HIO’s lovable, beloved Boone calls it a career – almost

Mike Boone

Charter Habs Inside/Out writers/bloggers/videographers/audio techs (from left) Sid Banerjee (now with Canadian Press), Mike Boone and Dave Stubbs in the Canadiens’ Bell Centre dressing room in the fall of 2006. Sadly, they’re all holding Alexander Perezhogin sticks… and what does that say about them? (The Gazette bought us the jerseys; we had to give back the sticks.)
John Kenney, Gazette

I’m not going to send you racing off to a link to read the last for-Gazette-print column of friend and colleague Mike Boone, who on Friday brings down the curtain on a 38-year journalism career. I’m going to lay his final column on you below, free of charge.

Mike will still be with Hockey Inside/Out readers; you’ll have to read on to learn how.

But for a spell at HIO, considering how news can bump down posts here  quicker than the Habs used to take too-many-men penalties, I’m giving Mike his due. Please, folks: for once, keep the comments on topic. No guff about who should be on the team’s second power-play unit against Western Conference teams when the Habs are playing road matinées.

Embarrass Mike, a fellow charter member of Habs Inside/Out (before our name change), with your praise – or heckle him with your abuse. He lived, and lives still, for both. I’m glad he’ll still be in Seat 40 on the Bell Centre press gallery this season, whenever it begins. Take care, my friend… and promise not to proofread the Sports section with all the time you’ll have on your hands.

– Dave Stubbs

MIKE BOONE
The Gazette

It’s time again for my annual farewell column — and this time I mean it.

A year ago, I was leaving the Gazette City department to begin writing a sports column. Now I’m bringing the curtain down on 38 years in print journalism.

If profligate use of the first-person singular hasn’t stopped you reading this already, I should explain there’s an asterisk beside my “retirement.” I will continue to write a live game blog and About Last Night wrap-ups for The Gazette’s Hockey Inside/Out website. I’ll still be tapping away with two fingers 82 times during the Canadiens’ season, plus exhibitions and, inshallah, playoffs.

But you won’t find my smiling face in what we old farts call the dead-trees edition of The Gazette.

Why hang ’em up now?

I just celebrated my Beatles birthday. And while a disinclination to scrimp and save has deprived me of a retirement cottage in the Isle of Wight, I have modest needs and enough money to last the rest of my life … if I don’t buy anything.

But seriously, folks, it’s been a helluva run. My career has spanned typewriters to Twitter. I want to enjoy whatever days are left to me without having to stare at an empty computer screen (or squint at an iPhone screen) and wonder how I might fill it before deadline.

Also, a sports column demands strong opinions and a flair for proclaiming them. I’m more in touch with my inner J. Alfred Prufrock than my Foghorn J. Leghorn.

I’m also handicapped by being passionate about only the Canadiens, the English Premier League (YNWA, Liverpool) and the NFL, in order of ardour.

That’s too much narrow-minded specificity, like a music critic who can only bear to listen to Bach, Gram Parsons and Bill Evans. Wait, come to think of it …

Some Gazette readers will remember I sucked as a rock critic, after joining The Gazette from the defunct Montreal Star in 1979. To be good at this job … really, to be good at any job … you have to love — or at minimum, like — what you’re doing.

Anything less is a disservice to readers. And I’ve loved nearly every darn day I’ve spent as a journalist.

When I covered the MSO tour of Europe in 1984, Adolfo Bornstein, an acerbic wit who played in the band’s second-violin section and regularly regaled me with timeless wisdom, offered the opinion that too many people spend their working lives doing their second-best thing.

I’ve spent almost 40 years doing what I’ve been good at since elementary school: stringing words together to create the kind of wisecracks that got me kicked out of class in high school, eg. my imaginary lawyer friend, “a master of legal legerdemain who once plea-bargained sodomy down to tailgating.”

Bada-boom. Hey, it beat working.

It’s been my pleasure, down the years, to work with a remarkable variety of people, some of them less crazy than I. Naming names has negative connotations for someone who went to a Communist Party summer camp in the 1950s. Suffice it to say my cavalcade of colleagues runs the alphabetical gamut from Aaron (Derfel) to Zoe (Bieler). It has been my immense privilege to have had peers whose wordsmithery and dedication to craft have been a source of inspiration.

I had a flash of enlightenment during the aforementioned MSO tour. Waiting for the musicians to take the stage of the Philharmonie in Berlin, I gazed in awe around that magnificent concert hall and thought: “Man, you are a putz from Park Ex, sitting in Herbert von Karajan’s living room.”

It was humbling — as were the food bank visits I made to write columns for The Gazette Christmas Fund, as is watching the Canadiens from the Bell Centre press box. I have counted my blessings every day on the job.

As befits a pathologically shy and resolutely non-confrontational person, I’ve had maybe five newsroom arguments — and five million laughs. Some of the best stories never make the paper. A sampling:

• The venerable Montreal Star sports columnist who, spending the workday in his customary alcoholic fog, doubled his suspenders while doing himself up and emerged from the men’s loo bent over and bellowing “I’m paralyzed!”

• The veteran baseball writer misapplying Spellcheck and quoting “Expos manager Feline Aloud.”

• The Toronto Star’s man in Quebec, covering a labour demo and, translating picket-line slogans at the insistence of his editor, filing a story that began “Waving placards and chanting ‘The bosses, the bosses, the communion wafers, the bosses …’”

So many laughs. So many good times. Being a newspaperman has let me practice what I preach: Life is too damn short to be anything but happy.

Happy, but not stupid. With bitterly ideological elections looming in Quebec and the U.S., the fundamental question posed by Harlan County coal miners has never been more relevant: Which side are you on? I’d like my last kick at the columnizing can to reaffirm my loyalty and gratitude to the Montreal Newspaper Guild, the union to which I’ve proudly belonged for my whole career.

Finally, I hesitate to go all David Suzuki on y’all because I’m just a dumb-ass sportswriter. But if you’ll permit me one final use of the first-person plural, we are confronted by immense challenges. Too many problems are a consequence of what people my age have neglected in our stewardship of a fragile planet.

Fixing this mess will be up to my daughter’s generation. I hope they’ll be informed and guided by my Gazette colleagues, who work tremendously hard to make sense of the 24/7 information whirlwind.

I can help by making like a hockey player and getting the puck out of here.

It’s been real.

Heartfelt thanks to everyone who took the time to read me.

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