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A Life Devoted: Humility and passion for Postmedia’s Jason Hills in Canadian university sports

Declan Riley

Sports is one the purest concepts developed. For some, sports is a hobby, others an escape and an outlet, and for the lucky few, sports is their lives. For Jason Hills, Post Media Edmonton freelance writer, sports is everything.

At a young age, sports was an escape. Watching countless hours of sports allowed Hills to process and develop an outlet to deal with the childhood trauma of losing both his parents in a car accident caused by an impaired driver. With so much inside his head, sports provided him with the outlet that millions of people utilize daily; being enveloped into “the game.”

“I remember watching sports with my Grandma and the games going past my bedtime but being allowed to stay up because my grandma knew what it meant to me,” says Hills, who on Monday night took home the Fred Sgambati Media Award at the BLG / U SPORTS Awards Gala, in recognition of major contributions to the development and growth of Canadian university sport.

Later, as Hills grew into a young man, like many others his age he began to become involved with school sports. As Hills began to play, the concept of attending university and being involved with a varsity team materialised into a dream.

“I was never an all-star,” he says, thinking back to his high school sports days. “I was well rounded, athletic and a team player but never a superstar - a glue guy.”

Following high school graduation, Hills realized that varsity athletics might not be in the cards, but was still very determined to have sports play a major role in his life, so he attended Lethbridge College for its Journalism Diploma program. Covering the volleyball and basketball teams, Hills soon realized that he could carve himself quite a niche in the collegiate sports journalism field, and the stories have been flowing ever since.

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In 2007, Hills joined the Edmonton Sun and was given the “amateur” sports beat, headlined by coverage the Alberta Golden Bears and Pandas, as well as the MacEwan Griffins athletics programs. Fittingly, Hills began working under former Sun sports editor and current MacEwan sports information officer Jefferson Hagen.

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“Jason is among the most passionate supporters of post-secondary sport in Canada,” says Hagen, who presented Hills with the Sgambati Media Award on Monday. “That shines through in his excellent writing and coverage of U SPORTS and the (Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference) in Edmonton and beyond.”

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Hills has been a major component of university athletics coverage in Edmonton for over 10 years. Spending long hours travelling to back and forth across the North Saskatchewan River covering all the postsecondary teams, Hills is Postmedia’s go-to reporter in Edmonton for everything amateur sports. Though usually the lone reporter in the postgame scrum following many games, Hills returns year after year.

“I’m not a specific fan of any sport more than another. I am a fan of all sports,” says Hills. “Having the chance to be involved with the University of Alberta, a program so rich in history and success; and MacEwan University, a new player in the game who is slowly succeeding and making a name for themselves (is rewarding).”

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Hills is a story teller. Though his articles span from features to game recaps and series previews, all of his work showcases university student-athletes like no one else in the City of Edmonton. Hills stands out and stands above many, with an uncanny ability to capture the athletes’ true voice. By putting himself in their shoes, Hills empathizes with the student-athlete by telling their story, bringing a truly human element to the piece.

“My grandma told me when I was young, ‘No matter what you do in life, just do what makes you happy,’” Hills recalls. “This type of job and this type of career, you’re not going to make millions in it. You have to do it because you love it and because you’re passionate about it.”

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