Pictou Advocate sports

A day for books and an icon lost


You never know what a new day might bring.

As I crawled out of bed on Tuesday morning of last week, still groggy from another late night of baseball and hockey, I had no idea how the day would unfold.

Sure, it would start with the usual routine: Walk the dogs, have toast and coffee, read the paper, check the sports highlights on Sportsnet. After that, just a mixture of ifs and maybes. Normal stuff when you’re retired.

It’s not that I’ve been idle.

My second book, Remembering Pictou County, occupied six to eight hours a day, seven days a week, for more than six months. I began writing on April Fools Day and filed the manuscript to the publisher on Friday the 13th.

As well, I needed time for my weekly columns for The Advocate. I also had to squeeze in regular matters like getting groceries, making phone calls, perhaps having lunch out with someone. Oh yes, and walking the dogs again.

But last Tuesday would be different.

It was a day for books — and not just because my second experience as an author had taken another step forward. It also included Bob McCown’s book, Ken Daniels’ book and Doug Gilmour’s book.

Before the day was gone, we had lost an icon — a death that left our prime minister in tears and millions of Canadians reflecting on the life of a hugely popular man.

Yes, it was a day that couldn’t have been planned.

Breakfast was hardly finished when I received an email from Patricia Ripley at Advocate Printing and Publishing in Pictou. My full manuscript — 100 chapters, 110,000 words — had reached her computer safe and sound.

That was exciting for me because, all along, I hoped my book on Pictou County could be published in Pictou County. After my first book, I’ve Lived My Dream, had been printed in Quebec, I hoped this follow-up would be published close to home.

It was 199 days since I began writing my memories of Pictou County, the people of Pictou County, the teams of Pictou County. It was time to toast the occasion — except I never drink alone.

It was the start to a busy day.

Another of my daily habits is watching Bob McCown’s suppertime show Prime Time Sports on Sportsnet. I love the program.

On this particular day, books dominated the interviews.

McCown, an American-born radio personality — born in Columbus, Ohio in 1952 — turned author earlier this year with his publication, McCown’s Law: The 100 Greatest Hockey Arguments.

As well, Bob had two interesting guests on his show — Daniels and Gilmour.

Both were there to promote their new books.

Daniels, a familiar face — and voice — to hockey fans in this country, grew up in Toronto, was a reporter and later play-by-play broadcaster on Hockey Night in Canada, and has been the very popular television voice of the Detroit Red Wings for 20 years.

Last December, he was writing his book, If These Walls Could Talk, when his 23-year-old son Jamie died unexpectedly in his sleep. As Daniels told the Sportsnet audience, completing the book became a diversion, his heart broken by his son’s death.

“It was a shock,” he said, “a personal tragedy that no parent should ever know, being left to bury a child.”

Ken earlier said, “To my beautiful son, Jamie, his life story never got to be written, but his 23 years could have filled 300 pages with joy, caring, laughter and loyalty, as his years did for us.”

I knew what he meant. My first book was inspired by my wife Jane’s death. Dedicating it to her memory, it was my diversion and my reason for finishing something I initially had in planning mode 10 years earlier.

Gilmour doesn’t need introduction to hockey fans.

In a playing career that lasted two decades, he played for several NHL organizations. To me, though, he was simply a Toronto Maple Leaf. A great one.

His book, Killer: My Life in Hockey, isn’t a murder mystery. That tag is a nickname he carried during his career.

I understood this quotation attributed to him: “I never wanted to do a book but they talked me into it. It (is) a lot about growing up around (Kingston) and my 20 years in the NHL, and all the adventures.” He hopes it will be “inspirational for others who have big dreams.”

I enjoyed McCown’s show that day.

What had been a good Tuesday, however, quickly turned into a sad, emotional time for Canadians when Gord Downie’s death was announced.

It’s not easy when an icon dies, especially one only 53 years old and the father of four children. Though we saw it coming ever since it was revealed he had massive brain cancer, Downies’s death was a shock. As the lead of Tragically Hip, he was an icon, a legend.

Even a grieving Prime Minister Justin Trudeau couldn’t prevent tears. “There will never be another like you, Gord,” the PM said. “Rest in peace, my friend. It hurts. I thought I could make it through this, but I can’t.”

Speaking of books, a Downie biography will be released next April called, The Never-Ending Present: The Story of Gord Downie and the Tragically Hip. Authored by Michael Bradley, it’s being hailed as the biography of “Canada’s Band.”

Sports people, like all segments of Canada’s population, were hit hard. Tributes upstaged baseball and hockey through the evening and into the next day. Even on the sports channels.

Sprinter Donovan Bailey said, “Canada and the world have lost a true icon,” while Don Cherry and Peter Mansbridge were among the first offering heart-felt condolences.

The Toronto Maple Leafs organization paused to honour Downie during pre-game ceremonies of their game with the Detroit Red Wings.

A Canadian legend won’t be forgotten.


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