Mal Isaac, a venerable mainstay in Regina sports broadcasting, died Saturday. He was 84.
He leaves behind his wife, Vivian, three children and eight grandchildren, whom he absolutely adored according to his son, Scott.
Isaac began broadcasting when he was 21 and worked at several outlets before landing at CBC Saskatchewan, where he worked from the 1970s to the mid-'90s.
Scott said he was aware of his father's career, but to them he was always just "Dad," and a great one at that.
He recalls his father taking him along to Riders and Pats games where he had the best seat in the house — next to his dad in the press box.
"You couldn't have asked for a better dad," Scott said in an interview with CBC on Tuesday. "[He was] just a genuinely nice guy that really looked after his family, and that was his main priority."
Scott said his father was very involved in his life, serving as his hockey or baseball coach for many years, and would even get in on the pickup basketball games that took place on the driveway.
His father faced considerable health problems throughout his life, but continued to thrive, Scott said.
Mal had his first heart attack when he was three and his sister was five. More heart attacks came after that, in addition to two quadruple-bypass surgeries and a heart transplant.
"Our family would like to extend a very special thank you to the numerous doctors, nurses, and medical staff that have been instrumental to keeping him with us all these years," his obituary in the Regina Leader-Post reads in part.
The outpouring of love and support in the wake of Mal's passing has been amazing, Scott said, and he wishes he could thank everyone that has sent a kind word to his family.
"It's a huge loss for us and for our kids and my sisters' kids as well. It's just lots to process," he said.
From an idol to a friend
"I was introduced to Mal long before he was introduced to me," Rob Vanstone, longtime sports editor at the Regina Leader-Post, said in an interview.
"As much as I grew up watching Ron Lancaster, George Reed, Dennis Sobchuk ... I grew up following Mal Isaac and his brother Dale. They are just a royal family of broadcasting in Saskatchewan."
Vanstone memorialized Mal in a column for the paper and said that the deluge of comments and memories really drives home how much he meant to the community in Regina.
Mal was a guy who seemed like he never had a bad day." - Dave Naylor, TSN journalist
Mal cared greatly for amateur and local sports, Vanstone said. He and Mal covered the Saskatchewan Summer Games in Melfort in 1988.
"From equestrian to tennis to baseball to softball, Mal was here, there, and everywhere in Melfort that entire week," he said.
"At that point in his career, it [would have been] very easy for Mal to say, 'OK, I'm just going to worry about the Riders, I'm just going to worry about the Pats, I'm just going to worry about the so-called big stuff.' But there was Mal, every day, moving from venue to venue to venue."
Vanstone said Mal and his brother Dale treated him with respect and kindness even when he was just getting his start at the Leader-Post, something that always stayed with him.
"People like Dale and Mal, they were mentors to me, they were idols and they became friends. It was and is such an honour," Vanstone said.
TSN sports journalist Dave Naylor knew and worked with Mal, too. Naylor was called to Regina from Toronto to fill in for the sportscaster after one of his heart attacks.
"He was always gracious, always helpful," Naylor said on CBC Radio's The Afternoon Edition. "Mal was a guy who seemed like he never had a bad day."
Naylor echoed Vanstone in saying that Mal was a champion of amateur sports in Saskatchewan.
"Mal understood what sports meant in Saskatchewan. That's something that until you live there [or] grow up there ... it really is a unique place when it comes to athletics," he said.