Let’s talk about the Summer of Chevy…the Atlanta cartel’s greybeards…rose-colored glasses on press row…winners and losers…Bogo-for-Roslo…grading the wannabes…the Winnipeg Jets road show…an ace for John Paddock…CFL stuff…gay power…and garbage

A Tuesday morning smorgas-bored…and I’m still a free agent but my phone still ain’t ringing and there ain’t no offer sheets on the way

Let me guess. You’re underwhelmed.

I mean, the National Hockey League annual grab bag of teenage talent has come and gone, the frenzy that is Day 1 of free agency is behind us, Tyler Myers and Brandon Tanev are memories, the return on Jacob Trouba was scant, and there’s a hole the size of Don Cherry’s ego on the right side of the Winnipeg Jets’ defence.

Chevy

In other words, the Summer of Chevy is unfolding as expected.

Kevin Cheveldayoff is paid to generally manage les Jets, but what we have here is an example of the tail wagging the dog. The system now dictates his every move. He was forced to deal Trouba. He was forced to watch Myers and Tanev skate away as UFAs on Monday. He’ll be forced to make Patrik Laine, Kyle Connor and Andrew Copp mega-millionaires. He might be forced to unload useful workers and, perhaps, elite talent. And, unless he can find a sucker or two, he’s stuck with some contracts that will grow old in a hurry, if they haven’t already (read: Byfuglien, Dustin; Wheeler, Blake; Little, Bryan).

In short, it’s a fine mess Chevy and Puck Pontiff Mark Chipman have gotten themselves into.

Bryan Little

Granted, there’s still much heavy lifting in front of Chevy, and the rabble can always hope that he has a bit of Harry Houdini in him. Or that he can find some hats with rabbits inside. For now, though, it looks like the third defence pairing in October will be a couple of guys named Wing and A Prayer.

And to think, a year ago Winnipeg HC was viewed as a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. Today they’d be lucky to win a cup of soup.

Chevy and the Puck Pontif (on the rare occasions when he’s spoken) have used up considerable oxygen reciting and trumpeting their draft-and-develop mantra. Which is fine. Except for all the good work their bird dogs have done identifying blue-chip kids, the braintrust is doing everything else all wrong.

Big Buff

That is, Chevy and the Puck Pontiff haven’t been building around Rink Rat Scheifele, Josh Morrissey, Twig Ehlers, Kyle Connor, Patrik Laine and the departed Jacob Trouba. They’ve been building around the aforementioned Byfuglien, Wheeler and Little. They still are. And that’s totally bass ackwards.

Let’s forget for a moment what’s in their pay envelopes. Think term. Do you realize that Twig Ehlers is the only player—that’s right, just one!—with a longer-term contract than Wheeler and Little (both five years)? They’re 33 and 32 years old. No defender has more term than Big Buff (two more years). He’s 34. Those are the deals that Chevy and the Puck Pontiff continue to build around. And, now that it’s time to pay the piper in the form of re-ups for Puck Finn, Connor and Copp, those ill-advised contracts with their no-movement and no-trade addendums are in the way.

Blake Wheeler

Wheeler, of course, is fresh off repeat 91-point seasons, so he isn’t spent, but if he keeps producing at that level into his shinny dotage someone will demand he pee in a bottle. That is to say, at some point his numbers have to drop faster than F-bombs at a stag. Big Buff, meanwhile, is a necessary evil now that Trouba and Myers have skipped town, and we all know Little is no longer a No.-2 centre. It’s just that Chevy ignores that obvious flaw until he gets his annual wakeup call before the NHL shop-and-swap deadline, at which time he’s moved to squander a first-round draft choice for a two-month rental.

Look, I concede there’s value to thirtysomething hockey players. I just don’t think a guy should be at the front end of a five-year term once his chin whiskers turn grey. And they certainly can’t be considered building blocks.

Like I said, it’s bass ackwards.

I don’t know if it’s just me, but I find it interesting that Wheeler, Little and Big Buff are the only remnants of the Atlanta cartel that arrived in 2011. I’m not sure what that means, but it occurs to me that they’ve been coddled from the get-go. Just saying.

Looks like a couple of boys on the beat have been swilling the Jets Kool-Aid. Both Ken Wiebe of the Winnipeg Sun and Murat Ates of The Athletic used the same word to describe how we should view Chevy’s do-nothing handiwork—patience. Wiebe acknowledged that Winnipeg HC is in retreat mode, but he managed to find a silver lining in that cloud: “Reclaiming some semblance of underdog status probably suits the Jets just fine.” (I don’t even know what the hell that means.) He then stressed “the importance of patience for a small-market organization like the Jets.” Ates provided the backup vocals, opining, “I believe Cheveldayoff’s best play is to show patience.” Wow. I’ve gotta get me a pair of those rose-tinted glasses.

What say you, Pierre McGuire? Give us your take on the Summer of Chevy. “This pains me to say this, ’cause I think Kevin Cheveldayoff and all the people in Winnipeg have done a phenomenal job with their group,” the TSN natterbug said when asked to identify a “loser” on Day 1 of NHL free agency. “That being said, James (Duthie) talked about losing people, when you lose Jacob Trouba for nothing, basically, when you lose Tyler Myers for nothing, when you lose Tanev for nothing, you lose Kevin Hayes for a fifth-round pick, you’re losing a lot. That hasn’t even addressed Ben Chiarot yet. So that could be a lot of losses. Winnipeg is not as good. They’re not as good as they were a year ago.” Some of us feel your pain, Pierre.

Evander Kane

Remember old friend Evander Kane? Of course you do. Chevy shipped out the young winger in February 2015 (along with Zach Bogosian and Jason Kasdorf) and received a handful of live bodies in barter with the Buffalo Sabres—Tyler Myers, Drew Stafford, Brendan Lemieux, Joel Armia—plus a draft pick he turned into Jack Roslovic. Myers is now a member of the Vancouver Canucks, which means Chevy has Roslovic to show for that transaction and Buffalo has Bogo. Would any of us take Roslo for Bogo today? I would.

Craig Button

TSN scout-in-residence, Craig Button, isn’t as high on les Jets top prospects as you might be. Naming Ville Heinola, Dylan Samberg, Kristian Vesalainen, Mason Appleton, Logan Stanley, David Gustafsson, Simon Lundmark, Mikhail Berdin, Declan Chisholm and Santeri Vertanen as the top-10 wannabes, he gives Chevy’s bird dogs a B-minus for their work, worse than every Canadian club except the Calgary Flames, also a B-minus.

“Winnipeg’s list is populated by prospects projected to be middle-six, bottom-half-of-the-lineup NHLers,” he says.

Here’s how Button rates them:

Montreal:    A+
Edmonton:  B+
Ottawa:       B+
Vancouver:  B
Toronto:      B
Calgary:      B-
Winnipeg:   B-.

This is interesting: According to NBC, the Edmonton McDavids, your Winnipeg Jets and the Tranna Maple Leafs are the top road draws in the NHL, with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philly Flyers rounding out the top five. And here I thought the Royal Winnipeg Ballet was the best road show out of River City.

Hey, check it out. Old friend John Paddock scored a hole-in-one on the 12th at Clear Lake on the weekend. You’ll remember good, ol’ John as a terrific guy, but also the man who had the bad manners to ship Teemu Selanne to the Disney Ducks back in the day. The former Jets GM accepted Oleg Tverdovsky, Chad Kilger and a third-round draft pick in barter for Teemu, Marc Chouinard and a fourth-rounder. “In hindsight would you do it differently? Of course you would,” Paddock, now GM of the Regina Pats, told ESPN a few years ago. “But that’s hindsight. The owners talked about budget and contracts and trying to get a defenceman…and there was a health concern with Teemu…there were different factors.” Some of us were concerned for John’s health after that trade.

Mike Reilly

Let’s play Jeopardy! Your category: The Canadian Football League after Week 3.

Clue: This is what $2.9 million buys you these days. Answer: What is a zero-3 record?
B.C. Lions bankroll David Braley coughed up large coin for starting QB Mike Reilly, and I’m guessing he’s given more than a fleeting thought to a do-over. A donut in the W column and a 2,124 drop in attendance for the home opener can’t be what he had in mind.

Bo Levi Mitchell

Clue: Rub-a-dub-dub, three men in an ice tub. Answer: Who are Zach Collaros, Antonio Pipkin and Bo Levi Mitchell?
Three starting quarterbacks down due to owies, six to go. At this rate, we can expect to see TSN natterbugs Matt Dunigan and Hank Burris back in pads and flinging the football by mid-August.

Clue: Seen mostly in B.C., Toronto, Montreal and, now, Edmonton. Answer: What are empty seats?
If the Eskimos didn’t perform in such a monstrosity of a stadium, the optics wouldn’t be so bad. But when you put 23,639 into a 60,081 facility, there’s more empty space than in Homer Simpson’s head. That’s not what Prairie football is supposed to look like.

Got a kick out of Megan Rapinoe’s comments after the Americans’ 2-1 women’s World Cup quarterfinal win v. France: “Go gays. You can’t win a championship without gays on your team, it’s never been done before, ever. That’s science right there.” Seems ridiculous, but Megan makes a valid point as it relates to the World Cup. The website Outsports advises us that there are 40 out lesbians/bisexuals playing, coaching or on team support staff in France, and 19 of them are on sides that reached the last four—U.S. (6), England (3), the Netherlands (5) and Sweden (5). So it’s a fact: You can’t win without gays.

And, finally, a ship carrying 1,500 tons of Canadian garbage arrived on our shores last week, but there’s no truth to the rumor that Chevy was there to meet it and look for defencemen.

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About TSN’s Cult of Johnny and the glorification of an NFL washout…did someone’s dog die?…teeny-boppers in the broadcast booth…scary numbers and ignoring domestic violence…good stuff from the Freep’s Jeff Hamilton and Andrew Harris…jocks and journos telling fibs…swimming with the fishes…paying Bogo but not Trouba…getting paid to eat popcorn…and Oscar Madison

I cannot survive in a 140- or 280-character world, so here are more tweets that grew up to be too big for Twitter…

Johnny Frat Boy

TSN no longer has football broadcast teams. It has a cult. The Cult of Johnny.

Or perhaps it’s a church. The Church of Latter Day Frat Boys. Johnny Manziel being the Saint in Residence.

Whatever the case, all the natterbugs on TSN football want to talk about is Johnny Manziel. So let’s talk about Johnny Manziel.

He beat up a woman and threatened to kill her. Full stop.

At least it should be a full stop, because once you’ve said a man has beaten up a woman and threatened to kill her, you’ve told me everything I need to know about that man. I don’t need to hear about Manziel’s frat-boy partying, the drugs, the booze and the skirt chasing. He beat up a woman and threatened to snuff out her life. And his life. ‘Nuff said.

The shame is, the Canadian Football League ignores it. The Hamilton Tiger-Cats ignored it. The Montreal Alouettes are ignoring it. Ditto TSN and most mainstream sports media. The folks who repeatedly chanted “We want Johnny! We want Johnny!” at Percival Molson Stadium in Montreal on Thursday night ignore it.

Colleen Crowley

It’s as if Colleen Crawley doesn’t exist. Like she’s a fictional character in an Agatha Christie or John Grisham crime novel.

But Crawley is very real. She’s the woman Manziel beat up and threatened to kill. No one in the CFL ivory tower has ever spoken to her about her night of terror, as Manziel raged and roughed her up. Nor has anyone at TSN. They don’t care about Colleen Crawley.

All they care about is whether or not the Montreal Alouettes quarterback can throw a tight spiral.

Johnny Frat Boy has yet to fling a football in a three-down game that matters, but that hasn’t prevented TSN and others from unabashedly glorifying him. If anything, it’s encouraged them to chatter more about the National Football League washout.

In the leadup to the Als-Edmonton Eskimos match on Thursday, the main TSN web page featured six Johnny Manziel videos on Tuesday morning. There were another four on Wednesday. Five more on game day. In the TSN pre-match nattering, ever-beaming host Kate Beirness and the panel—Henry Burris, newby Jim Barker and Milt Stegall—spent the better part of 25 minutes gasbagging about Manziel before even mentioning the Eskimos, who, oh by the way, rag-dolled les Alouettes, 44-23.

Kate Beirness

By the end of the night, after Larks head coach Mike Sherman had displayed the good sense to keep Manziel confined to the sidelines, Beirness had wiped away her smile like faulty makeup. She was in distress, if not PO’d.

“Even though Mike Sherman told us we would see Johnny Manziel on Thursday night, we did not,” she pouted, her face as long as Johnny Frat Boy’s litany of trespasses. “He did not take a single snap. We have not seen Johnny Football in a regular-season pro football game since December 2015, and we will have to wait just a little bit longer.”

It was as if her dog had died. I swear, I could hear a Merle Haggard hurtin’ song playing in the background.

Good grief.

Rod Smith, Jim Barker, Matt Dunigan, Milt Stegall

If TSN’s shameful fawning and obsessing with Manziel on Thursday didn’t turn enough stomachs, the boys were at it again the following night. Rod Smith and the three chatterboxes sitting to his left—Davis Sanchez, Matt Dunigan and Stegall—mentioned Johnny Rotten four times in the first two minutes (and five times total) during their chin-wag prior to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers-Tranna Argonauts joust. Color commentator Glen Suitor, meanwhile, felt obliged to talk about him toward the end of the match. Well, let’s file that under WTF. I mean, Manziel was 1,800 kilometres and two provinces to the east of Pegtown, most likely cruising Crescent Street in Montreal. So why was he part of the conversation? The TSN boys are acting like 1970s teeny-boppers waiting for a David Cassidy concert. Get a grip, for gawd’s sake.

Manziel enablers and apologists might be interested in some disturbing, scary facts from the Canadian Women’s Foundation: Approximately every six days, a woman in Canada is killed by her intimate partner; in 2014, 80 per cent of the victims of police-reported intimate partner homicides were women; 80 per cent of dating victims are women. And one study, conducted between 2011 and 2014, found that domestic violence calls in Calgary were 15 per cent higher when the Stampeders played the Eskimos and increased to 40 per cent when the Stamps were in the Grey Cup game. But, hey, let’s ignore the facts and root, root, root for a guy who beat up a woman.

Johnny Manziel and his guard dog June Jones.

Most asinine comment I heard or read about Manziel last week was delivered by Marc Dumont of The Athletic Montreal. He wrote: “Canadians can indeed be a forgiving people, finding empathy for those dealing with issues like substance abuse, but we rarely ignore incredibly serious issues like domestic violence.” Rarely ignore? I call total BS on that. TSN has been unrelenting and unapologetic in its campaign to get Johnny Rotten on the football field, completely disregarding the reality that he terrorized and beat up a woman. At Manziel’s intro presser after he signed with the Tiger-Cats, head coach June Jones shut down any conversation about domestic violence. And the Canadian sports media gave convicted woman-beater Floyd Mayweather a complete pass when he surfaced in the Republic of Tranna to tub-thump his farce of a fist-fight with Conor McGregor last year.

Andrew Harris

It’s not often that I lend an ear to podcasts, but Jeff Hamilton’s recent chit-chat with Winnipeg Blue Bombers running back Andrew Harris was definitely worth a listen.

Hamilton, one of the CFL beat boys at the Winnipeg Free Press, asked Harris to weigh in on the Jacob Trouba saga, which resulted in the young Winnipeg Jets defenceman receiving a $5.5 million salary award from a National Hockey League arbitrator after contract negotiations ground to a halt.

“Most players have an inflated vision of what they’re worth, and, in a sense, you should,” said Harris, who defected from the B.C. Lions to join Winnipeg FC in 2016. “You realize how much you put out there, how much work you put in, and all the things you go throughout a season and through a career. Ultimately, you want to get compensated for that.

“You’re gonna get paid this amount of money for a short period of time, maybe 10 per cent, or 15 per cent, or 20 per cent of your whole life will be playing professional sports, so you’ve gotta maximize that to the full potential. But I think a lot of guys ruin a good thing after asking for too much money or going for places because they’re getting paid a certain amount when it’s not a good fit for them. A good fit within their system, within the community, within the lockerroom…it definitely can ruin a lot of careers just wanting more money or going where the grass is greener.

“Honestly, deep down inside I wanted a change. And I wanted to go to free agency. It really didn’t matter what (B.C.) offered me initially, I knew it was going to be a low-ball offer. It wasn’t horrible, but I made it seem like it was because I wanted to ultimately try to press as much and try to squeeze it for all the juice, but it ended causing more friction and made the last half of the season more negative than it probably should have been.”

Honest stuff.

Hamilton’s boss at the Drab Slab, sports editor Steve Lyons, and columnist Paul Wiecek went off on Trouba and liars in sports in their Say What?! feature last week, with Wiecek delivering this snicker-inducing remark: “I don’t tolerate (lies) in my personal life and I won’t tolerate it in my professional life.” Ya, right. What’s Wiecek going to do to stop athletes/coaches/managers/owners from lying to him. Tell them to go stand in a corner? Send them to bed with no dessert? Ground them like a teenager who broke curfew? As if. Lyons served as a voice of reason, writing: “If you are expecting the absolute truth to come out of the mouths of folks in pro sports, you are setting yourself to feel betrayed down the road. Don’t take it personally.”

Wiecek, who simply cannot get out of his own way when it comes to Trouba, says he’d “respect” Trouba if he went public and admitted he wants out of Winnipeg. Ya, like earning a news snoop’s “respect” is high on any pro athlete’s to-do list. There’s a basic reason why the jock-journo relationship is often adversarial—they don’t trust each other. And they don’t trust each other because they lie to each other. All…the…time. Yes, sports scribes also live on Planet Pinocchio. They don’t fib as often as jocks, but they bend, stretch and twist the truth like a blob of silly putty in a White House press secretary’s hands.

The athlete-media dynamic was another of the topics Hamilton and Harris discussed during their The Handoff podcast. “I’ve definitely been misquoted,” said Harris. “I’ve been misquoted for sure. There’s a guy in Vancouver—he doesn’t work in the business anymore…he’s swimming with the fishes now.” He was joking. I think.

Zach Bogosian

Would anyone out there in Jets Nation welcome a Jacob Trouba-for-Zach Bogosian swap even-up? Didn’t think so. I doubt Puck Pontiff Mark Chipman and general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff would either. Yet they agreed to give an underperforming Bogosian a seven-year contract with a $5.1-million cap hit in 2013, then placed a value of $4 million on Trouba nine days ago. That simply doesn’t add up. I mean, if they believed Bogosian was worth $5.1 million to them five years ago, they have to believe Trouba is worth a whole lot more in 2018. Naturally, we don’t know what numbers les Jets presented the Trouba camp prior to their recent arbitration hearing, but anything less than $5.1 million would have been highly objectionable and insulting. And people think Trouba’s the bad guy?

Marko Dano has signed with the Jets for $800,000. Nice gig. Sit in the press box, watch 82 hockey games, eat popcorn, collect 800 large. That’s almost as much as a beat writer at the Free Press makes. The least Dano could do for that kind of coin is file a game story and sidebar. On deadline. Also gain about 40 pounds and wear wrinkled clothes that don’t fit. Then he’d feel right at home with the rest of the boys on press row.

Oscar Madison

Hey, I’m not saying news snoops are slobs and shlubs. Some of them actually own neckties. They just don’t know how to tie them. If you ever watched Jack Klugman or Walter Mathau as Oscar Madison in The Odd Couple you’ll catch my drift. (Am I showing my age when I use the term catch my drift?) The only news snoop I ever knew who belonged on the cover of GQ was George (Shakey) Johnson.

And, finally, nice exchange between Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea and news snoops following Winnipeg FC’s 40-14 romp over the Argonauts on Friday night at Football Follies Field in Fort Garry…

Reporter: “Do you have any plans for your bye week coming up?”

O’Shea: “I do…you’re not included in them.”

About the Winnipeg Jets landing a big fish…mortgaging the future…adios to curling great Jill Officer…a media hissing contest…Damien’s “shitty” tweet…dumb talk on TSN…a tear-jerker in Yankee pinstripes…and other things on my mind

I cannot survive in a 140- or 280-character world, so here are more tweets that grew up to be too big for Twitter…

Paul Stastny. For real?

The Winnipeg Jets actually pried Paul Stastny away from the St. Louis Blues? And they didn’t have to twist his arm? No fuss, no muss, no whinging about mosquitoes, spring flooding, crime, potholes, brown tap water and the Arctic winds at Portage and Main?

Something doesn’t add up here.

I mean, nobody goes to Winnipeg. Except on a dare. Or unless they’ve lost a bet. Cripes, man, even the premier of the province, Brian Pallister, gets out of Dodge as often as he can.

Winnipeg circa 1950s.

I think Billy Mosienko was the last hockey player who went to Winnipeg voluntarily. That was in 1955, when the locals were still riding around in streetcars. Mosie had an excuse, though. Pegtown was his ‘hood. He knew all about the potholes, Arctic winds and skeeters the size of a Zamboni, so they weren’t going to scare him away.

But there’s no explaining this Stastny thing. Except to say he must have missed the memo. You know the one. Certain members of the San Jose Sharks sent it out earlier this National Hockey League season. River City is cold. River City is dark. And don’t even think about WiFi service. You want to text a friend? Here’s your carrier pigeon, kid.

Paul Stastny

The thing is, a lot of us know Winnipeg isn’t the backwater burg most folks make it out to be. It’s a boffo place. And the winters don’t seem quite so long, dark and cold when les Jets are putting on the ritz at the Little Hockey House On The Prairie.

Will Stastny’s willingness to disregard his no-trade clause influence others to regard Good Ol’ Hometown as a favorable destination? Perhaps not, but it’s worth revisiting something general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff said last summer, scant seconds after convincing goaltender Steve Mason and defenceman Dmitry Kulikov that River City is an NHL hot spot.

Ultimately,” he said, “when it comes to free agency, the players want to know that they have a chance to win.”

Yup.

Kevin Cheveldayoff

Prior to last Monday’s NHL trade deadline, TSN natterbug Jamie McLennan had this caution for Cheveldayoff and Puck Pontiff Mark Chipman: “You never want to mortgage the future. There’s no weaknesses whatsoever in this lineup. All you can ask for really is health. You want Adam Lowry back. You want Jacob Trouba back. I believe this team is built to go on a Stanley Cup run. They’re that good. But, if you want to tinker at the deadline, add some depth, add a little Stanley Cup experience, absolutely, but do not mortgage the future with those young players.” So, the Puck Pontiff and Chevy surrendered college kid Erik Foley, their first-round pick in the 2018 entry draft and a conditional fourth-rounder in 2020 for Stastny, plus a fourth-rounder this year for rearguard Joe Morrow. Did they mortgage the future? Nope.

Now that the Buffalo Sabres have rid themselves of the headache known as Evander Kane, what do they have to show for the original deal with les Jets that sent the sometimes wacky winger to upstate New York? Not much. If my math is accurate, here’s how the February 2015 trade now shakes down: Winnipeg has Tyler Myers, Joel Armia, Jack Roslovic, Brendan Lemieux and a sixth-round pick in the NHL entry draft this summer (for Drew Stafford); Buffalo has Zach Bogosian, Danny O’Regan, Jason Kasdorf, a conditional pick in 2019 (first or second round) and a conditional fourth-round pick in 2020. It’s still a total fleece job by Cheveldayoff.

With the exception of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, I can’t think of a partnership that’s lasted as long as Jill Officer and Jennifer Jones. What’s it been? Twenty-three years? Twenty-four? Thus, when Officer announced her intention to retreat from full-time competition next season, it was a big deal. She’s one of the most-decorated curlers in Manitoba history, with nine provincial titles (two in Junior), seven Canadian titles (one in Junior), one Olympic Games gold medal, and one world championship. Only six women have played in more games at the Canadian Scotties than Officer. And there’s a park named in her honor in North Kildonan. All that and, unless I missed it, the Winnipeg Sun completely ignored the story. Shame, shame.

The Sun’s snub of Officer is the latest example of the tabloid’s near-total abandonment of curling coverage by local scribes. The Sun didn’t have a reporter on the scene at last month’s Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Penticton, nor does it have feet on the ground in Regina for this week’s Brier. Coverage is being handled by Terry Jones of Postmedia Edmonton and Murray McCormick of the Regina Leader-Post. By way of comparison, the Winnipeg Free Press continues to do it the right way. Melissa Martin was in Penticton and Jason Bell is in Regina. And the Freep posted the Officer story on its website at 11:05 a.m. Friday, and followed with a video interview in the afternoon. That’s how it’s supposed to be done.

Elliotte Friedman

Holy hissing contest, Batman! Broadcaster Elliotte Friedman, whose home base is the Republic of Tranna, went on Sportsnet 650 last week to discuss the steaming mess of dog hooey that is the Vancouver Canucks, and it turns out that it’s the media’s fault. Also the fans’ fault. Everybody’s to blame except the team president, Trevor Linden, and the GM, Jim Benning.

“I see your market right now and I think it’s a really brutal place to be,” Friedman said. “These guys feel like they are under siege…like they’re getting torn apart by wild dogs.”

He described the situation in Vancity as “toxic” and “edgy” and “nasty” because of the media.

Ed Willes

Not surprisingly, Vancouver news scavengers and opinionist sprung into action, including old friend Ed Willes of Postmedia.

“Why would Elliotte Frickin’ Friedman care so passionately about the Vancouver market, and why would he launch such an impassioned defence of Linden and Benning from The Big Smoke?” Willes asked. “Fair questions, yes? As for the answers, we’d suggest they lie somewhere in the towering arrogance of Toronto’s media titans and the uncomfortable relationship that exists between ‘insiders’ and their sources. Friedman is a made man in that world but his information sometimes comes at a cost. Consider his radio diatribe a down payment on his next scoop.”

Ouch.

Totally dumb tweet of the week comes from Damien Cox of the Toronto Star and Sportsnet: “Remember the old days when independent media used to ask serious, critical questions when NHL expanded. Now there’s mostly just cheerleading. Yay, Seattle, look how many tix you sold. Yay, more shitty teams, more diluted NHL hockey. It’s a sad thing.” Ya, those Vegas Golden Knights are a real “shitty” team, Damien. But, hey, if it makes you happy, perhaps we can go all the way back to the six-team days when goaltenders played with their bare faces hanging out and Charlie Burns was the only NHL player who wore a helmet.

Urban Bowman

Sad to hear of the passing of former Winnipeg Blue Bombers (interim) head coach Urban Bowman. Had many enjoyable chin-wags with Bowman during his time subbing for Cal Murphy, who was away getting a new heart. Urban had a folksy, cowboy charm that made him the Bum Phillips of the Canadian Football League, and it wasn’t uncommon to hear him talk of chickens, cattle and such instead of Xs and Os. He did, mind you, have one memorable quote about football. “We’re going to breathe our nasty breath on those folks,” he said prior to a playoff game. “Yes, sir, we’re going to breathe our nasty, bad breath on those folks.” Urban was a good man…with bad breath.

So, I’m watching Pardon the Interruption on TSN the other day and the boys, Keith Olbermann and Tony Kornheiser, are gasbagging about Johnny Manziel potentially getting a second chance in the National Football League. “Why not?” asks Olbermann, who’s all in on the return of Johnny Football. “He’s a misdemeanor case.” That’s what we’re calling woman beaters these days? A misdemeanor case? Is there some sort of TV rule that says you must be a complete goomer to talk sports? I mean, two weeks ago NBC gab guy Mike Milbury referred to former Los Angeles Kings defenceman Slava Voynov’s brutal assault on his wife as an “unfortunate incident.” Now a man putting the boots to a woman is a “misdemeanor case.” Clearly, the culture of misogyny extends from the clubhouse to the old men in the press box.

Gary Cooper as Lou Gehrig

Watched Pride of the Yankees the other day. A total tear-jerker. But I got a kick out of the “luckiest man on the face of the earth” speech Gary Cooper delivered at the end of the movie. “I have been given fame and undeserved praise by the boys up there behind the wire in the press box, my friends, the sportswriters,” Coop said in his role as New York Yankees legendary first baseman Lou Gehrig. An athlete’s “friends?” Sportswriters? That has to be the biggest fib on the face of the earth.

Let’s give Rosie DiManno big points for honesty. In her wrap from South Korea, the Toronto Star columnist admits that the Olympic Games of Snow and Ice Sports is about “sports some of us only cover every four years but, of course, feign instant expertise at.” Totally true. And it showed, especially with the guys who attempted to cover curling. Dave Feschuk of the Star, for example, wrote about curling guru “Russ” Turnbull, but the late Moosie’s actual name was Ray. And Cathal Kelly of the Globe and Mail prattled on about Rachel Homan burning a rock when it was actually one of the Canadian skip’s opponents who inadvertently touched a stone while sweeping it into the rings.

Clara Hughes

And, finally, this week’s Stevie-ism from the ever-bombastic Steve Simmons of Postmedia Tranna: “The list of all-time Canadian Olympic greats is not particularly long. In summer, you start with Percy Williams and Donovan Bailey and turn somewhere to Marnie McBean and Kathleen Heddle and lately Penny Oleksiak. In winter, there is a place for Cindy Klassen and Catriona Le May Doan and Marc Gagnon and Hayley Wickenheiser and a few others.” Excuse me? Clara Hughes, the only Olympic athlete to earn multiple medals in both Winter and Summer Games, doesn’t qualify? Her two cycling (bronze) and four speed skating (gold, silver, two bronze) medals aren’t enough? Sorry, Stevie, but any list of Canada’s great Olympians has to begin with the smiling redhead from Winnipeg.

 

 

 

About the Winnipeg Jets spending more big bucks…the Blue Bombers’ winning formula…”gutless” comments…and other things on my mind

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

Mark Scheifele: A $49 million smile.
Mark Scheifele: A $49 million smile.

It’s no surprise that the Winnipeg Jets have tossed top dollar at Mark Scheifele.

Yes, in the grand scheme of things, the Jets operate on the chintz. In any payroll search of National Hockey League clubs, you’ll always find the locals nearer the bottom of the heap than the top. This is a “budget” team.

Yet the Secret Society that is True North Sports & Entertainment contradicts itself. That is, it is not a big spender, yet it has never been shy about spending big.

I mean, any outfit willing to compensate a lowly foot soldier like Chris Thorburn to the tune of $1.2 million per annum isn’t afraid to chuck the change around. Co-bankroll David Thomson likely found enough to pay Thorbs’s salary hidden behind and beneath the cushions of his sofa.

The point is, stuffing $49 million (US) into Scheifele’s piggy bank doesn’t represent a seismic shift in how True North does business. The Jets have a history of showing a willingness to deliver term and top-market compensation to those they deem their most valued workers. Anyone who thinks otherwise hasn’t been paying attention.

Earlier this year, the Jets committed $38 million to defenceman Dustin Byfuglien. Two days ago, it was $16.5 million for Mathieu Perreault, a generous stipend for a guy who might be playing third-line minutes. None of this is chump change. Nor was the $93.1 million they doled out to three players—Blake Wheeler, Bryan Little and Zach Bogosian—three years ago this month. Thirteen months before that, they agreed to pay Ondrej Pavelec $19.5 million over five years (ignore the reality that it was money not wisely spent on their much-maligned goaltender).

So no one should be surprised that the Jets went all-in with an eight-year, $49 million contract for Scheifele. It wasn’t a debunking of a “cheapskate tag,” as the Winnipeg Free Press suggests. It’s what they’ve done and will continue to do. Nothing has changed.

Blake Wheeler
Blake Wheeler

I have one question about the Jets signing of Scheifele: Why didn’t they name the 23-year-old centre team captain at the same time? While prevailing sentiment suggests Wheeler ought to wear the C, Scheifele will be doing his thing at the Little Hockey House on the Prairie for the next eight winters. Wheeler, whose birthday cake next month will feature 30 candles, won’t be.

In Florida, owners of the Panthers talk about winning the Stanley Cup. “They expect a Stanley Cup and we have a duty to bring the best team possible to our fans,” general manager Tom Rowe says of owner Vincent Viola and vice-chairman Doug Cifu. In Winnipeg, meanwhile, His Holy Hockeyness, Mark Chipman, and his valet, Kevin Cheveldayoff, talk about a “process.”

Nice to see the Winnipeg Blue Bombers finally found a winning formula—play a team that will commit six turnovers. That’s what went down when the Bombers bettered the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, 28-24, Thursday night at Timbits Field in the Hammer. The trick now, of course, is to find a few more teams as inept as the Tabbies.

On that note, who stole the real Hamilton Tiger-Cats and what have you done with them? Not to discredit the Bombers, who’ll take Ws in any shape or size, but the Tabbies were gawd awful and aren’t even a reasonable facsimile of the outfit that has been a Canadian Football League force since Kent Austin put his hands on the till. Yes, I realize the starting quarterback, Zach Collaros, is in sick bay, but that’s no excuse for the Keystone Kops routine.

Just wondering: Did South African High Court Judge Thokozile Masipa give her “fallen hero” Oscar Pistorius a hug and a kiss before shipping her “broken man” off to jail for the murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, or did she settle for an autograph?

fish wrapCathal Kelly is among the finer wordsmiths in Canadian jock journalism, but I fear he’s lost the plot when it comes to tennis. Scribbling in the Globe and Mail, he mentions “the golden era of Canadian tennis” and cites Genie Bouchard’s march to the 2014 ladies’ final at Wimbledon and Milos Raonic advancing to the gentlemen’s semi-final round before bowing to Roger Federer that same summer. That’s Kelly’s idea of a golden era? One fortnight on the lumpy lawns of the All England Club? I’m sorry, but there’s nothing “golden” about one exceptional-yet-unsuccessful run at a tennis Grand Slam, then operating on the periphery of the sport’s elite. I would suggest that if Raonic topples Andy Murray in the Wimbledon final on Sunday morning, we can begin talking about a “golden” era of Canadian tennis. But not before he’s actually won something of note.

Shame on Steve Simmons, Postmedia sports columnist and TSN gab guy who this week on The Reporters with Dave Hodge advised us that Kevin Durant has “no spine” and his signing with a stacked Golden State Warriors outfit was “gutless.” In case we didn’t hear him the first time, he repeated his reckless “no spine” insult in his weekly three-dot column. Yo! Stevie! I’ll tell you what takes “no spine” and is “gutless.” Sitting in the shelter of a faraway TV studio or in your home office and slandering one of the top five performers in the National Basketball Association. Stand on a chair, look Durant in the eyes and then say he’s spineless and gutless or don’t say it at all.

I’m liking two new features in the Winnipeg Free Press toy department: 1) Paul Wiecek’s Sticks and Stones column (a string of brief opinion blurbs can make for a bright and breezy read; 2) TV columnist Brad Oswald’s take on the sports shows we watch. I’m anxious to see if Oswald will critique sports scribes freelancing as broadcasters or treat them like sacred cows. I’m betting it’s the latter, because people in the toy department don’t tend to eat their own.

It’s about that Trivago guy who shows up in all those commercials during sports programs: Someone has to tell him to stop dancing. He’s smooth like JLo is ugly.

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.

 

Evander Kane can’t get over Winnipeg and Winnipeg can’t get over Evander Kane

Evander Kane is the gift that just keeps giving…and giving…and giving.

By now, I’m guessing you’ve heard that old friend Evander can’t play hockey these days due to a wonky left knee, an owie that will keep him on the shelf for four to six weeks and provide the Buffalo Sabres forward with plenty of time for his new hobby of renting private jets and/or helicoptors for weekend getaways.

I understand Las Vegas is lovely at this time of year, so perhaps we can expect an Instagram or two featuring the self-proclaimed Natural flaunting stacks and stacks of American greenbacks in Sin City.

Evander Kane
Evander Kane

Then again, perhaps Kane will discover more constructive ways to spend his free time. You know, something like flapping his gums like two flags in a stiff breeze. He already has a healthy head start in that area, what with word of his recent chin-wag with The Hockey News arriving on Monday.

Depending on one’s perspective, of course, any time Kane opens his pie hole it is a wonderful thing (for news scavengers on a slow day) or a cringe-worthy bit of business (for those who view him as an uppity, my-stuff-don’t-stink-but-this-city-does, underachieving prima donna). Either way, a tempest is certain to ensue and, sure enough, what he told THN vis-a-vis his troubled and turbulent times as the most-maligned—and surely the most-polarizing—player to ever pull the blue-and-white linen of the Winnipeg Jets over his head has put his name back at the top of the page for all the wrong reasons.

What he served up was part pity party, part confession and part accusation (he played the race card, don’t you know).

“I asked for a trade every off-season in Winnipeg,” confessed Kane, who was with the Atlanta Thrashers’ caravan that rolled into River City and morphed into Jets 2.0 in 2011. It took him slightly less than four National Hockey League seasons of sometimes oddball antics, bad press, bad attitude and sub-standard productivity to wear out his welcome, at which time he was shuffled off to Buffalo in a package that included Zach Bogosian going to the Sabres and Drew Stafford, Tyler Myers and add-ons coming back to the Jets.

“There are lots of guys I could point to that everybody knows publicly who have done a lot worse or been accused of doing a lot worse things than I have,” Kane continued. “But they don’t look like me. They don’t look like me. Jealousy is a disease. It really is.”

He added that he “didn’t feel as though (the Jets) had my back at all.”

This, no doubt, will lead to open hostility when Kane and the Sabres surface at the Little Hockey House on the Prairie for a Jan. 10 gig with the Jets. His reception would have been bad enough based on the residue left behind from his tempestuous tour of duty in Pegtown, but surely the volume will be amped up and there shall be heightened creativity and increased venom in the cat-calling of his accusors.

So here’s what I’m wondering: Why do so many people give a damn what Evander Kane thinks about the Jets and Winnipeg?

I know I don’t. Sure, I write about Kane, because he’s fun fodder and I get a kick out of him. I used to enjoy it when he’d yank the media’s chain, often playing cat to their mouse. But get my knickers in a knot over his parting shots at Winnipeg? Puh-leeze. So what if he asked for a new area code every summer and lied about it? He wasn’t the first, nor will he be the last, athlete who’s wanted out of Winnipeg and told fibs. The Jets didn’t have his back? Oh, boo freaking hoo.

As for his playing the race card (again), only those of a similar skin hue can say for certain if they’ve experienced discrimination or other forms of ill-treatment based solely on pigmentation. But if you believe racism doesn’t exist in good, ol’ Hometown, you might want to speak with one of your Native neighbors about that.

Look, Kane and Winnipeg didn’t work. He wanted the fast lane and he got caught in a collector lane. You like your athletes humble and respectful, he’s loud, vain and swashbuckling. Bad marriages happen. The thing is, he hasn’t gotten over you and you haven’t gotten over him. Come on, admit it.

Should make for an interesting night on Jan. 10. Keep it clean and classy, Winnipeg.

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: A heavy influx of youth won’t be Kevin Cheveldayoff’s next move

And now, for his next trick, Kevin Cheveldayoff will…

Actually, let’s begin by saying what the man who generally manages the Winnipeg Jets will not do in the wake of his club’s ouster from the Stanley Cup tournament—he will not jerk his knee. Neither one of them.

If we’ve learned anything about Cheveldayoff during his stewardship of the local National Hockey League outfit, it’s that he is a man with a slow hand. Many of us, myself included, had him figured for a dithering, do-nothing dullard whose management-by-paralysis methods were stunting the growth of a team that arrived in River City with a ready-made core. A few bold strokes and it would have been playoff worthy.

Except Cheveldayoff didn’t do bold strokes. Instead, he preached patience. Draft and develop.

Many of us believed him to be gun shy. That he functioned in fear of being fleeced by a wiser, more deal-savvy NHL general manager, who would pick his pocket and expose him as hopelessly inept.

We now know otherwise, don’t we?

In banishing both Evander Kane and Zach Bogosian to Buffalo in February, an initiative that spurred the Jets toward a much-anticipated post-season perch, Cheveldayoff proved that dashing and daring are part of his makeup. He wasn’t gun shy after all. Just cautious in how he used his bullets.

So what now?

The Winnipegs have taken that next step, the one Jets Nation had been awaiting since the club set up shop at the Little Hockey House on the Prairie in 2011. This is a playoff team. As it turns out, it isn’t a good enough playoff team, because the Disney Ducks got the brooms out and swept the locals away in four games, the minimum number required to move on to the second round of the NHL’s championship tournament. Those four games revealed the Jets to be short on top-end skill, short on depth, short on elite goaltending and short on the experience required to close the deal.

Thus, Cheveldayoff must roll up his sleeves and do some heavy lifting.

No doubt, he will receive ample advice. All unsolicited. Indeed, we are hearing yelps from the rabble, and the body is still warm. Get rid of Dustin Byfuglien, they bray. He is a defensive liability, with gusts up to disastrous. Put Toby Enstrom on the next stage coach out of Dodge, they insist. Too small, too easily pushed around by the big, bad dudes in the Western Conference. Surely the time has arrived for Ondrej Pavelec, despite a run of magnificence at the tail end of the regular season, to occupy another team’s blue paint. And let’s not forget the captain, Andrew Ladd, whose penchant for taking ill-timed and thoughtless penalties appears to be both chronic and unfixable. Gotta get rid of him, too.

Well, save your oxygen. None of this is going to transpire any time soon.

There is always an emotional reflex at the conclusion of a crusade, like that which the Jets completed with their 5-2 loss to the Ducks on Wednesday night. People see the good. They believe the club is positioned to become a perennial playoff participant. But they also see the not-so-good, the components that left the Jets lacking. They want change. Swift change. Perhaps even voluminous change.

Already I have heard noise about a substantial youth movement. Bring in Connor Hellebuyck to play goal. Josh Morrissey is ready for prime time. Ditto Nik Ehlers and Nic Petan.

Sorry, but you don’t want to go there. Put those four players in the Jets lineup and what do you have? The Edmonton Oilers. A team full of flash and dash and one that gets the No. 1 pick in the NHL entry draft every summer.

Consider, for example, Mark Scheifele. He’s young, talented, enthusiastic, determined. He now has two seasons on his resume. How well did he perform in his playoff baptism? He drowned. That’s how well. Jacob Trouba, destined to become a stud defenceman, struggled mightily. How did Adam Lowry measure up against the cagey antagonist, Ryan Kesler? And you want to add four more neophytes to the stew?

I would be shocked if Cheveldayoff goes that route. It’s a recipe for disaster.

I’m sure the Jets GM will, as is his wont, take a measured approach to roster reparations this off-season. If I’m wrong (that’s been known to happen) and the Jets ice a lineup that includes a combination of Scheifele, Trouba, Lowry, Hellebuyck, Morrissey, Ehlers, Petan and Andrew Copp next October, be prepared for a long season.

And forget about the playoffs.

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 bound for playoffs; Ron Wilson bound for a career in TV

The Winnipeg Jets can begin printing playoff tickets. Today.

Let there be no more angst. No more gnashing of the teeth. You can make book that meaningful matches shall be staged at the Little Hockey House on the Prairie post-April 11, which means an awful lot of us were wrong. If not about the Winnipeg Jets, we were certainly wrong about Kevin Cheveldayoff.

I know I was.

I mean, before they dropped the puck on this National Hockey League crusade, you couldn’t find five people willing to wager their lunch money on the Jets participating in this spring’s Stanley Cup tournament. Not if Cheveldayoff and his head coach, Paul Maurice, insisted that Ondrej Pavelec was their starting goaltender. Not if the same core that rolled into River City from Atlanta in 2011 continued to rule the roost in the players’ changing room. Not if Cheveldayoff’s modus operandi continued to be management-by-paralysis.

I don’t think that pre-season prognosis was inaccurate. If it was going to be same-old, same-old, which it surely appeared to be back in early October, the end result would also be same-old, same-old.

So how is it that the Jets have a firm grip on a playoff position this morning? What happened?

Well, a buy-in happened. The players bought the Kool-Aid coach PoMo was pouring. Michael Hutchinson happened and Pavelec, who, it must be emphasized, has not been horrible, has taken a seat. Dustin Byfuglien happened. Evander Kane’s track suit happened. Most significant, the general manager happened.

Cheveldayoff spent his first 3 1/2 years as GM of the Jets in the fetal position. No NHL player-for-player trades. No bold strokes. No dash and no daring. Just some dabbling with the waiver wire and the odd toe-dip into the free agency pool. Basically, he was Dudley Do Nothing. But just look at him now. He’s into binge trading. First it was Jay Harrison. Then Tyler Myers and Drew Stafford. Then Jiri Tlusty. Now Lee Stempniak comes on board. All but Harrison in less than a month. And the price he has paid? Exactly one player from his active roster—Zach Bogosian (remember, Kane was already gone for the season when dealt to the Buffalo McDavids).

It didn’t matter that Cheveldayoff shifted into idle on trade deadline day, because his work was done. And it ought to be enough.

Surely, the Jets will finish no worse than fifth in the Central Division. That will qualify them for the tournament, because it would take too much smoke and too many mirrors for either the Calgary Flames or San Jose Sharks to overhaul good, ol’ Home Team for a Western Conference wild-card spot.

The Flames, of course, have been a feel-good story this season, but it’s been hockey hocus pocus. An illusion. Reality is about to bite. The Sharks, meanwhile…they’re chronic underachievers.

The Jets are in. Trust me.

TV TAKEAWAYS: Since I have a life (sort of), I wasn’t glued to my TV for the entirety of TSN’s exhaustive trade deadline coverage, but I confess to spending the early-morning hours with James Duthie and his cast of thousands while they awaited breaking news that never really broke. It was, for the most part, grim. I mean, Gino Reda herding llamas in a parking lot? Llamas in-studio? What next? The Dalai Lama as a guest panelist? I’m all for off-the-wall humor, but this was just plain dumb…Duthie, who is terrific, assured us that musician Lester McLean was “not a gimmick.” Oh yes he was. A bad gimmick. McLean’s tunes all sounded the same—lame…Who decided that Cabbie is funny? He isn’t. His updates on social media activity were weak attempts at jocularity. Does he actually get paid for his schtick?…On the plus side, two big thumbs up to former Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Ron Wilson and ex-goaltender Marty Biron. Their bits with Darren Dutchyshen were terrific for their humor, their candor, their anecdotal insight and Wilson’s curmudgeonly carriage. I doubt Wilson has a future in hockey after confessing that a former NHL general manger once directed him to tank the season in order to secure first pick in the entry draft, but he surely has one in broadcasting…Also on the plus side was Dennis Wideman, who punk’d TSN Trade Centre with a faux phone call that led one an all to believe a trade for the Calgary Flames defenceman was imminent…Gary (La La) Lawless of the Winnipeg Free Press got some face time on TSN and he gave Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff an ‘A’ grade for his pre-deadline dealings. Ditto Craig Button. Can’t disagree with that…Never switched the channel to Sportsnet. Not once. Can’t handle Glenn Healy or Nick Kypreos on an empty stomach. Or a full stomach, for that matter.

 

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.