Ralph Mellanby’s signature was Hockey Night in Canada as executive producer from 1966 to 1985 but his master legendary broadcasting mind influenced and impacted so many other élite sports properties. Included among them are the Olympics (where he won five Emmy Awards), Major League Baseball (involving the Montreal Expos and the very first game and season for the Toronto Blue Jays), Canada’s prime golf and tennis tournaments, the Canadian Football League and, well, you get the picture.

As producer/executive producer/genius, his infectious passion, wit and expertise captured some of the greatest moments in sports broadcasting history. Aside from that, Ralph had an eye for talent and introduced the likes of Dick Irvin, Dave Hodge, Bob Cole, Dan Kelly, Jim Robson, Mickey Redmond, Howie Meeker, Don Cherry, Ron MacLean and oh so many others to national hockey audiences from coast-to-coast-to-coast. And that’s not to mention the lengthy list of behind-the-scenes talent discovered by Ralph who have gone on to add to his legacy.

Ralph Mellanby (left) with good friend Sports Media Canada CoFounder/Executive VP Don Goodwin (right) and Don’s son, Nicholas, at the 2016 Sports Media Canada Achievement Awards Luncheon.

Ralph’s innovations included slow-motion replays and providing different camera angles/microphone setups to bring viewers across the globe closer to the action.

Aside from his broadcasting exploits, Ralph was a devoted member to our Sports Media Canada Awards Organizing Committee. In 1999, his remarkable contribution was recognized with the Sports Media Canada Career Achievement Award.

It was one of the numerous highly deserved honours reaped by Mellanby throughout his life. Ralph died in the early hours on Saturday, January 29, 2022 which rather fittingly was Hockey Day in Canada for Hockey Night in Canada. He was 87 and leaves his wife, Gillian, along with children Scott, a long-time player/executive in the National Hockey League, and daughter Laura, who has carved out a tremendous career of her own in sports broadcasting.

Tributes continue to pour in as we remember this pioneering giant.

“Canadian sports media has lost a legend,” said Steve McAllister, President of Sports Media Canada. “There’s most likely no one in this country more responsible for identifying and mentoring talented people in front of, and behind, the camera than Ralph. His passion for sports and the media business continued after his career ended, as he would share both praise and criticism for what was happening in today’s sport media industry.

“Meetings with the Sports Media Canada Achievement Awards Luncheon committee won’t be the same without Ralph.”

“I, and the large HNIC family, past and present, are saddened by the death of Ralph Mellanby,” Dave Hodge wrote on his Twitter account. “As long-time exec. producer, Ralph took a chance on this untested 26-year-old in 1971 and showed confidence in my ability to fill the host’s role properly for 16 yrs.”

John Shannon, another budding youngster who developed under Mellanby’s guidance and trust initially in production before he turned to on-air presence, wrote on Twitter: “He was a Canadian TV legend, a true game changer. A Visionary who influenced so much of how our business played out in the 1960s,70s and 80s. He made us all better.”

On a personal note, Ralph Mellanby was not only a dear friend of mine but he, too, saw something in me as well when I was in my early 20s. During my 13 years covering the NHL on the Maple Leafs beat for The Toronto Sun, Ralph gave me my television break as a frequent guest panelist/commentator for TV appearances on Hockey Night in Canada and Leafs mid-week telecasts. Like Dave Hodge, I was young, untested and unknown but Ralph believed in me.

I am eternally grateful for Ralph’s confidence not only then but in later years when we worked together at the Canadian Football League and for the past 14 years in my role as Executive Vice President of Sports Media Canada. It was a personal association that exceeded half a century.

Rest in peace, good friend.

All of us at Sports Media Canada extend our deepest condolences to the Mellanby family.