A journey that began in 1986 on the top of an oil derrick in the middle of winter near Fort St. John is finally coming to an end.
It was on that frigid graveyard shift that I realized life in the oilpatch wasn’t going to be enough going forward and in my mid-20s it was time to start thinking seriously about going back to school.
Since I was young I always wanted to be a sports writer and upon graduation from journalism school, all I hoped for was to land in an area that loved hockey and baseball — needless to say I hit the jackpot.
Fast forward to today and here I sit moments away from retirement after 30 years at the Trail Times.
So much has transpired over those 30 years.
I walked into the Castlegar News in 1989, when it was still a family-owned business, carrying my typewriter, 35mm camera and my cassette recorder.
Now I leave the Trail Times with a cell phone that fits in my pocket and does all of the above, and much more.
That alone signifies how things in this industry have changed in three decades.
I’ve gone from darkroom work and teletype wire service to the Internet and posting stories on Facebook. Work that took five employees is now done by one with a click of a mouse.
One of my first interviews as a reporter in Castlegar was with a young hockey player eager to start his professional hockey career. Travis Green was drafted a few weeks later and now, his playing days over, he’s coaching the Vancouver Canucks.
There’s been a lot of changes since that first week of work.
A few months later I accepted a job with the Trail Times and took a seat next to Raymond Masleck in the newsroom as the new sports editor in October 1989.
He tossed me my first Trail Times story — on paraglider Brian Pontius I believe. When I got that done, I was off to my first Trail Smoke Eaters practice, met head coach Dan Bradford and the rest is history.
But what a history it was. I was overwhelmed at first by the sheer magnitude of Trail’s sporting legacy.
Yet, slowly but surely I began to connect the dots. Pick just about anyone involved in sports at that time and sure enough their parents were also involved and probably their grandparents. And today it’s their children, now adults, who have taken over the reins in many sports.
My role as sports editor of the Times for over 20 years put me right in the thick of things during one of the region’s best periods.
Of course there have been others — during the 30s with a world hockey championship, the 40s with junior hockey and curling dominance, of course the 60s with another world title and add in Nancy Greene’s exploits.
But I would put my time chronicling sports in Trail right up there too — Babe Ruth World Series, World Junior A Challenge, provincial hosts for so many championships, Jason Bay’s rise as a baseball star, Adam Deadmarsh and Dallas Drake bringing home the Stanley Cup, Lauren Bay’s pitching dominance at every level, Kerrin Lee-Gartner’s gold medal, and so many more.
Personally I’ve always said the Babe Ruth World Series was my most memorable event as the Times sports editor.
But there were other moments too. Covering the first ever Canadian ski cross championship at Red, Trail hosting the B.C. men’s curling championship in the Cominco Arena, standing a foot away as a raging bull slammed into the railing during Bull-a-Rama, the Trail Smoke Eaters announcing they were joining the BCHL, the Beaver Valley Nitehawks winning the Cyclone Taylor Trophy on home ice.
Other memories involved the people.
Doing end-of-century stories with legends Andy Bilesky and Willi Krause is something I am forever happy I did. Both were men of few words and giant efforts.
I think about all the coaches, athletes and organizers I’ve talked to over the years — too many to list but everyone, from a pee wee hockey player to a professional baseball player, was always accommodating and understanding that I was just doing my job.
I think about Kathy Smiley, a Trail native who curled out of the Lower Mainland. Four times she reached the final of the Canadian women’s curling championship only to lose each time, three times on the final shot. Was she disappointed? No. Was she ready to give up? Certainly not. In an interview I did with her she laughed when I asked if it was a struggle to go through the process every year only to come up agonizingly short.
“No,” she replied. “I have a friend battling cancer. Now that’s a struggle.”
I remember sitting down with Isabel Morris prior to Trail hosting the B.C. Scotties Tournament of Hearts. Not only did I learn she was involved in creating the first women’s provincial curling championship but I found, at Isabel’s urging, tucked in a dresser drawer amid a bunch of curling pins was a gold medal from the 1938 world hockey championship that her husband Jimmy brought home.
I immediately called Jamie Forbes at the Historical Society who didn’t believe the medal existed until he checked it out himself. Now I have a special smile every time I see that medal hanging in the Trail museum.
There’s so much that I can smile about from 30 years at the Trail Times. It’s given me a place to call home where I raised a beautiful daughter. It’s given me a livelihood. It’s given me a lifetime of friends and memories.
For all that, I thank every reader that has ever picked up the Trail Times. Your continuous support allowed me to achieve all those highlights.
I can’t list all the local people that I’ve admired for their dedication to keeping sports alive and thriving in the Home of Champions, there simply isn’t enough space and I’m afraid I’d leave someone out.
Nor can I list everyone that I’ve worked with either, not because I don’t remember names, but rather because of lack of space.
But it’s on that note, thinking about the people and events from the last 30 years, that I close off this final column.
It’s somewhat ironic that when I took over the editor’s role nine years ago the first line of my first column was a reference to the TV show “Star Trek the Next Generation.”
So with that in mind, I’ll wrap up my final column with the title of that franchise’s final TV episode — “All Good Things …”
But this isn’t an ending really, just the start of a new chapter. I’ll be around.
Thank you Trail Times and thank you to the people of Trail, Rossland, Beaver Valley and all points in between. You played a Kootenay-size role in making my life what it is today.
Guy Bertrand is retiring from his role as the managing editor of the Trail Times. He plans to ski as much as he can, camp as much as he can, and enjoy everything that makes living in the Kootenays so fantastic.