Tag Archives: Winnipeg Jets

15 Apr

Random Thoughts – Bill Sutherland, NHL Playoffs, Old Country Justice and More

1. Though I didn’t know him personally, I was saddened to learn of the death of former Jets player and coach Bill Sutherland. He had two years as a player and many more as an assistant coach, even filling in as the head coach on a couple of occasions, and was one of the longest-tenured members in the 24-year history of the franchise.

Oddly enough, what I remember most about Sutherland was how he was always the standby intermission guest during radio broadcasts I listened to in the 1980s in case the scheduled invitee failed to show.

1a. Despite his stature with the Jets, the news of his death apparently didn’t warrant any ink in Socialism Illustrated, a publication that purports itself as the leader in local news. And they have the nerve to chastise me. But I guess they’re just too busy bashing Brian Pallister and anyone else with political leanings anywhere to the right of Lenin.

1b. In today’s funeral announcement, the family asked for donations to Mark Chipman’s youth foundation. I had thought of making a donation in Sutherland’s memory, but I would sooner take a stack of $20 bills and light them on fire rather than give even more of my money to any entity connected with Chipman.

2. Speaking of Socialism Illustrated, I read their article this past week on the senior who was sentenced to nine months in jail for a hit-and-run incident involving the death of a pedestrian who walked out into traffic on a busy, poorly-lit roadway in the middle of the night. The family’s grief is absolutely understandable, but it was sad to see them still wrongly blaming the driver, who was correctly not charged for the death, only for leaving the scene of the accident. In that part of the world, nine out of every ten times when a car hits a pedestrian, it’s the pedestrian’s fault. This case was no exception.

2a. According the severely twisted logic of Manitoba’s justice system, you get nine months for leaving the scene when a pedestrian makes a successful attempt at a Darwin Award in front of your car in the middle of the night, but you can run down a flag person at a construction scene in broad daylight and walk out of court a free man. I don’t get it.

3. Within a day of my last post, our mayor congratulated a small business in St. Catharines on their accomplishments. You don’t think . . . Nah.

3a. Our mayor posted something else the other day about a show he was recording on social justice. When’s that next municipal election again?

3b. Sadly, I’m not expecting Mayor Sendzik to have any serious challengers next year. But he certainly needs them.

4. If there is so little crime going on in our part of the world that the Niagara Regional Police has the time, energy and resources to launch a campaign against the use of the R-word, we should instead be talking about trimming their budget. A lot.

5. Now that the Edmonton Oilers have won a playoff game, there remains only one Western Conference team without a postseason victory since 2011 when Manitoba taxpayers were forced to purchase the Atlanta Thrashers for Mark Chipman. In the words of a former high school classmate, three guesses. But you’ll only need one. Trust me.

5a. With said playoff victory by the Oil, I couldn’t help but reflect back to the summer of 2011 when my inbox was filling up with messages from media types eager to find out how excited I was to have an NHL team back in Winnipeg. Not surprisingly, they dropped me like a hot potato after getting some thoughts and opinions they didn’t expect, but you have to wonder if they might be looking back today and thinking that I might have been on to something. Not that I’m thrilled to have been right.

6. One of those media types was Sheila North Wilson, who was then with CBC. Today, she’s a grand chief of a northern reserve and was in the news recently desperately trying to making a prima facie case for racism based solely on the deplorable conditions in her reserve. She also challenged people to come and live on the reserve to find out how bad things are for themselves.

One Socialism Illustrated reader said it best:

“Mr. Pallister should take her up on the offer. Very good chance Mr. Pallister would clean the place, take care of it as if it’s his own and maintain the property. Could be a good lesson for everyone.”

In other words, the state provides. Most generously. Yes, for the benefit of the uninformed, people do choose to live that way.

6a. When you keep playing the race card, you become like the boy who cried wolf. No one takes you seriously anymore.

7. Is it just me or do the Minnesota Wild’s uniforms get progressively worse every time they change them? Rather than firing their coach, they need to fire their uniform designers.

14 Mar

Been There. Done That.

As someone who suffered through an endless procession of disappointments during the NHL era of the real Jets, I read this article on arcticicehockey.com with considerable interest.

Penned by current season ticket holder Kevin Doherty, it eloquently sums up how years of neglect on the part of the Chipman organization has sucked the passion out of him and many other rabid fans. It sounded exactly like something I could have written back in 1989 when I gave up my season tickets for many of the same reasons. Or when I stopped going to Fighting Moose games back in 2004. Classic symptoms of Battered Fan Syndrome, something for which there really is no cure.

Having seen first-hand how Mark Chipman operates, the only surprise is that it’s taken fans this long to figure it out. Some still haven’t, while others choose not to.

Part of me is sympathetic. After all, it’s not the fans’ fault that they’re stuck with an owner who cares more about playing general manager and polishing his image than in delivering a quality product and treating his customers with some modicum of respect.

Unfortunately for fans like Doherty, it won’t get any better.

During a recent conversation with a friend, he made the point that sports teams need to sell hope to their fans. But with Chipman, there is no hope. The financial and emotional investment he expects from his “stakeholders” will never be returned.

And he will not change. Ever. Oh sure, he might shuffle a few of his cronies around. Maybe throw one or two under the bus. See Noel, Claude. Someone who, by the way, would likely still be behind the bench if it weren’t for an impending season ticket renewal deadline. But it will just be for show.

The worst part is that he’s not going anywhere. Flush with cash thanks to his practically unlimited access to public coffers and in a position of absolute power, there’s no reason for him to sell or step down.

As I’ve said before to people in that part of the world who laughed and figuratively wagged their finger in my face back in 2011, you wanted a Mark Chipman team, you got one. Be careful what you wish for. You just might get it.

26 Jan

Winnipeg Jets Day at the Meridian Center

Yesterday afternoon, I went to see the IceDogs again as they took on the Barrie Colts at the Meridian Center. This was a date I’ve had circled on my calendar for some time because of the opportunity to see Jets legend Dale Hawerchuk behind the Barrie bench. I saw the greatest player in Jets NHL history so often during my five years as a season ticket holder and this was my chance to see him once again.

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As soon as I walked into the building, I was befuddled when one of the security guards asked, “Are you here for the game?” What else would I be there for?

While waiting to get in, someone who noticed the Jets gear I was decked out in approached me and said, “Winnipeg, they’ve been winning.” He apparently was one of those who still do not distinguish between the Winnipeg Jets, a team that no longer exists, and the Mark Chipman Personal Hockey Club. I assumed he meant the Chipman team instead of the Jets, so I responded, “Don’t worry, it won’t last.” He seemed surprisingly taken aback as he went on to talk about Chipman’s team before asking, “Your goalie, is he stopping the puck?” I told him I had no idea and I don’t even know who his goalie is, even though, as a former Manitoba taxpayer, I was helping to pay his salary. A surprising number of fans remain wilfully blind to the fact that the Chipman franchise has been on artificial life support before they ever dropped the puck. This so-called “inevitable” return of NHL hockey to Winnipeg has been made possible only by generous government handouts.

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When I got to my seat, I noticed once again that it, along with many others in the area, was dirty. Not only that, the floor hadn’t been cleaned and as you can see from the picture, there were some leftover cheezies on the ground. I wasn’t the only one to flag down the girl who was going around cleaning off the seats and she claimed that they do get wiped. It is a claim I find hard to believe. Once she finished in my section, she continued around the rink and as late as ten minutes before the start of the game, they were still wiping down seats. SMG is supposed to be a world-renowned arena management company, but they’re not exactly doing a bang-up job at the Meridian Center. I shudder to think what this jewel of a building is going to look like in five years time under their stewardship.

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To my surprise, seated opposite me on the other side of the rink were a couple of season ticket holders who were also dressed in Jets gear. The woman on the left was wearing a 1980s vintage jersey like the one I was wearing, but unlike me, she also had Hawerchuk’s name and number on the back.

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Interestingly, Mike Rosati, a former Manitoba Fighting Moose goaltender, was also behind the bench as one of Hawerchuk’s assistants. Rosati will be one of the players featured in my next book, View from Section 26: A fan’s look at the minor leagues featuring pro hockey’s most unwanted team, which I expect to have available sometime this year.

Though Hawerchuk’s appearance was the headline attraction for me, this was the IceDogs’ annual Pink in the Rink event, with the players and even the officials dressed in pink to raise awareness and funds for breast cancer.

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Bones at center ice prior to the chuck-a-puck in the second intermission.

I continue to be amazed by the how well patronized the concessions seem to be. For example, three seats to my left was a young couple who arranged the financing to pay for a bowl of fries swimming in gravy and some pizza that came fresh from the kitchen of Chef Boy-Ar-Dee. There’s virtually nothing on their menu that I would want at any price.

Cody Payne’s cousin sang O Canada and, well, if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say it at all. At least she sang it entirely in the Canadian language.

Sitting right behind the bench, I didn’t expect to be able to see much of the action, but I got a surprisingly good view of what turned out to be a wild game. Barrie got on the board early and following a fight, the lights suddenly went out. Fans were kept in the dark, figuratively and literally, as they just played annoyingly loud music and didn’t make an announcement until sending both teams to their respective dressing rooms more than 15 minutes later. After the 24-minute delay, the IceDogs came out like gangbusters and scored five times before the intermission. One fan behind me yelled, “Get ready, you’re next,” at backup goaltender Daniel Gibl, but for better or for worse, Hawerchuk stuck with his starter the whole way.

The IceDogs went on to cruise to a 7-4 victory as Josh Ho-Sang exploded for three goals and Brendan Perlini showed some flashes of the brilliance he needs to show more often.

Hawerchuk’s former boss with the Jets, the late John Ferguson, would have been proud as Barrie seemed intent on starting a fracas once the score got out of hand. There was some stickwork that would have brought a smile to the face of Tim “Dr. Hook” McCracken and, late in the third, a number of their players wanted a scrap in the worst way. Nothing came of it, but that didn’t stop Hawerchuk from unloading his full repertoire of profanity at any official who would lend him an ear. I’m surprised he wasn’t penalized or ejected.

I was happy with the IceDogs’ victory, but I admit to having had some split loyalties during the day because of Hawerchuk. Nonetheless, for someone who lived and died with the Jets during most of Hawerchuk’s tenure with the team, it was a thrill just to be on the other side of the glass from him and the final score was almost immaterial. I have so many unpleasant memories of my former home city, but Hawerchuk represented a number of the good memories I brought with me that I continue to build upon here in St. Catharines.