Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Tea with Tait: The Gretzky Tales — golfing, and missing a BIG story

(Part 3 of 3: My personal stories of Wayne Gretzky)

Jamie Farr and myself at the 1987 Wayne Grezky Golf Classic

The Wayne Gretzky Golf Classic was held at the Edmonton Country Club. With the great help from Country Club manager Leo Blindenbach I arranged to play the first hole from my wheelchair to raise funds for the charity the tournament was supporting. I got pledges per stroke on the first hole — a par five — so, really, the more strokes I took the more money I made. The exact opposite of the main objective of golf. But what the hell. Wayne hosted a reception the night before at the Country Club and made an announcement about me playing the first hole.
“Hey, Cammie I have an idea,” he  told the crowd, before looking at me just after 7:30 p.m. “Why don’t you start now? You might be finished by the time the rest of us tee-off tomorrow.” 
“Will do,” I hollered back. “By the way, I got my handicap all figured out.”
The crowd howled with laughter, and it was so good to know others were laughing with me — and not at me. It would have been  a little uncomfortable if Wayne would have got up and told everyone I was playing a hole, and I had cerebral palsy,  and wasn’t it a novel thing? But putting humour into it made it more personal … more fun. I still couldn’t golf, though: I shot a 27 on the par five, and — cover your eyes, golfers — five putted. At the banquet that night, Leo Blindenbach collected money and had a wod of $100 bills. We raised $3,100 that day.
I attended Wayne’s golf tournament in Edmonton for three more years, including the last one in 1987. Wayne always made sure I felt part of the tournament. Many well-known personalities from across North America attended the event. And thanks to Wayne, I had the pleasure of having cocktails with actors Jamie Farr and Alan Thicke, hockey broadcaster Danny Gallivan, music producer David Foster and Mr. Hockey himself, Gordie Howe, who has flown into the parking lot one year by helicopter. Wayne’s personality brought so many people to Edmonton and he went out of his way to make sure his friends shared in their time.

IT WAS CHRISTMAS EVE 1987 at Kevin Lowe’s annual gathering when I know Wayne had met the love of his life and future wife, Janet Jones. The ladies were upstairs and the men were downstairs.
“Well, guys I think I am in love. I was with Janet last night and we went to the ballet,” Wayne said. “I really don’t like the ballet but when you are with the right girl, who cares, right?” he asked.

Wayne and I kept seeing each other after Oiler games. But I perhaps fumbled a rather big story in Edmonton.
 Wayne was out with an injury in early 1988. It was announced he was going to be doing some charity work, so I arranged to interview Wayne between periods at an Oiler game. Wayne seemed a little more nervous than other times we had been together, but I didn’t think it was much of a big deal.  I thought I had a fairly decent story but when I got to   The Edmonton Journal newsroom the next morning, my desk mate Al Turner  met me with a frown on his face.
“I read that story you wrote on Gretzky this morning,” Al said with a tinge of distain in his voice. “Were you with him or did you do it on over the phone?”
I told Al I was with Wayne.
 “And he didn’t tell you?”
 “Tell me what?” I asked.
“CHED Radio ran with a story all morning Gretzky and Janet Jones got engaged last night at Earl’s. You were with the guy and there was nothing in your story about him getting engaged.”
I began feeling beads of sweat on my forehead. It was a huge story in Edmonton: Wayne was like a prodigal son, and maybe I blew it.
 “You didn’t ask him?” Al said.
No, I replied, because I didn’t hear anything to ask the question. Maybe Wayne wasn’t sure what Janet’s answer would be so he kept quiet. 

Coming shortly: Back to L.A.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Tea with Tait: The Gretzky Tales Pt. II — The gathering after Wayne scored 50 goals in 39 games

(Part II of my personal stories with Wayne Gretzky. I met Wayne in 1979 as sport reporter with the Edmonton Journal. I have cerebral palsy and can be hard to understand, and he had difficulty understanding me)…

Wayne's 50th goal in 39 games: my own victory

But that all  changed in December, 30 1981 — the night Wayne scored 50 goals in 39 games in with a five-goal performance in Edmonton. During my visit to the Oiler dressing room after the game I overheard Wayne was celebrating the record at a downtown restaurant called Fingers.  Just as my cousin Cam Traub and I were pulling out of the parking lot I suggested we stop for a quick bite to eat at Fingers.
I didn’t tell Cam who might be dropping by. We were just finishing up when Wayne entered with about 10 friends.
Five minutes or so later two shot glasses of tequila were delivered to our table from Wayne, with two straws. (I use a straw when I drink) Cam and I drank them and thanked Wayne on our way out.
“Cammie, good to see you,” Wayne said. “Please join us. Why don’t you sit down.”
“I already am,” I said, re-adjusting my wheelchair.
Wayne howled with laughter.
"Wayne I know you have trouble understanding me," I said. "Do you know why I talk funny?"
He said no.
"I'm from Calgary."
He doubled over .. again. We joined the party, drank everything from beer to Dom Perignon.  More importantly, we were communicating — something, I think, that began with a laugh. Cam and I shared two hours with Wayne that night and got to know one another.

THE OILERS WENT on an eastern road swing after that night and returned to Edmonton 10 days later. I went to practice one morning shortly after the Oilers got back and was sitting halfway between the bench and the dressing room in the basement of Northlands Coliseum.
Wayne often left the ice a few minutes before practice ended. On this day, he came off the ice five minutes before the rest of the game and he saw me.
“Cammie, you jerk. How are you?” he asked. “I have to have a whirlpool right now and I feel like getting bored so why don’t you come talk to me?”
I was no longer the guy in the wheelchair he could not understand. I was one of the boys he could poke fun with.

The spring of 1984 in Edmonton was electric with the Oilers winning their first Stanley Cup. I was in Jasper with friends watching the Oilers win the first one — funny thing, but I enjoyed watching the games more on television than being at the games live. A few days after the big championship I was invited to a celebration dinner downtown hosted by the City of Edmonton. I briefly ran into Wayne and he invited me for brunch that Sunday with his girlfriend Vicky Moss’ at a small restaurant overlooking the North Saskatchewan River called Vi’s. 
Wayne’s timing on and off the ice is implacable. Like that Sunday at Vi’s. Just as my cab driver got me in the door at Vi’s, the telephone behind the reception desk rang. The receptionist looked up at me and asked: “Is your name Cammie?

WAYNE CALLED TO say plans had changed. Vicki’s mother, Sophie, was cooking brunch and Wayne gave me the address on the south side of town. I quickly called the cabbie back, loaded up and headed to the Moss household. We had a wonderful time with the Moss family and a beautiful brunch. Wayne had just had minor surgery on his ankle right after the Cup final and excused himself for a little nap.
“See what you do to me, Cammie?” he asked. “You put  me to sleep.”
While Wayne had a little siesta, Vicky and Mrs. Moss and I had a great visit. Wayne woke up and offered to drive me home. He just won a new car for his play in the Stanley Cup Finals — a convertible Mercedes Benz, with a very small trunk.
After Wayne got me seated in the front seat, he struggled for five minutes getting my wheelchair in the trunk. We had to drive home with the trunk open so we could get my chair in.
Whenever we stopped at a red light, people recognized Wayne and started waving. Some even got out of their cars in the middle of the intersection to get a closer look. Wayne always smiled and waved.
Wayne drove into the driveway of my parents’ home where I was living. He wheeled me into the house and met the whole family. Even my 84-year-old Grandmother Murray, who always admitted she was never a big hockey fan, came to the front door to shake Wayne’s hand.

Coming Wednesday: Golfing with Gretz

Monday, 12 August 2013

Tea with Tait: The Gretzky Tales - Part I

(We celebrated 25 years of Wayne Gretzky leaving Edmonton for the Los Angeles Kings last week. This week I am sharing my personal memories of Wayne from my personal collection. Tonight: I couldn't believe he wanted to talk to me.)

Cam and Wayne in the Kings dressing room

February 4, 1989 — The L.A. Times, Philadelphia Enquirer, CBS Sports, NBC Sports and other media had gathered around the far corner stall of the Los Angeles Kings dressing room in a semi-circle looking for the first quote from  Wayne Gretzky.
The Kings had just played the Buffalo Sabres at the Great Western Forum in Los Angeles and the media wanted answers on his four-point night: a hat-trick and an assist. Wayne saw me outside the semi-circle and stood up.
“Could the rest of you wait for a minute?” Wayne asked the other reporters.  “I need to talk to Cam from Edmonton.
“Cammie, get in here. Got your tape recorder working? Let’s do this.”
I kind of felt bad knowing other reporters were on deadline for the late night news in a few hours as well as the next day’s paper. But I jumped at the chance, as everyone did, to talk to Wayne.  He had a friend back in Edmonton who had leukemia and needed a bone marrow transplant. Earlier that day at the Kings’ morning skate, Wayne asked me if I could write a story in The Edmonton Journal where I was working as a reporter that might help the cause. I was in Los Angeles on a little holiday and didn’t have any reporting gear so I made a quick shopping trip to buy a small pocket recorder.
Great Western Forum in Los Angeles

SO WHILE OTHER reporters in the room anxiously looked at their watch every 30 seconds with their looming deadlines, Wayne talked to me for a good 10 minutes about his friend, how he wanted to help and where people could donate.
It was a heartfelt story. And, more importantly, Wayne was answering my questions.
For years, he could not understand me because I have cerebral palsy.
I first met Wayne in the Crown Suite of the Westin Hotel in Edmonton in July of 1979. He was at a reception the night before a charity softball game and I went as a reporter with The Spokesman, a monthly newspaper in Edmonton about people with disabilities. I wasn’t using a tape recorder then and had my trusty notebook and pen.
I wheeled up to Wayne and introduced myself and asked if I could ask him a few questions. He had a confused look on his face and then, very gently, took my notepad and pen from me.
“I would be thrilled to give you my autograph,” he said in kindness. “Who do I make it to?”
I explained myself. This time, he even looked more confused.
Wayne turned to Herman Wierenga, a colleague from The Spokesman who was at the event with me. “What did he say?”
Herman repeated what I said, and Wayne agreed to answer my questions. He couldn’t understand me so Herman kindly acted as my interpreter.
I bet that’s the first interview Wayne did with both parties speaking English.

The crown suite is on the top floor of the Westin Edmonton

OVER THE NEXT  few years I would run into Wayne after Oiler games. And for those years we said hello but, not much else. In 1982, Wayne played in a floor hockey game with kids with  mental disabilities. I arranged to interview Wayne outside the Oiler dressing room after a recent home game.
My buddy Gerry Postma was with me and Wayne led us into a quiet corner under the stands where I asked my first question.
Wayne had that confused look on his face. Again. He then turned to Gerry and asked: “What did he say?”
And then it happened again: I interviewed Wayne with Gerry as my interrupter  — with all of us speaking the same language.
But that all changed in 1983. And I’ll tell you how Tuesday.

The Monday Camburger: Numbers can tell a story — even if we don't like it

Pure numbers alone say the petition against the Disabled Adult Transportation System to revoke the new two-hour cancellation policy is on life-support. In a Aug. 1 Edmonton Journal reporter Andrea Sands wrote there are about 10,800 DATS users in Edmonton. On Monday morning, 354 names were on the petition, representing three per cent of the DATS ridership; and all of those names are not people who take DATS. My experience as a newspaper reporter tells me this is not a story at all. And we can’t expect under media outlets to cover it with it with such numbers.

We had plans to deliver the petition to Edmonton City Hall next week and we were hoping for 1,000 names. But I am seriously re-thinking that position.  One thousand names makes a statement. Groups and causes need to carefully pick requesting time with polititians. Such numbers do not make a strong case and I would be uneasy asking to meet with the mayor or councillors.

But perhaps there’s a greater issue—one that I have seen for the past decade. People with disabilities in this province have not been very vocal. (I have cerebral palsy.) Only in the past few months have there been demonstrations at the Alberta legislature in Edmonton protesting provincial government cutbacks. It has been quite a long time since Edmonton city hall has seen a protest over services for Edmontonians with disabilities.

I am at a loss why this is. Clearly, I don’t know. There isn’t a movement for Edmontonians with disabilities. So, perhaps when an issue such as the new DATS policy needs to be challenged, people are shy. Or don’t know what to do. Or maybe even scared. And it takes time for that mindset to change.

I will re-access the position numbers Friday and will offer my thoughts. I know one thing for sure: public polls do not lie. But we can learn many things from it for a future protest.


COMING UP THIS EVENING ON TEA WITH TAIT: The first part of a series of my time with Wayne Gretzky, just before 9 p.m.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Monday's Cam 'n Eggs with baseball players Colton Girard, Davis Pratt, David Richards

David Richards and Davis Pratt of St. Albert along with Edmonton's Colton Girad at the airport 
last week leaving for the 2013 Cal Ripken World Series in Aberdeen, Maryland. 
The three teenagers have been selected among 15 to play for Team Canada's U13 team

(Thanks to Steve Richards for sending an order into Cam 'n Eggs.  
If you have a short story and picture to start the day off right, please order up
Cam 'n Eggs by clicking right here.)  


COMING UP ON TODAY'S CAMBURGER@NOON: The story within the story on the DATS petition

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Gone fishin' til Aug. 12

Thanks for stopping by the Cam Tait Blog!

We are taking a little break but will be back with an all new Cam 'n Eggs format to start your days off with a smile, the Camburger at 12 noon to sink your teeth into an issue, and a gentle way to end your day with Tea with Tait in the evening.

We'll be back Aug. 12 after a short vacation.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Tea with Tait - Tuesday evening

Some great advice for what could be the most exciting day of your life: tomorrow.

(We're looking for 1,000 names on a petition against the Disabled Adult Transportation System implementing a new two-hour policy Sept. 1. We are questioning how the new change was communicated to users and the potential lack of independence. To sign the petition please click here.)

The Tuesday Camburger: Why I was a lucky man last weekend

I just enjoyed one of the best weekends I have had in years and there were many great things about my time in Meota, Sask. — 30 km north of North Battleford: the spectacular weather, sitting in the cabin’s deck right above the beach of Jackfish Lake, and then going for a two-hour cruise along the parameter of the lake; watching motorboats and waterskiers weaving back and forth; only looking at the clock once a day when I got up; looking at my computer bag for three days and not opening it once because, I assured myself, work could wait; and looking through an opening in the spruce trees, just to the left of the deck, for a spectacular Saskatchewan sunset.

Sharing the weekend with people added to its magic. My brother Brad and his son—my nephew, McLean Cameron—and cousin Terry and his wife Carolyn, a couple we have hung around since we were all in high school and their three kids: Dylan, Kayla and Meagan. My good friend Bob, who heard the stories about Meota, got a chance to experience it himself.

Just south of the cabin and a little east is the cemetery where our parents and grandparents along with many other relatives and friends are buried. I thought of them—my heritage—as the waves slowly rolled onto the beach and the sunlight gently danced on the water. It was one of the most soothing feelings I have had in a while. I was exactly where I wanted to be on the weekend. I  am, indeed, a lucky man.

(We're hoping for 1,000 names on a petition by Aug. 19 against a two-hour cancellation policy the Disabled Adult Transportation System is implementing. As on today at 12 noon we're sitting at 172 signatures. Click here to sign!)

Wednesday Cam'n Eggs with CRAIG SMIPSON

Congratulations to CRAIG SIMPSON of Hockey Night in Canada who is hosting the 25th anniversary of the Never Say Never Golf Tournament today at the Belvedere Golf Club, a fundraising event for spinal cord research.
Top of the mornin' to you, Craig.

(If you have a great community event to start the morning with, please send the details and a picture, if possible, to by clicking ORDERING CAM'N EGGS!)

Friday, 2 August 2013

Tea with Tait: Who is more inspiring: the coach or the player?

My friend:

This gave my shivers down my spine, and, reminds us ask ourselves: what is our very best?

I am part of a petition to the City of Edmonton to reverse a decision for a new two-hour cancellation policy the Disabled Adult Transportation System wants to implement Sept. 1. We are looking for 1,000 names by August 19 so we can deliver it to Edmonton City Council: so people with disabilities can have greater flexibility, so we, too, can continue to inspire ... and give our very best.
Please click here to sign the petition.

Challenge Insurance is the title sponsor of the blog. Please click here for an on-line quote.

The Friday Camburger: A sneaky move by DATS Administration

I smell somewhat of a rat with the Disabled Adult Transportation System and their new two-hour cancellation policy. Especially the timing of implementation: September 1. The civic election in Edmonton falls on Oct. 21 So I have to seriously wonder if they picked the Sept. 1 date so this wouldn’t become an election issue. And, from where I sit, it shows another form of disrespect and heavy handiness. Whoever made this decision should come forward and issue a public apology.

I sent mayoralty candidate Kerry Diotte an email Thursday to ask his stand on the new two-hour cancellation policy. Kerry took part of the Canadian Paraplegic Chair Leaders event and spent a day in a wheelchair. Here is Kerry’s response.

"I believe we must make DATS the best it can be and if there are issues, I,as a mayoral candidate, want to understand them and make sure we have a DATS system that truly works for the clients. I'd be eager to hear concerns and I want to see them addressed.
"Let anyone who takes DATS let me know how we can make this service better."

Contact Kerry through is website

We will be asking other candidates for their responses in the upcoming weeks. For now, we’re at 153 names as of 11:30 a.m. Think we could reach 200 by the end of the day. Because, unlike DATS administration, we are not trying to fly under the radar.

Cam 'n Eggs

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Tea with Tait - Thursday evening

The Thursday Camburger: "Survey said ..."

On Sunday we petition  against the Disabled Adult Transportation System and the new two-hour cancellation policy be introduced Sept. 1. As of 11:30 a.m Thursday we have 130 supporters. Folks have also shared their thoughts on why the signed the petition. Here are some examples …

Sandra from Calmar:

“My mother in law has short term memory loss and changing this policy is going to confuse her again.
Shauna-Lee from Edmonton:
“I work in a day program for people with severe developmental disabilities. This will almost eliminate our ability to access the community. I am thoroughly disgusted with the lack of consideration and the lack of dialogue. Have any of the powers that be even considered what this really does to the individual who use the service? I'm sure it looks great on paper but how about talking with the users to figure out the reality of the situation.”


Vickie from Spring Lake, Alberta
“I have many friends who use DATS, I stand in solidarity with them.”

Moyra, from Edmonton:

“Services for persons with disabilities must undertake consultation with the people they service - if transportation services for persons without disabilities underwent changes without consultation the public would be outraged, and rightly so. Public policies and public services MUST be developed through consultations and cater to those with the most needs. I have witnessed mistreat of people with disabilities for far too long. Politicians must support services for those with disabilities and speak out against discriminating practices. DATS has a responsibility to educate themselves and realign their services for those they intend to serve! Edmonton politicians we are depending on YOU!”

Cindy from Edmonton:

“For 30 years I have watch the disabled community make leaps and bounds in their efforts to live their lives in the community as we all do. In the past 5 years I have been watching all this hard work be abolished by government agencies and other who make changes without consulting the people it directly affects. DATS needs to understand that their clients have serious health issues and cannot plan their lives 24 hour ahead of time. Unfortunately medical issues arise unexpectedly and cannot be planned 2 hours ahead of time; this is a fact that cannot be changed no matter how much DATS tried to punish people for canceling 30 minutes prior to their pick up. DATS needs to speak to their clients and deal with issues on a one to one basis.”

Teresa from Edmonton:

“The new policy infantilizes people with disabilities. They need to be able to accomodate their work and personal transportation needs just like any other citizen - with access to reliable public transit that is as similar as possible to that provided to the general public.”

Ken from Edmonton:
“It is very disheartening to watch all the hard work done for persons with disabilities over the past 40 years be discarded and ignored by those who are not directly impacted. DATS is a wonderful service and needs to remain caring, compassionate and understanding that their clients deal with daily struggles relating to their health and cannot plan like most individuals can. It is unfortunate but they need more time to cancel as last minute health issue arise on a daily basis and are unavoidable. DATS, as with all government agencies and providers need to educate themselves before trying to change policies and procedures.”

Nicola from Edmonton:

“People need to be able to get around. Sometimes plans change within less than 2h, and scolding disabled adults like they are naughty children over it doesn't solve the issue and is just disrespectful and compromises the dignity of these people.”

Top of Form

Rosalina from Edmonton:
“As a caregiver, I am responsible for making and cancelling trips for my clients. I cannot determine when they are going to be sick or have a need to be toileted and cleaned up 2 hours in advance. Would DATS prefer that we send the clients on the bus sick &/or smelly?”

Jamie from Edmonton:

“The worst form of imprisonment doesn't come from committing a crime. It happens when our government(s) and our society fail those who are living with disabilities.”

Thursday's Cam 'n Eggs — words from John Lennon


Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Tea with Tait -- Wednesday: Cup No. 3

Thirteen minutes may seem long for a video. But not this one. A father's love for his son ... Enjoy!

 Click here to sign a petition against a new Disabled Adult Transportation System policy 

 Click here for an on-line quote from Challenge Insurance in Edmonton

The Wednesday Camburger: Does DATS think Edmontonians with disabilities are NOT busy?

There are many different angles to share about the new Disabled Adult Transportation System policy, which is scheduled to roll through Edmonton streets Sept. 1. DATS users are being asked to cancel rides two hours before their scheduled pick-ups, 90 minutes more than tee current half-hour cancellation policy. Today, let’s discuss the possible perception DATS administration has of Edmontonians with disabilities: that we are really not that busy.

Perhaps such at attitude still exists from decades ago when people with disabilities were yet to be mainstreamed into employment and school programs. So maybe an outing could be cancelled two hours before a trip because folks didn’t have many things going on. Over the years, though, people with disabilities garnered more services which increased our independence. We became part of the community and our lives became busier.

It’s somewhat frustrating to understand why such an integral support system — transportation — is taking away from our independence. People with disabilities in Edmonton have busy lives. In today’s fast-pace society we need the flexibility to make changes at the last second. Now, under the new two-hour cancellation policy, if we don’t comply within the given time frame, we will be sent a letter from DATS, slapping our wrists. I am sorry, but this isn’t fair.

We have launched a petition against the implementation of the two-hour policy. If you want to show your support, please sign it.