| Grace and Ish Naboulsi, right, with the help of longtime friend Craig Styles, raised $282,000 to thank the University Hospital for helping Grace with a heart ailment. PHOTO by Nick Lees|
Tuesday, 20 August 2013
(It's been fun, sharing my stories with Wayne Gretzky over the past few days. Here's the last instalment.)
|Wayne as coach|
I see Wayne the odd time now when he comes to Edmonton.
One of the most amazing things to me about Wayne is how he always encourages people to look to the future.
Whenever we had a chat at the morning skate of a game, he would end by saying: “You’re coming to the game tonight, right? I’ll see you after the game.”
And he would. It wouldn’t be for very long because he had a plane to catch. But right before he left the rink, he would always say “I’ll find you when we are in town next.”
And he always did. His time was so restricted he often did not have time for a quick hand shake and hello. But he always did that.
I’ll never forget in December of 2008 when the Phoenix Coyotees were in Edmonton to play the Edmonton Oilers. I was on the bottom of Rexall Place near the Phoenix dressing room and watched the team walk under the stands on to the ice. With his hands in his pocket, Wayne followed the team out and, minutes before the game, probably had a million thoughts. He saw me, stopped and shook my hand.
“Cam, how are you? Everything OK?” he asked. “It’s game time but God bless.”
In the winter of 2002, Kevin Lowe had me phone him before every hockey game Canada played at the Salt Lake Winter Olympics. (Wayne and Kevin were part of the management team.) The night before Canada met the Americans in the gold medal game, I made my call. Kevin took it and said someone wanted to say hello.
One of Wayne’s special friends is Joe Moss, who has Downs Syndrome and can be difficult to understand at times.
Kevin handed Wayne his cell phone.
“Hi Gretz. How are you?” I asked when I recognized his voice.
“Joey!” Wayne exclaimed, thinking I was Moss. “How nice of you to call.”
And, he was serious.
“Sorry, Gretz. It’s Tait.”
There was a long pause at the end.
“Well, you’ve been drinking, haven’t you? Have one for me.”
|Wayne, Bill Comrie, Glen Sather and myself at the Northlands in 1999 in Edmonton|
PLEASE CLICK HERE FOR PREVIOUS PARTS OF THE SERIES
I have lived with cerebral palsy all my life, use a wheelchair, and had the priceless support from my family and community around me as a young boy. That’s why the recent story of Brenda Millson and her grandson Max extremely disappoints me and has me very, very concerned. Max is 13 years old and has autism. Ms. Millson had an anonymous letter delivered to her in Newcastle, Ont. suggesting the family either leave the neighborhood or Max … well, you read the letter below.
This type of behavior is sad, on so many levels. It is also darn right scary for people with disabilities to have people who have such attitudes. Horrifying, in fact. And it lends itself to ask countless questions: what would cause someone to do this; do we need more public awareness campaigns, starting with government and the non-profit organizations representing disability, challenging and remember to include people with disabilities; do we need to provide better support systems to include people with disabilities in communities, creating even more understanding; do we take a deep look at ourselves and re-examine our own beliefs; do we …?
I feel terrible for Max and his family. In an ever-increasing population it is indeed a shame we, as a society, have not embraced one another more—despite our abilities and disabilities. I am hopeful, though, this is an isolated incident will create discussion and education. In the end, the community around Max will support him and give him everything he need to succeed. I have faith it people. I speak from experience.
CLICK HERE TO VOICE YOUR CONCERNS DIRECTLY TO TAIT
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Monday, 19 August 2013
(The series continues of my personal stories of Wayne Gretzky. I met Wayne in July 1979 — the same month I started writing for The Edmonton Journal.)
|Wayne announcing he was leaving the Edmonton Oilers Aug. 9, 1988|
When the Oilers won their fourth Stanley Cup in May of 1988, Oiler coach and GM Glen Sather told CBC Hockey Night in Canada the team would change 15 per cent over the summer. Never did I think Wayne would be included in that change. I was covering a story at the Youth Emergency Shelter — a safe haven for teenagers who find themselves without a home — when radio reports were saying Wayne was being traded to the Los Angeles Kings that afternoon, Aug. 8, 1988. I didn’t believe them. But when I watched the supper hour news that night, and saw the press conference, I was sad to see a friend leaving Edmonton.
Wayne’s first time back as a member of the Los Angeles Kings in Edmonton that October was a circus. I went to the morning skate and to the game and remember feeling sorry for him. Not only did he have people wanting to see him but he was now on playing for the other guys, and was in an uncomfortable situation.
I was glad to be there. But didn’t like the circumstance.
A month later I was going through a personal heartache when the woman I was dating had met someone else. My childhood friend Barth Bradley and I had lunch and I told him how rotten I was feeling.
“Why don’t we go to Los Angeles for a weekend and go to a hockey game and say hello to Wayne?” Barth suggested over post-lunch coffee.
I was in. A change of scenery, a hockey game and good friends and a few laughs.
Barth and I went down to Los Angeles in February of 1989 and stayed in Manhattan Beach with my good friend Les Hayes. We went to the Kings’ morning skate and had a great visit with Wayne and Peter Millar, the long-time Oiler trainer who went to the Kings when his contract was up in Edmonton.
Wayne gave us the address of the store
that sold the Kings’ merchandise and said we would be more than welcome. When we
arrived, the clerk behind the desk recognized us. “You must be Wayne’s friends
from Edmonton,” he said. “Wayne told me you were coming.”
|Retired L.A. King trainer Peter Millar|
Barth bought things for his kids, all in black and silver with the Kings logo on it. I did the same for my nieces and nephews. When we went to pay for everything we were shocked at how little the bill once.
“I think we paid about 10 cents on the dollar. And Wayne was the guy that made that happen,” Barth said.
WE WENT TO the game that night and, for Les was his first hockey game. It was very rewarding to see people in southern California learning the game and falling in love with hockey.
After the game Barth and I got into the Kings’ dressing room. They had beaten the Buffalo Sabers 5-3 and the dressing room turned into a party with some recognizable faces from the Los Angeles area. Wayne introduced us to actors Kurt Russell, Goldie Hawn, golfer Craig Stradler and syndicated radio host Rick Dees.
Wayne offered Barth and I a beer. We gratefully accepted, but didn’t have a straw. Wayne got up from his stall, walked away from the reporters waiting to interview him and went all over the Kings’ dressing room looking for a straw. He returned with two straws in his hand.
“I looked all over for these,” he said.
“I know. I am pretty thirsty by now,” I said.
Barth and I made a few more trips to Los Angeles in the winter to see Wayne and the Kings play. He always shared his time for us and made sure we had a few special treats during our stay.
We were at the morning skate the Kings had at the Great Western Forum one trip.
On his way out of the
rink, Wayne and I had a short visit before I asked him to sign a book. It was a
book written by legendary Vancouver sportswriter Jim Taylor and Wayne’s father
Walter. Wayne took his time writing something on the first page of the book,
and it’s something I will always treasure. He wrote: “To Cam. Thanks for all
the fun times. Your friend, Wayne.”
|The book written by Jim Taylor and Wayne's|
THE LAST TIME I saw Wayne play for the Kings in L.A. Was in the spring of 1995. I mentioned to Wayne I was trying my luck at live comedy before he went into the back of the dressing room.
“Give me a minute. Don’t go away,” he said.
He came back and said he called a friend of his at The Comedy Store in West Hollywood. I had five minutes to perform that night, if I wanted it. I did, and it was an experience I will never forget.
Wayne is extremely kind. We had not been in contact for a while and then, just before Christmas of 1998, he sent his new picture book special delivery to our home. “To Cam, Merry Christmas. In Friendship, Wayne.”
Before he officially retired as a New York Ranger in 1999, he was with the team when they played the Oilers in Edmonton. I was at the Ranger practice the day before the game and saw Wayne with extra sticks and jerseys he had packed with him. He took as much time as needed to sign them and made sure they got to the people he wanted to say thank you to.
COMING TUESDAY: An unforgettable phone call
Five hundred and fifty-one of 10,800 DATS users is 5.1 per cent. That’s how many people signed a petition to protest the new policy the Disabled Adult Transportation System policy set to begin Sept 1, asking for two-hours advance when cancelling a ride. Personally, I thought numbers would be much higher, turning this into an issue Edmonton City Council might review, and, potentially, change. But with 5.1 per cent? There isn’t even a hint of an issue here.
I think the numbers suggest only a small per centage of DATS users would be affected by the two-hour cancellation. By contrast, a much larger number, it seems, will not be affected. We have to respect that. We have to remember DATS is funded by Edmonton taxpayers and has to provide the best service they can for the biggest majority of users. That only makes sense, right?
And maybe we pushed the panic button too soon: we haven’t experienced the new policy and really don't know what it looks like. Perhaps we should re-visit this in a few months and then act accordingly if there are issues. All is not lost, though: we have a better understanding of who uses DATS. Indeed, a most valuable lesson. I am thinking on the top of my computer screen here, but maybe if there are complications with the new policy, we can suggest riders who, say, have more than 10 trips a week are exempted from the two-hour policy. To their credit, DATS isn’t enforcing the two-hour policy for morning trips.
I would personally like to thank everyone who signed the petition. You help create awareness. And thanks to Brenda Lewis and Heidi Janz for the tireless efforts.
The issue isn’t going to disappear. We will monitor it, and more importantly, learn.
KEEP THE CONVERSATION GOING BY CLICKING HERE
KEEP THE CONVERSATION GOING BY CLICKING HERE
630 CHED's Bruce Bowie is in Bulembu, Swaziland, Africa helping with an orphanage. Bruce has been sending back great blogs of his experiences. Please click here to read them.
630 CHED's Bruce Bowie is in Bulembu, Swaziland, Africa helping with an orphanage. Bruce has been sending back great blogs of his experiences. Please click here to read them.
(Got an idea for Cam 'n Eggs? Something short and uplifting for folks to begin their day? Send your story and pictures right here CAM 'N EGGS ORDERING)
Wednesday, 14 August 2013
(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
(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
(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.
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.
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.
YOU CAN SIGN THE PETITION HERE
YOU CAN SIGN THE PETITION HERE
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
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
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COMING UP ON TODAY'S CAMBURGER@NOON: The story within the story on the DATS petition