Winnipeg Jets New Writer Guy? — Darryl Mills Is My Name —
I’ll never forget the first time I was published as a writer in a Winnipeg publication. It was one of those days in your life you just never, ever forget.
Because I was hit by a truck!
Yup. In 1992 as a plucky 19-year-old aspiring sports journalist, I was published for the first time in my hometown in the Uniter at the University of Winnipeg. I stopped at the U of W that Tuesday evening in September to pick up extra copies of the student paper to give to all my friends in St. Vital who I thought would be as excited as I was (of course, they weren’t). As I left the university to grab the 55 St. Anne’s bus on Spence St, it pulled away just as I got there. Of course, that same plucky 19-year-old thought he could dash across Spence, and then across the eight lanes of Portage Ave. and beat my bus to the next stop. I was wrong. I didn’t even make it across Spence before I got smoked by a green pick-up truck.
I survived that journalistic run-in (all I got was a broken finger) and it was the start of a career that had me in newspapers in one form or another for the next two decades.
In that time, I have met prime ministers, interviewed icons like Paul Henderson and Donovan Bailey, covered the flood of the century, and broken big news stories. But nothing I have done as a writer is as memorable and cherished by me as my earliest times as a writer, enjoying the last few years of the Winnipeg Jets 1.0 in Winnipeg.
And, that is why I am thrilled and humbled to have the opportunity to join the Winnipeg Hockey Talk team and write about the Winnipeg Jets all over again. I think the site Mitch Kasprick has been building is shaping up to be pretty darn strong. Kasprick’s hockey chops are nothing to be scoffed at and the writers he has been assembling are first class. Scott Campbell needs no introduction. An original Jet who has become a cherished favourite of many Jets fans on Twitter, I think it is an absolute coup for WHT to offer his insight into the team and the league. And Patti Dawn Swanson – wow, what can you say? She is someone I grew up reading. She was never scared to share her opinion and was a huge part of Winnipeg Sun Sports during her time there. And then, throw in the photography of Shawn Coates that is going to be gracing this site, and…wow! It was like I was stalking Coates for a few years. I took over as sports editor at the Uniter after he left, then took over covering the Jets for the magazine after he gave it up. Those four are a pretty solid all-star crew! To be writing alongside them, and the other great writers Kasprick has been assembling is pretty cool and has re-ignited my passion for writing about hockey!
I’m no hockey expert, but I hope I can offer some insights and some chuckles for those able to stay awake long enough reading my stuff to get past the first few paragraphs. I hope to keep my hard-headed opinions to a minimum and concentrate on game stories, observations and maybe even some player profiles if I can swing it. If something I write stirs conversation, that is awesome. I’m not writing to get people to agree or disagree with me. But, if it gets people thinking about and/or discussing the Jets, then I’ll be pretty pleased.
So, here’s a little bit more about me and I promise none of my other stuff will be as self-indulgent or as drawn out as this. I do recommend this for bedtime reading! I’m sure it can put anyone to sleep.
The first time stepping into the rickety old press box high above Winnipeg Arena 20 years ago was breath-taking, and not only because of my acute fear of heights. I literally felt on top of the world, and I kinda was from that exceptional vantage point. Being in the Jets dressing room was also just stunning for this kid who grew up in a Winnipeg trailer park. It wasn’t the players that had me star-struck, but the logo on the wall that did it. I had been idolizing the Jets since I was about 5, which of course was also their first year in the league. That dressing room will always be etched in my memory as that’s where I was after a Jets practice when the OJ Simpson verdict was announced and we all stood there transfixed on the big screen TV.
I was perhaps the first reporter in Winnipeg to talk to Tie Domi after his trade from the New York Rangers to Winnipeg, as I wandered into the Jets dressing room after his first game, not knowing it hadn’t yet been opened to the media. Domi answered my questions until Jets media personnel politely asked me to leave. Oops.
But interviews with Tie and Teemu Selanne and Kris King will always be remembered. I spent the last two years of the Jets 1.0 existence covering the team for an American hockey magazine and got to do extended profile pieces on players like Dave Manson and Nikolai Khabibulin. As my editor’s trust in my work grew I was asked to do profiles of visiting players such as Pat LaFontaine, one of the classiest men I’ve ever met.
Then, the Jets were gone. As were most of my opportunities to chase my dream of being an NHL writer, covering the Jets. And soon after I was gone. First to southern Manitoba where I had the privilege of covering the Winkler Flyers, including their Manitoba Junior Hockey League championship season of 1998. Then, I was off to Alberta, where I have been for the last 14 years where I had the opportunity to serve as an assistant trainer with the Camrose Kodiaks of the Alberta Junior Hockey League, including the 2001 season where the team captured the Royal Bank Cup as the top Junior A team in Canada.
And now, even though I live 1,370 km away from my hometown, I remain one of the Winnipeg Jets biggest fans. I have held partial season tickets for the team’s first three seasons and hope to continue that. The amount of money I have spent on the Jets since the NHL’s return to Winnipeg is frankly obscene, but I don’t regret a single cent. I may feel differently when I hit the poorhouse! On that note, if you know of anyone trying to rent a basement suite in Winnipeg…
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