He was born in Radisson, Saskatchewan 1912, I expect he’d recognize it if he drove into town today. He’d be sitting in a Ford, or a Mercury, the country radio playing Hank Williams and about a quarter inch of dust on the dashboard. Dad was always working, so he always smelled like sweat mixed with varsol or soap, even when he put on a suit. He had sad eyes, and he lived a tough life before I met him, his whole generation did and that’s a fact. He worked the land, he built houses—a little crooked if you caught what Mom said under her breath—and he never swore. He wasn’t perfect, if he got mad he could spend the whole damn day being contrary. He didn’t really understand the idea of easing up, he beat our neighbour Alfred Toner so bad in cribbage one Saturday night he never came back to the house. They’d been playing for many years at the time.
Dad froze his hands somewhere along the way, the nails on his fingers were very thick, he said they didn’t hurt and I believed him. I stared at his hands all the time as a kid. He had some kind of nerve damage, maybe from the war, and sometimes when he woke up from a nap he left eyelid wouldn’t open for a time. Used to scare the hell out of me.
Dad lost a lot of his hearing in the war, got sun stroke hacking ties for the railroad and that put him in the hospital for the week. He and Mom always had coffee at 10 and 3, every day they were together, and would talk and laugh and make plans. I loved being around at coffee breaks, it was the time of day when both parents were most content and it had a calming effect on me.
Dad had a way about him, you knew when it was time to go to bed and visitors knew when it was time to go home. One time, when I was maybe 10, it was late and visitors were still at our house. I distinctly remember Dad saying “Lois, let’s go to bed so these people can go home” and everyone laughed and then the visitors left! Holy hell!
He was a loner, but he was kind to my Mom and never gave her a reason to doubt him. His Dad had abused his Mom, so he was sensitive to disrespect to my Mom and to demon liquor, we had none in our home I can recall. He never told me he loved me until he was dying at the Cross Cancer Institute, but I knew every day that he loved me.
My Mom called him “Dammit Ira” 10,000 times, and he called her darling every day. He wasn’t an easy man to have for a Dad, but he was a good one. I can still hear him laugh, I never saw him cry. He badly missed his brother Roy, who he lost in the war. I saw him get his feelings hurt just once, when my brother asked him if we could call him ‘the old man’ as that was a phrase used at the time. The things I fought about with my Dad were few, hair length was one and I’m here to tell you it was the silliest damn thing to argue about in the history of time.
He got a job at Husky when he really needed one, he never forgot it, not ever. He loved working for CN, he worked at a tough job past 60 and worried that CN would eventually retire him (and they did).
A few years after my wife and I were married, we came to visit (Mom and Dad lived in tower three Southgate at the time). Jo had terrible cramps and for some reason they didn’t have a hot water bottle, so Dad and I drove at 2am to the drug store on Jasper Avenue to pick one up. On the way back, driving his Ford, he told me I’d married the right girl and he was proud of me. My best day.
On the night he died (at Mewburn Veterans Centre), I was 31, we lived at West Edmonton Village, and both Jo and I got home late from work and tired. We’d been going up to see Dad every night for two weeks and I was exhausted. Jo put in some laundry and said she’d be ready to go in about 20 minutes, I said I’m not going. We had a helluva fight. She won. I got to Mewburn in time to say goodbye. You don’t choose your Dad, but all children deserve to have someone who loves them, protects them and raises them well. My Dad was a poor farmer from Saskatchewan, he did the best he could with what God gave him. I remain proud to be his son.
Call your Dad.
The Athletic Edmonton features a fabulous cluster of stories (some linked below, some on the site). Great perspective from a ridiculous group of writers and analysts. Proud to be part of The Athletic, check it out here.
- New Lowetide: Do Oilers fans expect feature minutes from Tyler Ennis on top line?
- Lowetide: Ethan Bear, Caleb Jones and the Oilers’ need for veteran insurance
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Why the Oilers should protect these 8 skaters in the Seattle expansion draft
- Jonathan Willis: Why Carl Soderberg is an intriguing free agent possibility for the Oilers
- Lowetide: Oilers prospect Raphael Lavoie’s possible impact in his first year pro
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: The good, bad and ugly of the Oilers’ last 15 years of free agent signings
- Lowetide: Why you should be worried about William Lagesson’s future in Edmonton
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Remembering the goal that made Fernando Pisani a cult hero in Edmonton
- Lowetide: The Oilers’ 2016 draft remains an enigma, with a glimmer of hope
- Jonathan Willis: The parallels from the fall of Alexander the Great and the 2006 Oilers
- Lowetide: 5 AHL forwards who offer the Oilers a chance to buy low on real talent
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: ‘Agape’: Why Oilers prospect Cooper Marody wrote a song about Colby Cave
- Jonathan Willis: Connor McDavid’s recovery is just one of 2020’s incredible Masterton stories
- Lowetide: Every prospect in the Oilers system and what’s next for each player
- Lowetide: Oilers minor leaguers over 40 years, and Jay Woodcroft’s current role
- Lowetide: Charting Theodor Lennstrom’s future with the Oilers
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Projecting the Oilers’ black aces and how much they’ll play
- Jonathan Willis: Projecting the Oilers’ lineup for their play-in series versus the Blackhawks
- Lowetide: Could the Oilers draft a defenceman in the first round?
- Lowetide: Why the Oilers should extend Ryan Nugent-Hopkins as soon as possible
- Lowetide: Oilers farmhand Josh Currie’s small window of opportunity
- Jonathan Willis: Misguided priorities helped turn the Oilers’ 2010 rebuild into a debacle
- Lowetide: Oilers greatest areas of need for the 2020 draft
Sam Gagner signed his big contract on July 22, 2013. Three years times $4.8 million, and that’s the day I believe he got himself dealt by the Oilers. His 2012-13 season didn’t go as planned. Gagner was 23 and in his sixth NHL season, a point he should have been taking over from Shawn Horcoff and protecting young Ryan Nugent-Hopkins by taking on the tough minutes. His five on five scoring rates had been solid (1.94 in 2011-12), his shot share was 48 percent and goal share 54.65 percent. Here’s what the centers did in 2012-13, leading in to contract negotiations:
Nuge was playing the big minutes, his most common linemates were Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle and Hall was the feature player (3.05 five on five per 60) for opponents. So Nuge is 19, Horcoff is 34, Belanger is trying to catch Yakupov to give him what for, and Sam Gagner is 23 and didn’t play the toughest minutes. Not only that, his possession number was poor, meaning that the Kid Line OFF ICE possession number was an absolute disaster. Pretty sure the die was cast on a trade out of town before the ink was dry on that contract.
Gagner’s return in 2019-20 showed a different player. He’s no longer a center, no longer relied on to play big game moments, and his possession numbers were excellent compared to his fellow bottom-six linemates:
Could the Oilers bring Gagner back over Russell? I think it’s possible. He doesn’t PK, but is productive on the power play and his possession numbers have been rock solid for some time. Samwise learned the trade. I’m glad to have seen him again in a different point in his career. So many young Oilers had to move away and get a second opinion. Sam was one.
THE NHL’S RETURN
I’d love to see the NHL return for the playoffs and to see a champion receive Stanley. Only if it’s safe. The news that some NHL players have tested positive was somewhat expected, but if even one of them suffers long-term health issues, then shut it down. Seriously. My being entertained is worth exactly zero lives. I’ll watch Murder, She Wrote and old games until everyone is safe again. No Joe Hall this time. Not a one.