Thursday, December 29, 2011

Glass Ceiling

By: Mike "BCMike" Fraser
Edited By: Mike "The Deuce" Bailey

It’s no fun being on the outside looking in, looking up at a glass ceiling or banging on the door. All great euphemisms for being out of the top eight playoff spots in the conference. When you’re a fan it’s no fun to get that sympathetic look from other fans and hear “Well, they’ll be in the hunt, don’t worry”. Hearing that is like hearing someone runing their nails down a chalkboard, it makes you want to cringe. That’s why on Tuesday night, in their game against the Colorado Avalanche you could almost hear a collective sigh of relief from Jets nation after the Jets had finally smashed through the glass ceiling and into eighth spot.

The eighth spot has eluded the Jets for the better part of December, a month in which they had at least two failed opportunities to break down the door, the most notable being a loss against Washington in which a Capitals squad floating around the playoff barrier should have been vulnerable, and then an even tougher loss to the Islanders shortly after.  Now that fate has finally shone on the Jets and sent them north of the playoff line, what will it take to see this success carry through to the end of the season? A lot of hard work and a pinch of luck.

 Now there are far better sports statisticians than I, however looking at the current standings anything after fifth place is a total crap shoot, with teams from sixth to eleventh within four points of each other. That means that there can be almost zero room for error. The Jets will need to win the games they are supposed to win and steal a few from the elite teams if they want to stay in the playoff picture. There will be no room for nights off or losing skids, the competition is just too good. The good news is that if you look at the way the Jets have been playing, they seem deep when they shouldn’t be. What I mean by that is when you think of who the Jets should send to the All-Star game your choice is tough, why? Because the Jets have been scoring by committee, and seeing contributions not only from the big names but the plumbers as well. Already the injury bug has bitten the Jets and they have shown that there are capable call-ups from The Rock ready and willing to stand in. The goaltending of Pavelec has stood out, and Mason is another Jets component that seems able to slot in without missing a beat.

Now that I’ve spread around the pixie dust and sunshine, here’s what the Jets don’t have; a first line centre. It’s a problem that becomes apparent almost every night. They also don’t have a shutdown guy, which is something they could most definitely use on a blue line that’s full of gunners. These Jets will have to live without those luxuries and continue to grind and gun their wins just as they’ve been doing lately, but that’s ok, that’s new Winnipeg Jets hockey.

The competition may also help the Jets down the stretch. Does anyone really think the Panthers will stay amongst the top seeds in the east? They are overachieving now and may have to pay for it at the wrong time. I’m also going to stick my neck out and predict (mainly because it’s fun to do so) that Toronto will go on one of their legendary nose dives in the new year and provide the Jets with a bit of an opening to claw their way up. The upcoming two games the Jets have against the Leafs could help them along nicely.  I’ll crawl out on another limb and say Ottawa will probably fall farther down into the cellar as the season progresses.

There are also however a few teams to watch. There is no way Washington is as bad as their record and when they get it together they'll probably be in the fight. Buffalo is another team that could see some new life in the New Year. All the components are there, it’s just getting them to find their identity. Tampa also has the weapons to stage a late comeback.

What does all this mean? It means that being in eighth spot at the end of December, although a psychological lift, really doesn’t mean anything. It means we have a decent chance, it means we’re not out of the race. As the Jets scrape and claw their way up, there'll be teams that will be pulling at them from their heels. There’s still lots of season left and lots of ground to either gain or give up. Will guts, guns and the seventh man be enough? 

We’ll find out in April. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


I am a Christian; therefore Christmas has a few layers of meaning for me personally. In the very best way, I have the opportunity to relive the joy of Christmas through the excited eyes of my five year old. I also get to dust off the traditions of selflessness and giving that seem to be too quickly forgotten throughout the year. Finally it’s a time for me to take a minute to commune with my maker and indulge in a spirituality that seems to be supplanted by the age in which we live.  After saying all that though, there is something else that is a wonder to behold during the holiday season and that is the universality of sharing, giving and fellowship that has been adopted by all who join the celebration at Christmas.

To me it’s a true miracle to see how kindness, selflessness and acts of giving can be so infectious amongst everyone who has adopted Christmas as not only a religious holiday but a cultural one.  

There is a dream of Christmas, and in this dream we all try to put forth a better version of ourselves. A self that shines a light on the darker shadow of our nature and puts the suffering of others at the peak of our concern. A self that embraces the love that is not only given by our family, but that which comes from our friends, our community and our nation. Finally, a self that discards concern over that which is received and focuses on that which can be given.

As the weather grows cold our thoughts turn inward and the dream of Christmas takes hold in our hearts. It takes on a life of its own through our children and our community. As we look outward again through the lens of this dream we see those whose circumstance has left them outside the grace of good fortune. With the veil of selfishness lifted we see not only all that which we have but that which we have to give and the dream of Christmas is our enabler.

As we come together, catch up with old friends, embrace family and celebrate our community, we should not forget those who are left outside and alone. Those who need our help are those in which the dream of Christmas is fulfilled. To bring joy where there is none, to give hope in the darkest corners of our human condition, to reach out and bring those on the outside in, this is the joy of Christmas.

As we retreat to our homes on Christmas day and bask in the glow of giving, it’s time to take stock of the toll exacted by our grievances. The price of war, the cruelty of injustice, and the suffering of disparity are the cost of believing that we as a people do not share common ground. We need to train ourselves to look past those that would point out our differences and start listening to the voices that would have us embrace our common humanity.  It’s the dream of Christmas that shows us we are more the same than we are different.

The children play with their toys, turkey sandwiches are consumed and a quiet calm descends. Slowly the dream of Christmas starts to give way to the expectation of hope for the New Year. Our Christmas dream has allowed us to look ahead and believe that we can do better, that we can carry on, elevated as our better selves. 

So the holidays eventually end, and we are thrown back into the realities of our lives. We reset our focus on survival in the modern world and our minds once again turn to our own situations. Children go back to school and parents go back to work. The world churns along much as it always has, but hopefully the dream of Christmas lingers just long enough to make things a little better and a little brighter. That is until next year when we once again try to find that better version of ourselves.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Selanne Effect

Some people have it. What it is can be different from one person to the next. It can be a magnetic, outgoing personality, the friend to all, that everyone notices when they enter a room. It can be a stoic strength that is envied and emulated but rarely copied. Or it can be a unique genuineness, an honesty that transcends language and is felt as opposed to conveyed. This honesty carries with it a sense of purity that draws out the better qualities of people that encounter it.

This is the Selanne effect.

I’m about five months younger than Teemu, so as a fellow person of middling age let me take you back to 1992. The sports headlines since the previous year’s draft had been dominated by Eric “The Next One” Lindros who at the time thought he could do better in any other market than the one who drafted him in Quebec City. Of course I and many other Winnipeggers shared a disdain for Lindros, not because we had any special affinity for Quebec City, but because in our heart of hearts we knew the same thing could very well happen to us in the next go around. Eric of course ended up going to an American club and Quebec ended up with some valuable properties in return, but it felt like the beginning of the end for small market NHL teams.

During all of this a young Finnish player named Teemu Selanne, chosen tenth overall by the Jets in 1988, quietly moved to Winnipeg with a modest amount of fanfare. At the time the Jets were doing what they always did, scratching and clawing their way into a playoff spot, only to be eliminated by the Oilers in the first round. The Jets original superstar, Dale Hawerchuck had been traded away for Phil Housley and the Jets where a decidedly dull and mediocre team. The economy was down, the city was down, the hockey club was down; the fall of 1992 was dreary. It was the perfect time for a hero.

At the time the Jets hockey club was trying to hype Teemu as much as they could, but as a jaded twenty-something my thoughts were, whatever, another European, what else is new? Indeed there had been a long list of European experiments that had gone off the rails in the previous seasons with the Jets and I was, in my twenty-something way, underwhelmed. That is until Teemu actually started to play, and I experienced the Selanne effect first hand. Teemu exploded into the National Hockey League and took everyone by complete surprise. Coaches, players, fans; everyone was taken aback as the young Finn seemed to score at will. There was a new energy on the Jets and it spilled over into the fans that sent it back again in a tremendous feedback loop that culminated in a record shattering 76 goal rookie season for the one that was now dubbed the “Finnish Flash”.

Through all the adulation, hysteria, and new found hockey glory running through Winnipeg, you could sense at the centre of it all was just a kid who loved to play hockey. Here was a spirit who embraced the people of Winnipeg because they embraced the game and the game was his life. The small city, the cold, the old rink, and the crazy fans all seemed to fit into the Selanne effect. Winnipeggers needed a hero and the hero needed them, it was one of those strange and rare convergences of circumstance, and everyone knew it was special. It also validated the fact that a superstar could end up in a small market and still be successful both on and off the ice. As the “Next One” looked average, the “Finnish Flash” blew through the record books.

We of course all know that in real life happy endings are few and far between. In the winter of 1996 even though our hero had fought and slayed many dragons, the hockey club had been sold and was heading out of town. It appeared to all the experts that even a superstar couldn’t save the small market Canadian hockey club, and on one fateful day near the end, Teemu Selanne was told he had been traded. By most accounts Teemu was furious, he stormed into the dressing room and ripped off his nameplate, and stormed back out again. By his own account he felt that he had been betrayed and cheated out of the opportunity to say goodbye to the people he had grown up with, the people that had taught him why the game was worth playing. It was one of a very few regrets that Teemu carried with him to Anaheim and was one he was reminded of every time a number 13 jersey appeared in the stands during the years that followed.

Now we come to the end and our hero is in the twilight of his playing days. By most reckoning Teemu Selanne has had a hall of fame career, going on to win a Stanley Cup with the Anaheim Ducks and consistently, year after year, being their top player. With the re-emergence of both Winnipeg and its hockey team though, Teemu has made his way back to old ground, and back to the people who seem to understand him best.

On Saturday December 17, 2011 Teemu Selanne stepped back onto the Winnipeg ice to a thunderous ovation usually reserved for conquering heroes. Teemu looked up and saw the faces that he’d longed to say goodbye to all those years ago and waved, biting his lower lip, remaining stoic and humble like the hero he is. Through the storm of emotional energy the game carried on, and every time number eight touched the puck a swell of noise followed. After, ironically, a Jets victory, the old Jet did one final lap as the third star. The circle had been closed, and the debt that Teemu felt he owed Winnipeg had been repaid.

Through all the hype, media attention, and storming crowd noise, one still came away with that same old feeling. Teemu is simply a man who loves hockey and he embraces the place where it all started because the people of that place love the hockey he plays. It is that genuine honesty that cannot be conveyed in words, the same old feeling that drew out the best of Winnipeg in 1992 and again on Saturday.

It is the Selanne effect.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Man Up Buttercup

So, there I am sitting at the local rink on Sunday morning watching my five year old play a game against other five year olds and loving every second of it. It was a beautiful sunny crisp morning and I was in a pretty good mood. And then it happened, one of the other dads sporting his Oiler cap started to make his way towards my direction. I should have known it would be inevitable, there was no way to avoid it, but for a brief moment in time I had actually forgotten the events of the previous night. That was about to change.

“I caught some of that game last night, I’m really sorry man”, he said grinning ear to ear, his voice dripping with mock sympathy. “Seven one, oooouch, that’s gotta sting a bit”.  I managed my best eff you smile and tried out the excuse de jour that was making its rounds on Twitter, “Well you know they didn’t get in till 4 am”. I stopped; I knew it was weak as soon as the sound waves penetrated the air around my mouth.  The Gretzky lovin Oiler fan chuckled a bit, “Ya, or maybe it was that shiny new logo of theirs that distracted them”. Unbelievably, I had nothing.  “ I hope you guys make it to the play offs so we can take you out again just for old times’ sake” , he said, attracting unwanted attention from old time Canucks fans who were fellow prisoners in the Smythe division of the eighties.  Think of something, THINK, THINK, THINK! I thought to myself. “Whatever…” I said. That was all I could manage as the Gretzky lovin oiler fan walked away chuckling. Whatever …. For five cents, that’s all I could come up with? Really? It was junior high all over again, and I was taking crap from some no good, Gretzky lovin Oiler fan.  I was psychologically wounded on several levels.

Now against that backdrop of pain and misery, my embarrassment has turned to anger. Obviously I had a failure of whit when jousting with the Messier skate licking Oiler fan, but I should never have been put in that position by my team in the first place. It was truly a failure of grand proportions, albeit not as epic as the Vancouver Canuck Stanley Cup final implosion, but a big none the less.

There was a change of ownership Saturday night that was not sanctioned by the NHL board of governors, as the Detroit Red Wings completely owned the Winnipeg Jets.  It started as most Winnipeg Jets games do, they scored first. Bryan Little who has done a lot to silence the critics lately, busted into the Red Wing zone with speed and notched one early, but that was it. Now I’m not sure if they thought they had it in the bag after that or if they just plain lost their minds because in true holiday fashion the Wings lit them up like a Christmas tree. If you do the math the Wings averaged a goal every eight minutes against an Andre Pavelac who was left helpless against the late man in the high slot, who over and over again scored on almost exactly the same play. It was like the nightmare hockey version of Groundhog Day and the Jets seemed completely confused by it all.

So at the end of the night the Red Wings handed the keys to the club back over to Mr. Chipman and the Jets high tailed it home to regroup. The regrouping process started Monday morning with a practice and bag skate. I took an almost inhuman satisfaction in knowing these guys where getting a taste of Noelian justice as they dragged their sorry backsides up and down the rink.  I hope it was communicated to them that if they want to be an elite club, a club that can truly contend for a playoff spot in this league that seven one losses are going to have to become unacceptable. I for one am not inclined to have sympathy for the “sometimes you just have one of those games” excuse.  As I have said in previous writings, players, you’re not in Atlanta anymore and these fans deserve more, they deserve a contender.

So cupcake, if you think Detroit was tough, go over to NHL dot com and check out Minny’s record as of late. They have been kicking ass and taking names lately and if you want survive that game you’re going to have to dig a little deeper than that effort on Saturday night. Yes players, as your pulling on your frilly pink underwear this morning, know this; it’s time to man up.

There are a lot of Jets fans out there that constantly get told “be happy that you have a team” and “You don’t really expect them to make the playoffs do you?” How many times do I have to read sports columns that say the Jets have a honeymoon period this year and that no one cares if they win? Guess what, that’s crap!  I and every other fan out there working a ten hour plus day to put money in your pockets cares. Every kid in the school yard rocking a Jets shirt cares. Every out of town fan that shows up to a hostile rink cares.

So it’s time to man up buttercup and get it together for tonight’s game, because I want be the guy with  arrogant grin on Sunday telling that Yari Kuri  ass kissing mofo where to go! 

Friday, December 9, 2011


There has been some debate lately about what actually happened last May between the NHL, Atlanta Spirit Group, and True North Sports and Entertainment. I have a personal version of events that I’ve pieced together through private contacts, media reports and my own business experience. It’s conjecture of course but in my mind it seems to ring true. Writing as a blogger and not a reporter leaves me free to speculate as I may.

I’m going to start our tale with a little side bar that I think will help understand the events of late May 2011. Jimmy Patteson is the head of a multibillion dollar conglomerate based in British Columbia and during the 80’s was considered by some to be the most powerful man in western Canada. This was evident as he toured the new prince and princess of whales around Coal Harbour on his multimillion dollar yacht during the opening of Expo 86.

In his biography Jimmy relays a story about how he once challenged what he termed to be “old eastern money”. Now old eastern money refers to a loose fraternity of Ontario wealth that in some cases traces its roots back to the Plains of Abraham. It’s an old power structure that is not so much advertised as felt in Canadian business circles. Jimmy during the eighties decided he wanted to acquire a company we are all familiar with, called Maple Leaf Foods. It was owned by several wealthy eastern families and Jimmy had decided to perform a hostile takeover. Several cease and desist letters crossed Jimmies desk and he of course ignored them all. The final warning came in a personal phone call from one of the share holders who, almost sympathetically, tried to convince Jimmy that buying Maple Leaf Foods would be a huge miscalculation on his part. Jimmy of course wrote it off as posturing.

Then it happened. Jimmy woke up one morning and he had no credit. Not one bank in all of North America, Europe, Asia, or Australia would extend any credit for the daily operations of Jimmy’s multibillion dollar business enterprise. To add insult to injury, many of his current credit lines were also being “called in”. Of course Jimmy knew why this was happening and abandoned his pursuit of Maple Leaf Foods. It was an example of just how powerful old eastern Canadian money could be, and the NHL thirty years later would get a small, albeit brief glimpse of this world first hand.

The Thomson family’s wealth goes back less than 100 years in Canada but they have become entrenched, and are indeed charter members of the old eastern Canadian establishment. This was confirmed when the family patriarch, Ken was granted title and became a member of the British house of lords as the 2nd Baron of Fleet. This is the pinnacle of symbolic power within the halls of the old Anglo Saxon power structures of Toronto and it has cemented the Thomson family’s position as richest in Canada.

This of course leads us to the current day partnership between the late Ken Thompson’s son David and Mark Chipman, member of another wealthy family that had made its mark in Winnipeg. By all accounts David has a special affinity for Manitoba and Winnipeg because of his time running the Hudson Bay Company, in which he worked and toured through its holdings in Manitoba. Together they have built a profitable sports and entertainment enterprise that found itself in May 2011, in a position to fulfill a long held ambition of the group; to bring NHL hockey back to Winnipeg.

The NHL had long ago given its blessing to Winnipeg after True North Sports and Entertainment (the Thompson/Chipman partnership) had successfully lobbied the NHL board of Governors for a chance to bring the NHL back to a revitalized Winnipeg. In the spring of 2011 a troubled Atlanta Thrashers hockey club became available for purchase and relocation.

Now we have to remember the circumstances of the negotiations. A deal for an asset priced in the hundreds of millions of dollars was being negotiated over a span of less than three months. This is practically unheard of in most business circles, and to complicate matters the ownership group of the Thrashers (ASG) consisted of more than a half a dozen partners, all of whom had to come to terms with their own differences. Fortunately TNSE had many of the logistical items in boilerplate from a previous close call in purchasing the Phoenix Coyotes and most of the work that was left was with terms of sale and due diligence. One curious aspect of the transaction though, was that as part of the total asking price the NHL was demanding a relocation fee of roughly fifty million dollars. This was something that had never been demanded in the past and was seen as a premium for a) revisiting a market that had failed previously and b) penance for the ASG and NHLs poor working relationship.

There were other reasons the NHL demanded a relocation fee, and the most important one was that it desperately needed the money. During the previous two years the NHL had subsidized its team in Phoenix after the previous owner had let the team slip into bankruptcy. Phoenix was a big market to lose when negotiating a national TV deal and the NHL would go to the matt to keep a team in Phoenix. Losses in the vicinity of 30 million dollars a season where mounting and the board of governors by all accounts was tired of writing the cheques. The NHL executive, lead by Garry Bettman was under enormous pressure to repay the monies that had been spent on Phoenix and one way out was seen as the relocation fee levied on ASG and TNSE.

There was also one last factor to consider. As the beginning of May approached, an NHL schedule needed to be finalized by June 1, therefore putting a hard and fast deadline on the sale negotiations. This deadline was the gun that the NHL would hold to the head of TNSE in the days to follow.

The NHL then did something astounding at the beginning of May. They approached both parties who were moving briskly towards completion of the sale deal and told them the NHL wanted more money. The numbers vary depending on who you talk to, but the demand that was put forth was that either TNSE would have to increase the amount they were willing to pay, or ASG would have to take less. With a hard deadline for a sale less than a month away, ASG partners still bickering over who got what from the sale, and a steady stream of leaks building anticipation in Winnipeg,  it was a high pressure, strong arm tactic. It didn’t go by unnoticed in Toronto at Woodbridge Inc (Thomsons holding co.) .

Thomson by certain accounts was furious. The NHL to Winnipeg was a personal pet project for him and even though he had taken a low key, hands off approach, his name was still publicly attached to the deal. David Thomson and his advisors immediately identified the NHL tactic for what it was; Extortion. This is when the NHL awoke the sleeping giant.

On May 19th Stephen Brunt, sports reporter for a major national Canadian news paper owned by Thomson/Reuters, reported that an agreement to acquire the Atlanta Thrashers had been completed by TNSE and that the team would be relocated to Winnipeg. In his article he speculated that an announcement could come as early as May 24th. Brunt would only say that his source was from the highest levels and that it had been confirmed by others. Several other sports outlets picked up the story and on the night of May 19th there was wide spread celebration in the streets of Winnipeg. A visibly angry Gary Bettman was caught on video in the stands of an NHL game getting the news on his Blackberry. Everyone in the sports world was thoroughly convinced that after months of speculation, a team was coming to Winnipeg. There was only one problem, the deal wasn’t done. It was close, but the new NHL demands had thrown a wrench into the process.

Over the next 48 hrs Stephen Brunt did a brief media tour, defended his sources and his story, and was then quickly assigned to cover soccer in Europe. Shortly after something amazing happened, the NHL quietly dropped its demand for more money and began to facilitate the acceleration of the sale.

The NHL had pushed David Thomson and he had pushed back. The Brunt story was a plant that was meant to force the NHL into a position where it could not see the deal fail. A critical mass had been built up around the return of the NHL to Winnipeg and the Brunt story had simply pushed the deal beyond a point of no return. It was also quietly conveyed to the NHL commissioner that the “Full Resources” of Woodbridge Inc. and its “friends” would be applied to seeing the NHL return to Winnipeg for the 2011-21012 season.  This was a statement that had significant meaning that could not be missed. Woodbridge had more than enough cash to go to war with the NHL and its friends where many, global, and powerful. Old eastern Canadian money.

Of course we all know the rest is history. Mark Chipman was able to play good cop to Thomsons bad, and an announcement was made that a deal had been concluded on May 31st with negotiations going down to the wire. Now you may think that all’s well that ends well, and that the establishment for once had harnessed its power to work for the common good, but there are a few lingering threads to this story.

The NHL is still subsidizing the Phoenix Coyotes and with a long term TV deal on the books, the NHL is now in no mood to hang on there anymore. The governors are still pressuring the NHL executive to recover their money and the list of bonnafide potential owners begins and ends with Quebecor. Quebecor of course wants to emulate the success in Winnipeg and bring an NHL club back to its former glory in Quebec City. Quebecor also wants to cash in on broadcasting revenue its media outlets in La Belle Provence would surely enjoy. Now as winter progresses, we know the NHL needs to have an answer by spring and so they have begun the process of extortion anew with Quebecor.

Media reports of buyers in Portland, Kansas City and Seattle are bouncing around at opportune times conveniently syncing with Bill Daly making barbed statements about how the NHL will not accept a discount for the purchase of the Coyotes. It seems at least some of the pre posturing for the sale of the Coyotes is beginning to happen and the NHL is back to its old tricks.

I would however caution the NHL, and urge them to deal in good faith. Quebecor itself is an old and storied conglomerate and it along with Bombardier form a clique of powerful companies within Quebec that might have a longer reach than the NHL suspects. It would be a shame if the Garry Bettman where to wake up one morning and find that the NHL was having trouble with its banks. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Walk The Line

The Bee’s are back in town and face the hard working Jets tonight at the house that Chipman built. I’m thinking tonight’s game should be interesting not only because the Bruins are who they are, but also in measuring the Jets response. This Boston team reminds me of the Dallas Carter high school football team made famous in the movie Friday Night Lights. When the coach of their rival asked one of his shell shocked players what it was like out there, his reply was, “They’re big…. They’re fast….They’re dirty……..They’re big….”

They’re big, namely in the form of Milan Lucic who it seems lately has a penchant for running goalies and challenging the opposition to respond. Right or wrong it seemed to work in Buffalo with Lucic drilling Ryan Miller, while the dazed goalies teammates looked on like shrinking violets. Don’t get me wrong in everyday life if a tree like Lucic was angry with  me I’d be thankful that I can run faster scared than he can mad, but if you’re on the ice and you get paid to play, you have to respond.  Then there’s Zedano Chara, who of course feels it’s necessary to put habs players in the hospital, but watch out, he’s also got 18 points this season. Chara will make you pay in all sorts of ways.

They’re fast.  The Boston forwards will make you pay to play as well. Burgeron, Lucic, and Seguin make a formidable front end, that have been chewing up teams in the east with remarkable consistency since they woke up from their Stanley Cup hangover.  The top two lines also seem to be scoring by committee which makes things even tougher for opposition teams to contain.

They’re dirty. Two words: Brad Marchand. Now most of these Bee’s have a repertoire of “get under your skin” dirty plays that they like to roll out every so often, but Marchand seems to work in dirty tricks as a great sculptor would work in clay. The trouble is, the little bugger can also score while sticking you in the ribs, and why is it that the ref is always looking the other way?

They’re big. Tim Thomas has seemed like a giant in net. When he’s on, he’s almost unbeatable if he can see the puck, and don’t even try and run him. He’ll leap out of the crease and deliver a check, clearing his front porch without the aid of his massive defensemen. The key is to make sure he’s not on, get him off his game early, and there’s a chance to see daylight.

Now I know what you’re thinking reader; bcmike who’s side are you on anyway? I know I’ve spent half the blog building up Boston, but you gotta know what you’re up against. So what are the Jets to do when these bullies from bean town roll into town with their brass knuckles, tin foil and rolls of quarters? Simple; play Winnipeg Jets Hockey. The beaners don’t have a lock on hardnosed hockey and the Jets have been playing an in your face aggressive, blue collar style all season.

Attack, attack, attack. The Jets need to open it up and play fearlessly against the huge defenseman of Boston; Kane especially will have to amp up the hard charging physical edge in his play. And of course Buff will need to come up huge. If there’s one guy that can meet these monsters physically its Buff. He’ll need to come at them with reckless intensity and send a message quickly. And it will be all about messages tonight. The crowd will have to make it be known that this is their barn and Boston you are not welcome. The Jets will also have to walk a fine line between taking a bunch of dumb penalties and standing up to the shenanigans of the Bruins.

By far the biggest problem tonight won’t be the opposition, but how the Jets respond. The Bruins are the bully in the school yard and if they think they can walk all over you, they will. That’s when it’s time to chuck the knuckles. If Pavalec gets snow showered, shouldered or run, it’s time. If Marchand sucker punches Wellwood in the head, it’s time. If Lucic or Chara try and pull their tough guy BS, it’s time. And I don’t mean “Oh lets go on the next face off”, I mean whoever’s closest to the play drop em and go.

It’s only after the Jets show these guys that they “aint no band leader”, that they’ll be able to meet them eye to eye and play hockey. If the Jets can walk the line between standing up for themselves and their teammates, while pressing the attack and scoring goals, they can be successful.  Go after Thomas early, with sustained pressure. Keep the puck in the attacking zone and make the Bruins think about defending their net more than punching someone in the head. That will be the path to a much needed win.

If the Jets with the help of the faithful at the MTSC can pull off a win tonight, they'll officially be on a roll and closing in on eighth place. But most importantly they’ll show the Bruins that when it’s time, we’ll walk the line.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Wild West Show

Step right up! Get your tickets here! See the Winnipeg Jets Wild, Wild West show. Experience high flying, fast skating feats of amazement as these young players straight from the frontiers of the Canadian north will dazzle and astound you. There will be spills, chills, feats of strength and neutral zone antics of every description! Get you tickets here!

I think every NHL city should have a carnival barker announcing the arrival of the Winnipeg Jets when they come to town, because with the brand of hockey this club is playing right now they should be the hottest ticket in town.  Don’t misunderstand me though, it’s not necessarily a winning style of play, but oh boy is it fun to watch.

Next week at the board of governors meeting every owner of every NHL team should get down on their knees and kiss Mark Chipmans ring. Not only for doggedly perusing a club in Winnipeg and showing how small passionate markets can save the business of the NHL. But also for mandating his club’s style of play not be about winning at all costs, but be about entertaining at all costs. Now as a fan you’re probably thinking that’s a bit counter intuitive, but really it has a simple brilliance to it that seems lost on the NHL braintrust. Quite simply put, this club is giving hockey fans what they want and what they want is exciting hockey.

When talking about the attendance troubles in the NHL we keep hearing a familiar refrain from troubled teams; “people will show up to see a winner”. The standard reply on the other side is that “winning is not a business plan” and if you look at it from the simplest possible perspective this is absolutely true. Someone in the league at some point in time needs to be losing. Thirty teams can’t possibly end the season with a winning record , so there must be another dimension, a hidden quality, some sort of secret sauce that brings sports fans out to see losing teams , if only we could put our finger on it and nail it down.


Now I’m just putting this out there, but here’s a crazy idea and I know it’s kind of out from left field, but here it goes; let’s get the teams to play open ended exciting hockey. I know, it’s shocking! Let me put it this way, would you rather go see your team trap all night, and feel like you where attending a baseball game or would you rather see a back forth game full of hits, saves, and goals but in a losing effort. Now I know everyone wants to see their team win, but frankly, what I really want is to be entertained.  I want to be sitting at the edge of my couch watching the game, punching cushions. Not falling asleep on the couch with a cheeto hanging from my mouth watching a New Jersey trap extravaganza (How are they doing for attendance by the way…)

Now I know what you’re thinking reader; bcmike you’re preaching to the converted, we all know the trap sucks, what’s your point. Well what I’m trying to get across is that True North seems to have found the secret sauce, because really, even though this young team is slightly under 500, who walks out of the MTS centre not feeling like they just saw something cool? And if the Jets keep playing run and gun with reckless abandon how long will it be before the Jets are a sought after ticket in out of town rinks as well?

Now this may simply be one clubs long term philosophy on how to put a product on the ice, but I also think it’s a blue print to save the NHL, and believe me the NHL needs saving. Don’t believe the rosy talk from the NHL about gross revenues increasing dramatically year over year. There are no fewer than three clubs facing immediate peril and an untold number that must be straining if you look at their attendance figures. If you want to save these markets, you not only have to get people to games with free hot dogs and beer, you need to give them an experience they will remember and a staid defensive game with the occasional fight thrown in to wake everyone up is not it.

Instead these markets should look to change their philosophy from; win even if it means putting everyone to sleep, to put on a great hockey show that will stay with fans long after. Let’s open up the game and play Winnipeg Jets hockey; a fast attacking style with the defensemen jumping up into the play and the goal tenders bailing them out. Let’s see strong physical forwards cut to the net with speed, and playmakers dipsy doodle dangle in the attacking zone. And yes, once in a while let’s see a couple players (not goons) enforce the unwritten rules of hockey in a fight.  It doesn’t really take rule changes to make this happen (Although the illegal defence concept is tempting) it just takes a shift in mindset; lets pursue an entertaining exciting product. Let the young stars off the chain and give them the latitude to light it up.

Again, I think True North sees the value in this approach and has successfully resisted the urge to play conservatively and possibly put a few more wins on the board. Instead we have been treated to some rootin tootin roller coaster rides that have made us happy to pay the price of admission. So I say Buff keep pinching, Pavalec keep up the acrobatics and Kane keep scoring.  I for one am enjoying the show. Maybe it’s time for the rest of the league to follow suit.

Step right up…