20 Apr

Random Thoughts – Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame, The Blame Game and More

1. Congratulations to Michael Gobuty, former owner of the (real) Jets, on his induction into the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame. Gobuty, along with so many others including Ben Hatskin and Dr. Gerry Wilson, don’t get nearly the credit they deserve for the vital roles they played in the franchise’s history. As Paul Friesen of Winnipeg’s only newspaper put it, the only surprise was what took them so long to put him in.

1a. Did you know that inductee Rob Martell worked the first home game for the Fighting Moose back in 1996?

1b. I’m guessing there were no ex-Jets on the selection committee by virtue of the fact that former Tribune writer Vic Grant was among the inductees.

1c. In a bit of an odd coincidence, inductee Jim Benzelock was officially my last Fighting Moose ticket representative. I still remember his voice mail greeting, which led off with “Nice Guy Jim Benzelock.” We never met or spoke on the phone, so I can’t confirm whether or not he is indeed a nice guy.

2. Former Fighting Moose Jim Montgomery will be interviewing to become the next head coach of the Florida Panthers. Yes, I do remember him from those lonely IHL days sitting among “crowds” of less than 4,000 at the Winnipeg Arena.

3. I enjoy reading Patti Dawn Swansson’s postings, but I don’t understand why she, of all people, keeps hammering on Kevin Cheveldayoff for the perpetual failures of the Mark Chipman Personal Hockey Club. For example, in a recent post, she took another shot at Cheveldayoff, sarcastically pointing out that it was indeed possible to use the trade route in building a winner, a route the Chipman franchise has seldom traveled.

I have no doubt that Cheveldayoff is well aware that making trades can and possibly should be an integral part of a well-rounded plan to build a successful team. I also have no doubt that Cheveldayoff would love to the opportunity to barter a few of Chipman’s player-cronies, if only he was given the freedom to do so. I suspect he’s just as frustrated by having his hands tied as any scribe, paid or otherwise, or paying customer.

But continually blaming Cheveldayoff for the franchise’s woes is akin to paying big bucks at a five-star restaurant and blaming the dishwasher for the lousy meal. It’s time to turn the focus to the general manager. Leave his flunkie alone.

3a. I don’t always agree with her, but I hope she keeps up the blog she’s threatened time and again to abandon. It’s definitely worth reading.

4. No one will be more thrilled when the Conservative Party elects its new leader than yours truly. Over the past several months, I’ve been absolutely drowning in information overload. Give me my ballot already.

4a. I admit to still a little torn between Maxime Bernier and Andrew Scheer, but one thing’s for sure, all the spots on my ballot are going to be used in order to ward off the threat of Kevin O’Leary and, to a lesser extent, Michael Chong.

4b. I believe both Bernier and Scheer have what it takes to make a good prime minister.

4c. My neighbor’s six-year-old would make a better prime minister than the one we have now. At least the kid would be smart enough to listen to his parents.

5. I heard that a pedestrian was killed early Tuesday morning on the 406. What I want to know was what he or she was doing on the 406. If only Darwin Award winners had one last chance to tell us their story before moving on. Like my nutty ex-neighbor in the Old Country who chose to prematurely end her stay on Earth, likely with a lethal cocktail of alcohol and drugs.

6. Watching some 1970s-era classic NHL games recently, I couldn’t help but snicker as the announcers mentioned a “Crippled Children’s Hospital” and a “Home for Retarded Children.” I’m not suggesting open season on insulting people, but I do fondly remember a bygone era when we could open our mouths freely without worrying about using a word that might trigger a meltdown from some offended group. Political correctness has gone much too far, and his strong stance on that subject has endeared me to CPC leadership candidate Pierre Lemieux.

7. Socialism Illustrated reported recently that former Manitoba premier Greg Selinger is looking for a graceful exit from politics. Given the heavy-handed manner in which he governed and the damage he did to the province and his own party, it is not a privilege he has earned. Like Kathleen Wynne here in Ontario, he deserves to be remembered as one of the worst premiers in the province’s history.

8. I recently heard a story about a cyclist in Grimsby who was hit, by all accounts, through no fault of his own. Yet he kept asking himself what more he could have done to avoid being hit. Listening to the story, it hit home once again as to the difference in attitudes between people here and in the Old Country.

Case and point was the story of the jogger in Winnipeg many years ago who was hit and nearly killed. Eschewing a perfectly safe jogging path, he insisted on running on a busy roadway that I, as a cyclist, had a legal right to use but avoided like the plague. Yet even from his hospital bed, not long after cheating death, he remained utterly defiant and vowed to get right back on the road as soon as he could.

To this day, joggers in that part of the world like him still whine and complain incessantly about how unsafe it is to run on the road and are mortally offended by those who “challenge their rights.” As someone once said, you can’t fix stupid.

8a. Cyclists in the Old Country are no better. As I wrote elsewhere on social media recently, the fact that one isn’t killed every day in Winnipeg can only be explained by divine intervention.

8b. I saw three Manitoba plates around town this week. Even though the SPRM and I didn’t exactly part on good terms, that place does keep following me around.

15 Apr

Random Thoughts – Bill Sutherland, NHL Playoffs, Old Country Justice and More

1. Though I didn’t know him personally, I was saddened to learn of the death of former Jets player and coach Bill Sutherland. He had two years as a player and many more as an assistant coach, even filling in as the head coach on a couple of occasions, and was one of the longest-tenured members in the 24-year history of the franchise.

Oddly enough, what I remember most about Sutherland was how he was always the standby intermission guest during radio broadcasts I listened to in the 1980s in case the scheduled invitee failed to show.

1a. Despite his stature with the Jets, the news of his death apparently didn’t warrant any ink in Socialism Illustrated, a publication that purports itself as the leader in local news. And they have the nerve to chastise me. But I guess they’re just too busy bashing Brian Pallister and anyone else with political leanings anywhere to the right of Lenin.

1b. In today’s funeral announcement, the family asked for donations to Mark Chipman’s youth foundation. I had thought of making a donation in Sutherland’s memory, but I would sooner take a stack of $20 bills and light them on fire rather than give even more of my money to any entity connected with Chipman.

2. Speaking of Socialism Illustrated, I read their article this past week on the senior who was sentenced to nine months in jail for a hit-and-run incident involving the death of a pedestrian who walked out into traffic on a busy, poorly-lit roadway in the middle of the night. The family’s grief is absolutely understandable, but it was sad to see them still wrongly blaming the driver, who was correctly not charged for the death, only for leaving the scene of the accident. In that part of the world, nine out of every ten times when a car hits a pedestrian, it’s the pedestrian’s fault. This case was no exception.

2a. According the severely twisted logic of Manitoba’s justice system, you get nine months for leaving the scene when a pedestrian makes a successful attempt at a Darwin Award in front of your car in the middle of the night, but you can run down a flag person at a construction scene in broad daylight and walk out of court a free man. I don’t get it.

3. Within a day of my last post, our mayor congratulated a small business in St. Catharines on their accomplishments. You don’t think . . . Nah.

3a. Our mayor posted something else the other day about a show he was recording on social justice. When’s that next municipal election again?

3b. Sadly, I’m not expecting Mayor Sendzik to have any serious challengers next year. But he certainly needs them.

4. If there is so little crime going on in our part of the world that the Niagara Regional Police has the time, energy and resources to launch a campaign against the use of the R-word, we should instead be talking about trimming their budget. A lot.

5. Now that the Edmonton Oilers have won a playoff game, there remains only one Western Conference team without a postseason victory since 2011 when Manitoba taxpayers were forced to purchase the Atlanta Thrashers for Mark Chipman. In the words of a former high school classmate, three guesses. But you’ll only need one. Trust me.

5a. With said playoff victory by the Oil, I couldn’t help but reflect back to the summer of 2011 when my inbox was filling up with messages from media types eager to find out how excited I was to have an NHL team back in Winnipeg. Not surprisingly, they dropped me like a hot potato after getting some thoughts and opinions they didn’t expect, but you have to wonder if they might be looking back today and thinking that I might have been on to something. Not that I’m thrilled to have been right.

6. One of those media types was Sheila North Wilson, who was then with CBC. Today, she’s a grand chief of a northern reserve and was in the news recently desperately trying to making a prima facie case for racism based solely on the deplorable conditions in her reserve. She also challenged people to come and live on the reserve to find out how bad things are for themselves.

One Socialism Illustrated reader said it best:

“Mr. Pallister should take her up on the offer. Very good chance Mr. Pallister would clean the place, take care of it as if it’s his own and maintain the property. Could be a good lesson for everyone.”

In other words, the state provides. Most generously. Yes, for the benefit of the uninformed, people do choose to live that way.

6a. When you keep playing the race card, you become like the boy who cried wolf. No one takes you seriously anymore.

7. Is it just me or do the Minnesota Wild’s uniforms get progressively worse every time they change them? Rather than firing their coach, they need to fire their uniform designers.

09 Apr

Random Thoughts – Lisa Raitt, Patrick Brown, NHL Playoffs and More

1. Yesterday, I was part of a gathering of around 30-35 assembled to hear Conservative leadership hopeful Lisa Raitt speak at the Beacon Harborside Resort in Jordan. Unlike fellow contenders Maxime Bernier and Kellie Leitch, she actually let loyal party members like me know before she arrived instead of after she left. Unfortunately, no one in her campaign team felt it was important to inform the hotel that she was coming. Many of us stood around along with the sales manager until MP Dean Allison finally arrived around 10:15, 15 minutes after the scheduled start time, and hastily arranged a meeting room. Raitt herself didn’t arrive until 10:30, then spent much time chatting at a table before finally addressing the crowd that had come from all across Niagara to hear her. She could at least have made a half-hearted apology and chose not to. Fashionably late doesn’t cut it.

1a. Raitt was much more impressive in Burlington a few weeks ago than she was yesterday. In particular, her pillow-soft position on the CBC caused her to sink a few spots down my ballot. In response to a question, she derided the CBC’s largesse, yet as to what she would do about it, all she said was that she would trim their budget a little. Lame. Just like her tardiness.

1b. I am always troubled by the fact that I am generally the youngest person at these Conservative meetings, and yesterday’s gathering was no exception. More young people need to get involved in how our country is run and not just pose for selfies with Bobo the Clown.

2, While speaking with a couple at my table, we were lamenting how far Ontario PC leader Patrick Brown has strayed to the left. Like me, they had also voted for Brown in the leadership race and feel very much betrayed. I recall how he chastised rival Christine Elliott for being a “red Tory” and how he would not make any major policy announcement without consultation with the membership. Oh, how times have changed.

2a. Like it or not, Brown can’t help but become the next premier of Ontario next year. One thing’s for sure, he can’t do much worse than our current premier.

3. Walking through the Beacon yesterday, I could see that its popularity is entirely due to its location nestled right along the lake.

4. Out of curiosity, when was the last time our mayor posted a selfie with a business owner, thanking him or her for investing in St. Catharines?

5. Not that I care a great deal, but congratulations to the Toronto Maple Leafs on making the playoffs. It’s certainly not a parade-worthy event, but it is nice to see a well-run organization get rewarded.

5a. It’s also nice to see a horribly-run organization like the Mark Chipman Personal Hockey Club get their just reward by having to watch the playoffs on television. Again.

6. You know things are bad when even the Mark Chipman News, also known as Socialism Illustrated and officially known as the Winnipeg Free Press, runs a couple of damning articles on fan apathy. Even the ultra-naive Scott Campbell vaguely hinted at the possibility that Chipman might think about stepping aside from hockey operations, another damning line that his editor shockingly chose not to squash.

6a. The odds that Chipman would voluntarily relinquish one iota of control of the team Manitoba taxpayers bought for him are slimmer than my odds of winning the big jackpot in the Lotto 6/49. And I don’t buy lottery tickets.

6b. A general manager who had delivered so little in six years would be figuratively roasted on a spit in every other market in North America. Just like the late John Ferguson was after so many empty promises left unfulfilled. Yet Chipman blissfully soldiers on and is still hailed as a hero in many circles around Winnipeg. I understand being grateful to have a team, but is this really what you had in mind when you were pounding your head against a stone wall for 15 years?

7. Why is Don Cherry popular?

8. As flood waters rise on the Assiniboine River, I hope that, unlike the case in 2011, that the provincial government in Manitoba cares more about helping victims than in lining Mark Chipman’s pocket.

30 Mar

Canada Summer Games: A Dissenting Opinion

So Niagara has “won” the right to host the 2021 Canada Summer Games.

Hoo-ray.

Politicians from across the region from St. Catharines to Fort Erie tell me we’re supposed to be excited. And who isn’t? After all, according to the responses they got on a website, where the option to state a differing opinion was conspicuously absent, “we’re all in.” The true definition of a Liberal referendum.

Well, count me as one of those Niagarans who isn’t quite so excited. For some strange reason, seeing so many politicians doing cartwheels over the prospect of spending gobs of my money doesn’t give me the warm and fuzzies. Go figure.

For starters, admit it. You hadn’t even heard of the Canada Summer Games until all the politicos started shouting from the rooftops about how it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread. Even those of you who might have happened to have heard of them likely had next to no interest in them. If they were to disappear from the face of the Earth, they’re likely something you’d miss about as much as that fly buzzing around your head. Or that cold you had this winter.

So if you hadn’t hitherto heard of or had any interest in them before, you can bet that some sap sitting in his recliner in Four Mile House, Saskatchewan hadn’t either.

Yet those same politicos would like you to believe that people like him all across the country are just rushing to their travel agents right now to book flights and hotel rooms, all so they can watch some rowers or high jumpers in four years time.

And if you really believe that, I’ve got a bridge to sell you.

No doubt, Niagara will be besieged by tourists in the summer of 2021, just as we are every summer. But they’ll be here for the many attractions the region has to offer.

Not for those games.

26 Mar

IceDogs Road Trip to Peterborough

Thoughts and observations from Sunday’s road trip to Peterborough to see the IceDogs battle the Petes in Game 2 of their best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarterfinal series.

1. The bus was completely full and two people who showed up hoping for an empty seat were turned away. They probably could have filled up one or two buses more if the IceDogs had done something really radical like promote it on their website.

2. Kudos to the IceDogs for having our tickets ready in sealed envelopes before we even stepped on the bus. Normally, the IceDogs rep heads to the box office once we arrive and distributes our tickets there.

3. Once again, I was seemingly the only one on board not sporting any IceDogs paraphernalia. Yes, I’m cheap. Yes, I’m stubborn.

4. Fortunately, unlike last week’s trip to Mississauga, this was not the Drunken Seniors Bus. This group was quiet and well behaved.

5. Though he did keep the pedal to the metal, our driver was alert and attentive. It continues to amaze me how much more safety-conscious the bus drivers are here than they were in the Old Country.

6. En route, I spotted a couple of cars pulled over by the OPP. Given that 110-120 km/h is quite normal on the QEW and the 401, I wonder exactly how fast you have to be going before the boys in blue begin paying attention.

7. On the way there, the woman seated to my left helped herself to one of the mini sugar donuts someone was passing around. Along with the chocolate bar she had on the way back, she would have been better served to employ the Nancy Reagan approach. Just say no.

8. At the 403 split in Oakville, I spotted a Reimer Express truck. He was following a big rig from Bison Transport. Try as I might, I cannot escape the SPRM.

9. Speaking of the SPRM, I spotted this Manitoba-esque pothole on Highway 7 near Peterborough.

10. In spite of some stop-and-go traffic in the universe’s center, we arrived plenty early, allowing me some time to walk around and get some pictures outside.

I also had plenty of time for some shots around the concourse and seating area:

11. They do an outstanding job celebrating their past throughout the building. There are banners hanging from the rafters honoring Roger Neilson, Scotty Bowman, Bob Gainey and Steve Yzerman, among others. There is also a Peterborough Sports Hall of Fame, which I toured before the game.

This Jets jersey from Doug Evans understandably grabbed my attention.


As did these two. The Sabres jersey is from Craig Ramsay, the last Thrashers coach, and the Utah Grizzlies jersey is from Mark McArthur, who I once saw play in the IHL.

12. As I was snapping pictures, someone came up to me to point out a jersey and medal from a member of a women’s hockey team. As they say after the visiting team scores at an IceDogs game, who cares.

13. On the way in, there was no security detail assigned to rifle through women’s purses and such.

14. I toured the souvenir shop and quickly discovered that their prices are just as outrageous as the IceDogs’ are. Given the differences in the price points, a junior team charging $120 for a jersey is the moral equivalent of an NHL team charging $1,000. Certainly no one expects them to give their stuff away, but a price of $70 or $80 would be much more appropriate. And just because everyone else in the league gouges doesn’t make it right.

15. We were seated in their Family Zone, where no alcohol is permitted. Egad! What a novel concept.


16. The sections of this Family Zone were, in order, 18, 19, 17. You can’t make stuff like this up.


17. There was an incredibly steep incline as I walked up to my seat high up in the nosebleed section. There was also next to no leg room. It reminded me of the upper deck at the Winnipeg Arena.

17a. Fortunately, there were no sunflower seed shells in my shorts after I got home.

18. Despite how quiet things were on the bus, there was no lack of enthusiasm around me and among the group. A few seats to my left was someone with a flashing goal light, a giant flag and a bullhorn. On either side of me were two guys screaming at the top of their lungs all night long as if the players and officials could hear them. The guy to my left candidly admitted he might not get his voice back until Tuesday, but I’m surprised it lasted until the third period.

19. The P.A. announcer unnecessarily introduced himself before the game, though at least he didn’t lead off with his name, as if he were the star of the show.

20. The mascot for the Peterborough Petes is not named Pete, but Roger. As I suspected, it is a tribute to the late Roger Neilson, the Petes’ former coach.

21. The anthem singer performed one of the slowest renditions of O Canada I had ever heard, but at least she was fully dressed and sang it entirely in the Canadian language.

22. After the first period, they flashed a message on the scoreboard with a welcome to those on the Niagara IceDogs Fan Bus.


23. During the intermission, Roger came out with a rat cannon reminiscent of Fighting Moose days, but he only fired a few T-shirts into the crowd before making a hasty retreat.

23a. The more I see of other mascots around the OHL, the more I appreciate Bones.

24. Unlike the Mississauga game, the IceDogs came ready to play and put in a spirited effort from start to finish. After Aaron Haydon’s blood had to be scraped off the ice, the IceDogs erased a 1-0 deficit to take a 2-1 lead after one period. They held the lead until late in the second, only to have Peterborough score twice within a minute to take a 3-2 lead to the dressing room. Undaunted, the visitors kept fighting in the third, but were stopped on a breakaway and couldn’t score on a two-minute two-man advantage. Soon after, Peterborough scored to effectively put an end to the competitive phase of the game.

25. Each time the IceDogs scored, everyone in our group stood up and cheered. Except for me. I wish I cared more. But I don’t. I was there for writing fodder and good stories. Which I got. Oh, and highway pictures, of which I got plenty. Soon to appear on a website near you.

26. Each time the Petes scored, an older woman seated in the lower rows stood up and waved what looked to be a dark red bra. I don’t get it. And that’s probably a good thing.

27. Early in the second period, the particularly rabid fan to my left was genuinely surprised when he looked at the scoreboard and saw that the IceDogs were leading 2-1. He had forgotten Ryan Mantha’s first-period goal and thought the game was tied. Only after a fellow fan seated nearby jogged his memory did the light go on. This was the same guy who probably thought I wasn’t paying much attention.

28. After a frustrating episode later in the game, the same guy responded with an F-bomb, but quickly apologized. This is definitely not the Old Country, where such salty locker-room vernacular is part and parcel of daily life.

29. A “Carly J” was one of the winners of a prize as announced on the scoreboard later in the game. Once again, I knew I was not alone.

30. As the end of the game grew ever closer, with a freezing rain warning overnight, I couldn’t help but think back to the late Mike Doran, John Ferguson’s right hand man, who was severely injured in a car accident in 1984 on his way to a game in Peterborough. For that reason, I was especially relieved when our bus pulled up safely in the parking lot at the Meridian Center.

31. There was a surprising amount of traffic out and about given the lateness of the hour. Too much traffic, in fact. As they say, nothing good happens after dark.

24 Mar

Random Thoughts – CPC Leadership, Our Mayor, Niki Ashton and More

1. I was among the group who came out to hear CPC leadership hopeful Pierre Lemieux speak at the downtown library last night. Though it’s not likely he’ll win, I was again very impressed and his views align very closely with mine. As he pointed out, even if he doesn’t win, think of the message it sends to the new leader if a social conservative like him has a strong showing on the first ballot. Something to seriously think about.

2. From talking to others last night, I wasn’t the only CPC supporter well connected to party communications and social media who failed to hear about Maxime Bernier’s recent appearance in Niagara.

3. I may be adding more names to my ballot to ward off the threat from faux Conservative Kevin O’Leary.

4. When I mentioned to the woman seated next to me last night that I was originally from Winnipeg, she asked, “Can you send us your premier?” After I returned a puzzled look, she said, “Oh yeah, Brad Wall is from Saskatchewan.” Manitoba, Saskatchewan, what’s the difference? They’re both “out West.”

4a. I added that she wouldn’t want Brian Pallister, who’s proving to be NDP-Lite.

5. It was highly inappropriate of Mayor Sendzik to use the Top Hat Ceremony earlier in the week to play partisan politics and bash Donald Trump. Save that for your re-election campaign, Mr. Mayor.

5a. When I see Sendzik together with MP Chris Bittle in public, I keep half-expecting Bittle to say “heel” and have Sendzik kneel at his feet. Woof. And before you call me cruel for making that comment, watch them in action for yourself before passing judgment.

6. In voting for Sendzik, the electorate rejected an ultra-leftist in favor of someone who preached opportunities and jobs during his campaign. Yet they ended up getting the ultra-leftist who seemingly can’t get the Liberal rhetoric out of his mouth fast enough. His latest pillar is “inclusive community building.” If I wanted Jeff Burch, I would have voted for him.

7. I will give Sendzik credit for spearheading the inter-municipal transit issue. Now if I could only use my Presto card here in Niagara. The way I can on GO and in Hamilton, Burlington, Toronto, Whitby and Ottawa.

8. For some writing material, I watched the recent NDP leadership debate and Niki Ashton did not disappoint. In fact, I may even base a character on her. I laughed especially hard when she spoke about making the rich pay, conveniently omitting the fact that her provincial counterparts in Manitoba, where her father was a senior cabinet minister, dug into the pockets of the little guy whose cause she purports to champion to buy an NHL franchise for the richest man in the country. Gotta love those highly principled socialists.

9. Checking the headlines back in the Old Country, I couldn’t help but notice how Mark Chipman’s top assistant is getting fricasseed in the media on the heels of yet another failed season for the Mark Chipman Personal Hockey Club. A good leader does not crawl under a rock and allow his subordinate to take the heat for his own failures.

9a. There’s no way he would ever admit it publicly, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Kevin Cheveldayoff wishes he could turn back the clock six years and instead wait, in the words of Joe McGrath, “for a good front-office job.”

10. In six seasons, the late John Ferguson, himself a failed general manager, took a team from expansion and in four playoff appearances, his teams won four games and one series. In six seasons, Mark Chipman took an up-and-coming team with some good players on manageable contracts approaching the primes of their careers and has delivered one playoff appearance and not a single playoff victory. Yet people in Winnipeg still fervently defend that man. To coin a phrase, you get the owner you deserve.

11. To reward his team making the playoffs for the 10th consecutive season, IceDogs owner Bill Burke reportedly took the group out to dinner at The Keg. Given how they backed in, however, a Happy Meal at McDonald’s might have been more appropriate.

20 Mar

IceDogs Road Trip to Mississauga

Thoughts and observations from Sunday afternoon’s road trip to Mississauga:

1. It was officially called the “7th Man Caravan,” but it might have been better termed a “Carabus,” since we went in six school buses along with one wheelchair van.

2. Despite getting there well ahead of time, there was already a large gathering in place when I got there. One thing I’ve noticed about people in this part of the world is that they are exceptionally early, so the fault lies with me. I should have known better.


3. Brianne from the IceDogs office was running around like a chicken with her head cut off trying to organize the large crowd. Though I got the impression that this was a task she had little experience with, it is fair to point out that one person should not have been left to herd so many people. They should have had two or three, at least. It’s not as though they didn’t know we were coming.

4. I was directed into the first bus, which was already half full, as the second was being saved for kids and families. Little could I have known that it was going to end up as the Drunken Seniors Bus, as I was, by far, the youngest person on the bus, and the only sober passenger by the time the day was done.


5. Waiting for the bus to take off, I listened as chatter filled the air. Some of it was about the IceDogs’ playoff chances, but most of it involved their woes in traveling to and from their warm-weather getaway destinations. One couple had cruised the Panama Canal, others had stayed at Mexican resorts, while another couple had been in Cuba. That couple spoke about the time in which their tour company had gone bankrupt, and they were left having to foot the bill or risk not being let out of the country. By far the biggest gripe was with the airlines, and Sun Wing seemed to get the worst reviews.

5a. As I’ve said before, I’m not sure how much I’d have to be paid to go to one of those Latin American or Caribbean countries.

6. Even before we took off, the booze began flowing. Not just beer, but hard liquor was on tap and it quickly began circulating throughout the bus. One particular brew was sickly orange in color and reminded me of the penicillin I used to take so often as a child.

7. In addition to the booze, people were taking advantage of the free popcorn in two dog dishes making their way up and down the aisle as well as the bag of stinky salt and vinegar chips. People will eat anything, regardless of what it is or who has handled it.

8. As Joe, our driver, drove at breakneck speed down the QEW, many on the bus began posting stills and video to Facebook and Twitter. Despite claims to the contrary, the older generation has indeed embraced social media.

9. Looking around, I realized I was seemingly the only one on the bus not wearing any IceDogs paraphernalia. Of course, I don’t own any, though I suppose I may reluctantly give in at some point and buy something. Maybe. I’m not eager to pay those exorbitant prices.

10. After taking the Hurontario Street exit, our bus pulled up alongside a MiWay bus. Made by New Flyer. Try as I might, I can’t escape the SPRM.


11. We made it to the Hershey Center in just over an hour. As many drivers in this part of the world can attest, the 100 km/h speed limit is, in reality, a minimum.

12. After getting some shots around the Hershey Center, I went to find my seat, and for the first time ever at a sporting event, I need the help of an usher. The poorly marked section 14 had a seat 8, but not a seat 108 that I could see. It turned out to be next to seat 6.


Silly me for not knowing better.

12a. The usher’s name was the same as the father of the family that bought our house in the Old Country. The family that moved to Winnipeg from Mississauga. Ruminate on that one for a while.

13. Off to my right, I couldn’t help but notice a picture of the Queen, a fixture at the old Winnipeg Arena. Along with the dull, drab concrete concourse, I had the feeling that I was back in the Old Country. Luckily, there was no trough in the washroom.


14. Speaking of the washroom, I couldn’t help but notice someone who was letting out a big yawn after leaving a stall. Was what he was doing so physically exhausting or did he just fall asleep in there?

14a. Not that this surprises me here anymore, but there was a lineup waiting to use the sink. This is another pleasant change from the Old Country.

15. Seated in the next section to my right were Bill and Denise Burke, the owners who had driven down in their white Beemer. I was not the only one to notice their presence and during the second period, one fan ran down to take a selfie with Bill. He reluctantly smiled for his customer, but after the guy left to go back to his seat, the boss shook his head in disgust.


16. Before the game, the Steelheads introduced their mascot. “Sauga.” How original. It must have been named by the same person who wanted to call Bones “Saint.”

17. The IceDogs’ cheering section gave their heroes a hearty ovation when they came out to start the game, and they probably outnumbered the hometown team’s supporters. To borrow a line from Slap Shot, good seats were still available.

18. It was odd seeing the players turn to the side to face the flag during the playing of O Canada instead of facing one of the ends. It’s the only rink I’ve ever seen that in.

19. They just played a recording of O Canada rather than have a live singer. I can’t say I prefer one over the other.

20. It was nice of the Steelheads to give a warm welcome to those of us who had come from St. Catharines and across Niagara.

21. The IceDogs needed a point to secure the eighth and final playoff Eastern Conference berth, but you’d never have known it from their lackluster play. I saw more intensity from Jets when they were rolling over for the Oilers in the playoffs during the 1980s.

21a. I’m not bitter. Really, I’m not. OK, yes, I am.

22. The loudmouth seated in front of me berating referee Bob Marley all afternoon long would have been better served directing his anger towards the team in white. Not that I’ll rush to defend OHL officials, but when you fail to answer the bell with your season on the line, you have no right to blame the ref. Even if he is a moron, as the loudmouth kept suggesting.

23. Just when I was getting the impression that they wouldn’t have scored if they played all day, the IceDogs managed to break the shutout in the third period. Based on the reaction from the faithful, you’d have thought they just netted the game-winner in sudden-death overtime.

24. Every crowd has a Howie Meeker clone and I had one seated to my left. But even his enthusiasm waned as the game wore on. He was curious about my note taking, but didn’t care enough to ask me about it. And he’s certainly not alone.

25. As the IceDogs were getting blown out, the Kingston-North Bay score became the dominant topic of conversation in the third period. Fortunately for the boys in white, Kingston rallied to beat North Bay to give the IceDogs a playoff berth they neither earned nor deserved.

26. In a classy gesture, the IceDogs raised their sticks in our direction after the game to salute us for coming to cheer them on.

26a. Based on how they had played, it was a gesture I did not feel inclined to reciprocate.

27. Booze dominated the return trip. Not only was plenty being consumed, but many around me were bragging about their drinking exploits in past bus trips.

28. I’ve made the observation in the past that there is nothing more abused than a hockey player’s liver. In this case, it might also apply to a hockey fan’s liver.

29. I could only wonder what would befall these poor souls if they were to ever reintroduce prohibition. Those folks had some serious alcohol-dependency issues.

30. Despite the high level of intoxication among the alcohol-dependent passengers, I only heard the F-bomb used once. This is definitely not the Old Country.

31. Joe again drove at breakneck speed to get us back to St. Catharines quickly. Too quickly. Between Burlington and Hamilton, he even passed a bus from Safeway Tours. The Safeway driver seemed to take offense and pulled into the next lane to try and regain the lead, but Joe would have none of that and kept the pole position all the way to the 406. As someone on the bus said, “Give Joe the checkered flag!”

14 Mar

Been There. Done That.

As someone who suffered through an endless procession of disappointments during the NHL era of the real Jets, I read this article on arcticicehockey.com with considerable interest.

Penned by current season ticket holder Kevin Doherty, it eloquently sums up how years of neglect on the part of the Chipman organization has sucked the passion out of him and many other rabid fans. It sounded exactly like something I could have written back in 1989 when I gave up my season tickets for many of the same reasons. Or when I stopped going to Fighting Moose games back in 2004. Classic symptoms of Battered Fan Syndrome, something for which there really is no cure.

Having seen first-hand how Mark Chipman operates, the only surprise is that it’s taken fans this long to figure it out. Some still haven’t, while others choose not to.

Part of me is sympathetic. After all, it’s not the fans’ fault that they’re stuck with an owner who cares more about playing general manager and polishing his image than in delivering a quality product and treating his customers with some modicum of respect.

Unfortunately for fans like Doherty, it won’t get any better.

During a recent conversation with a friend, he made the point that sports teams need to sell hope to their fans. But with Chipman, there is no hope. The financial and emotional investment he expects from his “stakeholders” will never be returned.

And he will not change. Ever. Oh sure, he might shuffle a few of his cronies around. Maybe throw one or two under the bus. See Noel, Claude. Someone who, by the way, would likely still be behind the bench if it weren’t for an impending season ticket renewal deadline. But it will just be for show.

The worst part is that he’s not going anywhere. Flush with cash thanks to his practically unlimited access to public coffers and in a position of absolute power, there’s no reason for him to sell or step down.

As I’ve said before to people in that part of the world who laughed and figuratively wagged their finger in my face back in 2011, you wanted a Mark Chipman team, you got one. Be careful what you wish for. You just might get it.

10 Mar

IceDogs vs. Owen Sound

Thoughts and observations from last night’s game as the IceDogs took on Owen Sound at the Meridian Center:

1. It was only my fifth game of the year and first in over a month. As I explained to Matt at the IceDogs office on Wednesday, I still suffer from Battered Fan Syndrome.

2. En route, on the sidewalk in front of the PAC, someone passed by and said to her friend, “I forgot my backpack. Because I’m an idiot.” Who am I to argue?

3. As I normally do, in defiance of arena policies, I snuck in a cookie from home. If the ushers can bring their own food, so can I.

4. To humor myself, I took another tour of the souvenir shop. A tenth-anniversary golf shirt will run you $54.95, but a black golf shirt with the IceDogs logo was only $45.95. What a bargain. Or not.


Another interesting item was this knit Bones-styled toque. I think. Whatever it is, you too can have one for just $28. Earth to IceDogs: This. Is. Junior. Hockey. It’s not the NHL. And we live in St. Catharines. Not Toronto.

5. I know it’s getting old, but would you pay premium dollar to sit behind this hacked-up glass?


6. In the concourse behind section 108 was a crew from Cold FX soliciting passers-by to enter a contest to win what I later discovered to be a trip to Costa Rica. I can’t imagine how much someone would have to pay me to go there.

7. Left on the ground next to my seat was a River Lions game program. Evidently, this was an area the cleaning crew missed from their last game.


7a. I’m still trying to figure out exactly what “river” flows through St. Catharines.

8. I couldn’t believe my ears when the PA announcer, during his pregame schtick from the concourse, did not introduce himself. Now how in the world could the unwashed masses properly enjoy the game without knowing who he was?

9. As part of the pregame ceremonies, Mayor Walter L. Sendzik made a presentation to St. Catharines native Danial Singer, who plays for the IceDogs. As Mayor Sendzik made his way to center ice, the announcer mentioned two Garden City natives who had played in the NHL: Brian Bellows of the Montreal Canadiens and Gerry Cheevers of the Boston Bruins. Call me a stickler for detail, but Bellows played most of his pro career with the Minnesota North Stars and it would also have been proper to note Cheevers’ stint with the WHA’s Cleveland Crusaders. Let us also not forget St. Catharines native Mark Plantery, who I saw play for the (real) Jets at the Winnipeg Arena.

10. O Canada was sung entirely in Quebecese by students from Ecole Elementaire Champlain in Welland. That was seriously disrespectful, and the IceDogs should be deeply ashamed.

11. As has become a regular occurrence, my row was entirely marked as sold, yet there were only three others there. In addition, practically the entire section was marked as sold, but only half the seats were occupied.

12. What appeared to be a mother with her two daughters were at the end of my row and left their bags and coats while they went off somewhere, presumably to the washroom or to get “food.” How trusting of them. Then again, this is not the Old Country.


12a. Said mother with her daughters left one of their coats on the ground and made no effort to move it as I passed by. When returning to my seat, I made no effort to avoid stepping on it.

13. Someone seated in front of me had a notepad, and appeared to be a scout. Cue Paul Newman from Slap Shot

14. Scattered around the rink were some people from Owen Sound. They were pretty quiet all night, as was the rest of the crowd. Amazingly, Councillor Mat Siscoe posted a tweet in which he boasted about the “playoff atmosphere.” He must been tweeting about a different game. The only noise came from that stinking band that regrettably made another unwanted appearance.

15. On the other side of the rail to my left was a heavyweight who thoroughly enjoyed her Grimsby Grilled Cheese and accompanying fries that she washed down with a Sprite. In her case, it might better have been described as a Grimsby Girth Enhancer, as she needed it as much as I needed another hole in my head. Not to mention the fact that she probably paid more for her “meal” than she did for her ticket.

16. There was another heavyweight nearby who was sporting a Chipman hoodie. If he only knew.

17. During the first intermission, they had a presentation for Tim Vail, the Niagara Falls firefighter who lost his life trying to save a dog in Vineland in November 2015. Speaking was the great Marcel Dionne, who was seated in the next section to my left.

18. Oh by the way, there was a game going on. Down 3-1 after a first period in which they were dominated, the IceDogs rebounded with two in the second to tie the score heading into the third. Owen Sound promptly broke the tie, then added an insurance marker before the IceDogs made it interesting late. Unfortunately, they could get no closer and even with the sixth attacker, they could generate little offense and went down 6-4.

18a. This was not one of Stephen Dhillon’s better outings, though he was far from alone in that regard.

19. 5,163 were alleged to have been there, and I have to admit that figure was probably reasonably accurate.

20. On the way back, I spotted a sign in front of a bar on St. Paul Street that read, “Soup of the day: Whiskey.”

21. Getting on the bus in front of me was someone with a Dallas Cowpeople jacket. He was also mentally challenged. Coincidence? You be the judge.

06 Mar

CPC Leadership Event in Burlington

Thoughts and observations on my journey to, from and at the Conservative leadership event at the Burlington Convention Center yesterday:

1. On the GO bus to Burlington, I spotted at least three trucks from Bison Transport on the QEW. As I’ve said before, the SPRM continues to follow me around.

2. Seated across from me on said GO bus were a couple in their early 20s. Like, I don’t know if they, like, could finish a sentence without, like, saying “like.” Needless to say, I was, like, happy when the bus, like, pulled into the Burlington GO station.

3. I really wish they’d finish the work on the Burlington GO station so that I could use a proper washroom there instead of an outhouse.

4. To get me to within a mile of the place, I took Burlington Transit for the first time. On board was a sign, “No smoking, no food, no radios.” Once again, this is not the Old Country.

5. Walking south along Burloak Drive towards the Burlington Convention Center, I passed by Bronte Creek Provincial Park. That looks like a place I’ll want to visit.

6. I wouldn’t have minded the long walk except for what was, by Ontario standards, the miserable weather. I really have become acclimatized in more ways than one.

7. As is normal operating procedure for me, I was plenty early and had a chance to walk around and get some pictures.


There were tables from each candidate who appeared, staffed by campaign volunteers. I spoke to a member of Pierre Lemieux’s campaign, but no others. At each table were brochures outlining each candidate’s platform, but as a party member, I’ve been getting inundated with emails, so I was well aware as to where they stood. I was there to see them in person.

8. I was disappointed to see so much activity around the tables of Kevin O’Leary and Michael Chong. Those two are Liberals masquerading as Conservatives and, as far as I’m concerned, can’t drop out of the race fast enough. On a more positive note, Lisa Raitt had plenty of support in the room.

9. The crowd, estimated to have been between 800 and 900 people, were regular working-class people, many of whom were wearing suits and ties. Shabbily dressed, I almost felt a little out of place.

10. A photographer working the room had a piece of paper with “FUN” printed on it taped to his lens hood. Did he find his job so unfulfilling that he had to remind himself to think happy thoughts?

11. 10 of the 14 candidates were there and nine of them stood for a photo op before the speeches began.


Kellie Leitch, the first speaker, was running late and didn’t get there until just before she was called on stage.

12. Though I liked some of the things she had to say, I hadn’t been impressed with Leitch personally and nothing I saw from her speech convinced me otherwise. She is still not on my ballot. And not because she was, like me, born in the capital of the SPRM.

13. Pierre Lemieux, the third speaker, won some major brownie points with this voter. He got some serious applause for denouncing the carbon tax, and spoke of the need for stricter immigration and fighting against political correctness. He also had an easygoing manner about him that I liked.

14. Erin O’Toole made much of his support for the military, but there’s more to being a future prime minister than supporting the troops. Coming in, he was on my ballot. After his six minutes on stage, he wasn’t.

15. After O’Toole was the faux Conservative Michael Chong, who spent most of his allotted time on his poor immigrant story. It reminded me of listening to Devon Clunis, the ex-chief of the Winnipeg non-police, who bored me and the rest of his audience at Sturgeon Heights Collegiate some years ago repeating his “poor immigrant boy from the North End” story. Clunis turned me off with his self-serving oratory that night and Chong did likewise yesterday afternoon. As I’ve said before, somewhere, there’s a Liberal Party membership card with Chong’s name on it and I hope he avails himself of it.

16. Rick Peterson, perhaps the biggest unknown among the group, followed Chong and boasted, “I’m in it to win it,” yet only today would reveal his platform, months behind his rivals. To borrow a line from Rambo III, before continuing in the race, maybe he should go back home and think it all over again for a very, very long time.

17. Lisa Raitt followed Peterson and, like Lemieux, was impressive. She described herself as “smart, prepared and ruthless.” I like that. Coming in, she wasn’t on my ballot, but with her speech, she got her way back on it and likely in the top five. Maybe even higher.

18. Thanks for coming Chris Alexander, Steven Blaney, Kevin O’Leary and Andrew Saxton. Now please drop out.

19. On the return trip to St. Catharines, I was seated behind an older gentleman exchanging life stories with a 15-year-old girl. After he talked about his 14 grandchildren, she mentioned how her sister, who was 15 at the time, got pregnant and still doesn’t know who the father of her child is. In addition, someone else in her family got pregnant at 13. Try birth control. Better yet, try abstinence.

19a. This 15-year-old is from St. Catharines and spoke about “how bad it was there” because there had been a couple of stabbings of late. People who have never lived outside this part of the world have absolutely no concept of how bad things can really get and, for their sake, I hope they never have to find out. There’s a reason I picked up and left everything I had ever known and came here more two and a half years ago.