Crash course in figure skating kicks off career

BILL POWERS

, Last Updated: 7:23 AM ET

These days, it seems almost everything that happens around me reminds me of a joke or something from the past.

Today, I'll go a long ways back as I talk about how I got into the sports game.

After graduating high school, I started in the newspaper business with the Edmonton Journal with modest assignments such as writing obituaries and writing the weather forecasts.

I was promoted and became the newspaper's crime reporter by 1964. It was then that the late Frank McCool, general manager of the Calgary Albertan -- now the Sun -- called and offered me a job as a supreme court reporter, with some work on the police beat to keep me busy.

To be honest, I was more than happy covering the odd murder or even a fraud trial when the city editor of the day, Graham Hodgson, asked, right out of the blue, if I'd like "seven days off with pay."

My reaction -- and I remember it well if only because I've told the story so many times -- was "Who do I have to kill?"

He explained the Canadian Figure Skating Championships were coming up and nobody in the sports department wanted to cover the event. In those days, figure skating and even rodeo were considered ladies' pages events.

Not knowing a thing about the sport, but looking at the prospect of a full week off, I took the offer and went directly to the Glencoe Club, explaining to a lovely lady named Margaret Marks, who was on the organizing committee, that I needed a crash course in what figure skating was all about.

Over the next four days, I spent countless hours at the Stampede Corral, writing three or four stories a day, including a big spread on the Saturday finals that was published Monday because there was no Sunday paper at the time.

For me, the highlight of the week was the emergence of 13-year-old Karen Magnussen, who skyrocketed from 13th after compulsory figures (the most boring part of the sport, in my opinion) to fifth with a brilliant Saturday night performance.

The next week was my bonus time off, but when I got back to the office, my desk had been moved into the sports department.

While I was gone, sports editor Hal Sigurdson and the aforementioned Hodgson had negotiated a trade putting me in sports and a guy by the name of Korky Koruluk on the city desk.

No draft choices, no players to be named later, no discussion at all. It was a done deal and I immediately started working for 'Sig' alongside his other reporters Dick Chubey and Moe Watson. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Watching Canada's own Jeffrey Buttle win gold at the world championship last weekend brought back the memory of the turn of events that led me into a sports job that's lasted more than four decades, with no regrets at all.

MUST BE SPRING

The weather is hinting at it, but you know golf season is around the corner when Billy Creighton and Tony Krivoblocki start putting together another Riley's Best-Ball tournament. The draw goes April 21.

This will be the 34th annual and it's the largest of its kind in Canada. I joined them Friday as they planned the tourney and found an ironic story to pass on.

You might recall I wrote last week about my trip to Palm Springs, Calif., where I became ill and had to come home early, missing three golf games.

As I was coming home, Creighton and three buddies were heading for Palm Springs where Billy played one game, caught a case of pneumonia, and came home having missed six games.

Here's a first for Calgary golf, too. It's been known for weeks now Canyon Meadows golf club recruited Jim Hope of Earl Grey to replace general manager Dwayne Blume, who left the club to look into different interests.

Now Blume is going to get back into the business, replacing Hope at Earl Grey.


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