When October’s crisp fall air blows down Tragically Hip Way on a Friday night, Jim Gilchrist knows he is supposed to be in the Leon’s Centre broadcast booth. This fall, however, the brisk air still blows, but his Friday night schedule is empty.
Gilchrist, or “Cookie” as he goes by, is heading into his 42nd year broadcasting hockey games over Kingston airwaves after moving from the play-by-play role in Oshawa. Since the Ontario Hockey League season ended in March, he has been away from the game he loves. “It’s been a challenge every once and a while,” he said. “It’s been alright, but I’m just anxious to get back at it and get going again.”
The veteran broadcaster has made countless memories calling play-by-play, something he cannot wait to get back to doing. A few of his memories are also some of the greatest moments in Kingston hockey and OHL history. His favourite call came back in 1986, “I loved it when Chris Clifford scored the first goal by an OHL goaltender, and that was back in January of that [1985-86] season.”
While the goalie goal call was dazzling, it is far from the only exceptional moment of Gilchrist’s career. Some of his fondest memories come from games against teams that no longer exist, such as the Belleville Bulls, or other rivalries, which he described as not being as fierce as they used to be.
“The longest game in CHL history was played up there in Belleville and went into the fourth overtime,” he recalled. “It did not end until 10 to 2:00 in the morning. I would say that’s one of the highlights of my career.” The Frontenacs’ rivalry with Belleville was the root of many memories for Gilchrist, who will always miss the atmosphere that surrounded those contests.
While the longest game in Frontenacs history came against Belleville, another one that stands out in his mind is the 2018 triple-overtime game that ended when Gabriel Vilardi found himself in the clear and fired the puck past then North Bay Battalion goaltender Christian Propp. “That was a series-clinching goal, and those are always sweeter.”
Through his four decades above the ice, Gilchrist has seen Kingston hockey evolve in countless ways, including moving from an ageing arena. “The Memorial Centre was one of the best old-timers around, but rinks are now entertainment centres,” he said. “We needed a new arena, and the Leon’s Centre is great, so it’s been a great change.” Away from the houses of hockey, he appreciates the speed and skill that has made the game more exciting over the past decades.
Even with all his years in the broadcast booth, he has never had the chance to call a championship, something he longs to do before calling it a career. “It’s been fun, but I would like a championship along the way somewhere,” he chuckled.
After seeing the team improve in 2019-20, Gilchrist cannot wait to begin broadcasting the next exciting season of Frontenacs hockey. For now, though, the fall wind blows by the arena while he looks forward to the next game, the next goal, and the next broadcast.