Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Jets legend Steen was very nearly my golf buddy

But he's not, so it's back to the Canucks

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Get ready to be really disappointed, because I almost had a great column idea for today.

I almost got this idea when, amid the joy over the return of the NHL, my buddy, Bob, wandered over to my cubicle to ask if I could skip work on Wednesday to take his place at the Manitoba Home Builders Association's golf tournament.

I did not want to appear too eager, so I frowned at Bob, who also happens to be my boss, scratched my head and, after a dramatic pause, coughed and said: "Well, I'm pretty busy, but I guess I could try and clear my schedule."

Bob gave me a sad look before adding: "You'll be golfing with Thomas Steen."

For those of you who have been in comas for the past few decades, Thomas Steen is (a) the current city councillor for Elmwood-East Kildonan; and (b) the former captain of the Winnipeg Jets and a certified living legend.

As part of my ongoing campaign to provide top-notch columns with as little effort as possible on my part, I figured if I was going to tee it up with a hockey legend, I would ask him 18 hard-hitting questions about our return to the big leagues. If you are not a mathematician, that's roughly one question per hole.

(Sample hard-hitting question: "Thomas, do you have any tips to cure my slice?")

It also occurred to me it would be galling for hardcore Winnipeg fans to discover that someone like me, the world's largest and most annoying Vancouver Canucks fan, was getting a chance to play with one of the greatest Jets of all time.

From that standpoint, you will be pleased to hear my brilliant plan evaporated, because, as it turns out, Steen was committed to play in an entirely different charity golf tournament on an entirely different course. In the end, I played with a group of civic power-brokers, such as my new pals Barry Thorgrimson, the city's manager of real estate and economic development; Scott Fielding, city councillor for St. James-Brooklands; and Mike Moore, president of the Manitoba Home Builders Association.

I also got to play in the vicinity of the city's new chief administrative officer, Phil Sheegl, Deputy Mayor Justin Swandel and my buddy, Bob, who ended up playing when another Free Press executive had to stay at the office. As a rule, we like to leave at least one person back at the paper in case something important happens.

The point is, they were all a little disappointed at not getting a chance to play with a hockey god like Steen, so to cheer them up I pretended I was a really bad golfer and allowed them to beat me on every hole. That's just the kind of guy I am.

We had a great day, but, tragically, I began to suspect that not all of these high-powered Winnipeggers, despite being licensed Canadians, were cheering for my beloved Canucks to beat the Bruins. I did not take a formal poll, but I overheard our new CAO saying he thought Bobby Orr was a great player. So there's that.

I'm a bit sensitive because I've taken a beating since I wrote a heart-felt column earlier this week in which I suggested local hockey fans should "suck it up" and start rooting for "Canada's team," by which I meant Vancouver.

In response, I received a flood of email from people in two distinct camps, namely: 1) People who think I am a stupid jerk; and 2) People who think I'm a stupid jerk, but will cheer for Vancouver anyway. The first group promised to root for the Canucks, whereas I will sum up the thoughtful arguments of the anti-Vancouver camp as follows:

"Dear (Very Bad Word) Stupidhead: Who the (Entirely Different Bad Word) do you think you are telling us to cheer for Vancouver, which is not even part of Canada, according to what I remember from high school, which I would have finished, except I got that great job at the maple syrup plant. Vancouver is nothing but a bunch of stupid mountains and beaches and some of their players are from Sweden, which is currently located in the United States. P.S. I hate you!"

The most painful thing, however, was the fact that while the Canucks were nipping the Bruins in Game 1, there I was at the golf course, waiting to pick up the set of steak knives my team won and listening to speeches, the highlight of which came when my pal Mike Moore told the audience: "Our NHL team is less than 24 hours old, and I promise you they will win the Stanley Cup before the Toronto Maple Leafs do!"

Mike got major applause for that remark, which sort of proves that, like Vancouver, Toronto gets picked on a lot. I personally understand just how the Maple Leafs feel at this time of year.

Because I know what it's like to be stuck on a golf course during the playoffs.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 3, 2011 A2

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