I started my video career while I was still in media college – I was asked by one of the producers on a show that our college produced to look after an ISO recording sourced from the Dome Productions mobile production truck at a CFL Winnipeg Blue Bombers game back in the autumn of 1998. So I sat in the back of a Ford Explorer for 5 hours with no heat and changed tapes in a Sony UVW1800 BetacamSP VTR and watched the game live on site at Winnipeg Stadium, albeit from the parking lot in near freezing temperatures.
The rest as they say is history.
My friend and long time mentor Peter Young, a storied Winnipeg sportscaster I grew up watching on CKY television (now part of the CTV network) recruited me after he and I got into a rather heated disagreement over camera availability during the run-up to the 86th Grey Cup CFL Football Final held in Winnipeg, Manitoba on November 22, 1998. He told me later that if I had that much guts and that little smarts, I’d do great as a sideline camera man.
When the Blue Bombers announced that they were installing a Sony Jumbotron in the North End zone for the 1999 CFL season, guess who Peter tapped to operate the East side camera?
I was suddenly on a video crew with some of the very best talents in live sports production and working alongside others working for host broadcasting for televised games. When I went out in public, people recognized me as The East Side Camera Guy.
The very first game the Jumbotron was turned on for turned out to be a near washout torrential downpour. The newly installed video board panels started to fail, one by one, due to the soaking they were receiving in a Prairie rainstorm.
We camera operators were asked to frame the action further and further to one side as the panels slowly shorted out so that 40,000+ screaming fans could watch the action live on the big screen. As it became readily apparent this was an exercise in futility, Peter called the West Side field level camera operators to pack up and come inside and up to the control room. Until the last panel gave up, it was only the upstairs hard camera positions and me, standing on the East Side visitors’ sideline, drenched, shooting kickers warming up and diehard Bomber fans weathering the uh… weather.
Over the years, I worked all sorts of events at the Winnipeg Stadium, which later became known as CanadInns Stadium, first as a camera operator and later as technical director switcher.
I have a lot of fond memories of that place and how it and the people I worked alongside launched my career.
The interesting part is I was never really all that much of a sports fan, although much of my career has revolved around live sports production. In fact, directing and switching all sorts of live sports and sporting entertainment is among my very favourite things to do as a working videographer.
I have worked at the Winnipeg Stadium/CanadInns Stadium, CanWest Global Park (home of the Winnipeg Goldeyes), Winnipeg Arena (former home of the Manitoba Moose and former home of the 1972 – 1996 Winnipeg Jets) and the MTS Centre in Downtown Winnipeg where the Manitoba Moose moved to in 2004 until the current Winnipeg Jets returned to the city in 2011.
In fact, I technical directed and live switched most of the first events held at the new MTS Centre including the official launch of the facility, the Northern Lights Northern Stars concert as the designated TD Lloyd Fox was often tied up elsewhere in the building looking after those little things that always come up with the launch of a new facility.
Until my departure from the organization, I switched approximately half of the events held there from a dark little non-descript room adjacent to the loading docks.
The facility that started my career in live sports is currently being demolished to make room for a new Target retail store in Winnipeg as the Winnipeg Blue Bombers are moving to a new facility currently being built close to the University of Manitoba. This will be the first sports facility with video production screens in Winnipeg that I have not been there working the launch of.
In fact, I ran into several folks at NAB (the National Association of Broadcasters convention and trade show) this year in Vegas from the Winnipeg video production community who I reminisced with about just that.
As well, when I went to the ROSS Video booth for my one hour one-on-one product consultation for a new vision switcher for Road Dog Media, I ran into Scott Bowditch, a former Synergy trainer with ROSS Video who is now the Marketing Product Manager of the OverDrive line at ROSS. He recognized me instantly and placed me at the MTS Centre, even though we haven’t seen each other in 9 years. He and one of his colleagues trained me on the Synergy 1 video switcher I drove for many a Manitoba Moose game and concert in that control room that reeked of diesel fumes.
It was a sexy desk to sit behind.
Scott and I chatted about the new facility and some of the challenges of launching a new venue. I felt nostalgic as I remember how little was actually ready at the MTS Centre when we launched. Everything the public saw was spectacular. Behind the scenes, it was chaos. But we all worked together to put on one heck of a show.
Sometimes I miss those days.
I also miss the old stadium. It smelled and the shine had long ago worn off.
But it was my home many, many late nights.
I love the old girl, wrinkles and all.
Farewell, ma chère amie!
Thanks for reading!