Photo Credit: ANDY DEVLIN

Corey Graham: Another Step Closer

On June 29th, 2018, Corey Graham underwent a 10-hour procedure to remove a tumour in his back. It was inside his spinal cord. It ran up from the L3 to the T9. That is half of his back, almost eight inches long. Graham had been the voice of the Edmonton Oil Kings for eight seasons, but then he missed the 2018/2019 season as he recovered from surgery. He couldn’t walk. He was in a wheelchair, but Graham was determined he would work in media again.

In May of 2019, I caught up with Corey and his wife Nicole. They invited me into their home and shared the intimate details of how dramatically their lives had changed. I won’t re-tell their story today, but you can read all the details here. If you haven’t read it yet, I’d recommend reading it before you scrolling through the next chapter below so you have a better understanding of how we got here.

After 13 months of rehab Graham regained a major piece of independence. In September of 2019, they installed hand controls on his steering wheel so he could drive again. It was a big moment mentally as well as physically. It was one step, but then on October 11th, 2019, Graham was back doing what he loves most: calling Oil Kings games.

He didn’t travel with the team like he normally would, but he called 30 of their homes games. It was a huge milestone for Graham, but like many things in 2020, COVID derailed it. The final two Oil Kings games were cancelled and Graham has been going a bit stir crazy at home.

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But tonight, he will make another return to his previous life. Graham, along with Hernan Salas, will co-host a three-hour sports show on TSN 1260 from 6-9 p.m. Graham used to host the evening show on TSN 1260, before he got the Oil Kings job, and he has filled in when people went on holidays. But for the first time since 2010 Graham will be hosting full time. He’s ecstatic.

Here is a quick Q and A with Graham before his gets back on the TSN 1260 airwaves tonight at 6 p.m.

Gregor: What has changed since the 2019 article? How is your health?

Graham: The most significant update is that I went through radiation right as COVID-19 hit. I went five days a week for six weeks. This included my 40th birthday. It was a challenge and somewhat nerve racking going to a hospital when the entire province was shut down due to a global pandemic, but the people at the Cross Cancer were fantastic, and they were very diligent in their safety precautions. I didn’t get to ring the bell at the end of treatment as they were limiting touch points, and Nicole wasn’t able to come in, but on the day of my last treatment, she played the quintessential radio sound effect — the sport air horn — when I got in the car, and it was just as meaningful.

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(The ringing of the bell tradition is called the Bell of Hope. Patients are invited to ring a bell to celebrate a significant milestone in their cancer journey — the completion of treatment.)

The good news is that the radiation worked. The small piece of tumour that was left was too dangerous to remove surgically, and was still pushing on my nerves. The radiation shrunk the rest sufficiently enough that it is no longer pushing on my nerves. I will have to keep going in for MRIs to monitor the little bit that’s left. My hope is what is left is largely scar tissue, and it will no longer grow, but time and the MRIs will tell.

Since the swelling went down from radiation, I’ve gained a lot of strength back, and am continuing to attack my rehab full tilt. I haven’t been into physio since before March, due to COVID restrictions, but was able to connect with my trainer at The Steadward Centre virtually, and have been diligent with my workouts at home. I’ll also continue working with my doctor at the Glenrose as I continue to get stronger.

Gregor: How did it feel calling Oil Kings homes games last season?

Graham: It was awesome. It was fun and it felt so good. I was unbelievably humbled and grateful for how the Oil Kings marked my return, and it’s something my family and I will never, ever forget. I was nervous at first, but felt pretty comfortable by the second period. It’s been awesome working with Andrew (Peard), and I couldn’t have asked for a better guy to hold down the fort while I was away and now does all the road games. He’s a true professional. And, of course, it was just great to get back to the rink, watch the guys compete and call the games.

Gregor: What should fans expect to hear when you and Hernan hit the airwaves?

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Graham: Hernan and I like to have fun, so hopefully it’ll be a fun show. We’ll focus on all the hot sport topics, but will delve a bit more into community-based content. There’s a long history at TSN/Team 1260 for community-minded content, thanks to the legacy of John Short, and I’d like to play my role in continuing that. We have great pro sport teams in this city, but we have a myriad of incredible local sport connections that I’m looking forward to exploring. I’m also super jacked to be working with Hernan. He’s got great energy and he’s a super passionate sport fan, and I’m looking forward to having him be a big part of the show.

Gregor: What excites you the most about hosting a show again?

Graham: Can I say everything? I’m excited to connect with fans again, for sure, and getting into a routine. These past several years have been anything but normal, and I’m really looking forward to the normalcy of being back on air, which is kind of ironic because we all know radio isn’t “normal,” but it is my normal, and I’m extremely happy to be back.

Corey’s hard work and dedication to returning to the Oil Kings broadcast booth and now back on TSN 1260 has been inspiring. I’m extremely happy for him and look forward to listening to him and Salas.

You can listen to Graham and Salas Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday nights from 6-9 p.m. and Saturdays from 12- 4p.m. on TSN 1260.

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