Land of the Sleeping Giant gets me every time
By Ross Brewitt
This may be the most “unsportsmanlike” column I’ve ever written.
First, since last week’s rant the NHL and NHLPA, obviously feeling threatened by my harsh assessment of their work ethics and tactics, heeded my advice and began to negotiate.
By the post-column response with readers on our book tour stops in Barrie, North Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, Terrace Bay and now Thunder Bay, plus emails from the U.S. Sweden, the UK, Mexico, and Israel, nothing can come close to explaining my surprise.
To the fellow filling up at Tricholo’s Esso in Terrace Bay who pointed at me asking, “Are you that writer?” my response of “No. I’m this writer. That writer is over there,” only to turn around to find I was pointing to an empty parking lot, I apologize.
I was preparing to add, “Anything I wrote was taken out of context,” but on looking at him again, he smiled, and gave me a Don Cherry thumbs-up for confirmation.
To the CBC’s Cathy Alex, I can only pass along my thanks for our live and in-colour interview on Wednesday. I’ve had experiences with broadcasters from one side to the other in my time, but I’ve never had a smoother, easier-flow face-to face talk with any radio personality.
All we needed was a couple of beers between us and it would have resembled a chat between friends on the hockey beat.
It was the same at the Port Arthur Rotary Club luncheon on Tuesday at the Prince Arthur Hotel. There I was treated to a glowing introduction by Chronicle-Journal publisher Colin Bruce, one that humbled me with insights covering our 18-year history. Then came a “de-introduction” with the same effect by Fred Baker, an opponent from our younger days in hockey.
Then imagine my surprise at the oversize photo by Brent Linton in the CJ’s sports section in the next day's paper.
As I spoke I became aware of this fellow with an SLR camera in the background, circling me like a car salesman waiting to pounce on a buyer interested in a 12-year-old Pontiac.
The result of his resolute planning was a photo with both the new book cover and my first one with the Sabre logo projected in the background. For me it was a photographic work of art.
The next night, speaking at the Fort William Rotary, I was again taken by surprise by the sight of my first junior baseball coach, Jerry Ward, who along with the late Danny Ventrudo, took a chance and recruited me to play for the Great Lakes Juniors the year I turned 15.
Also sitting alongside of me was Murray McKenzie, who was a hard-throwing fellow pitcher on those clubs, all the way to the ANAF Senior ball club..
But the event that stopped me cold was a beautifully framed gift from the private files of Danny Ventrudo, presented to me by his brother Bert.
Rotary clubs normally give their speakers a token of appreciation but this one went way past token. A beautifully matted and framed wedding invitation that began with “Mrs. Nellie Blachar requests your presence at the marriage of her daughter, Sylvia . . .”
Fifty-six years later, it caught me off-guard, and left me misty-eyed and speechless. Very unusual for someone in my business.
Finally, early on Thursday morning, having recovered my steely-eyed reporter look, I paid my usual visit to the “Arthur Street Senate,” located in McDonald’s, where the problems of the day are disseminated on a daily basis.
There, Boxcar Bailey, Fred Humenuik, Al Barichello, Al Martino, Sargon Khubyar, et al, rehashed the old days, the new ones and remembered friends like Eddie Cox, Glenn Clausen and others who made us better people.
And later as I crested a hill on Red River Road, my old friend, the Sleeping Giant, bid me good morning. The only word to describe such a sight is “magnificent.”
Thanks. It’s been very heady stuff for a guy from Schreiber.
(Ross Brewitt is an author/columnist who appears on Fridays. You can reach Ross by going to the contact page on his website at www.rossbrewitt.ca)