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Chipman shows faith in GM with two-year extension

True North boss likes 'long-term' plan

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Kevin Cheveldayoff is not susceptible to external persuasion and extending his contract to run another five years eliminates any potential reason for the Jets GM to abandon his plan.

That's precisely what Mark Chipman wants.

Chipman, True North's chairman, and the entire Jets organization has the benefit of revenue certainty. The fan base is locked in and sponsorship partners contractually obligated to the team for years to come.

This financial foundation allows the Jets to do things in the manner of their choosing, which has been slow and steady. "Deliberate," in the words of Chipman.

No trying to cut corners and paying foolish prices today that could haunt a franchise down the road. Cheveldayoff has been able to work his plan without pressure from ownership.

Cheveldayoff's moves have all been predicated on what is best for the long term. Sometimes this rubs fans the wrong way, but the Jets are gambling it will one day reward their followers with a championship.

This protection from the whims of an anxious owner or clamouring fans has allowed Cheveldayoff to take the Jets franchise from one without a plan nor hope and turn it into an organization with both, and quickly.

Quietly and deliberately he's made the Jets a franchise that can be looked upon as one with purpose and patience. They're not a winner today but the pieces are being put in place to ensure that in the future.

Rebuilding a franchise isn't easy or quick. There's no magic bullet. Cheveldayoff said from Day 1 that he would draft, develop and retain his assets and that's what he's done. He's instilled confidence in his owner and the result of this work motivated Chipman to cement the relationship between his GM and the Jets for a longer period.

Having watched Chipman operate the Manitoba Moose and now the Jets for well over a decade, it's not a surprise he extended Cheveldayoff.

Look at the track record within True North. CEO Jim Ludlow along with vice-presidents Craig Heisinger, Kevin Donnelly, Norva Riddell, John Olfert, Dorian Morphy and Robert Thorsten have all been with the organization since its inception or shortly thereafter.

Chipman hires what he believes are good people, lets them do their jobs and retains them.

Why would Cheveldayoff, his most important hockey employee, be any different?

Chipman will operate the Jets as he sees fit and with little regard for the opinions of outsiders.

Wednesday's hue and cry over extending a GM with lots of time left on his contract and no playoff appearances to show for his work didn't get much of a rise out of Chipman.

"Everyone wants instant gratification. Of course we'd like to get to the playoffs. It's a clear objective. But this is a tough league and you can't cut corners," said Chipman.

"We have a long- term plan and it's not about getting to the playoffs once. It's about going on a consistent basis and hopefully winning a championship."

Maybe the Chipman way of doing business will result in a Stanley Cup. Maybe it won't. We'll have to wait and see on that front.

But it's clear Chipman believes Cheveldayoff is the guy he wants, "with his hands on the wheel."

Cheveldayoff has done exactly what he said he would do. Set out a plan and executed it. One NHL GM took a look at the youth of the Jets organization during the recent prospects camp in Penticton, B.C., and said, "If they don't mess with this and screw it up, they'll be a force in a few years."

Chipman wanted to make sure Cheveldayoff had comfort in his position to see his plan through.

There's a genius in the simplicity of Cheveldayoff's approach but it takes resilience to avoid the pitfalls of quick fixes.

Maybe the Jets haven't got to the post-season as quickly as some would like but Chipman doesn't want a one-hit wonder. He wants a string of chart-toppers.

The fans of the Jets have been exemplary in their commitment. They too should demand a perennial winner.

Thankfully, their owner is doing it for them. Twitter: @garylawless

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 19, 2013 D2

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About Gary Lawless

Gary Lawless is the Free Press sports columnist and co-host of the Hustler and Lawless show on TSN 1290 Winnipeg and
Lawless began covering sports as a rookie reporter at The Chronicle-Journal in Thunder Bay after graduating from journalism school at Durham College in Ontario.
After a Grey Cup winning stint with the Toronto Argonauts in the communications department, Lawless returned to Thunder Bay as sports editor.
In 1999 he joined the Free Press and after working on the night sports desk moved back into the field where he covered pro hockey, baseball and football beats prior to being named columnist.


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