Tuesday, 7 May 2013

A downtown arena hero could be lurking. Who will it be?

It really should feel like Christmas Eve in Edmonton. But of course it doesn’t because the mercury got up to 31 degrees Monday.
But I don’t sense any excitement as we hang up our shorts and T-shirts this evening. Because May 8, 2013 could go down as one of the biggest days in Edmonton’s history when city council gives the final green light for the new downtown arena.
The operative word here is could.
I think the arena deal is far from over. And although we have been told to uncork certain adult beverages on May 8 as the day Edmonton finally tumbles over the monumental hump, I’ll just stick to coffee, thank you.
I am afraid the entire project is still very much at risk. I also think it could be turned into an election hot potato when Edmontionians go to the polls in the fall.
Oh, sure: if the missing $55 million for the project somehow appeared the vote would be a no-brainer. But without it how can we expect city councilors to move forward?
We can’t. If they did they wouldn’t be acting responsibility.
Over the several years we he seen the two parties involved, city council and Edmonton Oiler owner Daryl Katz, jostle for positioning. Both parties have shown leadership and vision for the city.
On the other hand, both parties have remained steadfast in their position and do not want to move anymore.
It’s all part of negotiations.
But at this crucial point, when the future of Edmonton’s image could very be reflected in a negative light if the project is lost forever, someone has a golden opportunity to be the savior here.
Both the city and the Katz Group could make a last-second concession. And who knows if that isn’t being discussed now, or perhaps later Tuesday evening? Maybe a deal maker is …
Or could that be the provincial government, who has repeatedly said there will not be any provincial funding?
Someone has to make a significant step forward to move the downtown arena deal ahead.
If not, I fear we’re going to continue the process of wheels spinning and, sadly, loose the opportunity of Edmonton being on even ground as a great Canadian city.
Yet, heroes manifest themselves every day.
Only time will tell if Edmonton will have one walking down an Edmonton street in May — rather than a chimney in December.

Monday, 6 May 2013

A green folder with a chart? In my bathroom at home? You're kidding? Right?

Green doesn’t go very will with the color schemes in my bathroom.
But now I have a green folder in my washroom. And what’s worse is what in it — causing one to seriously ask if Alberta Health Services is running scared?
Perhaps more to the point: the provincial government’s health arm, apparently, believes all Albertans with people with disabilities do not have — and should not have — much control in their own care.
And we’re supposedly living in 2013 with progressive thinking?
I have cerebral palsy and use a wheelchair. I need assistance with my morning shower, getting onto a bath chair and adjusting the temperature of the water.
Here’s where the green folder enters the equation … and the bathroom. Alberta Health Services has implemented a new program: the person helping me with my shower must check the water temperature three times.
There’s a chart in the green folder and now must be initialed by the staff member after checking the shower temperature.
I seem to have lost the ability to do so myself, despite my 50 plus years of experience, and despite AHS officials not having the class to ask me if I can do so.
But hark! Something like that would take too much time, wouldn’t it? So AHS has decided to deem all people with disabilities in the same boat — tubs, you see, would be too small — and declare all of us mentally unfit to judge our own bath or shower water.
What if I come home next winter after being outside on a cold, stormy night and I am cold — and want a nice hot shower to warm up? Nobody can determine but me the warmth of the water that will warm me up except ... me.
I am insulted thinking that individual right now seems to be running down my shower drain.
I resent my own home, the very place I own with money I have worked for over 30 years, being turned into a mini-institution. Not even a single millimeter.
Over the decades, people with disabilities have fought blood, sweat and tears to live in the community and take risks, rather than co-habituating in the stoic walls of nursing homes and extended care centres.
I am fearful this new initiative — and I’m being kind, here — might be just the beginning of AHS taking more control. What’s next? Signs in our condo’s lobby stating visiting hours are over at 9 p.m.?
We have to ask ourselves why? Why is this happening now?
A good friend made an interesting point Sunday: something probably happened with community care that was handed over to a lawyer who let legal jargon over rule common sense and first-hand experience. AHS had to act, do something — and their new charting system fit the knee jerk reaction perfectly.
I am not, by any means, dismissing the seriousness of the scalding water.   Jeannie Wilson died in 2004 when she suffered burns in a bath tub as a resident living in the Jubilee Nursing Home in Edmonton.
Words cannot describe such a loss. 
I strongly suggest testing water temperatures for people who cannot do it for themselves is mandatory. Absolutely.
But it is fundamentally wrong for Alberta Health Services to march into private homes of mentally alert people and arbitrarily make such intrusive changes. 
It begs the question: how much is Alberta Health Services is, and why are they spraying innocent people with cold water? 

Friday, 3 May 2013

In the Nic of Time: Chapter One — Tears in the stands

There would come a time, I kept telling myself, when I would write the incredible story I saw unfold on the morning of March 3. I just didn’t when that time would surface.When I looked at the calendar and realized this marks the two-month mark of since it happened, I knew it was time.Winter had a solid bite on Edmonton March 3 — a Sunday. Our family gathered for an early morning hockey game at Kenilworth Arena to watch our grandson Nicholas play. 
Number  seven. Centre. Goal scorer. On the way to Kenilworth Arena — an old community barn, oozing with character nestled in southeast Edmonton — Nicholas told his father Darren he was going to score a goal that day for his mom. We had some concerns if Nic would even play that morning. But when he went to bed the night before and tucked his hockey stick and puck under his blanket, we knew he would be in the line-up.
It could have been easy for Nic not to play. Understandable, too: on March 2 his mother passed  away after a six-year cancer battle. Nic, 10, was at her hospital side when she died.
He said he wanted to play the very next day.
Nic had many family vmembers in the Kennilworth stands cheering him on.      
Midway through the second period he had the puck in front of the net and picked the right hand corner for his second goal of the game.
Many of us watching had tears in our eyes: it was bittersweet of sadness and jubilation. Nic was so excited when he threw both hockey gloves in the air before taking the following faceoff.
After the game, Nic’s coach Shaye Ganam closed the dressing room door to have a private meeting. Shaye told the team about Nic’s mom.
On his way out of the rink, Shaye stopped and we shook hands. I asked how Nic was.
After our team meeting I asked Nic if he wanted to say anything,” said Shaye, who is a broadcaster for Global TV Edmonton.
Nic got up and said, ‘When you say goodnight to your Mom, give her an extra hug — because I don’t have on anymore.”
Two goals and a profound statement.
It may have been two months ago, but it will remain with me the rest of my days.


Wednesday, 1 May 2013

An open letter to Don Cherry

Dear Mr. Cherry:
You seem … unhappy.
You seem … impatient.
You seem … like you’ve had enough.
So could this be your last playoffs, and even your last season being on Coach’s Corner?
I bring this to your attention following your show Wednesday night on Hockey Night In Canada, during the first intermission of the Boston Bruin-Toronto Maple Leaf game.
You poured more fuel on the controversy you evoked Saturday night when you said women reporters do not belong in the dressing room by re-affirming your position.
You seemed frustrated with your co-host Ron MacLean, and, at one point snapped: “Do your job here. Let’s go.”
Coach’s Corner was obviously tight for time at the end of the segment. You were hoping to talk about Minnesota Wild goaltender Josh Harding. When MacLean explained you were out of time, you had an exasperated look on your face.
And just before the camera switched off, you said:
“This is ridiculous. Watch what comes on after.”
I am wondering, in all honesty, if you are getting tired: tired of the grind of every Saturday coming up with something new to say? Tired of … doing the same thing?
You’ve entertained millions of viewers since you first started with 1981 with CBC.
Some love your stuff.
Others … well, they disagree. And your latest controversy on female reporters has certainly awoke people, in and of the game, who aren’t your fans.
But there’s something else very apparent to me.
Especially after Wednesday’s show.
It seemed like work for you. I know, I know: part of the show is to create some friction between you and MacLean. It wouldn’t be as entertaining if the two of you smiled at each other for seven minutes and agreed with one another.
We expect controversy from you.
But I see a deeper level of something from you. I can’t put my finger on it but I really sense something.
Over the years, I have had the pleasure of meeting you and sharing time with you.
The one thing I have always been struck with is what a proud man you are; someone who calls your own number, and creates your own destiny.
I know how much it would hurt you if the powers at be at CBC made the decision for you to go.
This is something you don’t already know.
We all come to a crossroad in life when it’s time to move on. Perhaps you are at that point.
If this is, indeed, your last season, you have earned the right to end things — not for network executives, producers, advertisers or viewers.
But for yourself.


Tuesday, 30 April 2013

"We'll get you a seat. No, problem."

I saw several Edmonton Oiler games this season — and I want to say an extra special thanks to the staff at Rexall Place for helping me do so.
See, I have cerebral palsy and use a wheelchair. I used to get help to walk up two flights of stairs to the press box as an Edmonton Journal reporter.
Someone would graciously bring my wheelchair up the stairs for me.
But then 9/11 happened in New York. After that Northlands staff thought it might not be a good idea for me to sit in the press box.
I agree with them: if there was an evacuation, getting me down would be quite the issue.
We agreed for me to watch games from the wheelchair section. But there’s a small problem: I have a press pass — not a ticket for a spot in the wheelchair section.
But the kindness of others always made things so easy.
When I arrived the Oilers’ ticket office at Rexall Place called the Northlands staff when I was at the games.
Then, just after the puck was dropped, I check into the Northlands desk on the north side of Rexall Place.
A Northlands supervisor called all ushers at all four wheelchair sections to see if there’s any openings. Then the supervisor walked me over and makes sure I get settled.
Even when all four sections are full, Northlands staff asked people to slide over and help make room.
They always, always do.
It’s very kind.
But I am not the only one that benefits from this kindness. I know of many friends who are in wheelchairs are given tickets to games from other friends.
But those tickets are not in the wheelchair section. The Northlands staff seem to always make things happen.

And they need to know how much it is appreciated.
•No doubt Northlands staff will be doing much of the same tonight when the Edmonton Oil Kings and Calgary Hitmen tangle tonight. Game 7. Battle of Alberta. It doesn’t get much better than that.
•And since we are talking about Northlands staff: we are remember Guy Ouelette,  who passed away last away at age 82.  Several years ago Mr. Ouelette was an usher for Northlands with a regular post not too far from the Oiler dressing room.  I will never forgot his engaging smile, warm handshake whenever I saw him, with the same greeting: “Hello, Cam, my friend. How are you?”

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Tait's Timely Tune — Track No. 1


For some time now, Edmonton Oiler defenceman Ryan Whitney has been rumoured to be on his way out of town.
On Sunday, he made these comments about being a healthy scratch, and other things, to the assembled media:

“I’d like to think I’m a professional. You have to eat ... once in a while. When your boss tells you things, that’s how life works. I didn’t necessarily agree with a lot of it, but that was there decision.
“I’m looking to prove them wrong.
“I still believe in myself and I’m hoping for a fresh new start. It’s not about making money. I’ve made lots of money. I think I can still play. Obviously, there were games I didn’t play well, but there stretches where I thought I did."

Obviously, Whitney doesn't buy into the Oiler's future.  So ...

That may have been an elbow!

Our son Darren, Gordie Howe, Cam Tait
Just before we looked into the camera Friday, Gordie Howe turned to me and smiled.
“I better give you one of these,” he said, and then lifting his left elbow against my chin.
An elbow from Mr. Hockey. Wouldn’t miss it.
Our son Darren and I went to the luncheon for the Scotiabank Pro-Am forAlzheimer’s at River Cree. Before lunch we lined up to get our picture taken with Mr. Howe. He was as polite and talkative then as in 1978 when I first met him with my father in Llodyminster.
I introduce him to Darren. He turned to Darren with that glint in his eye.
“Hear what he said?” Mr. Howe asked Darren. “He said he wanted me to meet his ‘Damn son’.”
And then laughed. I wonder, though, if that’s how my father introduced me.
Mr. Howe turned 85 at the end of March. There had been some talk about signs of him slowing down.
Darren and I certainly didn’t see that — and, I have an elbow to prove it.
Other nuggets from the lunch ..
•Great story from Tom Webster who roomed with Mr. Howe on the road when he first joined the Red Wings.
Tom Webster
Webster got in the room first one night and retrieved close to 100 telephone messages for Mr. Howe.
When Mr. Howe entered the room Webster handed him the list of paper of names.
“Did Colleen call?” Mr. Howe asked about his wife. Webster said no.
Mr. Howe then took the list and ripped it in half.
“These people will all call back.”
•Former legendary Oiler play-by-play man Rod Phillips had a great chat with former Edmonton coach Ron Low. It looked just like a scene from the mid-1990’s.
•Jason Gregor of The Team 1260 did a great job as the MC guy during the event, especially the Hot Stove portion with Marty McSorley, Webster and Bryan Trottier.
McSorely told the story of when Los Angeles King Wayne Gretzky broke Mr. Howe’s scoring record.
“I felt sorry for Gordie because he was traveling with us for a few weeks, waiting for Wayne to break the record. Someone once said ‘Wayne why don’t you ask Gordie to show you to score … he played the game for 33 years, you know’,” McSorely said.
Gretzky repeatedly told his teammates what an idol Mr. Howe was.
McSorely held his hand up one and said: “He’s an idol for all of us.”
Greg Christenson
•Nice touch from event organizer Greg Christenson, who had his ever present red and white pro-am jersey on — with a white baseball cap. But he wasn’t the only with a white baseball cap on: all the committee members had one.
Great way to salute the unknown heroes such a big event needs.
•Reminder: Mr. Hockey: The Gordie Howe Story airs tonight (Apr 28) on CBC at 8 p.m. Edmonton time.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Edmonton Oiler nuggets - 7-2 over Vancouver

 A  few things to chew on after the Edmonton Oiler’s 7-2 win  Saturday night over the Vancouver 


•Oiler new GM Craig MacTavish said he isn’t afraid of making some bold moves — and they will happen over the summer.  So who could have played their final game in Oiler silks Saturday?

My list has Ales Hemsky, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Ryan Whitney — and keeping with the three R’s — Ryan Smyth.

Hemsky: He has been on borrowed time, I think, for a while. Should have been moved last season rather than re-signing.

Nugent-Hopkins: I hate to say this but his shoulder could mark him as damaged goods. And that’s too bad. Great young player, but if the Oilers move on of the young guns, No. 93 could very well be it.

Smyth: The old warrior has really slowed down in the last half of the season. He will admit it.  I don’t think Smyth will be on the bench next year: he will be behind I as an assistant coach.

As Saturday night's win, and 12 days on the job, MacTavish — who always has a one-liner on the tip of his tongue — told Hockey Night in Canada's After Hours: "Mission accomplished."


•There has been some comment —right, Don Cherry? — about Nail Yakupov’s celebrations after scoring goals. Yakupov showed his emotion in the third period when he scored the Oilers’ second goal.
For all those who don’t think he should be so exuberant, three words: he’s a rookie.

•Overheard interesting comment over lunch last week could Phoenix Coyotee Tippet be replacing Ralph Kruger as head coach? Now, wouldn’t that be bold?


•And … was Saturday the last time the CBC Hockey Night in Canada crew will be at Rexall Place? The CBC TV rights deal with the NHL is up at the end of the season.

It's all Marty's fault

It took 25 years, but my buddy Marty Forbes finally  agreed to do something with Tait Talk.

The first time I called Marty with the idea was 1988 when I was staying at the Pan Pacific Hotel in Vancouver.

Somehow, I got into little screw-top bottles with my favorite adult beverage.

Marty was program director of KISS FM in Vancouver.

I was writing a daily editorial on K-97 called Tait Talk,  but it had a different slant.

I have cerebral palsy and don’t speak that clearly. I always wanted to be in the radio business, but my voice didn’t let me.

So I wrote the copy. And announcers Randy Kilburn, Robin Allen and Barrie Harrison (shown bellow) read my words.

The focus of the show was to create awareness about people with disabilities.

I always wanted to take it to a national level.

So I called Marty, that afternoon in Vancouver, and pitched the idea.

There was a long pause at the end of the phone line.

“It might not work here in Vancouver,” Marty said, which was a nice way of saying ‘have some more fun with the little screw-top bottles.'

So I did.

Then, on Thursday, Marty and I had lunch with Bryn Griffiths at Ruth’s Chris in Edmonton.

“Why aren’t you writing a blog?” Marty asked, in that tone of voice that tells me I should know better.

Frankly, I did not have an answer.

I’ve been writing newspaper columns since 1979 for the Edmonton Journal, but a blog?

I’ve been humming and hawing.

Marty reminded me of how fortunate I am to meet hundreds of people in Edmonton who have great stories to tell.

So we’re going to do that. In fact, I have one in coming up about my son Darren and Mr. Hockey, Gordie Howe sharing a great moment in west Edmonton Friday.

We might even have a few opinions on things in Edmonton. I hear they are building a new arena in town …

And we will also share some tender moments.

Marty looked up from his Rueben Sandwich.

“Why don’t you call it Tait Talk?” he said — and then offered to set things up for me.

So here we go.

And I will try to stay away from little bottles with screw-tops.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Hey look at me - I'm blogging!

Yes this is my Tait Talk blog.  

After many years of writing for the Edmonton Journal I'm branching out and launching this brand new blog.

With Tait Talk my plan is to continue focussing on what is going on in the great city of Edmonton.

Tait Talk will talk about amateur sports - all the wonderful community work done here - but most importantly it will be about people and especially the amazing folks that I meet day to day in Edmonton who make this city such a wonderful place to live.

Often space is limited in the paper but now I can add more content (and pictures, etc)  to compliment what makes it to the final copy of the newspaper.

Most importantly PLEASE continue to call me - email me - or write me about what YOU would like to see in this blog and in the newspaper.

If you're on Facebook and/or Twitter PLEASE feel free to forward TAIT TALK to your friends as well.  The more the merrier I say.

I'm reachable @camtait on Twitter - and at camtait@telus.net - via email.