SUN Hockey Pool

Farewell George, and thanks

SCOTT MORRISON -- For Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:21 AM ET

By now, God knows that he has a new tennis partner, who has him booked for lunch next week, will be writing four times a week in the local daily, and they will be attending the next hockey game together at the Heavenly Gardens.

No word yet on the status of the Olympic bid. The Baron, George Gross, has been there for less than a week, after all, although we thought he still might have been able to arrange for some divine intervention for his beloved Maple Leafs.

Alas, miracles take time.

There is never a good number when you leave this Earth, but even George, who left us last Friday at the age of 85, would begrudgingly agree that his life was not Grossly Abbreviated -- the two words he used for so many years near the bottom of his column to start his notes.

It was his signature, not his signoff.

Come to think of it, George would undoubtedly have a punch line about his departure date being Good Friday.

George packed a lot of quality living into those 85 years. He lived, witnessed and chronicled a lot of sporting history, put his fingerprints on several significant and worthwhile projects, including this paper, and influenced many lives. His only regret is probably that there was still so much to do and that he still had the energy to do it.

This corner will always be grateful for his opening the door of The Sun to a student reporter in 1979 and a while later making it a full-time commitment that lasted almost 23 years, including a stint sitting in the chair he first filled, before leaving and now returning on an occasional basis. We will always be grateful for the chance, the career advancement and, ultimately, for always asking about family.

Since his passing, of all the accolades thrown George's way about his endless charity work and his career in journalism, something that hasn't been mentioned is that one of his greatest assets, present company excluded, was the ability to identify and hire good talent. That he did time and time again at The Sun. Not only did he hire good established talent, but he was able to find good, young kids and seldom made mistakes in his hirings.

The punch line there, is he also did it at an affordable price and was able to blame it on Pierre Trudeau's wage and price controls.

On an even lighter side, we won't forget the night he called the press box at Exhibition Stadium, in the middle of a Blue Jays game, to ask this reporter what he intended to write about the fact no fans showed up for the game. George was told that wasn't quite the case, that the crowd was small, but not non-existent, so not much of a story.

That conversation took place a few times before George finally conceded he was at the CN Tower, at a reception, looking through a telescope, didn't realize the darn thing was revolving and that he wound up zeroed in a mile north on empty Lamport Stadium.

But he was always thinking about the big story, a noble trait indeed.

THIS AND THAT

If, as it appears, midnight has arrived for the Leafs, that the playoffs will happen again without them, there is good news attached. Now no one close to the team will be seduced into thinking significant change isn't necessary. Cliff Fletcher has said the roster that opens next season will be much different than the one that ends this season because it has to be. The challenge will be finding ways to move the bodies to chart a new course.

In Edmonton, whether the Oilers make it or not, the opposite holds true. The bulk of their roster is 25 or younger and three key regulars (Shawn Horcoff, Sheldon Souray and Ethan Moreau) are out with injuries. The future appears bright and close.


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