While the world has certainly been turned upside down this year, I keep trying to look for some positive things that have come out of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Given the fact that there were many months when there was not much happening in the world of sports, the media had to come up with innovative ways to fill the gap. A number of sports broadcasters have beenshowing classic moments from days gone by.
For example, Toronto Maple Leaf fans had the chance to watch a rebroadcast of highlights from Game 6 of the 1967 Stanley Cup final when the Leafs defeated the Montreal Canadiensin to win the coveted title.
Considering that the footage is in black and white and that marked the last time the boys in blue and white hoisted the Cup I guess we Leaf fans do deserve a bit of ribbing.
Locally, Thunder Bay Television has been airing a segment during its sportscast called Backchecking which has provided the chance to look back on some great moments from our sports history. Not only does it feature some classic footage and interviews going back to the 1980s and 1990s but they also serve as a reminder of some of the people who brought us the sports stories during those years including the likes of Jonathan Wilson, John Cameron, John Nagy, Chris Prystanski, Bryan Wyatt, Susan Hrkac, Andy Weiller, Randy Thoms, Warren Woods and Randy Scheffee.
The print media is also taking a look back, with this very paper, reaching back into their archives and pulling out some great classic memories from years past. One of their features is re-publishing columns penned by previous sports editors. As I was looking through the multitude of newspaper clippings we have at the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame, it got me thinking about some of the people who have had bylines on these pages, and how newspaper reporting has changed over the years.
The present day Chronicle-Journal actually came about following the amalgamation of the cities of Port Arthur and Fort William which each had their own newspapers, including the Port Arthur News-Chronicle and the Fort William Times-Journal.
In 1972 these two papers merged resulting in the production of a morning edition called The Chronicle-Journal and the evening Times-News, with the latter ending publication in 1996.
On the Port Arthur side of town, one of the early sports editors was Dick Elliot. He enjoyed a 40-year career in journalism before retiring in 1974, with half of that covering the local sports scene. Those were the days when reporters would often travel out-of-town with local teams to send back reports of their progress.
One of Elliot’s first trips was following the Port Arthur Bearcats along their trail to the 1939 Allan Cup and he would go on to report on many more throughout his career and in hiscolumn called On the Side.
Around the same time, it was Max Ray who was covering sports for the Fort William Daily Times-Journal, penning his column Off the Cuff.
Moving into the 1950s and 60s it was the likes of Roger Patola and long-time journalist Bud Tolman who would bring the local sporting scene to life for Fort William readers. Bud advanced to become sports editor of The Times-News and eventually The Chronicle-Journal and throughout his over five-decade long journalism career he also wrote for many different sports magazines, eventually retiring in 2000.
Jim Kelly, who joined the paper in 1975, also covered sports throughout his lengthy writing career.
Another long-serving sports editor was Bill Guy, who spent 34 years at the Port Arthur News-Chronicle covering local sports and writing his popular One Guy’s Opinion column which provided his many readers a chance to get a behind the scenes peak into the world of sports, as he truly had his finger on the pulse of the sports community.
In addition to writing about sports Bill also enjoyed spending his time fishing, bowling and on the golf course and helping out as a volunteer with a number of sport associations.
Another individual who brought his knowledge of sports to the page having spent time participating as an athlete was former NHL player Pentti Lund. He joined the Fort William Daily Times-Journal in 1962 as a reporter and photographer shortly after his return to the Lakehead.
In fact, Pentti had gotten a taste for reporting while he was still playing hockey in New York as he would write articles about his experiences which would be translated and sent to a Finnish publication.
When our local papers amalgamated in the 1970s, Guy covered sports for the News-Chronicle and Lund for the Times-News, with both men working into the early 1990s.
Since their retirement there have been a number of staff writers and editors gracing these sports pages including the likes of Julio Gomes, John Nagy, Gary Lawless, Jeff MacKinnon, Claire Stirling, Dave Lammers, David Trifunov, Michael Onesi, Brody Mark, Emmanuel Moutsatsos, Darcy Chernysh and Joanne Kushnier.
Our current sports editor, Reuben Villagracia, is bringing back the tradition of sports editors penning a regular column — A Reuben With A View — which serves as a welcome addition to these pages. Gary Moskalyk is the Chronicle’s freelancer these days who covers the major teams — when they’re in action.
Another individual who had a long-time connection to this newspaper was Joe Greaves, the first curator of the Sports Hall of Fame, who served as a printer for over 40 years.
In recalling his early newspaper days, he described how he was responsible for monitoring the play-by-play which would come in via teletype. In some cases, they would not just print the results, but rather Joe had to take the information off the machine and deliver it to the sports editor Royd Beamish who would walk out onto the balcony at the paper and using a megaphone read it to the people who had gathered below to hear the latest results.
My, how times have changed. The next time you are finding yourself a little agitated because the score for your favourite team is not coming across the bottom of the television screen fast enough, or your internet connection is a little too slow, be grateful for the fact that you do not have to get dressed and head down to The Chronicle-Journal and stand outside while Reuben announces the play-by-play.
Of course, if the Edmonton Oilers advance to the next round of the NHLplayoffs, he will likely shout it from the rooftop anyway.
Until next time, keep that sports history pride alive and stay safe!
Diane Imrie is the executive director of the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame.