Over five decades as one of the most highly regarded sports broadcasters in Canadian television and radio history, Ted Reynolds saw first-hand the rapid evolution of the media industry.
When he started out in radio in Victoria just after World War II, Reynolds often recorded short interviews on a reel-to-reel tape recorder that was almost as large as a cinderblock and nearly as heavy. He’d send the reels of his recordings back to the station by taxi or over on a ferry if covering an event in the Lower Mainland. Occasionally, he’d broadcast live reports of events from a radio in his car. Later he’d be leading live broadcasts of major international events from around the world zapped into the homes of millions of Canadians by satellite feed. A lot changed over the years.
The one thing that didn’t was Reynolds’ everyman, folksy charm introducing a myriad of sports and events from around the world during several globetrotting decades at the CBC. Everywhere he went though, he remained a proud British Columbian.
Born in Grand Forks, Reynolds got his start with CFJC Radio Kamloops, beginning in 1945, before moving on to CJVI in Victoria, filming a few freelance pieces on Victoria politics for the CBC on the side. It was at the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Vancouver that Reynolds first saw the power of the new medium of television. This was of course the Games of Miracle Milers Roger Bannister and John Landy, their race the first sports event broadcast live nationwide in Canada and across North America by transcontinental hook-up. Still working with CJVI, he was actually competing with future CBC coworkers for stories and often scooping them. His work gained the CBC’s notice and he was hired in 1956 as their first sport-specific reporter based out of the new Vancouver headquarters.
Over the next forty years he covered literally everything in the world of sport from ski jumping to judo, from hockey to water polo. In that time, he attended ten Olympic Games, eight Commonwealth Games, four Pan American Games, plus countless world and continental championships in figure skating, show jumping, aquatics, snooker, and alpine skiing.
He was one of pioneers in the industry, particularly on the West Coast, where television was less established than in eastern Canada. With only a handful of CBC staffers early on, he was a one-man sports department, often working a minimum six days a week. The product was less polished in the early days, but no less informative and thrilling. Reynolds and his peers often had to improvise with whatever was at hand. During a live broadcast of the 1958 Ripple Rock detonation near Campbell River—at the time the largest non-nuclear explosion in history—Reynolds explained details by pointing to a rudimentary map with a tree branch he found lying at his feet.
Reynolds may have been a nationally-recognized broadcaster, yet it was his local coverage in BC that set him apart and made many British Columbians connect with him as “one of us.” When Florence Chadwick and Marilyn Bell were attempting to swim across the Strait of Juan Fuca in the mid-1950s, he was there bobbing along in a rowboat. When BC Lions football joined the CBC television line-up, he was there in the Empire Stadium press box doing play-by-play. When the Vancouver Canucks joined the NHL in 1970, he was the first host of Canucks games broadcast nation-wide on Hockey Night in Canada. Whether it was Inter-City lacrosse, Vancouver Mounties baseball, BC High School boys basketball, or interviewing Elaine Tanner, Nancy Greene, and Karen Magnussen minutes after their respective career-defining moments, Reynolds was there.
Sometimes his work went beyond simply reporting. When Vancouver middle distance runner Thelma Wright faded during the 1975 Pan American Games women’s 1500m due to the suffocating Mexican City altitude, in the post-race interview Reynolds put his arm around Wright and consoled her as she sobbed.
His best work may have come covering aquatics, partly because Reynolds knew swimming so well having been a competitive swimmer himself while growing up. His work calling many of Canada’s greatest moments in the pool, such as Alex Baumann’s Olympic gold medal victories in 1984, alongside commentators Irene MacDonald and Byron McDonald became staples of all-time Canadian Olympic highlight packages and required viewing for up-and-coming broadcasters searching for secrets of Reynolds’ polished, professional delivery.
Perhaps former CBC Sports director Scott Moore summed up Reynolds best: “To describe Ted Reynolds’s style is to try and put a finger on the intangible quality of elegance.”
During his career, Reynolds’ contributions to sport were widely recognized. He was the first media inductee into the Aquatic Hall of Fame and Museum of Canada, the first winner of Sport BC’s Daryl Thompson Award in 1974, recipient of two Doug Gilbert Media Awards from the Sports Federation of Canada in 1972 and 1975, and the winner of the 2003 Sports Media Canada Achievement Award.
Reynolds also served on many hall of fame committees locally and nationally, but had a particular soft spot for the one which honoured the best in his home province. He served on the BC Sports Hall of Fame’s selection committee for 27 years including 15 as committee chair. In 1998, Ted Reynolds himself became the first inductee in the BC Sports Hall of Fame’s new Media category.
Written and researched by Jason Beck, Curator of the BC Sports Hall of Fame.