by Fred Walker
It’s often been said that careers can be shaped by a single event. Dan Rather was a CBS reporter in Texas when JFK was assassinated and was recognized for his superb reporting skills during that tense time in Dallas. Aaron Brown was a CNN reporter whose career took off following his outstanding on-air work during the 9-11 terrorist attacks in New York. In Chris Cuthbert’s case, it was a power failure in Montreal. He was in New Jersey. But that’s where he got the taste of pressure cooker live television. You see, the power outage in Montreal during a 1988 NHL playoff game, put Hockey Night in Canada in a bind.
HNIC was doing a national telecast, but with no power and no game to show, a quick check of the playoff schedule revealed another game was being played in New Jersey between the Devils and the Washington Capitals. And lo and behold HNIC had a reporter in the Meadowlands in the person of Chris Cuthbert who was there only to provide updates into the Montreal game. Now HNIC executives had two options. They could opt to take the complete Jersey feed meaning the call of the game along with the pictures or just take the video and have Chris to do everything else. So, what was supposed to be a few cut-ins turned out as a full blown broadcast where Chris became the host, analyst, play-by-play commentator and go-to guy for everything else. Aside from a warm heart-felt thank you from Montreal, he was also nominated for a Gemini Award for that program. He didn’t get the award that year but he did receive a Gemini in 1999 for Best Sports Broadcaster for his call of the 1998 Grey Cup in Winnipeg on CBC.
One of the keys to Chris’ success as a broadcaster is his versatility. It doesn’t matter whether it’s football, hockey, figure skating, canoeing. He prepares diligently and knows his subject inside and out.
He got his start at CFRC Radio doing play-by-play coverage of the Vanier Cup champion, Queen’s Golden Gaels – - while still a student at Queens. From there it was off to CJAD radio in Montreal where he was the voice of the Montreal Manic of the NASL and the CFL’s Montreal Alouettes and Concordes. He joined the CBC Sports family in 1984 and moved to Edmonton.
Along with his play-by-play duties for the CFL on CBC, where he made his Grey Cup debut in 1996, Chris also calls the play-by-play for Hockey Night in Canada’s second game of the weekly doubleheader.
He has hosted CBC’s coverage of the World Figure Skating Championships and he was the figure skating commentator at the Nagano Olympics. He also had the call of the controversial figure skating events revolving around Jamie Sale and David Pelletier in Salt Lake City at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games. He has also covered gymnastics and cycling at the Commonwealth Games in 1990 and 1994.
Chris’ nomination for this Award derived from his eighth and most recent Olympic assignment — in Athens for the 2004 Games. He received glowing reviews for his work as the rowing and canoe/kayak commentator.