Vancouver Sun

Robson reflects on rejection before call from Hall

Strikes out with Pilots: Baseball said no thanks, but hockey happy to have a Jim-dandy


SCENE & HEARD: The recent passing of legendary Seattle sportscast­er Rod Belcher brought back a flood of memories for Jim Robson, our resident Hockey Hall of Fame play-by-play broadcaste­r.

“Rod became the voice of the Seattle Pilots baseball team in 1969. I applied for that job and still have the rejection letter,” Robson says. “Lucky me I didn’t get the job. The Pilots folded in one year, the NHL came to Vancouver in 1970 and I became the voice of the Canucks.”

Lucky Vancouver.

Robson called more than 2,000 NHL games on radio and television between 1970 and April 14, 1999, the night of his final broadcast. He was acknowledg­ed by the Hockey Hall of Fame as winner of the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award in 1992 and later was presented with an Award of Merit from the Canadian Associatio­n of Broadcaste­rs. Along the way, he received the Order of British Columbia and was a natural to be inducted into the media category at the BC Sports Hall of Fame.

Robson would be the last person on Earth to agree, but his very NHL presence on CKNW and Hockey Night in Canada over three decades made the decision-making lords of the broadcasti­ng ring in Toronto realize there was untapped talent in the West.

While it still remains a tad confusing which outlet is covering which games on any given night with Rogers NHL, a mix of CBC/Hockey Night in Canada, Sportsnet and TSN all in on the action, it is comforting to see so many broadcaste­rs with B.C. background­s enjoying successful careers with their NHL coverage.

We can consider the likes of Jim Hughson, John Shorthouse, John Garrett, Rick Ball, Farhan Lalji and Dan Murphy homegrown talent and while Robson will have no part of the suggestion, he’s been the pioneer. Had Robson landed that Seattle Pilots play-by-play job in 1969 there is no telling where he might have wound up.

The bankrupted Pilots became the Milwaukee Brewers in 1970.

SHORT HOPS: We will ask our annual question that never gets a reply: Why does the NHL insist on all visiting teams wearing their boring white jerseys on the road when they could be flashing an array of logos and bright colours that can only add to the entertainm­ent value of the game?

END ZONE: Rafe Mair, who celebrated his 83rd birthday this week, has been a well-known and well-travelled lawyer, politician, radio personalit­y and outspoken critic of salmon farming in B.C. And, we discover, an avid golfer.

With the passing of his good friend Dick White over the holidays, Rafe shares these words: “Dick spent a lifetime involved in golf, was co-founder of the BC Golf House Society and past president of the BC Golf Associatio­n.

“I first knew Dick when we were juniors at Marine Drive. He was a stalwart of the B.C. Golf Team, a quiet, unsung hero who was involved in the game for over 60 years. He made a grand contributi­on to the game in so many ways.”

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