Elliotte Friedman always
By Aron Yeomanson
Gazette File Photo
SAYS GAZETTE EDITORS AREN’T A PRETTY BUNCH? Scarily
enough, this picture is just over a decade old. Makes you wonder
how you’ll look in 10 years, huh? The answer — probably
Elliotte Friedman may not be a “hard-hitting, fast-breaking
bullet on ice,”
but his hard-hitting sports coverage and ambitious attitude have
seen him rise from a nervous Gazette reporter and Western student
in the early 1990s to his current position at Hockey Night in Canada,
the pinnacle of Canadian sports journalism.
Arriving at Western in September 1989, Friedman was quick to pursue
his interest in journalism, volunteering at The Gazette before
the end of the first month. Over the next four years, he helped
build the foundation for a strong career in journalism, partially
through an impressive tenure at The Gazette, which included two
years as a sports editor and one year as Editor-in-Chief.
“I was pretty shy when I went to Western,” Friedman
recalls. “The best thing that working for the student paper
did for me was that it brought me out of my shell and taught me
to be more confident. If you can go into a dressing room and ask
tough questions, I think you can do just about anything.”
Friedman continued asking the tough questions when he left Western
in 1993. After doing some freelance work for suc newspapers as
The London Free Press and the Toronto Star, Friedman began volunteering
at The Fan 590 in April 1994.
It was during that summer at The Fan that Friedman caught his
break when he was given the opportunity to cover men’s tennis,
thanks to the baseball strike and senior reporter Howard Berger’s
choice of vacation time. Still relatively new to the job, Friedman
remembers his initial nervousness.
“During that first week covering tennis, I went on [the
air] to talk about Andre Agassi, and I was supposed to say that
he had won in straight sets. But I was so nervous that I said he
beat whoever it was in straight sex,” Friedman laughs. “At
the time I remember sitting there in horror thinking I had said
something obscene and that I was going to get fired.”
Instead, Friedman would spend the next three years at The Fan
covering the Toronto Raptors, Blue Jays, Argonauts and Maple Leafs
before moving to the newly-formed Headline Sports (which was soon
renamed The Score) in 1997.
Over a six year period at The Score, Friedman covered such high
profile events as the Stanley Cup finals, the Grey Cup, the Olympics
and the World Series. Throughout that period, Friedman continued
to bolster his reputation and became widely known as one of the
best journalists in Canada.
It was his well-earned reputation that led the CBC to offer Friedman
a position as a rink-side reporter on HNIC this past summer. In
response to a belief that the show had lost some of its lustre,
the CBC brought in Friedman in an attempt to increase content.
“The reason I’m [on HNIC] is to improve the journalism
on the show,” Friedman says. “I want to do whatever
I can within my role to make the show better.”
Though he was accustomed to veteran status at The Score, Friedman
seems to understand that he is now the new rookie at the CBC.
“They made it very clear when I was hired that Ron [MacLean]
and Don [Cherry] are the stars of the show, and I respect that,” he
says. “I like to watch Ron taping and see the way he does
stuff. I really listen to people like because all these guys have
been there before me and it’s my job to fit in with them.
It’s not their job to adjust to me.”
Friedman may have accepted less responsibility in joining the
HNIC team, but he did so only to be part of something that can
be described as iconic in terms of Canadian cultural significance.
HNIC has been on the air since Foster Hewitt made his first broadcast
over the radio in 1933, and in the 70 years since, one would be
hard pressed to find young Canadians who did not dream of one day
scoring a goal on HNIC.
“The tradition is a big thing,” Friedman says. “You
look around the Foster Hewitt Media Gondola at the Air Canada Centre
and you see pictures of Dick Irvin, Danny Gallivan, Foster Hewitt,
Rene Lecavalier and Brian McFarlane. You see all those names and
you realize that you are being entrusted with something. I have
a responsibility to the people who built this into a great show
to keep it a great show.”
Despite all of his success, Friedman is not the type to reminisce.
“I tend not to worry about what I did yesterday,” he
says. “I tend to look more at what I’m going to do
today or at what I have to plan to do tomorrow.”
It’s hard to argue with the philosophy of someone who has
accomplished so much since leaving Western just 10 years ago, though
it seems ironic that constantly looking forward has already given
Friedman so many memories to look back on.
Here are some of Elliotte Friedman’s career highlights,
with a distinctive Western tinge:
1970 — birth in “parts unknown.”
1989 — arrives at the University of Western Ontario. Several
1989 — volunteers for The Gazette. Several punch-ups ensue.
1992 — elected as Editor-in-Chief of The Gazette. Previously,
Friedman had twice been selected as a sports editor.
1993 — graduates from the University of Western Ontario.
1994 — volunteers at The Fan590, a Toronto-based radio station.
Friedman’s first break comes when he starts to cover men’s
1997 — Friedman moves from radio to television and begins
reporting for Headline Sports. The sports news network, which would
later be renamed The Score, is conceived as an alternative to The
Sports Network (TSN). A greater focus is placed on the use of a
news ticker and round-the-clock sports news.
1997-2003 — helps establish The Score as a viable alternative
to TSN. Friedman covers many major championships and The Olympics.
2004 — leaves The Score to join the CBC’s Hockey Night
in Canada as a rinkside reporter. Works with Ron MacLean, Don Cherry
and the entire HNIC crew.
2020 — Friedman becomes prime minister? Only time will tell.