Esks broadcaster turns 75

GERRY MODDEJONGE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:29 AM ET

He may not have invented the Hall of Fame, but it was probably named after him.

Or so the legend goes, anyway.

Larger-than-life radio personality Bryan Hall, the voice responsible for calling almost every play of the Edmonton Eskimos football games since 1965, turns 75 years old today.

"I hope to tell you I've seen a lot," said Hall, who's been with 630 CHED since 1993. "In this business you get to see a lot, and that's what I like about the business. It's never dull, there's always something new."

Football is just one dimension of his exalted career.

"Broadcasting is what I'm all about, I'm not about sports. That's only a facet of broadcasting," he said. "That's all it is to me, it's only a specialized form of news. I love everything about broadcasting whether it's news or sports or commercial work."

He's not one to shy away from a good ribbing over commercializing his football broadcasts -- or is it footballizing his commercial broadcasts?

Hall has an image that transcends any visual barriers of being on radio. It's tough to miss that full head of hair that is 100% real despite not actually resembling anything animal, vegetable or mineral. Still, he is a lot more recognizable in the public eye than most of the players who have been through Commonwealth Stadium.

But he's not in it for any personal glory.

"I hope that you can bring some enjoyment into people's lives. That's all I would hope for -- to make life a little more interesting," said Hall. "There are people who don't always agree with my views, but I have them and so do they. Controversy is the lifeblood of sport. To me that's what it is."

He's been to over 50 Grey Cups and has been bestowed by the Eskimos with championship rings from 1993, 2003 and 2005. Hall began broadcasting in Edmonton in 1953 -- the year before the arrival of the late great Jackie Parker.

"And that was the first of 13 Grey Cups," Hall said, sitting in the lounge at Commonwealth Stadium that was named after Parker.

A pioneer in his own field, Hall had the first open-line sports show in Edmonton's history. He is a natural-born leader who marches to his own tune -- which could explain why he doesn't always fare so well when it comes time to follow -- especially things like bouncing balls to song lyrics. But that doesn't stop him from leading the charge in the Eskimos Fight Song at every home game.

A Canadian Football Hall of Famer for 20 years already, Hall has designated 2009 as his final season behind the mic with the Eskimos.

"Who knows what's going to happen? I don't know, that's up to other people," Hall said. "They kept asking me, 'What are we going to do when you're no longer here.'

"I said, 'Go ask the L.A. Dodgers what do they say to Vin Scully, who's been doing it for 59 years, is (turning) 82 years old, still going strong. Do they go in and ask him? He's still there.

"You keep asking me every year so I'm saying to you, 'OK, this is my last year. That's it, plain and simple. Done. Gone, go find somebody.'"

Which may or may not be easier said than done. After all, who could replace the Hallsyisms like "Whoah!", "Not sayin', just sayin," and of course, often referring to himself as "THE Hallsy."

At his best, he calls an entertaining game. At his worst, he can be more entertaining than the game. Love him or hate him, Hall has become an institution in five decades of work.

And after all those years he sure knows his football ... just ask him.

"The game is about playing 110 yards goal-line to goalline, 65 wide, live end zones, three downs, kicking, blocking, tackling, catching, throwing. It's always been the same," said Hall, who might be giving up a job covering the Eskimos, but will never give up the fight.

Even when he is finally unplugged, he will be forever bold as the Green and Gold. And when he's done, he'll tell the world he's proud of Edmonton and the Edmonton Eskimos.

... Bouncing ball or not.


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