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

Perfetti scores twice for Jets in shootout loss

Mike McIntyre 6 minute read Preview

Perfetti scores twice for Jets in shootout loss

Mike McIntyre 6 minute read Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022

Cole Perfetti will forever be linked to Dale Hawerchuk and his family. On the October 2020 night the Ontario teenager was drafted by the Winnipeg Jets — 10th overall, no less — it was Crystal Hawerchuk who announced the pick.

Given that history, it was rather serendipitous that Perfetti went out and had a big game just a few hours after an emotional public ceremony and statue unveiling that honoured “Ducky” outside Canada Life Centre. The now 20-year-old scored both goals as the Jets dropped a 3-2 shootout preseason decision to the Edmonton Oilers.

“Obviously it’s a very big deal, the legacy that Dale left here,” Perfetti said following the game. “I didn’t get the chance to meet him, but he left a big print here in Winnipeg, in the city and the organization. It was a big deal tonight, you saw the crowd. That shows you how much he meant to the city, to the team. Having a little bit of a connection there, Ms. Hawerchuk doing the selection a couple years ago, is pretty cool. A great night to honour him. It was special all around.”

Winnipeg is now 2-1-1 through four preseason games, with just a home-and-home against Calgary left before the puck drops for real on the regular-season beginning Oct. 14.

Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022

Winnipeg Jets’ Mason Appleton (22) gets checked into the boards by Edmonton Oilers’ Tyler Benson (16) during second period pre-season NHL action in Winnipeg, Saturday, October 1, 2022. (John Woods / The Canadian Press)

Friends, family, fans throng downtown to see statue of Jets great Dale Hawerchuk

Mike McIntyre 4 minute read Preview

Friends, family, fans throng downtown to see statue of Jets great Dale Hawerchuk

Mike McIntyre 4 minute read Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022

Dale Hawerchuk’s legacy was celebrated Saturday in an emotional ceremony that brought hockey royalty and thousands of Winnipeg Jets fans together outside Canada Life Centre.

A statue in the Hall of Famer’s honour was unveiled in the heart of True North Square, aimed directly at the downtown rink.

“He always felt like Winnipeg was his home,” Hawerchuk’s wife, Crystal, told the crowd. “Now, he is home again, in Winnipeg.”

Hawerchuk died of stomach cancer in August 2020 at the age of 57. Dozens of family members flew in for the event, including his three children and his elderly parents.

Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS

A statue in honour of former Winnipeg Jets player Dale Hawerchuk is unveiled at True North Square outside of the Canada Life Centre in Winnipeg, Saturday, October 1, 2022.

Jets lineup coming into focus

Mike McIntyre 7 minute read Preview

Jets lineup coming into focus

Mike McIntyre 7 minute read Friday, Sep. 30, 2022

The Winnipeg Jets opening-night roster is starting to come into focus. And the first 10 days of training camp have offered a handful of surprises — not to mention opportunities — which could impact some of the final decisions that must be made before the puck drops on a new season Oct. 14.

There are still 47 players hanging around (27 forwards, 15 defencemen, five goalies) but a big wave of cuts is expected to come this weekend.

It can be a fool’s game to make snap judgments based on small sample sizes, especially when it comes to exhibition contests where the quality of teammates and level of competition can vary wildly. There’s been three of those so far (no Jets player has appeared in more than two), with three more to come starting Saturday evening at Canada Life Centre when some semblance of the Edmonton Oilers pay a visit.

Veterans are mainly just trying to work off the rust and not get hurt, while those on the bubble have a lot more motivation to make their presence felt.

Friday, Sep. 30, 2022

Montreal Canadiens Brendan Gallagher (11) moves in on Winnipeg Jets goaltender David Rittich during first period NHL pre-season hockey action in Montreal, Thursday, September 29, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

Lambert steals the show in Jets debut

Mike McIntyre 6 minute read Preview

Lambert steals the show in Jets debut

Mike McIntyre 6 minute read Thursday, Sep. 29, 2022

Brad Lambert sure has a sense of occasion.

The 18-year-old Winnipeg Jets prospect, making his NHL pre-season debut Thursday night in the same rink where he was drafted 30th-overall this past summer, had a goal and an assist as his club rallied for a 4-3 victory over the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre.

“It was a great feeling. Really lucky to get this opportunity to play,” Lambert told reporters at the Bell Centre. “It’s just an exhibition game, but it’s still the NHL. It’s something you dream about, and the atmosphere out there was unbelievable.”

Lambert tied it with just under four minutes to play, and veteran defenceman Nate Schmidt won it with 17 seconds left in the third period. Manitoba Moose forwards Evan Polei and Cole Maier, both in training camp on NHL tryouts, had the other goals.

Thursday, Sep. 29, 2022

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Winnipeg Jets’ Brad Lambert had an goal and an assist as his club rallied for a 4-3 victory over the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre.

Bowness wants more offence from defence, Pionk happy to oblige

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Bowness wants more offence from defence, Pionk happy to oblige

Mike McIntyre 5 minute read Thursday, Sep. 29, 2022

Winnipeg Jets head coach Rick Bowness has vowed the cavalry is coming this season, with a focus on having his defencemen join the rush and getting more involved in the offence.

All of which is music to the ears of a player such as Neal Pionk, who believes he has much more to offer from the back-end.

“Absolutely. It’s exciting. You can’t play run-and-gun and careless and reckless. But anytime we can help the offence, that’s a benefit for our team,” Pionk said following Thursday’s training camp session at Bell MTS Iceplex. “If we can transition the puck and have the puck more, that’s better. The best defence is when we have the puck. They can’t score. If we can shut down those plays with an aggressive style, so be it.”

Like so many of his teammates, Pionk is coming off a season he’d rather forget. His stats took a dip, with 34 points (three goals, 31 assists) in 74 games. And that production was hampered by a foot injury he suffered last February in Dallas while blocking a Jamie Benn shot that was otherwise headed into an empty-net.

Thursday, Sep. 29, 2022

Chris O’Meara / The Associated Press files

Jets defenceman Neal Pionk (right) is excited about the team’s defencemen being more involved on the offensive side of the game.

Bowness does it his way

Mike McIntyre 7 minute read Preview

Bowness does it his way

Mike McIntyre 7 minute read Wednesday, Sep. 28, 2022

One has never performed on stage. The other never coached a hockey game in his life. But it turns out Rick Bowness and Ol’ Blue Eyes himself, Frank Sinatra, have at least one thing in common.

“I’m going to do it my way,” Bowness said Wednesday during an interesting media session down at Bell MTS Iceplex.

He sure is. And what a breath of fresh air that has brought around here for a club sorely in need of more accountability and structure. Barely a week into training camp and it’s clear the new bench boss of the Winnipeg Jets doesn’t suffer fools, nor is he here to try and pull the wool over anyone’s eyes.

He’s calling them as he sees them, which includes taking some of his biggest stars to task following Tuesday night’s pre-season game for some bad habits that reared their ugly head. Specifically, shift lengths that were far too long, and the ensuing sloppy, slower play that resulted despite a 5-3 victory over Ottawa.

Wednesday, Sep. 28, 2022

FRED GREENSLADE / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Shift lengths were far too long Tuesday night Rick Bowness said.

New season, clean slate for Appleton and Jets

Mike McIntyre 7 minute read Preview

New season, clean slate for Appleton and Jets

Mike McIntyre 7 minute read Wednesday, Sep. 28, 2022

Mason Appleton followed up a season to remember with one he’d rather forget. The Winnipeg Jets winger is hoping the clean slate of a new campaign will get him and his teammates back on track.

“Honestly, I think this summer was probably good for everyone,” Appleton said Wednesday following a training camp skate at Bell MTS Iceplex.

“We had a ton of interviews at the end of the season and we all kind of had the same answer that we felt we significantly underachieved. When you don’t make the playoffs, summer is a long time off. And you could just see with everybody coming back 10 days before camp, kind of wanting to get on the ice, wanting to work hard, bag skate, doing all the little things just to be ready for day one. It’s a different vibe around here. We got that chip on our shoulder now that we might have not had in the past, where we thought we were a little better than we were. So it’s just a different mindset around here.”

Appleton, 26, is a draft-and-develop success story for Winnipeg, a sixth-round pick in 2015 who now has more than 200 NHL games under his belt. He took a massive step during the 2021 truncated season, with a career-best 12 goals and 13 assists in 56 games. Bigger and brighter things appeared to be on the horizon.

Wednesday, Sep. 28, 2022

Jason Franson / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Winnipeg Jets’ Mason Appleton, pictured during the first period of pre-season action in Edmonton, Sunday, on the Jets season last year: “We felt we significantly underachieved.”

Big Finnish forward turning heads in bid to make Jets

Mike McIntyre 6 minute read Preview

Big Finnish forward turning heads in bid to make Jets

Mike McIntyre 6 minute read Wednesday, Sep. 28, 2022

Saku Maenalanen was supposed to be up in the Canada Life Centre press box on Tuesday night, eating popcorn with the rest of the Winnipeg Jets scratches.

Instead, the big Finnish forward found himself skating on the ice surface below, getting a second straight look by a clearly intrigued Rick Bowness. The veteran bench boss liked what he saw from Maenalanen in Sunday’s pre-season debut in Edmonton to the point he changed his roster plans.

“The more we watch him, the more we like,” Bowness said prior to puck drop against the Ottawa Senators.

That has to be music to the ears of Maenalanen, who is back on North American soil for the first time in four years trying to earn a full-time NHL job. At the age of 28, he knows time isn’t necessarily on his side, certainly not the way it used to be.

Wednesday, Sep. 28, 2022

Fred Greenslade / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Saku Maenalanen (8) passes the puck Tuesday night against the Ottawa Senators. At 28, Maenalanen figures he’s running short on chances to make it in the NHL.

Jets 5-3 win over Ottawa tougher than expected

Mike McIntyre 7 minute read Preview

Jets 5-3 win over Ottawa tougher than expected

Mike McIntyre 7 minute read Tuesday, Sep. 27, 2022

It looked like a mismatch on paper, with the Winnipeg Jets dressing a more talented and experienced roster than the visiting Ottawa Senators on Tuesday, but it ended up being a lot closer on the ice, with the home team skating away with a tougher-than-expected 5-3 victory at Canada Life Centre.

On a night when big guns such as Mark Scheifele, Kyle Connor, Nikolaj Ehlers and Blake Wheeler were all in the lineup, who had predicted Daniel Torgersson would play the unlikely role of scoring star? The 20-year-old Swedish forward potted a pair of goals and was named the game’s first star. Mikey Eyssimont and Ville Heinola, both on the power play, also scored, while Connor had a late tally to go with two assists.

Cole Reinhardt, Tyler Motte and Shane Pinto scored for the Senators.

Connor Hellebuyck went the distance in goal, stopping 24 of 27 shots. Winnipeg is now 1-1-0 in the pre-season after dropping Sunday’s opener in Edmonton 4-0. They have four dress rehearsals remaining.

Tuesday, Sep. 27, 2022

Daniel Torgersson (left) scored two goals on Tuesday and was named the game’s first star. (Fred Greenslade / The Canadian Press)

Gustafsson determined to crack Jets lineup

Mike McIntyre 7 minute read Preview

Gustafsson determined to crack Jets lineup

Mike McIntyre 7 minute read Saturday, Sep. 24, 2022

He’s had just a small taste of the NHL so far. Now David Gustafsson is hungry for more, hoping a fresh set of eyes behind the bench and a few open spots at the table will serve him well.

“I want to make the team, I want to play in the NHL. That’s been my dream, always. That’s the mindset I have this year,” Gustafsson, 22, said following Saturday’s skate at Bell MTS Iceplex.

So far, so good. The Swedish centre has spent the first three days of training camp on a line with veteran wingers Sam Gagner and Dominic Toninato, who are both virtual locks to be included on the 23-man roster when the puck drops on the new season Oct. 14.

After skating in 22 games with the Jets during his rookie year of 2019-20, including scoring his first big-league goal, Gustafsson has only appeared in six NHL games since. A mid-season callup was quickly curtailed by injury last year, limiting him to just two contests

Saturday, Sep. 24, 2022

JASON FRANSON / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES

Opportunity is once again knocking for Winnipeg Jets ’ David Gustafsson, perhaps louder than ever under new head coach Rick Bowness.

Jets will ice young team in Edmonton

Mike McIntyre 4 minute read Preview

Jets will ice young team in Edmonton

Mike McIntyre 4 minute read Saturday, Sep. 24, 2022

The Winnipeg Jets are bringing a young and inexperienced roster to Edmonton on Sunday as they kick off a six-game preseason schedule.

New coach Rick Bowness said he’s not worried about matchups at this stage of training camp, but wants to get an idea of what he has from players fighting for jobs.

“It’s all about us. We’re not going to worry about Edmonton,” Bowness said of the possibility of facing Connor McDavid and/or Leon Draisaitl right off the hop. “If they play those guys, they play those guys. We’ve got to see who is picking up what we’re trying to do. We’re not going to focus at all on Edmonton and we’re going to roll, everyone is going to have a chance to play. If they play McDavid, they play McDavid. We’re not worried about that. We’re worried about our guys, that’s all.”

Only a handful of players considered locks for the opening-night roster are headed to Alberta — Pierre-Luc Dubois, Cole Perfetti, Mason Appleton, Jansen Harkins and Dominic Toninato up front, and Dylan DeMelo and Logan Stanley on the blue-line. David Rittich will be one of the goaltenders.

Saturday, Sep. 24, 2022

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

New coach Rick Bowness wants to get an idea of what he has from the young players fighting for jobs.

Jets creating new culture

Mike McIntyre 6 minute read Preview

Jets creating new culture

Mike McIntyre 6 minute read Friday, Sep. 23, 2022

A well-attended summer wedding. A concerted effort to get everyone back in town early. A pre-season player trip to the mountains to presumably sit around the campfire telling ghost stories and eating S’mores.

As Pierre-Luc Dubois said Friday, nobody has ever won the Stanley Cup “because you have the best team spirit.” But having a tight-knit group never hurts, and it’s clear the Winnipeg Jets are trying to ensure there will be no “I” in team for this coming campaign.

“It’s important for any team. But it’s important for us with the new guys, new players, new coaching staff, and a new way of playing,” said Dubois.

“The more fun we can have together, the more fun we have at the rink, when times get tough we can fall back on that.”

Friday, Sep. 23, 2022

Fred Greenslade / The Canadian Press files

True North has undertaken a number of iniatives, old and new, in an effort to attract and reconnect with the Jets fanbase.

Jets new scout hopes to be a role model for young women, Indigenous youth

Mike McIntyre 5 minute read Preview

Jets new scout hopes to be a role model for young women, Indigenous youth

Mike McIntyre 5 minute read Thursday, Sep. 22, 2022

It was an under-the-radar signing by the Winnipeg Jets, one that certainly won’t show up on any stats sheets. But the hiring of Sydney Daniels to be the club’s new college scout is nothing short of a major victory for the organization.

Daniels, 27, is the first woman to join the True North hockey operations department. The Saskatchewan product is also Indigenous and hopes her story can serve as an inspiration for others in an industry that has long been dominated by Caucasian men.

“It means so much to me, for so many different reasons,” Daniels told the Free Press on Thursday afternoon as Jets training camp got underway at Bell MTS Iceplex. “It’s such an incredible honour. I hope to be somewhat of a role model, just so young women can see that their options are more broadened now. And I just want Indigenous youth to see they can do anything they want to.”

Daniels has been an assistant coach with the women’s hockey program at Harvard since 2018 after wrapping up her own playing career earlier that year with the Boston Pride. She enjoyed great success behind the bench, especially last season when the Crimson Tide won the women’s Beanpot, Ivy League and ECAC Hockey Regular Season Championship. Daniels also played four years at Harvard, scoring 59 goals and adding 27 assists in 126 games between 2013-17, serving as captain during her final campaign.

Thursday, Sep. 22, 2022

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Sydney Daniels has joined the Winnipeg Jets scouting staff as a college scout.

Chevy: “I believe we are a playoff team.”

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Chevy: “I believe we are a playoff team.”

Mike McIntyre 5 minute read Thursday, Sep. 22, 2022

Few outside the organization would consider the Winnipeg Jets contenders, especially after last year’s underwhelming NHL campaign and a surprisingly sleepy summer. But general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff believes his hockey club has what it takes to make plenty of noise this season.

“I feel we have a playoff team,” Cheveldayoff said Thursday as the 12th training camp in his tenure began at Bell MTS Iceplex. “But whether I feel it, or you feel it, (the players) have to feel it. They’re the ones that have to play. We sat here 12 months ago and the general consensus about the team wasn’t if we were going to make the playoffs, it was about how many rounds should this team win. Something got lost in translation along the way. You have to earn that right to make the playoffs. These guys feel that right now.”

Time will tell, of course. And Cheveldayoff, fresh off signing a three-year extension, will have plenty of pointed questions to answer if maintaining the status quo leads to the same frustrating results. Winnipeg finished sixth in the Central Division, 11th in the Western Conference and 19th in the NHL last year, yet made no trades or major player signings during a longer-than-expected offseason.

“Certainly, it was an interesting summer in many respects,” said Cheveldayoff. “There’s lots of different nuances, different conversations that you do have. You look at a lot of different options. Sometimes things happen that you see a fit for, and sometimes you don’t.”

Thursday, Sep. 22, 2022

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff, fresh off signing a three-year extension, will have plenty of pointed questions to answer if maintaining the status quo for the Winnipeg Jets leads to the same frustrating results as last year.

Jets begin long road back

Mike McIntyre 10 minute read Preview

Jets begin long road back

Mike McIntyre 10 minute read Tuesday, Sep. 20, 2022

Oh, what a difference a year can make.

As the Winnipeg Jets gathered for training camp last September, there was no shortage of excitement and optimism in the air. They were viewed by plenty of pundits across the league as a legitimate playoff team, one that had bolstered its blue line during a productive summer and had a rock-solid core ready to compete for a championship.

What looked to be a deep, talented roster with multiple stars in the prime of their careers created high hopes around here.

“The opportunity for maximum success is now,” I wrote in my 2021-22 preview. “There are no mitigating circumstances. No built-in excuses.”

Tuesday, Sep. 20, 2022

Will the players buy what new head coach Rick Bowness is selling? (Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press files)

Relieving Wheeler of C beneficial to franchise and player

Mike McIntyre 6 minute read Preview

Relieving Wheeler of C beneficial to franchise and player

Mike McIntyre 6 minute read Friday, Sep. 16, 2022

Blake Wheeler isn’t blowing smoke when he says being captain of the Winnipeg Jets had become a burden.

You could often see it on his face when he stepped to the podium to talk with the media — an exercise, it should be noted, which became more painful and infrequent over the past few seasons. You could hear it in his voice, with short, often snippy answers that ultimately served no real purpose. And you could see it on the ice, where his play began to dip and the weight of increased expectations on a team led by an aging veteran carrying the biggest salary-cap hit clearly took a toll.

For those reasons alone, this week’s stunning decision to strip Wheeler of the C was a necessary, and perhaps overdue, move.

Frankly, I didn’t think the Jets had the gumption to actually pull the trigger. After a sleepy summer where very little was done to address holes on the roster, shaking up the leadership group sends a loud and clear message that it’s not going to be business as usual around here.

Friday, Sep. 16, 2022

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

The media stopped requesting to speak with Blake Wheeler, knowing it was likely to be an exercise in futility that accomplished little.

Jets’ future in the spotlight

Mike McIntyre 7 minute read Preview

Jets’ future in the spotlight

Mike McIntyre 7 minute read Wednesday, Sep. 14, 2022

The Winnipeg Jets organization frequently peddles hope, priding itself on the draft-and-develop model and believing patience will one day pay off in a significant way.

In that sense, the jury is still very much out.

While the present will come into focus starting next Thursday when main training camp gets underway, the future will be on full display this weekend as many of the club’s top prospects are given an opportunity to shine at the Young Stars tournament in Penticton, B.C.

At the very top of that list is a trio of recent first-round draft picks — Cole Perfetti, Chaz Lucius and Brad Lambert — believing they can make an impact sooner rather than later.

Wednesday, Sep. 14, 2022

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Winnipeg Jets’ Brad Lambert (47) during rookie camp at BellMTS Iceplex Wednesday afternoon. 220914 - Wednesday, September 14, 2022.

‘A great change,’ Perfetti

Mike McIntyre 4 minute read Preview

‘A great change,’ Perfetti

Mike McIntyre 4 minute read Wednesday, Sep. 14, 2022

There was a back-to-school feeling down at Bell MTS Iceplex on Wednesday, with members of the Winnipeg Jets organization formally gathering for the first time since last spring.

There will be no shortage of teaching opportunities in the coming days and weeks, with an entirely new approach on the curriculum. Manitoba Moose head coach Mark Morrison, who is leading the group of Young Stars players into Penticton this weekend, says a crash course is already underway.

“One of the things happening here is there’s a new head coach and systems are changing. This is really the start of the systems changing with these guys,” Morrison said of the biggest priority under new Jets bench boss Rick Bowness, associate coach Scott Arniel and assistants Brad Lauer and Marty Johnston.

“We’re going to have to implement some systems stuff with them and see how that works out. They’ll be interested to see how that works out but it’s going to be a work-in-progress and it’s going to take some time and we’re going to have to be patient, especially with this group.”

Wednesday, Sep. 14, 2022

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Winnipeg Jets’ Cole Perfetti (91) during rookie camp at BellMTS Iceplex Wednesday afternoon.

Scheifele has something to prove

Mike McIntyre 7 minute read Preview

Scheifele has something to prove

Mike McIntyre 7 minute read Friday, Sep. 9, 2022

Mark Scheifele sure sounds like a guy who has something to prove. He looks like it, too, thanks to a new off-season training program that has him in peak condition.

And now, at the age of 29 and less than two years from free agency, the first-ever draft pick of the Winnipeg Jets 2.0 might just hold the key to which direction the new season will go.

He’s that important of a player. And after a surprisingly sleepy summer that saw very little roster movement around here, there’s going to be even more pressure on him to perform if the hockey club is to compete for a playoff spot.

Scheifele is more than capable of rising to the occasion.

Friday, Sep. 9, 2022

Since he signed an eight-year, US$49 million extension prior to the 2016-17 season, Scheifele has racked up 432 points. (Jeff Roberson / The Associated Press files)

Bittersweet honour for Goldeyes Murphy

Mike McIntyre 3 minute read Preview

Bittersweet honour for Goldeyes Murphy

Mike McIntyre 3 minute read Thursday, Sep. 8, 2022

Max Murphy wasn’t in a celebratory mood on Thursday. Instead, the Winnipeg Goldeyes right-fielder was undergoing surgery for a gruesome broken leg suffered Wednesday night at Shaw Park.

As he begins the long road to recovery, the 29-year-old can take solace in the fact a season that has been painfully cut short was deemed by his peers to be the best in the business.

Murphy is the winner of the 2022 American Association Player of the Year Award, which was voted on by the league’s 12 field managers, along with executives and media representatives.

He is just the fourth member of the Fish to capture the honour, joining Terry Lee (1995 and 1996), Sean Hearn (1998) and Josh Romanski (2017).

Thursday, Sep. 8, 2022

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Goldeyes right-fielder Max Murphy led the American Association with 31 home runs and 97 RBI in the 2022 regular season.

Bring on the Banjo Bowl’s verbal bombs and boastful banter

Mike McIntyre 6 minute read Preview

Bring on the Banjo Bowl’s verbal bombs and boastful banter

Mike McIntyre 6 minute read Wednesday, Sep. 7, 2022

Hot Take. Noun. A piece of commentary, typically produced quickly in response to a recent event, whose primary purpose is to attract attention.

Welcome to the Banjo Bowl, an annual event in Winnipeg born out of a scorching verbal bomb dropped by former Blue Bombers kicker Troy Westwood. “Lefty” found himself right at the heart of a firestorm when he famously referred to Saskatchewan Roughriders fans as a “bunch of banjo-pickin’ inbreds” prior to the 2003 Labour Day Classic in Regina between the Prairie rivals.

It got tongues wagging, especially those of us in the media who love a good soundbite. Fingers pointing as fan bases declared (mostly friendly) war. And, most importantly, cash registers ringing. A brilliant marketing idea took flight, and the Blue and Gold have been laughing all the way to the bank ever since.

Saturday’s clash at IG Field (4 p.m.) will be the 18th instalment, with the hosts holding an all-time 10-7 record. As we get ready to renew hostilities, let’s crank the temperature up a few degrees and serve up a trio of piping hot takes that should get the competitive juices flowing even more.

Wednesday, Sep. 7, 2022

LIAM RICHARDS / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Winnipeg Blue Bombers linebacker Adam Bighill gets his hands on Saskatchewan Roughriders running back Frankie Hickson on Sunday.

MJHL walks the walk when it comes to diversity, inclusion

Mike McIntyre 6 minute read Preview

MJHL walks the walk when it comes to diversity, inclusion

Mike McIntyre 6 minute read Tuesday, Sep. 6, 2022

The sports world is filled these days with teams and organizations that talk a good game when it comes to important issues such as diversity, inclusion and tackling a toxic culture. But beyond a few social media posts and an empty gesture or two, there’s often not much bite to their bark.

It’s more about scoring public relations points than effecting any real change.

Which is why it’s so refreshing to see the Manitoba Junior Hockey League actually walking the walk. Brock McGillis, the first professional hockey player to come out as gay and one of Canada’s most-respected voices in the LGBTTQ+ space, is being brought in to lead a mandatory online seminar later this month on several topics that have long been viewed as taboo within a locker room.

His audience on Sept. 19 will include nearly 300 young players from all 13 teams in the Junior A loop, which is the largest he’s had in hockey in his six years as an activist and public speaker.

Tuesday, Sep. 6, 2022

SUPPLIED

Brock McGillis came out publicy in 2016, and now uses his prominent platform to try and make the game a better, safer place for countless others who are now in similar situations.

Jets invited Gagner along for ride

Mike McIntyre 5 minute read Preview

Jets invited Gagner along for ride

Mike McIntyre 5 minute read Friday, Sep. 2, 2022

Sam Gagner has carved out an impressive hockey career since being drafted sixth-overall by the Edmonton Oilers in 2007. Now the versatile forward, just 33 games short of 1,000, is set to hit that milestone as a member of the Winnipeg Jets.

Gagner, 33, signed a one-year contract Friday which will pay him the league minimum of US $750,000.

“There had been some mutual interest throughout the summer and talks got a little more serious the last few days,” Gagner told the Free Press in a telephone interview from his Ontario home. “I see a fit. It’s a team that wants to compete for a playoff spot and to be a contender, and that’s exciting for me. It’s something that I’ve wanted to be a part of and am looking forward to the opportunity.”

Gagner checks off plenty of boxes. He can play both centre and wing and is a right-handed shot, which the Jets don’t have much of up front.

Friday, Sep. 2, 2022

Forward Sam Gagner, left, seen playing for the Vancouver Canucks in 2018. (Jeff Bassett / The Canadian Press files)

Jets still have time to make some off-season noise

Mike McIntyre 6 minute read Preview

Jets still have time to make some off-season noise

Mike McIntyre 6 minute read Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022

It’s been a shockingly sleepy summer for the Winnipeg Jets.

There have been no significant free-agent signings. No trades, blockbuster or otherwise. Other than filling the coaching staff vacancies and extending the contracts of a handful of their own players, there’s been plenty of time for swimming at the lake, long walks on the beach and nights spent around the campfire roasting marshmallows.

Which is great for anyone looking for some much-needed R&R. Not so much for an organization that was feeling the heat on and off the ice after a most disappointing campaign. Where’s the urgency and desperation to fix a flawed roster that wasn’t even close to good enough a year ago and give fans in this market something to sink their teeth into?

On vacation, apparently.

Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022

Kyusung Gong / The Associated Press

Evan Rodrigues had a career year with the Penguins last season. The Jets should be doing everything they can to sign him.