Take a week off, he thought. It's the dog days of summer, the sports world has slowed to a crawl and absolutely nothing of substance is going to happen, he figured.
Swing-and-a-miss on my part, with no shortage of newsworthy developments since we last spoke in this space. Now that I've powered up the laptop once again, let's quickly review the good, the bad and the downright silly that went down.
The NHL is heading back to the Olympics for the first time since 2014, and hockey fans around the world are the true winners. Good on the league, players' association and IIHF for finding a path to make this happen, even if Gary Bettman held his nose at the entire process. Shutting down the season for two weeks to send the best and brightest off to Beijing carries plenty of risk, in addition to the obvious inconvenience as the league tries to finally get back on a normal schedule after two COVID-19 shortened years. However, it's ultimately best for business.
On a local front, there should be no shortage of Winnipeg Jets suiting up for their countries. I'm looking forward to heading over to China in February to cover my first-ever Games for the paper, watching the likes of Mark Scheifele (Canada), Connor Hellebuyck and Kyle Connor (United States), Nikolaj Ehlers (Denmark) and Moose defenceman Leon Gawanke (Germany), who are all locks in my eyes. There could be others, too. Might Blake Wheeler (US), Neal Pionk (US), Ville Heinola (Finland) or Josh Morrissey (Canada) make a late bid? We shall see.
Sure, it's early, but I'm not exactly going out on a limb to suggest the Winnipeg Blue Bombers are the best in the west and likely the class of the entire CFL. The Labour Day long weekend drubbing of the previously unbeaten Roughriders was just the latest in a long line of defensive gems. Other than a blip in Toronto in which they gave up 30 points in their only defeat so far, the Blue & Gold are leaving opponents black and blue in the trenches. They have surrendered just 37 total points in their four victories (six, seven, 16 and eight), which is other-worldly.
If Zach Collaros and Andrew Harris can stay healthy and the offence finds a second gear, football fans around here may get their wish for a Grey (Cup) Christmas when the big game finally rolls around in Hamilton in mid-December. They look like a club determined to go back-to-back, and I wouldn't bet against them.
Canadian women continue to kick butt and take names on a big stage. First up was winning 18 of the country's 23 medals at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo last month, including a gold in soccer. Last week, the national hockey team ended an impressive American run by winning the World Championship. In tennis, 19-year-old Leylah Annie Fernandez reached the semi-finals at the U.S. Open, the youngest player to get that far in 16 years after an incredible match on Tuesday. Bianca Andreescu, 21, nearly joined her, losing a hard-fought match Monday night in the Big Apple. On the links, 23-year-old Brooke Henderson continues to do our country proud every time she tees off.
Not only is the future bright, the present is pretty spectacular. And considering success often breeds success, it's exciting to think about the next generation of young female athletes being inspired by all these modern-day stars, especially in sports not traditionally dominated by Canadians.
The Carolina Hurricanes and Montreal Canadiens engaged in a bizarre game of chicken, and it says here the Habs came out the better for it. Matching the US$6.1 million offer sheet for 21-year-old forward Jesperi Kotkaniemi would have been a fireable offence for GM Marc Bergevin, who acted quickly to replace the third-overall draft pick from 2018 with the more accomplished Christian Dvorak. They got a first and a third back for Kotkaniemi, then sent a first and a second to Arizona for his replacement, who is coming off back-to-back campaigns of 18 and 17 goals and will make a respectable U$4.45 million for the next four years.
Kotkaniemi may eventually become a solid NHL contributor, but he had five goals last season and now carries the weight of the world thanks to a ridiculous contract, albeit through no fault of his own. Carolina thought they were getting revenge on Montreal for the prior offer sheet on Sebastian Aho — which actually HELPED the Hurricanes out of a contract stalemate — and instead had it blow up in their faces. Those "Bunch of Jerks" sure played the part with their childish social media campaign. Memo to GM Don Waddell and owner Tom Dundon: Grow up.
How about those Toronto Blue Jays? They are must-see TV these days, trying to slug and pitch their way into the playoffs for what should be an exciting final stretch here in September. They are never out of a game, and built around a group of likeable young stars who ooze charisma and fun and should have them contending for years to come. Last Friday's epic comeback against Oakland was one for the ages. It's too bad the U.S. border is still closed for non-essential vehicle travel, as I suspect there'd be a parade of Manitoba licence plates heading down to the Twin Cities for the four-game series starting Sept. 23.
One gripe about the broadcasts. It looks bush league on Sportsnet's part to have Buck Martinez and Pat Tabler calling the games from their homes in Florida and Ohio, rather than in the ballpark. I suspect it's because of their vaccination status and travel issues — nobody is officially saying — but if that's the case, they should have others in the booth both at home and on the road. Calling the action from hundreds of miles away off monitors is ridiculous, and it shows in the quality. Give us a heavy dose of Dan Shulman, who puts Buck and Pat to shame every time he's behind the mic.
I'm sure there are a few other things I missed during my staycation, but we can't live in the past forever, right? And with the kids now back in school, the days getting shorter and the nights cooler, there's no shortage of fresh sports-related storylines on the horizon as business really starts to pick up.
It's good to be back.
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.