They say time flies when you’re having fun.
Your faithful correspondent can identify with that axiom.
It was 35 years ago this May that I hired on at the Advocate and joined a team of lovely and talented journalists, a group that changed faces many, many times but always remained a team.
And now it’s time that I take my leave like so many before me. This is one of the final pieces I will pen for the Advocate before officially packing it in after cranking out one last Rebels game story Friday night.
It’s been a great run, one that has stretched over 34 years and a large chunk of change, and yet one that seemingly started not nearly that long ago. It seems like just yesterday, or the day before, or … well, you get my drift.
Memories? There are many, of course.
My first beat of regularity was following the junior A Rustlers, a responsibility that took me west on three occasions as the AJHL championship squad took on the B.C. champs for the right to then meet the Manitoba-Saskatchewan winner and represent Western Canada in a national championship final.
There were trips to Penticton, Richmond and Vernon, the 1989 series with Richmond being the last games the Rustlers played before the franchise died.
The series with the Richmond Sockeyes was the most memorable of the three. The highly-favoured Sockeyes featured several former major junior skaters, including defenceman Matt Hervey who went on to play in the NHL with Winnipeg, Boston and Tampa Bay. The Richmond squad took the first two games of the best-of-seven set at home, with Sockeye fans tossing golf balls at the Red Deer bench near the end of Game 2.
The series then moved to the Red Deer Arena, with Advocate sports columnist Jack Wilson — prior to Game 3 — suggesting that Rustlers fans return the favour and welcome with Sockeyes with not fresh salmon, but canned salmon. The Richmond coaching staff and players were not impressed, but got the last laugh when the visitors finally prevailed in seven games — the final five being more than just a tad physical — and went on to capture the national championship.
Other events that will never be forgotten by yours truly include the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, during which I watched Karen Percy — who had Innisfail ties — win a downhill ski bronze, the 1990 world figure skating championships in Halifax where Caroline’s Kurt Browning won his second of three consecutive world titles, and several Battles of Alberta between the Oilers and Flames.
Additional events of note that I was blessed with the privilege of covering include the 1994 Centennial Cup tournament won by the host Olds Grizzlys, the Brier that same year at the Centrium and the two Scotties Tournament of Hearts shows hosted by Red Deer.
In 1992 the Red Deer Rebels entered the picture and quickly became the biggest sports story in town. The club made the WHL playoffs as an expansion side, then experienced numerous dips and dives before winning the Memorial Cup in 2001 at Regina.
Covering the Rebels for Central Alberta’s newspaper has been a great honour and without doubt the most enjoyable of my many responsibilities over the years.
But time is up and life goes on. My replacement at the sports desk will surely continue to provide readers with in-depth coverage of the WHL squad as well as the oodles of sports teams and athletes that are worthy of recognition.
Again, its been a great run. Thirty five years, or very nearly, is indeed a long time. And yet it isn’t. Not when you’re having fun.