One of Ottawa’s most accomplished broadcasters is being honoured at City Hall tonight. Award-winning TSN host James Duthie will receive the Key to the City, in recognition of a lifetime of excellent work as a sports broadcaster, journalist, author, and charity ambassador.
For years now, the Carleton University grad has skillfully captained the NHL on TSN ship, which handles regional coverage of the Senators, among other NHL and sports properties. But chances are, you’ve seen him hosting pretty much everything TSN puts out there, from the Masters, to the Grey Cup, the World Juniors, the Super Bowl and the Olympics. His elite list of high-profile work is a long one.
In the mid-90s, Duthie got his start in sports media at CTV Ottawa, known then as CJOH-TV. He never dreamed it would lead to all this one day, including tonight’s reception.
“I’m extremely honoured,” Duthie told FACES, while en route from Toronto.
“This is all very strange for a kid from Blackburn Hamlet who was just thrilled to get a job covering local sports in his hometown way back when. I’ve always thought keys to the city go to people who do actual important things like saving lives and curing diseases.”
Duthie’s work has earned him multiple awards including three Geminis, a Canadian Screen Award, and the Excellence in Sports Broadcasting award from Sports Media Canada. But he’s being modest, suggesting he doesn’t do important things. Duthie is an ambassador for “Children Believe,” a group that supports children around the world to overcome barriers and access education so they can be a voice for change. In 2020, he even visited their programs in Ethiopia with his daughter, Grace.
“It’s hard. It’s hard driving down those roads and seeing the kind of poverty you see over and over again,” Duthie said. “You have to think, if we can impact one child, and one family, and then another Canadian impacts another child and another family, and one by one we tackle this, I think that’s – that gives you hope.”
Duthie is also an accomplished author, with several books on hockey, all crammed with the famous Duthie wit. His books include one on long time Ottawa 67s head coach Brian Kilrea titled, “They Call Me Killer: Tales from Junior Hockey’s Legendary Hall-Of-Fame Coach,” and another called, “Beauties: Hockey’s Greatest Untold Stories.”
Naturally, Ottawa is no longer home for Duthie, but it remains filled with great memories.
“It’s everything,” Duthie said. “It’s where I was born, where I grew up, where my career started, where I met my wife…it will always be home, even if I don’t live here anymore. I will champion and defend this city as long as I’m alive. It was the best place in the world to grow up, and the people here are the best. I miss it every time I come back.”
Soon enough, Duthie will be back at the TSN desk, often hosting Ottawa Senators’ broadcasts. And he’s optimistic about the Sens this season…well, cautiously optimistic.
“I’m excited for everyone here because these have been some dark years,” Duthie said. “And the fans here deserve a turnaround. I really love the additions up front. But personally, I’m still a little worried about the D. That would be the only thing that would temper my excitement. They need one more high end defenseman.
“Jake Sanderson will be really good I believe, but it’s a lot to ask for him to be great right away. And your starting goalie (Anton Forsberg) has had one good year (I like him though…he’s a battler). So I think they’ll be better, I think their forward group is really really good, and sure, they could contend for a playoff spot. But still a couple of legit questions at the back end.
“So optimism with asterisks would be my assessment.”
But the new hockey season isn’t quite here yet. So tonight represents a great opportunity for Duthie to squeeze what’s left out of the off-season – a chance to kick back and have some fun with old friends and family.
“(The Key to the city presentation) feels weird…but it’s a huge thrill,” Duthie said. “I’m really most excited about having a lot of old Ottawa friends, TSN friends, and family together.
“And the after-party is going to be great.”
By Steve Warne