One by one, the days go by for Craig Ramsay, the head coach in limbo.
He’ll sit by his swimming pool in Atlanta. He’ll get odd jobs done around the house — he was painting a chair one day we exchanged e-mails — and he’ll wait.
Wait for the phone call that’ll either derail his future or have him hopping a plane to Winnipeg.
Ramsay is the head coach of the NHL’s Atlanta Thrashers. Check that. He was the coach of the Thrashers.
Now he’s the coach of, well, nothing, really.
The franchise has been sold to a group in Winnipeg. That was 12 days ago.
And he still doesn’t know if they want him.
“I’d like to do it,” Ramsay told me, Friday. “I never leave a job undone.”
Ramsay has seen and experienced a lot in his nearly 40 years in the hockey biz, but nothing quite like this.
“It’s awkward and it’s uncomfortable,” he said. “It’s difficult to deal with, day after day, waiting for the phone to ring.”
On Day 10, it did ring, and he and newly-hired Winnipeg GM Kevin Cheveldayoff had a brief conversation. It was Cheveldayoff’s second full day on the job.
“He called right away,” Ramsay said. “He’s done everything he should have done.”
Except tell Ramsay, who has another year on his contract, that he’s going to at least get an interview.
Isn’t that the very least the guy deserves, given his tenure in the league?
Before his one season with Atlanta, Ramsay spent three in Boston, six in Tampa Bay (where he won a Stanley Cup), two in Philadelphia (where he went 16-8-1 and reached the Eastern Conference Final as the head coach while Roger Neilson was being treated for cancer), two in Ottawa, two more in Florida (where in 1993 a ruptured ulcer nearly killed him) and seven in Buffalo, where he’d spent his entire 14-year playing career as one of the NHL’s top defensive forwards.
To me, that’s worthy of more than a token interview.
To Thrashers captain Andrew Ladd, too.
“Rammer was a great coach,” Ladd said during his one-day visit, Thursday. “Hopefully he gets the chance to resume here and finish off what he started.”
Everybody seems to think Manitoba Moose coach Claude Noel is the front-runner because he’s the True North incumbent.
What about the Atlanta incumbent, who already has a relationship with our players and wouldn’t be starting from scratch?
Cheveldayoff told us he wanted someone who communicates, has passion for the game and “someone who’s going to have some personality for the fans that they can relate to.”
Maybe he believes Ramsay isn’t dynamic enough.
I wouldn’t mistake that for a lack of personality.
Asked for his gut feeling about the job, Ramsay offered up a real gem.
“They took my stomach out in ’93,” he said. “I don’t have a gut feeling.”
He deserves a shot, even if he’s too humble to say it.
And if he’s not going to get one, he and his assistants, Mike Stothers and John Torchetti, deserve to know, immediately.
STAFF CANNED: Unlike when the Winnipeg Jets moved to Phoenix, there are few, if any, opportunities for Thrashers staff to accompany the team here.
Equipment managers, trainers and strength coaches, all have been told they’re out of work.
That hasn’t stopped one, strength and conditioning coach Barry Brennan, from continuing to prepare players for next season.
“They have to be prepared to play in Winnipeg,” Brennan told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, after training sessions with forwards Eric Boulton and Chris Thorburn, Friday. “And I’m happy to help them for as long as I’m here.”
PARTING SHOT: Could it be the frenzied sellout of NHL season tickets has somehow propelled sports fans towards the Winnipeg Blue Bombers?
Not sure how else to explain the Big Blue approaching 20,000 season subscribers themselves.
Don’t tell me that’s a record, though.
I’ll bet you my Dieter Brock Los Angeles Rams card there were more than 20,000 in the early or mid-1980s.
Too bad the team’s records from back then were either flooded out, burned or eaten by Chris Walby.