Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION
The Jets and my brain
All this stuff about the NHL and the future of the Phoenix Coyotes brought back all those memories I thought I had snuffed out.
Instead they crouched silently in the back of my head.
When news of the Coyotes' woes, and what was passed off as the Jets imminent return to Winnipeg, first broke, I was kind of skeptical. Negotiations, no matter what level, always breed hyperbole. If you've ever walked a picket line, you know what I mean.
But with each story, and with Hockey Night In Canada, ESPN, TSN and the Globe and Mail weighing in, it gained credibility.
Or so I thought.
When you follow the trail it appears when one media guy tweeted something it got picked up and torqued by another. Not to be outdone, a third media outlet torqued it even more. Rumours and mumblings from other sources got blended into other rumours and mumblings to be passed off as facts.
Then there's Don Cherry.
The man is many things. Sports journalist, he ain't. But we still lapped him up.
In all of the noise of the past week, the memories of the Jets started crawling back into my brain. Now, the MRI I had a while ago shows I indeed have a brain and that it works. I should have started using it when all the Coyotes stories started moving on Twitter.
On May 16, 1995, Freep hockey reporter Tim Campbell and I filed a joint by-lined story for the paper on the 35,000 people who showed up at The Forks in a mass effort to save The Winnipeg Jets from leaving (at that time it was supposedly heading to Minneapolis):
"THEY CAME in strollers. They came in Jets jerseys. They came in white. They came in painted faces. They came hand-in-hand. They came from work. They came from school.
'Are you enjoying this more than the farewell at the arena?' Jets general manager John Paddock asked the 35,000 people in front of him at The Forks.
The answer was a resounding cheer."
Tim and I reported fans that night donated more than $100,000, one fan giving $2,300, towards saving the Jets. An armored truck took it away.
The evening's climax came when four Jets players took centre stage, greeted like they were rock stars. Kris King, Randy Gilhen, Keith Tkachuk and Teemu Selanne looked bewildered, even awestruck, we wrote.
Reading those words 15 years later, I shake my head at that image.
What dopes we Winnipeggers were. What hayseeds. What rubes. What the hell were we thinking?
All of us who got caught up in that circus charade in '95 should know the stupidity of the past week is just that. We should know better.
What has to change for Winnipeg to ever, ever, get an NHL franchise?
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About Larry Kusch and Bruce Owen
Larry Kusch has been a journalist for 30 years, the last 20 with the Winnipeg Free Press. His is one of the newspaper's two legislative bureau reporters.
Raised on a Saskatchewan farm, he received an honours journalism degree from Carleton University in 1975.
At the Free Press, Larry has also worked as a general assignment reporter, business reporter, copy editor and assistant city editor.
Bruce Owen joined the Winnipeg Free Press in 1990 after four years working in other media.
He's worked in a number of positions at the Freep, including pet columnist, assistant city editor and police reporter. Right now he takes up space at the Manitoba legislature.
Bruce is one of five reporters who won a National Newspaper Award for the paper’s coverage of the 1997 Flood of the Century. He's also the recipient of the 1996 Volunteer Centre of Winnipeg Media Golden Hand Award and the 1995 Canadian Federation of Humane Societies Media Commendation Award.
In a past life Bruce worked at YMCA-YWCA Camp Stephens. He has a blog where he and others write about camp and the people who worked and played there.
You can also find Bruce on Twitter where he posts and retweets all sorts of stuff.
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