Comedy is sometimes misinterpreted when people take it out of context, but there was no denying that Ilya Bryzgalov's latest diatribe towards the city of Winnipeg is one of the most uneducated, idiotic things to say to a microphone or reporter. While Mr. Bryzgalov is certainly entitled to his opinion on a wide-range of topics, sometimes it is better to leave well enough alone and be done with it. Instead, Mr. Bryzgalov opened his mouth, inserted his foot far enough that he scratched his tonsils, and then proceeded to insult a collective group of people totaling somewhere in the range in 800,000. If the Coyotes do move back to Winnipeg, I'll lead the charge in not having Ilya Bryzgalov as a member of the team.
His abysmal playoff statistics aside, I want to prove that Ilya Bryzgalov is not only misinformed, but grossly stupid for his comments made after the Coyotes were eliminated by the Detroit Red Wings in four games. The reason I want to address these comments is because I, as a Winnipegger who was born and raised there, find his comments to be sickening. And I don't even work for Travel Manitoba.
In speaking to Slam Sports, Mr. Brygalov brought these pearls of wisdom forward:
"You don’t want to go to Winnipeg, right?" Bryzgalov said after the Coyotes lost to Detroit, Wednesday night. "Not many people live there, not many Russian people there. Plus it's cold. There's no excitement except the hockey. No park, no entertaining for the families, for the kids. It’s going to be tough life for your family."Ah, yes... the "it's so cold" argument. I love this rationale from people who don't understand how life on the prairies works. So go ahead and beat up on Winnipeg because it's cold in the winter. Perhaps you'll notice that's it's hot and dry in Phoenix while you're at it, Ilya.
The 30-year-old Russian's knowledge of Winnipeg comes from a visit or two when he was with Cincinnati in the AHL.
"I've been there for just once, maybe twice, when I play in minors. It was really cold," Bryzgalov said. "I used the tunnels between the buildings to get to the arena. Because it was minus 40-something. Real cold."
I want to point out Moneysense's article on the best places to live in Canada as of 2011. In it, they rank the cities according to some pretty interesting criteria, with weather being one of them. Let's check Bryzgalov's comments about Edmonton, the eighth-best Canadian city to live according to Moneysense, in 2008.
I find it funny that of the six NHL cities on Moneysense's list, Edmonton's ranking for weather is second-best behind only Toronto. If you include Winnipeg and Quebec City, Edmonton gets bumped to third thanks to Winnipeg's better ranking. That would mean that the top three NHL cities for weather would be Toronto, Winnipeg, and Edmonton.
Now you're probably asking yourself how Moneysense came up with these weather numbers. Here's their exact numerology breakdown:
18 points – (6 for each of: amount of precipitation, number of wet days, days below 0°C). Ideal volume of precipitation is considered to be 700 ml per year. Source: Environment Canada.Did that say "days below 0°C"? And both Winnipeg and Edmonton were ranked above Calgary (fifth), Montreal (sixth), and Vancouver (seventh)? Those three cities get less sunshine and they have more rain - not the most ideal places when you want to go to a park, is it? Maybe it's not so bad having a few -40°C days in the winter for all the sunlight and summer warmth Winnipeg and Edmonton get. After all, when canadianimmigrant.ca states,
Winnipeg gets an abundance of snow, with snowfall typically starting in November and often not finishing until April. The city’s worst winter temperature sits at about -20°C and summer temperature never exceeds 30°C.Most days of sunshine, the cold isn't as bad as everyone thinks it is, and we're fairly reasonable when it comes to temperatures. Is there something lost in translation here, Mr. Bryzgalov?
It’s also a windy city, which can make winter even harder to bear. But, on the bright side, Winnipeg can tout the most days of winter sunshine than any other Canadian city. Plus, its climate is dry, which makes the cold easier to stand.
Speaking about those parks we have here in Winnipeg, it's a known fact that there aren't many people in parks in the winter in Winnipeg on account of the cold and snow. Yes, that's right: it actually gets really cold and it snows in Winnipeg! Captain Obvious strikes again, it seems.
While Phoenix, Arizona has South Mountain Park - a 16,283 acre park with 58 miles of trails in Phoenix and its outskirts - I doubt that Mr. Bryzgalov and his family spend much time there. Maybe they do and are actually avid hikers and bikers, and that's great for them. But there are more green spaces in Winnipeg that can be explored and appreciated for their wonders than what Phoenix boasts.
Let's run down a few of the more recognizable parks amongst the vast amount of green space that Winnipeg has to offer:
- Assiniboine Park - 378 acres of green space that feature recreation areas for cricket, softball, beach volleyball, soccer, and ultimate frisbee. Contained within the park are the Assiniboine Park Zoo, the conservatory, the Leo Mol sculpture garden, an English garden, a large duck pond which becomes a skating rink in winter, the Lyric stage, the Assiniboine Pavilion, and an abundance of green space for relaxing. BBQs and children's playgrounds are free to use in the park. There is a large slide for high-speed sledding in the winter, and the Assiniboine Park Zoo is open year-round. New amenities are being added over the next few years as well, giving the park a year-round function.
- Assiniboine Forest - right across the street from Assiniboine Park is 700 acres of natural forest that features a 1.5km paved trail called Sigimay Trail as well as 8.5km of additional paths and walkways.
- Kildonan Park - 96 acres of green space that features the award-winning outdoor theatre Rainbow Stage, a duck pond, a public swimming pool, the Witch's Hut, a soccer field, the Peguis Pavilion, and many BBQs and public picnic areas. Many paths are situated near the river with some leading to rustic wooden bridges. The long roadway through Kildonan Park allows for people to drive in, but a large section is designated for joggers, walkers, and rollerbladers.
- St. Vital Park - 114 acres of green space that features recreation sites such as two beach volleyball courts, a soccer field, a duck pond that converts to a skating rink in winter, BBQs and picnic sites, a children's playground, a boat launch onto the river, slides for winter sledding, and many cross-country ski trails in the winter. There are a number of totem poles within the park and a Rock Garden that has a ton of flower beds in it. Pathways are abundant throughout the park for walking, and the roadway is perfect for cycling, jogging, walking, and rollerblading.
Bryzgalov's recreational choices aside, his claims of there being "no Russian people" is downright absurd. When asked if he would listen to the owners of the new Manitoba NHL franchise about the city and its people, Bryzgalov responded,
"Probably not. I better go to somewhere in Russia, KHL, to be honest. Because KHL is Russian people, it’s family, friends. Even as a cold place, I can speak to people in Russian language."Wow. I think he has his foot up to his knee firmly in his mouth at this point. Let's take a closer look at this claim that Bryzgalov is making with his extensive knowledge of Winnipeg.
According to this article from the Canadian Jewish Congress, "[i]n the last five years, about 2,000 Russian-Israeli immigrants have chosen Winnipeg as their new home". Indeed, the number of Russian-Israeli immigrants is on the rise, and Winnipeg and its surrounding areas boast a vibrant Ukrainian community as well.
There are even websites specifically set up to help Russians who have moved to the Manitoba capital to assist them in settling in their new homes. The Russian Cultural Association of Manitoba and winnipeg.ru are vital resources for the Russian community in the city. The Russian Cultural Association website has a ton of info on working and living in Winnipeg. In total, some 30,000 Russians of various descents call Manitoba home.
The German-Russian communities are strong within Manitoba, represented by the Mennonites, with the town of Steinbach being founded by 18 Mennonite families. The Mennonite Heritage Museum is a major attraction for the town, and there is no restrictions on the languages spoken within the town as regional Russian, Ukrainian, and German languages can be heard as commonly as English. In fact, there are over 100 recognized languages spoken in Manitoba, so it's more common to find someone you can talk to rather than someone you can't.
Oh, as for entertainment and Russian culture all wrapped up into one big week, don't forget about Folklorama, the largest and longest-running multi-cultural event of its kind on the planet. Prominently featured as one of the pavilions is the Russian pavilion where everyone can partake in some Russian hospitality.
But Winnipeg has no appreciation or representation of Russia or the Russian community, right? Again, I fail to see why Bryzgalov needs to make statements that are entirely untrue about a place of which he has zero knowledge. Let's review:
- Cold? Sure, but we have the most sunshiny days of any major center in Canada.
- Parks? We got 'em. Lots and lots of them.
- Russians? We got 'em. And we don't mind if more of them move in.
I do have a problem with someone spouting off at the mouth about a city that lives and breathes the game of hockey. Visiting teams, such as the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks, don't usually get the guided tour of the town when they visit for obvious reasons, so allowing Bryzgalov to trash a city he knows nothing about does raise my dander every so slightly.
I'm not asking for Bryzgalov to give up his free agency status or to consider re-signing with the Coyotes if they do indeed move to Winnipeg. I'm sure that GM Don Maloney will court the Russian netminder as a free agent, and that's a smart move from a hockey standpoint after Bryzgalov has turned in two solid regular season campaigns. While his playoff performances leave a rather sour taste in one's mouth, there's no denying that Bryzgalov was vital to the success of the Coyotes this season.
That being said, I am willing to offer up my time and resources to show Mr. Bryzgalov around the city, and to help him understand that the city of Winnipeg is not in any way the closest thing to Hell-Frozen-Over. All he needs to do is contact me via email. If he's willing to take the tour, I'd be happy to show him around town.
If he's still hating on Winnipeg after reading all that I've written, then so be it. We'll part ways and never worry about one another again. Enjoy your career, good luck along the way, and we'll see you if you happen to come these parts with another team.
But don't think we'll forget about what you said if and when you visit.
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!