Setback to comeback

DAVE 'CRASH' CAMERON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:28 AM ET

First he was relieved. Then came relief.

With the NHL shut down - and therefore Hockey Night in Canada - play-by-play man Chris Cuthbert was sitting idle during the winter for the first time in 20 years.

So he and his wife planned a vacation to Australia and New Zealand.

"I guess after the Sidney Olympics I was intrigued to go back and see more," Cuthbert said.

"When it was clear that there wasn't going to be any hockey we made a commitment to do it."

A couple days before they were about to toss a few shrimp on the barbie in the lands Down Under, Cuthbert got a call from his employers at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

"I was terminated. We cancelled our (vacation) plans.

"February 22. A day that will live in infamy (for me)," Cuthbert said on Thursday.

It became a rather public affair. (And another public-relations black eye for CBC.)

Like many of the athletes whose performances he described in his years as an announcer, Cuthbert was "let go" for organizational reasons. Like a percentage of those athletes, he didn't see it coming.

Then, from setback came bounce back.

TSN rang. Others had seen CBC's loss as their potential gain.

"They called a couple of days afterward to set up a meeting. We had lunch six days after.

"We didn't have an agreement then, but I think everybody at that lunch knew that we were going to come to something.

"There was probably a verbal agreement in place within 10 days of the firing."

That agreement became official this week.

It looks like a great fit for the 47-year-old. A soft landing from a hard fall. He goes from being in the sports department of a news organization to being in one big sports department.

"We know here that there's a commitment to sports television. And that wasn't clearly evident anymore at CBC. So I'm in the right place you want to be in the sports business."

While on the phone, new TSN/CTV colleague Rod Black walked into Cuthbert's new office and cracked a joke about the size of the room.

Cuthbert cracked back: "I told them I wanted an office as big as Rod Black's!

"I was fortunate at CBC to work with people like Dave Hodge, and Howie Meeker and Don Cherry, Ron MacLean, the list goes on," said Cuthbert, returning to the interview. "Now it's a different, but equally talented cast of characters.

"It's just a more sports-intensive environment now."

TALK, TALK, TALK: This is a man that has made a living with his voice.

But he hasn't used the tool of his trade professionally since 2004.

Still, for the second time this year he has had to talk his butt off while standing in the glare of the media spotlight.

"The couple of days after the 22nd were an absolute blur of this kind of thing," Cuthbert said, referring to a full slate of media interviews.

"I'm getting a taste of it again. But the reaction after the termination was pretty widespread and intense."

And great comfort.

The outcry maybe wasn't as public as it was when MacLean or Cherry went through their salary negotiations, but the outcry was given as much media time, perhaps indicative of the amount of friends he made in the business over the years.

"It got me through the first 24-36 hours that I did get so much support from right across the country."

UP FROM DOWN UNDER: That vacation? With the TSN thing in the bag, the Cuthberts remade their plans.

A hockey announcer, let alone a fired hockey announcer, is hardly news Down Under.

"It was very comfortable. It was nice to get out of the hot seat where you're reading about what was next or having people worried about you or grilling you or whatever. It was a nice opportunity to get away from all that.

"I don't like being the story and it was nice to not worry about that."

EXPERIENCE EDMONTON: The Brampton, Ont., native was here from 1984 to '91 at the local CBC bureau, when people actually watched CBC locally.

"Stanley Cups, Grey Cups and all the rest. It was a great environment."

GOLDEN BOY: A Golden Gael or a Golden Bear?

"That's a loaded question that could get me in trouble! You know what, I am a Golden Gael. My start was with the '78 Vanier Cup Queen's football team as an announcer," he said of the Ontario university.

"I actually spoke at the Queen's football dinner last week and as I said that night, they gave me my start and I'm indebted to them for that."

FLYING CONCORDE: Like myself, Cuthbert's favourite football team growing up was Russ Jackson and the Ottawa Rough Riders. Unlike any of us, he had first-hand knowledge of the Montreal Concordes.

He was the voice of the short-lived post- and pre-Alouettes CFL franchise before coming out West.

Fitting then that his first on-air gig with TSN will be the CFL, starting with the Toronto-Hamilton exhibition match at Halifax on June 11.

"That timing is perfect. There's a real upsurge I think everybody senses with the league.

"The Eskimos have always had that continuity, but that's more widespread across the league now.

"Even if hockey was being played I think the CFL is still in a growth mode.

"Ironically, I've gone from a place where I was considered one of the younger announcers to a place where, now, I'm one of the older ones!"


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