Over the years, Vancouver Canucks fans have been spoiled with some of the greatest play-by-play announcers in hockey, like John Shorthouse, Rick Ball, and the legendary Jim Robson.
One of the greatest of all time was Jim Hughson, who announced his retirement from broadcasting on Tuesday.
“It’s been a fantastic run and I’d like to thank Sportsnet, Hockey Night in Canada and all my friends and colleagues over the years for the tremendous support and countless memories,” said Hughson. “This is a decision I made in consultation with my family and I’m very much at peace with it. My only goal in this industry was to work at the highest level and on the last day of the season. I’ve had that opportunity a number of times and will always be grateful for it.”
Hughson was in hockey broadcasting for 42 years, beginning with radio broadcasts in the early 80’s, as either a rinkside reporter or filling in for Robson on play-by-play. He even broadcast games three and four of the 1982 Stanley Cup Finals when the Canucks went on their improbable run only to fall short to the New York Islanders.
After those Stanley Cup Finals, Hughson had a long stint in Toronto where he first called Toronto Maple Leafs games, then joined TSN to call their national NHL broadcasts. He also became the play-by-play announcer for the Toronto Blue Jays at the peak of their success in the early 90’s.
Hughson made his return to calling the Canucks in the mid-90’s, first on radio broadcasts then on television, but he was too good to stay as a regional broadcaster. In 2005, he joined Hockey Night in Canada and split his time between CBC’s national broadcasts and calling Canucks games for Sportsnet. In 2008, he signed an exclusive deal with CBC and replaced the legendary Bob Cole as Hockey Night in Canada’s lead play-by-play announcer.
So, when the Canucks made their run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2011, it was narrated by a familiar voice for Canucks fans and it led to a couple of the best calls in Canucks history.
"It's a wonderful day for an exorcism."
First was Alex Burrows’ overtime gamewinner in the first round against the Chicago Blackhawks. While some are partial to John Shorthouse’s radio call of the goal — “They’ve slayed the dragon!” — Hughson’s call on CBC is also an all-time great.
First is the emphatic, gravelly “SCOOORRRRRRES!” that erupts from Hughson when Burrows slaps the puck home. Then he smartly lets the moment play out for 30 seconds, allowing the visual of the Canucks dogpiling on Burrows and the audio of the Rogers Arena crowd tell the story.
Then, after a brief, pointed recap of how the Canucks and Burrows got to this point against their dreaded rivals, the Blackhawks, Hughson drops a legendary line: “For Vancouver, it’s a wonderful day for an exorcism.”
That’s a paraphrase of a line from The Exorcist spoken by the demon Pazuzu — “What an excellent day for an exorcism” — which isn’t exactly a reference you would expect to hear on a hockey broadcast. That’s what made it such a great line: it was both unexpected and perfectly appropriate, as Burrows rid the Canucks of a demon that had been haunting them for years.
Then, in the Stanley Cup Final, Alex Burrows did it again. And Hughson’s call, appropriately, was, “Alex Burrows has done it again!”
It’s all about Hughson’s tone of wonder and disbelief.
Of course, Hughson’s most well-known Canucks call is one he got to say again and again: “Great save, Luongo!”
That Hughson could make such a simple three-word phrase so iconic is a testament to his amazing abilities as a play-by-play announcer.
Godspeed, Hughson. The airwaves will miss your voice.