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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