Goldstick, Tiger

EDMONTON — Whether handing them sporting goods from his car trunk car or barking traffic safety messages from the set of Popcorn Playhouse, Cecil “Tiger” Goldstick was an icon to a generation of Edmonton kids.

Goldstick, a local sportsman, broadcaster and Order of Canada recipient, died on Friday at the age of 90. The gruff and feisty man spent decades covering sports on television and radio, but was remembered most fondly for his big heart, his often-repeated one-liners and his ability to get in fistfights.

“We lose one of the truly colourful characters from the city,” said Lisa Miller, who was a friend and colleague of Goldstick’s from the CFRN sports department. “Unfortunately, he wasn’t active in the last 10 years or so, so younger people don’t remember him, but we truly lose a fine sportsman with a really great spirit.”

Goldstick was born on Aug. 5, 1915, in Edson to mother Bessie and father Hyman, who was Edmonton’s first rabbi. He moved to Edmonton with his family as a teen.

He quickly jumped into the local sports scene and over the course of his life was an athlete, coach, trainer, referee and promoter for all kinds of sports.

Although only five feet, four inches tall, Goldstick was a good enough amateur wrestler to earn a place on the city’s boxing and wrestling commission’s honour roll.

“He deserved to be there,” said Coun. Ron Hayter, who was on the commission when it inducted Goldstick and knew him as a fellow reporter. “He was a very good athlete. And pound for pound, he was a pretty formidable guy.”

How Goldstick earned his nickname is open to debate. His sister-in-law told a writer with the Jewish Archives & Historical Society of Edmonton and Northern Alberta that he became “Tiger” as a child because of his displays of toughness despite his small size.

Goldstick told Journal writer Curtis Stock in 1999 that he took on the moniker in the navy, where he served for two and a half years at sea during the Second World War.

“I used to wrestle in the navy and Gord Grayson said I needed a name,” Goldstick said. “One day he introduced me as the Tiger of Western Canada. They’ve called me that ever since.”

Goldstick brought his impish, gap-toothed smile back to Edmonton after the war and fell into a job as a trainer for the Edmonton Combines, a football club. He later tended many teams, including the Western Hockey League’s Edmonton Flyers.

His love of sports eventually took him into broadcasting and in the 1960s he started at CFRN radio and TV. He went on to spend decades at the station in front of the microphone and camera.

His beloved wife, Hazel, also worked for CFRN. She died in 1979, 18 years after they wed.

On-air, he continued to nurture his connection with the city’s children, when he hosted Tiger’s Den on the after-school children’s show, Popcorn Playhouse. His focus was traffic safety and his work earned him honours from the Alberta Motor Association.

All the while, he was collecting sports equipment that he would distribute to kids. “I grew up in Depression times,” he told The Journal in 1993. “I knew what it was to be without a stick or a bat or something and I wanted to help.”

Eventually, the city’s sports reporters teamed up to help and started Tiger Goldstick’s equipment drive for kids.

He teamed up with Sport Central when it formed to help raise sports equipment for children who couldn’t afford it. He was inducted into the Order of Canada in 1990 for that lifetime of work.

Jim Harvey, the charity’s general manager, called Goldstick a man ahead of his time.

“Long before there were any formal studies that point to how participation in organized sport is good for kids, that was a core belief with Tiger,” Harvey said. “He just had a very big and generous heart. That combination caused him to do for decades out of the trunk of his car what we do now out of a warehouse for 5,000 kids.”

While Goldstick was quick to help anyone in need, he was just as quick with his fists when someone stepped out of line. He was particularly proud of his Grey Cup record.

“Tiger went to approximately 30-plus Grey Cups in a row as a reporter and apparently got into a fight every year at the Grey Cups,” Miller said. “According to him, he usually won because I think it was the element of surprise. He would deck somebody and would usually come back and show you the wounds on his knuckle. In later years he probably got into the fight right at the airport when he landed, just so he could say he had his one fight a year at Grey Cup.”

That scrappy spirit simply added to Goldstick’s mystique, as did his favourite one-liners. Oilers play-by-play man Rod Phillips remembered Goldstick throwing one of those out when he was part of the game-night broadcast crew during a game against the Vancouver Canucks in the 1980s.

At the time, Phillips said, the Canucks were wearing their mustard yellow jerseys.

“I remember Tiger saying that night on the broadcast that, ‘If the Vancouver Canucks were playing in my backyard, I would close the drapes.’

“He was just a fabulous character,” Phillips said.

In 1986, the city renamed a park in honour of Goldstick and his father. Goldstick Park sits on the banks of the North Saskatchewan River at 39th Street and 103rd Avenue.

The rocking chair Tiger Goldstick used to occupy when he’d visit the Sports Central office still sits in a corner.

If anyone ever sets up a stand-alone Edmonton Sports Hall of Fame, Sports Central will put a brass plaque on it and donate it, Harvey said.

“He did it for the kids,” Harvey said. “If there is any sort of final word to be said on Tiger that would certainly be it.”

Goldstick’s funeral will be Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Chesed Shel emeth, 12313 105th Avenue.

Sarah O’Donnell, The Edmonton Journal

Published: Saturday, February 04, 2006

© The Edmonton Journal 2006