Jim Hughson retired in September after a 42-year career in sports broadcasting. (Contributed)

NHL broadcasting legend has roots in South Okanagan

Jim Hughson spends his summers in Naramata and remains involved with the BC Hockey Hall of Fame in Penticton

The introduction for Jim Hughson as a National Hockey League broadcaster came at the historic Montreal Forum in 1979.

The Vancouver Canucks were playing the Montreal Canadiens, and Hughson was standing in for NHL Hall of Fame broadcaster Jim Robson, who was working a television Saturday night contest that night.

“The Canucks lost the game that night as they did most times when playing in the Forum, but that set the hook for me,” Hughson recalled.

“It was also the life I wanted to live. I loved the game, loved the gig and as a B.C. guy who loved the summertime, to get a job where I had the summers off was the ticket for me.”

Hughson now retired, shared memories of his broadcasting career as the special guest for the virtual Central Okanagan Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony posted online this month.

Hughson, who spends his summers in Naramata, began to phase out his career to retirement amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

While acknowledging the NHL did what it had to do staging games in empty buildings during the pandemic, he said to broadcast a hockey game in an arena with no fans was the worst assignment he could get.

“There is just no atmosphere when buildings are empty…the experience made you realize how much people around you in an arena are so much a part of the game,” he said.

Hughson also opted to not travel as the pandemic continued while NHL games moved from host centres to playing in home team buildings.

“I didn’t think airports, airplanes and hotels were the best places to be in the middle of a pandemic so I chose not to do that.”

Hughson’s play-by-play calls were the voice of a generation of hockey fans, from Saturday Night hockey feature games to Stanley Cup playoffs, Winter Olympics and World Cup hockey.

He feels the gold medallist 2014 Winter Olympics Canadian hockey team was the best team he ever saw from the broadcast booth.

“Not at any time during that tournament did I feel they would not win the gold medal. Even in the closer games, they were such a machine, a fantastic team…so enjoyable to watch.”

As a broadcaster, in a career that took him from junior hockey to becoming the voice of the Vancouver Canucks, replacing Robson, to the NHL, Hughson said he always avoided the tendency he calls prevalent today to be a “homer.”

“I was always conscious there were always two teams playing in any game and that didn’t please everyone but that was the nature of the beast,” he said.

He reflected on negotiating those issues while calling the infamous 2011 Vancouver-Boston Stanley Cup final. “The Bruin fans thought I was a homer because they knew I lived in Vancouver, and my friends and neighbours felt during that series I was not home enough. You just can’t win in that situation.”

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