Wednesday, April 3, 2019

The world had never seen a sporting event like it — the 1972 Summit Series

A dejected Vladislav Tretiak ignores celebrating Canadians.

By Tom Hawthorn
Victoria Times Colonist
September 28, 1997

The Russian equipment was old and ratty. Their uniforms had patches like a hand-me-down quilt. The captain wore a "K" over his heart. The goalie wore No. 20, a defenceman's sweater. Their names — Mikhailov, Yakushev, Tsygankov— were barely pronounceable and certainly unspellable. They all wore helmets (the sissies). Canadian boys said it made them look like robots.
Had they come from Mars, the Soviet Union's best hockey players could not have looked more alien.
Today, 25 years to the day that Paul Henderson's improbable goal decided the Summit Series, when Pavel Bure is a Vancouver Canuck and the Stanley Cup has been paraded through Moscow streets, it is hard to remember just how rare it was for Canadians to see a person from the Soviet Union, never mind an entire fast-skating, crisp-passing team of them.
Stalin was long dead in 1972. Igor Gouzenko, the cipher clerk who defected with tales of Soviet espionage rings, appeared in public only with a bag over his head. For most Canadians, the only Russian to have a name was Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev, round and stiff like a matreshka doll, albeit one with comic eyebrows.
The battle for hockey supremacy was supposed to be a pushover for Canada's professionals.
Infamously, Canada's scouts watched Soviet goalie Vladislav Tretiak play a single game. He was a sieve, and that's what they reported. What they didn't know was that the hungover Tretiak had been married the day before.
Johnny Esaw, the CTV broadcaster, was so certain that Canada was to win in eight straight that he chose to air Games 1, 3, 5 and 7 on his network; he felt viewers would lose interest as the Canadians crushed their opponent.
CBC got to air the decisive Game 8. By that time, the series had become less an exhibition and more a crusade.
It was Sept. 28, 1972. Elementary school pupils gathered in gymnasiums to watch on television. A federal election campaign was ignored for a day. Workplaces slowed, then stopped during the third period. Foster Hewitt did the play-by-play on television, while Bob Cole did the same on radio. Those who watched and listened have not forgotten the precise moment when, in the final minute of the final period of the final game, Paul Henderson, a forward blessed with more perseverance than skill, slipped a rebound past Vladislav Tretiak.
(I skipped junior high in Toronto that afternoon, a 12-year-old who feared crying in front of classmates if Canada lost. When Henderson scored, yahoos in apartments high above our own tossed empty beer bottles from their balcony, the brown stubbies shattering on the blacktop 25 stories below.)
Ron Butlin, who now lives in Victoria, was among the whistling, enraptured spectators at Luzhniki Arena in Moscow, an outdated rink where fans behind the goals were protected by proletarian mesh and not bourgeois plexiglass.
His strongest memory is not so much Henderson's goal, but the arrival of a Soviet V.I.P.
"The Russians jeer by whistling and they were making quite a noise," he said, recalling Game 8. "All of a sudden, the whistling stopped, absolutely stopped. It was so quiet you could hear the skates of the players down on the ice. I looked around and saw Brezhnev walking through the stands to get to a private box at the top of the arena. Until he sat down, there wasn't a sound.
"Midway through the third period, Brezhnev got up and again there was silence, except for the blades of the skates cutting the ice. Once he was gone, everything resumed.
"It was either fear, or respect, or both. Those were the days of tough Communism."
The series had become a showdown between more than just two hockey teams, but between rival systems - Communism vs. capitalism, collectivism vs. individualism.
Team Canada considered their rivals to be unthinking automatons, obedient to their system, incapable of adapting to circumstance or of allowing individual flare to flourish.
For their part, the Soviet skaters felt the pros played only for money, not for pride of country. How wrong they were, too.
Away from the series, among fans, fantastical rumors took hold. It was said here Tretiak had been forced to have surgery to replace his ligaments with artificial ones. The Russians, in turn, believed that goalie Tony Esposito had a plate implanted in his forehead, the better to withstand shots to the head.
Over the years, the series has become a collage on the tape-loop of memory:
The "To Russia With Hull" campaign; the shocking 7-3 Soviet win at the Montreal Forum to open the series; Pete Mahovlich's brilliant dipsy-doodle goal in Toronto; the booing spectators at Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver and Phil Esposito's impassioned, drenched-in- sweat, post-game monologue on national TV ("To the people of Canada, I say we tried. We did our best. We're really disheartened, disappointed and disillusioned. We can't believe we're getting booed in our own building. I'm really, really disappointed. I can't believe it. Some of our guys are really down in the dumps. They have a good team. Let's face facts. We came because we love Canada. I don't think it's fair that we should be booed"); the defection of four Team Canada players who returned home from Moscow; "da da Canada, nyet nyet Soviet"; indecipherable referees named Kompalla and Baader (the players called them Baader and Worse); Bobby Clarke's vicious two-handed slash of Valeri Kharlamov's ankle; Alan Eagleson's scuffle with Soviet officials during Game 8; his rescue from armed soldiers by Pete Mahovlich; Eagle's flipping a one- finger salute to the crowd from the ice; and, unforgettably, Henderson's goal.
"As we got into the last minute of play," Henderson reminisced in Shooting for Glory, his 1992 autobiography, "I stood up at our bench and yelled three times at Peter Mahovlich to come off so I could get on the ice. It wasn't our line's turn, but I honestly felt I could get a goal. I can't explain why, but I just had this feeling, just as I'd had in the previous game. For whatever reason, Peter came to the bench and I catapulted myself over the boards to join the play in the Russian end. As I got on, the puck went to Cournoyer on the far boards. I screamed at him for a pass that I hoped to one-time at the net because I had a clear shot, but I had to reach back for the puck with all my momentum pushing me forward. I missed and their defenceman neatly tripped me, causing me to fall and slide into the boards behind their net. Immediately I thought, Get up. Get the puck and come back down to try to score.
"The Russians, with a great chance to clear the zone, failed to control the puck, allowing the relentless Phil Esposito to whack the loose disk towards the goal. Tretiak stopped Phil's shot but couldn't smother it. By this time I was standing alone in front of Tretiak to pick up the rebound. I tried to slide a shot along the ice, but Tretiak got a piece of it. The puck came right back to me, and with Tretiak down I slid it along the ice for the winning goal. There were only 34 seconds left to play!"
He leaped into Cournoyer's arms, an image captured by Toronto Star photographer Frank Lennon. Henderson, elated, is staring straight at the camera. So, too, is Tretiak, as he lifts his back off the ice, helpless as an upended turtle. To their left, Soviet defenceman Yuri Liapkin, a look of disbelief on his face, appeals silently to the referee for - what? A reprieve? The series was over. Canada had won.
Twenty-five years later, as they gather in Toronto for an exhibition to be played in their honor, Team Canada's alumni are pot- bellied and balding, enjoying the fruits of their labors in their 50s. Bill Goldsworthy has died of AIDS, Kharlamov in a car wreck, but otherwise most are in comfortable circumstances.
The image of Henderson being hugged by Cournoyer has become an icon, reproduced - for profit - on posters, coins, book covers, and, unveiled just this week, a postage stamp.
Meanwhile, on a farm in Ontario, Pat Stapleton claims to have put Henderson's puck in a box with many others. Some have come to his door with money in search of this Holy Grail of the series, but Whitey is having none of it. His dream is to play shinny with his grandchildren on a frozen slough, and to lose the puck in a snowbank.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

What's black and white and whistles?

Lonnie Cameron (right) worked his final NHL game as a linesman on April 2, 2019.

By Tom Hawthorn
Victoria Times Colonist
May 24, 2000

Kelsey Chow, age eight, brought a zebra to her Grade 3 class for show and tell on Tuesday.
It weighed 225 pounds and had a black and white coat. Its name was Lonnie Cameron.
Cameron is a linesman -- a zebra in hockey slang -- and his natural habitat is the rinks of the National Hockey League.
The Victoria native came to View Royal Elementary with a message.
"Whatever you guys do," he told Kelsey's class, "try to be the best you can be at whatever you do."
Cameron, 35, wore his No. 74 black-and-white sweater with an orange NHL crest over his heart. He brought his hockey equipment, including a girdle and skates and shin pads, as well as a whiskey bag filled with whistles. The kids liked the whistles; they thought the hockey gear was stinky.
"I think I have a really cool job," he said.
Most hockey fans think linesmen have a thankless job that rarely wins them respect. Their daily chores seem mundane compared to the glamour afforded referees with their orange armband and a benevolent dictator's command.
"Kelsey, what does the linesman do?"
"Helps," she said.
"Helps break up fights."
A linesman's job description includes calling icings and off- sides, dropping the puck for face-offs, and helping the referees maintain order on ice. Often that means sticking their noses into fights they would rather avoid.
The NHL rule book has 103 entries and Cameron is supposed to be able to recall any of them at a moment's notice.
"Say Brooke and Kelsey are in the corner," Cameron told the class, "and they're getting their elbows up. I'd say, `Hey, get your elbows down and play the puck.'
"And if she gave me that look," he said, indicating Kelsey's scowl, "she's in the penalty box."
Cameron has known little Kelsey since the day after she was born eight years ago to Ross and Lynn Chow. The linesman went to kindergarten with Ross and the families have kept in touch as Lonnie's hockey career took him from Juan de Fuca to Racquet Club to junior in Estevan, Sask., where his dreams of following Ken Dryden as an NHL goalie came to an end.
Instead, Cameron decided to become an official, working in the Western Hockey League where he won the Allen Paradice Memorial Trophy in 1995-96 as the league's top referee. Cameron also was on the ice for the hockey finals at the 1994 Olympic Games. He made his NHL debut on Oct. 5, 1997.
While some educators may occasionally find need of a linesman's assistance, teacher Catherine Harrower runs a tight ship.
In fact, the children in Mrs. Harrower's class are far better behaved than the scofflaws Cameron encounters in his working life. Just last year, Philadelphia Flyers coach Roger Neilson was suspended two games for throwing a stick on the ice that almost hit Cameron.
(In his defence, Neilson said he had no intent of hitting the linesman, but was keen on getting the referee's attention. He did, though not in the manner he intended.)
Earlier on Tuesday, Cameron addressed the intermediate students at View Royal with an inspirational message.
"If you set a goal, always try to achieve it," he told them. "Shoot for the stars. If you hit the moon, that's just a speed bump."
Later, he said, "It's kind of corny, but I believe in that."
With 30,000 officials working in sports in Canada, Cameron told Kelsey's class that he landed one of only 60 jobs open for refs and linesmen in the NHL.
The class asked good questions. Heidi Shenkenfelder asked if girls could play hockey. (Certainly, Cameron said, and he expects the NHL will one day have women officials.) Jeff Camden wanted to know if his dad, the mayor of View Royal, worked as hard as the linesman? (Maybe even more so, Cameron said.) Tyler Laberge simply wore a Maple Leafs sweater. ("Good team," Cameron said.)
Cameron had a trick question in his classroom quiz. How many teams are on the ice during a game?
"Two!" the children shouted.
"Three teams," Cameron said. "We as officials work as a team. If the team in black and white isn't doing their job, they'll know about it from the fans."
The linesman gave an autographed photo to each students. It showed him standing to the side as Donald Brashear punches the face of Marty McSorley.
"These guys aren't really getting hurt," Cameron cautioned the class. "It's all make believe."
After the presentation, the class returned to their study of insects such as the ladybug (not Lady Byng) and the cockroach (not Claude Lemieux, but close).
Mrs. Harrower was not much of a hockey fan before show and tell.
"When I heard that Kelsey was bringing a linesman, I had no idea," she told her class. "I thought he climbed poles."

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Edith Iglauer (1917-2019), writer

By Tom Hawthorn
The Globe and Mail
February 16, 2019

Few outsiders have so profoundly captured the Canadian spirit as Edith Iglauer, an American who wrote about eccentric geniuses and rough-hewn laborers.

She profiled the artist Bill Reid and the architect Arthur Erickson, though was best known for her memoir, “Fishing with John,” about her unlikely romance with a salmon troller on the Pacific coast. The book was turned into a forgettable movie, but it is not every magazine writer who can claim to have been portrayed on the silver screen by Jaclyn Smith.

In 1969, after the publication of a memorable profile of Pierre Trudeau for the New Yorker magazine, she spontaneously invited the prime minister to dinner at her Manhattan apartment. He accepted, arriving to announce he had invited a guest — Barbra Streisand.

After a career lasting nearly eight decades, including a stint as a war correspondent in the final weeks of the Second World War, Ms. Iglauer has died at 101 in Sechelt on the British Columbia coast, an area where she spent much of the last half of her life.

In the pages of magazines such as Harper’s, The Atlantic and, particularly, the New Yorker, whose staff she joined in 1961, she chronicled a vast land and its peoples for an American audience often indifferent to “the strangers next door,” a phrase used as the title for her collected works of journalism. She was an unsentimental writer with a gimlet eye, rendering her pieces with prose as bracing as the geography in which many of the stories were set.

She wrote often of the Canadian North and expressed a sympathetic yet unromanticized view of the hardships faced by indigenous inhabitants whose centuries-long survival in a pitiless landscape had become perilous with the arrival of interlopers.

In the book “Denison’s Ice Road,” she described the harrowing business of carving a route across tundra and frozen inland seas, where truck drivers kept their right hand on the wheel and their left on the door handle, lest their heavy rig punch through the ice, leaving them mere seconds to abandon what would otherwise be an icy tomb. The book, set in the Northwest Territories, inspired an episode of “Suicide Missions,” a program airing on the History Channel, and, later, the reality television series “Ice Road Truckers.”

Her works were informed by a Chekhovian attention to detail, perhaps no surprise as she had devoured the Russian classics not long out of grade school after the school librarian provided a copy of Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina” at age 12.

Ms. Iglauer displayed the standards of an upper middle-class upbringing — elegant blouses, a confidence about etiquette, and an attention to coiffure, which, late in life, was rendered as a gloriole of silvery hair framing a fine-boned face. She was blessed with a journalist’s most useful quality — a curiosity for which there seemed no satisfying.

Edith Theresa Iglauer was born on March 10, 1917, in Cleveland, a second daughter for the former Bertha Good and Jay Iglauer, a comptroller and later executive for the upscale Halle Bros. department store. Both parents were American born from German Jewish families. His salary afforded the daughters a comfortable upbringing in a large, three-story home in the leafy University Circle neighbourhood. The household included two maids, one of them a 49-year-old widow from Canada. The family later moved to a larger home on a half-acre lot in suburban Cleveland Heights.

Summer weekends were spent at a cabin on the Chagrin River in the Ohio countryside, where Edith rode horses and developed a passion for rural life. Her mother devoured books and displayed exquisite taste, while her more adventurous, free-spirited father exulted in the natural environment.
Late in 1933, even as many struggled through the deprivations of the Depression, the family enjoyed a week-long cruise aboard the ocean liner Mauretania from New York to Halifax and back, likely her first visit to the country she would interpret for her countrymen.

Jay Iglauer had abandoned a university scholarship as a young man to work to support his family after his father’s death, so he encouraged both daughters to pursue higher education. Midway through high school, Edith was sent to Hathaway Brown School for Girls, a private institution in nearby Shaker Heights preparing the social elite for a liberal arts college education. “I missed the boys,” she once said, “but I had two great teachers.” The courses included rigorous language instruction, as lessons about Virgil in Latin by Anna Blake “taught me to listen to the music in words.” The headmistress and English instructor Mary E. Raymond once told her, “Edith, never stop writing.” For the rest of her life, she would recall those four words every time she sat down at a typewriter.

Literature classes at Wellesley College in Massachusetts paled in comparison, a disappointment for a young woman hungry to improve her craft. Instead, she threw herself into club work, serving as president of the Student Forum in her senior year, during which she introduced prominent lecturers, such as professors from Harvard Law, and met students from war-torn China and Loyalist Spain. In December 1937, she attended a conference of Canadian and New England students to discuss the deteriorating global situation.

After graduating with a degree in political science, she attended Columbia University’s School of Journalism in New York, selling articles to the Christian Science Monitor in Boston and to the Cleveland News in her hometown, whose editor, Nat Howard, almost immediately spotted her talent.
After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Ms. Iglauer joined the Office of War Information, where she worked on the religion and Scandinavian desks for the radio newsroom, relaying news to those surreptitiously listening in Norway and other Nazi-occupied countries. She convinced a senior officer to include Eleanor Roosevelt’s weekly White House press briefings in her work routine, forging a friendship with the First Lady.

“As the newest and youngest reporter there,” she said, “I kept my mouth shut, learned a lot and loved being part of her intimate circle of reporters.”

On Dec. 25, 1942, she married the journalist Philip Hamburger, who was also serving with the War Information Office. They had met by chance in the library at Columbia after matchmaking grandmothers from both families sought to introduce the pair. The ceremony was performed by a judge in the home of Major Robert Kintner, a former White House correspondent and columnist with the New York Herald Tribune. (Mr. Kintner became a television network executive after the war, landing on the cover of Time magazine when he testified before the U.S. Congress about the rigging of quiz shows.)

In 1945, Mr. Hamburger was dispatched to Europe as the New Yorker’s correspondent in the Mediterranean Theatre, where he covered the execution of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. Ms. Iglauer, who continued to use her maiden name for professional purposes, traveled to Yugoslavia via Casablanca, filing stories to the Cleveland News, whose readership included many who traced their ancestral roots to the Balkans. Even a short time in a war zone convinced her of the folly of armed conflict.

“The shocking destruction from bombings that I saw everywhere, especially in London, made a confirmed peace marcher out of me,” she told a convocation audience while accepting an honorary degree at the University of Victoria in 2006.

After the war, they set up housekeeping in railroad apartment (small rooms connected in a row without a separate hallway) on the third floor of a walk-up tenement. Mr. Hamburger resumed his career at the New Yorker. After the couple announced a pregnancy, Harold Ross, the magazine’s founder, asked their landlord, who happened to be a friend, to find the couple a larger apartment. The landlord was Vincent Astor, millionaire head of the famous aristocratic family.

The young family fell into traditional roles with Mr. Hamburger as the breadwinner and Ms. Iglauer alone to raise two sons, as well as responsible for organizing dinner parties and other social occasions. Ms. Iglauer once told the writer Annabel Lyon that her husband, a man of great intellect, was so unfamiliar with the daily rigors of childrearing he had once placed the rubber pants next to the baby’s skin with the cloth diaper overtop.

After both boys were in school, Ms. Iglauer endeavored to revive her own career. She arose each morning at 4 a.m. to write for three hours before returning to domestic chores. By then, her husband was a critic and she often accompanied him to concerts and recitals, only to fall asleep midperformance.

She proposed story ideas for the “Talk of the Town” section of the New Yorker. Other writers were then assigned the story. In time, she was allowed to report and write them herself. In 1961, spurred by a sense of adventure, she journeyed by train and dogsled to Northern Quebec to write about an economic co-operative being formed by Innu families whose nomadic life was coming to an end. Other expeditions to remote places in the Arctic followed. She liked to say she discovered Canada from the top down.

Ms. Iglauer displayed a doggedness and meticulous attention to detail notable even for the glacially-paced New Yorker of the era. In 1972, she finished an article on the building of the foundation for the World Trade Center, the story taking longer to complete than the foundation itself.

An exposé on sulphur dioxide in Manhattan’s air forced Consolidated Edison to burn a lighter oil and brought attention to environmental despoliation in 1964, six years before the inaugural Earth Day.
The writer was on assignment when a friend suggested she meet John Heywood Daly, a commercial fisherman. An unlikely romance bloomed between the gruff and uncouth seaman and the sophisticated cosmopolitan. He invited her to spend time with him aboard MoreKelp, a 41-foot boat lacking a toilet and reeking of diesel fuel. She wrongly anticipated pulling into quaint New England ports of her childhood and even packed formal wear for swanky dinner parties, which, needless to say, never materialized. As he worked the coast, she decided she had found her next major writing project, alerting New Yorker editor William Shawn to the story from Port Hardy, surely the only call of its kind ever made from the Vancouver Island fishing village.

She had returned to New York when Mr. Daly awakened her with a telephone call.

“I’ve just bought a wooden toilet seat that I think will fit very well on top of that pail on the boat,” he said. “It’s sky blue, and I paid $8.50 for it.”

“Lovely,” she replied. “But it’s two o’clock in the morning. What about it?”

“What about it?!” he sputtered. “Marriage! That’s what.”

The union was a happy one until the night Mr. Daly died suddenly of a heart attack at a community dance four years after their marriage. In her grief, Ms. Iglauer wrote her most famous, and autobiographical, work, which was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award for Non-fiction in 1988.

Other notable books include “Seven Stones,” a biography of Mr. Erickson published in 1981, and “Inuit Journey” (2000), an updated and revised version of her first book, “The New People,” published in 1966.

She met a widower named Franklin Wetmore White, an autodidact and self-described “bush ape” who had spent much of his life as a trucker and gyppo logger. He was the father of Howard White, her publisher with Harbour Books. They embarked on a Green Acres relationship, as he had spent much of his time in logging camps and had the table manners to show it, while she traveled in circles so sophisticated they not only read the New Yorker, they wrote it. After a quarter-century courtship, they married in 2006. They lived in Mr. Daly’s seaside cottage in Garden Bay on British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast. At age 99, Frank White, who was known as Munga, published a best-selling memoir, “Milk Spills and One-Log Loads,” following up a year later with “That Went By Fast: My First Hundred Years.”

Into her nineties, Ms. Iglauer wrote marvelous short essays for Geist, a literary magazine based in Vancouver. She also worked on a memoir, a genre with which she disliked being associated, as she felt far too many people were writing navel-gazing works of low quality.

She died at Sechelt Hospital on February 13. She leaves two sons, Richard Shaw Hamburger, of New York, a theatre director, and Jay Philip Hamburger, of Vancouver, founder and artistic director of Theatre in the Raw, and their families. Her marriage to Mr. Hamburger ended in divorce in 1966 and he died in 2004, aged 89. She was also predeceased by her second husband, Mr. Daly, who died in 1978, and her third husband, Mr. White, who died in 2015, aged 101. Her older sister, Jane Iglauer Fallon, a patron of the arts and inductee to the Cleveland Play House Hall of Fame, died in 2002, at 89.

Ms. Iglauer displayed a dogged attention to detail notable even for the glacially-paced New Yorker of the era. In 1972, she finished an article on the building of the foundation for the World Trade Center, the story taking longer to complete than the foundation itself.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Marking 50 years on the legislature floor

George MacMinn photographed by Deddeda White.
With renewed attention being paid to the position of the clerk of the B.C. Legislature, here's a profile of George MacMinn, who spent a half-century in the post. 

By Tom Hawthorn
The Globe and Mail
June 4, 2008

George MacMinn's office contains one of only two working fireplaces in the capital's historic parliament building.
His desk has a plaque marking it as once having been used by the Queen.
Such perks are the reward for someone whose workday includes interminable hours at a table on the red-carpeted floor of the legislature.
He is the clerk of the British Columbia Legislature. For 50 years, Mr. MacMinn has been surrounded by politicians, his ears buffeted by the warm blast of rhetoric.
No table officer anywhere in the vast Commonwealth — from Antigua to Zambia — has enjoyed so long a tenure.
In the raucous chamber, in which sitting members square off like irate hockey players, the Speaker acts as referee, wearing a robe instead of a striped shirt. As clerk, Mr. MacMinn is the neutral and non-partisan keeper of the rule book. He is an expert in procedure, precedent and standing orders.
Some may think a half-century of listening to politicians to be cruel and unusual, but not Mr. MacMinn.
"It's a rather awesome experience sitting there in the middle of the action," he said. "Bullets flying back and forth. And none of them seem to hit me."
He's written what some parliamentarians describe as the bible. (No, not the Bible. He's not that old. He's only 78.) Mr. MacMinn is currently at work on the fourth revised edition of his Parliamentary Practice in British Columbia , which he hopes to get to the Queen's Printer later this year.
While not spellbinding reading, it does include a chapter with the promising title of "Offer of Money to Members; Bribery in Elections."
"Haven't had to consult that one," he said. "Yet."
He has served 15 Speakers, observed 10 premiers. His tenure has been such that he has seen sons follow fathers - the Gordon Gibsons, as well as Bill and W.A.C. Bennett - onto the floor.
He has had a front-row seat to some of the most dramatic events in the province's political history. He has felt the elder Mr. Bennett's dominating personality, heard Flyin' Phil Gaglardi in full rhetorical flight, witnessed a defiant Dave Barrett being carried out of the chamber.
He takes so seriously his role as a non-partisan officer that he has not cast a ballot in the 13 provincial elections since he joined the clerk's staff.
His hiring was an unexpected turn of events.
On a quiet day, the 27-year-old lawyer took a telephone call at his office. The voice on the other end wanted to know if he was available that day to meet the province's attorney-general.
"Just a minute, I'll check my calendar," Mr. MacMinn replied. The day's schedule was blank. He agreed to a 3 p.m. appointment.
Robert Bonner, a veteran who had been wounded during the war, was a powerful minister in the Bennett cabinet. The attorney-general had two questions.
"Are you closely aligned with any political party?" he asked.
"I must confess," Mr. MacMinn replied, "I haven't been too interested."
Mr. Bonner seemed pleased by the response.
His second question was succinct, though unexpected.
"Do you have a sense of humour?"
"I think so," Mr. MacMinn answered.
He was then dispatched to meet with a white-haired, craggy-looking fellow named Ned de Beck. The job interview with the clerk of the House was even briefer than the meeting with the attorney-general.
"Are you in any way related to Hope MacMinn?" he asked.
That was his mother.
"I play bridge with her," the clerk said. "You'll do fine."
His appointment was ratified by the House at its next sitting. His salary was a munificent $800. He has not left the table since.
He came to law only after realizing poor science marks did not herald a career in medicine.
He was born in 1930, on the cusp of the Depression, at New Glasgow, N.S., where his father was a bank manager. Earle George MacMinn had dreamed of being a doctor, passing on to his son both his name and his own thwarted ambition, if not necessarily his Conservative politics.
The family moved to Victoria when George was 13. Five years later, he was bird hunting with his father on a day when what seemed to be an inconsequential decision proved to be tragic.
The elder MacMinn slipped into a punt on a lake near Duncan to roust birds on the far shore. Unseen by his son, the boat tipped.
After spotting the overturned craft, as well as his father's hat, floating on the water, George ran for help. The RCMP were unable to find the body. On the following day, the lake froze over. His father's remains were recovered later.
He inherited from his father a love for tennis. Mr. MacMinn makes a biennial pilgrimage to Wimbledon. He has also transformed the expansive lawn between the sea and his Oak Bay house into what he calls Spoon Bay Centre Court. He thinks lawn tennis a subtle game and one easy on the knees of a septuagenarian whose backhand remains defiantly one-handed.
The province is celebrating its sesquicentennial this year, marking 150 years of modern history. The mighty MacMinn has sat dutifully in the legislature for one-third of all those years.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Jim Taylor (1937-2019), sportswriter

By Tom Hawthorn
The Globe and Mail
January 11, 2019

Jim Taylor was a sportswriter more entertaining than the teams he covered. He was certainly more popular.

Generations of Vancouver sports fans knew that however disappointing the performance of hockey’s Canucks, soccer’s Whitecaps, or football’s B.C. Lions, they would be treated the following day to a funny, acerbic and satisfying sports column.

Mr. Taylor, who has died on Vancouver Island at 81, showed little patience for prima donna athletes, or wannabe jocks in the press box. He abhorred cliché, eschewed the bland quote, and took delight in eviscerating the pompous.

His bon mots were shared at office water coolers, stuck to refrigerators, kept folded inside wallets and purses. In the days when he wrote for the afternoon Vancouver Sun, sports-obsessed schoolchildren raced home after the final bell to read his column.

Over the years, he wrote more than 15,000 newspaper columns, many of them produced on deadline. He did at least twice as many radio commentaries, as well as countless television appearances, and found the time to write more than a dozen books, including collaborations with wheelchair athlete Rick Hansen, big-band leader Dal Richards and the father-son duo of Walter and Wayne Gretzky. Two collections of his columns were titled, “You Mean I Get Paid to do This?” and “Forgive Me My Press Passes.”

His writing displayed a deft, conversational touch leavened by sarcasm and wit. It had been his ambition as a young man to be a humourist like Eric Nicol.

When a hockey team agreed to pay out the remaining $60,000 on a player’s contract, Mr. Taylor conjured an epistolary exchange with his editor in which he munificently offered to not write for a similar amount.

When another hockey player’s first-person account of skating in the Stanley Cup playoffs was pitched to his editor, Mr. Taylor’s response was a column in which he offered to be a sixth-string defenceman for the New York Islanders.

“In my entire life I’d bet on four horses,” he once wrote. “At last report all four were still running and the clocker was using a sundial.”

Mr. Taylor once explained to readers the positions of a curling foursome: “Each rink is made up of a ‘lead,’ who is first to the bar; a ‘second,’ who is a step slower; a ‘third,’ who arrives in time to buy the round; and a ‘skip,’ so called because he’s always in the washroom when the tab arrives.”

When the Edmonton Eskimos dominated football and the Edmonton Oilers hockey, Mr. Taylor assured Vancouver readers that those fans, however happy, still faced the ignominy of living in a barren wasteland.

“It’s Minor Hockey Week in Canada,” he once suggested. “Take a Canuck to lunch.”

The concluding series of never-ending hockey playoffs he described as “the Stanley Cup Finally.”

He dismissed baseball except for its soporific qualities. “To be properly appreciated,” he wrote, “baseball requires a great sofa.”

There was nothing athletic about Mr. Taylor, who was bald in his 20s and squinted behind thick glasses. He had a braying laugh and a habit of testing one-liners on fellow sportswriters. Colleagues nicknamed him Skull for his barren scalp. When he and fellow Sun columnist Jim Kearney both took ill during a road trip, Mr. Taylor branded them as “Butch Casualty and the Sunstroke Kid.”

His humour about gender roles and conjugal relations dated from the Mad Men era, yet he helped at least one aspiring young woman to break into sports writing. He was known for his generosity to young reporters, offering words of praise. His opinions about newspaper management were mostly unprintable. He left the Vancouver Sun when a new publisher forbade freelance work. Mr. Taylor’s impressive output in print, radio and on television was fueled by a desire to provide the best possible care for a daughter rendered a quadriplegic when crashed into by a reckless skier in 1976.

James Edgar Taylor was born on March 16, 1937, in the Saskatchewan village of Nipawin, population 892. “To get to Nipawin,” he wrote, “you headed the dog team north and when the last dog died, you were almost there.” He was the youngest of four children born to the former Ethel Florence Quinton, the daughter of a Winnipeg sheet-metal worker, and James Edgar Taylor Sr., known as Ed, a grocer who became the proprietor of a coffee shop.

Mr. Taylor’s earliest memory was of listening to hockey broadcasts on the radio on Saturday evenings with his father. At the grocery store, the boy would be plunked onto the counter to recite the roster of the Toronto Maple Leafs by memory in hopes of coaxing a nickel from customers.

The family opened a coffee shop down the street from their home. Taylor’s Lunch Room served fresh pies and doughnuts, as well as sandwiches for the lunch crowd. His mother cooked, a sister served and an older brother chopped wood to keep the ovens roaring. By then, his father had been left bedridden with cancer in a room off the dining area. He died two weeks after Jim’s seventh birthday. 

A fortnight after that, the boy was in a Winnipeg hospital to have an operation on a lazy left eye. In his 2008 memoir, “Hello Sweetheart? Gimmie Rewrite!,” Mr. Taylor recounts awakening from surgery to utter darkness. He screamed until calmed by nuns. No one had thought to warn him he would need to wear a bandage over his eyes for two weeks.

With an oldest brother fighting overseas during the Second World War, the family struggled financially, living briefly in Winnipeg, where his mother operated a rooming house before returning to Nipawin, where she opened a smaller coffee shop called Kozy Korner. They returned to Winnipeg before moving to Victoria to move in with her brother.

An English and journalism teacher at Victoria High School spotted the young man’s felicity with words and got him a part-time job at the Daily Colonist covering men’s softball. The youth was so inexperienced that for his first story he set the margins of his typewriter the exact same width as a newspaper column. So uncertain was Mr. Taylor of his future that for a time he retained his morning paper route for the same newspaper.

Mr. Taylor also successfully proposed a column about popular music for young people. (He mostly wanted free records.) The column, called “Needle Dust” before he renamed it “Off the Record,” is remembered for his prediction of the flash-in-the-pan popularity of a young singer named Elvis Presley.

In 1963, Mr. Taylor traveled from Victoria to Vancouver to cover the Grey Cup football championship, during which Angelo Mosca of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats delivered a devastating and possibly late hit on hometown hero Willie Fleming of the B.C. Lions. The Ticats went on to win the game. Mr. Tayor raced to the ferry, wrote his stories while aboard ship, dropped them off at the newspaper office, and then covered a local hockey game.

After a decade in the British Columbia capital, Mr. Taylor was lured to Vancouver to join the staff of the fledgling Vancouver Times, a daily founded by hustling advertising salesman Val Warren. The city’s third daily lasted less than a year before folding and Mr. Taylor retreated to the Colonist.

The Vancouver Sun hired him to cover the football beat in 1966. Four years later, he joined Mr. Kearney as a columnist in replacing the great Denny Boyd. The sports department also included the fine horseracing writer Archie McDonald and a stellar cast of beat reporters. Mr. Taylor covered the 1972 Winter Olympics in Japan, as well as hockey’s legendary Summit Series in September, which placed him in Moscow to witness Paul Henderson’s famous goal.

Mr. Taylor left the Vancouver Sun by moving down the hall of a shared building to write columns for The Province, his home for the next 16 years. In 1995, he was hired away to become the assistant publisher and marquee columnist for a weekly called Sports Only, a tentative foray into the Vancouver market by the Toronto Sun newspaper chain. After the weekly soon after folded, Mr. Taylor became a nationally syndicated columnist with the Calgary Sun until his retirement from daily journalism in 2001.

Mr. Taylor was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame (1989), the Greater Victoria Sports Hall of Fame (2006) and the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame (2005) in Vancouver. In 2010, he received the Bruce Hutchison Lifetime Achievement Award from the Jack Webster Foundation, the province’s highest journalism accolade.

Mr. Taylor died on Jan. 7 at his home at Shawnigan Lake, outside Victoria. He leaves a son, Christopher, and a daughter, Teresa. He was predeceased by his wife of 56 years, the former Deborah Easton, who died in 2016.

For all his accolades, Mr. Taylor readily acknowledged missing out on the sports scoop of his career. At the teary 1988 press conference announcing his trade from the Edmonton Oilers, Wayne Gretzky opened by saying, “I want to apologize to my friend Jim Taylor in front of everyone.” Mr. Taylor had learned of the pending deal but out of loyalty to the family pledged to hold the information until an approved time. Instead, news leaked out and Mr. Taylor lost the scoop. He did not regret it, he said. After all, he had given his word.