Skip to main content

The sudden death of sports broadcaster Don Chevrier has shocked his family, friends and colleagues.

Chevrier, who lived alone near Tampa, suffered from a blood thinning disorder that caused nose bleeds.

But as late as a week ago, he said he was feeling well after receiving hospital treatment.

Then, last Saturday, he told his friend Tom McKee that his platelet count (platelets are particles that clot the blood) was low.

Chevrier was seen on Monday morning walking his dog. In the afternoon, his son-in-law, who lives in the Tampa area with Chevrier's daughter Melanie, found his body at his home. He would have been 70 on Dec. 29.

"We're not saying anything at this point," Melanie said. "We don't know why. It's a terrible shock to the family."

Chevrier was eulogized yesterday as one of the great sports broadcasters this country has produced.

Dick Ebersol, the chairman of NBC Universal Sports and Olympics, called him one of the two greatest "all-around sports broadcasting talents in North American history" along with Jim McKay of ABC and NBC.

CTV president Rick Brace, who worked with Chevrier at the CBC, said he helped modernize sports play-by-play.

"He kind of brought us into the age of the viewer demanding more information and more insight, and not just straight commentary," Brace said. "Don pioneered that."

His voice was described by CTV's Brian Williams as the "voice of God." Brace likened it to the baritone of Lorne Greene, the late CBC announcer and Hollywood star.

"He had great pipes," said Don Duguid, who was Chevrier's partner on CBC and NBC curling telecasts. "He had a great, wonderful booming voice that you could hear no matter where."

Chevrier's versatility also made him stand out.

He was the first announcer to call Toronto Blue Jays games, along with Tony Kubek, on TV. He provided play-by-play for CFL and Grey Cup telecasts for the CBC in the 1960s and 1970s. And he was the network's curling voice for more than 20 years.

In the United States, he worked for ABC and NBC. He called Monday Night Baseball for ABC. He worked with Howard Cosell on ABC boxing telecasts.

Over the years, he called wrestling, golf, swimming, horse racing, stock car racing and even Olympic table tennis.

But he was most proud of an Olympic hockey assignment. In 1980, he was the only broadcaster to provide live play-by-play in the United States of the Miracle on Ice. ABC's television broadcast was tape-delayed, but Chevrier was heard live on 500 U.S. radio stations.

"It was an emotional apex that I never reached before or since," Chevrier once said.

He had hoped to write his memoirs, but never really started. It would have been a good book because Chevrier loved to tell stories and had a terrific sense of humour.

The stories would have included his friendship with Cosell, who quit as a boxing commentator midway through Larry Holmes's devastation of Tex Cobb in the ring, leaving Chevrier alone in the booth to call the remainder of the ABC telecast.

He grew up in Edmonton, where the late singer Robert Goulet, a few years older, gave him his first broadcasting job at radio station CKUA.

Williams also was from Edmonton. As a 13-year-old, he showed up at radio station CJCA, where Chevrier, 22, was covering news and sports.

"I wanted to be a broadcaster," Williams recalled. "He took time to encourage me. Years later, when I worked at CFRB in Toronto, he put my name in at CBC."

In recent years, Chevrier's work was limited to radio, where he was the host of the Westwood One network's Triple Crown coverage. And he was a regular on NBC's Olympic telecasts.

But it was in curling where he really made an impact. The colourful and upbeat play-by-play of Chevrier and Duguid was a key factor in the sport's growth in the United States.

"What I'll remember most about Don was his unique, entertaining, but reverential coverage of curling," Ebersol said in a statement yesterday. "He and [Duguid]were responsible for turning curling into not only the cult television hit of the Winter Games, but helping grow the sport in the United States."

Chevrier, who was divorced, enjoyed placing a bet. He made regular visits to Las Vegas.

"He was kind of set in his ways," Duguid said. "He had a small circle of friends. He was just a great guy and he loved life."

Late last month, he was in Toronto during Grey Cup week for a dinner celebrating the new CBC Sports broadcasting hall of fame. He was also interviewed for a piece on the CBC's history with the CFL.

"He looked great," said Brace, who was at the dinner.

But when he returned to Florida, his nose started to bleed and it wouldn't stop. He was admitted to hospital and treated for a low platelet count.

Ralph Mellanby, who produced Jays telecasts when Chevrier called the games, called him one of Canada's best broadcasters.

"He could do everything," he said. "His record was unbelievable."

"He's an icon," Brace said. "It's a huge loss to the Canadian broadcasting community. He's one of our historical figures."