Category Archives: Winnipeg hockey

14 Jan

Blast from the Past: Pat Kavanagh

For that handful of people familiar with the Manitoba Moose’s 15-year history, Pat Kavanagh’s name will not stand out as one of the best players the franchise has ever had. However, he may go down as one of the most memorable figures in club history, not for anything he did on the ice, but for his small, yet fanatically devoted legion of female followers.
Property of the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks, Kavanagh came to the Moose when the Canucks transferred their affiliation from Kansas City. Originally drafted by the Flyers in the second round of the 1997 draft, Kavanagh was entering his third pro season, having yet to play his first NHL regular season game.
Kavanagh would score 51 goals in three full seasons with the Moose, earning little more than a cup of coffee with the Canucks. Though he failed to impress Canucks’ management, he did impress females young and old.
His long, flowing hair sent hearts a-flutter in the stands and in online forums. “Kavy” became the favored object of affection of groupies in and out of Winnipeg. Never mind that he couldn’t play. “He works so hard,” was a familiar refrain. True as it might have been, he was little more than a marginal player, even at the AHL level.
Brandon Reid, “Kavy”, and admirers 
A group of women would regularly be among the first to arrive at the Arena to take their place along the glass for when “Kavy” would come out for the warmup. Sometimes they would bring signs, other times, they would press themselves up against the glass. There was a time when one of them turned her sweater around so that the “KAVANAGH 15” on the back would be facing to the front.

 Score 1 4 Us!

With the Winnipeg Arena virtually empty most nights, they certainly stood out and, no doubt, “Kavy” had fun with them. He’d make sure to swing by their way at least once, flicking his locks and nearly causing these women to faint.
Once the games started, the Moose turned in their fair share of stinkers and those women provided more entertainment than the game itself. It must have been a dark day for them when Kavanagh signed as a free agent with the Senators organization during the summer of 2004.
Kavanagh eventually got into eight more NHL games after leaving the Moose, but he never had the kind of success the Flyers or Canucks envisioned from him. Nonetheless, for some fans in Winnipeg, his career is more noted for broken hearts than for unrealized expectations.
13 Jan

Jets Site Update

For those who are interested, I have added three new feature articles on my Jets site:

A look at the tenure of former coach Dan Maloney:
http://www.curtiswalker.com/jets/maloney.aspx

Profiling the amateur players who answered the Jets’ call during their WHA years: 

http://www.curtiswalker.com/jets/fillins.aspx

A look back at Vegas Nite, a fundraising event during the time when the Jets were under community ownership:

http://www.curtiswalker.com/jets/vegasnite.aspx

08 Dec

Hockey History Display Looks to the Future

Last month, there was a display on hockey history at the Millennium Library. It’s mostly gone now, but there wasn’t a lot there, so there’s no reason to feel badly if you missed it.
What was there, however, painted a graphic picture on the dark and disturbing state of hockey in our city.
I walked along and saw items showing the Winnipeg Victorias along with other teams from the distant past, which was good to see. Moving on, there were a few items on the Jets. A Randy Carlyle and a Thomas Steen jersey were hung in the background and a few nice artifacts were available for viewing that included a game program, a couple of pictures of players, and even a pom-pom from one of the White Outs.
Across the aisle, there were two panels, one dedicated to the Manitoba Moose, and the other to the team formerly known as the Atlanta Thrashers.
In the Moose panel, there was a flag hung in the background along with a jersey and a picture of Mark Chipman, the team’s owner, president, and de facto general manager. In the next panel, along with a flag, were more pictures of Chipman.
I glanced back at the Jets’ display. I saw players. I didn’t see Ben Hatskin, Michael Gobuty, or Barry Shenkarow.
The Moose, whose presence was largely ignored and sometimes resented, did, against considerable odds, play here for 15 years. They retired Mike Keane’s jersey and had other players such as Jimmy Roy and Brian Chapman have long tours of duty wearing the antlers. Like them or not, they had a history almost as long as that of the NHL Jets. Despite that, there was only the owner’s picture on display.
In fairness, I suspect that neither Chipman nor any of his servile cronies had anything to do with the content of this display. In the case of the former Thrashers, there isn’t a lot of history to be displayed.
However, the content was no accident either. Chipman, in the cases of both his teams, made himself and continues to make himself the face of the franchise. Whenever there is any news surrounding the team, Chipman is front and center and he has probably received more air time since seizing control of the Thrashers than Shenkarow had during nearly two decades in a leading role with the Jets. When the final chapter is written for his current hockey team, it is highly probable that the display would not have to be changed to accurately reflect the team’s history.
I was a Jets’ season ticket holder for five years. During that time, I went to see the players play. I went to see Dale Hawerchuk, Paul MacLean, Morris Lukowich, Dave Ellett, and others. I did not go to see the owner own. I didn’t even care who owned the team, nor did I want to hear from him.
I ceased my support and ended all my interest in the Moose as Chipman took an increasingly active role in every facet of the team. Sadly, things are no different today with his current hockey team.
The game is about the players, not about the owner. Too many owners in pro sports today have taken on the role of “face of the franchise” and Chipman is foremost among them.
Part of being a fan is feeling like you have a stake in the team. You may not have a financial investment in the club, but you have a deep, emotional investment in it. That emotional investment can be even more binding than a financial commitment as you religiously follow the day-to-day fortunes of the team. I know the feeling as many of you do of living and dying with every goal, win, or loss.
When the presence of the owner becomes bigger than the team, that feeling goes away. The team no longer has a life of its own, it just becomes another corporate asset, no different than your local Wal-Mart.
I doubt that the people at the library had this in mind when they set up the display, but they could not have painted a clearer picture of the state of hockey in Winnipeg.
As I’ve said before to anyone desperately clamoring for an NHL team, be careful what you wish for. Now you’ve got it and it may be more than you can digest. You might be buying Pepto-Bismol by the case in a few years time.
13 Nov

This Moment in Winnipeg Hockey History – The Day After Armageddon

It was April 28, 1996 and the Winnipeg Jets were shaking hands with the Detroit Red Wings after being eliminated in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. The next time the Jets would take to the ice was at the America West Arena as the Phoenix Coyotes. The unthinkable was now reality.

Hockey Armageddon had come to Winnipeg.

Despite claims to the contrary, however, the sun did come up the next morning.

Winnipeg hockey fans would now be in for a new experience. The International Hockey League was in town.

Months earlier, the Shindleman brothers purchased a conditional interest in the Peoria Rivermen with the intention of moving them to Winnipeg, but then a group led by Jeff Thompson and former Jet Thomas Steen purchased a conditional interest in the Minnesota Moose and wanted to move that team to Winnipeg. Faced with competing bids, the IHL Board of Governors, in a move that would profoundly and negatively impact the long-term interests of hockey in Winnipeg, awarded relocation rights to the Minnesota Moose.

The Moose were in their second season in the Twin Cities, having started as an expansion team to fill the void of jilted fans who had recently seen the Minnesota North Stars to move to Dallas. They were about to pack up shop and attempt to fill the same void for Winnipeg fans.

The Moose played out of the St. Paul Civic Center and then the Target Center, taking up dates that were originally reserved for the Jets, who were a whisker away from moving there a year earlier. During their brief life span, the Moose failed to capture much in the way of fan support and though they made the playoffs in their first season, they were bottom-feeders in their second and final season and few were left at the end to notice the moving vans headed north.

Former Jet Dave Christian, one of the fixtures in the Moose lineup, was asked by the Minneapolis Star-Tribune during the 1995-1996 season if he wanted to make the playoffs. He said “No.” When asked why, he responded, “Ownership.”

Upon the completion of some difficult negotiations with Winnipeg Enterprises on a lease for the Winnipeg Arena, the Moose arrived in Winnipeg and were rechristened the “Manitoba Moose”. The “Thompson Group” as the ownership was then known, soon gave way to Mark Chipman, a last-minute addition to the group who would soon assert full control of every facet of the franchise. Minnesota Moose coach Frank Serratore was replaced with Jean Perron, a man with substantial NHL credentials and a Stanley Cup championship to his credit. Randy Carlyle, an assistant coach with the Jets and former Jets player, was brought in to assist Perron.

On the ice, the roster was completely remade. Former Jets players Randy Gilhen, Scott Arniel, and Russ Romaniuk were brought in among many others to supplement holdovers Stephane Morin, Jim Paek, and Andy “Schnooky” Schneider.

My first encounter with this new franchise was a package in the mail containing nothing more than a brochure and a bill. After failing to respond to this invoice, I got a call from a fast-talking salesman from the Moose trying to convince me that the mini-pack seat I had for the Jets’ last season was about to be taken by a prospective season ticket holder, but that I had the right of first refusal.

I’m not saying I’ve never been taken for a ride before, but I’m not that gullible. I called his bluff and let him sell this seat to someone else. Not that I really needed confirmation, but just out of curiosity, before the opening game, I asked at the ticket window if the seat was available. Sure enough, it was.

The Moose’s first home game took place on the night of October 11, 1996 and I was there to see them take on the Las Vegas Thunder at the reconfigured Arena. The upper decks were closed, the north end ice level section was turned into a club lounge, and a number of sections behind the north end goal were replaced by new purple club seating. I wasn’t the only one to ask, “Why didn’t they do this for the Jets?”

Skating out from underneath a pair of inflatable antlers, the Moose, sporting new uniforms that looked like they had been borrowed from the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, made their inaugural appearance at their new home. Not unexpectedly, they laid an egg that night and were shut out by Parris Duffus, who was property of the relocated Jets’ franchise.

Yes, I was there at Opening Night. In this case, however, I think history will show that virtually none of the attendees would be willing to admit that they were there.

The Moose did, however, make an indelible first impression. Fights were not in short supply, and from that night on, I would always refer to them as the “Fighting Moose”. Greg Pankewicz, one the stars on that first Moose team, showed his colors as one of the most colorful players to ever lace on a pair of skates. He would rack up more than 200 penalty minutes that year, and a good deal of those came in ten-minute increments. When the Arena was demolished a decade later, the much-abused door to the penalty box should have been rescued and bronzed for “Captain Misconduct”.

The promotions were just as colorful as some of the players. There was the forgettable “sing for your supper” promotion where candidates belted out some words and the fans voted with their applause on the winner. Between periods was “Turkey Curling” where contestants would hurl frozen poultry carcasses down the ice.

My eyebrows were raised when I saw Chipman running up and down the stands while games were going on. Having been a Jets’ season ticket holder for five seasons and attended countless number of games over the years, I could count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I ever saw Jets’ President Barry Shenkarow, even on television. Hands-on ownership had come to Winnipeg in full force and, regrettably, it hasn’t left.

The Moose drew some decent crowds that first season, but losses piled up as fast as the fight card. The most entertaining part of some of those games was listening to Jean Perron’s post-game comments on the way home. In his broken English, I remember him saying, “When tree player go to da puck carrier, what can I do?”

Late in the season, with the team floundering, Chipman fired Perron less than one year into his three-year deal, and installed Carlyle as his replacement. The team responded better to the man who would become Chipman’s favorite crony, but it was far too late to salvage anything from what had been a lost season.

There were 19 teams in the IHL in 1996-1997 and, in a system even more inclusive than the NHL, something I never thought possible, only three missed the playoffs. The Moose were one of them. The Moose’s inaugural season in Winnipeg could be filed under the headline of “you only get one chance to make a good first impression”.

Things would go downhill from there, but that year set the stage for an appreciation of hockey at the grassroots level that I could never have imagined. For those of you that think Slap Shot is a piece of unrealistic fiction, it’s a lot closer to a documentary than people would like to believe.

Put on the foil, here come the Moose.