To Hamiltonians, year after year, season after season, his voice was as familiar and as comfy as that favourite sweater in your closet that you hope will last a lifetime.
2010 Norm Marshall
Norm Marshall, who passed away two weeks before his 90th birthday on November 5, 2008, was a Southwestern Ontario legend known to generations for his radio play-by-play call of Tiger-Cats games and later his work on CHCH TV.
But the respected and popular broadcaster also has a vital place in Canada’s sporting history. Marshall was borrowed from Hamilton radio station CHML to call the 1952 Grey Cup between the Toronto Argonauts and Edmonton Eskimos for CBC television.
This was the first televised Grey Cup Game, but CBC had no experienced football play-by-play men on their staff then. So the public broadcaster plucked Marshall for the day for the handsome sum of $250 to work alongside Larry O’Brien, an experienced broadcaster from Montreal. “I can remember the general manager of the radio station for whom I worked at the time saying ‘men, you are at the edge of
something that no one else has had a chance to do,’ ” Marshall recalled in an interview.
The Argonauts won the game and Marshall won the respect of a nation, something he already had in Hamilton when he began working for CHML in the early 1940s.
Marshall called Tiger-Cats games on the radio and later television for 26 years. Two years after his work in the 1952 Grey Cup, he joined CHCH to not only describe the action of Tiger-Cats games, Hamilton junior hockey games and Ontario university football but deliver the nightly sports.
“Sometimes we throw around the word ‘legend’ pretty liberally,” CHCH sportscaster Ken Welch said. “But in the case of Norm Marshall, it is so appropriate. He was a giant in not only sportscasting in this country but broadcasting period.” It was a distinct pleasure and honour to work alongside someone like him.”
Marshall was born November 24, 1918 in Toronto. His father was a Welland, Ontario school principal and his mother a telephone operator. Norm was an athlete. He was an accomplished sprinter and quarterback in high school, but also a natural entertainer.
He auditioned as a singer for CKTB in nearby St. Catharines in 1931. Back then, recorded music was difficult to find, so stations relied on local talent. Marshall was good enough to later land a gig with a dance band, and would perform on a Lake Erie cruise ship that sailed between Crystal Beach near Fort Erie and Buffalo.
Marshall became a Hamilton sports fixture when one day regular sports announcer Vic Copps – later mayor of Hamilton and father of former MP Sheila Copps – couldn’t go on air, so Marshall stepped in.
With his broadcast career in the rear view mirror, Marshall influenced a younger generation of media students through his teaching at Mohawk College in the 1970s and ’80s. He later became the first public relations person for Copps Coliseum before opening his own communications business.
An avid golfer, he put himself through a practice session on the day before he passed away.
In 1985, Marshall won the Fred Sgambati Media Award for contributions to youth sports and he was named to Hamilton’s Gallery of Distinction in 1994.
He married his wife Helen in April 1953 and they raised three children Janice, Mike and Bill.
….by Tim Wharnsby