Athlete, author, historian, broadcaster, orator, artist: a modern Renaissance man.
Brian McFarlane was born in 1931 in New Liskeard, Ontario, and raised in Ottawa. After starring in Junior A hockey, he entered St. Lawrence in 1951 and was a major factor in the hockey program’s rise to national prominence. Twice he led teams to the brink of NCAA championships -- an elite player who set school records: 101 career goals, ten career hat tricks, a trio of five-goal games, that remain unbroken to this day. Off Appleton ice he was a campus leader, a Dean’s List student – and the custodian of Spot, a dog who frequently accompanied Brian to class, and slept through lectures beneath Brian's chair..
Entering the field of broadcasting following graduation, Brian held positions with stations in Schenectady, N.Y., Montreal, and Toronto before joining the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s “Hockey Night in Canada” production crew, and served as color commentator, then program host, for the next 31 years, with additional time doing color with both CBS and NBC. During this period he gained international recognition and acclaim, and developed close friendships with many of the game’s greatest stars, including Ted Lindsay and Jean Beliveau.
He didn’t forsake his own ice activity, either, playing for 25 years as a member of the NHL Old-Timers, with teammates such as Maurice “Rocket” Richard, Norm Ullman and Bob Baun, and following that with years of informal recreational hockey.
When not on mic or camera, Brian embraced the writing muse that inhabits the McFarlane family -- his father Leslie and his sister Norah (SLU ’55) are also published authors. Over the years he has written some 90 books of fiction and non-fiction devoted to hockey, and established himself as the game’s pre-eminent historian. His works are must-reads for aspiring students of the game, and to anyone savoring its rich, occasionally sad, and often amusing social history.
Anyone who has attended a function at which Brian was an after-dinner speaker has probably not forgotten the occasion. His keen mind, sense of audience, timing and wit – to say nothing of his rich voice -- are still pure gold at the lectern.
These days Brian has re-focused with intensity upon a lifelong love: painting. As prolific at the easel as at the keyboard, Brian’s gift for color and capturing moments show up in fine landscapes, with pond-hockey appearing occasionally. He has exhibited professionally, and continues to impress in this milieu.
On his first day at St. Lawrence, Brian met a wonderful freshman girl from New Jersey named Joan Pellet. After dating during their college days, Brian and Joan were married shortly after graduation. They are the parents of Michael, Lauren and Brenda – both daughters are St. Lawrence alumnae -- and grandparents of six.
In 1995 Brian was elected to the Media Section of the International Hockey Hall of Fame. Already enshrined in St. Lawrence’s athletic pantheon, he is a worthy Legend of Appleton.