Sports Hot Seat
Sports Hot Seat began life as a local half-hour show on CFTO-TV Toronto in 1962. In 1966, after the affiliates had taken over control of the network, it became part of the network’s regular schedule on Wednesday evenings at 10:30pm. During the winter months it followed NHL Hockey, with some consequent disruption when games ran over their allotted three hours of airtime.
Sports Director and later Vice-President, Sports, Johnny Esaw hosted the Hot Seat, which had a panel of three sports journalists grilling a major sports personality each week. Despite the often-confrontational nature of the show, there were always sportsmen and sports executives from all disciplines who were willing to take their turn in the chair. Among the many who did so were Cassius Clay in his pre-Muhammed Ali days (he and Toronto Star writer Milt Dunnell had a very spirited interchange), Mickey Mantle, Johnny Weissmuller and Arthur Ashe. Host Johnny Esaw later told writer Michael Nolan that the two star sports personalities who he had most wanted to get but who never made it, were Jack Nicklaus and Vince Lombardi.
But even without Jack or Vince, Sports Hot Seat enjoyed a healthy run on the network. At the start of the 1968-69 season, the program was moved from Wednesdays at 10:30pm to Saturday afternoons at 4:30pm, immediately preceding Wide World of Sports, and it finished its network run in the fall of 1970.
Written by Pip Wedge - December, 2002