Longtime CFL broadcaster Brian Williams retires after 50-year career

Photo courtesy: TSN

The 108th Grey Cup broadcast will be taking on some special significance, as legendary Canadian sports broadcaster Brian Williams will be celebrated pre-game after announcing his retirement Thursday after more than 50 years on the job.

Heavily involved in CFL ON TSN broadcasts, Williams was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame Football Reporters Wing in honour of his contributions to the CFL over the years. Additionally, at the 100th Grey Cup in Toronto in 2012, Williams was recognized with the Commissioner’s Award for more than 40 years of contributions to the game.

“As I look back on my career, what’s most meaningful is that I have had the privilege of working with so many wonderful and talented people on both radio and television,” said Williams. “Over the course of the last 50 years, I’ve been fortunate to cover so many great athletes and amazing events, both at home and abroad. I’d like to express my sincere thanks to all.”

“Growing up, I always knew I was watching a major Canadian sports moment when I saw Brian Williams covering it on CBC. Having Brian bring his stature and gravitas to TSN was a game-changer for our network,” said Stewart Johnston, Senior VP, Sales and Sports, Bell Media.

“Brian is a true legend who has brought extraordinary knowledge, warmth, and humour to TSN broadcasts. A remarkable storyteller with a generous spirit, Brian has dedicated so much of his time to causes close to his heart. We miss him on-air and around the office, but are grateful for all the incredible years he has spent with TSN. We wish him all the best as he begins his retirement.”

Named to the Order of Canada in December 2011 for both his distinguished broadcasting career and extensive community and volunteer work across the country, Williams’ broadcasting style has endeared him to millions of Canadians. He has won praise from critics as well as numerous accolades, including eight Gemini Awards, two Foster Hewitt Awards, and one Canadian Screen Award.

As host of CTV and TSN’s coverage of figure skating and horse racing, Williams shared with fans his vast knowledge of the biggest events in both sports. His resume also includes work with the NHL, Major League Baseball, PGA TOUR, Canadian and World Figure Skating Championships, World Cup Skiing, men’s and women’s Rogers Cup events in Toronto and Montréal, Formula One, IndyCar Series, Breeders’ Cup, Pan Am Games, and Commonwealth Games.

Considered the dean of Olympic sports broadcasting in Canada, Williams covered his first Olympic Games in 1976 in Montréal. Williams also anchored CTV’s primetime Olympic coverage of both the London 2012 Olympic Games and the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games, playing a leading role in shaping and delivering the network’s award-winning coverage.

In 2006, Williams received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters when he delivered the commencement address at his alma mater, Aquinas College, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. In 2011, he also received an honorary doctorate from Simon Fraser University.

Born in Winnipeg, Williams began calling university basketball play-by-play in 1967. He started his professional career in radio with Toronto’s CHUM. After a year at CFRB Radio in Toronto, Williams joined CBLT and remained with CBC until his move to CTV and TSN in June 2006.