Mike McIntyre

Mike McIntyre

Sports columnist

Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.

He’s been body-slamming the competition ever since joining the Free Press in 1997. It’s been quite a journey so far.

Mike spent nearly two decades covering the justice beat for the paper, with a front-row seat to some of the worst society has to offer. Whether it was meeting with a grieving victim’s family or a criminal behind bars at Stony Mountain, Mike has always strived to hear every side of a story.

He also authored six books on cases he’s covered, and he produced and hosted a nationally syndicated radio show from 2003 to 2017 on the Corus network.

Mike left his life of crime behind in the summer of 2016 to pursue a new passion, joining the Free Press sports team at the paper and fulfilling a dream he’s had since the day he started writing.

He covered back-to-back championships for the Winnipeg Goldeyes in 2016 and 2017, and is now focused on the Winnipeg Jets as one of the paper’s dedicated hockey writers.

Mike is a frequent public speaker and remains passionate about the great city of Winnipeg, where he was born and raised. He is a vocal advocate of the Creative Communications program at Red River College. He graduated from the program in 1995 and was honoured to receive their first-ever Alumni Award of Achievement in 2011.

Mike credits his wife Chassity for being his biggest supporter. He’s also a proud parent of two, a rescue dog owner and a community volunteer, including 10 years of coaching minor hockey in the city.

All told, Mike is enjoying a career he wouldn’t trade for anything – not even the wild life of a professional wrestler.

Recent articles of Mike McIntyre

Explorers pitcher true to himself

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Explorers pitcher true to himself

Mike McIntyre 7 minute read Sunday, Aug. 14, 2022

Solomon Bates arrived in Winnipeg late last week feeling like the weight of the world was finally off his shoulders.

The 25-year-old from California no longer had anything to hide. Bates had publicly come out as gay only days earlier, making international headlines as the only current professional baseball player to do so. And as he entered the game on Friday night at Shaw Park, making his American Association debut against the Winnipeg Goldeyes, the righty experienced a cathartic moment on the mound.

“It felt like I could finally be my true self,” Bates told me on Saturday afternoon as we chatted in the lobby of the Radisson Hotel on Portage Avenue, where he and his new teammates with the Sioux City Explorers were staying for the three-game series against the Fish that ended Sunday.

“It also put a chip on my shoulder. I just want to prove all those people who say I shouldn’t be in this sport wrong.”

Sunday, Aug. 14, 2022

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Sioux City Explorers pitcher Solomon Bates publicly came out as gay only days earlier, making international headlines as the only current professional baseball player to do so.

Bombers’ narrow defeat could be crucial kick in pants

Mike McIntyre 6 minute read Preview

Bombers’ narrow defeat could be crucial kick in pants

Mike McIntyre 6 minute read Friday, Aug. 12, 2022

Nobody’s perfect. Not even the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

Thursday’s stunning 20-17 loss to the Montreal Alouettes at raucous IG Field will no doubt leave a bitter taste in the collective mouth of the football club as well as its fans. The march toward history ended with a thud. Or, more appropriately, a shank off the foot of kicker Marc “Uh, Oh” Liegghio that would have wrapped up a 10th consecutive victory in regulation time, followed by a clank off the uprights that would have extended overtime.

Of course, there was plenty of other blame to go around. The normally calm, cool and collected Zach Collaros, under siege all night, coughed up a costly fumble in the waning minutes just when it looked like the Blue & Gold were driving for the kill shot. Then the Bombers vaunted defence went offside at the worst possible time, giving the underdog visitors a new lease on life.

Like we said, nobody’s perfect. And it turns out you really can’t win ‘em all. But that’s actually a very good thing for head coach Mike O’Shea’s crew. In fact, it says here this could ultimately make them an even more dangerous outfit than they already were as they attempt to capture a third Grey Cup in a row and cement their legacy as a dynasty.

Friday, Aug. 12, 2022

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Montreal Alouettes defensive back Kenneth Durden (45) reacts as kicker Marc Liegghio (13) watches his field goal attempt go wide during overtime.

Longtime Jets 1.0 broadcaster tells his side of the story

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Longtime Jets 1.0 broadcaster tells his side of the story

Mike McIntyre 8 minute read Thursday, Aug. 11, 2022

Curt Keilback was in the prime of his professional life, calling NHL games with the usual gusto that made him one of the great listens around the league. And then, his legendary voice was suddenly silenced. Fired by the dysfunctional Coyotes organization in 2007, the Brandon product suddenly found himself on the outside looking in and unable to land another prominent play-by-play job.

A decorated career, one that began in Winnipeg in 1979 and eventually took him south to Phoenix, was over with no real explanation short of “we’re going in another direction.”

It was a gut punch of epic proportions.

“The thing about that is you don’t get any chance to defend yourself,” Keilback told me this week of his unexpected exodus from the broadcast booth. “Other than do what I did — write a book. I mean, it’s after the fact. But at least I got the story.”

Thursday, Aug. 11, 2022

JESSICA LEE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Curt Keilback, the longtime voice of the Winnipeg Jets 1.0, looks back on his career in Two Minutes for Talking to Myself.

Jets sign Gustafsson to two-year deal

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Jets sign Gustafsson to two-year deal

Mike McIntyre 2 minute read Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022

And then there were none.

The Winnipeg Jets locked up their seventh and final restricted free agent of the summer Wednesday, signing forward David Gustafsson to a two-year contract extension.

Gustafsson, 22, will earn US$775,000 per season in the NHL. His deal is a two-way in the first year (meaning he’d make substantially less if playing in the American Hockey League) and a one-way in the second year (same salary regardless of where he’s playing).

The second-round pick (60th overall) in the 2018 NHL Draft has appeared in 28 career NHL games, including two last season, and has one goal so far. He’s put up 56 points (24G, 32A) in 82 career American Hockey League games with the Manitoba Moose and was named the team’s MVP for the 2020-21 campaign.

Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

David Gustafsson is expected to make the big club this season.

Making memories at the ball park

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Making memories at the ball park

Mike McIntyre 6 minute read Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022

We were root, root, rooting for the road team. And having all kinds of fun in the process.

A trip to the Twin Cities last week served up a reminder of the beauty of sports. The Toronto Blue Jays were in town, along with a few thousand Canadian baseball fans excited for an up-close look at the likes of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and Alek Manoah.

They didn’t disappoint. Sure, the visitors only managed to split the four-game series at gorgeous Target Field. This was about a lot more than simply wins and losses.

It was about making memories, the kind I will cherish after being joined by my 20-year-old son, 43-year-old brother and 73-year-old father. Major League Baseball was merely the backdrop for us to spend quality time together, and for that I am thankful.

Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022

Bruce Kluckhohn / The Associated Press Photo

Toronto Blue Jays’ Teoscar Hernandez celebrates the team’s 9-3 win over the Minnesota Twins in a baseball game last week in Minneapolis.

It’s time for change at top of Hockey Canada

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It’s time for change at top of Hockey Canada

Mike McIntyre 7 minute read Friday, Jul. 29, 2022

Memo to Hockey Canada: The next time Greg Gilhooly calls, pick up the phone. Otherwise, all this talk of reform and transparency is nothing but a public relations ploy designed to continue sweeping a toxic culture under the carpet.

“I truly hope we are having a #MeToo moment in the world of hockey,” Gilhooly, the former Winnipegger and a survivor of sexual abuse, told me during a wide-ranging chat Friday.

“And that it’s not going to be one of those instances where the cameras are on, the lights are bright and then eventually the circus leaves town.”

One thing has become painfully clear in recent weeks, as hockey’s governing body has been summoned to Ottawa to explain its silence and stunning inaction on multiple scandals: It’s time for change at the very top.

Friday, Jul. 29, 2022

JESSICA LEE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Greg Gilhooly, who is a graduate of Princeton University and the University of Toronto, was one of the many victims of notorious Winnipeg hockey coach Graham James, giving him an up-close view of the darkest side of the sport.

Controversial race and ruling taint Assiniboia Downs

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Controversial race and ruling taint Assiniboia Downs

Mike McIntyre 7 minute read Thursday, Jul. 28, 2022

Something stinks at Assiniboia Downs, and it’s not coming from the barns where the stars of the show reside.

However, bettors around the world likely feel they’ve been fed a steaming pile of horse dung regarding a bizarre finish to a race last week that left some feeling the fix was in.

I don’t blame them. Nor does Downs CEO Darren Dunn, who is running hot after Manitoba’s gaming regulator found no deliberate wrongdoing. Integrity is everything in the sport of kings, and you can see why Dunn and company are furious about an unnecessary spotlight that has been put on the local track.

To understand what occurred, I take you back to Race 5 of the July 20 racing card. King Witt, who came to the post as the second choice in wagering (3.75-1), opened up a commanding lead in the 7½-furlong maiden race and appeared to be galloping to an easy, dominant victory.

Thursday, Jul. 28, 2022

JASON HALSTEAD PHOTO

King Witt finish second to Mucho Express in the controversial fifth race July 20 at Assiniboia Downs.

Jets have done little to convince players, fans brighter days are ahead

Mike McIntyre 6 minute read Preview

Jets have done little to convince players, fans brighter days are ahead

Mike McIntyre 6 minute read Tuesday, Jul. 26, 2022

Pierre-Luc Dubois clearly isn’t buying what the Winnipeg Jets are currently selling. Otherwise, he would have already put his name on a lucrative long-term contract extension, giving him all the comfort and security he could hope for.

That has many around these parts ready to paint the power forward as a puck pariah. Memo to the angry masses: You have your pitchforks pointed in the wrong direction.

Quite frankly, I don’t blame Dubois one bit for having commitment issues when it comes to his hockey home. I’d likely be doing the exact same thing if I were in his skates.

What has the organization done so far in this all-important summer to convince Dubois to put down permanent roots in Winnipeg because brighter days are on the horizon? A handful of players including Paul Stastny, Eric Comrie, Evgeny Svechnikov (Dubois’ friend and former junior teammate) and Kristian Vesalainen have gone out the door. Their spots have been filled with the likes of David Rittich, Kevin Stenlund, Saku Maenalanen, Alex Limoges, Ashton Sautner and Kyle Capobianco.

Tuesday, Jul. 26, 2022

Winnipeg Jets forward Pierre-Luc Dubois. (Peter Power / The Associated Press files)

Speculation he wants to depart from Jets “overblown,” says Dubois

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Speculation he wants to depart from Jets “overblown,” says Dubois

Mike McIntyre 4 minute read Monday, Jul. 25, 2022

Pierre-Luc Dubois claims reports of a fractured relationship with the Winnipeg Jets have been greatly exaggerated. And the 24-year-old power forward, fresh off signing a one-year contract extension with the club, says he’s only focused on the present amid speculation and rumours about his future.

“You hear about things I apparently said or I apparently did. A lot of it is frustrating,” Dubois said Monday morning during a 40-minute Zoom availability. “If I wanted out of Winnipeg I would have asked for a trade. I didn’t ask for a trade.”

Dubois can become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2024 and reportedly has told the Jets he doesn’t want to ink a long-term extension, at least not right now. His agent, Pat Brisson, then poured fuel on the fire earlier this month when he said the Quebec product would love to one day play for the Montreal Canadiens.

“I think people took a little thing and blew it up times 20,” he said, noting many hockey players think about one day skating for their hometown team. “Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t. That’s life.”

Monday, Jul. 25, 2022

KYUSUNG GONG / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS FILES

“You hear about things I apparently said or I apparently did. A lot of it is frustrating,” Pierre-Luc Dubois said.

Past chair of club’s board of directors a trailblazer for women in sports

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Past chair of club’s board of directors a trailblazer for women in sports

Mike McIntyre 7 minute read Friday, Jul. 22, 2022

Dayna Spiring went where no woman had gone before: onto the Grey Cup.

And she played a pivotal role in taking her hometown Winnipeg Blue Bombers to new heights, overseeing a remarkable turnaround for a franchise that was once in complete disarray, but is now the crown jewel of the three-down loop.

Bonus points for smashing a few tired stereotypes along the way to making some Canadian sporting history.

“It’s taken a long time to get there. There’s probably nothing more manly than a football locker room. And I get that, but my experience in the CFL has been a group of guys who were more than happy to welcome me at the table," Spiring said Friday. "I think there was some nervousness on all sides, but they were incredibly respectful. They were incredibly welcoming. They were ready to hear my ideas, ready to get my feedback. And I think that’s all we can ask for.”

Friday, Jul. 22, 2022

CP
TYLER WALSH / ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT WINNIPEG Dayna Spiring takes part in the 2019 Grey Cup parade.

Dubois back in Jets fold, for now

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Dubois back in Jets fold, for now

Mike McIntyre 6 minute read Friday, Jul. 22, 2022

The latest chapter in the Pierre-Luc Dubois soap opera is an intriguing one.

With trade winds blowing and the rumour mill churning, Dubois opted Friday to accept his qualifying offer from the Winnipeg Jets and sign a one-year contract extension that will pay him US$6 million for the coming season. That represents a 20 per cent bump from his US $5 million AAV last year.

Don’t expect this to bring an end to the drama. The 24-year-old centre could still be on the move, and some will say his new deal actually makes that easier to occur. However, it ensures a contract dispute won’t carry over into training camp in September, which wouldn’t benefit Dubois or the Jets.

Dubois had a career-high 28 goals last year, along with 32 assists and 106 penalty minutes in 81 games.

Friday, Jul. 22, 2022

Kyusung Gong / The Associated Press files
The Winnipeg Jets have re-signed centre Pierre-Luc Dubois to a one-year deal.

Jets add assistants to complete coaching staff

Mike McIntyre 3 minute read Preview

Jets add assistants to complete coaching staff

Mike McIntyre 3 minute read Thursday, Jul. 21, 2022

The Winnipeg Jets roster remains a work in progress. But the club’s coaching staff is complete.

Marty Johnston and Brad Lauer were hired Thursday to work as assistants alongside new bench boss Rick Bowness and his associate, Scott Arniel.

Johnston, 43, is no stranger to the organization. The Ontario product has been an assistant with the Manitoba Moose for the past five years, and briefly came up to the big club last year when associate coach Jamie Kompon was away from the team following the death of his father.

As a player, Johnston won the Memorial Cup in 1997 with Hull of the QMJHL, then played several seasons in the ECHL and AHL before ending his pro career overseas.

Thursday, Jul. 21, 2022

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS files
Former Manitoba Moose assistant coach Marty Johnston has been promoted to assistant coach with the Winnipeg Jets.

Home isn’t where Jets’ heart is

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Home isn’t where Jets’ heart is

Mike McIntyre 6 minute read Wednesday, Jul. 20, 2022

Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff was asked at the NHL Draft whether or not he had his eyes on a Manitoba-born prospect, and he provided a rather telling reply.

“We’ve never really looked at the region or the logistics of where a player is from,” he told a few of us scribes in Montreal earlier this month

The question is, should they? Especially when it comes to skaters born and raised here in the Great White North, which has been all but ignored in recent years by the organization.

Consider this: In the first three drafts since the NHL returned to Winnipeg, Cheveldayoff and company selected 14 Canadian prospects (out of 23 total picks, representing 61 per cent). That includes current alternate captains Mark Scheifele and Josh Morrissey, and shutdown centre Adam Lowry. In the nine drafts since, Winnipeg has selected just 14 additional Canadians (out of 55 total picks, representing 25 per cent). And only three have come in the past four years (out of 20 overall picks, representing 15 per cent).

Wednesday, Jul. 20, 2022

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES
It hasn’t gone unnoticed that Winnipeg Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff has drafted very few Canadian and Western Canadian players players in recent years.

It seems certain Dubois wants to bail on Jets

Mike McIntyre 7 minute read Preview

It seems certain Dubois wants to bail on Jets

Mike McIntyre 7 minute read Sunday, Jul. 17, 2022

It is starting to appear inevitable that the Winnipeg Jets and restricted free agent Pierre-Luc Dubois are heading for a divorce. Now the question is how quickly the union ends — and how messy the split might be.

Any hopes of a long-term partnership were pretty much snuffed out the other day when Dubois’ agent, Pat Brisson, made it clear his Quebec-born client wants to see other teams as soon as he breaks free of his current ball-and-chain.

Specifically, his beloved Montreal Canadiens.

It was an arrow fired right at the heart of his current suitor, one that appears to have some substance rather than just be a public negotiating tactic. And it has put Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff between the proverbial rock and a hard place.

Sunday, Jul. 17, 2022

WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES
Pierre-Luc Dubois doesn’t want to be here.

CFL’s top teams should meet in Grey Cup

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CFL’s top teams should meet in Grey Cup

Mike McIntyre 6 minute read Friday, Jul. 15, 2022

It had everything you could ask for in a sporting event. A tremendous Friday night environment, both in the sunny, 30 C weather at kickoff and the nearly 30,000 raucous fans inside the stadium. No shortage of star power, starting with quarterbacks Zach Collaros and Bo Levi Mitchell who have four Grey Cups and three Most Outstanding Player awards between them. And the perfect set-up, with undefeated Winnipeg going toe-to-toe with undefeated Calgary.

And while the Blue Bombers got the best of the Stampeders this time at IG Field in an instant classic that lived up to the hype, you get the sense these powerhouses will be crossing paths later this year with even higher stakes than a mid-July regular-season tilt.

Unfortunately, there’s almost no chance that bigger stage will be at the 109th Grey Cup in Regina on Nov. 20. Which, to be perfectly honest, stinks.

Nobody asked me, but the CFL playoff system is in need of an overhaul. That’s become more apparent than ever this season, with the West absolutely laying waste to the East in the form of an absurd 13-1 head-to-head record so far. This is men versus boys, Goliath versus David sort of stuff. And it’s creating a nightmarish situation that is potentially heading to a farcical conclusion.

Friday, Jul. 15, 2022

ETHAN CAIRNS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
Demerio Houston of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers tackles Malik Henry of the Calgary Stampeders IG field in Winnipeg on Friday.

Jets new keeper looking for a bounceback season

Mike McIntyre 6 minute read Preview

Jets new keeper looking for a bounceback season

Mike McIntyre 6 minute read Friday, Jul. 15, 2022

The way David Rittich sees it, he has plenty in common with the Winnipeg Jets. Both believe they are a lot better than recent results would suggest.

“Of course, I’m looking for a bounceback,” the club’s new backup goaltender said Thursday in a Zoom interview from his native Czechia.

Rittich was once viewed as a rising star in the crease, racking up 51 wins with Calgary over two seasons (2018-19, 2019-20). He was even named an NHL all-star in 2020. But then COVID-19 hit, the NHL shut down for a few months, and nothing was ever really the same again.

Rittich, 29, lost his starting job to then-Flames teammate Mike Smith when play resumed inside the Edmonton bubble, then took a back seat the following year when high-profile free agent Jacob Markström was brought in as the new No. 1.

Friday, Jul. 15, 2022

Liam Richards / canadian Press Files
David Rittich figures he’s a better goalie than the numbers would have you believe. He thinks the Jets are a better team than the numbers say, as well.

Jets stuck in holding pattern

Mike McIntyre 6 minute read Preview

Jets stuck in holding pattern

Mike McIntyre 6 minute read Wednesday, Jul. 13, 2022

What are the Winnipeg Jets doing? I ask that question in all sincerity, without a trace of sarcasm in my voice. No, really, what are they doing? What is the plan, the vision, not just for this coming season, but beyond?

Anyone hoping for some clarity on Wednesday surely came away disappointed.

For most teams around the NHL, it’s quite obvious. You have sad-sack squads such as Chicago and Arizona in a race to the basement, shedding rosters of skill and salary in tank jobs of epic proportions they hope will eventually pay off down the road. You have organizations such as Detroit and Ottawa going the other way on their rebuilds and trying to accelerate the process with shrewd, aggressive signings and trades. And then you have hockey heavyweights such as Colorado and Tampa Bay and Vegas and Carolina revving the engines and powering up for another run.

They’ve all picked various lanes in the race for the Stanley Cup, with some of them moving a lot faster than others.

Wednesday, Jul. 13, 2022

CP
KEITH SRAKOCIC / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS FILES
Former Columbus Blue Jackets' player Kevin Stenlund (right) signed with the Jets on Wednesday.

Don’t expect big Jets moves in free agency

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Don’t expect big Jets moves in free agency

Mike McIntyre 8 minute read Tuesday, Jul. 12, 2022

The Winnipeg Jets haven’t exactly made a big splash so far in this all-important off-season. Barely a ripple, in fact. And that trend might continue Wednesday as general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff dips his toes into the free-agent waters — but likely sticks to the shallow end of the talent pool.

In other words, don’t expect the likes of Evgeni Malkin, Johnny Gaudreau, Nazem Kadri, Claude Giroux or John Klingberg to be shopping for real estate in River City once signings can start happening at 11 a.m. CT.

Those established stars will have plenty of suitors, and Winnipeg simply doesn’t currently have the salary cap space, nor the on- and off-ice draw, to get into a bidding war. Such is the nature of being situated in the league’s smallest market, one that is covered in snow for much of the hockey season, with nary a Stanley Cup Final appearance on the resumé.

Still, that doesn’t mean it’s going to be a quiet few days around here. The Jets have numerous holes to fill, both on the big-league roster and on the depth chart with the Manitoba Moose. Unless the team plans to hold open tryouts for fans this fall, there will have to be signings or trades. Or both.

Tuesday, Jul. 12, 2022

FRED GREENSLADE / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES
Winnipeg currently has just 10 forwards signed for next year with NHL experience.

Jets saying goodbye to popular Svechnikov

Mike McIntyre 3 minute read Preview

Jets saying goodbye to popular Svechnikov

Mike McIntyre 3 minute read Monday, Jul. 11, 2022

HE quickly became one of the most popular players on the Winnipeg Jets, displaying a vibrant personality in a series of team-produced videos.

But it would appear the Evgeny Svechnikov era is over after just one season.

Svechnikov, 25, was not tendered a qualifying offer by Monday’s deadline, meaning he will become an unrestricted free agent as of Wednesday. The colourful Russian winger, who attended Winnipeg’s training camp last fall on a tryout and parlayed that into a one-year deal that paid him US$750,000, had seven goals and 12 assists in 72 regular-season games.

Svechnikov was the 19th-overall pick in the 2015 draft by Detroit, which decided not to extend a qualifying offer his way last summer. After signing in Winnipeg he bounced up and down the lineup, finding chemistry early in the year on a top line with Pierre-Luc Dubois and Kyle Connor. But he struggled with consistency, at times being demoted and even healthy scratched by coach Paul Maurice and, later in the year, interim bench boss Dave Lowry.

Monday, Jul. 11, 2022

Evgeny Svechnikov was a fan favourite and popular with his Jets teammates.

Cockerill makes cut at Barbasol Championship

Mike McIntyre 4 minute read Preview

Cockerill makes cut at Barbasol Championship

Mike McIntyre 4 minute read Saturday, Jul. 9, 2022

Aaron Cockerill is certainly making himself right at home on the PGA Tour.

The Stony Mountain product, playing on the biggest stage for just the second time in his young career, is very much in contention heading into the weekend at the Barbasol Championship. Cockerill 30, fired a sizzling six-under 66 on Friday at the Keene Trace Golf Club in Kentucky.

Cockerill, the two-time Manitoba golfer of the year, opened the event with a 71 on Thursday, and his seven-under total through two rounds has him tied with 10 other golfers in 35th place. Fellow Canadian Adam Svensson is on top of the leaderboard at 15-under following rounds of 62-67. The 28-year-old from British Columbia is seeking his first PGA Tour victory.

Cockerill’s latest round was one to remember. He shot an incredible seven-under 29 on the front-nine Friday, with five birdies and an eagle.

Saturday, Jul. 9, 2022

THE CANADIAN PRESS
Aaron Cockerill Cockerill is the two-time Manitoba golfer of the year. (Nathan Denette / The Canadian Press files)

A bright future is great, but Jets must make the present a priority

Mike McIntyre 6 minute read Preview

A bright future is great, but Jets must make the present a priority

Mike McIntyre 6 minute read Friday, Jul. 8, 2022

MONTREAL — So here’s the biggest problem for the Winnipeg Jets coming out of the NHL draft in Montreal: They did absolutely nothing to improve the team in the here and now.

Oh, sure, there’s plenty to like about their latest haul. Rutger McGroarty looks like the real deal, one who should become a fan favourite. Brad Lambert, with speed to burn, could end up being the steal of the week. The five teens taken on Friday have plenty of potential, too, along with interesting back stories. That’s great. Hopefully they can become solid contributors in a few years.

Unfortunately, there remains a clear and present danger when it comes to the current state of the hockey club. We’re no closer to finding out what, if anything, general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff plans to do about it.

This outfit wasn’t nearly good enough last season, missing the playoffs for the seventh times in 11 years. Running it back with virtually the same roster seems like a recipe for disappointment, if not outright disaster. Yet here we are, with nary a single trade having been made to either clear some valuable cap space for a team that spent to the ceiling, or change the mix of a lineup that clearly isn’t built to compete for the Stanley Cup.

Friday, Jul. 8, 2022

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS files
Winnipeg Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff needs to build a team for immediate success.

Jets fill cupboard in Montreal

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Jets fill cupboard in Montreal

Mike McIntyre 7 minute read Friday, Jul. 8, 2022

MONTREAL — Danil Zhilkin left his home in Moscow at the age of nine to come to Canada for what was supposed to be a short trip. He and his family never returned. A minor hockey team in the Toronto area loved what they saw during a tryout and convinced them to make the Great White North a permanent stop.

Now, nearly a decade later, Zhilkin has a new hockey home with the Winnipeg Jets. The club selected the 18-year-old forward in the third round on Friday, 77th overall.

“At that age, I don’t really remember much,” Zhilkin, who is now a Canadian citizen and prefers to go by Danny, told the Free Press moments after hearing his name called inside the Bell Centre. “It was hard to speak English at first. I think it took me two or three years probably to learn because I knew zero English when I came over here. Incredible experience and obviously this is a step in the right direction.”

Zhilkin, who trains in the off-season with former NHLer Gary Roberts and is 6-1, 189 pounds, has spent the past two years in the Ontario Hockey League, posting 23 goals and 32 assists in 66 games with the Guelph Storm last season.

Friday, Jul. 8, 2022

RYAN REMIORZ / THE CANADIAN PRESS
The Jets took American forward Rutger McGroarty 14th overall on Thursday.

Jets steal Lambert with 30th pick

Mike McIntyre 5 minute read Preview

Jets steal Lambert with 30th pick

Mike McIntyre 5 minute read Thursday, Jul. 7, 2022

MONTREAL — It wasn’t that long ago Brad Lambert was seen as a virtual lock to go inside the Top 10 of this year’s NHL Draft. Maybe even top five. Yet there he was on Thursday night inside Bell Centre, at 29 picks and counting, still waiting for his name to be called.

Then the Winnipeg Jets stepped to the podium.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling. It’s something you dream about,” the 18-year-old forward said moments after being selected 30th-overall. “It was a great night, a little nerve racking.”

Lambert has a bit of “boom or bust” potential to him, one of the more intriguing names in this year’s prospect pool. Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff believes his club just got the best skater available, one coming off a forgettable year in Finland that caused his stock to drop.

Thursday, Jul. 7, 2022

THE CANADIAN PRESS / Ryan Remiorz
The Winnipeg Jets picked Brad Lambert (centre) 30th overall during the first round of the 2022 NHL Draft Thursday in Montreal.

McGroarty excited to join Jets

Mike McIntyre 6 minute read Preview

McGroarty excited to join Jets

Mike McIntyre 6 minute read Thursday, Jul. 7, 2022

MONTREAL — Rutger McGroarty was just three days old when he attended his first hockey game.

Fresh out of the hospital, the bouncing baby boy was no doubt the youngest guest at an Omaha Lancers playoff tilt. His father, Jim, just happened to be the head coach of the junior-league team at the time.

The Nebraska product has no memory of that contest, of course. But it was the start of a love affair with the sport, one that culminated Thursday night inside the Bell Centre when his name was called out by the Winnipeg Jets.

McGroarty, 18, was selected 14th overall by the club. He won’t forget this particular moment, one that included approximately 105 family members and friends in the arena with him.

Thursday, Jul. 7, 2022

Graham Hughes / THE CANADIAN PRESS
Rutger Mcgroarty speaks during a news conference after being selected by the Winnipeg Jets fourteenth overall during the first round of the 2022 NHL draft in Montreal, Thursday.