Wes McKnight (1909-1968)
McKnight, Wes (1909-1968)
Wes McKnight was one of two boys born in Tottenham, Ont., to Mr. and Mrs. James McKnight. He graduated from the University of Toronto and in 1926 joined CJYC, a short-lived Toronto Northern Electric station. He moved in 1927 to CKGW Toronto, owned by distillers Gooderham and Worts, and in 1928 joined CFRB Toronto where he was appointed sports director the same year.
In 1930, Wes was the announcer when CFRB carried live coverage of the British airship, the R-100, as it flew over Toronto. In those days, live coverage on radio was hardly heard of.
His son Greg believed Wes did the first live broadcast of a golf tournament. He broadcast his first King's Plate horse race when he was 18 and conducted his first live sports interview in 1931 when he was 21. "It was with a French wrestler, Henri Deglane, who arrived late for the interview when Dad was already on air and stalling for time," said Greg. "The wrestler sat down for the interview and only then did Dad discover that the guy didn't speak a word of English. The rest of the 10-minute interview consisted of Dad asking and answering his own questions and the wrestler repeating, 'Oui, oui,' after every question. A shaky start to a great career."
Wes was an all-round sportsman, playing excellent hockey, golf, tennis and baseball – he was scouted by the Yankees – and believed sports fans were a strong potential audience for radio. He became Canada's first regular sports commentator with a trademark opening: "How do you do, everybody?" Audience approval was instant. By 1934 he was interviewing players in Canada's first regularly scheduled sports talk, Sportsviews, a 15-minute show sponsored by Bee Hive Corn Syrup and carried nationally on Saturday at 6:45 p.m. before the Imperial Esso Hockey Broadcast. That was years before Hockey Night in Canada became a CBC fixture. The Bee Hive sponsorship lasted 40 years and remains a record for broadcast sponsorship. Wes was a charter member of the original Hot Stove League of Maple Leaf Gardens.
On weekdays, Wes had a long-running sports commentary on CFRB at 6:40 p.m. following the news by Jim Hunter and Jack Dennett.
Wes did play-by-play of the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League and Grey Cup games for about 30 years. His initial coverage of hockey and football was soon followed by running commentary of other top events like the King's Plate and the Canadian Open golf tournament.
In addition to his sportscasting, for years Wes was also CFRB's program director. On the death in 1959 of Harry Sedgwick, CFRB's president and managing director, Wes was appointed manager and held that post until 1965. He retired in 1966, at which time he was manager of public relations.
Off air, Wes served as president of the Ontario Golf Association and the Ontario Sportswriters and Broadcasters Association. He was elected to both the Canadian Hockey Hall of Fame and the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.
Written by Jerry Fairbridge - February, 2003