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Lance Brown

On The Air


Jonathan van Bilsen

April 22, 2019

Anyone who has watched a sportscast on CTV, will know the familiar face of Lance Brown. His deep radio voice, sharp wit and quick mind, brought humour and informative sports news into our living rooms for the past 30 years. Those of you, not into sports, will know Lance from his recently successful campaign, for Councillor of Scugog’s Ward Five.

When you first meet Lance, and watch him as he towers over you, you can’t help but feel a slight intimidation. That is immediately gone when he smiles and speaks in a softer than expected voice. His sense of humour and humbleness make you realize how genuine he really is.

Born in Edmonton, Lance, one of four children, was the son of a railroad superintendent. His mother, a nurse, did a great job raising the family, which included many cats and dogs. “I remember, when I was young,” Lance recalls, “One of our cats gave birth to a bunch of kittens, right in my bed.”

During his high school years, at St. Mary’s, Lance worked at Woodward’s department store. He covered everything from canoes to toys to pets and yes, even touched on the sporting goods section. His father’s influence landed Lance a job at the railroad, as a pickle board clerk. His role was to take printouts of every rail car, and their current location, and post it so that everyone knew where the cars were, at any given time.

“I had always wanted to be a DJ,” Lance recollects. After high school, and a trek through Europe where he visited thirteen countries in six weeks, he enrolled in the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, specializing in Radio and Television Arts. Achieving an honours in Television Arts, Lance taught evenings at the University.

In 1979 it was time to get a real job, and like most radio announcers, you start in a small, virtually unheard of hamlet. Lance Brown was no different. His first gig was at a satellite office of CFOK in Barhead, Alberta, a community of less than 4,000 and located about 120 km, northeast of Edmonton. “A big part of my job was to call hockey games in Athabasca, which was another two hours north.”

When an opportunity opened up with ITV (the Global affiliate) in Edmonton, Lance auditioned and was offered the position of sportscaster. He anchored the job for over three years, working closely with the Oilers and Eskimos. “People assume I would just show up and read the sports,” Lance explained. “The biggest part of the job was grabbing a camera and getting interviews at practices or wherever you could.” He smiled as he reminisced. “I then had to run back to the station, edit the footage and have it ready for the 6 o’clock sportscast.”

When covering an Edmonton Eskimo practice, Lance was given an opportunity by head coach, Hugh Campbell, to kick a field goal. To everyone’s amazement he outshone most of the players, and earned the respect of the entire team.

Paul Graham, who is an executive producer with TSN, and Lance, were the first two people to interview Wayne Gretzky after he stepped from a plane from Indianapolis (to Edmonton). “We were students at NAIT,” Lance explained. “I asked Gretz about hockey and Paul asked him the girl questions. Years later, I was at a function in Toronto, sitting by myself, and Gretz came up and plunked himself down and said ‘Lance, how are you doing?  It’s been years!’ I was so stunned I couldn’t think of a blessed thing to say.  He treated me like an old friend and completely blew me away.”

Lance’s next move was to Regina for a year, and then off to Vancouver, joining BCTV, a major CTV affiliate, and an opportunity to possibly break into the Toronto market. After a year Lance was offered a job in Toronto. “It was a very difficult decision for me to make,” he said. “I had a long talk with my dad, because it meant leaving my family and the west.”

He took the job, as opportunities do not present themselves every day, and anchored the late night sportscast. He was now rubbing shoulders with Tom Gibney, Gail Smith and Dave Devall, and had a small office a few doors down from Lloyd Robertson.

Looking for a new place to live, CTV news anchorman, Ken Shaw, suggested Port Perry as a beautiful locale. Lance ended up in Uxbridge, but soon moved to Port Perry, where he, Andrea and their six kids still call home. He was moved from the late news to the six o’clock spot, which he kept until his retirement last year.

Highlights of his career include an interview with Gordie Howe, where they were the only two people in the entire arena. “I still can’t believe that I was standing there, talking with my all-time idol,” Lance explained. Covering the Olympics in Calgary, Barcelona and Lillehammer, were also major yardsticks in his life.

Having been involved in Big Brothers for years, hosting a golf tournament for the Children’s Wish Foundation and building hockey rinks for kids who can’t, gave Lance an amazing opportunity to give back to the communities who gave him so much.

When pondering different avenues to take, where he could benefit as many as possible, Lance decided to enter the political arena, and last October won the Ward 5 candidacy for Councillor. “It is very important for me to be able to listen to the people I serve, and take their concerns up the ladder to find and create positive resolutions,” Lance explained, when I asked him why he chose politics.

Scugog is fortunate to have Lance Brown among its residents. He brings a wealth of knowledge to the table, and the people he represents.

Jonathan van Bilsen is a television host, award-winning photographer, published author, columnist and keynote speaker. His show, ‘The Jonathan van Bilsen Show,’ on RogersTV, the Standard Website or YouTube, features many of the people included in this column.

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