Next stop on the ‘retirement’ tour..Mattawa. Where???

Like almost one in three Canadians (at least at some point during the broadcast) I was glued to the TV for the Tragically Hip’s final show from Kingston. I’m in the category of ‘casual fan’ of the Hip, not ‘huge’ fan like many. I have a friend who has been to over 80 Hip shows and attended several on the farewell tour, including the one in Kingston. On the other hand I didn’t have a problem at all posting my seven favourite Hip songs on Twitter. But I have never been to a Hip concert, nor did I ever have the inclination to go to one. Like millions of Canadian hard core Hip fans, and Hip fans like me, however, I always sat up and took notice of just how Canadian this band was. Gord Downie certainly is a poet, and sometimes his songs were so majestically esoteric it forced you to search out the meaning, and many times that meaning is intrinsically Canadian. I use the Canadian classic ‘Bobcaygeon’ as an example but leave it to you to do the math.

I have always related to, and been proud of, everything Canadian. I scoffed at those who felt watching the Olympics wasn’t something they were going to do and carried a ‘who cares about the Olympics’ attitude. Watching things like beach volleyball, olympic type wrestling, water polo, 7’s rugby, and the high jump for goodness sake, is not something I would normally do, and I admit straight away, I don’t watch a lot of amateur sports. But how could you not get caught up in what this country did in Rio? Yes, the Olympics are expensive, and yes, with the cost factor involved, any Canadian city might be crazy to bid to host the games in the future, but my oh my, I was glued to the TV for the past two weeks. That feeling you had when Penny Oleksiak won that first Bronze? Pride. When she won Silver? Pride. When she won Gold?..Pride. That feeling you had when Andre De Grasse won Silver? Pride. Women’s soccer Bronze? Pride. Women’s Rugby Bronze? Pride. Derek Drouin? Pride. It doesn’t matter if you were jumping on board for the first time, or had followed some of these athletes for years. We watch, and we feel good when a Canadian can show the world what we’re made of. Who doesn’t want to watch that? Who doesn’t want to experience that feeling?

Which brings me to Mattawa, this weeks stop on my ‘retirement tour’. I have always loved small town Canada. I think living and working in Canada’s largest city makes you appreciate small town Canada all that much more. Some of the greatest Canada AM remotes occured in small Canadian centres like Shaunavon and Moose Jaw Saskatchewan, Merritt and Kimberley B.C., Pincher Creek and Drumheller Alberta, Dauphin Manitoba, Merrickville and Wiarton are on the list of countless great small town Ontario remotes, Rigaud Quebec and it’s fabulous sugar shack, Hartland New Brunswick, Digby Nova Scotia, Summerside PEI, Norris Point Newfoundland, Whitehorse in the Yukon, Yellowknife NWT and Iqaluit in Nunavut. It’s in these small towns that you learn the differencs ‘and’ similarities between, say, the ranchers in Pincher Creek and the scallop fisherment in Digby. What makes them different is what they do and where they live. What makes them the same, is that they are Canadian.

About 10-12 years ago I got an email from a very persistant and lovely lady named Linda in Mattawa Ontario. Would I come up to Mattawa and take part in their charity golf tournament in support of the local hospital? Mattawa? Where the hell is that? It’s about 60 kilometres directly east of North Bay on the Ottawa River. Population according to the 2011 census was 2,023. I think it took a couple of emails from Linda, but I agreed to go, and liked it so much I went back a second time a few years later. Once the hospital reached their overall fundraising objective goal, the tournament stopped, job well done, new hospital in place. Early this winter, I got another email from Linda. Interested in coming back to Mattawa? This time for another charity golf event in aid of the hospital and local Algonquin Nursing Home to sustain their services now and in the future.

Oh my..Big Joe Mufferlaw was calling again!

How could I say no? The great thing about these small town tournaments is how almost everyone in the community gets involved. That’s the beauty right there. It’s a total team effort. So, tomorrow, at 6am, I’m boarding a flight here in PEI and making my way to Mattawa. Practice round tomorrow afternoon, lake cruise that night, tournament Wednesday and home Friday. Wait..Friday? Of course! Anytime I can arrange for an extra day in Mattawa..I’ll take it!

Twitter: @jeffhutcheson
Instagram: jeff.hutcheson
Representation: Dan Champagne


Corner ‘Gassed’…but I made the field goal!

I just spent a wonderful six days in Radium Hot Springs B.C. on a ‘guys’ golf trip. We played “The Springs” golf course and stayed in a nearby condo, all the time dodging the mountain goats that freely, emphasis on ‘freely’ roam the town. The trip is not something I would have done in the past, although I had been invited. Prior to retirement, I only had so much time off, so if I had gone on a week long golf trip, I would have been away from Heather for up to two weeks in the summer and that just wasn’t something I’d consider. All is different, now that I have no immediate plans..everyday.

So basically, each day involved getting up, going to the course for breakfast, a 10.30 to 10.50 tee time, going back to the condo, ‘refreshing’, having some drinks, eating dinner and drinking until your own personal appointed bedtime..which was different for each of the 8 in our group! We did watch a lot of the Olympics, but one night, the Calgary-Saskatchewan CFL game took centre stage. Four of our guys were from Alberta and were big Stamps fans, and cheered every move of their beloved team. I thought it was great, but was loathe to mention I’m a Hamilton fan, with the Green Riders coming a close second..I mean, once you’re been a team mascot, you’re hooked right?

Back in July of 2003, we planned to do a couple of remotes in Saskatchewan. One in Lloydminster, a city split in two by the Alberta-Saskatchewan border which runs right down the main street. The second was at ‘then’ Taylor Field in Regina, the next day, where I would get mascot training lessons. On Thursday July 3rd, we did the show in Lloydminster, and I thought it was so cool to stand on the main street with one foot in Alberta and the other in Saskatchewan. A lot of townsfolk came out and I remember it was a pretty good remote for Canada AM.

After the show ended, which was at 7am mountain time to coincide with 9am eastern time in Toronto, we got a call. Could we drive to Rouleau Saskatchewan? CTV was taping a new comedy there, and they wanted me to do a ‘cameo’ in one of the episodes they were taping. So, we jumped in the car, drove south and five hours later arrived on the set of “Corner Gas”. The show was slated to air in January 2004, and the set, content, and even the town where they were shooting at this time was a big unknown. So, we finally arrived in Rouleau in the early afternoon and I was briefed on my short scene to be shot with Brent Butt inside the gas station. Long story short, I shot the scene and it never saw the light of day! A few years later, Canada AM was incorporated in a big way when both Seamus and Bev had nice roles in an episode where “Wanda” dreamed she had left Dog River to become co-host of the show with Seamus. You can still see this one from time to time in reruns. I remain in the cutting room floor.

Next day, we did a show from the football field in Regina, home of the Saskatchewan Roughriders. The show had arranged for me to join legendary mascot “Gainer” during a Riders game that night, and the remote that morning was designed to give me ‘mascot lessons’ and learn the ins and outs of being a gopher. I was to be “Cousin Hutch” and would join Gainer that night at the game versus Montreal.

I can’t ever remember being so exhausted and I don’t know how “Gainer” does it. I was in full mascot costume and my job included running to midfield to hold up a “Go” and a “Riders” sign as 23 thousand obeyed the command on cue..what an awesome feeling. Then we ran across the field to the university student’s section, seconds after arriving the Riders scored and we had to run across to the other side of the field to take the flag waving celebration ride in the back of a half ton truck. Then it was across the field again..and again…and again. What a work out, what a thrill!

Montreal beat Saskatchewan 32-31 in this game on July 4th, 2003 when the Riders missed a 32 yard field goal as time ran out. Later that night, my hosts from Tourism Saskatchewan and a Riders executive, headed to the Regina Warehouse district to drown our sorrows, along with, clearly, hundreds of others! It was about 1.30am when we were comiserating about the loss when I said, with the aid of a few beverages, “..well,even I could have made a 32 yard field goal!!”

Minutes later, we were in a cab and on our way to the field. What? Yep, the Riders exec just happened to have a key to the place and next thing you know, it’s 2am, pitch black, and I’m standing on the 32 yard line, in shorts and sandals, about to attempt a 32 yard field goal. If I had done something any more ‘Canadian’ before this, I’m not sure what it was, but here I was, in the heart of football in Canada, in sandals, at 2am, on the 32 yard line about to attempt a 32 yard field goal. I made it.
The top of my foot hurt like hell, and, as I recall the ball beaned the tourism lady standing underneath the goal posts trying to catch it, but there was just enough light for us to see it was good. What. A. Thrill.

It was at the end of the first season of Corner Gas, sometime in June 2004 I think, that it became obvious my scene would not be shown. But hey, that’s showbiz! On the other hand, my field goal will always be good!

Follow me on twitter: @jeffhutcheson
On instgram: jeff.hutcheson
Here’s the link to my Scenic Canada Danube cruise:

Representation: Dan Champagne

Oh, oh…the Panda fell in the bunker..

I had a lot of activities planned for my first post retirement summer many, many months ago. In fact, there were/are eight different little/big trips planned between the end of June and mid-September. We just got back from a couple of nights at the West Point Lighthouse in PEI, a ‘little’ trip, and that marked the halfway point of not only my summer, but my ‘planned’ activities. ( by the way, staying at the lighthouse was awesome..hope you saw our pics on twitter or instagram) I find wherever I go these days, I always get asked these two questions. How’s retirement going? How are Bev and Marci?

Heather asked me the other day if I miss going to work. It was a very good question. It has been nine weeks since I last worked. Two thoughts came to mind. One, I still feel like I’m on an extended vacation and that ‘retirement’ hasn’t really set in yet. It has been a very busy, friend filled, fun summer retirement tour to date!
The second thought I relayed to Heather was that I find myself not worrying about who won the Jays game, or the upcoming Olympics, or what’s on the internet, or even that whacko US Presidential election race. Don’t get me wrong, I still follow these things, but if I miss something for a day or two, that’s ok…I don’t have to talk about these things the next morning. I’m only now realizing how my life was consumed staying in touch and up to date on events that would matter to our audience. So, on the retirement question..all is good!

I’ve been in touch with Bev and Marci several times by both phone and e-mail the past nine weeks. They were never my co-workers. They have always been great friends with whom I had the pleasure of working. Both are doing fine. Both have had some vacay time away from things and like the pros they have always been, they are adapting to life without Canada AM. I miss seeing them in person every morning, but I knew that was coming a year ago. Both are on twitter if you want to find them!

As many of you know, we recently spent my ‘official’ retirement trip at Cabot Links in Inverness Nova Scotia. We loved it there, and had a time for the ages during our nine days. On the way to Cabot, you pass through Mabou and that’s the home of the Rankin Family owned Red Shoe Pub. We had passed this place many times, and were well aware of its food and music reputation, but never stopped in. But this time, we had time on our hands, and so we parked on Main Street and headed in for lunch. On the way into the pub, there was a sandwich board sign listing their food specials and coming events. At the bottom was written. “Happy Hour, 5-7pm, Stuart Cameron and Friends”. Wow! I thought, this is great!! I have known Stuart Cameron for many years, directly through his appearances on Canada AM, and later meeting up at a couple of charity golf tournaments, most notably in Digby Nova Scotia. He’s the son of the late, great John Allan Cameron who was born near Mabou in Inverness County. Stuart is such a sought after player that he once appeared on our show on four consecutive days with four different groups. Sometimes headliners came to the show without their bands, and picked up the best local musicians to back them up. This is how Stuart made those four straight appearances. He’s toured with Willie Nelson, and recorded and toured with the likes of Crash Test Dummies, Amanada Marshall, Mathew Good, fellow ‘Caper’ Ashley MacIsaac, Shaye, George Canyon and the list goes on. I thought, this is great, his dad was from the area, he probably visits during the summer and maybe even has a place here. I found out from our waitress that Stuart Cameron would be playing for three nights, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 5 to 7. It was Monday, and so we made plans to come back on Tuesday night to see my old friend.

We arrived at Cabot later Monday, as did our friends, the first of four couples to join us, Mac and Marcela. I told them about the Red Shoe and the fact Stuart Cameron was playing there, and wondered if they wanted to go. They were all in! So, we played golf in the morning, got cleaned up, and found the Inverness underground taxi service to take us the 20km to Mabou because we were going to be having a few drinks and whooping it up at happy hour. We arrived at the pub at about 5.05, and there were only two tables left, so we got there just in time. The place was jammed, and a good old fashioned ‘kitchen party’ beginning to take shape. As we walked in, there was a gentleman with short black hair playing the fiddle and a young lady playing the piano, and I immediately thought these were the ‘..and friends’ part of “Stuart Cameron and friends’.

About 20 minutes later, and still just the fiddler and piano player knocking out the celtic music, a thought entered my head. What if this guy’s name is ALSO Stuart Cameron? I called over our waiter and asked if that was Stuart Cameron. He said it was. I said..’that. is. not. Stuart. Cameron.’ Oh yes, it is said the waiter, he’s been playing here since he was 12, which was five years ago, and the piano player had been playing piano for 10 years, which means since she was five. Don’t get me wrong, they were great, the place was buzzing, but now I had to tell my friends I had the wrong Stuart Cameron! It was a good news/bad news situation. Loved seeing this ‘new’ Stuart Cameron, missed seeing my friend, the apparently ‘old’ Stuart Cameron!

A few days later, I was in my room with two other couples who had also joined us, and was called to look out the window only to see what is in the photo at the top of this post. A panda!! Or, at least someone in a panda suit. Where do you get a panda suit in Inverness? Heck, where do you get a panda suit on Cape Breton? As you know from the show, I loved showing panda videos, and two actually showed up at my retirement party, but someone was taking this panda thing to the next level. If you look closly at the photo, you can see one of the two golfers in the background taking a photo. I’m sure they didn’t believe it either. The panda came and went within 2 or 3 minutes, but certainly knew I was in my room. At this point, I couldn’t figure out who was behind this little ‘surprise’ because I was still fixated on how a panda suit got to the golf course in the first place. This panda sighting happened on the Friday of our visit, the only day all five couples would be together.

That night, we went to dinner at the Panarama restaurant at the course. The 10 of us were seated at a table at the back, which was adjacent to the 18th green, with ground level being one floor down, and my back was to a large glass window, which also had a door to access the restaurant. This end of the restaurant was built into a hill, so it was also ground level, but just at the back wall. It was about 9.30 at night, when all of a sudden a banging on the door, I turned around, and there it was again!! The panda was outside the restaurant looking in at us and waving. We were laughing away as the panda made its way along the back windows….clearly forgetting, or perhaps not knowing, the terrain it was standing on currently was the same level as the restaurant, but just around the corner loomed a drop…and then this..
“Oh, oh…the panda just fell into the bunker!” I don’t believe anyone on earth has ever put those words in that order. “Panda down! Panda down!”
But this was apparently a very resilient panda, who put his bunker tumble aside and the danced its way across the green to the delight of the entire restaurant..which, by the way, I have renamed “Pandarama” Here is the video of all this, and watch to the end to see the dance across the green!

The panda showed up at my room later that night, took a day off, then showed up one morning at 7.30am to greet me just before I set out to play the magnificent Cabot Cliffs course. I ‘technically’ don’t know who is behind this, but I’m pretty sure it was my friend Mac who imported the costume, likely from Ontario, arranged to have someone make all those appearances, and then have the costume shipped back to where it came from. I LOVED EVERY MINUTE OF IT! I’m pretty sure, though, falling in a bunker in a panda suit was not part of the original deal.

On twitter: @jeffhutcheson
On instagram: jeff.hutcheson
For information on my Scenic Canada river cruise on the Danube next May, you can check out the information here.

Representation: Dan Champagne