Thursday, June 7, 2012

Losing a broadcast colleague to cancer

Here is a letter that I sent to the Seattle Thunderbirds on the sudden death of T-Birds colour commentator Bruce McDonald.  McDonald died of Leukemia on Tuesday. He was just 41.
I am saddened by the news of Bruce's passing.

My belief is he found great joy slapping on the headset and delivering the game to the listening faithful. It gave him purpose. It gave him meaning. It made him a part of something. That is all anyone wants in life isn't it? To mean something. To count.

For Bruce, despite being confined to a wheelchair, being on the radio gave him a voice and equal footing with everyone once he entered the broadcast booth.
He clearly loved to talk hockey, but specifically about the team he knew, the Seattle Thunderbirds. His eyes often sparkled as he spoke fondly about the players and the organization.

My last conversation with Bruce was on February 14th when both he and broadcast partner Tom Beuning visited my broadcast location at ShoWare Center prior to the puck drop.  Bruce in his wheelchair had a brown bag in his hand.  He handed it to me saying, "Here you go." When I opened it up, much to my surprise, I found a blue winter hat (a toque as I like to call it). His mother Char had made it for me. Bruce's mom promised me she would knit me a hat after I met her earlier in the season. For those that don't know, Bruce's mom is a fixture at T-Birds home games. Char and Bruce would arrive two hours before every T-Birds game and while Bruce was preparing for the broadcast, Char would begin knitting. It was repeated time and time again. The majority of the hats and scarves that Char creates from her skillful hands are given away to those less fortunate.

Char is obviously a special lady who brought up a very special son named Bruce. She was darn proud of him and Bruce spoke the same about his Mom's caring heart.

While Bruce McDonald's life was cut short by cancer, he lived a life that many able bodied people fail to achieve. His voice and smile will be missed. When I make my next stop in Kent, I will be sure to give Char a hug and for a brief moment, sit back in the broadcast booth to remember Bruce McDonald and the happiness he brought to so many lives, including mine.
Sincerely Regan Bartel
Kelowna Rockets Radio

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