630 CHED’s Bryan Hall celebrates 65 years of broadcasting: ‘It was a fluke!’

Bryan Hall is joined by boxer Jelena Mrdjenovich and rugby player Jen Kish to sing the fight song at an Edmonton Eskimos game. Supplied: Bryan Hall

You wouldn’t expect one of Edmonton’s best known radio voices to say his entire career was a fluke, but that’s exactly what Bryan Hall will tell you if you ask.

Hallsy, as he’s affectionately known across the city, was standing outside the Garneau Theatre coffee shop in the summer of 1953 when a friend of his got off the bus. Hall asked him where he was coming from and the friend told him he had just been to the radio station CKUA to look into getting a job.

LISTEN BELOW: Bryan Hall talks about how he got into radio and his early years at CKUA

Hallsy listened as his friend told him about his experience where they had him record a newscast and then they played it back for him.

Story continues below advertisement

It piqued Hall’s interest.

“Wow, so you got to hear yourself? That’s neat. I’ve never heard myself,” he remembers saying.

He called CKUA and was told to come read that Friday. Program manager Jack Hagerman heard his newscast and Hall said he received a phone call later that day offering him a job.

Known mostly as a sports guy, Hallsy got his start in news before hosting a Saturday jazz show called Music for Moderns. Ask him how he got his start in sports and he’ll tell you, “That was a fluke!”

At that time, CKUA’s sports guy was Art Ford and he called the Edmonton Flyers games in the WHL. Series would be played in their entirety in one city, so Ford had to go to what was then known as Shawinigan Falls, Que. While he was gone, Hall was asked to cover sports.

Painted signs advertising CKUA radio in Edmonton, Alta., Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017. CKUA was the first public broadcaster in Canada and went on air November 21, 1927. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Jeff McIntosh

When Ford got back, the station was so impressed with how Hall handled sports, they asked him to work with Ford, launching Hallsy’s sports broadcasting career.

Story continues below advertisement

In 1954, a new station, CHED 1080, got a licence to operate in Edmonton. Hallsy remembers being at an Edmonton Eskimos game when Jim Brook, a columnist for the Edmonton Journal at the time, asked Hall if he was going to apply to work at the new station.

“Listen, kid — let me tell you something. Nothing ventured, nothing gained,” Hallsy remembers Brook saying.

WATCH BELOW: Past and current co-workers congratulate Bryan Hall on 65 years of broadcasting

In early 1955, Hallsy began his first tenure in sports at CHED 1080.

After five years, he decided to take a crack at working in sales as well as covering sports. He was in Toronto visiting a client when he was approached by a man by the name of Al Slaight about coming to work for his new station CHUM 1050.

Signage on the Chum Building on Yonge Street, just below St. clair. Picture taken on Sept.21/00 Photo by. Tibor Kolley/Globe and Mail

Hallsy spent three years in Toronto covering the Maple Leafs – including three consecutive Stanley Cup wins — and the Argonauts. After that, he decided it was time to return to Edmonton and told CHED he was coming home.

Story continues below advertisement

For the next six months, Hallsy worked only in sales – the only period in his entire career he wasn’t on air – before returning to the sports desk.

But another move was on the horizon when his friend Walt Rutherford over at CJCA called him to the station for a visit.

LISTEN BELOW: Hallsy reflects on his start with the Edmonton Eskimos and CJCA

While there, Hall says program director Dalt Elton approached him and asked if he could call a football game.

Breaking news from Canada and around the world sent to your email, as it happens.

“I was a brash, cocky thing,” Hall said with a laugh. “So I said, ‘What? Are you kidding? Dalt! I can do anything you want! What are you asking me a dumb question for?'”

In 1965, Hall called his first Edmonton Eskimos game, a job he held until 630 CHED’s Morley Scott took over in the 2010 season.

Story continues below advertisement

“I did Eskimos games for 45 years and I never missed a game,” Hall said. “Never!”

LISTEN BELOW: 65 years of broadcasting, a Bryan Hall feature

Sitting next to Hall in the Eskimos broadcast booth for three years and 83 games was 630 CHED’s Dave Campbell. Campbell remembered coming to CHED as a practicum student from NAIT and being terrified to meet the veteran broadcaster.

“I knew how much a tough customer he was on the radio,” Campbell said.

“It didn’t take long for me to see how tough he could be on and off the air. I learned fast as well how kind and genuine he was.”

Two of the seasons that Hall and Campbell worked together calling Eskimos’ games were two of the worst seasons of the franchise’s history. The 2006 season marked the first time in 34 years the Eskimos weren’t in the playoffs.

Story continues below advertisement

“Hallsy bleeds green and gold and I saw firsthand how much it hurt him to see the organization struggling so bad,” Campbell said.

“I also learned how much calling a football game is more than x’s and o’s and analyzing plays. It’s about weaving a story. Sometimes the story is good and sometimes it’s not good but there’s always a story within a game.”

Bryan Hall called Edmonton Eskimos games for 45 years and has been to 60 Grey Cups. He celebrates 65 years in broadcast in 2018. Supplied: Bryan Hall

In 1993, CJCA went off the air and Hallsy returned to CHED where he’s worked in the sports department ever since.

Edmonton’s sports dynasties

If you were to name an iconic moment in Edmonton’s sports history, Hallsy will say he was there.

The Eskimos’ Grey Cups, the Oilers’ Stanley Cups, countless other games, matches and races, Hallsy has seen it all.

Story continues below advertisement

But ask him what he thinks is the most iconic of all and his answer may surprise you.

LISTEN BELOW: Mayor Don Iveson proclaims Oct. 17, 2018 Bryan Hall Day in the city of Edmonton

He tells a story of travelling to Toronto for the 1954 Grey Cup. The Eskimos were facing the Montreal Alouettes and no one expected the team from the west to win.

Back then, Hallsy says, trains would roll through Edmonton and additional cars would be hooked onto the back for Eskimos fans to pile into.

“Then it was a three-day party heading to Toronto,” he remembers.

That game features one of the most controversial plays of Grey Cup history. Chuck Hunsinger fumbled the ball, and Jackie Parker recovered and ran 90 yards for an Eskimos touchdown. Edmonton won 26-25.

Story continues below advertisement
NOVEMBER 28, 1954 — ESKIMOS RALLY TO UPSET ALOUETTES, 26-25 IN GREY CUP ACTION — Montreal Alouettes’ end, Red O’Quinn (73), racing for first touchdown on the 90 yard play. The Edmonton Eskimos players Jackie Parker, Earl Lindley and Rollie Miles chase down the field after O’Quinn.Published on Nov. 29, 1954. John Boyd / The Globe and Mail

“Everybody just went bananas. It was unbelievable,” Hallsy said. “At the time it was a real iconic moment in the history of sport in this town. It was unbelievable.”

That win was the first of three Grey Cups in a row for Edmonton and one of 60 Grey Cups for Hall.

LISTEN BELOW: Hallsy reflects on the Oilers dynasty, winning years with the Eskimos and what he calls Edmonton’s most iconic sports moment

Many Edmontonians would probably argue the sale of Wayne Gretzky would be Edmonton’s iconic sports moment. Hall was there too.

Story continues below advertisement

“That changed the face of hockey when that happened.”

Wayne Gretzky wipes away tears during a press conference to announce his being traded from the Edmonton Oilers to the Los Angeles Kings at a press conference in Edmonton on August 9, 1988. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ray Giguere

But before that moment came the Oilers dynasty. Five cups for the Edmonton Oilers in a six-year period.

“It was crazy. It was a feeding frenzy in the city,” Hall said of the first cup win for the team.

But ask Hallsy to pick a favourite sports moment in Edmonton and he’ll tell you it’s impossible.

“Geez there’s been some great moments with the Oilers besides their first Stanley Cup. Because it was their first it’s one you remember, but there were some other fantastic moments,” he said. “And there have been some other great moments in sports that are not football and not hockey.”

Reflecting on 65 years

Despite calling the start of his career a fluke, Hallsy says he can’t imagine his life going any other way.

Story continues below advertisement

“I sure wouldn’t have wanted it to either, it’s been fantastic! And I hope still more to come because I’m not about to call it a day.”

But he doesn’t spend a lot of time reflecting on his storied career, saying there are too many moments from which to pick a favourite.

Story continues below advertisement

“I don’t think much about what’s gone before, I don’t live in the past, I live for the moment.

“I’ve been a really blessed person and I realize that, I really do. I’ve been given good guidance because life is only about decisions and you’ve got to make decisions every day that affect your life, no matter what it is.”

LISTEN BELOW: Hallsy talks about how he lives day-to-day and what advice he would give anyone looking to enter broadcasting

On Wednesday afternoon, the Edmonton Broadcasters Club gathered to honour Hallsy’s career.

Current 630 CHED program director Syd Smith was one of the speakers and spoke about many of Hall’s accomplishments.

“Over his career, Hallsy has managed to do something that few broadcasters ever truly achieve: he’s carved out a sound that is uniquely ‘Bryan Hall,’” Smith said.

Story continues below advertisement

“In an industry obsessed with branding, Hallsy is a brand unto himself with a personality and presentation that is instantly recognizable to generations of listeners.”

The event was hosted by Bruce Bowie with whom Hallsy works on the 630 CHED Morning News.

“People might be surprised to know the kind man that exists on the other side of the mic,” Bowie said. “Every day he breaks me up with his stories and has become a great friend as well as co-worker.”

The event was the most popular in the club’s history as over 170 people turned out to celebrate the radio legend.

Sponsored content