Wednesday, 7 November 2018


Someday Never Came

I was struck by a short Canadian Press story in the sports section of last Friday’s Globe and Mail. Not that anything was in my eye but I still felt something akin to an emotional twinge. The Montreal Canadiens, heeding the example of their six sister Canadian NHL teams, will no longer print complimentary pocket schedules.

They came in the same shape but many sizes. Some pocket schedules were simple rectangular cards. Others had a quarter fold and opened like a skimpy book. Elaborate ones expanded like accordions or spread out like road maps. Some people collect matchbooks, embroidered patches or bars of hotel soap. At some point during the 70s I began tossing miniature sports schedules into a shoebox, a blue Adidas one with three white saw-toothed stripes on its lid. Seasons of Canadiens hockey, Expos baseball, Alouettes and Concordes football, Manic soccer (indoor and outdoor) and local university athletics began to accumulate.

Production costs would not have been an issue for the hockey club as the price per unit would break down into pennies or fractions of, that outlay in turn offset by contributions from marketing partners and advertisers. However, in this era of apps, laptops and tablets it makes little sense to flood sports bars, gas stations, convenience stores and ticket wickets with a million pieces of worthless paper. And then there are environmental concerns. Every phase of printing from forest to courier truck exacts an ecological toll. Some are blatantly obvious; others less so: for instance a sheet of recycled paper leaves a larger carbon footprint than its virgin counterpart because it must be de-inked and re-pulped.

Travelling I habitually pocketed the home team’s season schedule whether I attended a game or not; club calendars made fine little mementos. Friends and relatives who lived outside of Montreal began enclosing schedules in their letters to me. I hit a gusher halfway through the 80s when I first met my friend Stats Guy. At the time he was the director of publications and statistics for the Edmonton Oilers. He was in constant contact with his counterparts around the NHL and other pro leagues, baseball especially as Stats Guy is a life-long seamhead.

This tiny sporting fraternity exchanged tips and information. What are the dimensions of your media guide? Perfect bind or coil? Colour throughout or just in one or two signatures? Can you please send one or two along and enclose a couple of pocket schedules?

(During our last Tuesday Night Beer Club meeting Stats Guy muttered about culling his collection of sports publications. Two sips later he mentioned he’d just bought four new bookshelves. I’m wildly relieved that I don’t live directly beneath his upper storey apartment.)

Seasons changed at the whim of sports calendars. A few times a year Stats Guy would play schedule Santa, a bulky manila envelope would arrive. The shoeboxes stashed in the corner of the closet began to stack up. They changed addresses in Montreal numerous times. They got shipped to Edmonton. Mysteriously, their number continued to increase. When my employer transferred me to Calgary, my shoeboxes were packed into bigger boxes by Allied Van Lines. During my 20-odd years in Calgary my shoeboxes multiplied in five different closets.

Someday, I often thought, someday. Someday I will spread out my collection on the dining room table and I will organize it, sort it by sport, league and year. Someday, maybe once I’ve retired, I will rehouse my pocket schedules in binders and display them in those three-holed plastic inserts trading card collectors use. Someday. It’ll be fun, I thought, not a chore. Someday.

About five or six years ago when I was planning my move from Calgary back to Edmonton, I sat on the edge of my bed in my bedroom and contemplated the ziggurat of shoeboxes piled up on my closet floor. The original incubator, that blue Adidas box, was on top, obscured by a Harris tweed sports jacket. My intention was to relocate north with a light load: books, notebooks, recorded music and my modest collection of Rolling Stones tour posters. Clothing too – always handy, especially if you wish to go outside.

I asked myself, Who are you kidding? I told myself, Those pocket schedules will stay in their boxes until the day you die. You will never look at them; you will never sort them out. And if on the off chance you did, if you ever got around to it, who the hell would want them after you’re gone? Junk, just junk to be disposed of, junk, more junk to be carted off when you’re dead. God knows what’ll happen to your Stones stuff.

I dumped all of my pocket sports schedules into the blue recycle bin in the back alley. They resembled a collage atop the newspapers and broken cartons. Defunct leagues and teams. Relocated teams. Years of casual foraging. Trips. Memories. Among the logos and artwork were faces of people who’d spared a thought and a stamp for me. All so real then as now even though I no longer have the paper to prove it.

Copies of my latest novel The Garage Sailor are still available and ready to ship. Get aboard at

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