February 25, 2005
Cuthbert baffled by firing
By ROB BRODIE -- Ottawa Sun
His loyalty to the CBC was second to none.
And why wouldn't Chris Cuthbert have felt that way? The Grey Cup, a high profile on Hockey Night in Canada, the Olympics every two years ... at CBC, Cuthbert had everything he could have ever asked for in the TV game.
"I really thought I was in the catbird seat. I was do ing everything I wanted to do in my career," Cuthbert told the Sun yesterday. "You could not have mapped out a better career path than that."
All of those opportunities, it should be noted, were richly earned by a broadcaster widely acknowledged to be one of Canada's finest.
"When you're talking about who the best play-by-play people are in this country, you have to put Chris on the list," said John Shannon, a former boss of Cuthbert's during his time as Hockey Night in Canada's executive producer.
Obviously, though, his current employers don't share that view. How else to explain how the CBC, in a move one can only classify as boneheaded, would willingly cut such a talent loose.
And would do it by registered letter, a most shameful part of this sorry tale.
Cuthbert still doesn't get it.
"That's the real frustration," Cuthbert, 47, said.
"It doesn't make any sense, even though they say they're doing it for finances."
The official party line is that Cuthbert had to be let go because the NHL lockout left him with little work -- even though he was slated to call the world figure skating championships in Moscow.
CBC Sports executive director Nancy Lee called sacking Cuthbert "a regrettable decision." Yet she wouldn't reverse the move even when Cuthbert offered Wednesday to go on sabbatical until the NHL resumed.
"Not only did they terminate me, there was no commitment to me returning (in the fall)," said Cuthbert, who reportedly has clashed with Lee in the past. "That was all I needed to know about where I stood with them."
The decision has unleashed anger among CBC staffers and throughout the broadcast industry.
It is not only a testament to Cuthbert's talent, but to his decency as a person.
"Chris is one of a kind," said Greg Millen, Cuthbert's HNIC partner for the past several seasons. "As good a broadcaster as he is, he's an even better person."
Not surprisingly, Cuthbert's agent, Elliott Kerr, has already fielded calls for his services. They are in no hurry to choose the next path.
"We're going to sit back and evaluate what just happened," said Kerr. "He never wanted to leave (CBC)."
Cuthbert is heartened by such interest -- "it shows me there is life after the CBC" -- and by the dozens of calls he's taken from around the broadcast world, and beyond. Peter Mansbridge has called. So, too, have Bob Goodenow and Senators CEO Roy Mlakar.
It should never have come to this. Cuthbert should have been CBC's voice of the Grey Cup for years to come and, eventually, the voice of the Stanley Cup final after Bob Cole's retirement.
Cuthbert is that good. And, as Shannon says, "you just don't get rid of your stars."
Not if you've got any sense.