Bob Irving has carved out a hall-of-fame career using his voice. And so when the legendary radio man is at a loss for words, it is both a rare and noteworthy occasion.
All of which brings us to what unfolded Friday deep in the bowels of Investors Group Field, where Irving thought he was arriving for a radio-production meeting but instead stepped into a room full of friends, family and colleagues whom had gathered for a huge, surprise announcement:
The new stadium's press area will be named the "Bob Irving Media Centre."
And the man himself was absolutely speechless. But he recovered quickly enough.
"First of all, I had no idea that this was coming. I walked in and there's my wife, my kids and my grandkids and thought, 'What's going on here? Did somebody die? Did I die?'" said Irving. "I'm blown away by this whole thing. I'm humbled by it and almost embarrassed that such a fuss is made.
"It's not the kind of thing you ever expect and I certainly would never have expected this."
That, in a nutshell, is the man they call "Knuckles." One of the best play-by-play men in the country, Irving has never been one to thump his own chest even though his smooth tone has come to represent the football club. Irving is a member of The Football Reporters of Canada Hall of Fame and a recipient of the Bombers' Chairman's Award.
"While most of our heroes have been on the field, front office or in the board rooms," said Bomber president Garth Buchko, "the Winnipeg Football Club has decided to pay tribute to one of our dear friends in the media -- someone who has shared their emotions and stories of both good and bad times right along side the organization."
This coming year will mark Irving's 39th season as the Bombers' play-by-play voice. A native of Regina, Irving began his broadcasting career in Estevan, Sask., before moving to CKX in Brandon in 1970. He was hired by CJOB in 1973 and a year later began calling Bomber games.
Buchko dipped into the radio station's archives and found the clip of the late Kenny (The Friar) Nicolson introducing Irving prior to his first call. Said Nicolson to the station's audience that day:
"Well Bomber fans, I would like to introduce you to your new voice of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on CJOB. Bob is a great broadcaster who works tirelessly, but more importantly he just sounds that good."
That sentiment still rings true to this day.
Calling a game from the new stadium -- now from inside the new Bob Irving Media Centre -- has long been one of the veteran announcer's wishes. And there's one other:
"I've used this line for a few years now, but it would be nice before I retire or die that I could see the Bombers win another Grey Cup," said Irving. "It's been a while."
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