Sport: Sports Journalism
Birth: Renfrew, Ontario, Ontario, 1910
Died: April 19, 1987
Career Highlights1933-87 - Sports Writer, Montreal Standard
1933-87 - Sports Writer, Montreal Star
1933-87 - Sports Editor, Weekend Magazine
1954 - Published controversial story on BEG four-minute-mile race
While working as a hat salesman at Eaton’s in the early 1930s, Andy O’Brien approached Jimmy McDonagh, sports editor of the Montreal Standard, about a job in sports writing. O’Brien was already well versed in the world of athletics, being the son of a hockey and baseball coach, and having worked himself as a trainer for the Montreal Maroons Professional Lacrosse Club before it folded in 1932.
During O’Brien’s first assignment at a senior baseball game, a tremendous riot broke out. O’Brien’s resulting story was so sensational that it appeared on the front page of the paper. The following week, he was hired full time. He often joked that if it hadn’t been for the riot, he might still be selling hats.
Over the next 42 years, O’Brien wrote for the Standard, the Montreal Star, and eventually became Sports Editor of Weekend Magazine. Writing about a wide array of sports, O’Brien covered 12 Olympics, six Commonwealth Games, 45 Stanley Cups, and 31 Grey Cups over the course of his brilliant career.
Always on the forefront of the sporting scene, O’Brien uncovered many hidden stories along the way. Numerous sportswriters were present at the 1954 British Empire Games during the showdown between four-minute-mile runners Roger Bannister and John Landy, but only O’Brien discovered how close the race really was. O’Brien had gone to visit Landy in his hotel room just prior to the race, only to discover him nursing an injured foot. The runner had stepped on a broken flash bulb and had had to get four stitches in the bottom of his foot. When Landy lost the race, O’Brien could not keep the runner’s injury a secret; after much debate, he decided to impart his knowledge to the public. His story was met with much criticism, but O’Brien was not one to regret exposing his readers to the truth behind the race.
While covering major Canadian and international athletic events, O’Brien was always careful not to forget the lesser lights. As co-worker Red Fisher of the Montreal Star remarked: “He expected anybody who worked for and with him to devote as much care to the reporting of a peewee hockey game as to a Stanley Cup final or a heavyweight championship fight.”
A most prolific hockey writer, O’Brien published numerous books on the sport over the course of his life. His contribution to hockey lore was so great that he received an honoured place as a journalist in the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1985.