Join Rob Simpson on a dozen once-in-a-lifetime adventures in the world of international media
Though he’s now known to hockey fans across North America for his NHL commentary and as co-host of the Stellick and Simmer SiriusXM radio show, Rob Simpson didn’t start his radio and TV career rinkside: his media background has taken him around the world and into uniquely unexpected situations. In No Heavy Lifting, Simpson recounts some of his wildest adventures from stints as a TV weatherman in Hawaii, a hockey reporter at the Torino Olympics, a skydiver in Idaho, and a marathoner in New York, to immigrating north of the border.
Take ten grand a year out of your bank account, for ten years, and gamble it away? Check. Take a humanitarian trip to the Serengeti with a beloved NHL player whose brain damage may have led to his death? Check. Alienate and scandalize the most powerful man in Hawaiian politics? Check. Climb Mount Kilimanjaro wearing someone else’s boots and clothes? Checkmate.
Featuring stories about NBA legends Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, “Dr. J” Julius Erving, and Larry Bird, and NHL superstars Zdeno Chara, Joe Thornton, Steve Montador, Scott Gomez, Domenic Moore, and Nicklas Lidström, this episodic memoir is told with Simpson’s arch sense of humor.
|Product dimensions:||4.90(w) x 16.50(h) x 1.10(d)|
About the Author
Rob Simpson is one of the only human beings in the last five years to bridge the rivalry between TSN and Rogers Sportsnet, having done live reporting and play-by-play for both. Simpson co-hosts a national radio talk show on NHL Network radio and used to host NHL Live in New York. He lives in Toronto; find him on Twitter @simmerpuck. John Shannon, a former longtime hockey broadcast executive, is a Sports Emmy Award-winning analyst and a current panelist on Sportsnet’s Hockey Central.
Read an Excerpt
Newfoundland and Labrador will dramatically increase spending to encourage residents of some isolated communities to move to larger towns. Finance Minister Jerome Kennedy said government will offer as much as $270,000 for each household to relocate.
— CBC News, March 26, 2013
Do you realize you can buy an oceanfront house in Newfoundland for $10,000? Perched on granite cliffs rising several hundred feet in the air. In a small working fishing village equipped with high speed-internet, a store, a school, a medical centre, a community hall, a ferry service, a bed and breakfast, and a church. With a surprisingly moderate winter climate and a pace of life unlike any you probably know. Where whales break the ocean's surface a short distance from your front door, while bald eagles soar overhead. And where, on a nice day, you can see France — St. Pierre et Miquelon — as you stroll the boardwalk.
Your neighbours will be kind, generous, hard-working people capable of providing you with guidance, physical support, and food products of the land and sea. And if you do settle, your new-found friends won't want you to fail. They don't say so directly but their actions speak loudly. They conclude that you are low on firewood and in various ways work collectively to see that you have enough to get through winter. Or for no apparent reason they hand you a loaf of homemade bread and a fresh-caught cod.
I'm talking about an isolated outport called McCallum. Please don't see my thoughts as an effort to sell you something — this is just an FYI from an excitable guy. For five years, iconic Canadian authors Claire and Farley Mowat called Newfoundland's Southwest Coast home. Fifty years later, I'm thrilled to say the same.
Last home on the right, I tell visitors when they ask where my house can be found. But even I don't find my home that easy to get to. Just getting off the ferry is tricky for me. I know it is second nature for my neighbours, but I'm terrible at it. While passing parcels off and onboard, I'm scared I'll slip between the boat and the bumpers. Anybody who's seen me do this work can tell I'm terrified at low tide. Wherever I am on the wharf, I need to remind myself that that ferry carries cargo that requires craning. The safest choice I can make is to wave a quick goodbye to the boys on the boat, say hello to friends awaiting freight, and get my big butt out of harm's way.
As I walk away from the wharf, I consider how long it will be before I touch land again. That's a surprising characteristic about McCallum's boardwalk — it's built so solid, with buildings on both sides, I'm convinced I'm on land. But it actually runs a lengthy distance over water, past a fisheries facility, a house, a store, a post office, and several sheds before it finally arrives at a hill. But what a hill it hits. Up and down. I grab the rail and dig into the cleats, all the while carrying whatever goods I'm bringing back. I sneak a peek at Matt Fudge's firewood unintentionally stacked aesthetically, and take a glance to see if anyone is coming down the steep road to my right. McCallum calls its boardwalks roads, but there are no cars in McCallum. Neither the rugged terrain nor the provincially funded ferry can accommodate cars.
I look to see if the men lazing around the slip are trying to tease me, and I listen to hear if any of the women hanging laundry wants to talk. Then I turn left. Going right would take me to some fun places — to dear friends, the community hall, McCallum's school, or a hike on the hill — but that route heads away from my house. So it's past a dog that hates me, several hip-roofed homes, colourful sheds, a low-slung bed-and-breakfast building, piled lobster pots, some beautiful hand-built boats, and yards full of fun folk art, all nicely located before a backdrop of granite and green. Then the boardwalk weaves out over the water again, where everything smells of brine. It's up another steep bridge and around a curvy corner before I get a glimpse of my home sitting high on the hill. It might not be the biggest house, or the cutest, or the best cared for, but it's mine and I love it.
Getting goods to my house can be challenging. Like the day my new washer, dryer, fridge, stove, and freezer arrived on the ferry. If not for the help of friends, those appliances would still be sitting on the wharf. Because nothing makes its way across McCallum without significant support. Just ask tourists Richard and Ann Brenton who, upon their ferry's arrival in McCallum, are greeted by Herman Fudge, who, because the Brentons showed up carrying backpacks, determines he needs to direct our visitors to a clearing where they can camp. Herman's intense style of communication reminds me of the role Dustin Hoffman played as Tom Cruise's brother in the Oscar-winning movie Rain Man.
"Where you from?" the thickset, wide-eyed forty-six-year-old asks the Kootenay, B.C., couple before moving on to questions about their favourite hockey team. After making sure the Brentons know he is a Leafs fan, Herman pushes his cap a little higher on his head and repeats, "British Columbia?" like he didn't quite catch it the first time, and then, "I got a sister in Calgary. Angela. Her daughter's Olivia. Olivia's my niece. Cute little Olivia. And husband Darryl from Spaniard's Bay, Newfoundland. Yes sir, Newfoundland! They are coming home for the Fudge reunion. Oh my God, it's July already. Can you believe it? Darts will be starting soon. I'm looking forward to that. Darts are good fun. Do you play darts?"
It's because of his commitment to his unofficial job as McCallum's greeter that Herman has gotten to know all who come and go in this outport — more than thirty years of ferry employees, utility workers, vacationers, sailors, artists, plant personnel, politicians, fish farmers, government staff, transient teachers ... It is because of Herman's efforts to be such a sociable soul that he makes friends of almost every visitor. It's also why he receives so many Christmas cards.
"Yes he does, my dear — eighty-eight last year," says Herman's eloquent Aunt Sarah, who, in addition to providing Herman with huge love, supports him in all Christmas-card-related activities, keeping track of incoming and changing addresses, seeing that he sends as many as he receives, and managing his budget. "It's not a big deal," the mother of seven stoically insists, "but it does take a little care. We update our records first thing in the new year, and then around November we look at it all again. Cards come from new people right up until December 24, so we try to reply to those right away. That way Herman's newest friends don't have to wait a year to hear from him."
"The Christmas card that comes the farthest is the one from Ireland," Sarah says. "And the other day he got a postcard from Denmark. But not counting all the birthday cards he gets, and the one St. Patrick's Day card that his cousin Sandra sends him from St. John's, Herman got eighty-eight cards last Christmas. Because whether you are a stranger who only stays in McCallum for a few minutes, or one of many who moved away forever, no one forgets who Herman is."
No one fails to remember McCallum either. While there are other places in Canada where you can find communities that are distinctly different from what you're accustomed to, they're nowhere near the forty-ninth parallel like McCallum is. Even most Newfoundlanders don't know what life is like here. It's like Greece, only in Canada. I don't mean it's exactly like Greece, but that it's a foreign feeling to find yourself experiencing someplace so dramatically different while still standing on Canadian soil. Even locals who have never known otherwise find it impossible to take McCallum's remarkableness for granted. "There is very little like McCallum, my son," even the most cynical will say. "And I don't believe there are many places like Newfoundland's Sou'west Coast."
The Southwest's absence of automobiles is noticeable. I've seen mainlanders go quiet for days in response to McCallum's zero-car qualities. The thought that, in the event of an emergency, you're a three-hour boat ride from a waiting ambulance can paralyze even the bravest of travellers. Especially when rough seas do away with your options entirely. Just using a sharp knife to cut carrots on a cutting board makes visitors consider the ferry schedule, recall the forecast, and proceed with caution — something the locals would laugh at, if such a thought actually occurred to them.
Employment doesn't dominate McCallum life either. No Newfoundlander has ever asked me what I do for a living, yet I can't go a week in Ontario without answering that inquiry. It's like there is some kind of comparison game going on in Ontario, and everybody is playing.
Imagine the discomfort Ontario people experience when I tell them that I quit a full-time college faculty position, four years short of early retirement, to go live in an isolated Newfoundland outport. When I present that news publicly, many in the audience respond with an impulsive groan followed by an uncontrollable giggle, indicating that they're largely unsure and a little bit rude. Then they quickly whisper, "He must have money," and that renders them wrong — I gave what little I had to an investor at the time and have been living like I've got nothing ever since.
Anyone who's ever been part of institutional life knows I had good reason for leaving. Such organizations are toxic, and their self-serving leadership lethal. Yet many people can't cope with the thought that I gave up more than $1 million in earnings over the final nine years of my work life to move to McCallum to write. They can't comprehend the idea that I might be as passionate about studying the human condition as they are about making money. They only show signs of overcoming their discomfort with my choices when I tell them that I continue to teach a course online — like that $13,000 a year puts me on easy street.
Then I really mess with their heads — I drop the news regarding resettlement. I tell them how I've been offered $250,000 to leave McCallum, showing that the more I try to not make money, the more that money follows me around. This thought too is alien to Ontario people, as is their likelihood of ever leaving the tribe.
I remember walking along King Street in Toronto. I had agreed to be interviewed for a satellite radio show about a book I'd written on what it feels like for a fifty-year-old man to go in search of his childhood hero and find him. I wanted to arrive at that radio station early, so I gave myself lots of time to look around. I saw many others on that route as well. Thousands. But they weren't watching me. They were staring at their phones while they walked to work. It started as soon as I left my hotel room, when the woman waiting in front of me, with her face buried deep in her phone, didn't realize our elevator had arrived. It was only when I pushed past her to hold back that elevator's quickly closing doors that she waddled in, her thumbs moving at a million miles per hour.
The same thing occurred as I dodged bodies along King. I saw people everywhere, walking with their heads down and their shoulders sloped, all giving their phones a good fingering. They looked like actors in an unsettling science fiction movie — one where everyone has been programmed to walk hunched over, following whatever instructions they're receiving through a handheld device they're holding in a prayer-like fashion in front of them.
It reminds me of a conversation I had with an outport person in Little Bay Islands, another isolated Newfoundland community that's been offered resettlement money. That lobster fisherman told me that he had been to Toronto and found it difficult to get directions because no one wanted to help him. He said he stood at Bay and Dundas feeling more lost than if you had dropped him blindfolded in the wilds of Labrador. "And understand this," he adamantly added. "My wife died in a car crash, so I know what it's like to be lonely. But I never felt so alone in my life as I did that day when I got lost in one of the most populated parts of Ontario ... No sir — I never felt so alone in my life."
The issue of resettlement has been politically charged in Newfoundland and Labrador for generations, particularly since a government-led program that peaked in the 1950s and 1960s.
Yet the governing Tories have said they have been feeling the strain of providing standards of government services to rural communities, even though the province's population has been becoming increasingly urban.
— CBC News, March 26, 2013
Raised urban but wretchedly seeking rural, I've spent my life equally in each environment, although, in today's Southern Ontario, rural feels urban. Born David William Ward in Kitchener, Ontario, September 13, 1958, I grew up the middle child of five but the only son for thirteen years. As the only boy in that era, I had privileges that my sisters didn't. They had to look after me, do household chores, get good grades, and frequently feed me, while I pretty much did what I pleased — a pattern that, while it convinced me I was worthy, came with its share of shortcomings. Like a lack of domestic lessons learned, and a loss of considerable confidence as a result — a situation that I spent the first twenty-five years of my adult life attempting to overcome, with direction from a world of women all too willing to provide opinions.
With an alcoholic father and an egomaniac mother, my ride wasn't all fun and games. But, to be fair, my father was a good provider, and, as a young woman, my mother wanted nothing more than to raise a family. In defense of my dad, he didn't drink for the first twenty-one years of my life. My father went back to drinking when his oldest daughter and son-in-law died in an automobile crash. With a convincing reason to go back to the booze, Dad went on a ten-year binge that made life miserable for Mom and my little brother, who was only eight at the time of the tragedy. The rest of us, all young adults, bailed. I can't imagine what life looked like to my mother who, at forty-nine, faced a drunk, a dead daughter and son-in-law, a decade of depression, and a young child to care for.
After backpacking Australia for a year, I tried university where I met and married Janet, and the two of us spent the next eleven years discovering new ways to hurt each other. We should have been great together, but we were unbelievably naive. Fortunately, when the marriage ended, we had no children. Yet, as a result of not having kids, Janet and I have not had reason to see each other since, and I for one find this unfortunate.
Janet was stunning. I use the past tense to describe Janet's beauty because she's no longer mine, and I haven't seen her for twenty years. But I don't doubt she has aged gracefully. She always took care of herself and she's got great genes — her mother and her sisters are also striking. And Janet was clever. Smart as smart can be. She was a tall, slender, doe-eyed accountant. I bet if I had been smarter — in a relationship-related way — we might have survived as a unit. Instead we were young and stupid.
I think about Janet every day. We had considerable commonality regarding what we thought was sweet, and we cared in similar ways, about the less fortunate, and family. We also had some similarity in the way we felt about money — we knew we needed it, but we did not see it as significant regarding our overall happiness.
I remember the outstanding job Janet did of making our less-than-adequate living environments homey. She was creative. To this day, my most prized possession — the one item I'd grab in the event of a fire — is a stained glass business card holder that Janet made me. I don't use business cards anymore, but I see that cardholder as a beautiful piece of art, and the most precious article I own. I've kept it safe through three challenging moves over thousands of kilometres.
I loved Janet's family. Not that I found feeling anything easy, especially given the difficulties Janet and I faced daily just trying not to unload unresolved anger on each other. But Janet's family was good to me. So I've got some regrets.
After Janet came Carol — another beauty. Not the kind of beauty that morally deficient magazine covers call for. More of a natural gorgeousness, with an ageless complexion and a captivating cuteness. Carol arrived in my life at the perfect time, bringing something special to my forties that supported the considerable personal and professional growth I invested deeply in during that decade.
Excerpted from "Bay of Hope"
Copyright © 2018 David Ward.
Excerpted by permission of ECW PRESS.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Foreword by John Shannon
2. Leaps and Bounds
3. The Growling
4. The Gambler
5. Back Spasms
6. The Pee Wee Press
7. Big Z on the Mountain, Part 1
8. Big Z on the Mountain, Part 2
9. The Italian Job
10. Dumbass Haole Boy, Part 1
11. Dumbass Haole Boy, Part 2
12. College Klepto
13. The Forbidden Isle
14. The Swamp
15. The Hostage
17. The Ice Man Cometh