BITS BY BILLECK: Brutal honesty, trade deadlines and a legend lost

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You love to see it.

Brutal honesty from athletes, that is. There are other sports where it’s elicited far more regularly. Often, NHL players take the respectful route.

That wasn’t the case on Saturday with Connor Hellebuyck. After getting run over by Corey Perry, Hellebuyck, self-admitted following the game, had enough as he used his goalie stick to slash Perry after covering the puck for a whistle.

Perry subsequently got a 10-minute misconduct for chirping the ref. After the game, Hellebuyck landed a chirp of his own.

“Yeah. He’s a pretty dirty player and he comes after the goalie, especially me quite a bit,” Hellebuyck said, deadpanned. “He elbowed me earlier this season in the jaw and I didn’t like that one. He’s constantly putting his stick in my face, so I had enough.”

The Jets have a few guys who tell it like it is. Mathieu Perreault, famously, once asserted, ‘Player safety, my ass’ after taking a Jake Virtanen elbow to the face in a game during the 2019-20 season.

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“It was a late hit, I never had the puck, and he flicks his elbow to my face,” Perreault said. “And they’re not going to do anything about it. Now I’ve got to take matters into my own hands. Next time this happens, I get to swing my stick across his forehead and I shouldn’t get suspended.

“I don’t even know what to say. I can’t really protect myself if the league’s not going to protect me. I’m the smallest guy on the ice, so I can’t really fight anybody. The only thing I can do to defend myself is use my stick. So, next guy that does that to me is going to get my f—ing stick. And I better not get suspended for it.”

Perreault would walk back those comments after cooling down the next day, but it’s that heat-of-the-moment stuff that produces the best quotes.

Onto the bits…

1. Happy NHL Trade Deadline day.

Last year, I spent the day in a Toronto hotel room with TSN playing on the suite’s TV, my laptop following Twitter and my phone trying to dig up any information I could on deals the Jets were trying to work.

It all proved fruitless. The Jets didn’t make a deal that day, doing their business in the days leading up to the deadline after trading for Dylan DeMelo on Feb. 18 and then for Cody Eakin on Feb. 21.

Given that I had a flight out to Washington roughly an hour after the deadline ended, it was a blessing in disguise.

Most trade deadlines seem anti-climactic. All the big deals often get done beforehand. The top guy on TSN’s Trade Bait list — defenceman David Savard — was dealt Saturday, for instance.

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Godspeed to all the broadcasters on the various channels that devote hours upon hours on this day. That can’t be easy.

Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff speaks during a media availability at Bell MTS Place in Winnipeg on Mon., Sept. 30, 2019. Kevin King/Winnipeg Sun/Postmedia Network
Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff speaks during a media availability at Bell MTS Place in Winnipeg on Mon., Sept. 30, 2019. Kevin King/Winnipeg Sun/Postmedia Network

2. Speaking of the Jets and the trade deadline, it’s kind of up in the air at this point.

The Jets obviously want to add to their defensive core, but the two targets that made the most sense are gone with Savard off to Tampa and Mattias Ekholm likely staying in Nashville.

If general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff was desperate for Ekholm, he could probably pry him from David Poile’s clutch, but it would take a masterful offer. And despite the extra year you’d get with Ekholm, the price just seems too high.

Here’s the thing about Cheveldayoff — he doesn’t like giving up his prospects. Hard to blame him when the asks start with Dylan Samberg or Ville Heinola.

There’s also the question of who fits where. Yes, some fans would like to see Tucker Poolman moved down or taken out of the lineup completely, but it’s debatable whether that is realistic with head coach Paul Maurice.

Does Logan Stanley come out with the season he’s having? I would suggest it’s unlikely. Derek Forbort? Maybe. But he’s been one-half of Winnipeg’s most reliable defensive pairing this season.

With both Victor Mete and Sami Vatanen put on waivers today, a depth guy might be had for free if either falls to the Jets in the waiver order.

It seems like Cheveldayoff will have to pull another one out of the hat to land a bigger name this season. He’s done it before.

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Cheveldayoff never does his business in public, so it will be interesting to see how the day will pan out.

Canada’s Corey Conners plays out from the bunker onto the second green during the third round of The Masters at Augusta, Ga., on Saturday.
Canada’s Corey Conners plays out from the bunker onto the second green during the third round of The Masters at Augusta, Ga., on Saturday. Photo by BRIAN SNYDER /REUTERS

3. Man, was it great to hear a roar of a crowd at The Masters again.

It’s nice to hear fans anywhere, even if it’s debatable whether or not they should be there as this pandemic continues.

But selfishly, it’s just nice to see life and sporting events. Empty buildings and piped-in crowd noise doesn’t quite cut it.

Also fantastic to see another Canadian, Corey Conners, in the final groupings on Sunday again.

4. Three weeks between F1 races is too long.

I know COVID is playing its part this season, as it did last year when it comes to scheduling. But that first race was just so bloody good that I want more pumped into my veins.

Rap legend DMX passed away on Friday, a week after he was hospitalized following a heart attack.
Rap legend DMX passed away on Friday, a week after he was hospitalized following a heart attack. Photo by JLC/ZOJ /WENN

5. RIP, DMX

If you’re in your mid-30s like I am, you can probably remember hearing Ruff Ryders Anthem for the first time. If you’re not a fan of rap, you’ve still heard Party Up.

Legendary rapper DMX passed away this week at 50 following an overdose coupled with a heart attack.

A man places a candle at a makeshift memorial for hip-hop star DMX outside White Plains Hospital in White Plains, New York, on April 10, 2021. DMX, the hardcore hip-hop star whose ominous, snarling raps chronicled the violence and struggles of the American street, has died on April 9, 2021. He was 50 years old.
A man places a candle at a makeshift memorial for hip-hop star DMX outside White Plains Hospital in White Plains, New York, on April 10, 2021. DMX, the hardcore hip-hop star whose ominous, snarling raps chronicled the violence and struggles of the American street, has died on April 9, 2021. He was 50 years old. Photo by KENA BETANCUR /AFP

Rap was my go-to as a teenager growing up and DMX was always heavily played in the rotation. One of the best storytellers through his music — fire up Here We Go Again or Get at Me Dog — DMX’s gruff vocals only served to hammer home the wealth of emotions he portrayed in his music.

His music will live on, and he will be missed.

Like what you’ve read? Have a gripe? My inbox is always open at sbilleck@postmedia.com or you can find me on Twitter to publicly shame and maim @scottbilleck

sbilleck@postmedia.com

Twitter: @scottbilleck

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