“For me growing up in Fort St. John as a kid playing hockey, I didn’t have aspirations to be involved in the National Hockey League – I wanted to be on the Fort St. John Flyers,” said Jim Hughson, one of Canada’s biggest legends in hockey broadcasting.
Fifty years after he had those childhood dreams, Hughson is the primary play-by-play broadcaster for CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada, the voice of hockey in Canada.
It’s been a long road for Hughson since his days growing up in Fort St. John, but on Friday night the Fort St. John native was publicly honoured for his contributions to hockey in this province by being inducted into the B.C. Hockey Hall of Fame.
Hughson’s colleague and mentor Jim Robson introduced Hughson and presented him with his Hall of Fame plaque on Friday at the South Okanagan Events Centre in Penticton. Also inducted that night were Scott Niedermayer, Rod Brind’Amour, Scott Carter and Bob Hindmarch.
“It’s rather humbling,” Hughson said on Tuesday. “When you look at it and see the other people that are involved in it, it’s kind of cool to see your name amongst them, especially since I always thought the halls of fame are for players, but I’m glad they save a little space for people who make a contribution to the game in some other fashion.”
Everybody gets their start somewhere. When asked how his career in the sports industry started, Hughson went back to his days growing up in Fort St. John spending his days down at the North Peace Arena.
“The things that I’ve been able to do professionally in the sporting world were all opportunities, but opportunities that only came about because of an unbridled passion and unequivocal love for the game of hockey that developed as a kid,” he said. “I still know the South Peace Hockey League from the 60s and early 70s when I was a little guy watching the games – that was just the best. Those guys were bigger than life.”
“That’s where my love for the game developed, in the North Peace Arena watching the Flyers and the Athletics and the Spirit River Rangers and the Hythe Mustangs, and I still know all the players. I can’t tell you the stats or the standings or anything like that, but I know the players that I grew up with on every team…
A man that still lives in Fort St. John, Jimmy Anderson, is the best player I ever watched. He should be in the B.C. Hockey Hall of Fame. He sure is in mine.”
Hughson grew up on 104 Avenue near the reservoir where he used to play ice hockey as a kid. He and most of his family moved from Fort St. John shortly after he graduated from high school, but he’ll never forget the town that made him who he is today, after all it was CKNL Radio in Fort St. John that gave Hughson his first play-by-play gig for the Fort St. John Flyers and Dawson Creek Canucks.
“I got a call the next day from the guy who was the manager of the arena, his name was Earl Alexander, his kids are still up there and his grandkids still play for the Flyers, and he called me and said, ‘You did a really good job.’ To this day that phone call sort of stuck with me,” he said.
“There was a lot that went into it after that, but the groundwork was all laid out up north.”
Although he rarely comes back to visit, Hughson will never forget that it was Fort St. John that changed him from a boy fishing suckers out of Fish Creek into a hockey hall of famer and Canadian broadcast icon.
"I still have really fond memories of living up there," he said. "It's still a pretty important part of my life."