Sport: Sports Journalism
Birth: Bratislava, Czechoslovakia, January 23, 1923
Died: March 21, 2008
Career Highlights1974 - National Newspaper Award for Sportswriting
1976 - Sports Federation of Canada Award
1979 - Sovereign Award for the best story on horse racing
1980 - First recipient of the International Ice hockey Federation’s Gold Medal
1991 - City of Toronto Medal for Services to the city
1994 - Olympic Order
2001 - Sports Media Canada Achievement Award
Before faithfully documenting the legendary feats of Canada’s athletes, sportswriter George Gross forged an athletic legend of his own. Like most legends, the story of Gross’ escape from the Communist regime of his native Czechoslovakia has been twisted over time. Some claim that he swam to refuge, while other contend that he went by boat. In fact, Gross and a companion rowed across the Danube to the Austrian border, warding off suspicious officials by telling them that they were training for a regatta. Whatever the story, it was a fine beginning for a man who would make story telling his lifework, and athletes his heroes and heroines.
Gross arrived in Canada in 1950. As was customary for European immigrants, he spent his first year working on a farm north of Toronto before moving to the city. Gross dabbled in construction and retail for several years while working on his English.
Gross had been an avid sportsman in his native Bratislava. He played tennis, basketball, and soccer, and also worked as a sportswriter. He soon involved himself in the Toronto sports scene, playing soccer in a city league, and publishing a small soccer newspaper. His writing caught the attention the Telegram, and Gross was hired to temporarily replace their soccer writer. By 1959, he was a full-time sports writer.
When the Telegram folded in 1971, Gross was hired as sports editor of the newly established Toronto Sun. His colourful and entertaining columns earned him a steady audience, while his reliable, honest style earned him the trust of the athletic world. Gross was an extremely demanding editor who always pushed his writers go the extra mile; his high standards helped ensure the integrity of the Sun sports section, and his respected status earned him the fond title of the “Baron.”
Aside from everyday sports news, Gross has covered numerous international events, including the world hockey championships, the world figure skating championships, World Cup soccer, the Olympics, and the Wimbledon tennis championships.
In 1974, his exclusive story on Czech hockey captain Vaclav Nedomansky’s escape to Canada earned him the National Newspaper Award for Sportswriting, the highest award for a Canadian journalist. For his faithful hockey coverage, he was inducted into the broadcasters’ section of the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1985. For eloquently putting the glory of the Olympic Games into words, the Baron was awarded the Olympic Order in 1994, the first Canadian journalist to receive this honour. Among numerous other awards, Gross received the Sports Media Achievement Award in 2001, and the Order of Ontario in 2003.