive. I mean, Big Blue fans are usually seen sawing logs by halftime at every home game.

If the deep-thinkers in Edmonton wanted to do something positive, they would worry a lot less about lumberjacks and listen a lot more to Natan Obed, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami. Obed is the mouthpiece for Canada’s 60,000 Inuit, and he’s of the opinion that the name Eskimos is both outdated and offensive. What would a renamed Edmonton CFL outfit be called? Well, I suppose we can rule out Lumberjacks. So, what is Edmonton best known for, other than trading away the greatest scoring machine in National Hockey League history? A big mall and not much else, really. Tough call when the best the locals can say about their own burg is “at least it isn’t Winnipeg.”

Apparently, CFL commissioner Jeffrey Orridge has been doing his grand poobahing with his head up the part of his anatomy that he sits on. Not until his inaugural Grey Cup chin-wag with the country’s football media the other day did the commish realize that there exists a barrier between the wants and needs of news scavengers and the control-freak messaging of the league’s nine member outfits. He vowed to address the matter of limited media access “if that’s an issue.” If? If? If? Yo! Commish! You have a head coach in Winnipeg, Mike O’Shea, who cannot answer a question without first watching the film, and he duct tapes his assistant coaches like they’re part of a Flashpoint hostage-taking. What part of that do you not understand?

No surprise that old friend Ed Tait would serve up the best read during Grey Cup week in Pegtown. His piece on the Blue Bombers circa 1980s-early1990s in the Winnipeg Free Press is boffo stuff. It is to Grey Cup coverage what V.J.’s is to the double cheeseburgers and fries. Worth every cent.

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.

 

Sam Katz buys the Winnipeg Jets and other stories you’ll read (or not) in 2015

Read all about it! Before it happens!

That’s right, kids, we’ve gone crystal ball gazing and we see considerable intrigue and unrest during the next 12 months, not the least of which is the sale of the Winnipeg Jets. Here are some of the stories you’ll be reading (or not) in 2015…

  • EDMONTON— The Edmonton Oilers have won the draft lottery but traded the first overall pick to the Winnipeg Jets in exchange for Evander Kane, Ondrej Pavelec, Dustin Byfuglien and future considerations.

The decision has been heavily criticized, with a headline in the Edmonton Sun screaming: “OILERS PUNK’D OUR DRAFT!”

“We did nothing of the sort!” an angry Oilers general manager Craig MacTavish raged an hour before being fired. “That’s typical trash tabloid journalism! I realize the easy thing to do and the right thing to do would have been to keep the No. 1 pick and use it to take either Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel. But sometimes doing the right thing is the wrong thing and, for us, doing the wrong thing is the right thing to do. Besides, if anybody can screw up a draft with both McDavid and Eichel in it, it’s Kevin Lowe and myself. We don’t need the headache. We might never use our first-round draft again.”

Kane, meanwhile, was delighted to be leaving Winnipeg.

“Sweet,” he said before dashing off to take care of unpaid parking tickets. “Edmonton is a lot closer to Vegas.”

  • WINNIPEG—The Winnipeg Jets have selected Connor McDavid with the No. 1 pick and presented him with jersey No. 10, with Dale Hawerchuk’s blessing.

“That’s just ducky,” the modest McDavid said during a signing ceremony at Portage and Main. “They wanted to give me No. 9 now that Evander is gone, but I thought that would be disrepectful. The No. 9 is a storied number in Winnipeg Jets history. I’ve got a lot to prove and a long way to go before anyone can call me the next Doug Smail.”

  • WINNIPEG—The future considerations in the big Edmonton Oilers-Winnipeg Jets trade is Chris Thorburn.

“You know how when you’re a young guy and you go out drinking with the boys? And then you wake up the next morning beside some chick you’ve never seen before? And there’s a tattoo of a heart with her name on it on your ass and you say, ‘What the hell have I done?’ ” Jets GM Kevin (The Possum) Cheveldayoff said at a press gathering. “Well, I woke up this morning and realized that Thorbs’s contract was the tattoo on my ass. I mean, three years at $1.2 mill per? What was I thinking? We’ll miss Thorbs in the room…wait…actually we won’t.”

  • LAS VEGAS—The season ticket drive for a proposed team in Las Vegas has stalled at 37 people, but the city has been awarded a National Hockey League franchise, nonetheless. Team officials are ecstatic.

“This gives us three more season ticket subscribers than the Florida Panthers and five more than the Arizona Coyotes,” said a team spokesman. “We can’t wait to start losing $25-to-$30 million a year.”

  • LAS VEGAS—Owners of the Las Vegas franchise have announced that the team name will be Craps. After a name-the-team contest, the most popular suggestions are Black Jacks, Rat Pack, Gamblers, Sinners, Bandits, Slots, Strip, Caesars, Snake Eyes and Craps. The expansion club’s 37 season ticket holders chose Craps.

“It’s only appropriate that the team be called Craps,” a club spokesman explained while working a one-armed bandit at Caesar’s Palace. “First of all, putting a team in Sin City is a real gamble. It’s a roll of the dice, so to speak! Secondly, once the rest of the league offers us their rejects in the expansion draft, what do you think our roster will look like? The absolute shits, that’s what it’ll look like! Craps!”

  • LAS VEGAS—The winner of the Name-the-Vegas Team contest has received a lifetime pass to every Celine Dion show on the Strip until the end of time.

“Can I get tickets to see David Copperfield make her disappear instead?” he asked.

  • TORONTO—After more than 30 years preaching from his bully pulpit on Hockey Night in Canada, Don Cherry has been fired following a rant in which he referred to Daniel and Henrik Sedin of the Canucks as “those two tooty-fruities in Vancouver.”

“What are you saying, Don?” asked Ron MacLean. “That the Sedins are gay?”

“You take it any way you want!” barked Cherry. “They’re two tooty-fruities in a tooty-fruity TOWN! Ya been to Vancouver lately? Nobody workin’…everybody smokin’ wacky-tobbacky…everybody kissy-huggin’ trees and little rodents…protestin’…and look what they did ta the joint after the Stanley Cup final in 2011! Almost burnt the joint ta THE GROUND! That was a DISGRACE! People all over the world saw that on TV and everythink…that’s what they think we’re like in Canada! A bunch of pot-smokin’ layabouts who like to play WITH MATCHES!”

Asked for a comment, a visibly shaken HNIC host George Stromboloupoouloulouloupooulous moaned, “The body’s not even cold yet and the scavengers are already plucking at the carcass. (Glenn) Healy wants Grapes’s Coach’s Corner gig and P.J. Stock wants his wardrobe. It’s going to get ugly around here. And I’m not talking about what Damien Cox sees in the mirror.”

  • WINNIPEG—Mega-billionaire David Thomson has sold his shares in the Winnipeg Jets to former mayor Sam Katz, who immediately engaged in a very public spat over the team name with co-owner Mark Chipman.

“I’ve never liked the name Jets,” said Katz, “and if you were to inject Mark with truth serum he’d tell you the very same thing. He only named the team Jets due to extreme pressure from fans. The guy caved. No spine. It was stupid to name the team after the original version of the Jets just because that’s what the majority of the people wanted. Who the hell cares what the fans think? I was mayor of this town for 10 years and I didn’t give a damn what the people wanted. I did what I wanted. And I want a new team name because the original Jets left town in 1996.”

Reminded by news scavengers that he named his baseball team Goldeyes, 30 years after the original Goldeyes disappeared from River City’s sports landscape, Katz remained defiant.

“If there’s one thing I learned a long time ago when I was bringing acts like the Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney to town,” he says, “it’s that what you say and what you do don’t have to be mutually agreeable. Just because I say I’ll do something doesn’t mean I’ll do something. That’s simple Politics 101.”

  • WINNIPEG—The Winnipeg Jets have become the first NHL team to place major ads on their uniforms, with a big, bold 7-Eleven Slurpee logo across the front of their jerseys.

“I think it’s a perfect fit for Winnipeg,” said co-owner Sam Katz. “This is the Slurpee capital of not only Canada, but North America and the entire world. As a former mayor of this town, I can confirm that no place sucks like Winnipeg! I also think there’s perfect symmetry, in that our corporate sponsors and Ondrej Pavelec’s save percentage are exactly the same—.711.”

  • WINNIPEG—The Winnipeg Sun has taken over from the Winnipeg Free Press as the “official newspaper of the Winnipeg Jets,” and there’s mixed reaction.

“This is awful news,” said Sun sports columnist Paul Friesen. “Now that we’re in bed with the Jets, do they expect me to become a toady for the hockey team, Thursday? Do I have to write that Kevin Cheveldayoff is a genius, Friday? This is the worst thing that’s happened to me since they asked me to write the annual Night Before Christmas column, Saturday.”

“This is great news,” said Freep sports columnist Gary Lawless. “Now that we’re not in bed with the Jets anymore, I can write mean and nasty stuff just like Friesen’s been doing all these years. Let him be the toady. I can say what I really, really, really think of Kevin Cheveldayoff and his dumb draft-and-develop plan. This is the best thing that’s happened to me since second helpings.”

“What do you think would be tougher to take?” asked Freep beat writer Ed Tait. “Somebody who’s wearing hob-nailed boots kicking you in the nuts, or watching a new Adam Sandler movie? I know that has nothing to do with the Free Press no longer being the official newspaper of the Jets, but I often think about things like hobnail boots and Adam Sandler movies when I watch the Jets play. I’m a happy camper either way.”

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.