Sports lover lives the dream

Featured in Maroon & White magazine, Spring 2014

Steve Armitage credits the typing class he took in Grade 10 with his 49-year career at CBC.

Steve Armitage BA '68
‌“I liked the odds at the time. Thirty-six girls and two guys,” he laughs.

In addition to being a great way to get a date, typing class led directly to his role as one of Canada’s most prominent sports broadcasters.

That first job at CBC was as a late night sports writer. “They needed someone who was interested in sports and who could type,” says Armitage who couldn’t believe he was going to get paid to write about one of his favourite topics.

A Gifted Quarterback

An avid football player, Armitage had arrived at SMU in 1964, fresh out of Prince Andrew High School in Dartmouth. A gifted quarterback, he joined Huskies football and helped make history by ending a 47-game winning streak by the Saint Francis Xavier X-men. The season was crowned by a 15-1 Atlantic Bowl victory over McMaster Marauders, one of the top teams in the country.

Although football was first and foremost in Armitage’s mind in those days, SMU had a surprise in store for him. “I didn’t care much for academics, but the professors were so good, I became interested despite myself!” He graduated in 1968 with a BA in Political Science and Philosophy. “My days at SMU truly were the best of my life. I had so much fun and made so many friends.”

And Saint Mary’s has not forgotten Armitage. He has been inducted into the SMU Sport Hall of Fame, in addition to receiving an Honourary Ph.D. in Civil Law as recognition for his enormous contributions.

Life at CBC

All through his time at SMU, Armitage worked at CBC part-time. Then in 1973, he was offered a full-time sports broadcaster position in Vancouver. Since then, he has covered 29 years of Hockey Night in Canada, 27 years of Grey Cups, and 15 Olympic Games.

Recently, Armitage’s voice was heard from Sochi where he called hockey and speed skating. “The Winter Olympics make sports fans out of anyone. It’s that combination of good stories and lots of great coverage, and it’s in the middle of winter. What else are you going to do in Canada?”

His first Olympics was in 1972, where as a Cub reporter, he was posted to Munich. “I was there when the tragedy struck. We didn’t have cell phones or internet then, so even though I was right there, I knew very little of what had actually happened until getting on the plane to leave.”

Armitage says that advances in technology have been a real game changer. “What I used to say was gospel,” he laughs. “Now, the public has access to all the same information I do.”  Which means he needs to do a lot more research before calling an event. “In many ways it’s good because it forces me to be honest and makes me a better broadcaster.”

Fresh from Sochi, Armitage is already preparing for the World Championships in Speed Skating and then a 50th reunion with Huskies teammates, many still treasured friends, later in the year.

“You never know where life is going to take you. I was drawn into sports, starting at SMU, and I’ve loved every minute. It has enabled me to see the world and to score some of the best seats to the major sporting events of the last 40 years. It’s been quite a trip.”