Nearly five decades after Gino Reda moved with his family to Toronto from Sawtry, a small village in England, he found himself before a judge. He had by then become well known to a subset of Canadians, and it didn’t take long for the judge to ask him a question: “What were you waiting for?” »
Reda finally became a Canadian citizen.
Now 61, he’s been a part of Canadian sports-watching households for decades, first with “Sportsline,” on Global Television, then for his long stints at TSN, where he hosted more than 3,000 episodes of the network’s flagship news show before moving. in his role as host of “That’s Hockey”.
Reda, who has two adult children, Luke and Kaylee, also reported on the ground. He was a key part of the Dubin investigation, which arose following the positive steroid test of Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson at the 1988 Seoul Olympics. He covered the Blue Jays at the start of their competitive seasons.
He also once had a mustache, which not only became famous, but also became a vehicle for charitable donations.
Reda took time out of his busy schedule to answer 20 questions from Athleticismtalking about a golf cart accident, dragging in a future politician and a phone show with Ms. Shanahan.
(This interview has been edited for length and clarity)
1. What’s the key to a great mustache?
(Reda laughs) Oh my God. The naivety of thinking it looks good. I think “big mustache” is an oxymoron. I look at what my mustache looked like – and what I looked like when I had this mustache – and I think, “What was I thinking? In what world did I think: Yeah, that looks good, I’m going out today, looking like that.
2. How much upkeep would that have required of someone working on the airwaves?
That’s a very good question. My bosses at TSN over the years, they said, “No problem, keep the mustache if you want, but you have to trim it.” You just have to cut it. When the hair starts falling over your lip, or starts to stand on end or pull in different directions… you need to cut it and take care of it.
3. Are you allowed to push it back?
I think if I asked the bosses they would say go for it. My body wouldn’t allow me to regrow it right now, at least not a visible mustache. I’ve done “Movember” many times, and the last time I tried was probably four years ago. It’s so gray and white right now that it probably takes three weeks for it to actually become visible. Our makeup artists offered, saying, “Why not just put on mascara or color?” And I said, “If I have to start coloring my mustache, that’s way too much maintenance.” I’m outside.”
How it started… How it goes… pic.twitter.com/oyIeMaQJv9
— Gino Reda (@GinoRedaTSN) October 20, 2020
4. What memory would you have liked to keep from your debut at TSN?
I would have liked to keep my first contract. I covered the Dubin Commission as a freelance journalist. And I was working on a pay per shift basis. I was probably about a month and a half into the Dubin investigation, and our manager, Don Wallace, called me into his office. I was like, ‘Uh-oh, I said something wrong.’ I was really nervous. I was new to the business and there were all sorts of legal ramifications to anything I had to say during the steroid scandal. He calls me into the office and says, “We hired you here on a shift basis, thinking you’d probably be working three shifts a week. You’re working seven days a week on this Dubin investigation. We are paying you way too much…here is your contract: sign it. He slipped this contract on the table. No figures were ever discussed. I don’t remember – to this day – what it was. I signed the contract and slipped it to him.
5. Everyone has a nickname: What’s yours?
My closest friends call me Gene. That’s probably it. Nothing special. Nothing printable.
6. Sue Knight hits a shot over the green at the 1993 Infiniti PGA Women’s Canadian Championship at King Valley Golf Club…
(Reda laughs) Oh no. Oh no.
7. … Describe the ensuing controversy.
How did you find this? No one has ever asked me the question before. We’re on a golf cart with our cameraman. We follow the groups around the golf course. The ball went into that little ditch where the grass was really, really deep. They say – there’s never been any evidence of this – that we actually ran the ball with the golf cart and plugged it. And I’m like, ‘There’s no way we drove into that ditch, there’s no way this happened.’ It was very, very awkward and very, very embarrassing, and I can’t believe you found that out.
8. Are you saying you didn’t run over his ball with the golf cart?
(Reda laughs) I say… (Reda stops)… I probably did. Looking at how it all unfolded, probably, yes. Confessions, years after the fact.
9. What did you mean when you told viewers in 1998 that covering the mid-’80s Blue Jays was “like going to the dentist every day.”
It was hard, because it was a difficult time. Some of the guys I got along with very, very well. Other guys have deliberately made your life miserable. One of the guys was Dave Stieb. We were always talking to the starter, even though he only did three innings. Even though he only had three batters, we were still talking to the starter. It was, at that time, a requirement in the organization of the Jays. They wanted media coverage and they weren’t going to say no to any interviews. We would be standing by his bunk waiting for him. Stieb was really good at doing his hair. He was going back to his bunk, and there are a lot of us. Here’s a guy who’s probably been showered and changed for an hour because he got shot so early, and yet he’s still keeping us waiting. It’s like, ‘Man, I need a 30 second sound bite.’
10. You’re not going to be a dentist, but what are you going to be before you discover broadcasting?
There were several different careers I almost fell into. We didn’t have much money as a growing family. When I was 13, I started at the then Skyline Hotel on the Airport Strip as a dishwasher. They took me out of the dishes and said, “We need your help to chop the vegetables. I went up little by little. Throughout my studies, I worked at the Skyline Hotel and became good friends with the chef, Wolfgang, who went to work in the Bahamas. And when I was 21 or 22, he said to me, “If you were serious about a career in cooking, I would take you to the Bahamas, train you, and advise you. I was very close to that. Also, when I was in high school, I went through some really tough times and got involved with an organization called Campus Life, which worked with troubled kids. I ended up as a volunteer and then as a part-time staff member with them in the Jamestown area of North Etobicoke.
11. I read that you worked there for a while.
I got involved there with kids and coached high school football. And for a few years I worked with them full time in the schools and worked with these kids. It almost became a full-time career. But then I just hit a wall. It was really, really hard to see what these kids were going through. I felt like I was helping as much as I could, but I felt like I could never do enough.
12. How many Premiers have you coached in high school football?
(Reda laughs) Just that one. Current. I coached Doug and Rob (Ford), both in Scarlett Heights, when I worked at Campus Life.
13. Give me Doug Ford’s scouting report, high school football player.
He was a great football player. He really was. He was very strong. Very physical. Robbie was not such a great football player. He was a good boy, he worked very hard, but he was not that kind of player. Doug had a natural aggression that worked really well for him in football. He had a great football career at Scarlett.
14. I read that you describe him as mean on the pitch.
He was mean on the field. He was exactly what we expected from a linebacker, a defensive player. There are some things you can’t teach in football. You take high school kids when they’re 14 and you try to tell them, “You gotta go out there and hit it, you gotta be aggressive.” They are temporary. You try to explain to them, “Don’t be hesitant, because if you hesitate, someone will knock you down. Doug fits right into the “I love rolling guys, and it’s easy – just tell me where to go.”
15. Was the football team good?
We were. We were city champions.
16. You host a Friday night show called “CitySports” on Toronto cable television in the early 80s and you open the phone lines: Who’s almost certain to call?
Brendan Shanahan’s mother. Ms. Shanahan called regularly. It was funny. Because the Shanahan boys—it’s important to remember there were several Shanahans—they were involved in lacrosse, hockey, and other sports. We would open the live lines to any sport you would like to talk about. And Mrs. Shanahan called regularly. She would call and say, “I think you guys should cover these two guys more often.” Great reviews. She was always fiery.
17. Has Ms. Shanahan ever been invited to appear on the show?
She was not invited to appear on the show, but I have had many opportunities since to meet her. I met her at the Etobicoke Sports Hall of Fame dinner. What a heart. Just a phenomenal person, and the Shanahans are lucky to have her as the matriarch of this family.
18. You joined TSN in 1988, before it established itself in Canadian broadcasting: what was the most unusual fringe sport that filled the airwaves?
I did everything. I’ve done field lacrosse, box lacrosse. junior hockey. We went bowling, five-pin bowling. I remember one time at the SkyDome, we did hurling… I remember calling the sport up and saying, “I have no idea what’s going on.
19. After 34 years, how well can you break down a replay of a lumberjack competition?
(Reda laughs) All I can say is that I’m doing fine. I’m doing my best. But to suggest that I’m competent at breaking down lumberjack competitions would be a huge effort, and thankfully it’s not something I need to worry about anymore.
20. Complete the following sentence: “Former sportscasters never die, they just…”
Appreciate all that has happened during an extremely successful and blessed career. I find myself incredibly grateful for the people I have met along the way and the relationships I have shared and developed. And super excited about new people coming into the business who might never have had the opportunity to come into the business. Four decades later, I remember what it was like to break into the industry as one of the only Italians in broadcasting. Now I see the opportunities that are available to people who should have every right to enter this industry.
(Photo by Gino Reda (right) and Craig Button: Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)