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.