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EDMONTON — For more than 50 years, Bryan Hall has been a staple in not only the Edmonton sports community, but the entire city, which the veteran 630 CHED sportscaster and Eskimos play-by-play announcer proudly calls home.
About to broadcast his final football home game, the 75-year-old reflected on his play-by-play career, which began back in the mid-60s.He spoke before being honoured by the Canadian Football League club at its 46th annual dinner on Wednesday night at the Shaw Conference Centre.
“It’s the 46th, and I’ve been to all of them,” Hall said, laughing, before going into a 84-second explanation of how the affair first started as a fundraiser under then-general manager Norm Kimball.
“But hey, a dinner is a dinner, and a meal is a meal, and I like to eat.”
The Eskimos honoured Hall by naming the Commonwealth Stadium media centre after him, and that’s where he will call his final Eskimos home game on Friday night against the B.C. Lions.
Hall won’t admit to it, but it will be an emotional evening for him, just like it was on Wednesday night at the sold-out reception.
“For me, you mean? I’m thinking of the football team winning and getting into the playoffs. That’s what I’m thinking about. I’m not thinking about me,” he said jokingly with media prior to the gala.
“I’ll be honest with you. I don’t have any different feeling going into this game, seriously, than I have for any other game. I’m not dying, I’m not leaving the broadcast business, and I’m not going to be not around the Eskimos. I’m just simply not going to be doing the games anymore,” said Hall, who began calling games in 1965 and has worked them all except for three years in which his good friend, Wes Montgomery, handled the duties.
“That’s 18 days out of 365.The rest of the year is pretty good, too, if you know what I mean.
“I’m a broadcaster. I’m a human being. I have a lot of other things in my life besides sports,” said the jazz aficionado, who is also a big tennis fan. “There are a lot of other things in sport besides football, a lot of things in football besides broadcasting games. It’s been one facet that has been particularly nice for me and I’ve enjoyed it immensely. I just won’t be doing games anymore, that’s all.
“You won’t get rid of my mug in the press box. I’ll still be around asking questions. Sometimes people get a little mad at me, but that’s OK. It doesn’t matter.”
Now he’ll be in the Bryan Hall Media Centre, which carries a nice ring to it.
“Isn’t that nice,” he said with a smile.
“I was really caught up in that when it was announced that this is what they had done. I think it’s a huge honour, I really do, and that’s all I can say about it. It’s a very special thing for me. It really is.”
Hall is a unique man, with a brash, off-the-cuff style that he has become famous for. That, and long-winded questions that he often ends up answering himself.
“Sometimes I don’t have to say anything because he provides the question and the answer for me,” said Eskimos head coach Richie Hall with a laugh.
“I just sit there and smile and say, ‘Yes, yes, yes. You’re absolutely right. Thank you very much.’ ”
Coach Hall has shared some special moments with Hall the broadcaster, even though it is his rookie campaign. During one scrum at Commonwealth Stadium, Hall the radio man got on his knees and snuck into a jammed session between legs, and remained there with his microphone pointed skyward.
“That was the first (time that happened),” said Richie. “That one kind of scared me. The legend right there in front me.
“Bryan Hall, my great uncle,” he continued, using an inside joke that media have become accustomed to between the two Halls. “Bowing down in front of all of us. That was a picture to be taken.
“I guess there was just no room, him being vertically challenged, he weaseled his way up here with all these microphones and tape recorders. A good reporter is going to get his story and he found a way. And, he was seen, because everyone knew where Bryan Hall was.
“Then again, you hear that voice coming up from down below,” added Richie Hall. “His question never changed, like he was standing right beside you.”
Then there was the time that Hall the broadcaster accidentally bopped Hall the coach with his microphone during another scrum.
“I’m sorry for Labour Day,” Hall the coach exclaimed after the bump, setting the media off into a fit of laughter.
It occurred the day following Edmonton’s 32-8 loss in Calgary.
But that’s Bryan Hall, a character from start to finish.
“I’ve been to over 50 Grey Cups and each one, believe it or not, is different, just like most days are different,” he said. “I mean, do you ever get two days that are exactly the same? I don’t think so.”
Friday will certainly be different. It will mark the final time Hall will belt out the Eskimos Fight Song. He can live without the third-quarter break, but surely he’ll miss game day.
“I have to negotiate that, apparently,” he said about talking his way into the press box without having to screech out of tune. “They may not allow me in. Rick LeLacheur (the Esks president and CEO) is the guy who roped me into it. I think he thinks I’m Harry Carey or somebody. … I hope he doesn’t hold me up against the wall and say, ‘Well if you’d like to come into the Bryan Hall press box, the media centre, then you’ll sing the fight song.’
“No, I don’t plan on singing the fight song or anything. I plan on having a little fun with the rest of the media jocks in the main press box area. I’m looking forward to that because I know there are some wild statements that come out of there during the course of a game and that will be a new adventure for me.”