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Mike McIntyre | On Sports
Free Press
Bidding goodbye to the boss
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Bidding goodbye to the boss

It was the spring of 2016 and I desperately needed a change of scenery.

At the still rather tender age of 41, I was starting my third decade on the crime and justice beat. And I was worn out, having become somewhat numb to a never-ending deluge of gloom and doom.

Murders. Sexual abuse. Gang-related violent crime. Deadly and drunken driving. Child and animal neglect. I’d had a front-row seat to the worst society had to offer since stepping out of journalism school into full-time newspaper employment in 1995.

After writing thousands of stories, along with six true crime books and hosting a syndicated radio show for 10 years, the sadness was really starting to catch up to me.

And so I pitched an idea to the powers at the Free Press, something I’d long wanted to do but had never felt the timing was right.

I wanted to move into our sports department.

My amazing, supportive wife had returned to work full-time after years of staying home with our two young kids, who were now all grown up and very independent. The prospect of occasional time away to travel was no longer something I dreaded. And there happened to be some vacancies, with three longtime staples in sports having left the newspaper (Gary Lawless to TSN and later the Vegas Golden Knights, Ed Tait to the Bombers and Tim Campbell to NHL.com).

And so it came to be that summer, and I was first introduced to sports editor Steve Lyons.

At first, we started somewhat small, as I dipped my toes in the toy department mostly covering the Winnipeg Goldeyes while still writing some news stories and features. But after a few months we mutually decided to jump right in with both feet.

A second career was born. It really was the best thing that could have happened to me.

My duties expanded to the Winnipeg Jets beat by 2017, and, in late 2018, taking on the additional role of sports columnist following the retirement of Paul Wiecek.

Steve’s advice, which I’ve always strived to stay true to: “Don’t try to be someone else. Just be Mike McIntyre.”

For me, that’s always meant treating others with respect. Trying to see all sides/angles of a story or issue. Working my tail off. Not deviating from my core values. Staying humble. Cultivating relationships. Having some fun. (Unlike my previous career, this really isn’t life-and-death). Beating deadlines with clean, clear copy. Generating interesting and unique content. And keeping everything in perspective and not sweating the small stuff.

Steve and I would chat almost daily over these past five years, discussing all the latest events in the sports world along with ideas for stories and opinion pieces I would pen. We didn’t always agree on whatever subject was on the table, but that usually made the conversations a lot more fun. They also helped me become a better writer.

Steve’s fondness for fitness was also an inspiration and helped in my own journey that has resulted in losing more than 100 pounds over the last 18 months. He also got me going on this newsletter, which I’ve enjoyed immensely as a unique way to connect with you folks out there.

Two years ago, we started bringing some of those lively chats to a bigger audience in our Jetcetera podcast, with 82 weekly (sometimes bi-weekly) episodes in the can. They were a weekly personal highlight, both in what we said during the usual 30-minute recorded conversations, but also the lively banter that would happen before, and after, we hit record.

Whether it was the state of the Jets and Bombers, discussing our travel-related stories or having heated debates about our favourite foods — Steve (wrongly) insists ice cream belongs on pie, I believe that should be a felony — there was rarely a dull moment.

Sadly, we won’t hit Episode 83.

Steve is off on his next big adventure in life, having elected for a well-deserved retirement. He’ll tell you all about it in his final Playbook newsletter, found here, putting a bow on a terrific 34-year career at the paper which began, and ended, with Grey Cup victories by the Blue & Gold.

I’ll miss those regular talks, although I have no doubt we’ll keep in touch. I’ll always be thankful for the opportunity he gave me.

Please join me in wishing Steve all the best. Just be sure remind him that dairy products and hot pastry should be kept far, far apart.

Mike McIntyre

Mike McIntyre, Sports columnist

Mike McIntyre

Saying farewell to the Royal Fork

For years, our large extended family has a New Year’s Day tradition. Outdoor skating and sledding (or, occasionally indoor bowling if Mother Nature isn’t cooperating) followed by a meal at the Royal Fork Buffet.

No, it wasn’t exactly fine dining, but it always seemed to hit the spot. The frugal Winnipegger in all of us appreciated the bang for the buck, the kids in our clan always loved the ample desserts and nobody had to worry about cooking or doing dishes once it was done.

Silly as it may sound, it’s safe to say the longtime Winnipeg staple holds a special place in our hearts. I suspect we’re not alone.

Alas, there will be no gathering this coming Jan. 1, since the Royal Fork is shutting its doors for good this Sunday.

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Naturally, we all wanted to go have one final meal. So off we went last evening, and it’s clear many others had the same idea given the large line snaking out the door at 6 p.m.

Our party of 16 eventually got a seat and made sure to make the most of the experience. The fried chicken, for my money, will always be among the best you can find in this city.

Au revoir, sweet prince.

The Royal Fork will close its doors for the final time this weekend. (Mike McIntyre / Winnipeg Free Press)

And bon voyage to my luggage, yet again

So I’m in Seattle last Friday morning, getting ready to make the short flight to Vancouver for a second Jets game in as many nights. And the check-in clerk suggests my carry-on luggage probably isn’t going to fit in the overhead bin of the small plane we’ll be taking for the 28-minute flight, with a cruising altitude of 15,000 feet.

(Seriously. I had to double-check I wasn’t about to board a helicopter by mistake).

There will be no fee, she says. Naturally, not wanting to be “that guy” who tried to stuff a square peg into a round hole, I oblige.

Only to land in Vancouver to discover my suitcase — and all my belongings — are still back in the state of Washington. Apparently, they forgot to load it. Swing and a big ol’ miss.

With no prospect of receiving it until Saturday morning at the earliest, I head to The Bay in downtown Vancouver to buy a suitable pair of pants I can wear in the press box that night.

My ratty jeans, as comfortable as they are, were not going to cut it.

I debated getting a shirt as well, but opted to keep the sweater I was wearing for a more “Casual Friday” look than the normal suit I don for games.

This is actually the second time in 2021 my luggage has gone AWOL. The first occurred on my return from covering the Stanley Cup Final in Tampa Bay, when somehow my suitcase took a detour to Vancouver from Toronto, rather than joining me in Winnipeg.

It took six days to get that back, although it wasn’t such a big deal since I was home. In this case, my bag arrived from Seattle over the noon-hour on Saturday, just a few hours before I flew home.

Hey, at least I got free pair of pants out of it (once the airline reimburses me for my purchase, as they stated they would).

With another road trip coming up soon — I go to Calgary, Las Vegas, Phoenix and Denver to cover the Jets between Dec. 31 and Jan. 6 — I’m really hoping I’ve used up my quota for a while.

Just to be safe, I might start to wear something a bit more dressy on the plane. It might just save me another frenzied pre-game shopping trip.

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