I didn’t go to journalism school. In a day when informal apprenticeship was the norm, I was lucky to learn my trade from its best practitioners: Nick Fillmore, the crusading editor of the feisty local alternative weekly, the 4th Estate; Harry Bruce, one of Canada’s finest magazine writers and essayists; and Pat Connolly, the legendary sports journalist whose microphone was finally stilled last week at 84.
I met Pat back in 1969. I was 20, a fresh recruit in “Arnie’s army,” an eclectic band of inexperienced college dropouts Arnie Patterson had assembled to man the newsroom at CFDR, his tiny-and-trying-harder Dartmouth radio station.
I was there because I came cheap.
Pat’s story was different. Then in his early 40s, he was already a major figure in Canadian sports broadcasting. In 1952, he’d succeeded Danny Gallivan as sportscaster at Halifax’s CJCH Radio after Gallivan moved to Montreal to become the voice of les Canadiens. Many expected the equally gifted Pat would follow the same path. In fact, in 1969, the year I met him, the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers invited him to become their play-by-play announcer, the second NHL team to do so.
Pat ended up in our no-name newsroom, in part, because he was then in the middle of a long, difficult battle with the bottle. He conquered those demons, but by then he’d long since opted to make his career and life permanently in Nova Scotia.
Lucky for us.
Lucky for me to have had the chance to work with him.
Though Pat will be more formally remembered as the voice of every major hockey milestone in Nova Scotia from the Sydney Millionaires’ run for the Allan Cup in 1949 to the birth of the Mooseheads in 1994, I can’t help but think of him first as a kind man, a generous mentor and exemplary role model.
We only worked together for a year, but I learned one of my most important life lessons from him. While it’s important to take the work seriously—Pat knew everything there was to know about sports because he never stopped asking questions—you should never take yourself so.
He will be missed. Pat Connolly, R.I.P..