Tom and the Tea Cup game
Broadcasting has been Tom Larscheid’s cup of tea for almost 50 years.
That’s rather appropriate because I can recall in some detail the very first time I heard the voice of the loquacious, longtime Vancouver Canucks’ and B.C. Lions’ colour commentator. It was long before he became an icon of the airwaves. And it actually did involve a teacup, as will be explained momentarily.
This Thursday evening Larscheid will be bestowed with the prestigious Jack Diamond Sports Personality of the Year Award at the Jewish Community Centre Sports Dinner at the Hyatt Regency. And in September he will be inducted into the BC Sports Hall of Fame in the media category during its annual banquet.
Larscheid arrived in 1962 to play for the B.C. Lions, via Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he was born on April 6, 1940; then California, where he grew up from age 11; and finally Utah State University, where he was an All-American running back. But Larscheid found himself with a knee injury during the 1963 season, unable to play in that season’s Grey Cup and uncertain of his future in the game.
He did not play in 1964 and his attempt at a comeback ended permanently on July 15, 1965, during an exhibition game at Empire Stadium when his knee gave way as he was tackled by Calgary’s all-star defensive tackle Don Luzzi.
While out of action in 1964, Larscheid sometimes found himself behind a microphone, something he enjoyed right from the get-go.
On Oct. 29, 1964, he was the public address announcer at UBC’s annual Tea Cup Game, a powder puff football game – but with pads and tackling – between the Nursing Panhandlers and the Home Ec Homewreckers.
That’s where I recall hearing Larscheid for the first time. Each player was introduced by running onto the field as Larscheid announced their uniform number and name. Every now and then, he added something extra, like “Number 45, Jane Doe, phone YUkon 8-4302” or “Number 82, Mary Smith, 38-23-38.”
Of course, they were not the player’s actual phone number or… ah… stats. But the crowd – made up mostly of a testosterone-fuelled male throng of 4,500 or so – roared its approval.
Today Larscheid doesn’t remember giving those colourful introductions of the Homewreckers and Panhandlers which probably came off the top of his head on the spur of the moment. It’s a long time ago. He was 24 then. He’s 70 now and acknowledges those blatantly sexist introductions wouldn’t go over so well today. Times have changed, and we’re not just talking about those old telephone prefixes like WAlnut, HEmlock, REgent and MUtual.
The Tea Cup Game was then the centerpiece of a major annual fall event on the Point Grey campus, having begun about 1950. By the 1960s, the halftime chariot race between the Engineers and Sciencemen – complete with well-aimed smoke bombs and horse ‘water’ and ‘dirt’ from the agriculture barns – had resulted in the escalation (or perhaps deterioration would be a better description) of the clean entertainment value of the overall event.
But the girls were serious. They practiced and played hard. The Homewreckers won that 1964 game 13-0.
Larscheid continued to provide colourful commentary from that day forward. He soon caught on with CKNW, doing the football colour beside play-by-play man Jim Cox starting in 1965, the same year the Larscheids first took up residence on the North Shore. Except for 1969 when he did the grid games with Brad Keene, Larscheid worked the microphones with Cox until 1984 and thereafter with J. Paul McConnell.
For awhile Larscheid was doing both football and hockey. He’s probably best remembered as partnering with hockey’s Jim Robson (1977-83 and 1988-94), Jim Hughson (1994-99) and John Shorthouse (1999-2010). He also did games with Rick Ball and Dan Russell on occasion.
Larscheid and his wife Bernice lived a couple of years on Westview Crescent in North Van before moving to East Queens and then East Keith Road as their son Bob and daughter Candice were growing up. After another move to Lawrence Place in Lynn Valley, they relocated to Camelot Road in West Van.
Bob, who attended Sentinel, played hockey up to the midget level at the North Shore Winter Club, then junior with the Nanaimo Clippers of the BC Hockey League and college at Denver University. He now lives in San Francisco doing corporate real estate. Candice graduated from Carson Graham, went on to Capilano College and, despite cerebral palsy, has been an enthusiastic dancer in the arts scene with Vancouver’s Theatre Terrific. She still resides in North Van.
After Bernice died, Tom says he just did not want to live in the Camelot house with all its memories any more and moved to the West End. He married Lesley in 1994 and they now live in Richmond.
Would he do the broadcasting career all over again if given the chance?
“Oh, absolutely,” he says, leaving no doubt in one’s mind. “I’ve had a good run. I wouldn’t change a thing. I never really considered it a job. I enjoyed going to work every day. Every game is different from the previous ones. You never know what’s going to happen. That’s what’s exciting because my job as a colour commentator is to react to what I see and make opinions and observations about that.
“I always felt I was ready for a broadcast. Once I got into the booth and the red light went on, I just enjoyed myself and hopefully that translated through the airwaves. I tried to make it interesting. If it excited me, I wanted to excite them [the listeners]. I wanted them to feel what I was feeling. You know, you have to entertain.”
You’ve certainly done that, Tom, ever since that powder puff football game in 1964.
So now sit back, relax and enjoy that cup of tea in your hand.
UBC’s Tea Cup Game in 1964
This is episode 408 from Len Corben’s treasure chest of stories and photos – from the great events and the quirky – that bring to life the North Shore’s rich sports history.