Sports Media Canada – and sports media in Canada – mourn the passing on March 18, 2022 of Fred Walker. In the process, we send along our deepest condolences to his wife, Wendy, and the entire Walker Family.

Fred’s towering presence went far beyond his NBA-like body …  he was jovial, a friend to all, a legendary radio broadcaster for CBC and a mentor to many.

“He was a great man and an amazing mentor,” said John Bartlett, hockey play-by-play broadcaster on Rogers Sportsnet and Hockey Night in Canada. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without him that’s for sure.”

Despite his remarkable achievements, Fred was one of the humblest individuals anyone will ever find in a business filled with big egos.

Fred Walker, right, poses with hockey broadcaster John Bartlett at the 2014 Sports Media Canada Achievement Awards luncheon when Fred was honoured with the Career Achievement award.

An example of this occurred when informed he’d been selected as recipient of the 2014 Sports Media Canada George Gross Award for Career Achievement. Fred being Fred, he had to be talked into accepting it. He was, after all, a founding and then-member of the Sports Media Canada executive board and was concerned about the optics of an insider getting the award.

But his integrity on this was beyond reproach: He wasn’t involved in his nomination or the selection process. The bottom line is he earned his entrance into this prestigious club.

“It just blew me away,” Walker said then of the honour. “It’s unbelievable. It was the same thing when I was inducted into the CBC Sports Hall of Fame (in 2008); I never expected that because when I look at all the people that are in there I think, ‘wow, they had great careers!’ ”

As did Fred.

Don Goodwin, who co-founded Sports Media Canada, gave the teenaged Walker his start in a local radio station in Halifax. Walker headed to CBC Radio in 1962 where his distinguished career spanned more than 30 years. He even became partners with his idol, the iconic Danny Gallivan, doing Sunday-night radio coverage of the Montreal Canadiens and also worked the Stanley Cup playoffs with another legendary broadcaster, Bob Cole. In total, Walker handled the Stanley Cup finals for 28 years.

His credentials spanned virtually most aspects of sport, amateur and professional, including Canadian and U.S. Open Golf championships, Winter and Summer Olympic Games starting with Sapporo and Munich in 1972, Pan-American Games, Commonwealth Games, the World Series and Wimbledon.

Walker’s myriad of career highlights included the 1972 Olympic Summer Games. That’s where he covered the seven incredible races by Mark Spitz – and was the first Canadian reporter to come across the news-breaking Munich massacre at the athletes village when he headed there to interview the American swimmer on the morning after his seventh gold medal.

He mentioned how memorable it was covering Alex Baumann’s two golds and two world records at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. And another defining moment for Walker is how he became synonymous with one of the finest stories in Canadian history: The Terry Fox Marathon of Hope. Google “Fred Walker” and among the first items that appears is an interview he did with the iconic Fox.

“In 1980 I was the host of The Weekend Sound of Sports for CBC Radio when we heard about Terry’s start in St. John’s, Newfoundland,” Walker said. “I was on the phone with him every week right up until the very last. When he came through Toronto, I did sit down to do an interview with him. So, if you’re talking about highlights that obviously became one in my life … but it began as just another story.”

“In an industry with so many good people, Fred stood on another level because of his congeniality, his ability to make everyone he spoke with feel important, and the role he played in mentoring so many broadcasters and journalists across the Canadian sports media business,” said Sports Media Canada President Steve McAllister. “After his retirement from CBC Sports, Fred was an incredible resource to athletes and sports officials across the country as a media trainer, and was instrumental in developing broadcasting talent for Woodbine Entertainment. He will be very dearly missed.”

On a personal note, I remember listening to Fred Walker on radio during his National Hockey League coverage with Gallivan and Cole. From the moment I met him, I found him to be respectful, professional, astute, versatile and eager to tell the stories as only he could. Our friendship extended some 50 years and I always looked forward to his passionate contributions to Sports Media Canada. He cared deeply about sports media, respectful of his generation as well as fostering and preparing other generations to carry the torch he once held with pride.

We’re all going to miss you big time, Fred … may you rest in peace.