It wasn’t a sudden decision but it is my view that coverage of the game (and all sports) should be left to the younger minds who are better equipped to deal with the breakneck speed in which the game is being played, analyzed and reported. So this is my final Intentional Offside-Reuschblog column.
Although it didn’t start out that way, covering hockey (and by extension sports) turned out to be my dream job. I’ve loved every minute of it; not only the game but also the people who play
Initially I had to be dragged into it almost literally kicking and screaming. Like most kids growing up in Vancouver I played a variety of sports including hockey. But I had a focus on music when I followed in my fathers footsteps into the broadcast business. To that end I was working at a radio station in Kamloops British Columbia when the sports director quit on the eve of the Okanagan Senior Hockey League season. Because I was the only member of the station staff that knew the rules of hockey, I was ordered under the threat of dismissal to broadcast the Kamloops Chiefs home games. My first hockey broadcast was Kamloops versus the Penticton Vees sixty years ago this October. By mid-season I was hooked. As it turned out – forever hooked.
The following year I accepted an offer to come east to broadcast the home and away games for Kitchener Ontario Beavers of the old Eastern Pro Hockey League (Future Hall of Famers Rod Gilbert and Jean Ratelle were rookies on that team)
When the EPHL folded I headed for Europe where I spent most of the rest of the 60’s. But I couldn’t or wouldn’t stay away from hockey. While in Europe I covered two Winter Olympics (Innsbruck ’64; Grenoble ’68) and three World Hockey Championships.
On November 22nd 1963 I was standing in the pouring rain at the outdoor Grunwald hockey stadium in Munich watching Germany play Switzerland in a friendship game. At the end of the second intermission, the teams were lined up at their respective blue lines and it was announced that the remainder of the game would be canceled due to the assassination of John F. Kennedy in Dallas Texas.
I interrupted my long stay in Europe with a ten month stint in Montreal (with CKGM Radio) during the 1966-67 Canadiens season before returning for two more years on the continent.
Returning to Montreal in June of 1969 I briefly rejoined CKGM as sports director before Dick Irvin hired me as part of his staff at CFCF Radio and Television. CFCF was my broadcast anchor for the next thirty-eight years.
It has been a terrific ride dotted by participation in the CTV coverage of the 1980, ’84 and ’88 Olympics, four Canada Cup tournaments, as well as another World Hockey Championship. And never to be forgotten, I watched eight of the Canadiens twenty-four Stanley Cups first-hand.
Through it all, it is safe to pigeon hole me as one of those so-called ‘hockey lifers’.
Along the way I’ve watched hockey undergo immense changes. When I first covered the Canadiens in 1966, the minimum wage for an NHL player was 9500 dollars. There were six teams. A team roster was sixteen skaters plus two goaltenders which meant there were only 108 players in the entire league.. In 1966 there were no Europeans and only one American (Boston’s Tommy Williams). The other 107 positions and all of the coaches were Canadian. The game was static. It was a straigh north-south game. Coaches called it wing-on-wing. Players were exiled to the minors if they habitually freelanced away from their skating lane. By today’s standards the game would be considered a crashing bore.
Things started to change with Bobby Orr. The Soviets brought their influence through the 1972 Summit Series. And Bobby Hull’s WHA contract changed the salary structure of the hockey. The development of lighter equipment, sophisticated training techniques, rich television contracts which in turn have made most of the players wealthy plus rule changes that have speeded up the pace of the game (dangerously so I sometimes think ) have brought us to where we are today.
The sport I have loved for sixty years has never been better. I won’t be reporting on the game any more but I will never be able to take my eyes off it.
I want to thank everyone for their support over the years. Thank you for listening and watching. You’ve been critical when I’ve deserved it but mostly supportive. And a special thanks to those who have been regular readers of the “Intentional Offside” website over the last decade.
To repeat myself. It’s been a great ride.