When John Shannon saw Penticton was on the schedule for the Rogers Hometown Hockey Tour, he made sure his bosses at Sportsnet knew he had to be part of it.
“This is where I got my love of the game,” said the sports analyst. “Oliver, when I grew up there, didn’t have a hockey arena. We had to come to Penticton. We watched junior hockey here for years. There is a real community of people here that love the game and so much of it really does start with what the (1955) Vees did.”
Shannon said what Sportsnet has done with Hometown Hockey in giving it back to the people is smart. To him, it’s events like this where the sport begins for everyone. Whether it’s Hockey Day in Canada or it’s Hometown Hockey, it is giving back to the grassroots. When he ran Hockey Night in Canada, Shannon said he didn’t care what the big cities thought.
“If you can be good in Yorkton, Sask., you can be good in Brandon, Man. and you can be good in Kamloops or Penticton or tons of little towns in the Maritimes, and they like it, you are doing your job,” said Shannon. “You are having fun. You are making people like the game. You’re putting athletes on a pedestal that people want them to enjoy. You’re letting them escape from their day-to-day life and that’s kind of cool.”
Shannon attended Ryerson University in Toronto, graduating in 1978. His first job, which he said he was lucky enough to get, was as a runner for Hockey Night in Canada that paid $10 a game during his second year of university. Since then he has been working on and off in hockey.
“I tell everybody we play in the sandbox. I’ve never had a job, I love it so much,” said Shannon, who returns to Penticton every summer for the B.C. Hockey Hall of Fame banquet. “It’s so much fun, you don’t even think about doing anything else. Your passion for broadcasting, a passion for sports. How do you beat it?”
Shannon said if you do radio or TV right, “you’re supposed to be having your friend over in your family room, sipping a beer talking about hockey.”
“We’re not doing brain surgery. We’re supposed to have fun,” continued Shannon, whose favourite NHL player growing up was Bobby Schmautz, who played for Chicago, Boston, Vancouver, Edmonton and Colorado. “You don’t want to be critical. You want to make sure the viewer is interested and will say, ‘Hey, I want to come back again tomorrow. If you turn people off, you’re not doing your job. If you get them mad, you’re not doing your job.”
Among the highlights of Shannon’s career so far is working the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City for NBC and his first Stanley Cup as a producer with Hockey Night in Canada.
“I was the only Canadian on the American crew,” said Shannon, 59, who won a Sports Emmy Award for Outstanding Live Sports Special for his work in Salt Lake City. “When the women’s team won the gold medal, and the men’s team won the gold medal, I’m actually in the truck directing the anthem and the flag going up. All the American guys are on the intercom congratulating me for winning a gold medal just because I was the Canadian and Canada won. That to me is an indelible mark on anything.”
Along with his first Stanley Cup final.
“It was Bob Nystrom’s overtime goal for the Islanders. I’m 23-years-old and I’m producing Hockey Night in Canada, it was magical,” said Shannon, whose father was the chief engineer on the SS Sicamous. “Growing up here, we only had one TV station. Hockey night in Canada was everything at five o’clock on a Saturday night. To work on the show and be part of the show for as long as I was, that too was electric.”