Looking at Titans in Toronto in the rearview mirror

oliver-blog

This past Saturday, September 27th, I ran the sixth Titans in Toronto fundraising dinner for the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame. (Here’s the report: Focus on Siki makes Titans In Toronto ‘Irresistible’)

It was great fun, successful from the sense that we oversold on tickets and packed the venue, The Factory up at Dufferin and Steeles, to the gills. But financially, it’s a bit frustrating.

On the same weekend that a friend ran the event Road Hockey to Conquer Cancer, which made a reported $2.2 million, we made roughly .1 % for the PWHF. Small potatoes on so many levels, but what can you do, really? Where are the high rollers in professional wrestling fandom?

It reminds me of the oft-repeated joke in the business:

“How do you make a million dollars in pro wrestling?”

“Start with $10 million.”

But, as they say, it’s not all about money.

The real joy is in seeing the wrestlers enjoying themselves, seeing old friends, reuniting after decades (and decades!) away from each other. Priceless moments, to be honest.

As I sit here and finish off the accounting for the event, I find myself getting a little down, but I know I shouldn’t. It was a great night, with no issues or unexpected snags (except a video not running properly and running out of dinner plates!).

For a pick-me-up, I went back to a column I wrote for SLAM! Wrestling a month before the event: Why I run Titans in Toronto. It has boosted my spirits, as have all the notes on Facebook and Twitter, and the single phone call from Sweet Daddy Siki on Sunday morning telling me what a great time he had and how much better it was than he was expecting.

Okay, back to work.

I am slowly going crazy …

DuckWithThePuck

Familiar with the kids song, “I am slowly going crazy?”

I am these days.

Talk about a lot of things on the go.

In the last month, my two books from ECW Press came in, my son and I self-published our first children’s book — Duck With The Puck, and launched a website, oliverbooks.ca, to list it and everything else that I’ve written.

On top of that, I had arthroscopic knee surgery to clean out my right knee, saw my son’s soccer and baseball seasons come to an end, and began yet another year as a Scout leader with 75th Toronto Old Mill Cubs.

And my NEXT book is supposedly due October 15th. It’s another on historical documents, and it’s going to be great, but it ain’t gonna be done by October 15th.

Hmm, what else? The wife is catsitting and away for two weeks. The printer just died. House is in chaos. Still have physiotherapy appointments for the knee. They changed the times for my son’s school, and I don’t do change well…

Still, I don’t know how to live any other way.

Loving the names from the past

sloan

Had a good hockey day yesterday, where I talked to a bunch of retired players and set up some interviews with others for the coming days.

While it is great to talk to someone like Dan Daoust, who I watched a ton when he played for the Maple Leafs in the 1980s, man, I love the stories from the past.

To that end, there aren’t many left from the era of Tod Sloan and, golly gee, Howie Meeker.

Meeker is the most amazing 90-year-old ex-player I have ever talked to, with an amazing memory and, naturally, a great talent for telling stories.

As for Sloan, the great right winger for the Leafs and Hawks of the 1960s, he’s 86 and still pretty sharp even if he joked, “I’m a little old, a little senile.”

Where he really lit up though was when we started talking about his brother, Joe Sloan, who I certainly had never known about.

Armed with the amazing Society for International Hockey Research database when I talk to these guys, I was able to find his file, which was pretty empty. With Tod’s help, we will be filling it in a bit in the coming days, I think.

If anything, it’s an example of the Second World War disrupting a promising future.

“He went into the army and still had a couple of years of junior left,” Sloan told me. “He got wounded in Holland, he got shot in the leg, and he never played junior. He never played anything after that.”

Both Sloans got into hockey in Sudbury / Falconbridge, and Joe Sloan played for the 1942-1943 Brantford Lions in OHA-Jr. A.

“He signed a C Form with the Leafs. He was an outstanding hockey player. He just had a short season down there in Brantford,” said his younger brother. “If you look up the Brantford Lions, you’ll find him in the scoring, because I can remember seeing him when I was a kid, getting the paper, the Toronto Star, seeing where he got two goals and that.”

Closing the circle? Who played on that 1942-43 team in Brantford, but just for the playoffs?

Howie Meeker.

Owning up to my mistakes

si60

There’s a wonderful feature in the new Sports Illustrated, which marks the 60th anniversary of the magazine. It’s a collection of the magazine’s errors, gaffes, and ridiculousness over the years, everything from apologizing for some of the sexist stories and text that used to be in the magazine to some of the horribly wrong predictions that were made.

It was a lot of fun to read, and definitely worth checking out.

It also got me thinking about some of my errors.

I can basically dismiss any errors on SLAM! Wrestling, simply because the web gives you the ability to change things afterwards. One of my worst transgressions was believing anything that Joe Frocklage / Ike Shaw had to say; he was a con artist from the word go, and it’s still something that successful graduates of his school, like Eric Young, will joke about.

The error that I often recount is from my days at the Toronto Sun, working on the features desk. That day, I was tasked with putting together the “Fun Page” that had the crossword puzzle and some other goodies, as well as birthday wishes to celebrities and a little photo. In this pre-Internet world (yes, I’m old), we had a big book that we would reference. Listed was Michel “Bunny” Larocque, who was one of my favourite goalies, especially when he was the guy on the bench for the Montreal Canadiens as Ken Dryden lead the team to Stanley Cup after Stanley Cup.

What I didn’t realize was that he had died on July 29, 1992.

The next day, I got yelled at, learned my lesson, and was much more careful.

Newspaper is more permanent than the web, sure, but the paper is there and gone in a day, for the most part. (Though I do get a kick out of looking for my work when going through old Toronto Sun microfilm at the Toronto Reference Library; by my own count, I did 13 different jobs during my time there from 1991-1996, when I moved to the new web division that would become known as Canoe.ca, so chances are I contributed somewhere in the paper during those days — including actually getting the newspaper ready for microfilming when I worked in the library!

The most expensive error had to have been when I worked with SPORTClassic Books, and we were reprinting the classic North Dallas Forty, an awesomely fun novel about the Dallas Cowboys, written by Peter Gent, a former wide receiver in Dallas. SPORTClassic Books was a small, small publisher, with essentially four employees. I was the layout guy and editor, and somehow, and I still don’t know how, we managed to ship North Dallas Forty to the printer with whole signatures out of order, meaning that the book didn’t make sense. (A signature, in printing terms, is a section of pages, in multiples of eight, as that is how the pages run through the printer.)

Oops.

We didn’t even catch it “on the blues” when the pages came back for proofing.

Peter Gent, who died in 2011, was furious, and understandably so. We had to recall the books and reprint. (I can’t remember if we were able to salvage them at all; sometimes a printer can separate the signatures and rearrange.) A few readers who had bought the book got in touch, but not an overwhelming number by any means.

So, I guess the advice is, if you see North Dallas Forty in a used bookstore, don’t buy a copy that came out via SPORTClassic Books without checking it thoroughly!

Jerry Butler, I’m coming for you!

butler

The mind is a weird thing, and it can be even weirder when you are dreaming at night.

Last night, I dreamt about hunting down retired hockey player (Rangers, Blues, Leafs, Canucks, Jets) Jerry Butler for an interview and, when I found him in a hotel, how excited he was to do the interview.

“Is this one of those ‘Where are they now?’ pieces? Awesome!”

Do I need help or what?

Now, that said, I DO need to talk to Jerry Butler for the next book on historical NHL documents, again working off the collection of Allan Stitt. So if you do know where he is, point him my way!