2015 has just started, and unfortunately, the year started on a mournful note as Winnipeg lost one of the true friends of the journalism world, Shawn Coates.
Shawn’s name is very familiar around the Winnipeg sports scene. Most recognizably, Shawn had been the executive director of Football Manitoba at the time of his passing, but prior to this, he had been in PR and leadership roles with the likes of The University of Winnipeg, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the Canadian Football League.
It was in his position with the Bombers where I met Shawn. At the time, I was a cub journalist, carving out the start of a career with Sun Media. Shawn introduced me to the football world as I did my first Bomber interviews and showed me what a true PR professional is – accommodating, attentive, and downright caring about the place he was working at and promoting. It wasn’t a surprise to me at all when Shawn was promoted to his position with the CFL.
After Shawn returned to Winnipeg I was able to reconnect with him, and just as he was in his days of Bombers PR, he was just as kind to me in the new era of his life. In this case, it was during work on a book (that unfortunately didn’t get published) where Shawn and I crossed paths – he had now become one of Winnipeg’s premier photographers.
Reading through tributes on Facebook and other media, there isn’t a single person who doesn’t speak richly of Shawn’s mastery of the camera, and it shows in his work that has been seen in publications across not only Manitoba, but North America for USA Today.
It was in this photographic passion that I last saw Shawn. Up in the pressbox at the MTS Centre, I often saw Shawn before Winnipeg Jets games, before he would take to the arena bowl and shoot the action beneath him. Always cordial, Shawn was happiest with a camera in his hand and often shared his successes through the miniature screen.
On the occasions where I was shooting as well, it became an opportunity for us to not only talk about the status of the Jets, but talk about angles and best locations around the MTS Centre for image capture. It was the Monday prior to his passing – a game vs. the San Jose Sharks, where I said what I didn’t know at the time would be my final “cheers” to Shawn as we passed each other on the concourse.
It’s funny how a single person can shape your career and you can be not even fully aware of it. Certainly, Shawn was one of those people who touched the careers of many in the journalism world. His passion spoke louder than words and said more than any photograph ever could. Truly, the Winnipeg sports world is better for having Shawn Coates lead it.
Jon Waldman is a marketing and communications expert in Winnipeg. Follow Jon’s activity on Twitter @jonwaldman or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.