19 Mar

More Rudeness in Winnipeg

Rudeness comes in all forms. In Winnipeg, it permeates every corner of the city and is hardly noteworthy when it happens. Politeness has increasingly gone out of style and the “Friendly Manitoba” moniker on the license plates is an urban legend that ceased to be appropriate more than a decade ago.

But when an elderly woman hobbling around in a walker displays the type of boorishness normally associated with a juvenile delinquent, even a hardened soul like myself pays attention.

While on Henderson Highway recently, I came up to a crosswalk. A man on the east side of the street pressed the walk button, waited for cars to stop and began crossing. At the curb on the west side was this elderly woman leaning on her walker who evidently also wanted to cross the street. With the cars stopped and lights flashing, she had ample opportunity to step out on to the street and cross at the same time.

But she chose not to do so.

Instead, she deliberately waited until the man had crossed and had both feet on the west side before stepping out into the street, thus delaying traffic much longer. She might as well have been holding a sign that read “Up Yours.”

Meanwhile, she had not cared enough to press the walk button again and the lights had long since stopped flashing. An inattentive motorist could easily have gone through the crosswalk without knowing someone was trying to cross. I can just imagine the outcry of support that she would have received if she had been hit.

We generally give the elderly much more respect than we do others. And in Winnipeg, this is how it is returned.

“Friendly Manitoba” indeed.

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.

06 Feb

Another Bus Adventure

When I got on the bus this morning, standing in front of the fare box
Was a young woman with long, brown locks

With so much room, she still chose to block our way
Did she not want us to pay?

I sat down opposite a teenage girl, her smile unnaturally wide and bright
Perhaps there was some white powdery substance travelling up her nostrils last night

Needing directions, an older gentleman asked the driver to be a sleuth
He thought the bus was a mobile tourist information booth

A young punk darting in front of the bus nearly caused the health care system to be billed
Because he came a whisker away from getting killed

I don’t take the bus very often, yet there’s always a story to be told
Each time I use Transit Tom in this bitter cold

30 Jan

Dodging the Bums

I ventured into the core area yesterday hoping to be left alone, if you please
Instead, the bums were swarming like a hive of Africanized bees

Waiting for a bus, a bum held his hands in my face looking for a donation
All he got was my consternation

He kept prodding until he got a response, but he had to figure something was amiss
Long before I told him what part of my anatomy he could kiss

He kept moving down the street
Accosting every person he would meet

Later on, after I finished using a pay phone
Another one approached me looking for a forgivable loan

80 cents is what he wanted from me
“Get lost,” is what I told him angrily

Instead, I should have asked him for a rebate
On the taxes I paid to line his pocket and fill his plate

Another went into the bathroom and took a leak
Walked right by the sink, probably hasn’t washed in a week

Such is the state of the downtown core
One thing’s for sure, it’s never a bore

24 Jan

Lost Dog Epidemic

As I walk the streets of this snow-covered community in the bitter cold, I am noticing an epidemic of lost dog signs.


In the past, I have noticed occasional signs for a lost dog from time to time, but never anywhere close to the number that I’ve seen recently. Lost dogs have apparently become such a problem that there’s even a Web site at www.winnipeglostdogalert.com, where dog owners can go for help in finding their lost dogs.

I am not a dog owner, nor do I have any affinity for dogs, but I do feel badly for the dogs in question. Domesticated animals are ill-equipped to live on their own and being outside their homes in this extreme cold can effectively be a death sentence.

Seeing these signs and the desperate pleas from their owners leads me to wonder why these dogs are getting lost in the first place. Certainly, accidents do happen, but there are so many people in this city who take their dogs out and let them roam free with impunity and/or handle their dog’s call of nature by “letting the dog out,” often to do its business in their neighbor’s yard.

These same people will then act so surprised when their dog, set loose from captivity, decides to go for a little adventure around the neighborhood, gets lost or just chooses not to return.

You can hardly blame such an animal. Anyone on the Prairies understands the concept of cabin fever. Most humans, however, know how to get home. Many dogs do not.

Perhaps if these same dog owners spent half the time and effort in keeping their dogs penned up as they did in printing and distributing these signs, their dogs would be safe and sound at home.

11 Jan

A Bus Ride through the Heart of Winnipeg

A bus ride through the city’s toilet
Begins with an evening that a bum would like to forget



He drifts in and out of a conscious state
I don’t want to know what happened last night so late

Someone gets on with a hat from the Witness Protection Program
Does he want to get shot, or is he just being a ham?

A young woman applies her many cosmetics, how much is anyone’s guess
Among this group, who is she trying to impress?

At City Hall, the bus shelter is not just a place to wait
For some it’s a residence with a cheap rate

At the Sutherland Hotel, an ambulance is parked outside
Likely another repeat customer will get a free ride

The Selkirk Avenue clientele fill the bus with an eclectic aroma
The mix of vomit and beer is enough to put anyone into a coma

On the dark street a jogger runs, what the heck?
He’s probably not playing with a full deck

Weirdos abound causing a fuss
And in Winnipeg, they’re all taking the bus

25 Dec

Christmas Day Bus Ride

Twas the day of Christmas and all through the bus
Plenty of creatures were stirring, maybe even a mouse

A rotund woman squeezes through the aisle with a great deal of trouble
After getting on, the bus’s weight surely did double

Under her arm, a large box of chocolates she did bring
It had to be empty, ‘cause it looked like she ate the whole thing

The first of a number of bums staggered onto the bus
After sitting down, he flashed his few remaining teeth to us

He soon caused those around him to scatter
Bathing more than once a month does matter

The next one showed that standing on his feet is truly an art
For someone who smelled like he just held up a liquor mart

A scruffy character with an IQ of about five
Had to have picked up his U of M backpack in a dumpster dive

Two teenage hoodlums showed no shame
As they scoped out their next claim

A woman boarded after her holiday eggnog
Inside her stroller was not a baby, but a dog

She didn’t look to have problems with her vision
Being a guide dog was not Rover’s mission

Another day on the bus that saps holiday cheer
It makes me want to get out of here

17 Dec

Moose Flashback: “We’re Not Marketing Fighting”

“We’re not marketing fighting on our hockey team.”

Those were the words of Tim Scott, Vice-President of Sales and Marketing of the Manitoba “Fighting” Moose back in 2000, as told to the Winnipeg Free Press, in response to the instant backlash to an ad that the Moose had placed in the Free Press.

 
Do you remember this infamous ad?

The ad in question was designed like a fight card and couldn’t help but remind hockey fans of the scene in Slap Shot when Reggie Dunlop was in Joe McGrath’s office going over a similar ad with the heading of “Aggressive Hockey is Back in Town.” Dunlop suggested, among other things, putting a picture of a groin injury and a “For Sale” sign on the ad, since the fight-happy Charlestown Chiefs were scheduled to fold at the end of the year.

The Moose were in no less trouble than those fictional Chiefs. Their lease was expiring at the Winnipeg Arena and despite having recently rattled off ten wins in a row and sitting comfortably in first place, attendance and fan interest were bottoming out. Crowds were regularly announced in the 6-7,000 range, but, in reality, there were less than 4,000 actually in the building. Many of the Moose’s fans had apparently doused themselves in some leftover invisible paint that Wile E. Coyote had ordered from the Acme catalog as part of one or more of his futile schemes to catch the Road Runner.

Two weeks earlier, Mel Angelstad, the Moose’s fighter, got into a scrap with Chris Neil of the Grand Rapids Griffins after Neil had tried to pick a fight with Moose captain Brian F. Chapman. Sensing an opportunity to capitalize on a potential rematch between the two heavyweights, the Moose placed this ad and printed off 2,000 posters of Angelstad to be given away that night.

Fighters came and went, but there were none like Mel Angelstad. Known as “Mad Mel” or the “Angler,” Angelstad was unquestionably the biggest “celebrity” fighter in the game at the time. He tracked his fighting numbers the way a sniper would track his goals and would boast with pride about his annual totals of 30-40 fights in a season.

He also understood better than anyone that sports was an entertainment business and there was no bigger showman than Mel Angelstad. After taking care of business on the ice, he would tip his helmet and beam his child-like smile at his admirers on the other side of the glass. While he was with the Moose, most of those admirers were the Moose’s preferred demographic, the 8-12 year old boys who were pounding on the glass yelling, “Fight! Fight! Fight!”

As the Moose had hoped, the ad did generate plenty of attention, but, as was commonplace during that era, it was very negative attention. The Moose were forced to hastily backtrack and reworded the ad the following day to instead promote the opposing power plays and penalty killing units.

“We realized right away it wasn’t an accurate reflection of what we’re all about. So we said, ‘Let’s change it,’” said Moose owner/president/general manager/head coach Mark Chipman to the Free Press.

But it was an accurate reflection of what the “Fighting” Moose were all about.

During their five seasons in the IHL, the Moose had more fights than points in the standings and they had led the league in number of fights the previous season. “Fight! Fight! Fight!” was easily the most common chant during those years. By contrast, I could count on the fingers of one hand the number of times that I heard a “Go Moose Go” chant.

This was but one of many colorful, zany stories from an otherwise forgettable era of hockey history in Winnipeg that few fans saw.

Hmmm, maybe someone should write a book featuring all those stories.

And maybe someone is doing just that.

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.

02 Nov

Deacon’s Corner Sign-Gate

On the Trans-Canada Highway east of Winnipeg, there is a sign just past Deacon’s Corner that gives the distance in kilometers to Falcon Lake and Kenora. In many respects, it is a sign not unlike many others in the province that gives motorists an idea how far it is to their destination.

This one, however, has a sordid tale behind it.

After the Metric system was imposed upon the Canadian people during Pierre Trudeau’s autocratic reign as the country’s heavy-handed, supreme ruler, many of these signs around the province were changed to reflect the distances in kilometers instead of miles.


This particular sign, likely an original of the Metric era, had served motorists well for many years. Though the posts and perhaps the brackets that were holding it up had seen better days, despite its age, the metal sign itself looked no worse for the wear. However, someone at Manitoba Infrastructure and Transportation still decided that it needed to be replaced. The reasons for this decision escape me.



Two years ago, as part of the much-needed resurfacing of this stretch of highway, this new sign made its unceremonious debut. Not only had Kenora apparently moved two kilometers closer, the first letter of Kenora had been spelled with a small “k” and the “k” in Falcon Lake had been capitalized.

These glaring errors on this three or four-foot high sign could not possibly be any more obvious, yet no one with Signal Industries in Dauphin, where these signs are made, or Infrastructure and Transportation caught them.

This sign clearly should never have left the factory, let alone been put up on the side of a highway. I can’t even hazard a guess as to how many people saw this sign on its way here and failed to notice the mistakes.

Worse still, this sign stood there for over a year until it was finally corrected this summer.

Today, as part of a 41-mile bike ride out that way, I visited the location and got a picture of the corrected sign.

Rather than putting a sticker or a metal plate over each letter, which is commonly done on these signs, they repainted it completely. It is akin to repainting an entire wall of a room in your house to cover up a mark the size of a closed fist.

I can just hear a good friend of mine saying, “Thank you government!”™

Your tax dollars at work.