Hammers, nails and words

Writer’s garret.

It was a few weeks after summer had officially begun. I was up in my writing roost – a.k.a. my upstairs office. With the start of summer, I had just started writing a book. I’m not being presumptuous. It’s often what I’ve done over the past 15 or 20 years – I’ve taken the summer to complete a manuscript, I hope for publication soon after the summer is done. Anyway, I heard an SUV pull up next door and a man stepped out and began assembling his survey equipment. I asked him what was going on.

“They’re going to start building here,” he said. “They’re just waiting for this survey.”

Do not blame the defender

Calgary Flames celebrate a goal accidentally scored by Edmonton Oilers defence man Steve Smith (who's collapsed in background).
Calgary Flames celebrate a goal accidentally scored by Edmonton Oilers defence man Steve Smith (who’s collapsed in background).

I remember the moment, yes, as if it were yesterday. Those of us who were Edmonton Oilers fans back then will always remember. It was early in the third period in Game 7 of the Smyth Division final between arch Alberta rivals – the Calgary Flames and the Edmonton Oilers – in the 1985-86 season. And I remember stalwart CBC TV play-by-play announcer Don Whitman’s call vividly. His surprise and shock spoke for us all.

“Grant Fuhr clears, behind his own net,” he described rather calmly. But then, reacting to Oilers’ defenceman Steve Smith taking the puck, looking up ice and attempting a pass, Whitman continued, “They scored! Oh! Steve Smith, attempting to clear the puck out of his own zone, put it in his own net.”

The plastic brain

Dr. Norman Doidge
Dr. Norman Doidge

At Centennial College where I work in Toronto, this past week, I faced new students, people with different destinations than my students last fall. As I asked them about their aspirations for the course I was about to teach, one asked about what I do. In passing, I mentioned I’d be interviewing a doctor who believes the human brain can change, adapt, and even heal itself. Curious, I asked the class if anyone had ever had a traumatic brain experience.

“When I was young, I had a stroke,” one student said. “It took away my speech. I couldn’t talk.”

I nodded that her current speech suggested a full recovery. “What happened? How did your speech come back?”

“They taught me Italian,” she said. “I didn’t know a word of it. But in learning the Italian I got my English speech back.”

Empty Olympics

Courtesy CBC.ca, Susan Nattrass, Edmonton-based trap shooter.

Somewhere in the palatial offices of the International Olympic Committee in Lausanne, Switzerland, they missed something. Yes, they’ve awarded the successful bids: it’s Sochi, Russia, in the winter of 2014 and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in the summer of 2016. They finally got all nations signed on to having women recognized as athletes. That’s all good. But when it came down to the most basic quotient of the games – putting bums in seats – it appears the IOC brain trust has bobbled the baton. The commentators spotted it right away.

“Why are there so many empty seats?” one of them said, Sunday.

Gretzky at 50

The Great One, Wayne Gretzky, as seen on a hockey collectors' card in the Edmonton Oiliers' heyday during the 1970s.
The Great One, Wayne Gretzky, as seen on a hockey collectors' card in the Edmonton Oiliers' heyday during the 1970s.

All last week, they remembered his 50th. Hockey commentators waxed eloquent. His on-ice peers remembered their brushes with him as teammates or opponents. Most columnists had at plenty of anecdotes about his goal-scoring prowess, his record number of records and his so-called sixth sense on skates. Well, I was there for his 50th too. Not his 50th birthday. I was there to witness the final seconds of the game of games:

“Anderson gets it to Gretzky. He’s got the open net!” shouted Rod Phillips, the Oilers’ play-by-play announcer that night. “Will he shoot? He does. He scores! He has broken the record. Wayne Gretzky’s 50th goal in 39 games. Gretzky has done the unbelievable.”