Category Archives: Uncategorized

09 Aug

Low Point in Jets History – March 1983

In the course of my research, I came across the details for the Jets’ three-game sweep at the hands of the Vancouver Canucks in March 1983.
I groaned as I poured over the gory details. They were ugly at the time when I experienced it first-hand as a fan and the passage of time has done the Jets no favors, deservedly so.
The 1981-1982 Winnipeg Jets were the most improved team in NHL history. Loaded with young, talented stars like Dale Hawerchuk, Dave Babych, and Dave Christian, the Jets looked to have a bright future ahead of them. Though they had made a quick first-round exit in the playoffs, with more experience on their side, they looked forward to the 1982-1983 season with understandable optimism as they moved from the Norris to the Smythe Division.
The accolades came pouring in during that off-season. Tom Watt was the winner of the Jack Adams Award as the NHL Coach of the Year and General Manager John Ferguson was named the Executive of the Year by both The Hockey News and The Sporting News. Hawerchuk was the NHL’s Rookie of the Year. The Jets were headed in the right direction. Or so we thought.
The 1982-1983 season started well for the Jets, but they struggled as the season wore on. Nonetheless, with Hawerchuk recovering from a case of the sophomore slump, Babych developing into a dominating force on the blue line, and rookie goaltender Brian Hayward solidifying the Jets’ goaltending situation, the Jets were in reasonably good shape as they entered the month of March.
The Jets sat in third place in the Smythe Division, five points back of the Calgary Flames, and five points ahead of the fifth-place Canucks. The pressure was clearly on the Canucks as the trio of pivotal regular season games drew near.
The 1981-1982 Canucks had advanced all the way to the Stanley Cup finals, but they went down in four straight games at the hands of the vastly superior New York Islanders. The Canucks were a mediocre team that had used a combination of hard work and outstanding goaltending from “King Richard” Brodeur to ride an improbable wave through the playoffs.
The 1982-1983 Canucks were little better than the previous year’s edition. Their roster was sprinkled with a handful of quality players, but those Canucks were much more noted for being the classic “clutch and grab” team.
To stress the importance of the series, the Jets sequestered the players at the Fort Garry Hotel in advance of the series opener on Wednesday, March 2 at the Winnipeg Arena. The Jets left the hotel and treated their fans to a stinker of epic proportions. They were shut out by a score of 3-0 by the Canucks and their backup goaltender, John Garrett.
Moving on to Vancouver for the next game on Saturday night, the Jets jumped out to a 2-0 lead, only to give up the next five goals to the Canucks. The Jets rallied, but could come no closer than 5-4.
Despite dropping the first two games, all was not lost as the series wrapped up the next night at the Pacific Coliseum, but the Jets responded with lethargy and weakness in a 6-2 defeat that left their coach, their general manager, and their fans exasperated.
An opportunity to make up ground on the second-place Flames in preparation for a potential home-ice advantage in the playoffs for the second consecutive year and the chance to bury a division rival’s post-season hopes instead became a struggle for their own survival.
The Canucks emerged from the series in third place, one point ahead of the Jets. By the time the Jets took to the ice on Wednesday for their next game, they were in sole possession of the Smythe Division basement, looking up at both the Canucks and horrid Los Angeles Kings.
Ferguson reacted by bringing up three players from the minor leagues, then he traded Willy Lindstrom, the longest tenured Jet, to the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for Laurie Boschman. Ferguson told the Winnipeg Free Press, “I hate to see my team give up without a fight and that’s exactly we did in Vancouver. I can’t accept that.”
The Jets went on to win eight of their last 12 regular season contests to finish with a less than stellar record of 33-39-8. It was good enough for a berth in the Stanley Cup playoffs, but they fell one point short of the third-place Canucks and four points short of the second-place Flames.
If the Jets could have mustered as much as a tie in any of those three games against the Canucks, they would have drawn the Flames as their first-round opponent. Instead, they would meet the Oilers for the first time since defeating them in the AVCO Cup finals to close out the World Hockey Association in the spring of 1979.
The Oilers finished the regular season with 106 points, 32 better than the Jets. The three-game sweep that ensued, aided by the infamous Goal Post Goal awarded to Paul Coffey in Game 2, was predictable. However, this series could and should have been avoided, at least for the first round, if only the Jets could have risen above the much less skilled Canucks.
This series against the Canucks stands out as one of the low points in the Jets’ early NHL years and symbolizes their inability to establish themselves as contenders. Their path to glory was not blocked by the Oilers, but by themselves.

07 Aug

The Great Pumpkin of Roland and the $1.50 Bolt

Yesterday’s journey to the International Peace Gardens that straddles the border between the United States of America and the Socialist People’s Republic of Manitoba began bright and early with a bus trip downtown to the pickup point at the Holiday Inn turned Red River Hotel turned back to Holiday Inn.
Of course, I was early, as was our bus, so I got on as Roswitha, our tour guide once again, went into the hotel. While waiting, one of the other passengers got on and, unsure of where to sit, took her place next to me and asked if I worked for the tour company. I’ve been with them so often that I probably could do the job if called upon, but I politely answered that I was a fellow customer.
After the last pickup point at Salisbury House on Pembina Highway, with all 37 passengers aboard, we set out for the Peace Gardens, a place I had not visited since I was a young child.
On our way, we passed through Brunkild:

… then through Carman:


When in Carman, you can pick up your winter “brochers” from this travel company:

I suggest asking what a “brocher” is first.

Rather than taking us to a sizable population center for our morning stop, we were instead escorted a mile down a country gravel road, Road 22W to be precise, for a visit to the Roland Golf Club.

While sitting outside, I listened as a few of the golfers were chatting about the unusual presence of the tour bus in their midst. “I don’t know how they found us,” asked one of them. That’s a very good question that I wouldn’t mind an answer to.

In any event, I wasn’t the only person who noticed one of the male golfers teeing up while wearing a red dress.

I would have expected such a thing in Winnipeg, but to each his own.

After departing the Roland Golf Club, still contemplating how the tour company found this place, or why they would make such effort to do so, Harold, our bus driver, took us for a tour of the nearby town of Roland. Of particular note was the town icon, a giant pumpkin:

Having seen the Great Pumpkin of Roland, we headed west along PTH 23 only to have a red light pop up on the dashboard moments later. After an investigation, a bolt had broken off that was somehow connected to the cooling system. Harold had his own tools with him and knew how to fix the problem, but the only thing he was missing was a spare bolt. He called the bus company in Winnipeg and he was told that a mechanic would have to come out with a new bolt.

There we were in the middle of nowhere while I kept recalling Jesse Ventura’s line from Predator, “If you lose it here, you’re in a world of hurt.”

We were in a world of hurt.
After doing her best to entertain her passengers and passengerettes, Roswitha went out and flagged down a passing motorist who was kind enough to take Harold to nearby Miami and back, bringing with them a shiny, new bolt that cost the princely sum of $1.50. It wasn’t the time to make a joke that Orlando might have been closer.
Before the motorist who took Harold to Miami left, someone from our tour who was outside thanked him and gave him some money for his trouble. I hope that the bus company does likewise. It was very nice of him to stop and spend the time and effort to help us, and I would also like to thank him for his generosity.
It didn’t take long for Harold to put in the new bolt and in short order, after being on the side of the highway for an hour and a half, we were again heading west.
They decided to take PTH 23 since it was a more scenic route and one of the most noteworthy sights was the wind farm near St. Leon.

Sadly, however, PTH 23 turned out to be another one of Manitoba’s highways that are badly in need of repair or “renewal”, as the propaganda signs from the government say when they do road work.

Contrary to popular belief, Manitoba is not completely flat:

We passed through Baldur (not von Schirach – some former colleagues will appreciate that reference), home of the late Tom Johnson, a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame. The sign at right proudly informs visitors of that fact.

The highway didn’t get any better once we passed Baldur.

  
This is the approach to Ninette, easily the most scenic spot on this route. In the background is Pelican Lake.

We eventually reached PTH 10, the highway that would take us directly to the Peace Gardens. Unfortunately, the highway conditions failed to improve, despite being on one of Manitoba’s most well-travelled and important routes.

I’m guessing that shots like this don’t make it into any Manitoba travel brochures. It’s not exactly an inviting welcome for American tourists coming from North Dakota, only 10 miles south of where this shot was taken.

Minutes later, we reached the entrance to the Peace Gardens. Ahead is the U.S. Customs office.

Our first stop was the pavilion for an overdue lunch, consisting of some sort of vegetable soup, stale buns, and cold cuts.

We were sharing the pavilion with a group from the Canadian Cancer Society and their Relay for Life event.

I dispensed with the lunch quickly and went out and took some pictures of the fountain and surrounding gardens.

I went to the entrance and took a couple of more shots.

We got back on the bus, then we were given a guided tour that included a visit to the new 9/11 memorial.

Nothing like some distasteful government self-promotion to tarnish a poignant display. As a side note, this might also be the only such Canadian and Manitoba signage on U.S. soil.

The 9/11 Memorial, a collection of steel girders recovered from the wreckage of the World Trade Center.

En route to the Peace Chapel, I took some more shots.
The bell tower:

The peace tower:

Looking back at Lake Udall, on the American side, which is named for a Canadian. Lake Stormon, on the Canadian side, is named for an American.

The Peace Chapel. Our guide told us that they had to get special permission from both governments to build it on the border, since the treaty that defines the border expressly forbids it.

A cairn marking the Treaty of 1908 at the foot of the peace tower. On the left is the Socialist People’s Republic of Manitoba and on the right is the United States of America.

After the guided tour, we were given a few minutes on our own and I got a few more shots in. The floral clock near the entrance:

The peace poles:

With the hour growing late, we had to be back on the bus. I wanted to spend a little more time around the gardens and I felt rushed during the time I did have, but it was a nice experience.

I would come back often if I lived nearby, but for an all-day event like this, I’m not sure that it’s worth a return trip any time soon.
After leaving the Peace Gardens, we had to go back through customs.

Wouldn’t Jack Layton and his troupe of leftists be proud of those “no guns” signs?

A border guard came out to meet the bus and, to my shock, he appeared to be over the age of 18. He asked a couple of questions and sent us on our way without asking to see passports.

The Socialist People’s Republic of Manitoba welcomes you.

Radar detectors aren’t just illegal in Manitoba, they’re ILLEGAL. Then again, with law enforcement in Manitoba being rather, well, lax, one has to wonder why they bother with the sign. The honor system isn’t exactly working in this part of the world.

We took PTH 10 north and soon came to Boissevain, or rather, as the sign says, “BOISSEVAIN”.

While passing through BOISSEVAIN, we saw the town icon, Tommy the Turtle.

Crossing the Souris River north of BOISSEVAIN.

We had not seen the last of bad highways.

We continued north along PTH 10, then turned to go east at PTH 2, travelling on a route I last saw a year ago when I visited Souris on a day tour. The afternoon/evening stop was Treherne, perhaps the most inappropriately named town in Manitoba. Since the town is on highway number two, not “tree”, the name “Twoherne” might be a better choice.

The L & J Drive-In where we stopped.

If you have some dirty change in your pocket and need it cleaned, the Esso station in Treherne might be able to help you.

Winding up a long and adventurous day, we returned back to the degenerate capital of the Socialist People’s Republic of Manitoba, where I disembarked at my dropoff point downtown. The punks and weirdos were just starting to emerge from the cracks and crevasses and I suspect that in another hour, I would have been in the middle of a real-life scene from Escape from New York. Fortunately, I got home on a Transit bus without incident, but not without delay as, once again, a city resident got on a bus asking the driver if the bus goes to a particular address. With all the information on the city and the transit system so readily available at your fingertips, it continues to astound me why some people use buses as mobile tourist information booths rather than doing a little work themselves. If the city is going to put all the information out there for you, the least you can do is go look for it.
My thanks to Harold, for a job well done, not just in bringing us there and back safely, but for his repair work in the middle of nowhere. For a while there, it was beginning to look like the only peace garden we were going to see yesterday was the tranquil field were parked alongside of. The fact that we saw the real peace gardens was also due in no small measure to the motorist from Morden who pulled over and answered our call of distress, and to him go my thanks as well. Finally, another round of thanks for Roswitha, whom I’ve had as a tour guide for the fifth time in as many weeks.
24 Jul

Neepawa

Yesterday, I was one of many visitors to Neepawa, with the 15th annual Lily Festival being the official occasion.
My reasons for visiting were different than those of the 28 other passengers and passengerettes on the bus. I had been there last year at this time and I was so impressed with the town that I wanted to go back. The townsfolk were very friendly and the people seem to take a great deal of pride in where they live. It is a pleasant and welcome change from what I call the degenerate capital of the Socialist People’s Republic of Manitoba.
The drive to Portage la Prairie, our morning break stop, that has become somewhat routine, did not pass without a couple of photographic highlights.

I missed this shot when I passed by this way a couple of weeks ago on the way to Clear Lake and I did not make that same mistake again.
Rest assured, the temporary closure of the Elie Esso has caused me no “inconveniance”.

Near Road 31W is the sign for Carli’s Produce. I think most of you know why this is significant for me.
I also learned that the person seated to my left once worked with Telly Mercury, who was the first legal counsel for Winnipeg Jets version 1.0 and who served on the team’s first board of directors. Needless to say, that one came out of left field.
After getting off the bus in Portage, I made my way over to Subway to pick up my lunch. The lunch in Neepawa was provided as part of our tour, but, from my experience last year, it was not a gastronomic misadventure I wanted to repeat. On the way to Subway, I noticed this sign:

It was unseasonably chilly on this day, so I guess someone did “eat the heat”.

I returned to the bus via the deserted Portage la Prairie Mall.
  
I understand that Portage la Prairie is doing well, but the same can not be said for the mall. Good space still available. Cheap.
Near the bus, I spotted this sign:

It would not be wise to add another partner with a name that starts with “K”.

Upon leaving Portage, we continued west until we reached PTH 16, otherwise known as the Yellowhead Highway.

We reached Neepawa safely, only to have our designated parking spot blocked by the route for the Lily Festival parade. Derek, our bus driver, had to carefully navigate through some narrow streets that were in worse shape than some I’ve seen in Winnipeg to find a different place to drop us off.

We eventually disembarked near the Legion, where I spotted this cannon aimed westward.

It’s comforting to know that this cannon stands ready to defend us from the invading hordes advancing from the Farmers Republic of Saskatchewan. Jack Chow, or Layton, would, of course, insist on this armament being registered.
I didn’t stick around to see the parade of farm implements, but I did take this shot before beginning my tour of the town:
  
This is the historic Land Titles Building:
An odd-shaped home at the corner of Hamilton Street and Walker Avenue:

Someone who lives at the corner of Brown Avenue and Mill Street is obviously a keen gardener, or gardenerette, whatever the case may be:

I stumbled upon Neepawa Collegiate:
… as well as the hospital, or “health center”, the new in-vogue term for a health care facility.

This is the Yellowhead Center and adjacent Yellowhead Arena, which was a former salt mine that closed in 1970. Prospectors originally hoped to find oil at this site, but they found salt instead.

This is the sign outside the Yellowhead Center. The editor in me noticed, as you would expect, that Margaret Laurence’s name was misspelled. She is perhaps the most famous person to have been born in Neepawa and her childhood home, a Manitoba Star Attraction, is a museum and writers’ resource center, making this an especially egregious error.

Leftovers from the parade:

The Viscount Cultural Center for the Arts might have been an interesting place to visit, but I was a little short on time.

As a person who can orient myself by the position of satellite dishes on people’s homes, I noticed that everyone who had a dish anywhere in town, not just those on this apartment block, were customers of Shaw Direct, formerly StarChoice.

  
This is the childhood home of Margaret Laurence, not “Lawrence” as the sign at the Yellowhead Center suggested.

This is the Neepawa Building, which was originally built to house federal government offices at a time when Neepawa was Manitoba’s third largest city.

My next stop was the Beautiful Plains County Courthouse, not just because of its historical significance in the area, but because I knew there was a washroom there.

For all the efforts that the town goes through to host the Lily Festival every year, the lack of available public washrooms is something I wish they would address. There was a portable toilet outside and a line almost 10 deep inside. Fortunately, from my experience last year waiting for someone who took so long in the washroom that I thought he fell asleep in there, I knew there was a washroom in the basement and I used that one. An embarrassing situation was narrowly averted when I walked into the men’s washroom to find a woman in there who didn’t lock the door behind her. She was on her way out, however.

Having unloaded the contents of my bladder, I noticed this sign:


What must the rest of the chicken weigh?

A visitor from the Farmers Republic of Saskatchewan, showing pride in his taxpayer-subsidized, semi-professional football team.

Green is the color. Football is the game. We’re all together. And winning is our aim. I’ll spare you the rest of the Saskatchewan National Anthem.

There was a nice garden outside the Knox Presbyterian Church, which was built in 1896.

Horse-drawn wagons are available for a tour around town:

Free fertilizer is also available on the route. Be careful not to step in it.
Most people of Neepawa seem quite happy to have visitors, but the Noonan-Robinson household is one exception:
This house was originally owned by the Davidson family, one of the early settlers in the area:
I wound up my tour of Neepawa with a stop at the Beautiful Plains Museum, a former CNR station:

Once inside, I realized that I wasn’t going to have enough time to see everything. From the outside, it doesn’t look like much, but for a history buff like myself, it’s a place I could have spent half a day or more in.
For starters, this was a nice shot from 1941 or 1942 of the approach to Neepawa from the east along what was then PTH 4, less than two decades after the trunk highway system in Manitoba was established. I did my best to capture the shot with my camera, but I wish I had my scanner with me.
I visited a number of other places inside the museum:

There was a display of license plates dating back to 1913:

Various photos and displays from the area’s sports history:

Neepawa was the host of an air force training base during World War II and they had a display of some military archives:

Later, during a guided tour of the town on our bus, we learned that there are some graves in Riverside Cemetery from some of the prospective pilots who perished during their training in Neepawa.

I only wish I had allowed for more time at the museum, but alas, I had to make my way to Mr. Ribs restaurant where our bus was waiting.

Your mileage may vary, but I literally paid not to eat there. Once burned, twice shy.

Next on the agenda was a guided tour of the town and we picked up Joe, a local resident, who took us around many of the spots I had covered on foot and provided a lot of useful historical detail on many of the places I had visited. The highlight was a trip through scenic Riverside Cemetery, but I imagine it wasn’t a highlight for Derek, who had to negotiate some difficult turns. It wasn’t a place built for large tour buses.
The tour wound up with an unscheduled drive-by of the bird sanctuary and park on the south end of town. The bird sanctuary in Souris is highly touted, but I had not heard of Neepawa’s refuge for our fine, feathered friends that more than rivals its equivalent in Souris. On my next visit, I will have to make a point of stopping there.
We dropped Joe off near the courthouse, and then it was on to the Lily Nook, a couple of miles south of Neepawa.

The Lily Nook is not located on the Yellowhead Highway, but I guess it’s close enough. Many of the people on the bus wanted to buy lilies, but I just came for the pictures. Fortunately, the rain held off until we left the Lily Nook.

The rain came down in buckets for most of our way back, and the traditional “pass the time” activity of bingo nearly put me to sleep. The afternoon stop was Portage la Prairie once again, and most of the bus’s occupants, including me, were anxious to go home. Everyone was back on the bus well ahead of schedule and we arrived safely back in the degenerate capital of the Socialist People’s Republic of Manitoba a short time later.

My thanks to Derek, who brought us there and back safely there, to Joe, our guide in Neepawa, for providing some valuable details on Neepawa, and to Roswitha, our tour guide for the fourth time in just over two weeks.

22 Jul

The Urban Legend That Won’t Die

Recently, I read a column by Ed Tait in the Liberal Party of Canada’s daily publication, better known to most of you as the Winnipeg Free Press.
In his column, Tait had this to say regarding former Edmonton Oiler Charlie Huddy, who had just accepted a position as an assistant to an assistant coach of Mark Chipman’s personal hockey team:
Huddy, after all, was part of that Oiler dynasty that forever stood in the way of any kind of Jets’ postseason success — including that (in)famous 1990 series in which the Oil came back from a 3-1 deficit in a series against Winnipeg to win in seven and ultimately grab the last of their Stanley Cup titles.
“That Oiler dynasty that forever stood in the way of any kind of Jets’ postseason success,” was the specific line that got the hair on the back of my neck to stand on end.
John Ferguson, rest his soul, the larger-than-life figure who cast a long shadow over the Jets during his decade as the team’s general manager, would no doubt be comforted by those words. However, to keep blaming the Jets’ perennial playoff failures that began to border on comical on the fact that they were in the same division as the Oilers is perpetuating a myth that has no basis in fact.
The Jets hired John Ferguson as their Vice-President and General Manager in November 1978 and he remained in that position until October 1988 when Jets’ President Barry Shenkarow fired him before a home game against the Los Angeles Kings. Upon taking the job, Ferguson took over a largely shoestring operation and built it up to major-league standards. He played an important role in leading the Jets into the NHL, and for that, all Jets fans owe him a debt of gratitude. Through no fault of Ferguson’s, the Jets, along with the other three former WHA teams who joined the NHL in 1979, were stripped of most of their talent and entered the NHL with very little to build on.
Ferguson then began his “master plan” to rebuild the Jets into a championship contender though the draft. He worked tirelessly and remained remarkably patient through some lean years. His drafts brought some very talented players to Winnipeg and the Jets soon emerged from the depths of expansion to establish themselves as a team that no longer qualified as a soft touch on the schedule for visiting teams.
Unfortunately, the Jets’ path to contention stalled. They didn’t get any better.
Ferguson presided over the Jets for nine full NHL seasons. The Jets posted a winning record in only two of those nine seasons. After Ferguson’s dismissal, the Jets would go on to post three more winning seasons before leaving for Phoenix. In total, the Jets posted five winning records during their 17 seasons in the NHL.
This is not the resume of a successful, revered franchise.
Yes, the Jets always seemed to meet the Oilers come playoff time, and it was always the Oilers who came out on top. However, the Jets were always meeting the Oilers in the first round because they couldn’t separate themselves from the mediocre Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks to avoid meeting the Oilers.
Even if the Jets had managed to avoid meeting Edmonton in the first round, there’s no reason to believe that those Jets teams would have fared better against any other opponent. The Jets went down embarrassingly meekly in far too many of their playoff games. They had the talent to at least make the Oilers sweat and failed miserably to even do that much. Lesser teams at least made respectable showings when they visited Edmonton at playoff time.
No, the Oiler dynasty did not stand in the way of the Winnipeg Jets. It was the Winnipeg Jets who stood in the way of the Winnipeg Jets.

16 Jul

Tacky Addition to Grace Hospice

As anyone who follows my site knows, Grace Hospice is very special to me, as it was the place where I spent the most time with Carli Ward. Carli had been diagnosed with terminal cancer in August 2006 at the age of 24 and she spent her final months of life at Grace Hospice, a free-standing palliative care facility on the grounds of Grace Hospital in west Winnipeg. I visited her often once she moved there on the first day of May 2007 up until her death on the morning of December 15 of that year.
Carli was treated exceptionally well at Grace Hospice and, in many respects, it was her best home. She had a difficult life, but she received the care she needed at the time she needed it the most and in a home-like setting. We are fortunate to have that facility as part of our health care system.
Despite the passage of time since Carli’s death, I make regular visits there to see her name up on the plaque at the memory garden as well as her name up on the “In Memoriam” wall inside Grace Hospital.
I haven’t forgotten Carli.
I never will.
During my most recent pilgrimage, however, I noticed some new additions to the parking lot.

This shot shows one of the parking stalls with a new sign in front of it that reads “Remember your stall number. Pay inside hospice.” All the parking stalls have the same signage, including the two stalls designated for use by the handicapped.
I was appalled.
I still am.
For those not familiar with the layout at Grace Hospital, there are separate parking lots for both the main hospital and for the hospice. The hospital is fair game for parking fees as far as I’m concerned, but the hospice is a completely different matter.
Carli spent seven and a half months there, but she was an exception. According to Jon Einarson, director of the Grace Hospital Foundation, the average stay at Grace Hospice is 30 days. Distraught family members and friends visiting their loved ones as they hover near death will now be pulling up to the parking lot only to be asked to dig out their wallets for the privilege of parking there, as if they don’t have enough on their minds.
In this situation, visitors should be encouraged. Strongly encouraged. Welcomed with open arms.
Now they’re being nickel-and-dimed.
And that’s tacky.
Really tacky.
Shame on the heartless bureaucrats who thought this was a good idea.

16 Jul

Steep Rock

Having recovered from a hectic weekend of back-to-back tours, I was back on the road once again on Thursday bound for Steep Rock.

First of all, where is Steep Rock, you ask. I hadn’t heard of it before booking the tour either, but here’s the routes we took going there and back.

Yes, it’s a long way to go.
We left bright and early and headed north on PTH 7 past Stony Mountain to PTH 67 to pick up Lynn, our second tour guide, who lives in Clandeboye and had a lot of good information on the Interlake that she shared with us.
With all passengers and crew loaded, we went west through Stonewall and arrived at PTH 6 south of Warren.

This is the junction of PTH 67 and PTH 6, showing the CN railway crossing used by the Prairie Dog Central that runs on weekends during the summer months between Inkster Junction and Grosse Isle and Warren. I’ve never been on the Prairie Dog Central, but I’m hoping to make it this summer.

Turning north on PTH 6, we proceeded around Warren and then to Woodlands.

Actually, this isn’t Woodlands, it’s “WOODLANDS”. Most signs in Manitoba announcing names of towns and cities are in mixed case, but along this route, they were almost all in upper case. When I saw this and all the other town signs that were in upper case, I couldn’t help but think of a former colleague who achieved infamy by writing all her e-mails IN UPPER CASE. Part of PTH 6 is designated as part of the Northern Woods and Water Route, but it should have been given a commemorative designation in honor of my former colleague. I won’t name her publicly, but some of you reading this know who I’m talking about.

Our first break came just south of St. Laurent, or more correctly, ST. LAURENT, at the M.T.T. Service Station. It was on the itinerary, yet no one seemed to know where it was, and we didn’t spot it until it was in the bus’s rear view mirror, forcing Peter, our bus driver, to put on the brakes and back up. PTH 6 is a narrow, two-lane cow trail that doesn’t have any room for manoeuvre for a large bus.
After the break, we continued north and reached Eriksdale.
As the signs say, “ERIKSDALE” Welcomes You.
Continuing north, we turned west at the northern junction of PTH 68 and headed for the Narrows and the Narrows West Lodge for lunch.
The route to the Narrows was probably the most scenic part of the drive.
As we neared Lake Manitoba, signs of flooding were everywhere as stone dikes lined the highway in two different places.

Having reached the Narrows, we disembarked and headed inside the Narrows West Lodge.

Before and after the meal, I got a number of pictures around the area.

If you ever wondered about the origin of the name “Manitoba”, there is a plaque near the bridge that gives the explanation.

A member of the “Icelandic Air Force” in flight. On our way, Lynn told us the pelicans carried that unofficial moniker in the Interlake.

This is supposed to be a beach, unfortunately swallowed by the flood waters and an earth dike.

The bridge over the narrows.

The remains of the campground on the north side of the highway.
After the break, it was back on the road and we took PR 325 to Ashern, one of the few towns that didn’t have its sign in upper case. Heading north, the upper case sign trend continued as we passed MOOSEHORN.
Soon after passing Grahamdale, we turned west on PR 239 to head for Steep Rock. The highway, however, was in horrible condition and Peter spent the entire 20 km route artfully dodging a number of large holes. Fortunately, traffic was light and crews were working on the highway.

  
After one of the many craters we had gone through, I made the remark to Peter that I thought Steep Rock was by the water, not in the middle of the highway.
Having reached our destination with all passengers and the bus in working order, we disembarked for an hour at Steep Rock, a small community nestled along Lake Manitoba and another of the towns whose sign was ALL IN UPPER CASE. No homes appeared to be threatened by the high water level, but as soon as we got off the bus, we saw what was supposed to be a boat dock.
On the way in, I saw a little park with a train engine, so I made a side trip back to the park before rejoining the group along the cliffs.
There was also a nice mural alongside a building.

The community even has its own church.
Along the water’s edge, the town’s major attraction is the scenic cliffs along the shoreline, and I got a number of pictures.

The cliffs were nice, but I was a little disappointed as I headed back towards the bus. After spending all that time to get out there, I was expecting a little more. If you’re in the area and want to visit, it’s something I would recommend, but I wouldn’t recommend making a special trip from Winnipeg.

The refreshment/kayak rental stand opened for us, though no one from the tour rented a boat to explore the cliffs in more detail. At right were the primitive washrooms that I used. I was thankful that I brought hand sanitizer along.
Having seen all of STEEP ROCK, it was time to get back on the bus and head back down the highway that was as rocky as any of the cliffs we saw. Again, Peter got us and the bus through the minefield of cracks and craters and back to PTH 6. From there, it was south to ERIKSDALE and east along PTH 68 towards Poplarfield.

This highway, in sharp contrast to some of the roads we were on, was smooth about 99% of the time with the exception of the large bumps when we reached a culvert. The person seated to my left was snoring and the thrill ride we experienced at these culverts woke her up each time.

We turned south on PTH 17 and passed by the entrance to the Narcisse Snake Dens on the way to our next stop, the Inwood Golf and Country Club. On the way, I noticed that this highway had received some much-needed attention. The last time I had been up that way, it was almost as bad as PR 239 on the way to Steep Rock.

The highlight of this stop for me was seeing a goalie stick on the wall signed by Joe Daley, the greatest goaltender in Jets history. There was little else there besides the opportunity to get out and stretch my legs and wait in line for the washroom. Choices for stops around this area are obviously in short supply.

After the stop, it was time to return home. We dropped Lynn off at PTH 67 and the rest of us proceeded south into Winnipeg. I got off the bus downtown and had a miserable experience on the final leg of my journey with a busload of intoxicated adolescent punks headed for Manitoba Taxpayers Stadium, the province’s largest saloon, to watch semi-professional football players consume our tax dollars.
The rest of the trip, despite expecting more from Steep Rock, was enjoyable and, as always, I collected several hundred photos that will be ending up on CanHighways.com over the coming months.
My thanks to Peter, our bus driver, for getting us there and back safely, particularly with some of the bad highways we travelled on. It was my fourth trip with Peter and I was pleased to see him in a much sunnier disposition than the last time I had a trip with him. Thanks also to Lynn, who added value to the tour with her knowledge of the places we passed through and to Roswitha, our tour guide once again, whom I’ve travelled with for the sixth time and third time in less than a week.

11 Jul

Clear Lake

One day after my trek to Rat Portage, I was back on the same bus heading north west bound for Clear Lake in Riding Mountain National Park. I had been through the park last year on my way to Canada’s National Ukrainian Festival in Dauphin, but I had never stopped inside the park before, so this was to be a new adventure.
I had travelled this route before, but the trek on this day was not without its share of sights, scenery, mixed in with a little bit of humor.
I took note that the Esso station in Elie was temporarily closed for badly-needed renovations. Sadly, I didn’t have my camera ready to capture an image of the sign outside that read “Sorry for any inconveniance”. I was kicking myself for that faux pas all the way to Clear Lake.
As we neared Portage la Prairie, we passed a pickup truck hauling a load of firewood. The truck had a vanity license plate “GUD WUD”.
Once we got to Gladstone, our bus driver pulled over to allow us the chance to take pictures of the Happy Rock statue.
This time, I had my camera ready, as you would expect. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
Farther down the Yellowhead, I spotted a pair of cyclists heading east and another heading west.
As you can see from the picture, there is a paved shoulder that can’t be more than couple of feet wide. That can hardly be any source of comfort for any cyclist, particularly on a high-traffic, two-line highway like the Yellowhead.
Having the legal right to be on this highway is a right that is dangerous to exercise and some better judgment needs to be used here. To borrow a quote from Rambo III, “you need to go home and think it over for a very, very long time”.
Moving on, we reached Minnedosa and turned north. This is one of the most scenic areas of the province and I’m glad I was in the front seat of the bus to capture some of the imagery.
Heading north along PTH 10 passing the northern junction of PTH 16/16A, I couldn’t resist taking a picture of this sign. Evidently, having good spelling and grammar skills are not prerequisites for a job putting the messages on these signs.

North of Road 91N, there are some more scenic rolling hills, and I got a couple of shots through the window of the bus.

Upon arrival in Wasagaming, we disembarked and headed out to the pier to board the Martese that was preparing to take us for a cruise around Clear Lake.

I got a number of good shots from the front of the ship while being swarmed by hordes of giant flies. It was very windy and the boat was rocking back and forth, but that didn’t stop me from taking pictures. Like yesterday’s cruise through Lake of the Woods, however, no camera can do justice to the surroundings.

This shot of a large building reminded me of the lodge in The Shining, starring Jack Nicholson. Even if Jack was running around with an axe and his son was writing “RED RUM” on the walls, I was far enough away that I need not have been concerned. We have enough of those problems with wannabe-Jacks roaming the streets of Winnipeg.

More shots from the Martese.
After getting off the boat, we had an hour and a half of free time and I used some of that time to check out the Ominnik Marsh Trail at the southern edge of Wasagaming.

For any of you familiar with the Fort Whyte Center, the Ominnik Marsh Trail is like Fort Whyte on steroids. The boardwalk didn’t fall apart, but I didn’t feel all that safe on it either. There was a crowd behind me and I wanted to keep moving to keep clear of them and, in retrospect, I was glad they kept me going a brisk pace until I reached firm ground once again. The boardwalk sank into the marsh in several places and only after looking at the pictures the next day did I realize how shaky the boardwalk was.
Nonetheless, covering the entire trail was well worth the sweat under the midday July sun and it was probably the highlight of my time in the park. I only wish I had been there in the morning with less heat and less crowds.
I didn’t stop to knock on the door to see if the beavers were home.
Using what little energy I had left, I walked back to “downtown” Wasagaming, as our bus driver called it, and took a few pictures around the resort town.

While strolling around, I wondered if there was anyone left in Winnipeg and Brandon. Wasagaming seems like a charming little place, but it would probably be best experienced on a cool Monday morning in early October instead of Saturday afternoon in the middle of July.

I walked past the beach and I couldn’t believe the crowds. If any of them had the idea of wanting to get away from it all, it might have been better to stay home.
In any event, it was another memorable experience to savor as we embarked on the long trip home. I picked up another few hundred shots for CanHighways.com, covering Manitoba a mile at a time, and I was particularly pleased that we took PR 357 from Erickson to PTH 5 for some new highway shots.
My thanks to Doug, our bus driver, for getting us there and back safely, and to Roswitha, our tour director, for a job well done two days in a row.

11 Jul

Rat Portage

This past Friday, I took a trip out to Kenora to tour Lake of the Woods aboard the M.S. Kenora. As anyone who knows me would expect, en route, I put my camera through a more strenuous workout than the engine of the bus that took us there and the entire route between Winnipeg and the former Rat Portage was photographically carpet bombed.
Those shots will make their way to CanHighways.com in good time, but there were three particularly noteworthy shots among the 400 I took on our eastbound trek.

This is the Greater Winnipeg Water District railway crossing that follows the Aqueduct from Shoal Lake, which delivers water to the taps of thirsty Winnipeggers. Even our bus driver, who has passed by this way countless times, wasn’t aware of the significance of this crossing. The crossing is located between PTH 11 (Hadashville) and Prawda if you’re heading out that way.


This next shot shows the end of the divided highway as we leave the Socialist People’s Republic of Manitoba and enter Dalton’s Land. Of note is that the “Welcome to Ontario” sign on the right is actually located in Manitoba.
This shot is right at the boundary and you can see the pavement color change. I wasn’t surprised, but I definitely took note that the white lines didn’t match up. I’m also curious as to why two separate King’s Highway 17 markers are needed in such close proximity.
The rumble strips on the Manitoba side are carried forward into Ontario later on, but Manitoba takes it a step further on the undivided portion of PTH 1 east of Falcon Lake. Just as is done through Headingley, rumble strips were added on either side of the yellow lines in the middle of the highway. It’s an excellent safety feature and I applaud the highway ministries of both Manitoba and Ontario for adding them.
I had heard that King’s Highway 17 was in the process of being twinned from the Manitoba border to Rat Portage, but, instead, several passing lanes were added on this busy and treacherous two-lane highway. It’s better than nothing and I know it’s not easy building highways through the Canadian Shield, but this is something that governments should be spending our money on, not what Manitoba is doing by footing the entire bill for a football stadium that doubles as a saloon. This is a vital transportation link that got some attention, but it needs more.
Our first stop upon reaching Rat Portage was the Blue Heron gift shop, but I instead took the opportunity to get some shots around the scenic city.
This shot shows the Lakeside Inn, and for the hockey historians out there, this is where the Winnipeg Jets stayed during their first training camp that was held in Kenora in 1972. Kenora, as the placemats on our tables aboard the M.S. Kenora proudly told us, is the home of the 1907 Stanley Cup champions.
Just like downtown Winnipeg, they have ratmobiles in Kenora as well.
There are many murals in Kenora and this is one of them. You know you’re not in Winnipeg anymore when you see a nice mural not covered in graffiti.
At last, it was time to board the boat and our group had the entire main level to ourselves. We were served a meal that was surprisingly decent while listening to various mumblings from the captain. I later learned that he was speaking clearly into a P.A. system that must have been taken from the since-demolished Winnipeg Arena, a building made notorious by its bad sound system. I would have liked to have heard what he had to say, but alas, it was all lost in the translation.
Someone at our table asked for a knife, and I made the remark that, in light of all the stabbings in Winnipeg, you have to be careful about any Winnipegger asking for a knife.
After finishing the meal, I headed to the top deck, where I enjoyed the rest of the cruise.

These are nice shots, but no camera can do justice to the scenery in this part of the world. It just has to be experienced in person.

I took a lot of shots, but I had to put my camera away for a while and take it all in. If you’ve never been on this cruise, it’s well worth the time, money, and effort.
On Monday, there was an article in the Liberal Party of Canada’s daily publication that details the potential demise of the M.S. Kenora. It would be a shame to see this attraction disappear, so if you’re so inclined, you might want to take this cruise this summer.

On our way back to Rat Portage, we passed by Devil’s Island, where Aboriginal people drew an image of the devil on a rock. It looks like Charlie Chaplin if you ask me.


This shot shows Kenora from a distance as we near the end of the cruise.

This shot shows the town icon, Husky the Muskie, that’s located just off the highway as you pass the hospital on your way to downtown.

After the boat arrived safely back at Kenora Harbor, it was time for us to get back on the bus that would take us back to the degenerate capital of the Socialist People’s Republic of Manitoba.
Once again, I filled up the SD card in my camera with a few hundred more shots that will also be headed for CanHighways.com in time. It was an extremely long day, and the heat didn’t help, but it was a fantastic experience that I’m glad I had.
My thanks to Jack, our bus driver, for getting us there and back safely, and to Roswitha, our tour director, for another pleasurable experience.
01 Jul

Congratulations Not Required

As you might expect, on account of my popular Winnipeg Jets Memorial Site, my inbox has been humming lately. I’ve been making a number of media appearances, and as a result, my 15 minutes of fame has stretched into several hours. Fame is not all it’s cracked up to be and I’m happy it’s died down.

In more recent days, however, the prevalent theme in my inbox has been “Congratulations. You have a team back.”


Funny, but I don’t feel much like celebrating.

Against all odds, an NHL team is once again taking up temporary residence in the capital of the Socialist People’s Republic of Manitoba. Unfortunately, this team is the sole and exclusive property of its owner. Manitobans are welcome to join Mark Chipman for the ride, but the team belongs to him, not to us.

Chipman reluctantly listened to his customers and called the team the “Winnipeg Jets”, but I could care less what he calls his team. I choose instead to focus on the memories I have of the Winnipeg Jets. Chipman can go his own way with his team and I will be having no part of it.

Why, you ask.

I was one of the most dedicated fans of Chipman’s first team, the Manitoba Moose, for a number of years, not that I had a lot of competition. I got a lot of interesting stories to tell from it and more writing fodder than I can ever hope to use, but, spoken from a lot of hard-won experience, being a fan of a Mark Chipman team is excruciatingly difficult. I doubt there’s an owner anywhere in sports who casts more of a domineering influence over the course and direction of his team, on and off the ice, more than he does. It reached the point that I became unable to separate the entity of the team from its owner.

That’s when it was time to bow out as a fan.

And he’s doing the same thing with his new team. He’s running through that playbook, step by step.

And before you say it, yes, it’s his right to run his team in whatever way he sees fit.

It’s also my right as a prospective customer to reject it in its entirety, and especially now, since Greg Selinger has made me and every other Manitoba taxpayer an involuntary investor.

And that’s exactly what I choose to do now.

When the Jets left in 1996, I was heartbroken like many of you were. But, unlike the “return of the Jets” crowd, I wasn’t laying awake at night pining for an NHL team to magically appear underneath my pillow.

I moved on.

I don’t define my self-worth by the presence of an NHL team in the city in which I live.

Sure, I wouldn’t mind having a hometown team to cheer for again. I could get used to seeing the odd game here and there. But I’m not willing to sell my soul to Chipman for the privilege. It’s not that important.


I consider myself one of the lucky ones who didn’t sign up for a five-year commitment for season tickets that cost an arm and a leg expecting that a Stanley Cup parade will be going down Portage Avenue that won’t be happening.

Many of you are about to go down that same well-traveled path that I went down. It’s going to be a lot more expensive than the road I took, and if you think that NHL Winnipeg Jets version 1.0 gave you indigestion, you haven’t seen anything yet.

I sincerely thank all those well-wishers for their kind thoughts, but this is a “gift” that I’ll be passing on.
10 Jun

Name That Team

WINNIPEG (CP) – True North Sports and Entertainment, owners of Winnipeg’s new National Hockey League (NHL) franchise, has finally ended weeks of speculation regarding the name of the team.
Ladies and gentlemen, here come your Manitoba Civil Servants.
The news comes as a disappointment to many across the province. The overwhelming majority of Manitobans wanted the team, who had played in Atlanta since 1999 where they were known as the Thrashers, to be called the Winnipeg Jets. The Jets, who had been founded in 1972 as members of the rival World Hockey Association, joined the NHL in 1979 and played at the since-demolished Winnipeg Arena until the franchise relocated to Phoenix for the 1996-1997 hockey season.
“Since the Premier has been falling over himself trying to find more ways to throw public money at our feet, we thought it was only appropriate to call the team the Manitoba Civil Servants. We wanted a name that our players could warmly embrace,” said a spokesman for True North.
A spokesman for the Premier’s office said that the government was pleased with the choice.
“Of course, we would rather they were called the Jets, but since we’ve been funding True North with all sorts of freebies and handouts, we think that Civil Servants is a fine name. We’re sure the fans will warm up to it in time.”
The choice of name didn’t come without its share of controversy. The Canadian Football League’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers, also wards of the state, said that they had been considering using the moniker before True North purchased the Thrashers last month and that there could be confusion between the two teams.
True North, however, dismissed the Bombers’ claims.
“We considered that the name might create ambiguity with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, but since they elected not to use the name, we thought it would make sense for us. We don’t think there will be any issues with our use of the name,” said the spokesman for True North.
The team’s new uniforms will be unveiled at a later date, but the spokesman for True North said that the logo of the Manitoba Government and General Employees Union (MGEU) will be featured prominently.
“When the players come to Winnipeg for the start of training camp, we understand that they’ll be issued MGEU membership cards and be given the same orientation that other new hires into the civil service receive.”
The spokesman for the Premier’s office said that the Premier will be taking more time away from dealing with the worst flooding the province has experienced in decades to make sure True North has enough money for the design work for the new logo and uniforms.
“Absolutely,” said the spokesman. “We understand where our priorities lay. Flooded farms, cottages, and homes across the province can wait. True North will get their money. Go Civil Servants!”