Hey, Fred…”It doesn’t really matter that you didn’t see the Auk..”

Now that was a summer! I can hardly believe we’re heading into October because it seems like June was just last week. It was a busy one for sure. In late June, I was in Judique, Cape Breton, as Inverness County lauched “Canada’s Musical Coast”, a great initiative that highlights Cape Breton’s rich musical heritage. On Canada Day, in my role as a Canada 150 Ambassador, I introduced Lenny Gallant for his evening performance in Charlottetown along with Natalie McMaster. On July 7th, Heather and I headed to Parry Sound Ontario to meet up with Bev and Marci at a golf tournament at The Ridge at Manitou in support of CMHA-Parry Sound-Muskoka district. It was the first time the three of us had appeared ‘in public’ since the end of Canada AM, and it was a weekend to remember. We even got Marci to golf, something she had never done before! ( Bev is an ‘old pro’ when it comes to golf, or at least she clearly knows how to ‘look’ like a golfer!) The event raised about 25 thousand dollars for the organization, money that will stay in the area to help fund much needed programs. I was back just two days before heading to St. John’s Newfoundland to take part in ‘Leg 5’ of the Canada C3 voyage, and I’ll have more on that in just a bit. I did 11 of 12 scheduled days on C3, but had to bail a day early to make it back to PEI in time for Heather and I to go on our Scenic Tours Rhine River cruise, with 160 Canada AM fans. ( I had to take six flights in one day to get from Hopedale Labrador to Halifax, and then drove three more hours to get home!) We left on July 24th for the cruise, which was fantastic and I’ll have more on that in a later blog. We got back from the cruise on August 2nd, and my daughter Sarah, and son-in-law Pete, were already at the house with my granddaughter Paisley. They left on the 5th of August, and on the 7th I headed to Radium Hot Springs BC for a week of smoke filled golf. When I returned, my daughter Lindsay and grandkids Spencer and Charlotte were at the house, and they stayed until Friday the 18th. A quick breather, and I left August 22nd for Mattawa and a charity golf tournament there, and on the 24th, Heather flew in from PEI and we went to a friend’s cottage near Kingston Ontario. In September, we moved my stepson Connor to Moncton for school on the Labour Day weekend, and we spent the night at the Casino there, and were surprised at just how much fun we had. Then on September 8th Heather and I were back at our favourite stomping grounds, Cabot Links, in Inverness Cape Breton. The following Wednesday, September 13th, I was off to Kitchener for another charity golf tourament, and then another weekend of golf with some former CTV colleagues in Huntsville. I know what you’re thinking, and yes, Heather is a saint! And yes, I was a bit over extended this summer, and I’ll have to manage things a bit better in the future! (Heather, I promise!!)

I hope you’ve heard, and have been following, the Canada C3. This former Coast Guard ice-breaker, known as the Polar Prince, was rebranded ‘Canada C3’ ( meaning coast to coast to coast) and left Toronto on June 1st for a 150 day voyage to Victoria BC, via the Northwest Passage. It’s a signature Canada 150 project. As I write this, they are on the west coast in the Prince Rupert area and there are still 3 more ‘legs’ to go. It’s a voyage of discovey with four main themes. Diversity and inclusion, Reconciliation, youth engagement and the environment. This was not a luxury cruise, far from it. It was roommates, bunk beds and cramped living quarters for all..but that didn’t matter. I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived in St. Johns on July 11th. I knew where we were going, and why we were there. The object was to connect with Canadians, to learn, to explore and to engage and share those experiences with others.

Each ‘leg’ of the journey featured a wide assortment of Canadians. There were scientists, (there is a science lab on board), musicians, ( we had the great Fred Penner and New Brunswicks’s Patrick Murray) athletes, (we had Olympic gold medalist Adam Van Koeverden),chefs ( ours was Quebec’s Anne Desjardins), Indigenous leaders, ( Valerie Courtois is the director of Canada’s Indigenous Leadership Initiative) and the list goes on to include teachers, like my roomate, Sherwin Solomon, principal of York Steet Public School in Ottawa, and Susan Knight, chancellor at Memorial University, and, Newfoundland and Labrador walking encyclopedia, youth ambassadors, community leaders, and journalists.

It was clear early on one of the main themes that had emerged in the first four legs of the voyage was reconciliation. Each day, all on board would gather in the ships ‘hanger’ at the back (in its Coast Guard days, a helicopter occupied the space) and just talk. Many times, these discussions were very emotional as participants talked about the days’ events, and more importantly, learned things about other peoples lives, culture and traditions. I can tell you, beyond the shadow of a doubt, I had my eyes opened when it came to reconciliation and the plight of Canada’s Indigenous peoples. Being in the media for 40 years, I always thought I had a ‘working knowledge’ of the struggles of Canada’s First Nations, but it turns out I only had a working knowledge of the issues that made the headlines. In terms of how the voyage ‘affected’ me, two things stick with me to this day, and will for a long, long time.

On our first day in St. John’s, we were invited to meet the Lieutenant Governor, the Honourable Frank Fagan and his wife Patricia, at Government House. We arrived and were checked in and waited in the lobby, which was adorned by many paintings. We had our meet and greet, and, it turns out the Fagans’ were huge Canada AM fans, so I had a bit of explaining to do there!
Later in the night, as we gathered in the hanger, we were talking about the visit to Government House and Valerie said it wasn’t her house. She said she was talking with one of the aids, and asked where the works of art from Newfoundland’s Aboriginal artists were. The aid ‘thought’ there was one at the back. Valerie’s line that ‘it wasn’t her house’ stuck and resonated with me. She felt she wasn’t being represented at Government House, and she was right.
The province of Newfoundland and Labrador is home to four peoples of Aboriginal ancestry, yet you wouldn’t know it by walking into the ‘peoples’ house of Newfoundland and Labrador. Aborginal people date back thousands and thousands and thousands of years in the province.

By the end of the voyage, and after many thought provoking discussions, I wondered how I could be 63 years old and not be aware of much of the history of the Indigenous people and their culture and traditions in this country. The answer is it wasn’t taught in school. Sure we learned about the French and English battles that eventually led to colonization, and the founding of Canada 150 years ago. But what about the 5-10 thousand years prior to that? I was stunned to leard there are 600 First Nations bands in Canada and more than 3100 reserves in this country. Why didn’t I know that? Almost 2 million Canadians are of Aboriginal ancestry. I didn’t know that. But now I know why I didn’t know. It was never taught to me in school. It was never in the school curriculum, but it should have been then and it should be now. Of our many discussions, those were the two things that grabbed me the most.

So, we also did A LOT of hiking and visiting and engaging with those who lived in various coastal communities. We set sail in St. John’s, stopped at Terra Nova National Park, where I almost passed out from exhaustion climbing Mount Stamford.( keep in mind I had hiked up to Signal Hill from the Harbour in St.John’s the day before!) Next up was Fogo Island where we captured all the deserved beauty of the Fogo Island Inn, and yes, hiked again. Then it was on to L’anse aux Meadows, where the Vikings landed a thousand years ago, and over to Red Bay, another UNESCO World Heritage Site for it’s connection to Basque Whalers, and up the south Labrador Coast to Battle Harbour. Then to the Wonderstrand, a 45 kilometre strip of beach that was once used as a landmark by the Vikings, and our 28 degree day there didn’t hurt! After that we made it to Rigolet, Hopedale, where I departed, and the rest of the gang got off in Nain the next day. This wasn’t a bucket list trip, this was a thousand bucket list trip!

The day we went hiking in Joe Batts Arm on Fogo Island, a group of us, including Fred Penner, set out on the Joe Batts Arm Trial to find the Auk at the end. An Auk is a bird that unfortunately has been extinct since the mid-1800’s, and there was a 2 metre high Auk at the end of this trail overlooking the Funk Islands, a place Auks’ apparently called home. A short way into the hike, Fred and Patrick dropped out, and sat on rocks, enjoyed the scenery, relaxed, and worked on composing songs. They were in a perfect place for it. I carried on with several others and we finally came upon the Auk statue as seen above. I thought ‘is this it?’, and it was. We walked back, and I ran into Fred in the parking lot and was grabbing a ride back to the ship with Patrick and him. I casually said to Fred, thinking of how underwhelmed I was by the Auk, “it doesn’t really matter that you didn’t see the Auk”

Upon hearing that, Fred piped up..” It doesn’t really matter that you didn’t see the Auk”!! He put a little beat to it and Patrick joined in. In the car, on the way back to the ship, we came up with this little ditty, that we performed at a little show the ship presented to the people of Joe Batts Arm later that night.
“It doesn’t really matter that you didn’t see the Auk
It doesn’t really matter that you didn’t see the Auk
When you’re out on Fogo Island and you’re going for a walk
It doesn’t really matter that you didn’t see the Auk.”

It became a bit of a theme. There was a giant Viking statue at L’anse aux Meadows and when Fred saw it, he turned to me and said..
“It doesn’t really matter that you didn’t see the Viking…”
Just add “L’anse aux Meadowns” and “hiking” and you’ve got yourself another hit!

Here’s the Canada C3 website and I encourage you to check it out..

https://canadac3.ca/en/homepage/

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I was just forced to be fingerprinted to prove I’m not a sexual offender..

I just wrote that headline and I still can’t process this whole thing. Here’s the backstory..

I’m beyond thrilled at being chosen to participate in a ‘leg’ of the Canada C3 voyage. That’s the 150 day expedition from Toronto to Victoria,via the Northwest passage, on a research vessel, designed to celebrate Canada and connect the country. It left from Toronto on June 1st. It’s an awesome opportunity of which I am thrilled to take part. I’ll join for leg 5 in St. John’s Newfoundland and Labrador and be on board for 11 days, at which time we’ll continue the mandate of the journey which will explore the four themes of Canada 150. Those are Diversity and Inclusion, Reconciliation, Youth Engagement and the Environment. The ship is loaded with scientific experiments, and makes stops at festivals and events along the way. It’s by no means just a ‘cruise’, but a working, learning and exploring environment. I’ll be joined on board by scientists, athletes, politicians and young Canadians to name a few. Every leg, I believe, will take 20 Canadians from different walks of life. In order to take the journey, all those going were rightly required to get a police check. I’ve been through these before and it’s just a routine and practical precaution that those running the expedition, in this case the Students On Ice Foundation, require. No problem.

I headed down to the Charlottetown Police station last week and got the required forms and returned them with the required information. You had to fill out two forms, one giving basic consent to do a criminal check and another which allows them to do a search for those convicted of a sexual crime but had received a pardon. This part was required because I would working and interacting in and around vulnerable people. I was told it was routine for all who where looking to get a police check, so I signed the form to allow the process to be completed in every way. No problem. BIG problem.

I got a call today from the police telling me there was an issue with the ‘sexual crime pardon’ part of my check. What? I was informed that someone in this country, someone, somewhere, with the exact same birth date as me, had been given a pardon for a sexual offense, and I had to come down and be fingerprinted, so those prints could be sent to the national data bank in Ottawa to prove that person, pardoned for a sexual crime, wasn’t me. Wait, what? I admit to being in a bit of a state of shock at this point. I said, didn’t my background check reveal that I had never been pardoned of any crime? No, when you’re pardoned, the slate is wiped clean so they can’t tell if I was ever pardoned or not. Only the national fingerprint data bank in Ottawa can prove you were never pardoned, and they do that by checking your finger prints against those on file of the actual sexual offender who was pardoned. I said, well, I was never pardoned. They said, well, we can’t prove that. Oh, and its going to cost you $20 for the fingerprint procedure. So, let me get this straight. I have to pay to prove I’m not a sexual offender. That’s correct.
So, guilty until proven innocent. Is that a stretch?

I had a lot of questions. It appears that prior to 2010, the national registry for those convicted of a sexual offense and then pardoned, contained name, date of birth and fingerprints. On at least one occasion, someone changed their name, and did not notify the proper authorities, and re-offended. From that point on, the name portion of the data base was reduced to just date of birth and fingerprints, to avoid the calamity of having someone outsmart authorities with a simple name change.
So, this I get. What I don’t get is why local authorities are shutout of the information regarding pardons relating to sexual crimes. What if someone re-offends, but the arresting force didn’t know there was an offense to begin with? In time they would find out, but not immediately, which you’d think they would like to do. I was told that once you’re pardoned of any crime, all information relating to that crime is wiped. It can’t be picked up on background checks. In the case of a pardon for a sexual offense, if a match on the date of birth comes up, that information is shown, but the message is simply the person applying for the background check needs to be fingerprinted and those prints shipped to the national data base. So when it comes to sexual crime pardons, does Ottawa think local law enforcement officials can’t keep a secret? On a very crude and simple level, yes it seems that way.

So now I am in the waiting phase, which will take 7 to 10 days at which time the police here will inform me of the all clear. But don’t get me wrong, they very fact you’ve been fingerprinted for something you didn’t do, is unnerving and creates a lot of uneasiness. What if they make a mistake in Ottawa? What if it comes back and says it’s me? Believe me, all the ‘what ifs’ go through your mind.

After going through the process, my single biggest question is this. Why are people who have been convicted of a sexual offense getting pardoned in the first place?

On Twitter: @jeffhutcheson

On Instagram: jeff.hutcheson

Check out the Canada C3 website: http://www.canadac3.com

Representation: Dan Champagne
@Danchampagne03@gmail.com
613-447-5543

I’ve got no problem with “fake news”, but ‘self promotion’ as news is a different story.

Had a great wedding weekend in Kitchener as my daughter Sarah tied the knot with the love of her life, Pete. It was a great family event, and for it, I decided I would drive from PEI to Kitchener. After all, I had the time and was able to take everyone’s gowns and suits in suit bags in the car, while the PEI gang flew up a few days after I left. The wedding was Saturday, everyone dispersed on Sunday and I made a one day, 1767 km, 15 hour and 45 minute drive from Kitchener to Charlottetown on Monday. Yes, I was tired the next day!

As I drove through Toronto on my way home, I tuned in the local news at 6am on the Roger’s owned 680 News. A station I had listened to hundreds, if not thousands of times, during my time in that city. The day before, the federal Conservative Party had just elected Andrew Scheer as their new leader. I think Canadians would have been less surprised if a pterodactyl had won the leadership. So, clearly, an unknown rises up to win, and one day, he just might be the Prime Minister of this country.
As I also discovered, a 23 year old women tragically fell to her death at a conservation area just outside Toronto (in Milton Ontario), the second such occurrence in the past two years, and latest in a long line of incidents at this area. Both important news stories, both carrying a lot of public interest.

A wedding weekend being what it is, I did not know about either of these stories as I tuned in 680 News that morning. And I’m lucky I even heard them at all. The lead story on 680 that morning was the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs that night. Despite owning a completely separate and dedicated sports radio station, The Fan 590, where those who believe an upcoming hockey game carries more weight that the news of the day would listen anyway, 680 News led with this story, complete with a ‘sound bite’ from PK Subban. Next up? The second story? The Windsor Spitfires won the Memorial Cup with a 4-3 win over Erie. Now I’m beginning to think I’ve got the wrong station tuned in. Seems Leaf prospect Jeremy Bracco had a big game with a goal and two assists. So that’s the hook that makes this worthy of being a second story on your morning news? Before the new Conservative leader? Before the tragic fall?
I mean, in less than 10 minutes, you have 680’s traditional sportscast slotted and they would repeat these two stories over again. The third story was the new Conservative leader and the fourth story was the fatality at the conservation area.

So, why lead with an event that hadn’t even happened yet, and one that sports fans knew was coming up anyway? Why go with the Memorial Cup game second? Simple really. Rogers has the TV rights to both events, and you would see the Stanley Cup that night on CBC and Rogers Sportsnet, and the Memorial Cup was also on Rogers Sportsnet. What these two lead stories really represented was promotion for the Rogers brand. Corporate. Self. Promotion. Done in the form of ‘news’. Done without regard to the integrity of the brand of what is supposed to be a “news leader” in Toronto. Does Rogers have the right to force their stations to do this? Well, or course they do, they can do what they want. In the past, 680 News has also led with the Blue Jays, while they were in a pennant race, and the Leafs, while they were in a playoff hunt, and the Raptors while they were heading to the playoffs. And while I don’t believe these types of ‘promotional stories'(Rogers owns the Jays and are 50% owners of the Leafs and Raptors) should be lead story material, I can stretch my news sensibilities enough to accept them in a news format, because they are local teams and what local people are talking about. But I’m pretty sure those same local people weren’t talking about the ‘upcoming’ Stanley Cup games, or the Windsor win in the Memorial Cup on Monday morning. If they were, they were tuned into one of Toronto’s two, all sports radio stations, or worse for Rogers and all other media owners, they were not listening to the radio or watching TV at all, and had already gathered all the information they needed on social media.

Now least you think I’m a shill for Bellmedia, and picking on Rogers, that’s not the case. I have little good to say about Bellmedia,(in fact, don’t get me started!) but in fairness, I tuned in Newstalk 1010, a Bellmedia owned radio station to hear the news at 6.30am the same morning. I was curious to see where in the news line up the ‘upcoming’ Stanley Cup final game would be, and where the Memorial Cup story would be slotted. Answer, not slotted anywhere. Lead story? New Conservative leader. Second Story? The fatal fall at the conservation area. Third story? Issues with Toronto bike lanes. I’ve always had the belief that local news, no matter where it’s being presented in the country, on radio or TV, should consist of what local people are talking about. Those news organizations with their finger on the pulse of their cities have to be allowed to accomplish this without corporate interference. Sadly though, now that we’ve shifted into large conglomerate multi-station ownership and multi-platform ownership, the corporate agenda dictates their interests are the top priority, and those priorities can take the form of ‘news’ at any time, even when it’s really not. Even when a potential new Prime Minster bursts onto the scene, or, when a family tragedy happens again right in your own backyard.

Follow me on Twitter: @jeffhutcheson
On Instagram: jeff.hutcheson

Proud Canada 150 Ambassador

Representation: Dan Champagne
danchampagne03@gmail.com
613-447-5543

Oh Canada (AM), on the Danube!

It has been a busy couple of months and I’ve let posting slip a bit, and that’s my bad, but I’ve been on the road, and water, a lot lately.

When I visited my friends Paul and Susan, you know, the high school sweethearts who remain as adorable now as they were then, in Florida in February, Paul was looking for some company driving home from Florida to Ontario in April, while his wife flew back. Since I had nothing planned, I jumped in and volunteered, because, well, I had the time and April seemed a long way off. So on April 19th I flew into Fort Myers and managed to sneak in a golf game, before we headed back to Canada on Saturday the 22th. A 13 and a half hour drive got us from Venice Florida to Beckley West Virginia on day one of the drive, and since Paul had tickets for the Leafs-Caps playoff game 6 on Sunday the 23rd, we were up and on the road at 5am and back in Toronto by 2 in the afternoon. I flew home Monday. The following Friday, the 28th, my step-daughter Jessie had a spring hockey tournament in Moncton, and since Heather was working, I took her to Moncton Friday morning. But first, I had to pack for my Scenic Canada Danube European River Cruise, because I would be going right from the tournament in Moncton on Saturday afternoon to Halifax to begin my cruising adventure.

Back before our show ended last June, I had entered into an arrangement with Scenic Luxury Cruises and Tours to host a ‘Retirement’ River Cruise on the Rhine, from Amsterdam to Basel Switzerland. There has always been a bit of confusion on this because the cruise was for late July of this year, which was over a year away from when it was first advertised. Many people I’ve run into thought the trip was last July. At the time I was a little apprehensive about putting my name out there, because, well, first, I was tremendously worried that a range from ‘no one to just a few’ would sign up, and secondly, knew the cost of these cruises is not suited to everyone. Much to my surprise, relief and delight, the cruise sold out within weeks. When this happened, Scenic contacted me about adding additional cruises, which I agreed to, and the first of these was a Danube River from Passau Germany to Budapest Hungary. The difference for me was that I knew the Rhine cruise coming up was sold out to fans of Canada AM. For the Danube cruise, I figured there would be ‘quite a few’ Canada AM fans along, but didn’t know just how many. There were 169 people on our Danube cruise from May 1st to the 8th, and 168 of them were Canada AM fans, the other person was me.

So I had to fly from Halifax to Montreal to catch a Lufthansa flight from Montreal to Munich. Again, going into this I really didn’t know what to fully expect, but by the time I got to the gate in Montreal, the 8 other people on my flight who were going cruising, were all with the program! I’m not sure why most flights from Canada to Europe depart anywhere from 6 to 9 at night. With the flight time and time change, you always get deposited at your hotel anywhere from 9am to noon the next day, and, after enduring a 30-60 minute wait, you find out your room won’t be ready for another three hours. Has anyone ever gotten off an overnight flight to Europe feeling and smelling fresh as a daisy? While I was standing in the lobby of our hotel in Munich, I did discover one thing. This was going to be a boatload of Canada AM fans, and each and every one couldn’t have been friendlier or nicer.

After a night in Munich, we took a two hour bus ride to our boarding point which was Passau Germany, where the Inn and Ilz Rivers join the Danube. For some odd and random reason, Passau has been a ‘sister city’ or ‘twinned’ to Hackensack New Jersey since 1952. That’s perhaps the least interesting thing about this Bavarian town. It’s not my intention to turn this blog into a travel guide, but one thing I didn’t realize about our cruise was just how many old and historic churches I would see over the course of the next 7 days. And castles…hey, anyone need ‘another’ castle? Centuries old castles and churches become so much the norm that by day four they seemed as commonplace to our group as your local Tim Hortons. By the way, if you do want to see photos of the trip, check out my back twitter posts (@jeffhutcheson) or my back Instagram posts. (jeff.hutcheson)

So I mentioned that the cruise was made up entirely of fans of Canada AM and boy, do they still have questions, and boy, do they miss the show! The love for Bev and Marci and the show in general was a major theme of the trip, if, again, you don’t count all those centuries old buildings we saw along the way, and forgot all about retracing Julie Andrews footsteps in Salzburg Austria where they filmed “The Sound of Music.”

On Day 6 I finally addressed the group as a whole, and did a question and answer session, but by then, I think I had already wined, dined, walked and talked with just about everyone on board.

One of the great Canadian moments of the trip came on the second night. A Scenic team member found out I had brought a Canadian flag with me. I did so because I wanted to get a photo of all the Canadian passengers with the flag and then post it on twitter with the #canada150 mark, as I am a Canada 150 Ambassador and wanted to show the Canadian spirit is alive and well no matter where you are in the world. Before I had a chance to get the photo, I was told that if I gave the flag to a crew member, our ship, the Scenic Jade would fly it from the mast with the Scenic Flag, and the traditional flag of the country in which you were cruising. I was beyond happy and excited about this, and that’s the photo at the top of the blog. Our Canadian flag flew from Day 2 to Day 8 of the cruise, announcing to all that this was a ship full of proud Canadians. I did get that shot of all hands on deck with the flag, which is below, and if things couldn’t get Canadian enough, seconds after we got this shot, everyone spontaneously broke into a great version of “Oh Canada” on the Bratislava waterfront. Awesome.

Canada Flag Scenic

Over the course of the week, we traveled from Passau Germany, to Linz Austria, where we made the side trip to Salzburg, but I can report if the “hills were alive with the sound of music’ I must have missed it, then it was on to Melk Austria, where 21 of us, biked 35 kilometres to the next port which was Durnstein Austria. Saddle sores? You bet. Great ride? Oh yeah. I discovered anytime you can cycle along one of the most historic rivers in Europe, for any distance, it can never be a bad thing, throbbing muscles or not! From Durnstein it was on to Vienna, then Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, and finally to Budapest Hungary, our fourth country and final stop.

As I mentioned I posted plenty of pictures on Twitter and Instagram, but it took until the last night to get, what I consider to be, the photo of the trip. Budapest is the capital of Hungary, and the Danube splits the historic old cities of Buda and Pest which joined in 1873 to become Budapest. They have the third largest Parliament building in the world. It sits right on the Danube, and like the rest of the city, looks completely different at night than it does during the day. To give all on board a look at Budapest at night, we took the Scenic Jade for a spin on the Danube to see the sites, and below, is a photo I took of the Hungarian Parliament buildings at night, from the middle of the Danube River.

Budapest at night

On the morning of Monday May 8th, we ate on the ship and said our goodbyes, although 80 people would be on my flight from Budapest to Frankfurt and then on to Toronto.
At the end of it all, I had 168 new friends, and kind of looked at this trip as a dress rehearsal for my ‘Retirement’ Cruise on the Rhine in late July. Heather will be coming with me on that trip, and yes, we’ll have the Canadian flag ready to fly again.

From Toronto I flew to Halifax and arrived at 10.30 that night, but using Halifax time, I had been up since 1.30 that morning! I grabbed a hotel, and made it back to Charlottetown on Tuesday the 9th. Just in time to rest up for a day, then head to Quebec City with Jessie for 4 days for the final spring hockey tournament of the year..I hope!

To see the video of Canadians singing Oh Canada on the Scenic Jade

On twitter: @jeffhutcheson

Instagram: jeff.hutcheson

Representation: Dan Champagne
Danchampagne03@gmail.com
613-447-5543

Seamus, Justin ( yes, ‘that’ Justin), Kim and me and the 2002 Juno’s in St. John’s..

Late last week I was channel surfing and came across etalk, the CTV entertainment program. They were doing a Juno Awards preview, and decided to look back 15 years at ‘their’ first appearance at the Juno Awards, which was 2003 in Ottawa. The reason they didn’t look back to CTV’s ‘first’ Juno awards show, a year earlier in St. John’s, is because they weren’t there. But I was.

CTV grabbed the Juno broadcast rights from CBC beginning in 2002. Of the previous 27 telecasts, 20 were in Toronto, 5 in Hamilton and 2 were in Vancouver. CTV wisely said, let’s get this party on the road, and what better place to start than St. John’s Newfoundland! The network didn’t have an ‘entertainment’ division at the time, per say, etalk wouldn’t begin until later that year, but the plan was to get as many CTV people to St. John’s as possible and to use as many CTV properties as they could to promote the show.

Much to my delight, I was tapped to head to St. John’s to do several things. First, to do a Canada AM remote broadcast on the Friday before the Juno’s and the Monday after, and also to be part of the Juno’s first ever ‘red carpet’ show. Yes, the ‘first ever’ CTV ‘red carpet’ show of any kind. My co-hosts for the ‘red carpet’ show were Seamus O’Regan, who at the time was a part of CTV’s fledgling ‘Talk TV’ channel, and singer Kim Stockwood. Of course both Seamus and Kim were born and raised in Newfoundland.

What this meant for me, was five nights and six days in St. John’s at the biggest music party ever thrown. It took me a long time afterwards to piece the whole thing together but to this day it remains a highlight of my broadcast career. I left for St. John’s after doing Canada AM on Wednesday April 10th, 2002. I arrived in the early evening and Seamus had invited Kim and me over for dinner at his parent’s place in St. John’s. I walked into Seamus Sr. and Janet’s place, and there, standing in the living room, was a very close friend of Seamus, and future Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau. After dinner, Kim played some new music she had just recorded, and that music would later be heard by everyone courtesy of her new band ‘Shaye’. I remember we had a great beef stew prepared by Seamus’ dad, and then it was off to downtown for the first night of what would be five straight nights of Newfoundland hospitality. If you’ve ever partied in Newfoundland, you know what that means.

I didn’t have to do a show on Thursday April 11th, so we partied a bit into the night, and that turned out to be a mistake, thanks to Michael Landsberg and his TSN show “Off the Record”. It was also being produced and coming from St. John’s to allow CTV another vehicle to promote the Juno’s. I had been on the show several times and Michael had asked if I could be on ‘stand by’ for a morning taping in case one of the guests, who were mainly musicians, had to back out at the last minute. I agreed, and wouldn’t you know it, a guest backed out at the last minute, likely for the same reason I had a tough time getting to the location…I remember being ‘just a little’ hung over. Thank you George Street, day one. I don’t remember much about the show, but I do remember one of the other guests was late Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Frank Moores. After the morning taping, I met up with Seamus and Kim to shoot a promo for our ‘red carpet’ show from The Battery area of St. John’s. The location was an old armament site that overlooked the magnificent harbour with a stunning city view. We banged off the promos and took some photos as we were dressed to the nines, with Seamus and I in tuxes and Kim in a long black dress. Justin didn’t have formal clothes on, but we let him in the photo anyway. A photo, I still have, somewhere.

Thursday was another party night for our gang, more of whom were arriving from Toronto by the minute, including my AM show producer Karen Barzilay, who was in charge of putting together our Friday morning show. One of the great things about doing a show in Newfoundland, at least from my standpoint, was that the show did not start until 7.30am local time. Which was great, because, well, that allowed me to stay out a little longer on Thursday night. Which I did. Karen, being the great producer that she was, convinced Justin to come on the show the next morning. Keep in mind, Justin had just returned to public life after teaching in Vancouver and was less than two years removed from delivering the memorable eulogy at his father’s funeral. He also hadn’t done much media, so it was a coup for us to get him. The next morning, we did our show from the ballroom of what was then The Battery Hotel. It provided a stunning view of the harbour and was also the location for “Off the Record. ( by the way, the hotel closed in 2012, and is now Memorial University office space). We had quite a show that day. The Barenaked Ladies had been tapped to host the Juno telecast, and Ed Robertson came in to talk about that. Alan Doyle of Great Big Sea, came in to talk about the opening number the band would perform on the telecast. We had the Ennis Sisters perform, and this Newfoundland trio would go on to win Best New Country Group/Artist at the show two days later, and we had Justin. Since Justin didn’t want to do ‘too much’ we got to him to be my partner in a table hockey game. You see, the guys from the Barenaked Ladies and Great Big Sea had planned road hockey game for the Saturday, and to promote that, Justin and me, played against Ed and Alan. I ‘think’ we won, but other’s may remember a different outcome! The video of Justin and me playing that match was rerun on my ‘farewell tour’ show from Quidi Vidi last May.

After the show, we had meetings about the ‘red carpet’ special, and I remember taking a nap. I was staying at the Hotel Newfoundland and it was certainly the centre of much of the action. International recording artist ‘Shaggy’ was staying there, and on Friday night, a local high school was having a prom at the hotel. Shaggy, who was one of the biggest acts going at the time, decided to do an impromptu ‘drop in’ at the dance. You can only imagine the reaction. But the dance also revealed another ‘slight’ problem. Many of the big stars in town for the awards were supposed to be able to get a limo to go where they were going, but, there were only so many limos in town, and on this night, the kids from the school had most of them booked.

Friday was (yet) another party night. I don’t remember much about this night except going upstairs at a venue and meeting the guys from Sum 41 and talking, at length for some time apparently, to Ryan Peake of Nickleback, who was there with his wife. Another thing I can remember is visiting ‘several’ parties at various places and getting back to my room very, very late.

On Saturday, April 13th, it was up an at it, with rehearsals and meetings concerning the ‘red carpet’ show the next day. Spent quite a bit of time at Mile One Centre, and Saturday night I attended the Juno Awards banquet, which was hosted with great aplomb by Seamus. And we needed to be entertained. They gave out about 28 awards, and with acceptance speeches and breaks, this was a very long banquet, and many could see it cutting into party time. I recall a lot of people getting ‘antsy’. I remember leaving the banquet and heading to George Street. During my time out and about in St. John’s, a reporter from the National Post had been trying to track me down to get a ‘comment’ on Justin Trudeau, since, well, I had been seen on a few occasions with him at a few different parties. I was hesitant to say anything, but she cornered me at a bar and asked me what I thought about Justin. To this day, I remember exactly what I said. “He’s a lot taller than I thought he was.” With that, I exited. A rumor had been circulating that renowned producer and Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductee Daniel Lanois was going to be playing a solo set at the Ship Inn at 2am..Yep, 2am! So, seeing this as a once in a lifetime chance, and it was already 1.45am, I made my way there, and sure enough Lanois was playing his heart out to me and about 70 others lucky enough to get in. It was about 3 am when I headed up the stairs to Duckworth Street to walk back to the hotel.

I have told the following story many, many times, and to me, it represents what Newfoundlanders are all about. So, it’s 3am, I’m admittedly fairly loaded, and am
on my way back to the hotel. All of a sudden a blue car pulls up beside me and starts to drive at the same speed I am walking, which was not too fast. There was one guy alone in the car driving beside me as I walked. All of a sudden, on the other side of the street, four guys in their late teens showed up out of nowhere and began to follow me as well. Oh boy, I thought. I’m about to get stopped by the guy in the car, and these other guys are going to rob me or worse. My heart was pounding and all of a sudden the car served into the sidewalk in front of me and the guy jumped out of the car.. I thought, here we go….then, all of a sudden the man says ” Hey, Jeff, you need a ride to the hotel by’?” At the same time as this was happening, the four guys on the other side of the street rushed over and wanted to know if everything was all right, and was this guy bothering me.. Stunned and relieved I assured everyone that all was great (now) and the four guys and I walked back to the hotel after I thanked the other guy for offering a ride. Pretty sure this kind of thing only happens in Newfoundland!

Sunday was show day for Seamus, Kim and me. I was assigned a dressing room which was converted to a studio for the purposes of doing interviews and would present the view from inside the Mile One Centre pre-show. Seamus was stationed at Greensleeves, a popular bar on George Street for local reaction, and Kim Stockwood was on the red carpet to greet the bands as they came in. Keep in mind, this wasn’t on the scale of red carpet shows you see today, it was much much smaller, but still the lead in to the CTV Juno telecast, their first ever. Sitting in the remote truck, along with producer Mark McInnis, was CTV President Ivan Fecan. About 5 minutes into the show, our scripted version of events was thrown out the window when Mr. Fecan literally took over the reigns and focused the entire show on the red carpet arrivals and little else. As frustrating as it was at the time, he was right on of course. With our plan out the window, we had lots of problems because those on the red carpet, cameramen and producers, weren’t ready, or prepared for a constant barrage from the truck ordering them to get this person or that person. While it wasn’t CTV’s finest hour in terms of what made it to air, it was laying the groundwork for all future CTV red carpet shows to come. And if the pre-show wasn’t the finest hour, the Juno Awards show itself was a stunner.

After the show, there were several after parties to attend, and I was facing another Canada AM remote broadcast on Monday April 15th, the morning after the night before and my birthday. The plan for this show was pretty simple compared to Friday, we would recap events from the night before, show highlights and do a live interview or two. By the time 7.30 local time rolled around and Canada AM began, I had absolutely no voice left, I ‘might’ have had a pounding headache too. I remember Lisa LaFlamme, our host at the time, asking me if I was a bit under the weather with a cold. I was under the weather all right, but a cold had nothing to do with it!

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I ‘underestimated’ the number of times I did the weather by over 20,000..stupid math!

It all started with that Stanley Cup made of nickels and went downhill from there. Well actually my math problems probably started in grade 11, but they reared their ugly head on Canada AM more times than I care to remember. One day, years ago, I showed a photo of a Stanley Cup that someone had made from nickels. I believe the information said there were $40 dollars worth of nickels involved and I immediately blurted out, “OMG, that’s 8000 nickels!” Well, it was obviously ‘800’ nickels and in today’s world of social media, I was rightly corrected more times in 5 minutes than I was in 13 years of high school. ( before you think I got that wrong too, I did attend high school in Ontario while it still went to grade 13. And that’s a good thing, because I had to take grade 11 again in grade 12, and grade 12 math again in grade 13, which left me going to summer school to get my grade 13 math..I know those totals add up!) You always pride yourself on live TV by how quick you can think ‘on the fly’, but somehow, I always thought a little too quickly when it came to math. I can still see the fear and Bev and Marci’s eyes whenever I would try to tackle something that involved numbers. Marci’s ‘oh. boy.’ still resonates with me. She said it every time I would try to tackle a numbers issue live on the air. I didn’t try to be wrong, it just seemed I was wrong more than right! The only upside to being wrong was the joy and laughter it brought to my cohosts, bless their forgiving hearts!

In my last blog about ‘Overthinking’ retirement, I wrote that I just happened to catch a lady doing weather on Newschannel one day, and didn’t miss it at all because I had certainly done my share of weather for Canada AM and Newschannel. I then wrote “..in fact, I did it about 3,275 times in my career” I then brazenly put in brackets “(calculations of this number available upon request)”. Well, it just so happens that I did the weather over 23,000 times, yep TWENTY THREE THOUSAND times during my career, so I only missed that real number by about 20,000!

Those who worked with me will tell you I was always a numbers and detail kind of guy. For example, I know how many flights I took every year, because I would record them in my daytimer, count them each month, total them monthly, and then add up the number at the end of the year. I know Heather and I spent 2500 nights apart between the time I met her and the time I retired, because I have all my daytimers dating back to 2000 and could easily track the numbers from when we met in 2004 onwards. I know 21 is the most consecutive days we spent together in the same time frame, again, because I kept track of things in my daytimers and when I became curious about that very topic, I was able to go back and count. I can tell you where I was and what I was doing every day for the last 17 years. I can track down a remote I did in Cochrane Alberta, or when I was in Yellowknife, or when I did a tall ships remote in Halifax. I can tell you the date we first did a St. Patricks day remote in St. John’s at O’Reilly’s Pub ( March 5, 2005), and even my flight times to and from Newfoundland. All of these things lead to interesting, to me anyway, facts and figures about my life and times, during my time, at Canada AM. I just can’t do math, quickly, or slowly and deliberately, it appears.

I have a speaking engagement here in Charlottetown tomorrow night, and I was thinking of what approach to take, when I came up with a ‘numbers’ theme. You know, 40 years in the buisness, 23 years full and part time at AM, 22 years between Olympics, 12 cohosts, 15 executive producers, 3,275 weather forecasts..wait..what??? That number all of a sudden just didn’t sound right, or correct. I mean, I knew I worked an average of 210 days per year, when you took away weekends, holidays, stats and arranged leave of absence days. I also know for that last 8 years, I did the weather 7 times per day. 6 of those live on AM and then we recorded a weather after the show that would run on Newschannel. So, let me see, 210 days per year, at 7 forcasts per day, that, I know, is 1,470 weather reports in one year. Using the same math and calculator, that means I did 11,760 forcasts in my last eight years at AM. Oh, and I didn’t forget my other 10 years! With the show format changing from time to time as it did, I had another 10 years with 5 forecasts per day, but 10 more days per year worked. So, over my first 10 years, that’s 220 days per year worked at 5 weather reports per day. That total is another 11,000 weather reports!
In the five years I worked at AM on a part time basis, I can safely add another 1000 forcasts. I worked all this out, because when I speak tomorrow I’ll use the number 23,760 times doing the weather on Canada AM, ‘not’ 3,275. At least I was closer with the nickels!

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Did I ‘Overthink’ my retirement? Oh Yeah.

I was doing some channel surfing a couple of days ago and came upon a very nice lady doing the weather on CTV Newschannel. I had no idea who it was, but, at the same time, I was glad that wasn’t me up there on the screen. I’ve done my share of weather for Canada AM and Newschannel, in fact I did it about 3,275 times in my career. (calculations of this number available upon request!) Not only did I not miss doing it, but I couldn’t conceive of a scenerio of ever doing it again. But about nine months ago, perhaps there was a time when I did.  I know now, that’s because I COMPLETELY overthought my retirement, and it took an ‘aha moment’ seven months later to realize it.

The ‘Urban Dictionary’ defines ‘overthink’ like this..”Something is on your mind and you continiously think about it, the thought gets deeper and you start thinking about circumstances, events and possibilities that could be…in the end you have far too many thoughts racing through your head.”   Yep.

By the time I retired, I had enough events and trips and good times planned to last me until almost the end of October.  Most were arranged before my last day of work. Several of the things I did were retirement ‘celebration’ related and totally helped mark the milestone, and Heather and I had some great away time together.  I accepted other invitations to things like golf tournaments and boys golf weekends, because I had the time to do things I didn’t in the past, but in the back of my mind, I also knew it would be something to keep me busy. ‘Keeping busy’ seemed to be the dominate self-imposed theme that I had to follow.  When people would ask me how retirement was going in the first couple of months, my go to answer was always ” great, but check back with me in the middle of a PEI winter!”   And that’s where we are now.

Yes, here we are in the middle of a PEI winter, and I’m loving not working the same as I did in the middle of a glorious PEI summer.  Why is that? It’s because I overthought what I envisioned my life would be in the middle of a PEI winter. So what changed?  I think when you approach the time in your life that you’re going to retire, and I was only 62, your first clear thought is..now what?  Then you think about not having a daily routine anymore.  Then you begin to think about what you will do ‘every day’ for the rest of your life…the. rest. of. your. life. I now have absolutely no trouble sleeping in until 7 or 8am, or later, and could immediately do that once I stopped working. But when I retired I was convinced I’d be getting up at 4am forever. I was overthinking sleep patterns for goodness sake. And here’s the absolute biggest question of all… are we set up financially?  Well, for us, an ‘aha moment’ told us we were and that’s when I felt comfortable about things. That moment came in January, which led me directly to the realization of ‘overthinking.’

Now, whether you’ve had an ‘aha moment’ or not, you’re still in PEI in the middle of winter.  So now what?  Well, after a very busy December/Christmas season, I decided in January that I wanted to continue walking as exercise, so I began to drive to Summerside, about 45 minutes from our driveway, to walk at the great facility they have there at Credit Union Place.  They have a wonderful, and well used, walking track around the top of the seating area in the arena.  Four laps is just a few metres shy of a kilometre and I usually walk about 8 kilometres or 70 minutes.  I began to do this 3 to 4 times per week depending on the weather, which was pretty good in January. My neighbour Tom couldn’t believe it when I told him I was driving to ‘all the way’ to Summerside to go walking, but I told him that if I could fly 1000 miles a week for almost 12 years just to get home, a 45 minute drive to Summerside is nothing!  You can also throw in a few kids hockey tournaments and games and presto, January was gone, and that puppy had 31 days!

In February, Heather and I took our annual getaway trip to Fort Lauderdale for a long weekend.  Just four days, lounging and relaxing and really not much more.  We got back on a Tuesday and on Thursday I was off on a solo trip to Ontario for my granddaughter Paisley’s first birthday that Saturday. A few months earlier, when booking the trip to Ontario, I just ‘happened’ to check the Toronto to Florida airfare, and much to my delight, I was able to snag a return trip on Westjet from Toronto to Fort Myers for under $280. This meant I was going to have to call on my (adorable) friends Paul and Susan again, whose house in Venice I stayed at in October, and they welcomed me back with open arms.  So, while PEI was getting hammered with three consecutive storms in 5 days, I was golfing four of those in sunny Florida.  Yep, retirment is great!   In October, I blogged about playing a course called Old Corkscrew in Estero, near Fort Myers, and my old high school friend Phil is the owner of this dramatic layout.  He wasn’t in Florida in October, but Paul and I played with him twice during the week, and while I didn’t buy the tee shirt that says it, I certainly got ‘screwed by Old Corkscrew’,again, but I’m not giving up!  As the snow piled up and the wind howled in PEI, Paul and Sue, and Phil and his wife Irene and I enjoyed a couple of dinners, and rehashed old times.  By the time I got back home, the wind had died down, the snow had stopped, the roads where plowed, and now we’ve got a big melt going, so right now, it’s Retirement: 1 PEI Winter: 0!

I got back to walking in Summerside this week, and when I don’t walk I’ve certainly discovered I don’t need to do something everyday.  I mean today is a blogging, laundry day.  Sometimes I just do a couple of chores.  I mostly do the grocery shopping and and run errands, and that keeps me busy.  Yesterday I finally joined a golf course, and know that for the first time in years I have the chance of getting in 75 rounds, maybe more.  I’ve got my Scenic cruises on deck, the first of which is the first week of May, and the next one in July, and already we know we have some friends coming down in the summer, with hopefully more to follow, and we’ll be traveling a bit as well. My daughter is getting married at the end of May in Kitchener, so that’s going to be another great complete family gathering.  It’s nice to always have something to look forward to, even when it’s months down the road.  I have time for, well, just about everything now.

I should mention here it remains amazing to me how little television I am watching. I don’t ‘binge’ watch anything at this point, and have yet to spend a day in front of the TV when Heather is at work and the kids are at school. Having said that, we like our football and hockey and watch plenty of that, and I know season two of ‘Billions’ just started so I’ll catch up with that. We do watch the local CBC news and how can you not tune in to CNN from time to time to watch the tragi-comedy that is American politics. Still no TV in the morning, but now, that’s mainly because I’m never up!

My ‘overthinking’ days are over.  When someone asks if I want to do something, I usually say ‘sure, I don’t have anything else to do’.  Upon leaving Flordia, my friend Paul was worried about driving his car back to Ontario, while his wife flew, because it has been acting up a bit and he doesn’t want to find himself alone and stranded. I totally understood. He was wondering about getting his brother to drive back with him, but that didn’t look like it was coming together.  So I piped up, “Hey, I’ll come back down to Florida and drive back with you..I’ve got nothing else to do.”  So, guess what…come the middle of April, I’m flying to Florida to drive back to Ontario.  Hmmm, I see on google maps that’s 2251 kilometres of driving.  Perhaps I should have ‘overthought’ that one….!

On twitter: @jeffhutcheson

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