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Jets blindsided by Pavelec drunk-driving conviction

Winnipeg Jet goalie Ondrej Pavelec photographed during practice at MTS Centre in Winnipeg Friday, October 7, 2011.

John Woods/The Globe and Mail

If you are in the vicinity of Winnipeg, that sound you hear is Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff punching the walls in his office.

Well, if he really is, you can't blame him, considering the aggravation he endured this week.

Cheveldayoff and the entire Jets organization was blindsided by the news their No. 1 goaltender, Ondrej Pavelec received a six-month prison sentence, which was suspended, and a 20-month driving suspension from a judge in his hometown of Kladno in the Czech Republic. The sentence came after Pavelec pleaded guilty back on June 12 when he was charged following a traffic accident on May 26.

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The Jets only found out on Monday when news of the drunk-driving conviction appeared in the Czech media and spread on the Internet. To say everyone from Jets co-owner Mark Chipman down is angry is not much of a stretch.

The team issued a restrained statement Tuesday in which it was clear it only learned of the conviction and sentence from the media. The unhappiness was also clear: "The organization was deeply disappointed to learn of this information and is fully aware of the seriousness of this matter. We will determine our course of action once we have the chance to meet and discuss with Ondrej in person, which we expect to do at the earliest possible opportunity."

While Pavelec is expected to present himself at the Jets offices shortly to explain himself, a team official told the Winnipeg Free Press no time has been set. The player issued a public apology on Tuesday.

While there is no good time to have one of your players convicted of drunk driving there are a number of things that make this incident particularly egregious. For one thing, the accident occurred when Cheveldayoff was negotiating a new five-year, $19.5-million (all currency U.S.) contract with Pavelec's agent. Somehow this detail wasn't mentioned, although there is no evidence Pavelec told his agent, either.

For another, Jets defenceman Dustin Byfuglien is scheduled to stand trial in Minneapolis next week on a charge of impaired boating. The Jets did not need another such embarrassment.

This all comes amidst contract negotiations with one of the Jets' rising stars, winger Evander Kane. The 20-year-old is coming off a 30-goal season and there was talk he might wish to play elsewhere, always a sensitive topic in Winnipeg. However, at this point the Jets are talking to him about a long-term deal, although it will not be cheap, probably coming in at more than $5-million per year.

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