NHL Action Players
by Tony Coleman

1971. Grade 3. Jackman Public School. I notice some boys in the schoolyard tossing cards against the wall. Hockey cards. As the school bell rings, the boys are crowding around and whooping and hollering and tossing their few last cards.

 “Hey you’re cheating.” one boy cries at another.

“Winner’s keepers losers weepers!” says the cheater as he dives in and scoops up the cards at the wall. The rest of the boys chase him as he laughs and weaves his way through the assembling kids at the school entrance.

I’ve seen the waxy wrapped packages of cards, each with a sugar powdered stick of gum, next to the chocolate bars at Mac’s Milk. But the cards don’t interest me. The players all look the same and the gum is pretty crappy.

But I am intrigued by the camaraderie of these boys in the schoolyard. So the next time I go to Mac’s, I buy a single pack of cards for a dime. Back at school the next day, as soon as I show the gang of cardsharps that I have some, I‘m surrounded by super chatty 8 year old boys, all with big stacks in their hands.

“Whattaya got? Are ya trading?” one of them yells at me. “Ya got Henderson or Ullman?” screams another rabidly. “I’ll give you McKenny for Ullman.” counters a third.

I have no idea what the good cards are, what is worth trading for, and I have no experience tossing them at the wall, so before long my cards are gone. But it’s fun while it lasts. I get 50 cents a week allowance, which works out to five packs of cards. So my money is spent after just a couple of days. I need more cards. I need more money.

 

“Mom, do you think I could have a bigger allowance?”

“Why do you need a bigger allowance”, she asks.

“So I can get more hockey cards.”

“I didn’t know that you needed cards to play hockey. I thought you weren’t interested in hockey.”

“They are cards for tossing and trading with pictures and stories of hockey players on them.’

 

“Sounds like gambling to me! Your Uncle Julian got into big trouble gambling in the old country. He was on the lam for a while.”

“It’s not gambling, it’s just what we do during recess and lunch.”

 

“Well I am not going to encourage that kind of behaviour. If you want to waste your allowance on that I won’t stop you, but I can assure you that gambling does not end well.”

 

The next day at school, I have no cards. All I can do is watch the others doing their thing.

 

“Hey Coleman! How come you ain’t wheeling dealing?”

 

“My Mom won’t give me any money for cards.”

“You don’t need her permission. All you need is access to her purse.”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“Does your Mom keep track of all her change?”

 “I don’t know.”

“If she leaves her purse around the house unguarded, you can take some of the small change. She won’t notice.”

 

“How do you know that?”

 

“Look at this!” His stack of hockey cards is so thick, he needs a super big elastic to keep them together.

On Saturday morning I get up a little earlier than usual and get down into the living room before my parents are up. Sure enough Mom’s purse is sitting on the counter by the front door. I crack open the latch to the coin purse. Bingo! It is full of nickels, dimes and even a bunch of quarters. I am careful not to be too greedy, taking only one of each for a grand total of 40 cents. I pocket it just before I hear the bed squeak upstairs and quickly tiptoe to the kitchen to pour a bowl of Special K, add some milk and sugar and sit down at the table eating the quickly softening cereal while focusing intently on the words niacin, thiamin and riboflavin on the side of the cereal box. I am trying to act inconspicuously.

“You’re up early this morning laddy” Mom says as she heads across the kitchen to fill the kettle “Would you like a cuppa?”

“No thanks, I’m gonna to go to the store.”

“At this hour?”

“I’m gonna meet Jonathan there.”

“All right then, but don’t forget we have dinner at Judy’s later on.”

As soon as I get out the front door I run to the corner store and buy four packs of hockey cards at 10 cents a piece. I quickly discard the packaging, stuff all four sticks of gum in my mouth and shuffle through the deck of cards that I have as my jaw tires trying to chew up all of the gum. Finally I pull the elastic band I took from the kitchen out of my pocket and wrap it around my substantial stack. Impressive.

On Monday I’m back in the school yard, ready to toss and trade. But no one is at the wall with their cards, they’re surrounding someone over by the monkey bars.

 

“Holy Fuck!, is that Davey Keon? They’re gorgeous. Where did you get’em?”

I push my way to the centre of the crowd and see one kid holding a small orange binder with punched pages. Each page is a 5 x 7 glossy photo of an NHL hockey player in action, on the ice! All of our hockey cards are staged photos of the players in the exact same position, staring blankly at the camera. But these NHL Action Players are full of energy, excitement and passion. Beautiful frozen images of goalies making diving saves and players taking blistering snapshots.

 

“Hey Howard where did you get them?” someone asks.

“At the news agent near Jones and Danforth.” Howard replies as he slowly leafs through the pages to the oohs and ahhhhhs of the boys.

 

“They must cost a fortune.”

 

“You get 6 for fifty cents.”

 

As each of the boys does the math, they moan at the exorbitant cost of these fantastic Action Players.

 

“Does anyone want to toss some cards?” I ask. But no one seems interested. All of a sudden, our hockey cards are worthless. After school, while at my babysitters, that would be Jonathan’s mom, he and I launch a plan to get us some NHL Action Players ourselves. We will both do a little digging into our mom’s purses, and then during lunch tomorrow we will run the mile it takes each way, to the only store that sells the Action Players.

 

The next morning I am downstairs early. The purse is in its usual place. There’s only 15 cents in the change purse. That won’t even get me one pack of six. But in the wallet there are four two dollar bills and a ten and a twenty. I leaf through the bills as I try to decide what to do. I hear the toilet flush upstairs and quickly stuff a two dollar note in my pocket and gingerly return the purse to its original position.

Lunchtime arrives at school and Jon and I are off along Danforth Ave, to the new agent way over near Jones Ave. Neither of us has ever walked this far away before, especially amongst so many adults rushing about the busy shop lined street. I can see that Jon is nervous. We make it to the store, buy our Action Players (and the binder to start collecting them in) and then we run all the way back to school before the bell. We get back just in time to show off our Action Players to the hockey card kids.

 

After school back at Jonathan’s place we gush over our new collections. The phone rings and Jonathan’s big sister dashes across the living room to answer it.

“I listen to CHUM!” she answers. There is a moments pause. “Sorry Mrs Coleman, I thought you were the radio station calling. Tony’s right here.” She hands me the phone and screws up her face and mouths ‘sorry’.

“Anthony I want you to come home immediately.” When she calls me Anthony I know she means business.

 

“But why? Jonathan and I are playing upstairs. It’s only 4:30.”

“Don’t give me any cheek. Just get yer stuff and get home now!”

 

I don’t understand. Why is she being so unfriendly? She hangs up the phone before I can ask. Then it dawns on me. She knows about the money. Oh my god! I can’t go home. She knows. What was I thinking? I’ve ruined my life. Where can I run?

She is standing on the porch as I round the corner “You’ve got some explaining to do kiddo!” she says as I skulk by. “A two dollar bill has gone missing from my wallet. I wonder if you know anything about that?”

“Um, uh, no.”

“I know your Dad didn’t take it because I asked him.” She stares hard at me.

 

“I needed some change for school and I was going to tell you?”

 

“What for at school?”

 

I couldn’t think of anything.

 

“Nice try, what did you do with the money?”

 

I can’t keep up the lie, “I had to buy some Action Players.”

 

“What are Action Players?”

 

I pull out the orange binder. She takes it and leafs through the pages.I suppose I could try crying but what good would that do? She slowly pulls back the binder and with one quick decisive movement she rips the whole stack of Action Players in half “Let this be a lesson to you young man.” She hands me back the binder and the ripped pages and walks off.

 

And that is the end of my NHL Action Player collecting career and the end of my change purse pinching career as well.

 

ps. Wanna see what NHL Action Players looks like? I’ve created this short film to show you. Here is the link…https://vimeo.com/710456188

Why I love Cap'n Crunch
by VT Cog

I have never forgotten it.

 

A 45 second unprecedented outburst of explosive anger. The front door closed behind him; the autumn wind blowing into the kitchen as we sat and ate our dinner. His hat, overcoat, and galoshes still on as the tyrannical tirade began. No more cereal! No more of this sugar sweetened crap. I just got the dentist's bill. You all have cavities!

I had a casual interest in where this was going. My father often proclaimed diktats that were usually ignored after a week or two once the original source of the furor died down. This one was different; it involved money, and money was an emerging source of interest to me since I was scheming up ways to save for a mini bike.

There’s no question breakfast cereals from the ’60s were sugar sweetened nightmares. Sure, you got carbs and vitamins, and don’t forget niacin - so often touted yet such a mystery. But I'm guessing that seductive mixture of sugar, carbs, and milk caused an explosion in health benefits claims that was unprecedented in history. Parents were wholly unprepared and overwhelmed.

In an age where employment benefits are the holy grail, this is hard to reconcile. In our time, we have seen this inducement evolve from being reduced and more expensive, if available at all, to lavish and unlimited. Just ask our kids about plans they now enjoy. I mean, they can buy a bicycle and claim the expense under a fitness catch all. Safe to say, it wasn’t until I was much older that I fully understood the economic considerations that were in play that day long ago. My father was absolutely right.

Changes around the house lasted a good couple of months. Strangely, my mother substituted “Sugar Crisp” for Cap’n Crunch. I guess the picture of puffed wheat with the seed husk in the middle was reassuring. It was probably just as bad, if not worse, with all that sugary glaze coating those lovely little pillows of wheat.

It all came and went but I learned some important things along the way. By the time I was 14 I discovered that you could put half a box of Cap’n Crunch in a salad bowl, fill it with milk, and 10 minutes later it was still crunchy good. I also learned what the term “forbidden fruit" really meant. I’m guessing my father would agree that maybe it was worth a cavity or two.

So you wanna be a podcaster
by Paul Gatt

It seems like everywhere you look there’s a podcast for anything and everything. 

Podcasting is like listening to hand-picked content on a radio station just for you. It’s the mixed-tape cassette to the vinyl back in the 70s. 

As a radio remote engineer for a talk radio station in a major North American market, I’ve seen the transition of podcasting from a specialized add-on to packaged versions of a radio station's show for use on the station’s website, and finally to a niche genre that anyone can record and everyone can listen to. 

Along the way I've often joked that whenever an on-air host has the misfortune of getting booted from one of the corporate empires,  a call almost certainly follows . It’s always the same question, “How do I do a podcast?”  

In the radio business, the big stations need  50-thousand-watt antenna. That all changes with podcasting. It simply requires a laptop, the proper interface, a microphone headset, some good content and the gift of the gab.

Here are the technical basics. I call it my podcast setup 101. There is no right or wrong way and there are plenty of options depending on your budget and what you want to do but it all starts with a reliable computer.

MIXER

If you’re serious about doing this and have a budget over a thousand dollars, I recommend a Rodecaster Pro mixer (approximately $800).  Add on a mic or multiple mics, headphones, cable and some interfacing cable and the Rodecaster Pro does it all for you.

 

You can record your show directly onto a micro SD card, and simply import the audio to your laptop, then edit using your favourite software. Adobe Editing, or some other paid service will add to the cost but there are also free services available such as Audacity or Twisted Wave.

 

The Rodecaster Pro has a great Bluetooth option for Zoom calls from your phone or tablet or choose a regular phone call. It really is as simple as plug and play. If that’s more than your budget and you don’t need multiple mics, or you want to be solo at the home studio and have guests on Zoom or any other equivalent service, then a Behringer U-Phoria UMC22 mixer interface (approximately $80) will do the trick.  Plug and play to your mic and headset to get the broadcast quality sound you want for the podcast.

MICROPHONE

Depending on your preferences, there are plenty of options. A dynamic mic like the Sennheiser 835 or Shure SM58 (approximately $130) provides good sound. Shure has come out with a nice podcast mic, the MV7 for about $300.

Once you’ve figured out the recording, the audio needs to be edited, packaged (music intros and sponsors added if necessary) and sent to the hosting server so it can stream to the various platforms.  If you can do this yourself, great! If you’re just the content expert, then you’ll need to enlist the help of a producer or techy friend who can help you put out the finished product.

CONTENT

These are the basics of your podcast - it should be fun for you and interesting for others.  Podcasting has come full circle. While it used to be an alternative to radio, now radio stations are filling the airwaves, particularly during evenings and weekends with some intriguing podcasts. Just like the cassette tape and vinyl, there’s room for both.

If you’d like more information and help getting started, send me an email gattbroadcastservices@gmail.com

We can make a difference
by Susan Hudson

The climate is changing, there is no denial.  It's no longer a question but a fact that our world is about to pull the irrevocable clause.  Human activity is at the burning heart of the matter according to a major UN report released today by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).  Scientists from around the world critically reviewed clinical studies since 2013 and concluded that it is a fact that human activity is responsible for warming the earth. 

This is a job for Stakers if there ever was one!  We remember a world where love was all you needed but we're older and wiser and still have a lot of living to do. What kind of a world will our grandchildren inherit when they come of age in the year 2040?  We just need to commit to consciously making changes together. 

 

Here are six simple but bold actions you can act on right now:

  1. Waste no food or water – buy only what you need and take time to plan meals so that all the food you buy gets used.  Canadians waste more food than they consume. Skip the bottled water and commit to a household food policy of ‘use it or lose it’;

  2. Unplug – simply unplugging household electric devices that are not being used can add up to the output of 50 power plants in a year.  Fully charged electronics continue to draw from the grid and create what’s referred to as an ‘idle load’.  Easy fix to power down what you’re not using;

  3. Getting around – take a moment to plan whether you can walk or ride a bike to do that errand instead of taking the car.  Replacing our dependence on large vehicles that use up precious fossil fuels should be a no brainer.  True, none of us have taken an unnecessary airplane trip this past year but let’s  work out now how we'll get around with a lighter footprint;

  4. Plant a tree –  Once you start it can become a family project and a great gift idea to pass on. Trees consistently clock in as climate change fighting powerhouses. They clean the air, absorb carbon, protect endangered species and stabilize the soil. There are many online agencies you can pay to do this if you’re not crazy about actually getting your hands dirty;

  5. Buy less stuff – if this past year has taught us anything, it's that we can definitely get by consuming less. We save time, we save money, we reduce trucks on the road, we reduce trips to the mall, we reduce packaging waste among many wins.  Make ‘do I really need that?’ the question that replaces those former impulse buys; 

  6. Talk it up – keep the conversation going.  Let your friends, co-workers, representatives, and family know that this is important to you and important to us all to act now.

 

The time is now. The stakes are just too high to put this off any longer.