The story of Corey Roberts

Only longtime fans of the Owen Sound Attack and the Ontario Hockey League will remember Corey Roberts.

If I recall, Les Binkley predicted a bright future for Roberts and said the young man from Winsloe, Prince Edward Island had all the tools to make it as a pro. Binkley was born in Owen Sound and spent five years as goalie for the Pittsburgh Penguins in the late ’60s and early ’70s.

Roberts did not make the big leagues.

I met Corey in the fall of 1999 when he was the Attack’s backup goalie to Owen Sound native Curtis Sanford, who would go on to spend several years in the NHL.

At the time, I’d recently quit my job as a copywriter for the local radio station, CFOS. I wanted to go back to my journalism roots and that included freelance articles for The Owen Sound Sun-Times, Schizophrenia Digest (my college friend Gord Howard was the editor) and whatever sources I could find.

A CALL TO P.E.I.

I contacted the editor of The Charlottetown Guardian and asked him if he’d be interested in a feature on Roberts and his budding hockey career with the local Junior A team. He was.

What you’re reading right now…and thanks…is free. My blog. No renumeration. This post might get ten views, maybe up to fifty. I think I was paid $50 for the piece on Corey Roberts and I’m betting way more than fifty read it. Maybe hundreds.

Curtis Sanford graduated junior hockey and Roberts became the Attack starter in 2000. Played 56 games with a goals against average of 3.22 and stood on his head in a playoff series The Attack lost to the Windsor Spitfires. I attended most of the games and stood atop the aisles, on the railings, with my tennis buddy, Gary Morrison.

ONE OF THE RAILBIRDS

It was the preferred location of NHL scouts and GMs like Doug Risebrough. We chatted with Doug, who was fairly low key. During that Owen Sound-Windsor playoff series, we were within shouting distance of the father of Spitfire star defenceman and future pro Tim Gleason.

Tim’s Dad was raving about Corey Roberts and said the young netminder was keeping Owen Sound in the game.

That series turned out to be the peak of Roberts’s hockey career.

One guy from that Attack team that did make it was my fellow Scarborough native Joel Ward. Met him a few times, nice young man. He spent several years with the Caps and is playing with the San Jose Sharks.

Corey started the next season as the number one goalie but, as a 20-year-old overager. Meaning he was one of three players in that age group on a team of 16 to 19-year-olds and the “overager” spot was always given to the elite players that didn’t find work in the minor pro leagues.

GETTING AN EDUCATION

He didn’t perform as an overager should, got traded to Oshawa, and went on to University hockey at St. Mary’s in Halifax.

I’m not sure what happened to Corey Roberts after that point. I’ll always hope he made the most of his education and, who knows, like Archie Graham in Field of Dreams, Roberts may have realized he wasn’t going to make it as a pro and chose to become a doctor.

Cheers Corey, wherever you are! Thanks for helping me put $50 in my bank account. It’s $50 more than I will earn for this blog post but you and I both did it for the love of the game.

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Alan Freed and the birth of rock and roll

My latest iTunes podcast (free to download and subscribe, and the episodes are relatively short). Legendary DJ Alan Freed introduces white kids to African American R&B.

Reference material:

 Big Beat Heat by John A. Jackson.

 

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Elvis: The Louisiana Hayride takes a chance on a 19-year-old

My new iTunes podcast episode (free to listen and subscribe). The radio host tells the young rocker that the “folk music” scene has been looking for something new and he could be it. Country radio and fans weren’t so sure. With interview clips from the future King of Rock and Roll.

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Why I keep watching the Oscars year after year

I am not entertained by shit blowing up.

As a teenager, I was. If you’re old enough to remember the 1975 disaster flick The Towering Inferno, there was a scene in which a helicopter pilot tried to land on the roof of said towering inferno and in the words of Billy Sol Hurok and Big Jim McBob from SCTV’s Farm Film Report, the helicopter blowed up.

Blowed up good.

Blowed up real good.

I thought that was cool. But I was only 13.

I was also impressed at the time that The Towering Inferno was Oscar nominated for Best Picture, against Lenny, Chinatown, The Conversation and the eventual winner, The Godfather Part Two. Four films that are regarded as classics and even landmarks in cinema.

And a popcorn movie with shit blowing up, featuring one of the earliest screen performances by O.J. Simpson, and the career finale for Jennifer Jones. With the legendary Fred Astaire getting his only Oscar nomination (he lost to Robert DeNiro, Godfather Part Two).

I have zero interest in movies about super heroes or comic book characters. Sorry but I like Adam West’s cheesy TV Batman better than any of the big screen, increasingly dark and serious caped crusaders. Heath Ledger was unforgettable as The Joker and took comic book villains to a whole new level, but the material ain’t exactly Hemingway, Steinbeck or even Tarantino.

Or Kumail Nanjani.

The Big Sick was my favourite film of 2017. Touching, funny, heart breaking and beautifully written by Nanjani and his wife, Emily J. Gordon. Nothing blew up. No one engaged in sword or gun fights and the movie was big on emotion and short on special effects.

A close second would be The Florida Project. Sam Rockwell was terrific in Three Billboards Outside of Epping Missouri and I cant’ quibble with his Oscar win but Willem Dafoe may never get a role like this again. If you haven’t seen The Florida Project, Dafoe plays the manager of what would be termed a welfare motel, located near Disney World. He is spectacular. The child actors are so good that The Florida Project feels more like a documentary.

If you love super hero movies…who am I kidding? Fans of Iron Man, Superman, Batman or whatever-man likely checked out paragraphs ago but, if you are still with me…no offence.

And hey, the Best Picture Oscar went to a movie about a half human sea creature that boned a mute woman and while you could accuse director and writer Guillermo Del Toro of ripping off The Creature from the Black Lagoon and countless other pictures, it was dazzling to watch.

I liked Shape of Water. Not nearly as much as The Big Sick or The Florida Project but the performances by Sally Hawkins, Richard Jenkins and Doug Jones will stick with me for a long time.

Extra points for shooting in Toronto and using the glorious Elgin Theatre as one of the settings.

I don’t remember much about The Towering Inferno despite the star power of Paul Newman and Steve McQueen. People were trapped in a skyscraper that caught on fire. Someone rescued a cat. We looked at the screen and said, “Hey, it’s O.J. Simpson!” instead of, “Oh shit, it’s O.J. Simpson.”

So I’m kinda glad entertaining but mindless movies like that rarely get Academy Award nods these days. Yes, The Oscars have tended to nominate films hardly anyone paid to see but for me the joy is in giving them a try and enjoying the stories, meeting unforgettable characters and, when the end credits roll, feeling it was time very well spent.

Instead of seeing shit blow up.

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