Bill Stephenson






Bill Stephenson, the veteran sports broadcaster with CFRB, Toronto, has the most wonderful baritone voice which helped him in delivering play by play broadcasts, daily sportscasts, commercials and mobile broadcasts on radio and TV for more than five decades.


This youthful septuagenarian is a fitness freak, who works out daily in the gym, plays golf and tennis and does everything broadcasters half his age do, including getting up at 4 a.m. when he's on broadcast duty.


This gifted voice has covered the most demanding events from Olympic Games to the 1972 Super Series between Canada and the Soviet Union, from dozens of Grey and Stanley Cups to world hockey tournaments, professional soccer matches and the like.


The young Bill Stephenson was sports director of CKWX in Vancouver in the 1950s and in December 1960, Wes McKnight, then sports director of CFRB, offered him the play-by-play job on Argonaut broadcasts and the CFRB Sports Director post. The rest is, more or less, history.


"I had a great life out west and covered some memorable events," Stephenson told me the other day. "One of the biggest thrills was covering the Miracle Mile during the 1954 British Empire Games, when Roger Bannister of Britain and John Landy of Australia ran the first sub-four-minute mile.


"After coming to Toronto, I was sent to Switzerland to cover the 1961 World Hockey tournament with the Trail Smoke Eaters representing Canada. They won the tournament and it took more than three decades before Canada won it again. That may have been the most memorable moment of my career."


There were others, though, like the Soviet Union-Team Canada series with Paul Henderson scoring in the last half minute of an eighth and deciding game to bring life in the streets in a Canada transfixed by the series - to a standstill.


"There's no doubt that it was a great moment in our lives," said Bill, "Our national pride was at stake after the first 4 games and the team had to preserve our pride in the last four games in Moscow.


"But the series also had its light moments -- with Pete Mahovlich the leading prankster. We all looked for bugs in our hotel rooms because we were told that the Soviets had listening devices in all rooms. Pete spread the story that brother Frank Mahovlich thought he had found one under the carpet - unscrewed it only to have the chandelier in the room below go crashing to the floor.


"Then, the next day, Pete Mahovlich hobbled into the media section of the hotel on crutches - one of his legs bandaged. We were scrambling to the phones to report the casualty when Pete stopped, started to chortle, threw the crutches away, took off the bandages and roared. He not only fooled the media, but also eased the tension prior to the final game."


Bill, who was inducted into the Football Hall of Fame as a broadcaster and served his term as president of the CFL Football Broadcasters, has made many friends during his career. Many were from the field of charity organizations Bill supported in the past and still supports. They include the Variety Club, Variety Village, the Hospital for Sick Children and the Canadian Association for Community Living.


In football, for instance, he worked for years with Pat Marsden, Mike Wadsworth, Leif Petterson and Johnny Esaw. They became not only co-workers but their business relationship developed into close personal friendship.


But, perhaps, Bill's closest friend in sport was the late Punch Imlach, general manager and head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs, who led the team to four Stanley Cups in the 1960s. The Leafs haven't sipped bubbly from Lord Stanley's jug since!





Bill Stephenson, the former sports director of CFRB, who was known as the Golden Tonsils, underwent a serious operation in 2006 at the Queensway Trillium hospital. He had a stroke but recovered nicely according to another Canoe report.




Alan Newberry says:


Bill Stephenson was 21 when he arrived at CKDA as sportscaster. He had his start in radio at CJAV in Port Alberni. From CJAV he went to CJOR Vancouver and then to CKDA. One of his gigs was "Hockey Tonight" which was play by play of the Victoria Cougars hockey team. It was sponsored by McLennan McFeely and Prior Ltd. a major Victoria hardware store on Government street. As this is being written the old McLennan etc. building is being marketted as heritage condos and a Mountain Co-op store has just opened on the street level. He also broadcast commercial hockey (Fishermen's Co-Op vs. Civil Service) from the old Memorial Arena. His other spot on CKDA was at 8:10 in the morning a show sponsored by Vogue Furniture. Bill also became the master of reconstructed out of town ball games. This all occurred around 1950 before Bill Stephenson left CKDA to become a significant sports' voice in Toronto.



BC Radio History