Friday, July 29, 2011

My Reply To Tyler Shipley

There was a classic SNL skit where Dan Ackroyd and Jane Curtain did a point counter point show. Jane went on a long diatribe and when she was done, Dan replied with “Jane you ignorant slut.” It’s a skit that I was reminded of when reading Tyler Shipley’s editorial on

Let’s be honest, the main premise of Mr. Shipley’s piece is that the men and women of our Canadian armed forces to don’t deserve our respect. When you cut away all the scathing rhetoric that’s really what the piece is built on. What Mr. Shipley and other pseudo intellectuals don’t get, is that the men and women that sign up for the Canadian armed forces, don’t sign up to fight for Stephen Harper. Nor do they sign up to fight for Jack Layton or Bob Rae. They sign up to fight for the idea of Canada.

The idea of Canada says that everyone is welcome. The idea of Canada says that when you’re in trouble your neighbours will help you. The idea of Canada is that if you’re another country searching for a road to peace, we will punch through the darkness and help you find it! These men and women knowingly sign up for what may likely be their own death, just so that they can defend and promote this idea. Would Mr. Shipley do the same if given the opportunity? I’m not sure, but what I do know is that the men and women in our service do in fact deserve our respect. Let me be clear, you can disagree with the politics of deployment all you want; I have no problem with that, and would actually encourage it. I do however have a problem with fiery statements implying that these same men and women somehow enjoy killing innocent people.

Lets’ get to the real meat of the matter though. I don’t think Mr. Shipley really actually cares if there’s a new NHL club in Winnipeg. Nor do I think he even cares if the logo where to be a swastika emblazoned on a skull and crossbones. You need to understand, Mr. Shipley is playing an old game; he is using what should be an apolitical issue to draw people into his own political agenda. You see reader, without using your emotion as a lever to blind you, his statements would seem childish and extreme. Writers like Mr. Shipley need an angle, a hook, to get the reader enraged, because their arguments never stand up in the light of civil discourse.

I simply don’t understand why Mr. Shipley needs to hide behind the veil of sports commentary to further his points. I mean obviously when he looks down his nose at the rest of us poor souls, duped by the military industrial complex, it should be easy to convince us of the error of our ways.  And who needs facts when you have rhetoric at your disposal.

If Mr. Shipley would have simply written a well thought out and factual piece on why he doesn’t agree with our troops fighting in Libya and Afghanistan, I would respect him, and may even agree with him to some extent. Instead he chooses denigrate both the game of hockey and our people that put themselves in harm’s way. For that, all I have to say is, Tyler you ignorant A-Hole.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

It's Not Who You Know, It's What You Know

The NHL is an old league. It can trace its very earliest roots to before the turn of the last century when mining companies would employ the best “amateur” players at no-show jobs so they could be ringers on the company team. As an old and storied organization the NHL has what’s known as an old boys club. It’s inevitable and it happens quite naturally in most industries, people prefer to deal with others who are known constants. There are ramifications for going against the grain in the old boys club, just ask Ted Nolan. In order to affect change you have to become a member and then smash the boundaries from the inside out. I get the sense that this is the gamble the Winnipeg Jets are taking.

It started in 1999 when a then inexperienced hockey club owner, Mark Chipman decided to take a chance on an equipment manager and bring him into the front office. Obviously Mr. Chipman understood that hockey smarts could come from anywhere and anyone who had followed the game long enough and close enough. There are intangibles that can’t be qualified and apparently Craig Heisinger had two; a passion for hockey and a nose for talent. Going outside the boundaries served the AHL Moose and the Vancouver Canucks very well indeed in the intervening years, with several coaches and a number of players using the AHL Moose as a catapult to the big show. 

Now I know this is starting to sound like a TNSE love fest, but really reader I’m getting to a point. This was the start of pattern of behaviour; looking outside the boundaries of convention to achieve success. It’s, to use a way over used term: “out of the box” thinking.

Fast forward 15 years and an NHL franchise lands in Winnipeg. TNSE has massaged the old guard over a period of almost eight years to get to this point, working within the boundaries of the NHL club slowly gaining the trust of the establishment, until the membership rolls where opened and the secret handshake was revealed. You could almost hear the clanging of chairs and slamming of doors in the offices of TSN,NBC, and Sportsnet as “in-between jobs” GM’s and coaches rushed out to update their resumes and work their “connections”. The club had moved and there where NHL jobs to be had boys!  

The first casualty of TNSE newthink was Rick Dudley, who like a professional bowed out gracefully. The feeding frenzy was on now, there was a GM position open, and every front office hack around the league was salivating at the prospect. Next on the hit list, Craig Ramsey. Wait, what Craig Ramsey?  How could they do that, he has 40 years of experience in the league, this was unheard of!  And Ramsey certainly let everyone in the old boys club know how he felt after a temper tantrum during a Sports Net interview shortly afterwards. Didn’t they know who he was!

The house had been cleaned, and now it was time do some hiring. Oh how the unemployed ex NHLers had waited for this, cell phone minutes would be burned!  First on the list was Kevin Cheveldayoff, no not Kevin Cheveleday, Cheveldayoff. The Chicago Blackhawks assistant GM had only two years of NHL experience, but had a long history of winning in the AHL and especially against his arch rivals the Manitoba Moose. The whispering began, only two years in the NHL? Why hire your arch rival? Maybe it had something to do with the intangibles yet again; a nose for putting together winning clubs year after year, and an ability to foster a culture of performance. Next the head coach, Claude Noel. Again only a limited experience in the NHL. Didn’t TNSE know that Ken Hitchcok and Mark Crawford where available? I mean c’mon, Hitcher and Crowe!  Sorry recycling losing records isn’t part of the plan.

Now for the assistant coaches; first, Charlie Huddy. Well that’s better an old time Oiler and someone the boys around the league can relate to. Thank heavens TNSE has finally come to their senses! Nerves where on edge around the league now, there was only one coaching job left. Surely it would go to an NHL old schooler, they would need the experience and wisdom to guide poor Claude through the trials and tribulations of the big show. Wrong! Paul Vincent was hired out of the QMJHL, where he was both coach and GM of clubs that had a culture of performance. Are we noticing a pattern yet?  It’s called winning.

All of the Winnipeg hires from the top down have “it”. What is “it”? It’s the ability to create systems and cultures that win. It’s the ability to shake convention and look in the hard places for the components that will lead to success.  Sorry the old tired way of doing things just doesn’t fit in the new Jets Philosophy.

The Winnipeg Jets are ultimately blazing their own trail in the NHL with many eyes watching to see if the grand experiment will take off or fail. Failure is a possibility, as experience does ultimately count for something, and mistakes at this level are not easily forgiven nor are they limited in their consequences. Many a superstar in the lower leagues has made the jump to the big show only to get a cold hard reality sandwich. These are the bigs, and there are not only reputations, but big money at stake, along with people’s livelihoods. There will be precious little room for learning on the job and this crew will need to adapt or give way to people that can.

The Jets are taking chances and coming up with new ways to run a club. Only time will tell if they will ultimately be successful.  If they are successful, they will become a template for rebuilding clubs in years to come. If the fail, they’ll have Winnipeg Jets fans to answer to, and that wouldn’t be pretty.

Monday, July 25, 2011

El Logo

Oh happy day. The logo and brand identity have finally arrived. I ran through the streets yelling “the new merch is here, the new merch is here” just like Steve Martin did in the Jerk with his new phone book. (YouTube link: ). Yes I’m a someone now, and  I can wear the new Jets logo emblazoned across my chest in all its NHL glory with pride. Hold on, what’s this? A few people don’t like the new logo? Is that a whiff of controversy? Why yes it is and that’s exactly how TNSE wants it.

The hurried logo release on Friday started out with typical jets drama. A FedEx driver with Jets 2.0 fever couldn’t help himself and committed the un-holiest of all sins for a delivery driver; he cracked open one of the packages and peeked inside. Not only did he get a look at the new gear for himself, he snapped a quick picture on his phone and uploaded it to the internet. The result was an early leak of the new Jets logo and the dismissal of one FedEx delivery driver who was quickly tracked down, and summarily fired on the spot. Imagine explaining that one to your wife.  

The logo was finally revealed and was almost exactly as some had described. It even looked as if it had been inspired by some of the fan art that has been pumped out nonstop since draft day.  And while I’m in an “I told you so” sort of mood let’s look back at the Hard Six blog from July 8th:

“Those in the know are saying this will be the new Jets 2.0 colour scheme, with white away jerseys. Details regarding the new logo’s are also starting to emerge. It seems as though TNSE and co have settled on a an RCAF style circular main logo, and a shoulder patch featuring crossed hockey sticks over air force style wings.

Ok now that I've patted myself on the back; let’s get back to our story. Now that the logo had been leaked, it forced TNSE to hastily organize an unveiling of the brand concept and an impromptu sale of merchandise to the general public. Although TNSE was clearly annoyed that they couldn’t release the logo on their own schedule the result was still line ups around the block to be the first wearing a Jets 2.0 T-shirt.  Most Diehard fans proclaimed a home run and left it at that, but a vocal minority came out against the look and symbolism of the new logo.

Several dissenters felt it looked rushed and oversimplified. Others with an understandable, deeply entrenched hatred of the Toronto Maple Leafs resented the use of the maple leaf, while still others openly questioned the “militarization” of the logo. Even I was even slightly underwhelmed by the logo on first blush. While I had no philosophical quarrel with any of the elements of the logo, I think my expectations where probably set to an unattainable level. After a few hours of having it in my face though, it really, honestly started to grow on me. The simplistic Jet on a leaf, inside a roundel does ultimately have a timeless, classic sort of appeal. For those with an objection to the use of a military patch in the logo, I would say any opportunity to honour our service people works for me. You can object to the politics, but you can’t deny the fact that our soldiers, sailors and airmen put themselves willingly in harm’s way every day on our behalf.

Some eyebrows are being raised however at how the blessing from the DND truly came into existence. Ultimately the DND would need to sign off any logo that featured a roundel and a maple leaf, not only for copyright reasons but ethical ones as well. There is no way that any organization wants to be seen as profiteering from our military tradition so DND approval was a must.  With that in mind, was it a co-incidence that the day after the unveiling TNSE announced a 1 million dollar commitment to Military charities? It appears the DND drives a hard bargain when it comes to the use of their marks.

So are the logo’s and word marks effective? Absolutely! During the last few days I have heard voices say that the new identity was a marketing blunder, but nothing could be further from the truth. The branding is attractive but just controversial enough to start a conversation. Little else has been talked about in hockey circles, and around the block line-ups at the MTSC would say that things have gone almost exactly as planned by TNSE

My view is that the Logo and word marks will withstand the test of time, and more importantly will look great on a jersey. The subtle nods to both TNSE and 17 wing of Winnipeg are a nice addition that will no doubt be appreciated by many. That’s my opinion, and many others will have strong opinions of their own, much to the pleasure of the TNSE marketing crew.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

History's Mysteries

I know what you’re thinking reader; What do I do in the 60 some odd days until the Winnipeg Jets first pre-season game? There’s no merch out yet so you can’t sport that new jets t-shirt at the beach. The logo and colours haven’t been announced yet, so you can’t get started on repainting your garage door. There aren’t really any true jets stats to pour over in anticipation of the fall hockey pools. You can’t even break out the PVR and watch last year’s playoff run.  So what’s a Jets fan to do?

Apparently a lot of people are feeling the need to dredge up any kind of issue at all, and so we enter into the hopefully short lived era of the history debate.  Should TNSE wipe the slate clean and go completely Jets 2.0 with the history being reset and let the exploits of the old Jets stay in Arizona? Or should TNSE fight hard to bring back the past, retire numbers, and recognize the WHA and NHL heroes of old?

The Neo Jets fans are saying and maybe rightfully so that TNSE has paid enough attention to the past and it’s time to start building a new era of NHL hockey tradition in Manitoba.  They would contend that retiring the numbers of Hull, Hawerchuck, and Steen isn’t as important as ushering the new heroes Ladd, Kane and Wheeler. The Neo Jets would say what’s next? Playing Van Halens Jump to introduce the team? Maybe bring back Benny as the team mascot? Maybe we can even retrofit the washrooms at the MTSC to resemble the old pi..... well you get my point.

The Paleo Jets fans would say history is important, and again perhaps rightfully so. No other new team entering the NHl has the opportunity to build on a readymade and deep hockey culture the way Winnipeg does.  They would say the monumental accomplishments of Hull, Howerchuck, and Steen represents high points not only for the Jets but for Manitobans in general. Honouring that history and fighting for it is just the right thing to do.  The new generation of players should respect the traditions of the past and honour those that came before. Besides isn’t it a travesty that Jets banners hangs in

Personally I wonder if we would even be having this conversation if there wasn’t more to distract the hard core fan. As is always the case, the answer lies somewhere in the middle. There is nothing stopping TNSE from holding ceremonies to honour the heroes of the past. I wonder though if we should go as far as retiring numbers. There has to be some differentiator between Jets 1.0 and 2.0, the past must cede to the future at some point. My suggestion would be to sign players we want to honour to one day contracts at the beginning of the season and then create a ring of honour.  It’s a tip of the hat to the past while bridging the gap to the future. 

New Jets fans need to understand the deep emotions attached to the franchise of your fathers. Those memories are what drove the Chipmans and Thompsons forward in bringing back the NHL.  It’s important to recognize the past, but old time Jets fans need to remember the Jets name was an important concession.  There is a new generation of fans who don’t know who Van Halen is, don’t want a trough in their washroom and prefer their beer below room temperature.

I’ll end this story with one little morsel. Do you remember during the naming process when it was rumoured that Mark Chipman didn’t want to use the Jets name unless he could get back the official history? Do the math.

Wheeler Dealer

Well reader it’s time to admit something to you. It’s a deep dark secret that I have been withholding for a long time.  I have to admit ..wait for it... I don’t know everything about hockey. What brought on this startling admission you may ask.  It’s pretty simple actually; someone asked me what I thought of Blake Wheeler.
Now obviously I have heard the name thrown around and I have even caught a couple of highlight reels with him scoring, but really I didn’t know much about him. He plays in the east and I’ve never really had a reason to look at him closely. I had to answer my inquisitor with a blank stare and shrugged shoulders. So what am I to do if I want to deliver the very best hockey commentary possible? Why assemble a panel of course!  Look out Hockey News and TSN!

Without any further delay let me introduce to you the Hard Six hockey panel:

Bruisnfan: The name says it all. He’s a hardcore east coast fan that is almost as infamous as I am.  Don’t even mention the Habs; it’ll just set him off.

Jetsconnection: A Jets fan, that had followed the ROTJ, and had Moose season tickets  before converting them to P4’s for the Jets. Anything but a homer though, he’ll give you the straight dope.

TheExpert:  Raised in Winnipeg, living on the west coast. This hockey fan knows every stat, and follows every prospect. He’s religious about his hockey pools and even manages to win a couple. He’s back in the Jets fold and ready to enlighten us.

NucksFan: Played bantam hockey on the west coast as an enforcer and now follows the Orcas religiously. While the pretend fans where setting cars on fire he was brainstorming ways to trade Luongo.

So the question to the panel is: In light of the recent signing by the Winnipeg Jets What do you think of Blake Wheeler?

Bruinsfan:  “As a Bruins Fan I’m not a fan of Wheeler. Very talented and very big but doesn’t use either of those assets. He also seems to have a lack of drive. He’s very tempting. Big body, tremendous skill, but doesn’t seem to care sometimes.  It’s not a bad idea to take a chance on wheeler for the jets but the locker room can’t depend on him. You get what you get with him.”

Jetsconnection:Wheeler signing (and the over the top reaction it's getting from some people) reminds me of a signing like Darren Turcotte back in the day. Serviceable player, but probably destined to be a journeyman. Rumblings of not being the best guy in the room, but he comes relatively cheap. Perhaps he can get us 20/50. Not someone who I'd build a team around, but we can't have a team full of Rypiens either.”

The Expert:  “From what I've seen he is a fast big guy with some finishing ability (18 goals in 2 of his 3 years in the show).  He could turn into a Taylor Pyatt and not be much more that a 3rd liner and a very good one if he is physical enough, or at best a solid 2nd liner that pots 20 to 30.  He is still a little of an unknown as it’s unclear where he is ultimately going to end up.  His $2.5M salary is steep but it’s only a 2 year deal at which time he either gets a raise if he's a second liner or less if he is a third liner.”

NucksFan: [Author]: Um, well Nucks Fan was in Vegas at the time this was being written. I called early in the morning and got this response: “ Huh? What are you talking about? ....Why is there a donkey in my room? ...Who the hell are you and why are you lying next to me.....” and then the phone went dead. Hopefully he will be available for our next go round.

So there you have it faithful reader, the consensus seems to be he’s ok but he’s not all that. There are also grumblings that he could be poisonous in the room. In my opinion 2.5 over two is well worth the risk, especially with his potential. My gut says he will be a player that will either thrive or dive under his new found spot light. As a special note to all the capologists out there this officially puts the Jets at the cap floor with 14 mil left in the kitty.

Wheeler was an RFA many people wanted to see get done quickly, before arbitration came a calling. Well sports fans you got your wish, and there is only one more domino to fall, Bogosian. But that’s a topic for another day.

Monday, July 18, 2011

And Alexander Wept

Anyone who has been following the return of the jets for any length of time knows the name Darren Ford. Love him or hate him he was one of the first to carry the comeback torch and his web site was a de facto refuge for many displaced fans during the lean years.  The fan forum attached to the main-site became a close knit club where the disease of true beliverism was not only allowed but encouraged to spread.

This all seems matter of fact now, as the team prepares to drop the puck on its first comeback season, but not too long ago a good number of Winnipeggers didn’t want to hear about the Jets coming back. The 1996 scab never completely healed and a lot of people didn’t want to be led down a garden path yet again. So those who clung to the dream where seen as crackpots, crazy dreamers or deluded reminiscers living in the past. The forum became a refuge where like minded “crazies” could discuss possibilities, distill media reports of teams in trouble, and ponder local ownership developments. Of course it also became the main incubator for rumours and a destination for bonafide crackpots.

For many years people would check in at the site not even bothering to click on the fan forum, but once they did they were treated to a stew of hardcore fans, crazies, insiders, and later lurking media types. As the ownership picture began to come into focus the discussions became more and more about when as opposed to if.

Media reports actually began to suggest that Winnipeg was a viable destination for an NHL franchise and Garry Bettman himself alluded to the fact the Winnipeg had an NHL calibre rink and ownership ready to buy a team.  The message board transformed into an information hub, with real anonymous insiders confirming suspicions and letting details slip weeks before the mainstream media .  A loyal corp. of internet Googlers would take pride in being first to post any news items pertaining to the return of an NHL team within minutes of being available on-line.

Many mainstream media types started lurking the corridors of the ROTJ (which was now its main nickname),  and how did you know? Because they would lift quotes directly from discussions! Many a journalist would out themselves to the ROTJ faithful through a lifted quote or miscue when participating in discussions.
Finally on May 31’st the all the talk and postulation reached a crescendo, the team was coming home. The discussions were kept alive with congratulations and a communal outpouring of emotion. Of course  the name debate was still as rabid as ever. However after the draft, discussion began to fade. The once mighty ROTJ was starting to feel like a high school during summer break, the classes where empty and only the summer school students roamed the halls.  
Finally on July 15th Darren Ford posted this:

“Hello Everyone

I have yet to make a final post on, but it will come shortly. As for this board, it's had a good run, but it is time to ease it into retirement. 

But we're not done! Not by a long shot. We just need a new home. A more offical home that is fully moderated 'round the clock. Alex and Tom are spent! I am excited that I will soon be able to announce exactly what and where this will be, but I expect you ALL to follow over. I want you guys to be a part of the next phase.

Jake's Tickets has found an official partner also to be annoucned soon, as will a website dedicated to posting the kids that get to go to the games.
Stay tuned for details on this thread.

The ROTJ boards will wind down in over the course of the next few weeks with a likely drop dead date sometime in August. Boards will not be erased, but all will be locked.

Until then, continue to discuss things as usual.”

Although I knew this was coming, I must admit I had a bit of twinge of remorse.  The ROTJ had become a big part of a lot of people’s lives running up to the acquisition of the team. Friends were made during the lively discussions that took place there over the years and it had been the ROTJ that vindicated us in the end.

The ROTJ is now definitely in the twilight of its existence. Many old time members and veteran contributors are signing off for good, lamenting how things have changed. Things have indeed changed, we have achieved everything we could have ever hoped for and now a new era begins.

I am reminded of a quote that seems to sum up the way I feel; “And Alexander wept for there were no new worlds to conquer”. Good bye ROTJ.

UPDATE Aug 8, 2011, 24:59 CST: The forum at has been officially locked for good. Darren Ford hosted a final chat session and let members post their final fair-wells before signing off himself:

It's 11:59. The big freeze. Funny, in one minute it's my 8th wedding anniversary. When hit the web I was merely engaged. Now I have an incredible son, Jake who you will all see and meet one day at Jets games. If you see me PLEASE be sure to say hi.

JETS GAMES. Wow. So cool to say.

Thank you all.

See you on The JetStream at the Winnipeg Free Press. When it is ready I will Tweet (there were no Tweets when I started this campaign) and post on, which will stay up on the web for retro viewing pleasure. Expect a week or so.

My last plug for Mission: Accomplished T-shirts at Popeyes, they will be collectibles down the road, and rare.

Also and coming this fall!

We did it.

Goodnight, my passion for so many years. As one dream ends, a new one begins. A Stanley Cup.

I need a rest, at West Hawk Lake later this month, then it's off to start a new journey. Tonight, this one gets put to rest.

Goodnight all.

Darren Hunter Ford


Friday, July 15, 2011

Smackdown In Glendale

I’m going to do something I thought I would never do. I’m going to help Elaine Scruggs. I mean really the whole situation in Glendale went beyond a joke and into the realm of absurd a long time ago and I need to see it end. So as a public service I’m going to lay out a multi point plan that’s going to get Glendale out of this mess and at the risk of confusing Glendale city council I won’t even ask for an outrageous consulting fee.

Step number one, as with any addict in recovery is to admit you have a problem. Glendale and the greater Phoenix area need to come to grips with the fact that they are not a hockey town. I’m sorry they just aren’t.  I’m saying that without even relying on the old biases of weather and latitude. The simple fact of the matter is that very few people (relatively speaking) in Arizona care about the NHL. The fact that they have consistent on-ice success and they can only sell 7000 season tickets in a metro area of 5 million is the first tip off.  The second clue is when they can’t fill the rink on free beer night. Most people will go almost anywhere for free booze, think about it.  The last and most humiliating reason is that when the Detroit Red Wings or Vancouver Canucks come to town the cheers are louder for a visiting goal than a home goal. It’s time to say goodbye to NHL hockey, I’m sorry it just is.

Step number two is to give the NHL their comeuppance. The NHL has played a lot of games in Glendale and has convinced the tax payer to shell out a lot of cash to try and pump their own TV deal agenda. Being able to say there's an NHL team in phoenix has been a long time selling point for the NHL when pimping a TV deal and the last one was no different. Most of the heavy lifting of paying for the rink and keeping the team afloat has been borne by Glendale. So here’s what they need to do; withhold the promised 25 million to keep the team in Phoenix next year. Lay the smackdown on the NHL and if they say “we’ll move the team”, say go ahead make my day. Remember you have already resigned yourself to the fact you don’t need hockey anymore and really where are they going to move it too? Quebec to play in Les Collissee? Fine it’s probably for the better anyway. Send the NHL carpetbaggers packing.

Step three, Take that 25 million and hire a top notch arena manager and booking agent. Someone with a proven track history of getting the big acts. For the right money, the right people can have that arena full almost every night of the year with WWE, tractor pulls, motor cross, Disney on ice, etc, etc, etc. Kansas City has done a nice job of building a new arena and keeping it full, without the aid of and NHL or NBA anchor tenant. Follow that model and make the investment pay, instead of paying for the investment.

Step four, make nice with the native band. The new casino project and the gaming license that goes with it could be a huge draw for the nearby arena as well. Get slot machines into , hold joint events with the casino, like MMA and boxing . Basically anything that puts buts in seats at is a good thing, and the casino can help. Chances are if Glendale drops their ridiculous litigation, the native band will be more than happy to help with promoting the rink.

There you go, easy as pie, a simple four step plan that turns into a money maker instead of a drag on the public purse. When the loan is paid and the acts are rolling through, then go back to Jerry Reinsdorf and sell the arena to him for a big wad of cash. That will mark the exit of the Glendale arena experiment and the city can go back to collecting stray shopping carts and buying cars for the local police department. On second thought, maybe I should send the city of Glendale an invoice; It seems they only listen when they’re getting fleeced.

Dirty Little Secrets

Anyone who has been following the Jets return to Winnipeg for any length of time knows that back room deals and conspiracy theories where at one time part of everyday life for a Jets fan. I’m pretty sure there are a good number of us that could probably pass the Arizona state bar exam with our knowledge of Arizona constitutional law. An even greater number of us could probably lecture Ed Beasley on Glendale municipal procedure.  The road to getting this team has a secret history that is quickly fading into urban legend. The official version that Mr. Chipman offered us (and he didn’t have to) tied everything up in a neat little bow, and answered most lingering questions. There are however a couple loose ends that don’t jive with the official story.

Now even I am not the complete expert on every nuance of what it took to land the Jets, I will however try and piece together some of things that still don’t quite add up. Let’s rewind to Christmas 2010, this is when Atlanta really came into play. Phoenix council had just approved Matt Hulsizers lease agreement and the NHL seemed happy to trot him around as the poster boy white knight for hockey in Arizona. The Goldwater Institute was still just some backwater think tank that was rattling the sabre. It was a low point for many, we had come so close and now it seemed we were back at square 1.

It was at this time that Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal Constitution shed a little light on what was really happening. He first reported that the Atlanta Spirit Group had resolved their partnership battle, and secondly that they were about to sue their former attorneys.  In the statement of claim for that suit it was revealed that ASG had been shopping the Atlanta Thrashers for at least five years and it hinted that they had turned their sites to investors that wanted to move the club away from Atlanta. This is the first hint that the NHL/TNSE had at least started the conversation with ASG .

As we headed into February it was becoming clear that the bonds that where needed to support the deal in Phoenix where in danger of not being sold because of the efforts of the Goldwater Institute. It’s at this time the Michael Gearon, one of the ASG’s primary investors lashed out in an interview with the AJC. It was clear that he was not happy that Winnipeg might indeed end up fixing the NHLs problem in Phoenix leaving him holding the bag in Atlanta.

My sources at the time told me that March 1 was a very important date for Glendale. The NHL through its own legal analysis of the Goldwater constitutional case came to the conclusion that GWI might be successful, and if they sued the NHL would need to pull out. Likely several institutional Bond investors came to the same conclusions and passed on the municipal bonds.  On March 1 the NHL demanded the 25 million dollar backstop for next season, and got a verbal agreement to that affect from Glendale officials.  The rest of the posturing was final attempts to sell bonds, even though most knew this was a futile gesture. This is the time that many believe the NHL gave the green light to ASG and TNSE to start their discussions in earnest, although it has been suggested that preliminary talks may have started even earlier.

Arpril saw much sabre rattling from the GWI resulting in the famous cupcake summit. However a small rumour leaked out mid April that didn’t get very much play in the mainstream media, although several credible sources confirmed it.  The NHL rookie tournament, held every year and featuring prospects from selected teams had Winnipeg added to a schedule that included other NHL teams from the west. It was clear that the NHL was planning on Winnipeg being a member of the club sooner rather than later.

May saw Glendale city council officially approve the NHL’s 25 million dollar demand to manage the Coyotes and Arena into 2012. The official story states this is when negotiations between ASG and TNSE  began although they had been quietly going on for some time. On May 19th something very interesting happened. Depending on who you talk to negotiations were being stalled by either the NHL demanding more in relocation fees or by minority ASG partners who were still insisting on local ownership. My feel is it was the latter. In any event Stephen Brunt came out with his now famous pre-emptive story announcing TNSE had finalize a deal to buy the Thrashers, which was leaked to him most likely through the Thompson group intentionally. This was a hardball move meant to shock the other side into action, and it worked!  Despite desperate denials from the NHL , the cat was now at least semi-officially out of the bag. The NHL and all parties involved now needed desperately to get this deal done as the repercussions would be almost unthinkable if they didn’t. Finally on May 31st, after an all night 11th hour negotiating session, TNSE called a press conference to announce the deal had been done.

With the whole story now behind us, it really doesn’t matter how we got here, in the end it will matter what we do with the team going forward. It’s up to the fans and the management to make something great, and change the landscape of professional hockey in North America in the process. With the response from both fans and management it looks like the Jets are well on their way to doing just that.

 I recently discussed the rookie camp rumour with a fellow Jets war veteran on twitter. I lamented how the rumour didn`t jive with the official time line, his reply was:  “Ya those are the dirty little secrets”.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Fehr Trade

Ok reader I promise I won’t make any more cheesy Fehr jokes. After all it wouldn’t be Fehr to you the reader and in all Fehrness I’m sure you have gotten tired of it. Ok really I’ll stop now, honestly.
 It’s amazing how I still hear whining about the moves made by Jets management over the last week. I know people haven’t been arm chair GM’ing in a long time but jeeze give Chevy a little time. It’s only been a little over a week and our team is better and deeper.

Let’s take a look at the Eric Fehr deal. Eric Fehr is a player by all accounts who never really reached the zenith of his potential. Talk to caps fans and they all love this guy and to a person believe he was underutilized in his time with Washington. Even so Eric managed to crack the second line at times and showed flashes of goal scoring ability. What did we give up for him again? I believe it was what amounted to a puck bag. Now I know what you’re thinking; his shoulder is messed up and he’s going to miss training camp, what if the caps are trying to pull a Tambellini on us.  My answer is so what. You’re not really gambling when you have nothing to lose. Not to mention that Eric is a local guy who will most likely try and make an impression. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Fehr tap into some hometown Zen and get 25 goals this year if his recovery goes as expected and he can stay healthy.  That’s not bad for not giving up anything.

Speaking of home town Zen, I like the angle TNSE management is taking with aggressively going after local talent, in an almost Montreal Canadienesque type way. The Canadian prairies have always been a hockey player factory for the NHL, why not try and bring some of that Talent home?  Derek Meech is another home town player who I’m expecting to overachieve if he can stay with the big club. I would really like to see what he could do as a fourth line forward, a position he sometimes played with Detroit. Again this is another guy that could grind it out for the jets, perhaps find his game on the prairies and costs next to nothing. Are you seeing a pattern here? It’s like fishing, bringing up character guys that have been cast aside buy other clubs and seeing what they can do. It costs almost nothing and the worst thing that can happen is the I-Caps get them (another benefit of owning your own farm club). While the best that can happen is you find another Alex Burrows.

With all that said I can’t help but feel there is still a piece or two missing, especially up front. Centres are a hot commodity, especially first line centres and that’s exactly what I think this club needs. No offence to Bryan Little, but the numbers from last year don’t jive with his first line position on the depth chart. I’m also not as comfortable as I would like to be with the goal tending situation.  Pavelec is a great gaolie, coming up and on the rise, but that’s where it stops. If he gets hurt, the Jets are in big trouble. Here’s hoping that Chris Mason can play a fair number of games to give Pavelec a rest.

All in all I get the sense that there is one big move in the making. What it is I really don’t know, but I get the feeling that Chevy and Zinger haven’t used up all their bullets just yet. I’m not one to start rumours, but maybe, just maybe they’re on the phone to a certain someone in southern California? We could get into that speculation, but really for Jets fans that just wouldn’t be Fehr. 

Friday, July 8, 2011

Something Borrowed Something Blue

It’s really great writing opinion pieces for the internet. I don’t have to worry about silly little things like fact checking or corroborating sources. I can get on here and deliver the latest dish to you piping hot from the grapevine.  So here’s the latest.

Let’s start with something blue, or I should say dark blue, red and two tone silver. Those in the know are saying this will be the new Jets 2.0 colour scheme, with white away jerseys. Details regarding the new logo’s are also starting to emerge. It seems as though TNSE and co have settled on a an RCAF style circular main logo, and a shoulder patch featuring crossed hockey sticks over air force style wings.  I myself was hoping for neon green and pink with a logo designed by Chip’n Pepper but I guess that’s not in the cards.

Next on the agenda is something borrowed, namely from Craig Leopold and the people at  KFAN in Minneapolis. Earlier this week on the Paul Allen show Mr. Leopold gave listeners a little preview of what a new re-aligned central division might look like next year.

“Our division would include the Winnipeg Jets, us, the Blues, the Nashville Predators, the Dallas Stars, Chicago Blackhawks, and maybe the Columbus Blue Jackets… maybe not depending on if they go east or west. I am all in favor of that. I think that is a grand slam, home run, hat trick for our team.”
Obviously Leopold is practically gooing over the potential Winnipeg, Mini, Chicago rivalry that may develop, however do you notice something about the new division? It’s a tiny little thing really, at least in the eyes of the NHL, NO OTHER CANADIAN TEAMS! If re-alignment goes the way Leopold is suggesting the Jets will not be able to resume the old rivalries with Calgary, Edmonton, and to a lesser extent Vancouver.  Old time Jets fans will certainly miss that , but then again old time fans have certainly seen things go the their way recently. Squawking about realignment would be looking a gift horse in the mouth.

So there you have it. Expect re-alignment in some form to occur in the 2012-13 season with Winnipeg in some sort of central division. I’m also told new Jets merch will be available at the end of August beginning of September so save those greenbacks for your new jersey, keychain, beer stein, bobble head doll, etc.

The NHL season is just around the corner and the fact that Winnipeg finally has a team is just starting to sink in. I for one can’t wait!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Spilled Milk & Sour Grapes

Yes believe it or not faithful readers I have been fired from a gig once or twice.... maybe three times.. but that’s not important . What is important is that I learned the rules of how to bow out like a pro, something that is apparently lost on Craig Ramsey.

When you get canned, never ever bad mouth your former employer, even if they were less than fair with you. Why? Simple, it makes you look bad. It makes you look like whiner and makes people think; maybe if I hire him he’ll talk crap about me. What you do is speak fondly of your former boss and use phrases like “parted ways”, and “amicable”, but remember life is a circle, hold on to that memory. One day, payback will come your way.  Again something lost on Rammer.

Instead Ramsey went to the press on Wednesday and delivered his diatribe about how he deserved more respect, and after 40 years in hockey should have been on the short list of phone calls right after the TNSE sale announcement. Well here’s a message to you Ramsey, life’s tough, get a helmet . No one owed Craig Ramsey anything and his sense of entitlement is misplaced.

Let’s roll back a month and revisit what happened. TNSE had just spent two weeks, working around the clock in a desperate bid to meet a deadline that by all accounts if it was not met would have resulted in the collapse of the sale. Papers had literally been signed while Gary Bettman and Bill Daly where in the air heading to Winnipeg. What followed was a whirlwind of press and celebration, oh but wait, we have to drop everything and call Craig Ramsey because he has forty years in hockey. Well Craig Ramsey was called and was even invited to interview for what all intents and purposes was a new job in Winnipeg. He wasn’t selected, shocking!

Perhaps Craig should have also explained to the press why his former bosses, the Atlanta Spirit Group did such a poor job in giving their key personnel the appropriate heads up when the close of the deal was imminent.  Perhaps Craig could have told us why Don Waddell continued to hold meetings with staff telling them their jobs where safe right up until the end, and then disappeared.  Perhaps Craig could have picked up a phone and asked for a status report himself? Now there’s an idea.

It’s a good thing Mr. Ramsey has 40 years of hockey experience under his belt because if he worked in any other industry he wouldn’t work again. Good luck Craig, here’s hoping you find a job and have learned your lesson. Winnipeg won’t miss you. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

What Me Worry?

“What Me Worry?” Watching a fledgling Jets 2.0 organization take its first steps into free agent signings brings that phrase to mind.  Fans have been understandably nervous with the lack of NHL experience in the front office guiding their new Jets.   Is this new team of new bright, but relatively inexperienced hockey guys up to the task of moving two clubs and making the moves necessary to compete?

Comments from anxious fans have littered the internet, some openly wondering if True North was still in “AHL mode” with its low key free agent signings. While others have nervously proclaimed their faith in True North, with the proviso; “They better sign the RFA’s soon”.  The source of this anxiety isn’t  hard to understand, after fifteen years the beloved Jets have finally returned as if by a miracle. Every move will be scrutinized and judged harshly by 700,000 arm chair GM’s looking for and demanding success.

With all that in mind let’s take a deep breath, chant your favourite mantra and try and look at what’s happened over the last month or so with some objectivity. Since draft day the hockey and business moves have been in a word smart. Putting all fears to rest and naming the club Winnipeg Jets was a great move. It let the fans collectively exhale as the rumoured alternatives floating around where downright scary.  The draft picks where clever and seemed to be part of a larger philosophy which bodes well for the future of the club. Mark Scheifelle by all accounts is on a meteoric upward trajectory, but in my mind the pick to watch is Zach Yuen.  At over six feet tall, 205 lbs and with a whopping plus 41 last season, this stay at home defenceman could be the real deal.

The free agent signings where also a calm in a sea of lunacy last weekend.  Namely Rypien at $700k and Glass at $750k. The pair where absolute bargains for experienced depth guys and a role player in Rypien. Again an overall philosophy seems to be guiding these moves which should calm experienced hockey fans. Building from the bottom out is never a bad idea and will pay off in spades if the Jets make the playoffs.

Now, on to the meat and Potatoes, RFA’s . Surprisingly to some Anthony Stewart was allowed to become an UFA without any qualifying offer. Although this seems strange, there are whispers that Astew didn’t fit with managements overall philosophy and was given a head start on talking with other clubs.  Meanwhile Ladd, the absolute crucial lynch pin signing went down to the wire, signing a good deal for both sides at $ 22 mil over five years. Now hopefully the others will follow in short order.

The Ladd deal now solidifies the perception that the Chevy/Zinger front office can do the big deals and do them right. In my mind all is as it should be, with smart hockey guys quietly making clever calculated moves that will put the new Jets club in a position to win.  Who else is looking forward to October?