Ask a random Deltan and they’ll likely recognize his name.
Stepping out of his gold Century Buick — license plate emblazoned with the word HOCKEY — Steve Erickson, sports broadcaster for Delta TV since 1988, looks like the everyman’s enthusiastic and outgoing uncle. His white eyebrows stick out wildly over smiling eyes; his feet are tucked into slip-on shoes.
“When I’m doing a hockey broadcast on Delta TV … I want to make [the people watching] feel comfortable,” the North Delta resident said. “I don’t want to have them say ‘This was really boring.’ Have fun with it.”
“Have fun with it” has been Erickson’s motto since the beginning, when he was first asked to fill in as a Delta TV broadcaster during a Thursday night hockey game in 1987.
“I was refereeing the game, and they came up to me and said ‘We don’t have anybody to do our broadcast. Can one of you guys help out?’” Erickson remembered.
“And we’re all looking, because we’re getting ready to go on the ice refereeing. And they said, ‘Steve, you can help us.’”
Erickson, always an outgoing and outspoken individual, had done some broadcasting work before. Sending two referees onto the ice instead of three, Erickson conducted the play-by-play for the South Delta game.
“They called me in a couple days later,” he said. “They said that they’d had a couple of phone calls — well, more than a couple — at their station, that people liked the broadcast I did.
“Because I explained the rules and what goes on about the game,” he continued. “Instead of just saying he took a penalty and I don’t know what it was for, I would explain why he took the penalty and how it happened, because I’m a referee. So I knew why he got the penalty, and I’d call the penalty before it even happened.”
When then-sports broadcaster Bob Palmer left, it’s was Erickson’s opportunity to take over as the voice of amateur sports in Delta.
“Everybody wants to promote pros, and my logic is you’ve got to be an amateur before you’re a pro,” he said. “It’s nice that we have the luxury of going out in Delta and covering an amateur event. There’s other areas that they don’t do it.”
As a broadcaster for Delta TV and other organizations, Erickson’s covered Steve Nash’s high school basketball provincials, called play-by-plays for local hockey teams and interviewed Vancouver Canuck Bo Horvat about his start in the minor leagues.
Sports hasn’t just been a part of Erickson’s work life: it’s been a major part of his personal life as well.
Erickson’s daughter, Annette Lebus, was the first girl to play minor hockey in North Delta and the first girl to referee minor hockey in Delta. Her three kids are also involved in sports — ringette and hockey mostly. Erickson continues to referee minor hockey, and has now started his own broadcasting company called Sportswave, which he operates in addition to his Delta TV career.
“You have to know how to balance your schedule,” he noted, remembering the one year he did the play-by-play for three amateur hockey teams, as well as his normal broadcasting duties.
“If you don’t know how to balance your schedule, you’re hooped.”
It hasn’t always been easy holding the weight of Delta’s amateur sports coverage on his shoulders. Erickson said that if he dropped “dead tomorrow, heaven forbid, … they don’t have anybody else.”
But for Erickson, it’s important the broadcast goes on.
“I just want to see us promote and grow amateur sports more,” he said.
“We get too much unrest in the world … [But] you put a kid in a ball diamond or a hockey rink or a soccer pitch, and they forget about their troubles. Even their coaches. They forget what’s going on in the rest of the world. That’s what their focus is, right there.”
“It’s all about the next generation,” he continued. “It’s not about what we do, it’s about the legacy we leave for the future.”
When Erickson eventually steps away from the mic, his legacy will live on in the memories of the countless Deltans who have watched their children’s sports showcased on television. And on Aug. 26, his contributions to amateur sport will also be recognized when he’s inducted into the Vancouver Canadians Broadcasting and Journalism Hall of Fame.
Every year, the Toronto Blue Jays affiliate recognizes two outstanding sports journalists. This year’s inductees are former newspaper publisher and editor Hal Straight, who passed away in 1989, and Steve Erickson.
The induction ceremony will take place on Saturday, Aug. 26 at Scotiabank Field at Nat Bailey Stadium in Vancouver, as the Canadians get set to take on the Boise Hawks. Doors open at 6 p.m., with the ceremony taking place at 6:20 and the game getting under way at 7:05. Erickson will be there, wearing a new pair of pants he bought special for the occasion. The ceremony will be broadcast on Channel 610 in HD on Delta TV.
Erickson first heard about being named to the hall of fame while he was travelling as a passenger across the Port Mann bridge. His phone rang: it was broadcaster Rob Fai for the Vancouver Canadians.
“I said, ‘You’re phoning to talk about an upcoming press conference for the season for our media accreditation? You’re going to have just a media event in general, or what?’” Erickson said, remembering the conversation between him and Fai.
“‘No, not that type of conversation today,’ [Fai] said … ‘Every year we put names forward for our Vancouver Canadians baseball hall of fame for broadcast and journalism. This year, we’re inducting two individuals.’
“He said, ‘I’ll tell you right now, out of the two individuals we’re inducting, you’re the one on the broadcast side.’
“I paused, and he said, ‘Are you still there?’”
Erickson still can’t believe it.
“When I started doing the broadcasting stuff, this was the last thing on my mind,” he said. “I never thought about putting myself on a pedestal or getting into a hall of fame.”
“You get into it just to have fun and cover sports and meet a lot of great people,” he continued. “It was the last thing I ever expected.”