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Stranded truckers give Ed an idea

MSNBC host may keep lodge open year-round

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The truckers who spent a few nights last week at a remote fly-in fishing lodge on Wrong Lake when the ice road melted under them have given the lodge owner a business idea.

Syndicated radio talk show host and MSNBC host Ed Schultz bought the former Thunderbird Lodge and cabins at Wrong Lake only a month ago and is getting ready to reopen it as a seasonal operation.

But Schultz said when the truckers used it to stay warm and safe, it gave him an idea.

"I'm kind of rethinking maybe we ought to keep it open year-round," Shultz said in a telephone interview from NBC studios in New York Wednesday morning before the start of his nationally syndicated radio talk show. "We can definitely offer a nice meal and a nice place to sleep when these truckers are on the road. My wife and I are rethinking this whole deal."

Schultz said he knew nothing about the unfolding drama last week, when truckers hired by desperate First Nation communities made a last-ditch run with badly needed supplies on winter roads that were melting by the hour.

Many of the truckers became stuck in the mud at various locations and as many as a dozen people from Garden Hill and St. Theresa Point took refuge at the closed lodge until the RCMP took them out by plane.

Schultz said he only found out about the situation this week, when a Winnipeg-based contractor working for him emailed him a cryptic message in the middle of his show Tuesday afternoon.

"I'm doing the 2 o'clock hour on the set on TV at MSNBC in New York and I'm checking my BlackBerry and I read this and I went 'What!'... I'm getting ready to go on TV. It was just strange how it all happened. I said that's interesting... guys have been staying at my lodge, I don't know the first thing about it and I guess I've been getting a lot of press."

Although born and raised in Virginia, he is no stranger to Manitoba. Schultz attended Minnesota State University Moorhead on a football scholarship in the mid-1970s, where he was a star quarterback and All-American.

Schultz had a brief tryout with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 1979 and then returned to Fargo to work as a sports broadcaster, calling university football games and developing his radio call-in show, The Ed Schultz Show, which eventually was syndicated nationally. During the years, Schultz morphed from a conservative into one of America's lone and successful progressive, small 'L' liberal talk show hosts.

He continued to broadcast his syndicated radio show from Fargo but moved to New York City after he was hired by MSNBC last year to host a one-hour, suppertime show, The Ed Show, while still doing his three-hour national radio show.

Schultz, 56, has been a huge fan of the fishing on Wrong Lake. He's been coming to Canada to fish for 30 years but believes the lodge at Wrong Lake offers the best fishing. He had been going there for 12 years before he bought it.

Since buying the lodge on the Poplar River system, Schultz has changed the name to Big Eddie's North Country Lodge. It's open five months a year, with a lodge and seven cabins that can accommodate 32 people, and a 1,000-metre runway.

Schultz said he was glad to hear the truckers were close enough to the lodge to use it to keep themselves warm. But he said his plan is to start taking in guests in June and he's now wondering what the truckers left behind. "We plan to go up there sometime in April to check it out and get things rolling for the year," Schultz said. "I hope they didn't park any of the trucks around the runway because we have to get in there.

"How many trucks are there... because, obviously, they're going to be there until next year. I got to make my place presentable."


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 25, 2010 A4

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