HAIL, AND FAREWELL
This story takes me back to the roots. 1975 at the Hartford Civic Center.
The great Bobby Hull made his first visit to Hartford with the Winnipeg Jets. After the game fans lined the glass from one end of the ice to the other, holding out souvenirs and programs, even just scraps of paper, hoping for a signature from the hockey legend. He spent more than 45 minutes signing every one of them, chatting with the fans as he went. By the time he reached his stall in the visitors locker room the gathering of reporters had dwindled to just three or four, the others having given way to their deadlines.
Hull asked the media for a few more minutes of understanding while he carried an armful of hockey sticks out to the corridor to be signed for a group of kids in wheelchairs. The game had been over for more than an hour before Hull finally sat down and kicked off his skates to answer questions from the two remaining reporters, the great Hartford Courant sports editor Bill Lee, and me. Hull was as gracious as any athlete with whom I’ve ever dealt, open and honest with his answers, always congenial, often animated, a 15 minute session I knew I would cherish forever.
“My only regret”, I said to Lee as we exited the locker room, “Is there weren’t a quarter of a million people looking over our shoulders to see that.”
“Don’t underestimate your importance”, Lee said in a grandfatherly tone, “That’s where you and I come in.”
I have carried that lesson every step of my career. There are some things I won’t miss, you, the people I have had the pleasure of serving, certainly not among them. You have always deserved my respect, it was up to me to earn yours. The worst days of my career were the days when I felt as if I had let you down. There were too many of them for my liking.
I won’t miss the 3:00 AM wake up calls, but I will never forget it was the toughest thing I had to do all day. I will miss the way so many of my relationships in the sports world evolved over the years, but I hope they continue to evolve. I will miss the atmosphere in the morning newsroom and the comraderie with all the people who work in it, and on this wonderful morning show of which it has been my privelege to be a small part.
I won’t miss those hour and a half drives through early morning snowstorms to get to work. I will miss serving you, even if best serving you meant just getting out of the way on such mornings and letting the professionals who could best inform you at such times do their jobs.
I won’t really be far away. I’ll continue to do my column in the Valley Press and the West Hartford Press and I’m being held to a number of speaking engagements I booked prior to making my decision, not that I mind being held to them. I have a couple of projects that have generated enough interest already that I’m sure you’ll be hearing from me in other areas. Next week I’ll be hosting CPTV Sports Network’s “Beyond the Beat” and I’ll be reminiscing about my career with my great friend Stan Simpson on his FOX-61 show in the near future.
I have written several emotional commentaries over the years, ones that were difficult to get through. This may be the most difficult of all.
As my career comes full circle it brings me back to the story with which I opened this piece. To the great listeners of this wonderful market it has been my pleasure to serve these last 43 years, I say, as Dorothy said to Scarecrow before clicking her ruby heels, “I will miss you most of all.”.
Taking my leave from the WTIC sports world, I’m Scott Gray.
Some memorable friends say bye to Scott as he starts his new job, retirement;