Real Hockey Players Love it in Winnipeg—A Retort to the ‘No Trade Clause’ Story

It has recently been published in the media that Winnipeg is among the markets that players in the NHL least want to be traded to. This comes from the mouths of agents who apparently regurgitate the feeling of their players that say it’s too cold here or whatever else.

Winnipeg was among other cities like Edmonton, Toronto and Ottawa in the top five places players don’t want to be traded to.

Ironically, half of the players in the NHL are Canadian, and for some reason they don’t want to play in Canadian cities.

It’s understandable that players not want to move to Edmonton to become an Oiler. The Oilers haven’t had a good team in years, and their rebuild period seems endless. They seem content drafting for offensive power while neglecting the defensive end, and until they learn that success is built from the back end out, they will continue to rebuild.

I can even understand the players not wanting to be moved to Toronto, because…who would? There’s just far too much Toronto in Toronto. The Leafs suck and they always will. It would be fair to call them the Blue Bombers of the NHL. Moreover, the media in Toronto is a menacing beast so relentless that the rest of the country is subjected to constant spillover news updated about the Leafs, Raptors and Argonauts, and how the city wants to buy its way into the NFL. Why would a player want to be a part of that? Would it be soul crushing? One thing is for sure, to survive in a market like Toronto one would need skin as thick as a dragon, the nerve of cage-fighter and balls of a fine brass alloy.

I’ve lived in Ottawa. It’s one of the most beautiful cities I’ve been to. There is so much to do there, and with Montreal and Toronto only a few hours drive away there is even more. I’ve been to Senators games. The vibe for hockey in the nations capital is resounding. The building is loud. What more could a player want?

I’ve been a Winnipegger since the day I was born. What can I say about my backyard town? Even when I tried to escape it by moving to Ottawa seven years ago, it found me and dragged me back. They say that once you’re a Winnipegger, you’re a Winnipegger for life. I’m living proof of that statement. There’s a real raw feeling to this town. It can be nasty sometimes, it can be dirty sometimes, it can be downright hard other times, but Winnipeg is a big city with a small town vibe, and as such, we pull together as a community when shit needs to get done.

Case in point: it took only 17 minutes to sell 13,000 season tickets as part of the deal to finalize the sale of the Atlanta Thrashers and bring Winnipeg its second pro hockey team. Other markets should take note for this is how hockey should look. To say the fans in this city are passionate would be an understatement. MTS Centre is the only arena in the world where crazed fans chant out the name of a corporation during the national anthem. The True North shout-out has become iconic, and it’s something that spans the continent. When you hear it live, it forces the hairs on the back of your neck to stand, and forgetting is impossible.

This hockey crazed town, coupled with True North Sports and Entertainment has made the MTS Centre one of the most successful arenas in North America. The Jets sell out every home game of the season, every season they’ve been here. And the team has been consistently getting better every year. This is a young team that’s building. It has a very bright future, one that will no doubt come to a climax beneath a hoisted Stanley Cup; maybe not this season, but soon. What hockey player wouldn’t want to be a part of that?

Evander Kane, for one. Here is a guy who, from the start seemed to hate it in Winnipeg. I wonder how he felt in Atlanta, where no one knew his name. Or how he’ll feel in Buffalo, where the team will lose more games than they’ll win for the next few years. Players like Evander Kane want to be a Boston Bruin, a Chicago Blackhawk or an L.A King because they seem to think there is more superstar status associated with clubs of the like. Maybe it’s true, but good luck competing for name notoriety in Boston against the likes of Rob Gronkowski or Tom Brady of the New England Patriots…I hear they’re pretty famous.

I get the feeling that, while the Kings do well for themselves in L.A, there are so many people in that city that an NHL organization could thrive as a niche market. Compared to markets like Winnipeg, Edmonton and Ottawa, the NHL is the sports market. Players become more than just famous in these cities, they become icons, celebrities and living deities.

Maybe that’s where we’ve gone wrong, though. Maybe the lens is too zoomed in. Perhaps, when growing up lacing on the skates at five years old and dreaming of the NHL, kids aren’t thinking about becoming relatively comparable to Leonardo Dicaprio. Maybe they’re just dreaming of the NHL. Maybe that’s why there should be courses in hockey colleges across the country on how to handle the media in Canada, that way we don’t scare our children south of the border.

As far as the climate excuse that the agents gave…I don’t buy that. These are, for the most part, Canadian players playing a winter game they get paid millions to play. If their measure for success in life was to escape the cold winters of Canada, then why play hockey?

Maybe these players in question, and their agents would be better suited for cities like Raleigh where the Hurricanes can’t even fill half their building and no one cares. Or they could play for the Panthers organization where, again, no one comes and no one cares. Or they could play in the desert where the NHL had to bail out the organization just so it could keep its head above water. That’s the city that took the first Jets, by the way. Or maybe, just maybe, if these players are lucky and patient enough, a team might just land in Las Vegas and everyone can fight over who gets to be the first ‘Poker Chip’ (or whatever they might call the team) and be part of a fad market that will burn through its interest in hockey like a 5-year-old with A.D.D trying to read a paperback novel (remember those?).

One thing is for sure: players like Evander Kane would love it in Vegas because his money phone would be more than welcome there, he would be able to play in the casinos every night and live like a rock star. He’d never have to worry about messing his hair from putting on a tuque, and he’d never have to be subjected to a fashion faux pas like wearing a parka…get real.

Teemu Selanne loved it here in the ‘Peg. But then again, he was a real hockey player!

Jets get blownout in Washington D.C.

“We weren’t very good tonight.” —Maurice

The Jets dropped a pretty important game tonight against the Washington Capitals. Not only did they drop the game but it’s also fair to say that they were never really in it from the start.

This game is not important because Washington is a major rival and losing to them is detrimental to the mental health and well being of the team. This game was important because the Jets’ lead on the wild card race is small, all of a sudden, and shrinking by the day. The L.A. Kings have won their last six games and are 7-3-0 in their last 10. No doubt that the streaking Kings are one of the hottest teams in the league right now and, down by only four points, will catch the Jets in no time if the losses continue.

The Sharks are right there too. They are also four points back, and the Wild are five back. This lead that the Jets have is deteriorating.

A self-inflicted wound that just won’t stop bleeding has plagued the Jets: penalties. It would be alright if the Jets were just taking hard-play type penalties, like interference or roughing, but of the six minors they took tonight, five of them were tripping. Moreover, the Caps scored three of their five goals on the power play.

Besides the bad penalties and the terrible penalty killing, Ondrej Pavelec had a bad game too. At one point in the second period, the Jets took a penalty and the Caps were pressing, so it was a delayed call. When the Caps shot a long, slow wrist-shot on Pavelec, somehow it got through him on what could prove to be his worst goal against all season long.

To add to the bad news, Mathieu Perreault is out for the rest of the season with a lower-body injury. Perreault has arguably been one of the strong points and a key depth player for the Jets up front. Going forward without him, it will be interesting to see how they overcome this major setback. On the plus side, Stafford does seem to be a guy who could turn into a key player going down the stretch. Believe it or not, Stafford does have playoff experience with the Buffalo Sabres. He played seven games with the Sabres in 2010-2011 playoffs and racked up three points. In 2006-2007 playoffs, he got four points and was a +3.

Either way, without Perreault, it seems that the defensive strategy of any team going into a game against the Jets might be to neutralize the Ladd, Little, Wheeler line, because they know that Scheifele can’t seem to score. Frolik only has 11 goals this season and Stafford only has one, mind you, he’s played only four games now. Beyond that, the depth of the Jets offense is dismal. Jim Slater and TJ Galliardi are invisible, and the only reason Peluso isn’t is because he beats the crap outta people most nights. Adam Lowry has only six goals, same as Thorburn, which is only two less than Scheifele.

The Jets’ goal scorers are few with only six players that have over ten.

Losing it…

If I am to be comparable, manneristically speaking (and I’m not saying I am) to the Jets, then reading week is going be my untimely downfall. Currently, and it’s totally a style choice—like the oxford comma—I sleep about four hours, and drink approximately 18 coffees a week. My stomach lining is trying to shed itself like my snake does of its old, dried and weary skin.

I think that this break (if it can be called that) will throw me off of this healthy, highly productive pattern I’ve so carefully etched out for myself. Similar to the way the Jets completely shit the bed for six straight games after the all-star break, I have a terrible feeling in the pit of my stomach that I’ll come back like a dull knife…or maybe it’s just all the coffee and sleep deprivation talking.

Who knows at this point? All I can say for sure is that at this point I am continuously battling with the ambiguous voices in my head that tell me things like: “you don’t really need to write that story for journalism. You don’t really need to writhe in wakefulness while your pillow awaits. You don’t need CreComm, and you surely don’t need all these binding rules that serve only to tie down your creativity.” And the battle rages on…

As far as reading week is concerned…I am not concerned whatsoever. Who can’t read two complete books at once in one week?
And finally, the Jets. What can I say about them right now that I didn’t already say last night on Not Even The Press Box on Red River Radio. Check out the podcast online that will be up tomorrow. Come back here to hear it.

John Baird and the Winnipeg Jets

While the big news in the country was the resignation of talking-head John Baird, Jets fans were hoping that their team could regroup in Calgary and break this disgusting three game losing streak that’s plagued them like a bad case of Ebola break-out.

The Jets have been sleepwalking ever since returning from paradise during the all-star break. Some say the break is antiquated and should be cast aside and never thought of again…a crime that would be punishable by death. But that might just be Jets fans. More accurately, Jets fans this season.

Terrible, would be one way to describe the way the team has performed in tonight’s game against Calgary. Amateur, would be yet another. Michael Hutchinson was pulled for (possibly) the first time this season after letting four goals in 20 shots and having a few questionable pucks get by. There is no way that this young, rookie goalie is ready to head up the crease duty of a professional hockey team, no matter how hot he has been. Fans are much too quick to bandwagon jump. This is a classic case of too much pressure, or too much success. Either way, Hutch needs to come back to centre…as do most of the team.

The Jets have had the most success in the net when the rotation is split 50/50 between Hutch and Pavelec. For some reason, Pavelec is better in this scenario. Possibly it’s because he doesn’t have the pressure of being ridden like freeway for games on end. And Hutch, being young and talented, enjoys playing every other game because he’s had a chance to prove he belongs. This has also worked to show Pavelec that he is in danger of losing his job. But keeping Pavelec out of the net for three games at a time makes him lose his focus, and the same seems to be true for Hutch, only opposite: playing him three games in a row seems to be too much for him to handle at this stage.

Since the break, the Jets have been outscored (including this game in Calgary) 20-9. Worse still, Calgary has closed the gap on the Jets to within a game back. The Jets are, for the first time this season, in serious danger of slipping outside of the playoff periphery. This stretch is no doubt the worst stretch they’ve seen this season, and is definitely taking its toll on their psyche. How they recover from this is anyone’s guess, but something tells me that Maurice will have an answer…somewhere in that angry brain of his…beyond the gum and the hoarse voice, and behind those new specs of his…within the vast amount of hockey knowledge that rattles around inside of him, he should be able to find a way to convince the Jets that they are, indeed, still the Jets.

So is it time to panic yet?

Yes! It is time to panic in the streets…it’s time to sell your house and all of your worldly possessions. It’s time to take the money earned and invest in a bomb shelter; domestically built, for ultimate security. This beast should be at least 30 feet below the surface of the earth, however, the deeper the better. Make sure that you loot as many dry goods and non-perishables as possible because you might down there for a long time.

Now you might be asking yourself: why would I ever sell my house and buy a bomb shelter more than 30 feet underground? Because you don’t want to identify yourself as a Jets fan these days, that’s why. It’s disgraceful! This team has gone from being one of the stingiest defenses in the league to a level of sieve rivaled only by the likes of the Toronto Maple Leafs or the Buffalo Sabres.

The big question that is on everyone’s mind tonight: can the Jets make the playoffs? The answer: it’s too damn early to even entertain that notion yet. This is one of the biggest problems with the sports media in this town of ours. The second one of our teams gets their head under the skirt and begins to whiff success the “press wizards” (term courtesy of the one and only Hunter S. Thompson) start choking the players with talk of the playoffs. The reality of the situation is that there are still 30 games remaining, which is plenty of time for other teams to tank. Putting the thought of playoffs into the minds of this young team so early should be punishable by castration…or maybe, something less rash…but the point remains.

So take your leave, John Baird, take it far from the public eye. And when you go, bring with you this streak of bad luck the Jets are cursed with, because I know somehow it’s linked to you, even if it doesn’t make any sense.