Monday, April 16, 2018

Botwood.

We played our hearts out this weekend.

It has been a heavy week and the hockey world is hurting. Looking around the arena on Saturday, there were jerseys with name plates that said, "Humboldt," "Broncos," and stickers that displayed the logo representing 16 of our own lost. We tried to do our part.


Half of us arrived on Friday, full of nerves and excitement. The beer helped. We sang, we laughed, we watched the Pens lose (and I swore a lot). It was a wonderful place full of energy that I, and we all, needed. And I looked around a lot, once again realizing how special teams are.

On Saturday we headed to the arena, a little hungover and riding a bag of nerves. We laced our skates, sat in anticipation; we hooted, hollered and ramped up what we needed for what we figured was our hardest game to come.



I somehow opened the scoring. We beat St. John's 2-1. We were on wheels and the team played unreal. We played hard and we played tough.

We drank beer, we celebrated, and we laced up again for Bishop's. We trounced them 5-0. Quigs was a wall.

We headed back, all tired and saying it would be an early night. 23 beer later I decided on one more as we harassed teammates in bed, knocked on doors, had singalongs and laughed until our stomachs hurt.

And I wouldn't have traded how tired I was the next morning for the world.



We went out against GFW, a little hungover, a lot tired, and got bounced. We didn't know if we would make the championship but it was likely. We went back, drank some more and waited.

And then we were in.

I don't think we could have played harder than we did in that game. We played against friends, women we've played with and against all year, and we played like dogs.

1-0.
2-0.
2-1.
3-1.
3-2.
4-2.
And in the last two minutes, 4-3.

Denise was yelling. I put my forehead on the boards and couldn't watch. We stacked the line and as the clock wound down we realized we were going to do this.

And we did.

There were yells and cheers, laughs and tackling. And in that moment I remembered what it was like to be a part of a winning team who was all guts and heart. We had won.

There were many laughs.

"Drunk again, Leeanne?"
"Me too, mudder."

"This is Alexa. Go the fuck to bed."

"B'ys...we hates to tell you...Botwood is back there 20 minutes..."

"Dwan?"
"What?"
"Go fuck yourself."

And my stomach still hurts from laughing.

I think that win meant a little extra this weekend. It was a weekend of friendship, of hard work, of fighting, of memories.

3 wins.
1 championship.
41 beer and 1 hurting liver.
381 more days until Botwood 2019.

And we did it for you, boys. We made sure to lay sticks at the memorial on the highway.


It's been 20 years since I last laced up my hockey skates. Back then I never dreamed I would be a part of such an awesome group of women, make friendships solidified in our love for the game and a good time. Hockey was something that was not achievable for girls and we sat by, watching the boys play, watching our dads, and wishing the game was more inclusive.

Now, girls all across the province lace their skates up and know that some day they too can spend weekends with their friends, playing the game they love, and making memories that will last a lifetime (even when you're 36 years old).

And I needed it. I am forever grateful that Laing messaged me on Twitter this year and invited me to a skate up the shore.

The Southern Shore Breakers kicked ass. And I could never have wished to be a part of a better team of women. Let's get back there and win it again, girls. Let's show them what we're made of.

And let's never take one minute for granted because, in an instant, you never know how quickly life can change.


Thursday, April 12, 2018

Humboldt.

Humboldt, Saskachewan is roughly the size of Marystown.

Let that sink in for a moment.

The tragic April 6th accident that has now claimed the lives of 16 of those on board the team bus has reverberated throughout the hockey world, and communities. Actually, ripples of the tragedy can be felt across the globe.

If you've grown up in a small town, this tragedy probably hits your heart a little harder. Those team busses and team trips were luxuries. Each year you looked forward to invitationals, regionals, provincials - you never really had much opportunity to get out of your town.

Those trips were where you made some of your best memories. You sang, tormented the chaperones and coaches, and fed off each other's energy as you headed to some other small town to play your hearts out. Nerves would be rampant but nobody admitted it.

I recall Steve Brooks threatening to pitch a few of us out of the van if we didn't stop singing Dennis Leary's "Asshole" on repeat, getting banished from Botwood for getting on a huge team drunk after getting blown out the whole tournament, mooning cars from the back of the bus as we headed home from Avondale, and Matthew getting a bad cold and bombing the next day because we had held his face in a snow bank in a game of Truth or Dare.

We still tell the stories when we see each other, 20 years later.

A lot of time is spent on those busses when you're a team. Teams are like little families, and your teammates are some of your best friends.

Imagine, in one second, losing 16 members of your little family.

When the plane carrying Lokomotiv Yaroslavl went down in 2011 the hockey world grieved. The hockey world is a close community, you know - one that spans across teams, leagues, towns, provinces, countries and continents.

Humboldt feels different.

A lot of us have grown up in a Humboldt. A lot of us have been those young people on that bus with the world laid out ahead of you, though nothing in the world feels more important at that moment than the win.

Small town boys with big dreams, playoffs looming, hopes and visions of sitting on a bus in the Show some day, undoubtedly.

I'm proud to be a member of the hockey community. I've thought a lot about my own teams this week. I play with some wonderful, spirited, fun-loving, hockey-loving folks who I wouldn't trade for the world. I've become a part of a few teams this year. I'm thankful for each one, and for the support, friendship and camaraderie each one has brought.

And I can't imagine losing half of them in one fell swoop.

This weekend our Southern Shore Breakers senior women's team will load our gear into our rigs, hit the highway and head to Botwood (I should probably check and see if they're going to let me in after that ban I got when I was 17 for the hotel party and the bathtub full of booze). We'll play our hearts out, drink a lot of beer, laugh until everything hurts, and make memories and stories to carry in to next year.

And you never know how quickly all of that could change in an instant. Appreciate every moment. "Go Breakers!" And Go Broncos.












Monday, April 2, 2018

Protecting the Owner-Operator: Breaking Free of Company Control

My blog tends to teeter from the personal to the professional. Those who know me know that my professional life is embedded deeply in who I am.

The following is an article I wrote and was published in The Union Forum, Issue No. 02 - Spring 2018. Bill C-68 is important to not only Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, and Atlantic Canadians but to all Canadians. For this reason, I felt like sharing.

Protecting the Owner-Operator: Breaking Free of Company Control

On February 6, 2018 Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Dominic Leblanc, announced changes to Canada’s Fisheries Act. For fish harvesters, their families, fisheries organizations and coastal communities, February 6 was an emotional day, one that many waited on with bated breath for decades.

I cannot recall the first time I heard the term “trust agreement.” I try to pinpoint it as it was a pivotal moment that shaped me and my future academic and career paths. When the dirty little tool called the “trust agreement,” or “controlling agreement,” entered into our fisheries, it was a point in time that retooled the mechanisms of an industry once built firmly on kinship and survival.

I grew up in Spillar’s Cove, a rural town outside the historic fishing community of Bonavista. Bonavista was the original “company town” in the Newfoundland and Labrador fishery. When then-Minister of Fisheries (or, “Minister of Fishermen,” as he often stated) Romeo LeBlanc introduced limited entry licensing and the policies of Owner Operator and Fleet Separation in 1979, five licenses were grandfathered and permitted to remain property of now-defunct Fishery Products International.

The names of these vessels exist still in policy documents – Margaret R, Random Buster, Silver Jubilee, Rose Venture, and the name I often sat as a child and repeated over the VHF radio in our little dining room, waiting for a response from my father – “Edwin Charles, do you read, over.”

The fishery was family to me. My grandfathers, father, uncles all made their livings from the sea; my grandmother, mother, aunts all worked in the fish plant.

The dichotomy of the independent harvester and the company boat was evident. While company control had not yet turned into the monster we are now faced with, the pieces were there; the creation of a class structure within the social fabric of our little coastal town. The result was a class of hardworking people who live an industry that runs through our veins as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, yet often produced nothing more than a reduced paycheck and a suit of oil clothes.

As I grew up, our fishery changed. As value increased, there were forces under the surface, from deep corporate pockets, that were morphing the relations within our industry and within our towns.
Trust agreements began to rear their ugly heads in the 1990s, as our fisheries shifted to rely on more lucrative shellfish like snow crab and northern shrimp[1].

I remember standing on the wharf in Old Perlican in 2005, an excited 23 year old Masters student. I wanted to explore the dynamic of trust agreements in a community other than my own, I wanted to speak to harvesters about their experiences, and I wanted to produce work that would open up the discussion on these contracts with the devil.

As I sat at the table of the only harvester who had agreed to speak to me, it was then and only then that the true control exhibited by a trust agreement became clear. Like Fight Club, the first rule of a trust agreement is, “Do not talk about a trust agreement.”

In 2007, then-Minister of Fisheries Loyola Hearn, announced that there would be a 7 year period for harvesters in trust agreements to get out; in 2014, the efforts had consisted of nothing more than high priced lawyers finding more ways to open loopholes.

Since, the deep pockets of corporations have meant more licenses have been stripped from the hands of young harvesters who long to sail on the Atlantic. Plants continue to outbid those who try to better their enterprise and have driven the price of licenses far beyond the reach of the harvester. As a result, the autonomy of the independent harvester is overshadowed by corporations making decisions on when one sails, who crews a vessel; while watching money roll into their bank accounts without regard for those on the decks who bring the wealth to shores.

Trust agreements and corporate control beat down and strip what we, as resilient Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, have survived on for generations – hard work, preservation of our marine resources to ensure sustainable livelihoods in our coastal communities for the future.

When Minister Dominic LeBlanc stated and restated his commitment to enshrining Owner Operator, Fleet Separation and PIIFCAF in legislation, a ripple of hope could be felt throughout coastal communities. The corporate lobby came out swinging, seeing their deathgrip on the fishery loosening, and finally being told that value would no longer be funneled from our coastal communities and into banks on Bay Street. No more.

The five grandfathered vessels from Bonavista are more than names immortalized in fishing policy; they served to be harbingers of decades of erosion of identity and the social fabric of entire communities. The circumvention of these policies have had an effect far beyond the simple ownership of licenses and the concentration of wealth into corporate coffers.

To hear Minister LeBlanc’s announcement has been equally as surreal, emotional, and the result of decades of activism and dedication from those who hold the fishery dear to their hearts.


Bonavista Harbour in winter
Photo credit: Tony Seaward Photography



[1] Trust agreements separate the beneficial interest of a fishing license from the title. Most often, these agreements are between a fish processing company and a harvester. While the company maintains control of the license and takes a hefty percentage of the profits, the harvester fishes for a share. These agreements vary in terms but one thing is constant: the harvester is a labourer, the company the employer who exploits.