Travelling to Stampede City… Old Hockey, Football… Media Heroes, Past and Present

By HOWARD BERGER

CALGARY (Feb. 14) – Having arrived here amid snow-flurries that progressed into a mini-blizzard on Monday afternoon, I’m looking forward to covering the Maple Leafs annual western-Canada road trip for this corner and the National Post. It is challenging to envision what the Leafs might be able to accomplish against Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver; equally taxing to come across a rabid fan of the Blue and White that doesn’t fear the three-game journey. That may not have been the case a week ago, when Leafs were riding a 4-0-1 hot streak and coming off a 5-0 road destruction of the Ottawa Senators. But, a trio of subsequent losses, including the 5-0 embarrassment against Montreal on Saturday, has Leafs Nation in a bit of a lather – surely to become a torrent of antipathy should the string of defeats continue here in Alberta.

Today’s blog is a smorgasbord of photographs from different eras and sports. Enjoy…

IT WAS A GORGEOUS, LATE-WINTER AFTERNOON AS MY AIR CANADA FLIGHT TO CALGARY LIFTED OFF RUNWAY-23 AT PEARSON INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT AROUND 2:20 P.M. MONDAY – EVIDENCED BY THE IMAGES ABOVE AND BELOW.

 

 

 

FIFTEEN MINUTES INTO THE FLIGHT, WE PASSED OVER OWEN SOUND, ONT. (ABOVE), AT THE TIP OF THE BRUCE PENNINSULA.

THE CITY OF THUNDER BAY, ONT. (ABOVE) AT THE NORTHERN EDGE OF LAKE SUPERIOR.

ABOUT TWO HOURS INTO THE FLIGHT – AND HARD BY THE RED RIVER – WAS DOWNTOWN WINNIPEG (ABOVE) FROM 38,000 FEET, AND THE CITY’S RICHARDSON INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT (BELOW).

 

THERE WAS NOTHING TO GET EXCITED ABOUT, WEATHER-WISE, AS WE TOUCHED DOWN HERE IN CALGARY (ABOVE) JUST AFTER 4 P.M. LOCAL TIME, AND 3:42 AFTER LEAVING THE RUNWAY IN TORONTO.

ARRIVING AT MY HOTEL IN A MINOR SNOW-STORM (ABOVE), IT WAS COMFORTING THAT FINE DINING WAS ONLY A FEW STEPS AWAY – PARTICULARLY AFTER THE WEATHER TURNED NASTY AT NIGHT (BELOW).

 

 OLD HOCKEY PHOTOS

I came across an envelope of hockey player photos I purchased at a collector’s show more than a decade ago, taken at ice level in the old Detroit Olympia back in 1967.

 

SADLY, PHIL ESPOSITO IS NAVIGATING THROUGH LIFE’S MOST DIFFICULT CIRCUMSTANCE AS HE APPROACHES HIS 70th BIRTHDAY NEXT MONDAY, HAVING LOST HIS 43-YEAR-OLD DAUGHTER, CARRIE, AFTER AN ILLNESS TWO WEEKS AGO. THE HALL OF FAMER AND LEADER OF TEAM CANADA IN 1972 WAS PHOTOGRAPHED ABOVE IN HIS FINAL SEASON WITH THE BLACKHAWKS [1966-67] AND BELOW IN HIS FIRST YEAR OF A PROLIFIC, RECORD-SMASHING TERM WITH BOSTON.

 

A PAIR OF FORMER LEAFS WERE ORIGINAL MEMBERS OF THE CALIFORNIA SEALS: BOB BAUN (ABOVE-LEFT) AND BILLY HARRIS (RIGHT) PHOTOGRAPHED DURING WARM-UP OF SEALS FIRST GAME IN DETROIT, OCT. 25, 1967.

AB McDONALD (ABOVE-LEFT), CAPTAIN OF THE EXPANSION PITTSBURGH PENGUINS IN 1967-68 AND A YOUNG GARY DORNHOEFER WITH THE PHILADELPHIA FLYERS, FIRST EXPANSION TEAM TO WIN THE STANLEY CUP (IN 1974).

AL ARBOUR (ABOVE) PLAYED ALL 74 GAMES ON DEFENCE FOR THE EXPANSION ST. LOUIS BLUES IN 1967-68, BUT WOULD MOLD HIS HALL-OF-FAME CREDENTIALS AS COACH OF THE NEW YORK ISLANDERS JUST MORE THAN A DECADE LATER, GUIDING THE CLUB TO FOUR CONSECUTIVE STANLEY CUP TITLES (1980-83).

MARIO LEMIEUX SIGNED THE ABOVE PHOTO TO ME AT A CHARITY FUNCTION AFTER HIS ROOKIE NHL SEASON (1984-85).

 

OLD CFL PHOTOS

This is big-time football country here in Calgary, so what better place than to show several photographs I took at Toronto Argonaut home games in the 1972 season – 40 years ago! – when I was 13.

ARGONAUTS PUNTER ZENON ANDRUSYSHYN (ABOVE) – A NATIVE OF OAKVILLE, ONT. WHO PLAYED COLLEGE BALL AT UCLA – TAKES PART IN WARM-UP AT THE OLD CNE STADIUM BEFORE GAME AGAINST HAMILTON TIGER-CATS ON SEP. 10, 1972. FOR THOSE OF MY VINTAGE AND BEYOND, HERE’S SOME PERSPECTIVE: THIS FOOTBALL GAME WAS PLAYED TWO DAYS AFTER THE CANADIAN PORTION OF THE LEGENDARY CANADA-RUSSIA HOCKEY SERIES IN ’72, DURING THE TWO-WEEK BREAK BEFORE THE SERIES RESUMED IN MOSCOW AND PAUL HENDERSON BECAME A NATIONAL SPORTS HERO.

CNE STADIUM (ABOVE) AS IT APPEARED IN ITS FOOTBALL-ONLY CONFIGURATION – THREE YEARS BEFORE BEING RENOVATED AND EXPANDED FOR BASEBALL, AND FIVE YEARS BEFORE THE ARRIVAL OF THE TORONTO BLUE JAYS.

SECURITY WASN’T EXACTLY AIR-TIGHT AT THE CNE IN 1972, AS A 13-YEAR-OLD WITH A POLARIOID INSTAMATIC CAMERA WAS SOMEHOW ALLOWED TO SNEAK ONTO THE VISITORS’ SIDELINE (ABOVE) AND PHOTOGRAPH THE TIGER-CATS UP CLOSE.

I MANAGED THE SAME TRICK FOUR WEEKS LATER – OCT. 8, 1972 – WHEN THE MONTREAL ALOUETTES WERE IN TOWN. THAT’S GORDON JUDGES (ABOVE), A DEFENSIVE TACKLE ON SEVERAL GREY CUP TEAMS IN MONTREAL. PHOTO BELOW SHOWS ALS’ RUNNING BACK LARRY SMITH, WHO WOULD BE COMMISSIONER OF THE CFL IN THE MID-’90s, AND TONY PROUDFOOT (23), THE DEFENSIVE HALFBACK THAT CONTRACTED A-L-S (LOU GEHRIG’S DISEASE) AFTER HIS PLAYING CAREER AND CHRONICLED HIS PHYSICAL DETERIORATION IN A SEQUENCE OF REMARKABLE COLUMNS FOR THE MONTREAL GAZETTE. TONY DIED ON DEC. 30, 2010.

 

TO THIS DAY, I’M HAPPY THAT ALOUETTES LINEBACKER BRIAN MARCIL (70 ABOVE) DID NOT TURN AROUND AS I SNAPPED THIS PHOTO; I WAS LITERALLY THREE INCHES BEHIND THE 24-YEAR-OLD NATIVE OF RICHMOND, QUE. (HE IS NOW 63). ANYONE THAT REMEMBERS THE CFL OF THE EARLY-’70s WILL RECOGNIZE MONTREAL QUARTERBACK SONNY WADE (14 BELOW).

 

TOOK THE ABOVE PHOTO DURING A TORONTO AT HAMILTON CFL GAME ON SEP. 24, 1972. WHILE IT WAS BEING PLAYED, CANADA AND RUSSIA WERE SKATING IN GAME 6 OF THE SUMMIT SERIES IN MOSCOW, AS PAUL HENDERSON’S FIRST OF THREE CONSECUTIVE WINNING GOALS BEGAN THE CANADIAN COMEBACK FROM A 1-3-1 DEFICIT.

 

MY MEDIA HEROES

We’ve been graced with tributes to the legendary sports columnist, Trent Frayne (pictured below), who passed away at 93 years of age on Saturday morning. As many others of my ilk and vintage have pointed out, Trent was a warm, wonderful man that always had time to mentor and encourage young people in the business; it was my honor to have known and learned from him. 

 

TRENT WROTE THE TEXT PORTION OF THIS AMAZING COFFEE-TABLE BOOK THAT CAME OUT IN THE FALL OF 1969, AND FEATURED THE COLOR PHOTOGRAPHY OF HAROLD BARKLEY, WHO PIONEERED THE INDUSTRY IN THE ’60s AND EARLY-’70s. THOUGH ITS BINDING IS RATHER WORN, I STILL HAVE THE BOOK AT HOME, 42 YEARS AFTER MY LATE MOM BOUGHT IT FOR ME.

 

JOHNNY BOWER WROTE THE FORWORD TO THE BOOK (ABOVE AND BELOW).

 

I’LL NEVER FORGET MARVELLING AT PHOTOS FROM THE EARLY EXPANSION YEARS IN THE NHL; THE BOOK WAS LOADED WITH THEM (ABOVE AND BELOW).

 

 

THE MIDDLE-’60s WERE ALSO PORTRAYED, AS IN THIS FIGHT SCENE (ABOVE) FROM A TORONTO-NEW YORK GAME AT MAPLE LEAF GARDENS. TERRY SAWCHUK WAS THE LEAFS GOALIE.

OTHER BOOKS WRITTEN  AND EDITED BY TRENT FRAYNE (ABOVE AND BELOW).

 

WHEN THE NHL CELEBRATED ITS 75th ANNIVERSARY SEASON IN 1991-92, IT ASKED FRAYNE TO WRITE A CHAPTER ON THE 1950s DETROIT RED WINGS DYNASTY FOR A COMMEMORATIVE BOOK (ABOVE AND BELOW).

 

 

MY MENTORS

 

I STILL MISS AND THINK FREQUENTLY ABOUT MY FRIEND JIM PROUDFOOT (ABOVE) – THE TORONTO STAR COLUMNIST WHO TAUGHT ME MORE ABOUT THE BUSINESS THAN ANYONE ELSE DURING OUR MANY GREAT TIMES TOGETHER IN THE ’80s AND ’90s. “CHESTER” SUFFERED A STROKE IN 2000 AND DIED EARLY IN 2001.

PROUDFOOT’S MENTOR WAS THE DEAN OF CANADIAN SPORTS COLUMNISTS – MILT DUNNELL OF THE STAR (ABOVE) – WHO WORKED WELL INTO HIS 90s AND DIED AT AGE 103 (PHOTO TOWARD THE END OF HIS LIFE, ABOVE-RIGHT). IT WAS MY PRIVILEGE TO HAVE ENGAGED IN A NUMBER OF ENLIGHTNING CHATS WITH MILT.

I LOVED THE LATE BLUE JAYS RADIO VOICE TOM CHEEK (ABOVE), AS A PERSON AND A BROADCASTER. WE WROTE A BOOK TOGETHER AFTER THE JAYS WON THEIR FIRST OF CONSECUTIVE WORLD SERIES TITLES IN 1992. WHILE IN TAMPA WITH THE LEAFS, I WOULD OFTEN GET TOGETHER WITH TOM AND HIS WIFE, SHIRLEY, WHO LIVED NORTH OF THE CITY (IN OLDSMAR, FLA.); IT WAS TRAGIC WHEN TOM DIED OF BRAIN CANCER IN OCTOBER 2005.

WINNIPEG CBC LEGEND DON WITTMAN (ABOVE) ALSO SUCCUMBED TO CANCER (IN JANUARY 2008). I’LL NEVER FORGET WITTMAN INTERVIEWING ME ON RADIO DURING THE INTERMISSION OF A LEAFS-JETS GAME AT WINNIPEG ARENA IN 1994. I MADE SURE TO END THE INTERVIEW BY TELLING DON AND HIS LISTENERS WHAT AN HONOR IT HAD BEEN TO SHARE THE MIKE WITH SUCH A RESPECTED BROADCASTER, LIKED BY EVERYONE.

OL’ “MARS-BAR” – PAT MARSDEN (POSING WITH CFTO-TV COLLEAGUE FERGIE OLVER AND A YOUNG WAYNE GRETZKY ABOVE) – WAS A COLLEAGUE AT THE FAN-590 FOR MANY YEARS, CO-HOSTING THE MORNING SHOW WITH JOHN DERRINGER, THEN DON LANDRY. HE ALWAYS HAD A KIND WORD FOR ME. AND HE MAY HAVE BEEN THE BEST FOOTBALL PLAY-BY-PLAY BROADCASTER ON EITHER SIDE OF THE BORDER WHILE CALLING CFL GAMES ON CTV IN THE ’70s AND ’80s. PAT ALSO DIED OF CANCER – IN APRIL 2006.

 

AMONG THE LIVING, I HAVE TREMENDOUS RESPECT AND GRATITUDE FOR THE MENTORSHIP AND FRIENDSHIP OF THOSE PICTURED ABOVE: HOCKEY-WRITING LEGEND FRANK ORR OF THE TORONTO STAR – HE TAUGHT ME THE ROPES AND ALWAYS HAD KIND, SUPPORTIVE WORDS; JIM KERNAGHAN (SPEAKING AT MICROPHONE), WHO LEFT THE STAR FOR THE LONDON FREE PRESS; MY PAL JOHN IABONI (MIDDLE), WHO I FOLLOWED RELIGIOUSLY AS HE COVERED THE LEAFS OF THE LATE-’70s FOR THE TORONTO SUN; DAVE PERKINS OF THE STAR (ABOVE-LEFT), WHOSE BRILLIANT WORD ARRANGEMENTS AND CAUSTIC HUMOR ARE LEGENDARY; AND JAMES CHRISTIE (RIGHT), WHO COVERED THE LEAFS OF THE ’70s AND ’80s FOR THE GLOBE AND MAIL BEFORE TURNING TO AMATEUR SPORT.

 

NO ONE CALLED ME MORE OFTEN – AND WITH MORE WARMTH AND FEELING – THAN THE ONE AND ONLY BRIAN WILLIAMS (ABOVE) IN THE DAYS AND WEEKS AFTER I WAS LET GO LAST JUNE BY THE FAN-590. WHAT A GREAT FRIEND HE HAS BEEN FOR SO MANY YEARS.

SPEAKING OF GREAT, WHAT A THRILL IT HAS BEEN TO GET TO KNOW THE “WALTER CRONKITE” OF CANADA – CBC NEWS ANCHOR PETER MANSBRIDGE (ABOVE) – AN AVID FOLLOWER OF THIS BLOG AND A TRULY VALUED SUPPORTER.

5 comments on “Travelling to Stampede City… Old Hockey, Football… Media Heroes, Past and Present

  1. Howard, what a trip down memory lane! Absolutely gorgeous shots. The only thing missing is the North York Rangers-Hamilton A’s ruckus.. and you know what I’m talking about! lol

  2. Howard,

    I continue to genuinely enjoy your blogs and many of them bring back some great memories that we both share.
    Your thoughts on Trent Frayne and many of our sports writing/broadcasting mentors and collegues who predeceased him generated some great rememberances for me too.
    And to our many still living mentors and associates, like you, I wish them well and continued good health.

    Cheers to all,
    Doug Philpott

  3. Howard, I’m touched to have been included among your list of distinguished “greats” in media that have made an impact in your life and career. This is, egad (as our old Pal Chester Proudfoot would say), my 44th year in the sports media business and I’ve had the opportunity to work with virtually everyone that you listed. I also feel privileged that my life was touched by all of them. Now a word about you … Your enthusiasm for sports and the people at our end who cover the games and athletes is unique for its passion and collection (personal photos, books, programs, collectibles, etc). It’s great to see you offering your insights, musings and photo collections in your blogs. Stay well, Howard, and once again, thanks.

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