Friday, October 19, 2018

Grant Fuhr's Most Important Victory

At the recent Edmonton premiere of 'Making Coco', Kevin Lowe, in a post-game hot stove setting, talked about a game that he considered to be Grant Fuhr's most important victory. It was the first game of the Stanley Cup Finals of the 83/84 season. 

The year before, Edmonton had met the New York Islanders in the Stanley Cup Finals and lost in four straight games. 

During the regular season of 83/84, Edmonton met the Islanders three times and lost each game. Now they had to face them again and even though they had plowed through the competition on their way to the finals, there was not a lot of confidence in the dressing room prior to Game One.  

Throughout the season, the Oilers were winning games 7-5, 6-4... they'd get goals scored against them, but they'd usually manage to outscore the opposition. In this game, they were destined to only get one goal. To win the game, Grant Fuhr would have to play a perfect game - and he did. The Oilers won 1-0 and left the ice filled with confidence. Although they lost game two in Long Island, they came back to Edmonton and dominated games three, four and five as they won their first Stanley Cup. 

From there, the team continued it's dynasty, winning a total of 5 Stanley Cups in 7 years. In 1990, Edmonton teams won the Stanley Cup and the Grey Cup; the city declared itself the City of Champions and the whole town had a swagger. In a league that competed with teams from New York, Chicago, Toronto, Los Angeles, we upstarts were not just competing, we were dominating. 

Now imagine... 'what if?' 

What if Grant had allowed even one goal in regulation? If the momentum would have swung to the Islanders allowing them to win in overtime, the Oilers would not have left the game with the same confidence. If they had come back to Edmonton down two games, they might have clutched their sticks more tightly, second guessed themselves and could easily have lost the series. 

What if... the team had gone to the finals two years in a row, only to be sent away empty handed? They would be known as 'that team' - the one that plays well all season and tanks in the playoffs. Glen Sather would have had no choice but to make trades, never realizing he would be breaking up a core of players that was destined to be the best team of all time. 

The city would never have adopted the 'City of Champions' handle which grew to include much more than sports. We might still be searching for our first Stanley Cup, assuming we were lucky enough to still have the team. When the Oilers went through rough years in the 90s with low attendance, maybe the 37 individuals who joined to form the Edmonton Investors Group would have decided there was no appetite for professional hockey here and not have stepped in to save the team from being sold to Houston. 

For the record, although this 'what if' scenario came from Kevin, these are not his words. I took some liberties in telling the story and I realize it's pure speculation. There absolutely could have been hundreds of different outcomes had the team lost that first game. They may have rebounded and won after all, but certainly history could have written a much different story than we know today. 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

     It was the summer I turned 10 years old. I was visiting my older cousin who lived on 149th Street on the west end. The land across the street had been the town of Jasper Place but on this day in August it was being annexed by the city of Edmonton.
     Across the street from my cousin's house, a strip mall was hosting an event to commemorate the occasion and we wandered over to check it out. One of the first booths we came upon belonged to 630 CHED. They were hosting a remote broadcast and passing out souvenir key chains. We eagerly got in line behind the other fans and eventually worked our way to the front. My older cousin was in front of me and was handed a key chain when he got to the booth. I moved up as he stepped aside and held out my hand for the coveted treasure.
     I still remember what happened next as if it happened last week.
     "Sorry kid," the disc jockey said. "That was the last one."
     I stared at him in disbelief but he had already turned away.
     There is a particularly bitter sting to disappointment when it follows the absolute belief you are going to succeed.

Flash forward fifteen years.
     Twenty five years old and I'd already been working at CHED full time for six years. My 8 week practicum with the Advertising and Public Relations had turned into a full time job and the old building downtown felt like my second home. On this particular day I was in a storeroom on the rarely-visited third floor looking for an envelope. I reached to the top of a shelf and accidentally knocked over a small box. When it hit the floor, a familiar looking key chain rolled out.
     I stood there looking at it as the memories raced back. The logo was now out of date and the original key-chain promotion was long forgotten, but to me it was the most beautiful thing in the world.
     Over the years, I've lost and re-found that keychain a hundred times. And it always seems to show up at some significant time when I need a reminder such as; never give up on your dreams, or some things are just destined to happen. So many years have passed and CHED is still a huge part of my life.
     On Friday morning I wrote a heart felt tribute to people I met through CHED. On Saturday I found the keychain in some obscure bowl tucked away in a cupboard. Perfect timing and perhaps a reminder to always keep your eyes open for the next keychain and the next opportunity.
     Like happiness and love, sometimes opportunity is not where it' looked for but where it's found.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Thank you

I was honoured last night for 40 years in radio and when it was my turn to speak I found myself overwhelmed by the emotion of the moment. If I could go back in time and have a ‘do-over’ on my thank you speech, it may have sounded like this:

First off, let me just say thank you to every one of you for taking time out of your busy lives to be here tonight. A number of you this evening have told me that I was an influence in your life, which is both surprising and gratifying. It may also be a surprise for you to know you were also an influence in my life. There is an interesting lesson I’ve learned in life, and I hope I’ve passed this on to my kids: everyone you meet has something to share with you. When you meet someone, try to make the most of the engagement.

I was fortunate enough to work in an environment that encouraged this. Under the mentorship of Jerry Forbes, 630 CHED was truly a family of people who genuinely cared about and engaged with each other. People were encouraged to explore new opportunities and were embraced for their strengths. Jerry cultivated an atmosphere in which people wanted to perform because they didn’t want to let down their leader or their coworkers.

Marty, thank you for your kind words tonight. You embody all the best qualities of your dad and have felt like a brother to me for four decades… whether your damn brothers vote to accept me or not ;) You have a passion for excellence and continue to amaze me with your drive and insight. It’s an honour to be worthy of your friendship.

Tamara, thank you for your continued friendship and thoughtfulness. The book you and Jen put together is brilliant. I’ve never been good at archiving memories but you’ve managed to capture my career perfectly. I can’t imagine how much work must have gone into that project but I appreciate it more than I can express.

Gord, thanks for your friendship. When I was a new Program Director moving upstairs to guide the juggernaut known as 630 CHED, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. You were always willing to spend time with me, share your insight and offer support when I needed it most. I always value the times we get to chat because I know it will be interesting and often lead to an exchange of stories and laughs.

Doug, thanks for your comments tonight and for being another valued mentor. It was an honour to serve on your senior management team. Under your leadership the team always felt comfortable sharing their opinions, knowing that our ideas would be well received and carefully considered. There was often passionate and heated debate and always with the best outcome for the collective staff as our objective.

To my wonderful family… where do I start? My time at work often meant that you were making a sacrifice so I could be there. I am so proud of all of you. Ben, you are pursuing your dreams with passion and showing everyone what you can do. You’ve always walked to your own beat and I love watching the journey. Alexa, you’ve always been an insightful, mature soul and now you’ve become an amazing mother. Both of you kids are the kind of people I would want as friends if we weren’t related. Jill, you are the best thing to come out of my years at CHED. We were great friends at the station for years before we fell in love. I still remember the day I was pulled into the Program Director’s office and given a raise unexpectedly. When I left his office I walked directly to your desk to tell you about it until I remembered that you had left the station a week earlier. I turned around, disappointed and realized that events in my life didn’t mean as much when I couldn’t share them with you. Thanks for being my wife. I’m proud of you and I love you.

To everyone I’ve worked with – thanks for allowing me to contribute and to be a small part of the magic. It really was magic… teamwork, passion, commitment and decades of memories. I treasure every day spent with you.  Carry on.

And as for me… stay tuned. The best is yet to come!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

50 Steps To A Great Cup Of Coffee

At some point in my morning, I take time for a cup of coffee.  Here are the steps I took to get it done today:

1: decide to have a coffee
2: select flavour pod from my son's Nespresso collection
3: pick pod and open Nespresso machine to insert
4: realize the collector bin for used pods is full
5: get a bag from the wardrobe in front hall to collect pods for recycle
6: multiple bags fall out
7: decide to attach extra bags to dog leash so I'm ready for his next walk
8: find leash and attach bags
9: put dog leash away and realize I left broom in front porch when I answered the door earlier
10: return broom to basement
11: return to coffee machine
12: remember I need a bag
13: retrieve the bag I left in the front porch
14: empty used pods in bag
15: hang pod on front door handle so son 'might' see it and take it in
16: return to coffee machine
17: realize machine is out of water
18: disconnect reservoir and walk to sink
19: son has left empty milk carton in sink
20: rinse out milk carton and crush it
21: put milk carton in recycle in back porch
22: return to kitchen
23: fill water reservoir and attach to machine
24: can't remember if I've put a new pod in machine
25: open machine and pod falls into used pod bin
26: retrieve new pod from used bin and re-insert
27: close lid
28: select cup from cupboard
29: insert cup and press start
30: watch with eager anticipation as steaming coffee fills cup
31: answer phone
32: Sears delivery guys are early - new washer & dryer will be here in 10 minutes, not two hours
33: move car from front
34: disconnect washer and dryer
35: clear crap off stairs
36: lock dog in back porch
37: lock cat in bedroom
38: Sears arrives
39: old machines out
40: new machines in
41: re-connect washer and dryer
42: return to kitchen
43: pour out old, cold coffee
44: select new flavour pod
45: make a new coffee
46: answer phone
47: wife asks "So what are you up to?"
48: I respond "Having a coffee."
49: wife responds "Must be nice to have all that free time on your hands."
50: nod silently

Friday, January 30, 2015

Write Your Book, Dammit

When I was 12 years old the one thing I knew I wanted to do more than anything else was write a book.
When I was 19 I started working full time writing advertising for 630 CHED and I thought this would be a fun way to pass time until I published my first book in a few years.
At age 50 I woke up and said, “What the hell happened to my book?”

Sure, I had ‘started’ several books over the years but for one reason or another I gave up on them all. Lost interest, wrote myself into a corner, got lazy… the excuses piled up.

The solution
On that fateful morning of my 50th birthday I realized that I was letting life pass me by. It scared the hell out of me and I swore I would write my book.
The first thing I had to do was identify everything that had been holding me back.

The discipline
Although a lifetime of advertising gave me the ability to be ‘creative on demand’, I still only wrote when I ‘felt like it’.  My commitment to myself was to devote a minimum of one hour a day without fail until the book was completed.

The story
I loved the writing process – it’s like painting a room of your house. Rolling the paint on is fun; it’s all the painstaking prep work that is not.  I committed to mapping out my entire story so I knew what would happen in each chapter before I allowed myself to write a single word. Working an hour a day this process took me almost nine months. Best investment of time I ever made on anything.

The characters
Every time I introduced a key character into the story, I created a detailed four page character profile for that character so he or she was vividly imprinted in my mind. I also had a better understanding of the character’s motivation utilizing backgrounds that were never revealed in the story, but critical to the continuity of the character’s actions.

The writing
The writing was glorious. Finally I was crafting a story with confidence. I wasn’t seeing a novel as a huge, daunting obstacle that had to be scaled all at once. I saw a series of small, manageable steps (chapters) that could easily be coaxed into existence. Never missing a day, no matter what, I worked for two years to complete the novel.

And if it sounds like I’ve taken the spontaneity out of the process, I was happy to find that wasn’t the case. Knowing where the story was going allowed me all kinds of freedom to play with the characters and make the story more detailed with every new element supporting the final outcome.

Goal setting
My biggest mistake. My goal had been to ‘finally write my novel’. The minute I was finished I breathed a sigh of relief and put it aside ‘for a few weeks’ before I picked it up again to begin editing.

A few weeks turned into six months. When I finally forced myself to pick it up again, I found out editing is even more painstaking than planning and the work went very slowly. Plus, I was not nearly ruthless enough with myself. At some point, I put it aside and forgot about it. My goal should have been “to write, edit and publish my book”.  Think big picture.

Another year went by before I finally picked it up again. I had ‘allowed’ real life to be an excuse for not following my passion. I made another commitment to myself: a minimum of an hour a day editing the book and researching the intricacies of self-publishing.

I started with the big picture, reviewing my notes and original story structure. My original investment of 9 months planning had produced a solid outline which required only minor tweaking.
Then, chapter by chapter, paragraph by paragraph, word by word, I went over my book, revising, correcting, cutting.
I shared the manuscript with a dozen friends who each came back with critical corrections, omissions and changes. My request to them was always the same – Don’t tell me if you ‘like’ it, just tell me which parts aren’t clear or don’t make sense. If you put people in an awkward position, the feedback you get will be of no help. Get them to focus on grammar and structure. Ultimately, if you can afford it, hire a professional editor. No matter how much you ‘self edit’, your book will end up going public with mistakes. (Deep sigh) Trust me on this.

Engage other writers
As I was writing my book, a friend of mine was writing his first novel as well. He beat me to the punch with self-publishing and, once I overcame the urge to break into his house and smother him in his sleep, he proved to be a valuable resource. Most writers I’ve met or talked to via social media love to talk about their experiences with writing. Engage them. Ask lots of questions. Take notes. Learn. Share.


Last year I uploaded my novel "The Ghosts of Sundown" on Amazon.