He won’t want to hear it, but there is no way around it: Don Cameron is a legend.
The familiar goal call from the voice of a boy from Eastern Canada will always ring out Rangers hockey in Kitchener, Waterloo Region, and around the Ontario Hockey League.
He’s almost been to the moon and back on a bus (384,400 kms). Seriously. Over an estimated 700,000 kilometres on the team charter, over 4,000 games spanning 50 seasons, eight OHL Championship series’, six Memorial Cup appearances, winning two championships; there has always been one voice.
Today, the Voice of the Kitchener Rangers, Don Cameron is stepping aside. He’s done. Someone else will be welcoming us to End of the Roll Kitchener Rangers hockey on 570 News. He’s passing the proverbial torch that is the microphone he’s lit up with goal call after goal call for the last five decades.
From iconic Eugenie George purchasing the team for a dollar, to the Brian Bellows hat-trick to win the Memorial Cup in ’82. From the double overtime heart breaker in the ’90 Memorial Cup, to the undefeated run in ’03, and the heartbreak, and trophy break, in 2008. Through Barber and Benoit; Bellows and Boedker; Foster and Faksa; Tkachuk and Coffey; Larry and Landeskog; MacInnis and Murphy; Roy and Richards; Stevens and Skinner and the health of Payer and Fanelli, there has always been Don Cameron.
It’s a career that can only begin to be summed up with the word, “legendary”, despite the pure distain Cameron would have for anyone to put praise on the play-by-play pioneer from PEI.
“He wants it to be about, in his words, ‘the kids’ and the players,” says Mike Collins, General Manager of 570 News, and the Rogers Kitchener Radio Group. “He never wants it to be about him. We’ve tried to honour him a number of times throughout the years.”
“He’ll always be compared to what we consider a legend,” says Kitchener Rangers Chief Operating Officer, Steve Bienkowski. “I know Don always shied away from that kind of praise, but there is no doubt he’s one of the best announcers Junior hockey has ever seen.”
Bienkowski would be one to know. He’s seen Cameron while wearing a helmet tending the crease for the classic Ranger crest and behind a desk, dealing with a different set of numbers in the front office for the Blueshirts.
“I knew Don when I was a player, so I saw him from a player side, and obviously from the management side,” says Bienkowski. “It’s a fine line when you ride that bus. It’s sort of saying you’re going to sit in the dressing room, and he was always able to be professional.”
AUDIO: Steve Bienkowski
It’s not just Bienkowski that remembers Cameron from his playing days. It’s likely a safe wager, many players that walked the hallowed halls of the Memorial Auditorium can commemorate a Cameron call.
“A few years ago I was in Florida golfing, and I met a fellow who used to be a Kitchener Ranger, Don Edwards, and once we figured out I was from Kitchener, and who he was, what was the first question he asked me?,” asked Collins. “How’s Don Cameron? He played here in 1975. That was his most memorable thing. It speaks to the character of Don Cameron.”
When asked how to describe Cameron, Farwell said in two simple words before expanding, “A gentleman”, which, given Cameron’s broadcasting and hockey pedigree, talks a lot about the impact the man has had away from the rink. “There is just such a gentlemanly quality to the man. When we’re in every city, this is a guy that’s been doing it for five decades and he is the stuff of Junior hockey royalty but he never had an heir about him because of that.”
Farwell remembers the first time he got to stand next to Junior hockey royalty in the booth as Cameron’s Colour Commentator.
“It was at the WFCU Centre in Windsor and I remember the national anthem being on and my knees actually felt a little bit weak because I realized I was about to go on the air and do a hockey broadcast with a man I had admired my entire life,” says Farwell.
Cameron may not be on Twitter, but when the Rangers are in action, the hashtag “TheLegend” is easily searchable.
Every once and while, you may even see the hashtag, “DonCameronism”, which quickly brings up classic calls like, “he’s hanging around like an unwanted relative”, and “he got himself in the phone booth and couldn’t dial out”.
Someone who loves to promote to the, “new age” Rangers fan what “The Legend” has done throughout his career, is his colour commentator.
“They’d get lost over time, but I think one of my favourites, I’ll always endure, is ‘high and wide, and not so handsome’, I’ve always liked that one,” says Farwell. “The game has grown, but regardless, Don has grown right along side it.”
Someone else will now have to walk the stairs from the media room – named in his honour – up to the broadcast perch, where he has stood since they moved him up an additional 10 rows, where he continued to see the game better than most. Someone else will have to fulfil the countless requests from visiting media to discuss how this year’s Rangers team compares to the teams of yesteryear.
“No one is going to replace Don,” says Bienkowski. “I think we’ll turn the page just like every organization does and someone else perhaps will start a new tradition. Some will say there are big shoes to fill, I don’t think anybody will fill the shoes, I think we’ll have to bring a new set of shoes in.”
The job needs to be filled. But the shoes left behind, will remain empty.
One of Kitchener’s and Canada’s living legends. Hockey Hall of Fame builder. My vote “YES” https://t.co/RUFF01b9Ji
— Joe Cascagnette (@joeducating) July 8, 2015
— Bryan M. Larkin (@Chief_BLarkin) July 8, 2015
— Father F. Freitas (@PadreFreitas) July 8, 2015
— Dave Schnider (@DaveSchniderKW) July 8, 2015
— Dave Cottenie (@profan9) July 8, 2015