Thursday, 23 July 2009

The nicest buffalo I have ever met

Today I woke up for work I wanted to go right back to bed. Some of my friends were spending the day at the beach while I would be stuck in the office being bored, at least that is what I thought.
Then Michelle called me into her office to tell me about a picture I needed to go get. I didn't know what to expect then I googled Bailey D. Buffalo, the animal I was about to meet.
Now I don't know much about wild animals, but I do know a few things like pigs don't fly, cows don't jump over the moon and Buffalo don't hang out in houses and ride in cars.
But was I ever wrong, at least about the buffalo.
Bailey D. Buffalo Jr. was not some wild creature, he was actually a friendly pet that kind of reminded me of my dog.
Bailey Jr. is the second buffalo Jim and Linda Sautner have raised as a pet, and has already become the next buffalo to be making headlines across the world.
After talking to Kim for about 40 minutes I almost forgot that the gentle, innocent animal he had been describing was a animal that weighed nearly 1,000 pounds.
We went out to see Bailey one last time before I left, because to be honest, I just wanted to see him again.
Bailey and Jim's dog, Charlie Brown, were hanging out together, and both got excited to see Jim approaching them.
When Jim went to give some attention to his pet buffalo, Bailey went for his hand, and I thought it was all over. I could see the headlines: "Reporter witnesses man loose hand to pet buffalo" "Buffalo gets taste of human then goes right for journalist."
To my surprise Bailey just stood there and sucked on Jim's hand. Like a baby and a bottle.
As I stood there amazed Jim asked me a question I thought I would never hear, "Want to put you hand in my buffalos mouth?"
Immediately I said no. Why would I ever want to do something like that? I was certain that is my hand went into that mouth it would never come back. 
Then Jim reminded me I would likely never get a chance to do this again and I pulled up my sleeve and tried to hide my fear, even though Bailey could probably smell it from a mile away.
My hand went in, stayed attached to my arm, and I calmed down.
It felt like his mouth was made of sandpaper and I knew he could rip off my hand in a second, but it was interesting, to say the least, and kind of reminded me of when my dog sucks on my pinky. 
It took lots of soap and scrubbing to get all the slobber off my hand, but it was worth it.
Once again I got to do something I would never have dreamed about doing all thanks to my job.

Picture Above: Me with Jim and Bailey D. Buffalo Jr. Yes, he is in the car.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

First memory of the Boys and Girls Club

I have no idea how many stories I have written about the Leduc Boys and Girls Club, and I probably couldn't count how many pictures I have taken of members of the club.
Not only have I learned more about the club and everything they do for the community, but I have also had the opportunity to meet the people who make it the great place it is today.
My first memories of the club are from a long, long time ago when I was still in elementary school. 
It was probably when I was in Grade 4 or 5, when I was still a shy little girl that hated attention (I know what you're thinking - Laura, hating attention? No way. But it's true!)
My class went on a field trip to the club to learn about safety. We were in the middle of being taught what to do if a stranger approached us, when they decided to pick us kids to come up and show what we would do.
Even though I did everything in my power not to make eye contact with the speaker I still was the chosen one.
I remember the person pretending to be in a car, and I was pretending to be riding my bike. 
He Pulled up and started talking to me, I said something along the lines of "Sorry I cant talk right now my mom is waiting for me at home" and pretended to speed away. 
Knowing myself, I was probably certain I was wrong, my face was likely burning red and I could have cried I was so embarrassed to speak in in front of my entire class.
The staff at the club went on about how great I did and I was on top of the world.
This was about the time I stopped being so shy.
I went home that night and taught my little brother and sister what to do if a stranger ever approached them, and felt like a genius.
I never was a member of the club, but would always go on buddy days and on school trips.
In those few times I thought it was one of the coolest places for kids to hang out. 
My work with the club only confirms all my thoughts.
The staff know how to be friends with all the kids, while being great role-models.
The Boys and Girls Club takes kids off the street and away from their precious TV and computer screens. It keep them active and even teaches them with games and day trips.
The club is more than just a place to drop off your kids while you are at work, its a fun friendly environment that is probably a second home to several of the young members.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Ghost stories

It's amazing how a train of thought can completely jump the track.

I did not intend to write about ghosts today. I didn't even plan on thinking about ghosts today. But a hilarious news item on CTV, scoped in a moment of boredom, has taken me on a 45-minute journey deep into the shadowy territory of the paranormal.

The news item in question was about two men who have been charged with trespassing after firefighters had to rescue them from the roof of the Charles Camsell Hospital in Edmonton. While exploring the long-abandoned building with their friends, they somehow thought it would be fun to try to scale down the outside of it, and wound up getting stuck.

Apparent fun-ness of rappelling down the outside of a building without equipment notwithstanding, my first reaction to this story was: "exploring the Charles Camsell Hospital in the middle of the night WHAT?!"

As I mentioned to Laura, this building is creepy as all get-out. When we first moved to Edmonton, my boyfriend and I stayed with a friend of his who lived just down the street from the hospital. It was late when we arrived, so I wasn't able to see much of the city during the drive from the airport, but I did see the hospital — a yellow-brick monolith plopped in the middle of quiet suburbia, surrounded by a barbed-wire fence and signs warning would-be urban explorers of guard dogs that like to snack on trespassers. Not one of the building's hundreds of square windows has its glass intact.

Even in the light of day, I felt the urge to quicken my step when walking past the hospital. That had more to do with being warned that it was a popular hangout for crackheads and gangs than any suspicions of paranormal activity, but the decrepit appearance of the building, which has been defunct since '96, didn't make me feel any more comfy.

Laura's response to all this was "I bet it's haunted."

A quick Google search produced satisfying results: this guy says it's haunted, this guy implies it's haunted and has photos of the interior that certainly make it look like an appropriate setting for an Amityville-style paranormal throwdown.

The hospital reportedly has a checkered past. It housed a psychiatric ward, and a secondary structure, which no longer exists, served as a quarantine for tuberculosis patients in the mid-20th century. Darker stories suggest that Mengele-esque experiments were carried out on Aboriginal children there.

A place with such sad and morbid connotations as a hospital — especially a decrepit, abandoned one — is a perfect breeding ground for ghost stories.

Someone allegedly recorded a woman's scream on the fourth floor of the building, and if you click the second link I posted above, you can read through the debate around a photograph that purports to show a masked figure peering around the corner in the basement of the hospital. (I could totally see it, but darkness and the suggestive power of fear can tend to morph something as innocuous as peeling paint into a ghoulish apparition.)

I don't know if I believe in ghosts, but I do believe that a place can seem to exude a palpable atmosphere of sadness and fear when it is known to be the site of a distressing event.

So far, my only encounter with a "ghost" was quite a joyful one. In the summer of 2003, I worked at Restoule Provincial Park in northern Ontario, a place that really lent itself to ghost stories because of its rich history. The remains of a root cellar in the midst of a thick grove of pine trees stood testament to the first family to homestead in the area, and an archeologist had discovered evidence of an Iroquois fishing village on the banks of the Restoule River.

The more experienced park employees told of a spirit who wanders the forest by night, swinging a lantern, looking for his hunting party. A few people claimed to have seen the ghost of a small boy wandering the fire tower trail at dusk; some said they could hear the frightened sobs of a lost child.

I wrote these stories off as good campfire fodder, but then, one night, I had a strange encounter.

In August, I had come down with a bad cold, and, not wanting to bother my roommate with my constant coughing in the night, I decided to set up a tent in the staff campground and sleep there until I was better. This worked well, and so on the night in question, I set out from the staff house with my little table lantern and headed down the dirt road to the campground. I soon found I didn't need the lantern; the moon was so full and bright it cast shadows.

As I walked down the hill towards the group campground, I saw a silhouette a short distance in front of me, walking in the same direction. My first thought was that it was another camper, but the silhouette, although human, seemed insubstantial somehow, more shadow than solid flesh.

I turned on my lantern. There was nobody else on the path.

I didn't feel afraid or intimidated, just oddly exhilarated. I feared nothing that summer but the toe-eating muskies of Stormy Lake — but that's another story.

And that's where this train of thought disembarks. Ghosts — are they real? Do we want them to be? Are they gentle? Scary? Both? What say you? Is Leduc haunted? (Apparently New Sarepta is). Leave your comments.

(Photo: Casper! Via)

Choosing the right campground

Bobby Roy

As a 22-year-old I look forward to the times that I can go camping during our short summers, but when you get stereotyped when you're with a group of young people going camping I don't think that's right.

This past weekend there were about 18 of us set out to do some camping for a combined birthday party. We had it all planned out on Facebook about a month in advance to see where we could go. Our destination ended up being Thunder Lake Provinicial Park. 

Thunder Lake doesn't have a website to explain what the park is like, but there are tidbits of information around the internet to see what it looked like. I found some pictures and some information about it and it looked like a pretty decent destination for a weekend of camping even with as many as 18 of us going. 

Overall we booked five sites for all of us. I had made the call to reserve three spots under my name while another friend booked two. Everything sounded like it was going to be hunky dorey, but it sure wasn't. 

The only rules that the person reserving the camping spots on the phone said were that it was four people max per site. So I figured that it won't be too bad. We've got five sites so that equals the possibility of 20 people. Boy was I wrong. 

I was the first to arrive to the campground way earlier than anyone, so I got one site and started to set up camp. I did a couple walks around the campground to scope out the place and see how the weekend was going to be like. As more people started to arrive the problems began. 

By the time everyone had arrived the problem was in full force. Apparently one of the people at the front desk had told the rules of the campground to them and we weren't going to like them. We were not about to stick around to find out. 

Apparently the four person per campsite rule meant that only four people were allowed on any site at any time during the whole weekend. We couldn't even walk back and forth to each site. Not only that, but we were told that we were probably going to get kicked out by the night's end. Apparently its a family campground and young people in larger groups should not camp there. 

I wish they would have told us that at the beginning. This would have not only saved us the grief of driving up there, but all the arguments and hassles we had to deal with. Now I know its hard to tell over the phone how old someone is, but when you book three sites wouldn't you expect quite a bunch of people to show up? It would have been also nice if they would have that information given to you beforehand or that there would be a disclaimer posted on a website about the rules of Thunder Lake Provincial Park is. 

I understand that dealing with a bunch of drunk young people is never fun to deal with, but its not like we're out there to cause trouble. It's good that they have these types of campgrounds that families can go out and enjoy their weekend without having to worry about who they'll get stuck to, but it would be nice to know which campgrounds are made for families and which are made for more of a party-going crowd. 

By the end they did give us our money back and the front desk people were nice for the most part, but it would have been nice if they could have treated us like a normal camping going crowd. We couldn't even set up our tents before we were pretty much told that we were going to get kicked out, nor did we even make a peep before any of this went down. 

I do have to admit that we have gotten out of hand before, so I do understand what they are thinking when they saw a whole bunch of us pull in. 

I would just like to see more campgrounds get the word out on what kind of campground they have and who its more made for. I don't want to ruin anyone's vacation by being a drunken idiot and nor should anyone expect that, but I don't enjoy being kicked out before we do anything. 

Apart from the late Friday night shenanigans the weekend actually turned out pretty good as we found a remote campground called Peanut Lake.

As a reporter I should have known never to assume anything, so next time I'll be asking a whole bunch of other questions to make sure it's the right campground.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Happy hour

Kelowna's own Malibu Knights, the world's first "adventure rock" band, played Burnsy O'Flannagans in Leduc last night. For lead vocalist Dan Harden, pictured above, it was a homecoming of sorts: Harden grew up here. Find out what "adventure rock" is — and why a band from Kelowna bills themselves as the Malibu Knights — in the July 17 issue of the Rep.

Below: Barefoot troubadour Shane Squires, the band's guitarist and harmony whiz, opened the show with a few solo covers.

Photos by Alex Pope.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Leducians? Leducites? Let's call the whole thing off!

According to a story in today's Globe and Mail, the citizens of the city of Red Deer have elected to officially call themselves "Red Deerians."

Tres originale. Personally, I think "Red Deerios" — the name suggested by a group of Red Deer school children — is much catchier. It rhymes with Cheerios, and Cheerios are delicious. But hey, if Red Deerians are happy with their new title, then that's what matters.

I've been working in Leduc for more than seven months now, and I'm still not sure how to refer to residents of Leduc. It comes up from time to time in my writing and I wish I had something punchier than "residents of Leduc."

Back in February, Bob Palmer, better known as Flyin' Bob, performed at our Maclab Centre, and right off the bat, asked the audience how they like to refer to themselves.

"Leducians?" he suggested.

"Leducites!" someone shouted.

Leducians it was, at least for the duration of the show.

But honestly, in all (okay, partial) seriousness: what do you call someone who lives in Leduc? Leducians? Leducites? My personal favorite, Leducies?

What say you? Leave your suggestions in the comments or Tweet us!

Jumping for a cause

Photos from the 2009 Kids Jump for Cancer equestrian event, taking place at Amberlea Meadows until July 12.

(Photos by Alexandra Pope)

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Serious one-car accident

A one-car collision on the QEII Highway just off exit 516 to Wetaskiwin has left one male and female passenger with unknown, but serious injuries on July 7 at around 3 p.m.

According to an RCMP police report, it is believed that the driver of the Pontiac Sun Fire was south bound on the QEII approaching the Black Gold Drive Overpass when the driver lost control of the vehicle, left the roadway, hit a guardrail and then collided with a large sign before coming to rest in the median.

The female and male passengers have been transported to hospital via ambulance. 

The north and south bound lane of the QEII is currently down to one lane at this time.

The cause of the collision remains under investigation.

(Photos by Bobby Roy)

Monday, 6 July 2009

Game of many faces

The Leduc E3 LA Crude men's rugby team battled the Edmonton Pirates at Lede Park July 3 but lost 12-17. For more photos see the July 10 issue of the Rep. Photos by Alex Pope.

Friday, 3 July 2009

Weekly Roundup — July 3

Here's what's making news in Leduc and area this week:

• Alex has seen the future of the capital region, and it's large and scary and GTA-like.

• Residents of Wizard Lake say boating is all fun and games until someone gets hurt.

• Bobby waxes rhubarbic on Alberta's forgotten vegetable.

• She's a dancer.

• Leduc County missed out on grants for a waterline study this year.

• Everyone knows you shouldn't leave your dog in a hot car, yet for some reason we hear about it every summer, so here's the obligatory "DON'T LEAVE YOUR DOG IN A HOT CAR" story, along with some other great tips to help your pet beat the heat.

• Of the five whole people who answered our poll question about vacations versus "staycations," three said they will be staycationing this summer, so here are some ideas for what to do in the Leduc County area.

• A local charity is collecting pyjamas to give to children in need this Christmas.

• This gal ROX.

• Sometimes the court stories just write themselves. Oh, and in case you're wondering, this is why we report on court cases.

(Photo: Photographer Charles Hope, centre, takes a picture of a mock crash scene featuring members of the Thorsby Fire Department for The Fire Within 2010 volunteer firefighter calendar. The calendar will be sold at Canadian Tire to raise money for the fire department. Photo by Bobby Roy.)

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If I only had a Blackberry

Joining Twitter is as bad as when I first joined Facebook. Don't get me wrong, I love it. But boy, is it ever addicting.

I am following more than 80 people — most of it is news; Macleans, National Post, Edmonton Journal, Toronto Star (old habits die hard), CNN, etc. I am also following personal faves such as Hillary Clinton, Oprah and Anderson Cooper (yes, I know he is news, but he is in a class all his own...)

And then there is the tabloid junk (and I mean that in the nicest way) that I am following; TMZ, Lainey Gossip, etc. I love celebrity dish as much as the next gal, I admit it. It is shameless and useless information, but I dive right into it like a contestant at a hot dog eating contest.

The thing about Twitter is you are getting real time updates — constantly — of the latest headlines and information. If I had a Blackberry, I would be checking that sucker every minute to see what was going on in the world. For someone like me, who needs to know the latest news update, Twitter can be distracting. Good thing the cell phone I have is the only one I have ever had — it's probably eight years old, but hey, it works!

I was really introduced to Twitter when CNNs Larry King and Mr. Demi Moore, Ashton Kutcher, had a battle to see who could get the most followers (Kutcher won). Ok, this Twitter thing intrigued me. 

And then Oprah had it on. I am a die-hard Oprah fan, and if she endorsed it, I considered it to be a good thing (although, I am skeptical about this hormonal injection business).

I stayed away until it became a part of my job a few weeks back. You see, I am technologically challenged. I like my VCR, it took me months to accept CDs (I thought it was a fad) and I could not hook up a TV if my life depended on it. 

Even blogging. While my staff has been pounding feverishly away at their keyboard, I stayed away. I was afraid, very afraid. But I am starting to get on this bandwagon.

I can finally say I am Tweeting and Blogging. It scares the heck out of me, but I am getting with the times.

If only they brought back bell bottoms would I be truly happy:)

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Some days you gotta dance

I wrote the following column in the July 3 edition of The Rep for many reasons. I am appreciative of the late Michael Jackson's talent and I found myself reminiscing about my childhood after his death. 

So much can trigger a memory. Whether it is hearing a song on the radio that was played during your first high school dance or the smell of a stranger that reminds you of your favourite aunt — sometimes it is the little things that can out a smile on your face. 

For me it was, and will always be, the music.

Don’t blame it on sunshine 
Don’t blame it on moonlight 
Don’t blame it on good times 
Blame it on the boogie -Jackson 5

I learned to dance because of Michael Jackson. 

When I was about eight years old, my friends Lyndsay, Crystal and I would gather in Crystal’s basement and her mom would turn on the 8-track and we would dance. Destiny by the Jackson 5, Off the Wall by Michael Jackson and various Bee Gees tunes would roar through the house, and we would move to the beat. I loved to dance. It was a great outlet for a fidgety kid, who loved to lip sync and learn a step or two.

The death of Michael Jackson caught most of us by surprise. We had been hearing in the news popular 70s pin-up Farrah Fawcett was battling cancer and news of her death was not a shock. But when I read online the first reports of MJ’s death I was saddened. The MJ I knew represented a large part of my youth. 

Let me take you back…

For Christmas of 1982, I got the only thing I wanted. There is no other gift from my youth that I can remember so vividly. I remember like it was yesterday: the day I got Michael Jackson’s Thriller album. 

I was seven years old, and after saying goodbye to the 8-track player in my room, I had a record player. Trust me, this was a big deal — with a record player, I was moving into the big leagues! 
At that point, my album collection consisted of The Muppets Volume 1 and 2 (which I still have), Mickey Mouse Disco (still have) and Anne Murray’s classic, There’s a Hippo in my Bathtub (guilty as charged – still have it). 

Then I got Thriller. Carefully pulling the record out of the sleeve, I set it down on the turntable.
I played it over and over (and over) that Christmas morning, until my parents told me we should be listening to something more… festive. So, I turned the radio on for them, and kept listening to MJ with my headphones on. And I danced.

When the day was over, the guests went home and I brought my record upstairs. I carefully put that shiny new 12-inch on my stereo, laid in bed and sang myself to sleep. By the next morning I knew all the words and was pretty pleased with myself. As my friends had gotten the album too, no matter whose house we were playing at, we could dance to MJ all day long.

As the years went by, the record player was replaced by a tape player and new songs came bellowing out of my room. It never failed though. If a Michael Jackson song was playing on the radio, the volume would be turned up and the words I had not heard in years came out of my mouth as if I had just learned them the day before. And I danced.

In my late teens and early 20’s, I went to clubs in Toronto every weekend. And it never failed — if people started vacating the dance floor, all the DJ had to do was throw on Wanna be Startin’ Something by Michael Jackson and the dance floor would fill in.

I have an iPod now, and yes, it has Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5 on it. My iPod had his songs on it before his death, as I had bought his HIStory album — I know they are now CDs, but I still call them albums — when it came out in 1995 and when I got my iPod, MJ was one of the first artists I put onto it. Why not? It makes me dance.

The music of Michael Jackson played a big part in my youth. I learned a few moves, fell in love with music videos, and found a common bond with friends. I never did make it to see him perform live (although as an homage to the 8-track, Anne Murray was my first concert), but in the end, I did have a lot of fun getting down to the beat.

While Anne Murray’s Snowbird was my first 8-track, Thriller was my first album. Not one of my brothers’, not one of my parents’, but mine. All mine. 

I have moved nine times in 34 years, and in a tote that conatins Michelle’s Memories, buried beside my Brownie outfit (and my Muppets, Hippo and Disney Disco album) is my Thriller album.

I may be a little older, and most nights need to be in bed by 11 p.m., but I can still get down with the rest of them. 

Blame it on the boogie.

Flagging down Canada Day

Waking up at five in the morning may not be one of my most favourite things to do, well actually it's not on the list at all, but doing it for a good cause this Canada Day made it worthwhile.
At 6 a.m. I headed down to Leduc to participate in some flag planting with a fellow Leduc Rep sales rep and Bob and Sharon Buttar. Bob is the owner of Coldwell Banker in Leduc and he and his company have been secretly putting tiny Canadian flags in the front of every house in Leduc for the past 15 years.
The cat's out of the bag so to speak. 
I'm sure people have begun to figure out who has been putting miniature Canadian Flags in their front yards every Canada Day for the past 15 years, but thanks to me (hopefully) people will know who the devious flag planters are by next Friday.
Walking front yard to front yard on a somewhat chilly Canada Day morning planting the flags I found that I was actually enjoying myself rather than trying to hopelessly stay awake. 
I have never really done anything special for Canada Day and I definitely found it interesting to hear Bob talk about how patriotic Americans are for Independence Day while Canadians are pretty passive when it comes to our day. It made me realize that maybe I take this country for granted sometimes. I always hear people complain about how terrible Canada is sometimes and when you think about it how can you complain? We've got so many advantages over so many other countries yet I know that all Canadians have complained about our country one time or another. 
This unselfish deed that employees from Coldwell Banker and helpers do every Canada Day is a great symbol to what Canadians are like. Some of the helpers woke up as early as four in the morning to help with the Canada Day flag planting, which is a real testament to the importance of this annual event. 
I'm sure when people woke up in the morning they either loved the little flag or did not care at all. It's the little joys in life that make life worth living and being a part of something like this was great.

Interview with a draftee

I'm a huge hockey fan especially when it comes to the NHL. 

I live, breath and fart hockey all year round and my dream one day would be to exclusively report on a NHL team or just be around the NHL as a reporter.

On June 30 I got to interview a hopeful NHL player that got drafted in the second round of the 2009 NHL draft in Montreal.

Brett Ponich is his name. 

He was drafted in the second round by the St. Louis Blues at the draft this past Saturday. Being drafted in the second round is a pretty big accomplishment for the young man from Beaumont.
This was my first interview with any type of NHL hockey player so it was a pretty good experience for myself and maybe one day our paths will meet again on a larger stage. 
Stanley Cup maybe? One can dream. 

You never know how these young kids will turn out in the NHL once they are ready, so talking to them at a young age is always exciting because I could one of the first people to ever interview a future superstar. Here's hoping.

Ponich is a 6'7 defenseman with the Portland Winterhawks and God knows NHL teams are always looking for the next Pronger or Chara or even a less talked about Hal Gill, who did win a Stanley Cup this year.

Ponich will not likely see any NHL playing time in the upcoming season unless St.Louis experiences a bunch of injuries, but the young defenseman will get his chance in the future with the Blues. 

He could see himself playing alongside other rising stars like T.J. Oshie, Patrick Berglund and highly touted defenseman Erik Johnson.

Ponich told me how getting that call felt and who the first person was to talk to him about being drafted.

Getting a call from any NHL organization is a dream for many hopeful young hockey players, but Ponich got an experience that little others have had.

Al MacInnis was actually the first person to call me and welcome me to the organization so that was really amazing that I got to talk someone like that,” said Ponich.

Being a NHL caliber hockey player is not easy to achieve. It takes a lot of hard work from not only the player himself but other surrounding him. According to Ponich and Debbie (Brett's mom) growing up in Beaumont and Leduc really helped him to where he is now. 

Ponich got his first taste of skating at the young age of four when he joined his sisters ringette team and from there the rest is history.

Ponich spent all his younger years playing hockey in Beaumont and for Ponich there were many influential people on his journey to eventually being drafted.

“One of my coaches Rick Hubbs was a great influence while I played hockey in Beaumont. He helped me become the hockey player I am today,” said Ponich.

Developing a hockey player takes a lot of time and effort from not only the parents but also a whole community. 

"Although it may not take a whole community to raise a child, it does take a community to raise a hockey player,” said Debbie Ponich, Brett’s mom.

Maybe once Ponich makes his way to the NHL he'll remember the interview that I did with him or maybe not. Either way it'll be very interesting to see where this kid is going to go.

Check out Ponich's bio on the Blues website.