Category Archives: Winnipeg Jets

09 May

Random Thoughts – IceDogs Scandal, Honoring Ab McDonald and More

1. For the benefit of anyone who hasn’t read the details of the scandal surrounding our local junior hockey team, I encourage you to take the time and do so. If only a fraction of it is true, it’s a heck of a damning statement about the Burkes and their integrity and it certainly strikes a blow against the supposedly wholesome nature of junior hockey. Furthermore, again, if this is in any way true, the Burkes got off awfully easy in terms of discipline, as OHL and CHL Commissioner David Branch, a heavy-handed authoritarian, is not afraid to put the hammer down. By accepting a lesser fine, I can only surmise that Branch wants this matter to go away as quickly as possible, particularly with the CHL’s showcase event just around the corner.

1a. There are a number of reasons why the Meridian Center hasn’t seen my shadow in a year and a half, but this isn’t one of them.

2. Though the Burkes have officially denied it, the timing of rumors concerning the team’s sale is likely not a coincidence. For the record, if it comes to pass, I have no idea as to whether this will be a good thing or a bad thing. Before the report on the secret deals surfaced, my feelings on the Burkes were largely neutral and I have no idea what kind of owners the new group led by Steve Ludzik, Rick Dudley and Chuck McShane would be.

2a. For interest, I’ve seen Ludzik play with Chicago and behind the bench of the IHL’s Detroit Vipers, I’ve seen Dudley play in the WHA and later with the Jets, and I met McShane during a campaign event for Doug Ford. And yes, that is the same Rick Dudley who was the last general manager of the Atlanta Thrashers.

3. Glad to hear there’s a movement afoot in the Old Country to name the St. James Civic Center arena after Ab McDonald, the Jets’ first captain who passed away last year. It’s especially fitting given that McDonald was a St. James resident and, in addition, the arena has some significant connections to the Jets. The team practiced there on occasion and it was the first place where the famed Hot Line took to the ice as a trio. And who can forget the 1979 exhibition game the Jets played there against the Tulsa Oilers, their farm team, in which yours truly was among the overflow crowd.

4. Speaking of the St. James Civic Center, I noticed that its primary tenant, the MMJHL’s St. James Canucks, a team I saw on occasion when I lived in the Old Country, was in the league finals. After missing out on a chance to clinch their first title in 20 years when they dropped Game 6 at home, they held a 4-0 lead with seven minutes to play in the second period in the decisive Game 7 in Morris. And lost. Ouch. Seriously, those kids are going to take that one to the grave with them.

5. Spotted on a church in Buffalo on Saturday was a sign that read, “Jesus was a refugee.” True or not, I doubt that, unlike today’s “refugees,” Jesus demanded:

a) free health care,
b) free dental care,
c) free accommodations at a luxury hotel,
d) a lavish monthly stipend, and
e) free legal representation to assist with the immigration process.

6. To help combat rising water levels on Lake Ontario, I expect the federal Liberals will soon be introducing a water tax. After all, according to their logic, if a carbon tax will reduce carbon emissions, a water tax ought to lower water levels.

6a. It’s scary to contemplate how many won’t get the obvious sarcasm in the above point.

6b. It’s a wonder our municipal Liberal representative who goes by the title of “mayor” doesn’t implement a suicide tax to stop people from jumping off the Burgoyne Bridge.

7. Dear Canada: The next time someone runs for prime minister who tells you how much he admires one of the world’s most brutal and oppressive dictatorships, believe him.

06 May

An Unworthy Induction

Late last week, the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame announced that former Jets co-owner and president Barry Shenkarow would be part of the class of inductees for 2019.

If you want to picture my reaction, go polish off a bag of lemons then take a good long look in the mirror.

I will openly acknowledge Shenkarow’s leadership role in saving the Jets in 1978, for which he and his partners deserve a great deal of credit. All that fans like me enjoyed and agonized over for the next 18 years simply would not have happened without their money and foresight.

Furthermore, during their first full summer at the helm, Shenkarow and Michael Gobuty brilliantly engineered the purchase of the remaining players from the defunct Houston Aeros franchise. Not only was it a big moral boost for a franchise still reeling from the tearful departure of Anders Hedberg and Ulf Nilsson, but it provided the necessary firepower for the Jets to capture their third AVCO Cup.

Finally, it was Shenkarow and Gobuty who ultimately got the Jets into the NHL, which helped ensure their survival for many years to come.

If we were to stop here, the case for his induction becomes a lot stronger. But one must consider his entire body of work when looking at this kind of lifetime award.

And the rest of it is not pretty.

Over the next 17 years, he was a terrible owner, and the teams he presided over were less than awe-inspiring. It is unfair to place all the blame for the team’s eventual departure at his feet, but it is equally unfair to suggest he was not part of the problem. It is true that he had a lot of factors working against him. Most notably, he was stuck in the decrepit Winnipeg Arena and forced to deal with its prickly landlord. Fans like me still cringe at the mere mention of Winnipeg Enterprises. But he did himself few favors along the way and his endless whining certainly didn’t win him a lot of support. He could have handled his end of the bargain a lot better and he was no innocent victim, as he is being portrayed in some circles.

In short, with all things considered, his resume doesn’t scream “Hall of Fame,” and I must withhold my endorsement of his induction. As I’ve heard it said, when considering someone for this kind of honor, if you’ve got to think about it, he’s not a Hall of Famer.

06 Apr

Pity for Leafs Fans

During this past summer, it must have seemed like a dream
When the schedule makers gave you a late-season date with the league’s worst-run team

Down the stretch, your team would surely need a win
With the easy two points, maybe the Leafs would get in

It did not take the Amazing Kreskin for foresee
That in early April, your woe begotten opponents would be ready to take to the first tee

All they had to do was give it a halfway decent showing
Instead, fans were left crying and moaning

Because there can be nothing more emasculating to a player or a fan
Than to lose to a team run by Mark Chipman

The playoffs are something Chipman’s team will never see
For this year, neither will the Leafs, since misery loves company

07 Feb

New Jets Book

I am pleased to announce the release of my newest title, Coming Up Short, the comprehensive history of the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets (1979-1996). The 294-page paperback edition and accompanying Kindle edition covers the original Jets’ 17-year NHL history in exhaustive detail.

To purchase the paperback edition, please click here and for the electronic edition, please click here.

It is written by a fan, for fans, to remember their team’s legacy with equal parts fondness, anguish and humor. The Jets of the NHL were anything but a successful team, but they were a vital and beloved member of the community they called home.

This book is the culmination of years of research and I hope all fans of the original Jets enjoy reading it just as much as I did in putting it together.

Among the people who I would like to thank are Kerry Kotlarchuk, the original “Benny,” who provided his memoir and some valued pictures; Morris Lukowich, who spent countless hours on the phone with me; and the staff at the micromedia counter on the third floor at the Millennium Library in downtown Winnipeg. I have no doubt that they’re wondering where their most frequent customer has gone.

24 Nov

Dear Jack Ask

This past week, I read an interesting item in the Winnipeg Sun’s new advice column. You can read the column here, including the response from Jackie De Pape Hornick, a.k.a. “Jack Ask.”

For the reader’s convenience, here was the question put to “Jack Ask”:

DEAR JACK ASK: I have breakfast with Ladd and sleep beside Noel. At least that’s what it feels like since all my husband does is live and breathe the Winnipeg Jets.

I was pumped, too, when the Jets returned, but now my husband goes to all 45 home games and watches every away game on TV, so the Jets’ schedule (stuck on my fridge) serves as the new family calendar. He literally asks me if I’ve “checked the fridge” if I mention a party we’ve been invited to — even for away games.

With the holiday season coming, he’s refusing to go to my work party and a family gathering because they fall on home game days. I’m starting to feel like a hockey widow and he’s not even a player. I don’t want to tell him he can’t go, but I don’t want to spend the holidays alone, either. What can I do?

— Married to the Jets

“Jack” gave a clever response. In this case, however, I think that I can do one better.

Dear Married to the Jets: Your situation is not unique among couples in Winnipeg, where the madness concerning this sorry excuse for a hockey team is still raging.

The end of this honeymoon period, however, is on the horizon, and with every loss that “Thrashers Light” piles up, interest in the team will continue to wane. Even your husband will soon be looking to pawn his tickets.

As long as owner/president/general manager/head coach Mark Chipman is in charge, you need not worry about a miraculous upturn in the team’s fortunes that might re-ignite your husband’s passion. Chipman and his hand-picked cadre of brown-nosers, personal friends and cronies will do little but let a bad team flounder while gleefully pocketing your hard-earned tax money.

Be patient. It won’t be long before your husband and every other hockey fan in Manitoba will grow weary of watching a collection of fourth-liners and waiver-wire pickups that would have had trouble beating the Moose. Ride the wave and be ready to welcome him back when once he realizes that ownership is not nearly as committed to the team’s success as the fan base.

In the meantime, enjoy the time alone. You’ll soon be seeing more of him than you can handle.

26 Jun

WHA Fan Day at Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame

This past weekend, I was a participant at “WHA Fan Day” at Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in Calgary.

I had initially planned to risk being beheaded and go via Greyhound, but the 21-hour bus ride across the continent caused me to have second thoughts. Instead, I made the bold step and booked what would be my first plane trip.

My first instinct was to fly WestJet, but after seeing the high fare, I decided to check into QuebAir and eventually booked with them. I saved over $70 by going with Quebec’s airline rather than the supposed low-budget carrier. Go figure.

Anxiety over the flight caused me to lose an awful lot of sleep over the preceding week and I arrived a nervous wreck at the Winnipeg airport on Friday morning. To say the least, I did not need the alarm clock to get me up in time.

Still wondering what I had got myself into, I got in line and submitted to the standard security checks. Being what seemed to be the only newbie in the entire airport, I went with the flow and grabbed a bucket like I was in line at the Stupid Store. With all of my possessions unloaded from my person, I went through the line without incident while being served by a trio who each needed a bowel movement in the worst way.

After passing through security, I breathed a sigh of relief and took the opportunity to stroll around the part of the airport that I had never been in before. From there, you can see all the planes like you used to be able to do from the observation deck at the old terminal.

Sadly, not only is the old terminal gone, but there is no observation deck for non-passengers in the new one. It remains a gross oversight on the part of the Winnipeg Airport Authority.

After unloading my bladder and bowels, I took my seat near Gate 12 and waited for boarding.

Among the first to assemble at Gate 12 was a middle-aged princess carrying her dog in her purse. At least I am assuming that it was a dog. It could easily have passed for a brown rat that had stuck one of its paws into an electrical outlet. Mike Masterson and the team on the popular Discovery show “Verminators” have probably caught many such creatures in their T-Rex traps.

It became plainly obvious after only a few minutes that this princess cared far more for her dog/rat than her daughter who was seated at her side.

This was hardly a pleasant sight, but what was far more annoying were the terminals at each gate blasting CBC. I had always thought that it was the job of airline personnel to keep their passengers calm, yet if there’s one thing that can push someone over the edge of sanity, it’s repeated, long-term exposure to CBC. This is a policy that needs to be seriously re-evaluated by the WAA.

My nerved were not calmed by the sight of a QuebAir training van pulling up to the side of the plane that I was minutes away from boarding.

As we boarded, I was surprised by the fact that the size of our carry-ons were not checked. On their Web site, there is much made of how large your carry-on bags can be and there are many sizers around the airport, yet no stringent checks were made. I was a little concerned about this since I wasn’t checking any baggage and was instead stuffing two days worth of clothing into my backpack.

Welcome aboard.

The aircraft seemed a little underwhelming and I had the feeling that I was flying with Bearskin Airlines instead. It was at this time that I couldn’t help but think of the scene in the movie “Major League” where Roger Dorn had asked if there were any stewardesses aboard their vintage “Indian Express.” Willie Mays Hayes countered with the line, “I wonder if there are any pilots.”

Before takeoff they told us that there were two washrooms, one up front for executive class, the other in the back for those of us in steerage. After takeoff, they would even draw a little curtain between the two classes, separating those of us who were more careful with our money and those who spent three times as much for the same product. I was glad to be on the right side of the curtain.

We took off with little fanfare and I was able to recognize various places from the air as we headed west.

The north Perimeter at PTH 6.

Portage la Prairie. Ironically, I would meet someone on my return trip who hailed from Portage.

At times, I felt like we weren’t going anywhere and that the plane was going to start falling from the sky. I tried not to think of the second “Die Hard” movie or the Gimli Glider incident remake on Discovery’s “Mayday” series.

The skies were mostly cloudy as we crossed the Farmers’ Republic of Saskatchewan and on into Alberta.

I was glued to the window for the entire flight and I was almost disappointed to hear that we were a half hour ahead of schedule. Nonetheless, that would mean extra time for my day-long adventure exploring Calgary. I had planned to go downtown, go up the Calgary Tower, get some shots of the Corral and possibly the Saddledome, then take the CTrain.

My day wouldn’t exactly go as planned.

After disembarking, I wandered around the airport for a while.

I soon stumbled upon a teenager wearing a Niagara IceDogs jacket. Only those who know me will understand the full significance of that sighting.

I made it to the Mac’s store on the arrivals level and purchased a Calgary Transit day pass for $8.50, then waited outside for the bus to take me downtown.

Once the bus arrived, I got on. While punching out the card, the driver asked if I was going downtown.


“No, you’re not. City Hall is flooded out. Nothing’s going downtown.”

He explained that he was just going as far as 16th Avenue, which was the Trans Canada Highway. Since I wanted to stop there anyways and get some highway pictures, it was no big deal. I would just walk downtown afterwards.

No, I wasn’t in Winnipeg.

After a brief layover, we took off and headed south on Deerfoot Trail, part of Highway 2 that connects Calgary to Edmonton. Though it was effectively a freeway, the posted speed limit was a shocking 110 km/h. Even in the U.S., it is common to have to reduce speed on Interstate highways within a major metropolitan area.

On 16th Avenue, or 16 Avenue as the street signs say, I spotted this character:

Then, right above him, I got my first shots of Alberta highway signs.

It’s a big deal to me.

As I proceeded west, I saw this police car headed east in the westbound median lane:

The eastbound lanes were so clogged that the only way the police car could get through was by crossing the median.

Another reminder of Winnipeg.

Once I got my fill of shots along 16th Avenue, I went back to Center Street and headed south towards downtown.

A typically Canadian scene – a lineup at Tim Hortons all the way to the door. Even the massive flooding that was so close by that I wasn’t aware of yet failed to dampen Calgarians’ need for Tim Hortons.

As I continued south, I was curious as to why all the traffic was headed north out of downtown. I soon found out why.

The Bow River was raging out of control and streets were flooded.

Once I crossed the Center Street Bridge, I saw that all the buildings were closed and that there was no power anywhere. It was like a war zone. On Facebook, I would use the phrase, Beirut of the foothills. So much for those plans of exploring downtown.

As the rain began to fall once again, I went back across the Center Street Bridge.

This is a shot of the washed-out Prince’s Island that I was hoping to visit.

I then headed north back towards 16th Avenue, where I got this shot from McHugh Bluff Park:

I stumbled upon this SUV with New Brunswick plates:

There was a tag at the back indicating that the car was purchased from a dealership in Moncton. Message sent. Message received. Only those who know me will understand the significance.

As always, I had prepared ahead by studying maps and I knew that I would find the Banff Trail Station by heading west on 16th Avenue. From there, I could catch the CTrain that would take me to within a 2½ mile walk of my hotel, assuming that the train was running. To borrow a line from the movie Under Siege 2,” chance favors the prepared mind. It did for me this weekend.

After a lunch break at Subway, I continued west towards the North Hill Shopping Center, where I had hoped to stop and dry out for a while. Unfortunately, the entire mall was closed due to a lack of power.

Interestingly, there was a collection of Greyhound buses idling in the parking lot. It looked as though the shopping center was being used as a substitute depot since the regular depot was downtown. Despite all my anxieties about flying, for the first time, I was relieved that I had chosen that option.

As I continued west, I saw a train emerging from a tunnel, so I breathed easier knowing at least part of my journey would not have to come on foot in the torrential rain. I took the time to walk around McMahon Stadium as well as the baseball stadium where the Calgary Cannons had once played.

I made my way to the Banff Trail Station and waited for the train across from a series of hotels. In my last visit to Calgary nearly 40 years earlier, we had stayed at one of them.

The train came quickly and I took a seat.

Within minutes, we were at the Crowfoot Station, which was the end of the line.

Armed with a day pass, I decided to get back on board and take a ride back to the Lions Park Station, the last stop before flooded-out downtown.

Interestingly, during that trip, I was talking with someone who used to live in Winnipeg. He also used to own the resort next door to the Crystal Harbor Resort in Sioux Narrows, where I was in 2008 and might be visiting again in August.

After returning to the Crowfoot Station, I got out and began the final leg of my journey to my hotel.

While passing through the Park and Ride lot, I noticed one of many signs warning thieves that bait cars are everywhere. I was most impressed. Obviously, Albertans actually want to catch criminals, not wrap their arms around them like the Winnipeg chief of non-police.

Keeping an eye on Canada Olympic Park high in the background as a reference point, I proceeded south along Nose Hill Drive.

One interesting sight was the Crowchild Twin Ice Arena and a sign for Morris Lukowich’s Lukowich had been kind enough to share many stories with me over the phone last year for my next book and one of the reasons that I came to Calgary was the chance to meet him in person.

As I approached the bridge over the Bow River at 85 Street, my heart sank when I saw that police had closed off the bridge. Playing the part of the weary, helpless tourist, I managed to convince the officer to let me across. I must say that this officer, along the one I encountered when crossing Center Street near downtown, was very courteous. This was another strong indicator that I was no longer in Winnipeg, where police officers are almost universally snotty and rude, just like the many of the citizens who they pretend to serve.

Shortly thereafter, I made my triumphant entrance at the Sandman hotel.

While catching my breath and drying out in my room, housekeeping staff made two unannounced visits in short succession. I quickly put the deadbolt on to prevent more.

The hotel room was clean and I can’t complain about it overall, but I did notice a fair bit of, um, deferred maintenance.

Flies that appeared to have been taped to the ceiling.

It’s not what I would have expected from a first-class hotel.

Later that evening, I joined Tim Gassen, his wife Sarah, and legendary WHA player Pat Stapleton for a dinner at a nearby pasta restaurant. I had already eaten, but I kept them company and enjoyed some conversation. I had last seen them in person three years earlier at the Hot Line reunion in Winnipeg, yet it seemed like it had been just three days ago.

Saturday was the big event at Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame a short distance across the highway.

I met many of the staff, including Mario Siciliano, President of the CSHoF, then toured their impressive facility that included a section dedicated to the WHA.

Wandering around, I took many other shots around the facility:


As a fan of the USFL’s New Jersey Generals, this display was of particular interest to me:

WHA merchandise, including the paper version of my first book, was on sale:

After a brief lunch break, players began arriving. Sadly, a few were not able to make it on account of the flooding. Featured WHA Hall of Fame inductee Al Hamilton was unable to make it from Edmonton and Gerry Pinder’s basement was flooded. Nonetheless, many did make it, including Ron Anderson, Dave Inkpen, Jamie Hislop, Mike Rogers, Rich Preston, Brian Carlin and Steve Carlyle. Morris Lukowich would join the gathering at the private dinner afterwards.

Anderson and Inkpen hold up a vintage Edmonton Oil Kings jersey. For those who are unaware, it was Anderson who scored the first goal in the history of the WHA.

Introductions began in the theater at noon. I was there shooting video and taking pictures. The still shots would turn out very well, but the video in the poorly-lit theater would not fare as well.

In addition to the players, Jimmy Stewart came in from Edmonton to display many items from his vast collection of Oilers and WHA memorabilia:

Here, Sarah works the table:

At right is a man who later asked me to help identify a Jets’ playoff ticket from 1979. He was unsure as to which game it was from and though I couldn’t be certain, I probably narrowed it down for him.

Players chatted among themselves and with fans. There were also lengthy question and answer sessions in which players shared many priceless stories from that era.

A group shot. From left to right are Dave Inkpen, Jamie Hislop, Brian Carlin, Ron Anderson, Steve Carlyle, Mike Rogers and Pat Stapleton.

Unfortunately, due to the tragic circumstances in Calgary and across southern Alberta, the turnout was light. Tim was crushed, but as I reminded him, this is part of a process of honoring and preserving the legacy of the WHA. Having a display dedicated to the WHA appearing in a major national institution is a very significant step forward in achieving that goal. Everyone involved with the WHA, be they players or fans, should be immensely proud.

After the main event was over, we gathered in their café, where a private dinner was held.

Before eating, a couple of women dropped by, one of whom was from Winnipeg. She was asking about my book and upon hearing who I was, she said that I was a bigger celebrity than Dancing Gabe. I’ll take that as a compliment.

Morris Lukowich joined us soon afterwards and I was among the first to greet him at the door to thank him personally for all the great stories he shared with me over the phone. Many of them will be in my next book, which will be a detailed history of the Jets’ NHL years.

I spent much of the time chatting with the players while Game 5 of the finals of that other major league was on the big screen. I was the only one of the group not to pay attention to it.

From left to right, Tim Gassen, Rich Preston, Pat Stapleton, Mario Siciliano.

The evening wound up after the game was over, bringing a long and eventful day to a close.

The next morning, Ruth Cowan of the CSHoF was kind enough to pick me up and take me to the airport for my flight back to Winnipeg. I stop short of saying that I would be returning home.

On the way, I got my best pictures of the trip along Stoney Trail and Deerfoot Trail that will soon be appearing on a Web site near you.

I passed through security quickly and settled in at Gate 9. I enjoyed the peace and quiet of not having CBC shoved down my throat. There was also no one toting their dog/rat.

At boarding time, it genuinely hurt to walk through that tunnel to an aircraft that would take me back to Greg Selinger’s Banana Republic. Being in Calgary for the weekend only made me want to leave the SPRM even more.

Leaving Calgary.

On this flight, I had someone seated next to me and we struck up a conversation. She is a paralegal from Calgary, originally from Portage, whose husband is an Oilers fan. She was quite interested in hearing about WHA Day and I showed her some pictures on my camera.

Having only five hours of sleep spread over the past two nights, however, I began dozing off. Unfortunately, the attendant call bells woke me up. The turbulence that we ran into as we crossed back into the SPRM made sure that I was wide awake.

Despite the turbulence, we arrived safely back in Winnipeg. It was an event-filled weekend that I’m coming to appreciate more and more with the passage of time.

I would like to thank all the players who attended and made the event so memorable. I would also like to thank Tim Gassen for making the event happen as well as Mario Siciliano and the staff at the CSHoF for being such gracious hosts.

For any of you that have any interest in the WHA, I would highly recommend a visit to the display if you happen to be passing through Calgary.

23 Jan

Viable, Indeed

Ever since Mark Chipman seized control of the Atlanta Thrashers a couple of years ago and relocated the franchise to Winnipeg, I’ve been asked many times as to how I think the team will fare off the ice.
I said at the time that I do not believe that an NHL franchise in Winnipeg can be viable over the long term and that, within five to ten years, it will be on the move again.
Since that time, there has been a run on tickets. Fans have bought them. Crown corporations, exceeding their mandate to provide a thinly-veiled handout, have bought them.
There has also been an explosion of merchandise sales. You can’t turn around without seeing someone with an “I Love Mark Chipman” T-shirt or jersey. Fans even expressed their love for Winnipeg’s most prominent used car salesman by purchasing special license plates with his logo on it.
At the end of the season, the team made so much money that it didn’t need to dip into NHL revenue sharing.
You were wrong, people told me.
“More than that it stated to the community and the world that no subsidies are needed in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Period,” said Chipman’s sugar daddy, David Thomson, to Gary Lawless of the Winnipeg Free Press.
But the weight of evidence is very much against the 3rdBaron Thomson of Fleet.
Even before the ink was dry on the purchase agreement for the Thrashers, Chipman was bounding up the steps of the Legislative Building. Into Premier Greg Selinger’s office he went bucking up for another handout.
In addition to the generous subsidy packages the three levels of government provided to build his arena and the practice facility that sits at the western edge of the city adjacent to his auto dealerships, he wanted more.
Sadly, “Greasy Greg,” eager to buy votes in an election year, gave in. And far too easily. “Help,” he euphemistically called it.
While farmers in the western part of the province and residents along the shore of Lake Manitoba, devastated by the flood of 2011, still wait for fair compensation, Chipman certainly didn’t have to wait for his most recent handout. This morning’s Free Press reported that $6.9 million of our money went to True North in 2011.
In that same Free Press article this morning, we get word that a casino is going up in cityplace that will pump even more money into Chipman’s pocket.
But I thought that they didn’t need subsidies. The 3rdBaron Thomson of Fleet said so.
Well, obviously they do.
You may argue that the revenues from this new casino don’t really come out of the taxpayer’s pocket. It’s a voluntary contribution. An “idiot tax” if you will. If I don’t want to subsidize Chipman, all I have to do is not gamble there.
Gambling revenues, however, are not limitless. The amount that people gamble is not likely to increase significantly as a result of this latest casino. All it means is that people who would gamble might spend money at this casino instead of going to, say, Club Regent or McPhillips Street Station.
And that means that money that would be going to the government is instead being diverted into Chipman’s pocket.
Guess who has to make up the difference.
Should the government be subsidizing Chipman or any other sports owner or team is another question. It is true that Chipman’s team does bring in other revenues that makes an arguable case, unlike the Blue Bombers, for example, who are simply dead weight on the public treasury.
But the next time someone wants to debate the viability of NHL hockey in Winnipeg, I’ll gladly debate the topic when and only when Chipman is taken off welfare and repays all the money that he’s taken from public coffers.
Then we’ll see if the cadaver that is the so-called “Winnipeg Jets” can breathe without life support apparatus.
03 Dec

Misplaced Blame

As the most recent NHL lockout lingers on, the only thing that surprises me more than the intransigence of the owners is the number of people in Winnipeg who are firmly in their favor.

Without question, there’s plenty of blame to go around on all sides.
Yes, the players make gobs of money. More than the average person on the street can comprehend.
So do the owners.
Revenue is growing at unprecedented levels. The owners are making money hand over fist.
And it is the owners who decided to shut the league down in order to get even more.
In past disputes between players and owners, there were justifiable reasons on each side.
Players held out for the right to be able to have more freedom to choose where they wanted to work. This is a right that most of us take for granted. With a limited window of opportunity to enjoy the fruits of a career at the NHL level, who can blame them for wanting to be able to ply their trade with the team of their choosing at a salary dictated by a free market system?
By the same token, owners have every right to ensure that their business remains economically viable. They have invested large sums of money and are entitled to reap the rewards from that investment. The “cost certainty” that the owners fought for has enabled all of the league’s franchises to thrive on and off the ice.
This dispute has no such honorable motives.
This lockout is about nothing more than pure, unadulterated greed.
The NHL’s owners, including Mark Chipman, are playing us all for suckers. And I know that I’m not the only one who is utterly disgusted.
The day after this past season ended, I called my television service provider and proudly cancelled my NHL Center Ice subscription. I enjoyed watching the Dallas Stars, but I’m not coming back.
Yet, many fans in Winnipeg paint Chipman as an innocent victim and cry foul because the players have the audacity not to capitulate.
Chipman is not innocent. His vote counts the same as hard-liners like Jeremy Jacobs in Boston. He is no more or less responsible for the current lockout than any of the rest of them.
The players are giving in. But they’re just not giving in as much as the owners would like. Led by stronger leadership than they’ve ever had in their history, they’re not just going to fold like a house of cards.
The longer the lockout goes on, the more entrenched each side will become. It could be years before the stalemate is broken. Both sides are digging in like soldiers on the western front in the Great War.
In the meantime, as far as I’m concerned, Gary Bettman, Mark Chipman and Don Fehr can all join hands and jump in the nearest lake.
Don’t bother hollering for a life preserver.
15 Oct

40 Years Later

Last Thursday, I risked life and limb to visit the Winnipeg Free Press News Café, located in the heart of the Exchange District. The most newsworthy part of the story to come is that I survived without being mugged, stabbed, or shot.
The occasion that brought me to this exceptionally crime-ridden area of Canada’s armpit was a gathering of five members of the original Jets squad on the 40thanniversary of the first game played in the history of the WHA.
I wrote an article on the evening for the WHA Hall of Fame and recorded 41:00 of the interview on my camera. For the article, pictures and accompanying video, please click here.
Under the mistaken belief that many hockey fans would have made the effort to come and hear these former Jets share some priceless stories from the WHA years, I arrived exceptionally early in order to get a good seat.
Sadly, I was wrong. I could have arrived midway through their interview with reporter Geoff Kirbyson and I could have had the pick of any seat in the house.
Perhaps there was a larger contingent watching the interview online, but it had to be disappointing to the players to see not more than 10 or so people scattered throughout that run-down hole in the wall.
I can certainly understand the hesitation in venturing anywhere in the downtown area, but this was a priceless opportunity to meet these Jets legends and hear them give us an insider’s view of the best era of Jets hockey.

I was glad that I made that effort and the many of you who weren’t there missed something special.

08 Apr

Weasels Are #1

I would remiss if I did not acknowledge something that happened in the world less common than the sighting of Hailey’s Comet. It might even be rarer than an NDP government exercising some semblance of fiscal responsibility, but I don’t know if I would go quite that far.
Nonetheless, this Earth-shattering event doesn’t exactly happen every day.
The Arizona Screaming Weasels, a.k.a. Phoenix Coyotes, nee Winnipeg Jets, are the champions of the Pacific Division.
That’s right. The Weasels won their division.
That’s even hard to type.
Personally, I have no use for the Weasels and I don’t particularly care whether they win the Stanley Cup or miss the playoffs. But it is a particularly noteworthy and historic event.
They claim that it is their first division title in franchise history.
It is their first division title as members of the NHL, but do you remember the last time the franchise won a division title?
It was 1976 and the Jets had finished atop the WHA’s Canadian Division, narrowly edging the Quebec Nordiques.
It was the Jets’ second and last WHA division title.
That year, the Jets were led by the Hot Line of Ulf Nilsson, Anders Hedberg, and Bobby Hull, who were together for their second season. New faces such as Peter Sullivan, Bill Lesuk, and Willy Lindstrom, along with new coach Bobby Kromm helped transform a team that had missed the playoffs the previous year into a bona fide contender.
The Jets swept the Edmonton Oilers in the first round, then they met the Calgary Cowboys in the second round. The Cowboys had upset the Nordiques in an ugly series that featured Rick Jodzio’s attack on Marc Tardif at Le Colisee, prompting police presence on the ice. Jodzio later faced criminal charges for the incident.
The Jets dispatched the Cowboys in five games, then waited for the two-time defending AVCO Cup champion Houston Aeros to finish a long series with the New England Whalers. The Jets swept the Aeros and captured their first AVCO Cup championship on May 27.
Though the Jets were a bit shorthanded with injuries to defensemen Ted Green and Thommie Bergman, it is interesting to speculate as to what would have happened if they had met the Stanley Cup champion Montreal Canadiens in a true “World Series of Hockey”. It might have been the greatest series in the game’s history that was never played.
Nonetheless, that team was one of the best of its era. And they did win a division title.
It took 36 years for the franchise to win another.
I wonder how many people will be in attendance in Glendale this coming Thursday night who were even alive the last time the franchise was a division champion.