Sports broadcasting legend Ted Reynolds dies at 84

An iconic sports reporter passed away Tuesday, a man who made a long career of turning general assignment into an art form behind the microphone.

He had 'the intangible quality of elegance'

If there's a group Jim Hughson would like to hang around with in Canada's sports past, it's those old-time broadcasters and writers who seemed to follow the big events around the world in a single pack.

Another of those iconic figures died Tuesday — Ted Reynolds — a man who made a long career of turning general assignment into an art form behind the sports microphone.

Reynolds, 84, spent more than 50 years calling the action for at least 23 sports and at 10 Olympic Games. He did 35 of those years at the CBC and kept working right up to his 80s.

He was, fans and fellow journalists agree, part of an impressive group of sports pioneers now passed that has included Don Chevrier and Don Whitman, writers Milt Dunnell, Jim Hunt and Jim Proudfoot, and a handful of others.

They all brought the same skill — the ability to do everything.

"It would have been pretty neat to have been around in the days where there weren't that many people working in the industry and they all travelled together and worked the same events together," said Hughson, a Hockey Night in Canada broadcaster who grew up in northern British Columbia when there was only one station — the CBC.

"And it was the same 10 guys who were the national writers and the national broadcasters who were at every big event everywhere in the world."

Reynolds, born in Grand Forks, B.C., was a West Vancouver resident who leaves behind his second wife, Joan, of 34 years (his first wife passed away in the early 1970s), four children, eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

He worked for three different media outlets in B.C., starting from his first job at a radio station in Kamloops right after the Second World War.

In a chat with Fred Walker, another Canadian sports journalism icon, on the occasion of winning a prestigious award in 2003 from Sports Media Canada, Reynolds remembered migrating to CFHC in Victoria in 1949.

"I met one of my mentors, the great Lester Patrick, who had returned to Victoria from New York to introduce the Victoria Cougars to the Western Hockey League," he said.

Patrick wanted him to do play-by-play for the Cougars, and that spot lasted eight years.

It acted as a springboard to a varied career that included Grey Cups, the Vancouver Canucks (he called the club's first game in 1970), equestrian, figure-skating and dozens of Olympic events including Nancy Greene's Olympic gold medal in skiing at the 1968 Winter Games in Grenoble, France.

What Reynolds will likely be most remembered for, however, is his work poolside, where he called so many historic events, including Elaine Tanner's two silver medals in 1968 in Mexico, Mark Spitz's seven wins in Munich in 1972 and, above all, a special week at the Los Angeles Games in 1984.

Baumann was special

Ted "always told the story without a bias," said swimming commentator and former Olympian Byron McDonald, who worked next to Reynolds for many years.

"But deep down inside, when he was able to call Alex Baumann's gold medals in 1984, it was extra special for him."

That was because Reynolds knew and understood the sport so well, having himself been a competitive swimmer in his youth before joining the air force in the Second World War, and because he had called so many of the country's pool performances up to that point, McDonald says.

Watching Baumann win in world record time in both the 200 metre free and 400 metre individual medley (the latter was Canada's first swimming gold since 1912) was a crowning moment. Especially when added to Victor Davis's gold in the 200 metre breast stroke and one from Anne Ottenbrite in the same event on the women's side.

Most of all, McDonald says, the broadcaster was a professional, able to handle with aplomb whatever was thrown at him — such as the time the pair were doing a live introduction and had been told it could be a minute, or three.

"And all of a sudden someone came into our headsets and said '10 seconds — gotta throw to a commercial,' and I'm listening to this thinking, 'There's no way he's going to get out of this,' " McDonald remembers.

"We're on a story and Ted's relating it and all of a sudden he brings it back down to say, 'Of course this pool was named for the Queen,' and he was out, right on cue."

Big shoes to fill

As Hughson points out, there aren't too many broadcasters in this age of specialization who even have the chance to call a lot of different events. One of those, the CBC's Scott Russell, feels the responsibility of following in such footsteps.

"Ted was an inspiration to me as I embarked on my career in broadcasting," Russell said. "He was very helpful and kind when I first encountered him at the Canada Games in Cape Breton in 1987.

"It is an honour to call the play-by-play of the sports he made into staples in every Canadian household, namely show jumping and figure-skating."