Difficult press box accessibility at the junior hockey arena

when I was covering the Edmonton Oil Kings? Jordi Weidman of

the Kings made arrangements for me to sit on the top level of the

concourse, with a small table and extension cord for my laptop.

Technological problems? Oh, yeah. I used a tape recorder to

get my interviews. The only time-consuming issue was taking

my hands off the keyboard to start the tape, listening to the

quote, stopping the tape and then typing it in. But—thank you,

Bluetooth—in later years I sent the audio file right to my laptop.

That allowed me to stop and start the audio with the keys on my

computer, which speeded things up considerably.

But technology was a two-edged sword. Somehow, the faster

the technology worked, the earlier the deadlines got. (In his days

at the Vancouver Province, Jim Taylor pasted a sign on his laptop:

If We Get Any Effing Faster, We’ll be a Weekly!) When I first

started covering Junior A in 2005, the deadline for first edition

was 11:15 p.m. I had plenty of time to craft a good game story and

filed it twenty minutes after the game, which was roughly 9:40

p.m. I then went to the dressing rooms to get quotes and rewrote

much of the first story for the home edition.

With the first-edition deadline now 10:30 p.m., I had to file five

minutes after the final whistle, pack my laptop, then head down to

the dressing room for interviews and work from the media room

on the ground floor.

Clearly, I needed an assist.

I met with Laura Budzak, an occupational therapist, who

assisted me with my overall home care program at the condo

where Joan and I were living. I asked for extra hours to pay for a

personal attendant to help me in the field—setting up my laptop,

wheeling me to the washroom, and down to the dressing rooms,

especially since time was an issue. Laura went to bat for me with

her supervisor and got me an additional 110 hours per month

at $16 an hour from the provincial government funding to pay

someone to accompany me to games.

The job was shared by Denise Bionjeaux, who did a wonderful

job getting me showered and dressed in the morning and

accepted an additional part-time position to help me get around

Rexall Place, and Rhonda Ferguson, a first-year University of

Alberta student who was volunteering in the Oil Kings’ media

lounge before the games. It didn’t hurt that she was a big hockey

fan whose father, Ron, was a scout for the Carolina Hurricanes

out of his Red Deer home. Denise and Rhonda gave me increased

independence by helping me with setting up my laptop, getting

tea for me to drink between periods, walking up the stands to

get someone I wanted to interview, packing up my laptop after

the game and wheeling me down to the dressing rooms for postgame

quotes. Because of their assistance I could cover four or five

games a week and meet those confounding deadlines.’

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Written by 

Follower of Christ, husband, father, grandfather, Edmonton Sun columnist, Oiler Entertainment Group writer, co-author of Disabled? Hell No! I’m a Sit-Down Comic, speaker, comedian, Challenge Insurance special projects advisor, former Edmonton Journal columnist, vice-cjair of the Premier’s Council on the Status of Persons with Disabilities and closet Beverly Hillbillies mega fan and (very small) closet disco singer.