TORONTO – The man considered Canada’s ambassador of amateur sports, who brought football, figure skating and the Olympic Games into the nation’s living rooms, has died.
Johnny Esaw died Saturday in Toronto after suffering from respiratory problems, his former employer CTV said Sunday.
The award-winning sportscaster was a longtime member of Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, which describes him as “a pioneer, an innovator, and a fervent supporter of our nation’s sporting achievements.”
Esaw “was at the forefront of sports broadcasting in Canada and around the world for more than 40 years,” the organization says.
He was inducted into the Order of Canada in 2004.
Born in North Battleford, Sask., Esaw started his radio career in his home province before moving east.
He made the switch to TV in the 1960s, becoming sports director for CTV’s Toronto station.
The first colour telecast of a hockey game — from Vienna — was produced by Esaw in 1967.
The beloved broadcaster also convinced the network to carry figure skating at a time when hockey was king, saying the sport would appeal to viewers.
The move earned him the recognition of the Canadian FIgure Skating Association, which continues to dole out a bursary in his name.
Esaw rose through the ranks until landing the role of vice-president of CTV Sports in 1974, a job he held for 16 years before he retired.