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Thank You Don Goodwin

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December 21, 2015
by Brad Burke

For as long as the ToC has been in Grand Central, you have been our golden voice, Engineer editor and great friend! As we bid you adieu, we thank you for being such a wonderful member of the ToC team.

SWEET TALKER BY WILL CARLIN

If you have been in Grand Central Terminal and sneaking a peek at the program during the 90-second break during a match or killing time between matches, you could hear a voice in the background. It may have been telling you about an upcoming match, about tomorrow’s slate or about the players warming up. Like heavy cream poured into coffee, the milky smooth baritone twisted and twirled in the rafters of Vanderbilt Hall, its thick tendrils slowly descending into the swirl of commuter commotion, mixing and melting until, ultimately, the entire space was transformed.

No longer just one of the busiest train stations in the world, the voice helped change the space to a stylish showcase of athletic talent. There is a man behind that voice, but unless you grew up in Canada, are a player or a tournament official, you may not know him. He doesn’t mind. “My mission here is to help spectators get to know the players and to help set a mood; it isn’t about getting to know me,” says the owner of the voice, Don Goodwin.

He is right, of course, but it is too bad because Don is worth getting to know.

If you have listened to him during the Tournament of Champions, Don was probably standing at the front of the media corner between the back wall and right wall stands. He was the trim, tall, spectacled, mostly silver-haired man wearing a suit and holding the microphone. Until the finals, when he would get on court as Master of Ceremonies, he liked this out-of-the-way spot where he could stay in the background while also keeping an eye on what’s happening on court.

Don’s ability to describe, introduce, and narrate with a voice that somehow conveys both comfort and class has propelled a career and created a résumé that has brought him international honors. It also seems like it must belong to a much older man.

“I’m older than I look,” he says. (When you see him, add fifteen years to how old you think he looks, and you still may underestimate.) “But really, age is just a number, so I try not to pay it much heed. Your 60 is not necessarily my 60, and much of that is from our genes; it’s a bit of a crapshoot. You can take care of your body, and I try to: I don’t eat meat or fowl, I am very active, and I don’t drink or smoke. I did smoke for a little while, but I quit cold turkey when I was about 25. It was a good decision, particularly because I probably hadn’t yet fully realized the importance of my voice.”

Perhaps he should have known because when he was 12, he created a card game based on football. The key to the game, though, was how well you announced what was happening. “We used a ruler as the microphone, and we took turns trying to sound the best.”

When he was in high school, Don became a sports reporter for the Canadian High News, and that led to an invitation to do some Saturday broadcasting at a local radio station. There, someone suggested that he think about getting into radio. “I was going to go to university, but after a quick conversation, I was hired. I went about 300 miles north of Toronto to Sudbury, the Nickel capital of the world.”

In Sudbury, Don was a newscaster, sports commentator and disc jockey, and he wound up working in a variety of commercial radio stations in Ontario and Manitoba. After a brief stint in the Canadian Army as an officer in the Black Watch Regiment (“It was connected to the Royal Highland Regiment, so, yes, we wore kilts!”), he went to Halifax and became a television sportscaster for Canada’s national broadcast service, the CBC. He became a member of the CBC crew for the Pan Am Games, the Commonwealth Games and the Olympics, and in 1971, the CBC made him its Head of Sports, and he served as the broadcast team leader at the Olympics.

The Olympics have been a recurring highlight for Don. After serving as president of both the Amateur Athletic Union of Canada and the Sports Federation of Canada, he became Vice President of the Canadian Olympic Association (now the Canadian Olympic Committee) and was rewarded by serving first as the 1972 Assistant Chef de Mission of Canada’s Summer Games Team in Munich and then as the 1976 Chef de Mission of the Winter Games Team in Innsbruck. In 1996, Don trained all venue announcers for the Atlanta Olympics, and his was both the stadium voice for the Opening and Closing ceremonies and the recorded voice welcoming spectators at the gates of all Olympic venues.

Don loved being the voice behind the scenes. Though he has been a television host on national Canadian television, he preferred having the athletes take center stage. For more than thirty years, Don ran his consulting organization in sports presentation and publishing. In that role, he has been the venue voice not only for squash, but also for badminton, water skiing, golf, and tennis championships all over the world.

In fact, it was at the Canadian Open Badminton Championships that he met his wife, Rosemary. “As I was watching the matches from the balcony, I saw a lovely blonde down below. Minutes later, I had a tap on my shoulder, and there she was. I was smitten from the start, and we have been married for over twenty years.”

So close your eyes and listen again for the last time. Let the voice that attracted his wife seduce you. Let the voice that has introduced athletes all over the world present tonight’s squash players. Let the voice that opened the Atlanta Olympics transform Grand Central Terminal.

The voice, when you really listen, is golden; the man, when you get to know him, is better.