Iain MacIntyre: Sun's sports engine room loses thrust of Ziemer, Kingston

 

 
 
 
 
Long-time Vancouver Sun sports reporters Brad Ziemer (left) and Gary Kingston during their last day in the office in Vancouver on Thursday.  (Nick Procaylo/PNG)
 

Long-time Vancouver Sun sports reporters Brad Ziemer (left) and Gary Kingston during their last day in the office in Vancouver on Thursday. (Nick Procaylo/PNG)

Photograph by: NICK PROCAYLO, Vancouver Sun

VANCOUVER — When we were kings, The Vancouver Sun sold about a quarter-million copies a day and few sports readers in the country were more elegantly, entertainingly and accurately informed than this newspaper’s.

In my lifetime, it was the sports section of great writers like Jim Kearney and Jim Taylor and James Lawton, and from this royal line of succession Archie McDonald was still tapping out daily columns when I started in 1990.

There was no ego in our department beyond the bravado required to start with a blank screen, craft 800 or 1,000 words, stick your name on it and submit this permanent record of your ability or incompetence to the editors’ desk and, ultimately, to our readers.

We liked one another, encouraged one another. We had skilled writers and tenacious reporters and even a few people who excelled at both journalistic foundations. Two of those guys were Gary Kingston and Brad Ziemer.

Like rowers in the power seats at the middle of an eight-man crew, sometimes obscured by more visible teammates at the bow and stern, Gary and Brad have been the engine room of the Vancouver Sun sports department for the last two decades, powering us forward. They retired this week, before their 60th birthdays.

“I think I’ll miss quite a bit,” Brad said. “I grew up in Port Coquitlam and I remember delivering the paper as a kid. I had a newspaper route. And I remember growing up in a household of avid newspaper readers and racing to the porch to grab The Sun when it landed with a big thud on our doorstep … because I always wanted the sports section first. I grew up admiring people like Jim Taylor and Jim Kearney. Once I decided that journalism was a part of my future, it certainly was a goal of mine to work at the paper. I feel blessed to have spent 30 years during some really good times working there.”

Brad joined The Sun’s newsroom in 1985 and became sports editor in 1991. In 1996, he left his desk to return to reporting. Gary, who grew up in Coquitlam, joined the department in 1989.

Both came to The Sun from The Canadian Press, bringing with them their versatility and work ethic.

“Most people know me from my 27 years at The Vancouver Sun as a sports reporter in the toy department,” Gary said. “But before that, I was actually a serious journalist. I worked 12 years for CP and covered the provincial legislature when I was 24 years old. CP tried to get me to transfer to Ottawa, but I realized after about eight months in Victoria that I didn’t want to write politics full-time.”

Kingston covered virtually every big story in the province in the 1980s, from elections and government scandals, to natural disasters and the labour wars characteristic of that era.

Gary came to the Sun to cover the B.C. Lions and the Canadian Football League, then added the basketball beat to his workload when our city was awarded the Vancouver Grizzlies instead of a National Basketball Association team.

Gary became known in some circles as the “The Bald Guy,” not for his absence of hair but because Grizzlies star Shareef Abdur-Rahim once described Kingston and Province basketball writer Howard Tsumura as “the bald, negative guy and the Chinese guy.” I suggested they get T-shirts printed. Gary instead made a sign and wore it around his neck to the next Grizzlies practice.

Kingston inherited the Olympics/amateur sports beat from Wendy Long, and covered four Olympic Games. But he discovered his calling only when he was assigned on late notice to cover the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens.

“I’d never covered any athletes with disabilities before that,” Gary said. “I just fell in love with the athletes and their struggles and their stories. It has given me more joy covering Paralympic sports and athletes with disabilities than anything I’ve ever covered. The people are fantastic.”

You know you have mastered a new language when you stop needing to translate in your head. You get Paralympic sports when you stop seeing the athletes as disabled. This seemed to happen instantly with Gary, who went on to cover six Paralympics and became the defining media voice on the movement in Canada.

Ziemer became the defining voice on B.C. golf. He worked with Kingston on the Grizzlies, then shifted seamlessly to the Canucks in 2001 when the basketball team bolted to Memphis and my long-time hockey beat partner, Elliott Pap, decided he’d had enough of February trips to Buffalo.

Brad and I covered the Canucks together for 15 years, but the hockey team didn’t stoke his journalistic passion the way writing about golf did. Brad seemed to know every professional and notable amateur golfer in B.C. He covered seven PGA Tour events in Surrey, five PGA Championships, one United States Open and a British Open. In 2013, Golf Canada presented him its Distinguished Service Award. The only other B.C. golf writer so honoured was Arv Olson, from whom Brad inherited the beat.

“I was nervous as heck when I was appointed sports editor because I came from outside,” Brad said. “But I was welcomed by everyone in the department. Just go down the list of people who worked in the department when I joined it: Archie McDonald, Mike Beamish, Gary Kingston, Elliott Pap, Lyndon Little, Dennis Feser, Dan Stinson, Wendy Long, some kid named Iain MacIntyre. They were not only just really good people, but really talented people, driven people.”

Most of us were failed athletes before we became successful sportswriters. The Vancouver Sun is the best team I’ve ever played on.

imacintyre@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/imacvansun

 
 
 
Font:
 
 
 
 
Long-time Vancouver Sun sports reporters Brad Ziemer (left) and Gary Kingston during their last day in the office in Vancouver on Thursday.  (Nick Procaylo/PNG)
 

Long-time Vancouver Sun sports reporters Brad Ziemer (left) and Gary Kingston during their last day in the office in Vancouver on Thursday. (Nick Procaylo/PNG)

Photograph by: NICK PROCAYLO, Vancouver Sun

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
We encourage all readers to share their views on our articles and blog posts. We are committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion, so we ask you to avoid personal attacks, and please keep your comments relevant and respectful. If you encounter a comment that is abusive, click the "X" in the upper right corner of the comment box to report spam or abuse. We are using Facebook commenting. Visit our FAQ page for more information.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Your voice