Thankful for the return of sports and strong Jets and Bombers squads
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 08/10/2021 (599 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Attention Manitoba sports fans: You might want to throw your stretchy pants on as you sit down to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner this weekend. After all, there’s no shortage of juicy storylines and meaty developments to sink your teeth into.
Let’s begin with the Blue Bombers. Holders of the Grey Cup since November 2019, they appear in no hurry to part ways with a trophy from which they spent 28 years being estranged. Mike O’Shea’s troops are clearly the class of the league, with a high-octane offence and a dominating defence that has them sitting on top of the standings heading towards the playoffs. Winnipeg spent years trying to emulate model franchises such as Calgary and Edmonton. Now those outfits find themselves looking up in the West. Way up. Oh, how the tables have turned.
Anything can happen between now and mid-December, sure, but the Blue & Gold seem hungry for a repeat. It didn’t happen overnight, but O’Shea, along with general manager Kyle Walters and president Wade Miller — aka “The Canadian Mafia” — deserve praise for what they’ve done to set the stage for sustained success.
On the ice, the Jets are preparing for a compelling new campaign, equipped with arguably the deepest, most talented roster since the 2.0 era launched a decade ago. The 2019-20 Vezina Trophy winner in net. An elite, top-tier forward group. And a bolstered blue-line. They’re spending painfully close to the salary-cap ceiling and appear to recognize the heightened sense of importance and urgency to the situation, with a mostly drafted-and-developed core now in its prime. General manager Kevin Cheveldayoff would appear to have checked off all the boxes. Opportunity truly is knocking.
Paul Maurice’s crew will finalize roster decisions over the next few days, then fly to southern California to kick off the 82-game season on Wednesday night in Anaheim with the air of a potential Stanley Cup contender. Buckle up. The next seven months — nine if they reach their ultimate goal — could be quite the joyride.
IG Field has already been packed to capacity this season, while Canada Life Centre has hosted three near-sellouts for meaningless exhibition contests. All fans have been fully-vaccinated, and there have been no reports from public health officials about these large-scale gatherings leading to any spike in COVID-19 infections. In other words, they’ve worked exactly as intended as we slowly work our way back towards normal. And, one hopes, acted as an incentive for some who were on the fence about getting jabbed.
Considering neither the Bombers or Jets were even playing a year ago at this time — the 2020 CFL season was scrubbed entirely, while the 2020-21 NHL season would be delayed until January to be held in mostly empty rinks — it’s remarkable how far we’ve come. And that, more than wins and losses, should have us all feeling rather grateful.
Considering neither the Bombers or Jets were even playing a year ago at this time it’s remarkable how far we’ve come.
It goes beyond the world of pro sports and multi-millionaire athletes, right down to the all-important grassroots level. Amateur hockey and football and soccer are finally back in full swing after a mostly lost season, giving youth (not to mention their parents) a much-needed outlet. Same goes for high school and university level sports, which also went dark for a year. The value of all these returning is significant, both from a physical and mental-health perspective.
Truth is, sports can be a much-needed distraction, a source of excitement and entertainment and shared passion that unites a community. And there’s no question there’s plenty of that in the unusually mild-early October air right now, which is likely adding to the positive vibes being felt around here.
I certainly noted that as I returned late Thursday night following a weeklong family vacation in New York. It’s safe to say fans are restless right now in the City That Never Sleeps. The big-spending Yankees just got bounced from the wildcard playoff game by arch-rival Boston on Tuesday night. The dysfunctional Mets didn’t even get that far after a late-season implosion. The Giants and Jets are a combined 2-6 in the NFL. The Rangers and nearby Devils are still in the early days of re-builds, while the Islanders keep having their championship hopes crushed by Tampa Bay, now two years running.
There’s plenty of heartburn being felt by Big Apple sports fans, who had gotten quite fat over the years in terms of feasting on their rivals.
In other words, there’s plenty of heartburn being felt by Big Apple sports fans, who had gotten quite fat over the years in terms of feasting on their rivals. Boo-hoo, right? Perhaps that explains why everywhere you go people seem to be honking their horns, yelling at each other and flipping the bird. True story: I watched a Yankees diehard nearly come to blows with a Red Sox supporter in Times Square the other night, who was gleefully rubbing in the result of that night’s winner-take-all affair.
Not so here in Friendly Manitoba, where you’re more likely to see a high-five than a middle finger these days. My advice: Fill your belly, sure. But don’t take it for granted, or forget to savour it. Just like that delicious meal you might be enjoying with family and friends this weekend, it’s not going to last forever. That’s especially true in the fickle world of pro sports, which is why it’s never a bad idea to keep the Tums nearby.
Happy Thanksgiving, folks.
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.