News; whether you like it or not.

I just finished reading through a touching article that was written by Gordon Sinclair Jr. for the Winnipeg Free Press.

The story is about Les Mulholland, a young Winnipeg Jets fan who recently passed away, and the fact that the richest man in Canada and owner of the Winnipeg Jets club David Thomson actually attended his funeral.

I read through the entire article and, like probably everyone who read it, I found it touching and heart-warming to read about such a simple, kind-hearted act by such a rich and powerful man.

It was eye-opening to me that I didn’t expect what I found in the reader comments:

– “I haven’t liked Sinclair’s columns for quite a while. Something slimy and underhandedly sinister in them. Now he hit the bottom of the barrel. Yes, nice story about a remarkable man. But — it was meant to be PRIVATE, and is NONE OF OUR BUSINESS. This is not a Hollywood tabloid. Write about something relevant. Not sleazy and for your own gratification. Stop it.”

– “Invasion of privacy – for all parties.”

– “You called the grieving parents? I’m not sure if I’m more ashamed of you or me. You for writing this rubbish or for me reading it.”

The comments go on.

I feel for Sinclair in this situation. This is the nature of our business, but it doesn’t mean that we have no soul, or that we don’t sometimes struggle to carry out our job requirements.

I find it very unlikely that Sinclair was sitting at his desk, rubbing his hands together, a sly grin on his face as he prepared to capitalize on and exploit a young man’s death for his own personal gain.

The fact of the matter is there was a genuinely intriguing and worthwhile story here. Proven by the fact that the people who are attacking Sinclair are only able to do so because they read the entire article. If it was a dud, they would have closed their tab after paragraph one and wouldn’t have even been in a position to spout off about how slimy of a human being Sinclair is.

We, as journalists, are paid to find about these interesting little stories, talk to relevant people about them, and present the facts to whomever they may concern, whether it’s for their entertainment or to inform them.

Sometimes you read a story or see a photo that makes you say, “That’s terrible.” Yes, it is terrible, but you know what? It was probably more terrible for the journalist who had to completely trivialize that event by either snapping a photo of it, or conducting a business-like interview with the grieving family, or whoever it may be.

The fact is; that’s our job.

We can’t just turn a blind eye to something like David Thomson going to a regular Joe’s funeral because… People. Want. To. Hear. About. It.

All that the readers attacking Sinclair are feeling is the exact same thing that we feel for covering it, but to a lesser degree; guilt for actually finding it interesting.

I’ve spoken to grieving families, and taken photos of sensitive things, and it’s not easy.

Most recently I was covering a Midget AA hockey game where one of the young players was injured. He was lying motionless on the ice at the time, and I came down from the stands and out onto the ice to try and get a good photo. Everyone was looking at me like I was the devil incarnate.

But when it comes time to write the article about that boy and his injury, I’ve got an exclusive photo that we can run that will bring readers to right where I was standing, without them actually having to be standing there; because they don’t want to be.

People want to read this stuff and want to see these photos, but don’t enjoy the feeling of guilt that comes along with it. So they attack the person who brought it to them. It’s as simple as that.

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R.I.P.

We all have someone in our family who we look at when we’re young, before we really know who we are, and say, “I hope I’ve got even a tiny little bit of what he has, in me.”

I’m lucky to have more than one of those people in my family, but my grandpa Reg sits high up on that list.

I’m not sure that I ever once saw him upset or angry about anything at all. Maybe that was just because I’m his grandchild, but somehow I doubt it. Even in the final years of his life, suffering from a mixed bag of medical ailments, living in a care facility away from his wife of 62 years, he still had a better outlook on life than I did, and his sense of humour was as sharp as the fedora he always wore on his head.

But when I think of my grandpa, I don’t think of those years. That’s not how I’ll remember him. I think of pulling up to my grandparents’ cottage at Detroit Lakes after a four-hour drive, and seeing him sitting out back on a lawn chair in his bathing suit, shirt off, straw hat planted firmly on his head, toothpick in his mouth, and a cold beer in his hand, soaking up the sun.

I know that’s where he is right now.

I’ll always cherish the time I got spend with him, but especially being able to sit down with him last November and document his experiences and contributions during the Second World War. I sometimes wonder if he was too emotional, or simply too humble to really elaborate on the efforts he made while fighting for our country.

I can only hope that when my time here is up, I’m as loved, respected, and remembered as fondly as I know my grandpa is right now. He earned it.

Rest in peace, grandpa, I’ll see you again.

AHL Re-assignments

With the NHL players now officially locked out by the owners, the fate of the 2012-2013 season is up in the air, but it’s almost certainly not going to begin on time — if it begins at all.

However, as with most things, there is a silver lining.

The Winnipeg Jets’ AHL affiliate, the St. John’s IceCaps. Formerly the Manitoba Moose.

The NHL squads have all made re-assignments of some of their current, younger talent to their AHL affiliates.

This gives prospects a great opportunity to hone their skills, and get lots of ice time that they probably wouldn’t see if they were playing in the shadow of the seasoned veterans of the NHL.

It also brings NHL-caliber talent to some smaller markets, at a more affordable price. And since these young guns will be big fish in a little pond, hockey fans can likely expect to see some jaw-dropping highlight-reel goals coming out of the AHL this upcoming season.

To date, the players to watch in the AHL this season are:

*Last season’s stats in parentheses.

St John’s IceCaps (WPG): Alex Burmistrov (13G, 15A, 28P)

Adirondack Phantoms (PHI): Sean Couturier (13G, 14A, 27P), Brayden Schenn (12G, 6A, 18P)

Oklahoma City Barons (EDM): Jordan Eberle (34G, 42, 76P), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (18G, 34A, 52P) and possibly Taylor Hall (27G, 26A, 53P)

Toronto Marlies (TOR): Jake Gardiner (7G, 23A, 30P), Nazem Kadri (5G, 2A, 7P)

Albany Devils (NJD): Adam Henrique (16G, 35A, 51P), Adam Larsson (2G, 16A, 18P)

Portland Pirates (PHX): Oliver Ekman-Larsson (13G, 19A, 32P)

Charlotte Checkers (CAR): Jeff Skinner (20G, 24A, 44P)

So basically what this means is that if the lockout lasts for the entire season, the Oklahoma City Barons are your 2012-2013 Calder Cup champions.

Enjoy the AHL this year, I know I will!

Money vs. Moments

If you haven’t watched Janne Makkonen’s video Together We Can, just take a moment right now and watch it; you won’t regret it.

I think he did an absolutely fantastic job of basically summing up the frustration of the fans (the ignored third party in these CBA “negotiations”), who seem to be the only ones who are capable of remembering what the sport of hockey is all about. A hint; it’s not money.

For the average joe, blue collar NHL fan, watching the back and forth between the millionaires and billionaires of the NHL as they selfishly fight eachother for a bigger slice of the pie is enough to make most of us sick.

Where along the way did everyone in the NHL, players and owners alike, stop being fans like the rest of us, and become corrupted by the heaps of cash they’re paid to do something that they supposedly love?

We can’t lose sight of the fact that the NHL is a business like anything else, and money is what makes it tick, but for those of us who don’t even breach $50,000 annually, it can be hard to comprehend someone complaining about being paid millions to do what most of us would do for thousands, or for free.

The infinite number of things that don’t make sense about the CBA negotiations aside, Makkonen’s video inspired me to take a look back at some of my all-time favourite hockey moments.

Disclaimer to self-proclaimed NHL historians: This is a list of moments that I was alive for, and remember. Bobby Orr’s world-renowned “flying through the air” Stanley Cup winner doesn’t really resonate with me, as I was -18 years old.

 5) “Welcome back, Sid!”

After being sidelined with a concussion on January 5, 2011, arguably the most anticipated moment of the 2011-2012 season was the return of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ captain, Sidney Crosby. Sid finally made his season debut almost a year later on November 21, 2011, and to say there were high expectations of him would be an understatement.

All eyes were on Sid “The Kid” right from the puck drop, and it only him five minutes to find the back of the net, roofing a backhand shot on the New York Islanders’ Anders Nilsson and bringing every fan in the arena to their feet.

Crosby would finish the game with two goals and two assists for a four-point performance that not even the most fanatical fans saw coming.

4) The Finnish Flash Returns

After the smoke had cleared on the initial explosion of hysteria surrounding the Winnipeg Jets’ return to the NHL after 15 years, the first thing most fans did was circle December 17, 2011 on their calendars.

It was the day that Winnipeg would play host to the Anaheim Ducks, and one of the greatest Jets of all time, Teemu Selanne.

The reaction Selanne received from the Winnipeg fans was awe-inspiring. From the initial eruption of applause when he came out onto the ice, to cheering him every time he touched the puck on his first shift of the evening.

With an NHL lockout looming, Winnipeg fans can at least count their blessings in that they had one final and emotional opportunity to welcome Selanne back to Winnipeg, and thank him for all the memories he created there.

3) Wings vs. Avs

The Detroit Red Wings and Colorado Avalanche will always be one of the greatest (and bloodiest) rivalries in all of sports.

It all started in 1996, after Colorado’s Claude Lemieux crushed Kris Draper from behind, causing him to break nearly every major bone in his face and requiring reconstructive surgery to repair.

The next time the two teams met, in March of 1997, a standard tussle erupted into one of the biggest brawls in NHL history, after the Red Wings’ Darren McCarty took matters into his own hands, socking Lemieux in the mug, and repeatedly punching him despite Lemieux’s defensive, turtle-like position.

The scene of Brendan Shanahan and Patrick Roy colliding in mid-air (0:37 of the video below) is almost as epic and iconic as Bobby Orr’s 1970 Stanley Cup-winning goal.

2) The Captain Caps It

Possibly Steve Yzerman’s greatest moment of his career.

Playing in the second overtime period, the Detroit Red Wings were locked in a fierce battle with Wayne Gretzky’s St. Louis Blues, in Game 7 of the 1996 Western Conference Semi-Finals.

After stealing the puck The Great One himself, Yzerman brings new meaning to the phrase “full clapper, top cheddar”, rifling the puck top cheese from the blue line, past the Blues’ Jon Casey, to win the series.

Stevie Y is usually pretty reserved when it comes to goal celebrations, but he let it all out after this one. A great and defining moment in the career of who I consider to be the greatest captain in NHL history.

1) The Golden Goal

Up to this point, I could have called this list my favourite NHL moments, but had to specify HOCKEY moments just for this one right here.

This is one of the rare moments in my life (and not just hockey-specific) that I will never forget exactly where I was, and exactly what it felt like.

After Zach Parise tied the game 2-2 with only 25 seconds left in the third period, the epic battle between Canada and USA in the Gold Medal game of the 2010 Olympics would need overtime to decide a winner.

With the Olympic games being played in Vancouver, BC, the pressure on Canada to take home the Gold in our nation’s sport was overwhelming.

I can’t say for sure whether or not my heart dared to allow a single beat for the entire seven minutes and 40 seconds of overtime that it took before Sidney Crosby slid the puck between Ryan Miller’s pads and ignited an entire nation of hockey fans.

I’m not sure I’ve ever been more proud to be Canadian.

The Evander Kane Problem

As Winnipeg Jets winger Evander Kane continues to make fans fidget, waiting for him to sign (or not) a long-term contract, it’s time to air some of my grievances with him.

Kane presents a unique and potentially troublesome situation. A truly talented hockey player with unlimited potential, but also an attitude that stinks worse than hot garbage, and a list of priorities so out of whack that it actually makes me cringe sometimes.

Let’s start with the good.

Talking strictly hockey, the kid has nothing but upside. The numbers don’t lie. At 18, he had 14 goals and 26 points. At 19, he had 19 goals, and 43 points. And at 20, his first season with the Jets, he scored 30 goals and 57 points.

Now, if this were a 35-year-old veteran, you might be able to get away with suggesting that his numbers will start to decline. But Kane is probably still a few years away from his prime, and only God knows how many points he’ll be putting up when he’s 25 or 26. Only 24 players in the NHL scored more goals than Kane in the 2011-2012 season, and they were all older than young Evander.

There’s no question that his hockey numbers must overshadow any issues he might be having behind the scenes.

As well, I, probably more than most, understand the fact that he is young, stubborn, rebellious and, at times, stupid. I’ve been there. And we have to assume that it is ultimately something that he will outgrow.

I’m not sure if this is something that was made public, because I only ever heard it from my mother: She was at a Jets game one evening (can’t remember the date), and the Jets ended up losing. Kane managed to salvage I believe it was the 2nd Star of the game. And he no-showed his home crowd. Just didn’t come out.

There are clearly a lot of things that go on behind the scenes that I’m not going to claim to be an insider on. But one thing I do know, is that amidst the medley of different rumours and accusations surrounding Kane this past season (running out on his tabs, getting his ass kicked at Whiskey Dix), NONE of his teammates ever stood up for him.

And my biggest gripe by far with Evander Kane, is his absolutely shameless advertising of people and companies who have obviously stuffed some crisp 100-dollar bills in his pocket in order to get him to do so.

Sometimes his tweets read like actual corny advertisements. Like this gem, for example (names/numbers removed): @EKane9Jets:Cracked my iPhone screen again! Thanks to my #cellphonerepair guy @________ it’s just like new! Call ________ *NUMBER HERE* @________

Get a grip, kid. You’re being offered $5M per year to play in front of the greatest fans in the NHL. It’s time to start showing some respect to them, and carrying yourself like an all-star, if that’s what you want to be.

The Captain.

Like I said, I’m not foolish enough to want a stud like Kane off of our team just because he gets under my skin every now and again. But as someone who grew up idolizing Steve Yzerman, I know there’s never any better combination than talent and class. And I think it’s just about time that Kane started showing some of the latter.

Kane’s birthday is in two days, and he will be 21 years old. Maybe the changeover will be instantaneous? On the other hand, he’ll be able to drink in the United States next season… this could be bad.

The ball is in your court, Kaner.

“It’s going to SPACE!”

It crossed my mind the other day how quickly people become dissatisfied with pretty much all aspects of their lives eventually, myself included.

I work as the city reporter for the Fort McMurray Today, and some days I’ll do nothing but cover a variety of topics that aren’t interesting to me whatsoever. And I’ll find myself thinking back to some of the outrageously fun work I had an opportunity to do at the Winnipeg Free Press a while back, and all of a sudden I’m saying, “I wish I was a sports writer,” or some other unnecessarily negative comment.

Luckily, I had the good sense to take it upon myself to remind… myself… of some of the jobs that I had to work before I went back to college.

The first job I ever had was when I was probably 14 or 15, and it was at The Chamois car wash in Winnipeg. I got the job for a couple of reasons: All of my friends had gotten jobs there and I wanted to work with them, and they all told me I’d be hired on the spot. Understandably, I had absolutely no business sense back then (compared to the bare minimum that I have today) and it didn’t occur to me that being hired literally five minutes after asking for an application was probably not a good sign.

What I understand now is that the turnover rate at that child-dominated sweatshop was through the roof, to the point that they were hiring whoever walked through the door.

I had the honour of working in “wipedown”, which meant that after the cars came through the wash, I got to wipe them down by hand, and get soaking wet in the process; I’m talking from head to toe. Well, a typical Winnipeg winter came around, as it usually does, and there I was, sending cars off through the giant garage doors, while standing a few feet away from -40, and a wind chill that practically had me on my knees trying to bargain with my creator.

Needless to say, I was glad to contribute to their high turnover rate.

But mostly I think about Boston Pizza, the last job I had before college, and ultimately my inspiration to go find a better life for myself. They treated me so poorly that I think my parents are still boycotting them back home.

But the point is, these are the places that I was forced to work when all I had was a high school education (or less). The 10-year old version of myself would punch me in the face if he heard me complain about ANYTHING work-related today. All I’ve ever wanted to do was write for a living, and now I do that every day. That should really be the only pertinent information.

Louis C.K. does a great job of pointing out flaws in humans like this, that most of us never even think of.

Here’s his take on all of the things that people take for granted these days, and it’s painfully accurate, and worth watching.

“How quickly the world owes him something he knew existed only 10 seconds ago.”

Bag Boy

I’m finally starting to relax a little here in Fort Mac, as I get settled in here and accustomed to my new home.  It just keeps on getting better-looking around here as Summer comes closer, which I think is helping the process.  I will be posting photographic evidence of this claim, so look forward to that.

My drive home.

I got to spend the day checking out a full-scale wildfire exercise the other day, which was pretty cool, and I will possibly – I cannot stress the word ‘possibly’ enough here – be golfing, which would be the first time ever, on behalf of the Fort McMurray Today, for charity on Friday.  If this does happen, I will be sure there are plenty of cameras on site to capture the most hilariously embarrassing moment of my life.  I suppose there is a remote possibility that I will just turn out to be an indescribably talented golfer, a la Happy Gilmore… but don’t hold your breath.

Gregoire Lake

Anyways, now the reason you all clicked this link.

The bag boy’s name is Sean Graham, and it took me all of about a week to learn his name, so I guarantee you that every single citizen of Fort McMurray knows who this guy is.  It’s not a terribly long story, and I don’t have all of the details, so here it is:

Gregoire Lake…

Mr. Graham, probably a little younger than me, proposed that all plastic bags found in grocery stores, or any stores, be removed permanently.  I assume this was some sort of enviro-friendly-fueled suggestion. Council, obligated to take all requests from their citizens seriously, said, “Okay, we will put this suggestion to a vote on Date X.”

Date X came around, and apparently only a couple of councillors actually cared enough to show up for the vote, and of course, the ones who DID care enough to show up, were the ones who were in favour of the suggestion.  The vote passed, and Fort McMurray is now a plastic bag black hole.  Only in a small town, folks.

…Gregoire Lake…

Hmm, have I written enough to be able to stuff all of my photos into this post?  I have no idea.  If not, I’ll just throw the rest down below.  Have a good night!