Biography

Pioneer

Dennett, Jack

(1916-1975)

Newscaster, Member of Canada's Sports Hall of Fame.

Jack Dennett didn't complete high school, yet it was reported when he died that teachers had asked during his career for copies of his newscasts as samples for their pupils of clear, concise English. He was proud of that. He was also proud of his principles. "1 believe in news truth, news decency and integrity," he said. Watching the unfolding events on the day U.S. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, he said: "I was never so proud of the profession I was in. I was never so convinced that broadcasting and freedom of the press was the common means by which the common man gets his understanding on which to use his common sense."

Jack's love of radio was great. At the age of 15, and while still in school, he picked up a few dollars a week at CFAC Calgary as an office boy, filing records and doing odd jobs. On his 16th birthday, a regular announcer failed to show up for the evening shift. Jack, who had been begging for a break, took over. That was the beginning of his colourful career. In 1935 he started doing hockey interviews.

Jack enlisted in the armed forces in 1940 but was discharged five months later because of stomach ulcers. He joined CKRC Winnipeg which had just become the newest member of the All-Canada Mutually Operated Stations group, which included CFAC.

In 1943, Jack went east to one of Canada's largest private stations, CFRB Toronto. From 1945 he was part of the Hot Stove League National Hockey League radio show from Maple Leaf Gardens. The group included CFRB sportscaster Wes McKnight, Bobby Hewitson, Elmer Ferguson and Court Benson. Jack's first TV exposure took place in 1952 and for the next 10 years he took part in both the radio and TV hockey broadcasts. From 1962 he continued his NHL broadcasting with TV only.

Jack took over the time slots of veteran newscaster Jim Hunter in 1949. When Jack died of cancer in 1975, he had become Canada's most-listened-to radio newscaster, with surveys giving him more than 350,000 listeners at 8 a.m. and 165,000 at 6.30 p.m. He had written, edited and read newscasts at those times for 26 years.

Jack was operated on for cancer in January, 1975, but resumed broadcasting until a month before he died at the end of August. Bill Davis, then premier of Ontario, an admirer and close friend, read the scripture at Jack's funeral service.

The month he died, he was inducted into Canada's Sports Hall of Fame. He had been chairman of its selection committee.

Written by Jerry Fairbridge - August, 2002

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