Team Tory loses its edge

Bob Wakeham
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There’s a well-used (perhaps overused) axiom in hockey — in team sports generally — that it’s a mistake to play a defensive style when your team is ahead, to “sit on a lead,” as it’s often phrased by cliché-burdened play-by-play  announcers.

As well, there’s a similar and valid train of thought that a team ahead should keep the pedal of offence to the floor, not let up for a minute, kick its opponents when they’re down, aim for the vulnerable spots near the groin. (Metaphorically, of course, but, then again, who knows what occurs in a largely-hidden battle for a fumbled football?)

The philosophy, of course, and it makes eminent sense, is that a team with a lead, even a substantial lead, should never, ever, give its opponents a chance to get back in the game (a lesson plan Canada’s national junior hockey players should have employed against those nasty Russians during the Christmas holidays).    

And I’d say there’s a few Tories in Newfoundland concerned that the coaches of Team PC were sitting on a lead; had grown fat and comfortable with the turd-knocking they’d been delivering with regularity to their chief rivals.

And now they’re paying the price.

Lost their game

You can sense that the Tories have lost their offensive mojo and have found themselves in an unfamiliar state of indecisiveness ever since their head coach (who was also the general manager and president of the team) suddenly and shockingly vacated his leadership position behind the bench for reasons that remain immersed in fog.  

Meanwhile, the Liberals, the also-rans, have been wandering the political rinks with a useless power play unit for years, working desperately to rekindle the long extinguished fires of offence.

Then there arrived that early Christmas present: the decision by Coach Williams to bolt.

I guess you could argue that the abruptness with which the coach headed to the sidelines made it difficult for the members of his team to gather their wits and continue to score goals in bunches, to put even more distance between themselves and the hapless Liberals, the Maple Leafs of Newfoundland politics.

But the team in blue has dropped back in defensive mode, and has taken on the unattractive appearance of a squad that’s confused, discombobulated, wandering around in its own zone, making bad passes, prompting a distinct shuffling of feet among its fans in the bleachers (OK, OK, I know, enough already with the hockey analogy).

Perhaps it was, after all, a telling sign that so many of the Tory

caucus/team were teary-eyed when

the coach suddenly resigned, vamoosed while heading towards what would have been another Stanley Cup of Newfoundland election wars for Team PC (Sorry. I can’t help myself. I’m a jock junkie).  

And when the entire lineup has depended on one person to micro-manage, to clean their protective cups between periods, is it any wonder the players are in limbo, that they appear insecure without their leader?

Mixed message

Then there were all those mixed messages about a successor behind the bench: right-winger Jerome Kennedy appeared poised, but backed off; centre Tom Marshall seemed interested, but opted to remain in the grinder ranks;  interim coach Kathy Dunderdale, appointed by the departing coach himself, declared she had no desire to take on the job permanently, then changed her mind dramatically during Christmas, further confusing the Tory faithful, at least those not in the Confederation Building loop.

And last week, we had the sorry sight of two nobodies looking for their Andy Warhol 15 minutes of fame — not exactly a pair of highly touted saviours up from the minors — making the strange aftermath of Coach Dan’s flight to who knows where even more bizarre.  

What the Newfoundland public has seen, those who will vote next fall, is a team in some uncharacteristic disarray, not sure where it’s headed, stumbling and bumbling around, unsure of itself. And that’s a recipe for a losing streak in sports and politics alike. 

If you can’t handle a transfer of power with a bit of class and ease, many voters might ask, how can you govern the province?

The Tory faithful couldn’t be blamed if, after a few swallies downtown, they started to paraphrase and slur a little Simon and Garfunkel:  

 Where have you gone, Danny Williams?

 A province turns its lonely eyes to you. Woo, woo, woo. 

What’s that you say, Mrs. Dunderdale?

Dancin’ Dan has left and gone away.

Hey, hey, hey … hey, hey, hey.

Bob Wakeham has spent more than 30 years as a journalist in Newfoundland and Labrador. He can be reached by email at

Organizations: Tory, Team PC, Maple Leafs

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada

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