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Chris Cuthbert says his status as a sports broadcaster reached an all-time high after he was suddenly fired by the CBC in February.

That may sound like a contradiction, but he certainly received the star treatment yesterday.

Rick Brace, the president of CTV Inc., personally announced that Cuthbert has joined CTV-owned TSN, signing a five-year contract that will take him through the Vancouver Olympics in 2010. (CTV and The Globe and Mail are part of Bell Globemedia.)

After the announcement, Cuthbert, 47, made his debut on TSN, appearing on the taping of last night's Off The Record. He also did a spot for CTV's E-Talk, an entertainment show, and TSN's SportsCentre.

"We just wanted to show him the power and the reach of CTV," TSN president Phil King said. "We can reach a lot of different places."

"I don't recommend getting fired," Cuthbert said. "But, at the same time it has truly become an uplifting experience. Some of my colleagues have kidded me that my stature in the business is much higher now that I've been fired than before I was let go.

"If there is a silver lining or a positive, and there have been many, that's certainly one of them."

Cuthbert will take over as TSN's lead football announcer, replacing veteran John Wells, who will stay with the network. As well, Cuthbert will call National Hockey League games, sharing the schedule with Gord Miller.

Cuthbert's termination by the CBC shocked people in the business. He had worked at the network for more than 20 years. He called the Grey Cup game, was seen as the heir to Bob Cole of Hockey Night in Canada and had won a Gemini award in 1998 as Canada's top sports broadcaster.

Nancy Lee, the head of CBC Sports, said his dismissal was tied to a budget squeeze caused by the cancellation of the NHL season. But the story didn't seem right, especially after Cuthbert said he had volunteered to take an unpaid leave until the start of the football season.

Although shaken by the firing, Cuthbert received dozens of calls of support from people in broadcasting and sports. The most important call came from CTV.

"The day we read in the paper that Chris had come onto the market, Phil King and Rick Chisholm [TSN's senior vice-president of production and programming]and I talked immediately," Brace said. "Then a call was placed to Elliott Kerr [Cuthbert's agent]to say we'd like to talk sooner than later."

Lunch was scheduled, although Cuthbert said he almost backed out because he thought it was too early to begin negotiating for a new job.

As it turned out, the meeting went well.

"Phil and I were as positive and as sold as we've ever been in our lives to make this happen," Brace said. "It was not your traditional negotiation by any means."

The chemistry worked for Cuthbert, too. He viewed TSN as a "classy organization" and liked CTV's "vision for the future."

The vision included not only the Olympics in 2010 and 2012, but also the likelihood that CTV-TSN will bid for the rights to Hockey Night in Canada when they come up in a few years.

As for TSN, the acquisition of Cuthbert lifts the calibre of its on-air talent to a new level.

"Chris is recognized as an absolute star, and we're just delighted to have him with us," Brace said.

No one's talking about Cuthbert's TSN contract, but he's probably making about the same as he did at the CBC, which, reportedly, was between $300,000 and $350,000 a year. "All the numbers have been wrong," Cuthbert said. "Nobody's hit the magic number."

A five-year deal is long by the standards of sports broadcasting, but Kerr said Cuthbert wanted to be part of CTV's Vancouver Olympic coverage. Brace said he hopes Cuthbert stays with CTV-TSN past 2010.

Cuthbert almost joined TSN three years ago when it acquired NHL rights. "I agonized over whether I should express interest, because I really did think this place had such a huge upside," he said.

For football, Cuthbert will work with Glen Suitor and call 35 games, almost three times his total for the CBC. "They kept my schedule fairly lean," he said. "I sometimes voiced displeasure over that. I said to Phil King, 'Keep me busy, because I love to do what I do.' "

whouston@globeandmail.ca