The latest round of budget cuts at the CBC has claimed two of the network’s longest tenured and most recognizable voices.
Veteran sportscasters Steve Armitage and Mark Lee have been laid off, the Canadian Press reports. The move comes nine months after Rogers Media secured the NHL broadcast rights in a landmark $5.2-billion deal. With Rogers gaining editorial control and reaping ad revenue in the new deal, CBC’s fate has been sealed.
Several former CBC personalities have since joined Rogers to be part of the new Hockey Night in Canada broadcast, including George Stroumboulopoulos, Bob Cole, Ron MacLean and Don Cherry.
Whether or not Rogers calls upon Armitage or Lee remains to be seen.
Armitage was part of the Hockey Night in Canada broadcast team for nearly 30 years, but he was also one of the most versatile play-by-play voices in the industry. The 70-year-old became renowned north of the border for his work on swimming and speed skating events, calling 15 Olympic Games and countless international competitions. He also called CFL football, the FIFA World Cup and golf.
He even showed that he had a sense of humor when it came to his legendary, booming voice.
But he could see the move coming.
“I was probably due to go. I didn’t want to go because I liked my job, but when you gotta go, you gotta go,” he told the Canadian Press.
Lee was also a member of the Hockey Night in Canada team, calling Western Conference games for many years. The 58-year-old was a prominent member of the network’s Olympic coverage, calling many events including Usain Bolt’s world-record run at the 2008 Games in Beijing. He was the voice of the CFL on CBC, and won several broadcasting awards for his documentary reporting work.
He took the news a little harder.
“I’m still feeling a little bit lost. It’s only been about 10 days since my last day there,” he said. “It becomes a real big part of your life. You have a second family at work — people you get to know really well and you travel with and spend large amounts of time on the road with at major events like the Olympics, Hockey Night in Canada, the CFL on CBC.”
CBC president Hubert Lacroix said in April that 38 of the 90 positions in the sports department would be removed as part of a $130-million budget shortfall.
So what’s next for Armitage and Lee?
If Rogers wanted them to jump ship and join the new era of HNIC, you’d think they would have pounced by now. Armitage may be in his eighth decade, but he’s still got it. Lee is considerably younger and could still contribute to a broadcast team for at least another decade. The problem is, hockey-wise, there’s nowhere else for them to go up north (unless a regional opportunity opens up). They do have experience in a multitude of sports, though, and that versatility should bode well if they hope to find work elsewhere.
Still, times have never been tougher at the Mother Corp and now, two of Canada’s most iconic voices have been silenced.