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Paul Rimstead

Paul Rimstead as remembered by Bracebridge and Father Heffernan

Father Bernard Heffernan

Tuesday August 1, 2006

(Editor's Note: I knew the late great Paul Rimstead only briefly when I worked at the Toronto Sun. The column below written by Father B.F. Heffernan is one of the most touching I've seen written about "The Rimmer". -Judi McLeod)

  In the early 1950s the champion Bracebridge Bears were the Montreal Canadians of hockey Muskoka.  Gravenhurst, Huntsville and Sundridge cringed when the team invaded their rinks.  In Parry Sound, standing among the fans was probably a young tyke, whose later hockey prowess could have benefitted the local losers, Bobby Orr.  In Bracebridge another young tyke was inspired to become a champion Detroit goalie, Roger Crozier.

     But in Bracebridge, not all were winners.  There was a poor young immigrant family who couldn't afford to see a hockey game.  With father disabled, the mother struggled to raise seven children.  An older teenage son tried to help, while at the same time, pursuing his dream of being a `newspaper writer'.  Striving to get a start, he wrote up the hockey games of the Bracebridge Bears and bicycled them down to the Orillia Packet and Times.

    Covering hockey in Bracebridge was easy.  But the out of town games weren't.  How could the penniless lad get there?  He had no car; no one to drive him.  He tried to get a ride with the players.  But nobody wanted him.

    Years later, one of the players regretfully told me that often on a cold, snowy, winter night when they'd be driving 18 miles out to a hockey game in Port Carling, they would see through the slapping wind shield wipers, on the road ahead, the poor blurry figure of the lad on his bicycle.  Neither sleet nor snow could stop him.

    Though the dedicated scribe was without honour in his own land, a few years later he left Muskoka for Toronto to work at the `Toronto Telegram', later `The Sun'.  The rest is history.   He became one of Toronto's best known news paper columnists, Paul Rimstead.

     As well as a writer, Paul was a jazz musician with a band.  I remember meeting him, back in the mid 1970s one Saturday afternoon, in a downtown Toronto Club, where he was backing a professional jazz singer, in a fundraiser for a cancer stricken singer.  He, who knew rejection, who knew poverty was helping one with terminal poverty.

     Not many years later, Paul was similarly stricken and went to a land where no storm, newspaper or bicycle can go. The Toronto media bemoaned his passing.  A character himself, his funeral attracted a churchful of characters that ran the gamut, from the dregs of Toronto's taverns to city hall's Mayor David Crombie, boxer George Chuvallo and many other famous political and sports celebrities.   The coffin of him who couldn't ride with the Bracebridge Bears was carried by Toronto Maple Leafs Dick Duff and Eddie Shack.

    Alas!  Too late have I loved thee!  In a way many media reporters and entertainers see a bit of Paul Rimstead in themselves;  the hopes, rejections, struggles, deadlines; the need to pump out a story an hour and then another and another, day after day.  With meagre starting salaries, those attracted are usually neophytes, growing in experience and maturity.  It's amazing that they do as well as they do.

     In mass communications, small errors are painful; big errors are deadly.  It's the perilous price of pursuing an illusive dream.  In that pursuit, impending winter snow banks remind both writers and entertainers of the struggling boy from Bracebridge who wore both hats.  `Through all kinds of weather', may Paul inspire all, to pull down their earlugs, pull up their socks, and pedal on to greatness.

Father B.F Heffernan is a priest and a columnist for Canada Free Press.
Father Heffernan can be reached at: [email protected]
Columns 2007 2006