December 1, 2023

An excerpt from Dan Russell’s memoir, which recounts the highs and lows of internet hosting a call-in radio sports activities present in Vancouver for 3 a long time.

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In Nice Good Night — A Memoir: My 30 Wild and Turbulent Years of Sportstalk, host Dan Russell recounts the highs and lows of internet hosting a call-in radio sports activities program in Vancouver for 3 a long time. Right here is an excerpt:

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It was the wee-est of hours. 4:45 a.m. June 15, 1994.

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It was 9 hours after the world’s most well-known trophy had been offered, and almost seven hours after Sportstalk had signed on a number of blocks away from the World’s Most Well-known Area. Now, after dramatic riot protection, heart-breaking recreation evaluation, gut-wrenching dressing room interviews, media response and marathon telephone response, it was time for one final name. In spite of everything, regardless of the Canucks’ loss to the New York Rangers, the solar had determined that it was nonetheless going to rise over Vancouver.

“Sportstalk, go forward.”

“Dan, thanks for taking my name. You gained’t imagine this. I’ve been hitting redial for the reason that present began, and now in any case this time I’m lastly on.”


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Regardless of deciding in main faculty that I needed to be a broadcaster, not as soon as whereas rising up did I ever contemplate I’d sooner or later turn out to be greatest identified for internet hosting a sports activities discuss present — not to mention turning into a trailblazer whereas doing so. Not even high-quality radar would’ve detected that. How may it? Except for a number of short-lived Vancouver market makes an attempt within the ’60s and ’70s, this radio style was hardly ever considered and by no means taken severely. Most significantly, my coronary heart’s need was calling the sport whereas it was on, not speaking concerning the recreation when it was over. And definitely not on off nights. Or off-seasons.

It was solely after an exhilarating double-overtime Vancouver Canucks win at Chicago Stadium in 1982, adopted two days later by Roger Neilson famously waving a white towel, the place I felt one thing was severely amiss. Nobody anyplace on the radio dial was speaking about these unbelievable video games after they had been over.

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Absolutely I wasn’t the one die-hard wanting a lot extra. Was I?

Roger Neilson and two other Vancouver Canuck players raised sticks and white towel in protest over “bad calls” in a 4-1 Game 2 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks in the 1982 Campbell Conference Final. Neilson was ejected for his actions in the loss and “Towel Power” was born. The Canucks eliminated the Hawks and made it to the Stanley Cup Final.
Roger Neilson and two different Vancouver Canuck gamers raised sticks and white towel in protest over “dangerous calls” in a 4-1 Sport 2 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks within the 1982 Campbell Convention Closing. Neilson was ejected for his actions within the loss and “Towel Energy” was born. The Canucks eradicated the Hawks and made it to the Stanley Cup Closing. Photograph by BRUNO TORRES /UPI FILES

Two years later, Sportstalk was born, and with it — lengthy earlier than e mail, texts, smartphones and social media — a gathering spot for native followers was established; it grew to become an on-air discussion board usually extra impactful than the sport broadcast itself. It was the dessert after the principle course, serving die-hards and informal followers of all ages.

With its mix of friends, callers, opinion and leisure, Sportstalk stored rising and rising till it had turn out to be appointment radio. And it appeared most of British Columbia was buckled in as we travelled dwelling and away in 1994 — on recreation nights and off nights, weekdays and weekends, usually extending nicely previous midnight — throughout the Canucks’ most memorable playoff ever.

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As for that caller who tried all night time solely to get by moments earlier than our sign-off? He made it on the air after the Canucks’ constitution had already landed at YVR.


… I knew the station had greater points than late night time, like their ongoing battle with Rafe Mair, the temperamental morning host who was about to get pink misted himself. Mair’s rankings had slipped, however his excessive upkeep had intensified, and his spouse’s (Patti) ever-present interference usually nauseated administration.

Years later I used to be advised by an impeccable supply, who may need been the chief producer of all discuss at CKNW, that Patti would go into the boys’s washroom earlier than Rafe’s morning enterprise to verify the bathroom seat was clear and that there was sufficient bathroom paper.

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Radio talk show legend Rafe Mair at the CKNW mic in 1998.
Radio discuss present legend Rafe Mair on the CKNW mic in 1998. Photograph by David Clark /PNG recordsdata

The difficult half, because it issues the delivery of Sportstalk, was when (station supervisor) Harvey Gold changed Mair with Dave Barrett, a former B.C. premier, and Mair went to CKNW in the one time slot it had obtainable, one which began at midnight. There was a lot dangerous blood that Gold needed to upstage Mair by airing a repeat of the Barrett present simply as Rafe was beginning. This meant the 2 former political rivals — one leaning proper, the opposite left — went head-to-head on the all-night present. One was stay whereas the opposite was in mattress.

To make this occur, although, Gold wanted a one-hour buffer to fill the hole between the top of The Scorching Line with Pat Burns and Barrett’s midnight repeat. He solved this drawback by stopping into the sports activities cubicle on a Friday afternoon to inform me he had determined to insert a sports activities present that includes calls and interviews.

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“And we’ve chosen you to be the host,” he mentioned.

Want I’d considered that’s what I needed to say. As a substitute, I advised him I used to be grateful for the chance.

“Nice … you begin Monday,” Gold mentioned.

I didn’t should ask if he meant in three days as a result of I had already been round radio lengthy sufficient to know that usually constituted long-range planning. The following day — my twenty fourth birthday — I confirmed Gold a listing of potential names for my new present. I overlook what they had been, however he rejected all of them.

“It’s going to be Sportstalk as a result of it’s so self-explanatory,” he mentioned.

He was proper.


After that I had to consider our first visitor. Who would it not be? (Sports activities director) Garry Raible and I made a decision on the Canucks’ new head coach. With one name — sure, it was far simpler reserving friends again then — Invoice LaForge was confirmed.

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As Monday neared, I didn’t have any expectations. I simply knew that prepared or not — and I wasn’t — Sportstalk would launch shortly after 11 p.m. on Oct. 15, 1984. Raible insisted on sitting in that first night time, which precipitated me a lot nervousness. My mouth become a desert because the 11 p.m. information ended, and by the point the Sportstalk theme music performed by my headphones, I used to be parched.

“Right here’s your host, Dan Russell,” the announcer mentioned.

After a slight pause whereas I put my coronary heart again in my chest, I spoke just about the identical phrases I’d use initially of each present for the following 30 years:

“And a pleasing, uhh, good night … welcome to our first of what we hope is many editions of Sportstalk.”

OK, I assumed, these phrases truly got here out. Simply barely. My mouth did work. Not nicely, however we’re on the air!

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LaForge, the Canucks’ rookie coach, was our first visitor, however he arguably launched our present 4 days later when disbelieving and surprised followers jammed the telephone board after Vancouver surrendered a club-record 13 objectives in Philadelphia, after which LaForge mentioned he noticed “optimistic indicators.” Two weeks later, the Canucks gave up 10 objectives at dwelling versus Los Angeles, leaving LaForge with one win in 10 video games whereas being outscored 74-33 and leaving me with a full telephone board each night time. LaForge was fired 10 video games later, ending his NHL teaching profession.

Bill LaForge, during his very short tenure behind the Vancouver Canucks bench as head coach, in the fall of 1984.
Invoice LaForge, throughout his very quick tenure behind the Vancouver Canucks bench as head coach, within the fall of 1984. Photograph by PNG file photographs

In fact, Canucks’ recreation nights had been Sportstalk’s bread and butter, simply as I assumed they’d be after Jim Nill’s 1982 double-OT aim in Chicago. Inside a number of months, CJOR added 30 extra minutes to the present.  Traction, within the type of rankings, was constructing to the purpose the place we had been prolonged once more, from 10:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. I wasn’t positive why they began on the backside of an hour, however earlier than I may discover out it was prolonged twice extra, first from 10 p.m. to 12:30 a.m., after which to a few hours — 10 p.m. to 1 a.m.

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Three months after that Oilers sweep, Sportstalk broke its greatest story — arguably the most important in Canadian sports activities’ historical past, the beforehand unthinkable buying and selling of Wayne Gretzky. Gretzky was traded on a Tuesday, and we broke the story the earlier night time. I had one supply for this story, a listener I had by no means met who by no means offered me together with his id or telephone quantity. It was dangerous, however I had talked to him a number of occasions, beginning a number of days prior, at all times attempting to gauge how credible he is likely to be. Initially, I didn’t imagine it. However he stored calling me, providing me extra particulars, and I stored peppering him with inquiries to gauge if this was legit.

A teary-eyed Wayne Gretzky talks to reporters in Edmonton on the day his stunning trade to the Los Angeles Kings was announced on Aug. 9, 1988.
A teary-eyed Wayne Gretzky talks to reporters in Edmonton on the day his gorgeous commerce to the Los Angeles Kings was introduced on Aug. 9, 1988. Photograph by Brian Gavriloff /Postmedia Information recordsdata

Within the early night of Aug. 8, he known as once more, telling me the deal was going to occur. I nonetheless didn’t wish to go to air with it, however I advised him I’d convey the robust hearsay, which I did off the highest of our present. He known as again throughout the subsequent newsbreak, this time offering me names he had heard had been going to be within the commerce. He was completely sure it was going to occur. Because the climate forecast was being learn, I used to be attempting to evaluate all of it as I feverishly wrote down the names.

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Moments later, I went with my intestine and went to air.

“This commerce goes to occur and it might be introduced tomorrow,” I mentioned.

Gretzky’s commerce to L.A. was introduced the following afternoon, and I got here into the station further early to hook up a stay audio feed from Edmonton. It was the information convention your entire nation needed to listen to, the one through which Gretzky broke down in tears. Simply because the information convention was starting, I obtained into an argument with the assistant program director, who claimed we couldn’t carry it now.

“Why not?” I yelled.

“As a result of we’ve got to interrupt for the 2 o’clock information,” was the response.

“That is the 2 o’clock f—ing information!” I may need yelled.

Learn extra excerpts from Nice Good Night — A Memoir: My 30 Wild and Turbulent Years of Sportstalk:

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• Excerpt 1: ‘Sportstalk, go forward’: Beginning a Vancouver radio discuss present juggernaut
• Excerpt: 2: ‘Thanks for having me on, Dan’: Brian Burke as Sportstalk’s greatest visitor ever
• Excerpt 3: With ‘McKeachie-isms … you by no means know’: An expensive, maddening pal to Sportstalk
• Excerpt 4: ‘Critique so stinging, so biting, so sensible’: ‘The Pauser’ known as some photographs on air, and off, at Sportstalk
• Excerpt 5: ‘We related’: Recalling Sportstalk’s night time in ’94 riven by Rangers and riots

For extra info, go to

Cover of Pleasant Good Evening — A Memoir: My 30 Wild and Turbulent Years of Sportstalk.
Cowl of Nice Good Night — A Memoir: My 30 Wild and Turbulent Years of Sportstalk. Photograph by Tellwell

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