Bob Hughes, long-time sports editor and columnist at The Leader-Post, died early Tuesday morning in hospital. He was 69.
Mercurial, controversial, dedicated to writing about sport, Hughes was the son of noted Regina sportsman “Sailor” Hughes”, who was serving in the Royal Canadian Navy when Hughes was born on June 1, 1944.
Hughes started his career at the Leader-Post as a copy boy in 1962 and talked years later about slipping into the newsroom late at night to sit at the desk of one of his idols, then-sports editor Tom “Scotty “ Melville.
Hughes became a police reporter in 1964, then moved into sports writing, initially covering high school sports and the Regina Rams junior football team — the history of which he wrote decades later.
From 1969-70, he wrote a daily sports column for the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix, then moved to the Calgary Albertan, where he was on staff covering sports from 1970-72.
At one point, he was banned from the locker room of the Calgary Stampeders for being “a disruptive influence”, colleague Dale Eisler wrote in a 1995 article. “He spoke his mind, but he would always give both sides of the story,” another former colleague, Nick Miliokas, wrote the same year.
He returned to the Leader-Post as sports editor in 1972, writing a daily sports column. The Saskatchewan Roughriders were the centre of his journalistic world, causing the nattily dressed Hughes to dot his column with phrases like “Chaos-By-The-Creek”, “The Loyal Disorder of Rider Priders” and “The Reign of Error” as their fortunes rose and fell.
When the Roughriders, undergoing a particularly poor season in the late 1970s, closed practices to reporters, Hughes wrote to coach Ron Lancaster, “Please, Ronnie. Open the practices and close the games.”
“Back in ’72, as far as the sportswriting business went, I hoped I’d last forever,” he said in a 1991 interview. “I figured I’d have no problem at all making this part of my career because I love it.”
Saluting him, Dave Komosky of the Edmonton Journal wrote in 1988 that Hughes managed to carve out “one of the biggest reputations in Canadian sports journalism” from a city where there was but one pro sports team.
That same year, Hughes became managing editor of The Leader-Post, then its executive vice-president in 1994. That was cut short in 1996, when Conrad Black’s Hollinger Inc. acquired the newspaper and he became editor. He relinquished this post in 2000 to go back to writing columns.
Among Hughes’ awards was being named to the Canadian Football Hall of Fame’s Football Reporters of Canada Section in 1990. He was also named a recipient of the Canada 125 medal for “service to the community”.
“He obeyed the First Rule. Given a choice between “Gee Whiz” and “Aw, Nuts!”, he leaned toward the latter,” the Vancouver Province’s long-time sports columnist Jim Taylor once wrote of Hughes. “But never far enough to fall.”
Mere days ago, Hughes — talkative but sallow in complexion — made his way to the funeral of Leader-Post photographer Roy Antal.
Thrice-married, Hughes is survived by sons Ryan and Geoffrey, by his brother, Peter, and by his sister, Marni Zafar.
As of mid-morning Tuesday, funeral arrangements had not been completed.
As Hughes loved to write, “Yer Welcome”.