Coyotes like long-lost relatives

TED WYMAN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 12:22 PM ET

The team that was once the Winnipeg Jets will skate in an exhibition game tomorrow night at the MTS Centre -- against the arch-rival Edmonton Oilers no less -- but this isn't exactly what you would call a nostalgia-fest.

Enough time has passed since the Jets flew south to become the Phoenix Coyotes that the current team has slipped from the collective heart of the city.

Sure we expect to see a few Jets jerseys in the sellout crowd and hear the familiar "Go Jets Go" refrain, but you see and hear those things at pretty much every big hockey event in the vicinity.

There are few remnants of the Jets in the Coyotes, save for Shane Doan, broadcaster Curt Keilback and the fact that the team still hasn't won a playoff series since 1987.

It will certainly dredge up some memories for hockey fans to have the Coyotes in town -- the team even wanted to wear Jets jerseys -- but it's safe to say times have changed.

In fact, after their exhilarating run to the Stanley Cup final a year ago, the once-hated Edmonton Oilers have gained a legion of fans in this city and, while it's clearly sacrilege, many people will likely be cheering for the Oil tomorrow night.

Either that, or they'll be cheering for the Coyotes coach -- none other than former Jet-killer Wayne Gretzky.

Never thought I'd see the day, on either count.

ISLAND MANIA: Rick DiPietro, a 25-year-old fair-to-middling goalie, got a whopping 15-year deal from the New York Islanders this week, prompting everything from outrage to outright laughter across the NHL. The last time anybody got 15 years in New York, it was for manslaughter ...

Islanders owner Charles Wang should be locked up for locking up DiPietro to such a ridiculous deal, or better yet, banished to the CFL. Wouldn't he be a perfect fit for Ottawa? ... The backup placekicker at a Colorado university has been charged with stabbing his competitor in the leg in a scene reminiscent of the Tonya Harding, Nancy Kerrigan saga. To add insult to injury, the backup has also been flagged for clipping ... Here's one from Sun copy editor Gilbert Gregory, on the people of New Orleans dubbing star rookie Reggie Bush, Saint Reginald: "He was party to one miracle already when he managed not to get picked first overall in the NFL draft." ... Kansas City Royals pitcher Runelvys Hernandez and catcher Joe Buck got into a scrap in the dugout between innings the other night. Apparently, Hernandez got confused when Buck told him to try for the punch out.

NAKED BOOTLEG: Detroit Lions assistant coach Joe Cullen was recently arrested for driving -- and going to a Wendy's pick-up window -- in the nude, which was clearly violation of the NFL's strict dress code. First they told Jake Plummer he couldn't wear a Pat Tillman sticker on his helmet and now they're actually making people wear pants in public. The tyrants ... Only appropriate punishment for the youth baseball coach who paid an eight-year-old kid to injure an autistic teammate so he wouldn't have to play him in a playoff game: Baseballs to the groin until both sacks are empty ... A store owner in Chicago had to give away $300,000 in free furniture after promising to do so if his beloved Bears shut out the Green Bay Packers last week, which they did. Here's hoping Brett Favre got some of the free stuff because right about now he looks like he'd make a great armchair quarterback.

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QUICK HITS: Ever think baseball players might be a bit out of touch with the real world? Listen to Torii Hunter of the Minnesota Twins: "The Yankees have a $200 million payroll and we play for minimum wage." Hunter actually makes $10.75 million this year, prompting this response from Reggie Hayes of the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel: "Employees at Taco Bell were surprised and thrilled to learn the minimum wage has been raised to $5,168.27 per hour." ... Jack Finarelli of sportscurmudgeon.com, on why the the University of Northern Colorado's alleged knife-wielding punter was only second string: "He had too many shanks." ... Jim Armstrong of the Denver Post, tackling the question of whether Mark McGwire is a first-ballot Hall of Famer: "Not over Ken Caminiti's dead body." ... Brad Rock of Salt Lake City's Deseret News, with a good reason why Detroit Lions assistant coach pulled up at a Wendy's drive-through window in the nude: "He was trying to avoid spilling ketchup on his pants." ... ESPN.com's Bill Simmons is tiring of the endless speculation about Brett Favre's retirement: "Enough. I would rather watch footage of Barbaro grazing on newspaper sports sections that had stories about Barry Bonds, BALCO and the WNBA playoffs." ... From Greg Cote of the Miami Herald: "Mike Keenan stepped down as general manager of the Florida Panthers. Sure he did. Much like Saddam Hussein 'stepped down' as president of Iraq." ... Cote on the unbelievable season put together by the young Florida Marlins: "Speaking of the Marlins' youth, manager Joe Girardi's wife gave birth a few days ago. The baby starts in right field this afternoon." ... Dallas Cowboys kicker Mike Vanderjagt, as quoted in the Orlando Sentinel, on coach Bill Parcells' displeasure at him for sitting out the season opener with a groin injury: "He's not happy, but he doesn't know my groin as well as I do." ... Seattle Times reader Bill Littlejohn, on this week's dugout dustup between pitcher Runelvys Hernandez and catcher John Buck: "They're baseball's first assault-and-batterymates." ... Comedian Argus Hamilton on Tiger Woods sitting in Roger Federer's box at the U.S. Open and rooting for the Swiss star against American Andy Roddick: "It's no surprise. When you get to Tiger Woods' tax bracket it's always in your personal interest to root for Switzerland." ... Pete McEntegart of si.com, on sales of the Madden 07 video game surpassing $100 million in a week: "To put that in perspective, that's twice what the Bengals spend on bail." ... Finally Bill Simmons wonders why Dominique Wilkins is in the Basketball Hall of Fame and former Utah Jazz star Adrian Dantley is not: "Including Alex English and Nique in the Hall while omitting Dantley is like inducting Suzanne Somers and Farrah Fawcett into the Bimbo Hall of Fame but leaving out Pam Anderson."


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