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Hockey commentator Bill Tonner dead at 86

Woodstock, Ont. - Bill Tonner, a hockey commentator and a former news editor at the daily Woodstock Sentinel-Review, has died. He was 86.

Tonner was the live commentator for CKOX radio for Woodstock hockey games in the 1950s and 1960s and covered some memorable moments, including the Woodstock Athletics' trip to Winnipeg for the 1964 Allan Cup senior hockey championship. Tonner died Saturday at his home.

``He especially enjoyed speaking with senior citizens when they had dinner at the Navy Club,'' his son Mark said Monday. ``He'd joke
around and tell stories on what it's like to be old.''

Tonner eventually made the switch from radio to print as a reporter with the Sentinel- Review and worked his way up through the ranks to become news editor until his retirement in 1981.

Whether it was in person or through his regular column at the newspaper, many remember Tonner for his sense of humour.

``We always had a fun time working together,'' said Walter Manning, who retired as a printer with the Sentinel-Review in 1996. ``The stories he used to tell kept us in stitches.''

Tonner described his column in 1996 in a special feature about the closing of the Perry Street Arena.

``My writing style was to always include some humour,'' he said. ``What I tried to do was write about what I thought and at the time what the people were thinking about on different issues. I guess it was my position to say the things other people wanted to say.''

Born in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1916, Tonner moved to Saint John, N.B., in 1924 where he attended elementary and secondary school.

He later spent 11 years as a sailor and, during the Second World War, was a gunnery officer on merchant ships.

After the war he went to work with a radio station in New Brunswick before taking time off to attend a broadcasting school in 1950.

After retiring from the Sentinel-Review, Tonner continued to write his column occasionally until he suffered a stroke.

Tonner was a family man, with eight sons and too many grandchildren to count, Mark said.

``It was pretty busy around Christmas time,'' he said. ``There was so many of us ... He was always proud of his boys.''

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