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Dan Russell recalls three decades of B.C. sports talk radio

Host Dan Russell’s dulcet tones filled the late-evening airwaves on radios across British Columbia for three decades

Pleasant Good Evening: My 30 Wild And Turbulent Years of Sportstalk

By Dan Russell; Tellwell Talent

Woody Allen made the film Radio Days as a homage to the medium’s golden era. Dan Russell’s golden era could more appropriately be described as Radio Nights.

Host Russell’s dulcet tones filled the late-evening airwaves on radios across British Columbia for three decades. If you were interested in sports, the conversations, arguments, observations and opinions on Sportstalk permeated the drive home from a game or night shift or provided late-night entertainment for sports fans preparing for bed from Sooke to Salmo and Duncan to Dawson Creek.

Russell has chronicled those radio nights in Pleasant Good Evening, his patented sign-on. The book is subtitled My 30 Wild And Turbulent Years of Sportstalk.

It’s estimated Russell took more than 200,000 calls on-air from listeners between 1984 and 2014 in what became the longest-running sports talk show in Canada. He interviewed everybody in the business, from Michael Jordan to Pele and Bobby Orr to Wayne Gretzky.

The show was understandably Canucks-centric in a province obsessed with its mostly-underachieving NHL franchise, which has yet to win the Stanley Cup. During the runs to the 1994 and 2011 Stanley Cup finals, Sportstalk became the nightly gathering place for fans across the province to both giddily enthuse and, eventually, vent about their roller-coaster of emotions.

“It had become appointment radio. It seemed most of British Columbia was buckled-in in 1994 — on game nights and off-nights — often extending well past midnight,” writes Russell.

Russell, now retired, will be inducted this spring into the media category of the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame. It is the culmination of a love affair with late-night radio since he was a kid listening to pre-infomercial Larry King on KGO in San Francisco, Vin Scully calling the Dodgers, Chick Hearn the Lakers and Jiggs McDonald the Kings — all made possible in the late evenings because of a West Coast phenomenon known as the AM radio skip, where AM broadcast signals bounce off the atmosphere and back down to Earth at night.

“There is a romance to late-night radio that you don’t get in the harsh light of day,” Russell said in a phone interview from Thailand, where he now partially resides.

“I fell in love with radio late into the nights. It is the most intimate time to be a broadcaster on radio. I don’t know how many people over the years have said to me: ‘I fell asleep with you’ or ‘I went to bed with you.’ ”

As for education, Russell said he went to the “University of Robson,” referring to legendary former Canucks play-by-play broadcaster Jim Robson, who began his radio career in Port Alberni, calling the games of the national basketball champion Alberni Athletics. Russell says Robson was the greatest influence in Russell’s own influential radio career.

As for his memoir, Russell says the show was “trail-blazing in many ways in Canada and I just wanted to get it down on paper for the record.”

That he has done in highly entertaining fashion, with enough behind-the-scenes details to keep any B.C. sports fan engaged through 330 often-opinionated but sharply observant pages.

Pleasant Good Evening is available on Amazon.

— Cleve Dheensaw has been a sports reporter for the Times Colonist since 1981 and was inducted into the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame in 2020.