Death of a Sportscaster

Posted By: Mike Toth · 3/10/2014 11:03:00 AM

A few weeks ago, I had a meeting with a high-ranking Canadian TV sports executive.

I've already been black-balled by Canadian network television for, in the words of another exec I once worked for, being "too opinionated" and "hurting our brand" by critiquing events such as the Olympics and teams like the Blue Jays and Leafs. ("What does that leave me?," I asked the big boss man," Ripping the high school girl's volleyball team down the street?")

Anyway, having nothing to lose, I offered up an opinion on the current state of the Canadian TV sports industry.

"I've got no respect for the business any more," I said, "because it's obvious TV sports executives don't have any respect for it."

In other words, there's a good bet my balls will continue to be painted black.

But the latest example of the lack of respect I referred to?

Word that George Stroumboulopoulos is about to be named as the new "Hockey Night in Canada" host under the new Rogers NHL empire.  (And yeah.....good luck to Don Cherry wrapping his tongue around that handle, as Grapes has enough trouble pronouncing Dion Phaneuf.)

Apparently Ron MacLean, Cherry's long-time sidekick, will stay on in a reduced role. But the guy I really feel sorry for is my old Rogers Sportsnet buddy Daren Millard. I worked for over ten years at Sportsnet with Daren; a dedicated hockey guy and a very talented broadcaster. However, now that Rogers lands the big show, Millard gets the big snub. Sure, he'll still have a place on the broadcasts, as Rogers is spending $5.2 billion over 12 years to offer NHL action on a myriad of platforms. But it's typical of how shallow Canadian TV sports has become; putting more importance on making a big splash than rewarding solid broadcasters who have paid their dues.

When TSN was awarded the big NHL contract a number of years ago they also decided to go "outside the box" for their new host, hiring a female broadcaster from...wait for it...The Weather Network.

How did that work out?

Well, Linda Freeman was so bad during rehearsals she never made it to opening night. Instead, TSN was forced to pull James Duthie off its football broadcasts to jump into the NHL gig at the last minute. Duthie, of course, is an experienced and solid broadcaster and.....surprise, surprise...he proved to be a big hit.

Now, Strombo (my fingers are already tired from banging out his regular moniker) is obviously a talented guy and there's no chance of him folding in rehearsals. But his "Hockey Night" hiring sends a terrible message to Canadian sportscasters. For instance, I know a guy who has been paying his dues by doing play-by-play on junior hockey games way up in the hinterlands of Northern Alberta.

But the sad truth?

He'd be better off grabbing a job on The Weather Network, or becoming a MuchMusic VJ like our buddy Strombo. Speaking of weather, much is always made of Ron MacLean landing his "Hockey Night in Canada" post after starting out as a TV weather man in Red Deer, Alberta. A nice story, but there's a lot more to it than that. MacLean was also part of the radio broadcasts for the junior hockey Red Deer Rustlers, he's a veteran amateur hockey referee, and he honed his skills hosting Calgary Flames telecasts before moving to HNIC.

Strombo, on the other hand?

Well, he once worked as an intern at The Fan 590 in Toronto and, oh yeah.....he's a big Habs fan.

But, hey! Strombo also has his own talk show where this week he's scheduled to interview "Breaking Bad" star Aaron Paul about his new movie.

The bad news in the Canadian TV sports industry?

That's apparently good enough reason to hire Strombo as the new host of "Hockey Night in Canada".

And as I told Blue Jays TV host Jamie Campbell, another old Sportsnet pal, he'd better be careful. The way the biz is going if Ian Hanomansing suddenly develops a hankering for baseball, Jamie could be out of a job.

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  1. Wayne King posted on 03/10/2014 02:22 PM
    Right on the money Mike! Where's the experience?(definitely not in the"Hinterlands of Northern Alberta!;)
  2. Matt posted on 03/11/2014 07:47 AM
    " being "too opinionated" and "hurting our brand" by critiquing events such as the Olympics and teams like the Blue Jays and Leafs"

    I guess I have to be the fist to call BULLSH!T on this. You weren't fired for "too opinionated". I can easily name a half dozen on-air people at Rogers who have been highly critical of Toronto teams at times. You were fired for simply not being any good. Ratings suffered when you were on the air and with TSN 1050 being launched, the FAN couldn't wait around on the slim chance that you would rebound. Jeff Blair, who's in your old slot now, is pulling a higher rating so I think their decision proved to be the right one.

    It's not that you weren't given chances either, Toth. I remember when Nelson Millman used Bill Houston and Chris Zelkovich to float the idea that you would be the host of PTS once McCown retired. Boy, did he ever have to reverse course once listener reaction came in.

    So reader, keep in mind when you read this whiny rant that it comes from a guy who has yet to come to terms with his own failure as a sports broadcaster years ago.
  3. mike toth posted on 03/12/2014 10:23 PM
    Gee....doesn't anybody at Newstalk 1010 screen the 'comments' section? Seriously, you seem to THINK you know about my career.....Way too much, actually; you may be obsessed with me, in fact. Speaking of facts, I've never been fired from a broadcast gig in my life. You are, however, right about one thing......My blog is a little 'whiny'. But at least I have the guts to put my name and photo behind what I say, unlike a lot of internet trolls.
    1. Dirk posted on 03/16/2014 06:13 PM
      @mike toth Hey, ya, Mike
      Don't worry 'bout what that guy says...just keep reporting 'bout dem "Mighty Leafs" or when they're not doing so well...those 'lousy Leafs" and keep us sports listeners on the edge of our seats cuz he does not realize what important coverage you do talkin' about dem "Mighty Maple Leafs" or when they are not doing so well,,,'dem "Lousy Leafs." Hey Sports Fans! How 'bout 'dem Mighty Maple Leafs...or...Hey Sports Fans, How 'bout 'dem Lousy Leafs? Keep the good stuff comin' Mike cuz when the Leafs win they are "Mighty" and when they don't they are...well.."Lousy." This is excellent and insightful stuff better than what I can hear on CBC...Scott Regher only analyzes and offers interesting perspectives about our athletes and sports culture in general, but Mike...give us the scores and let us know about those "Mighty Maple Leafs" and "Lousy Leafs" when they lose.
    2. Matt posted on 03/19/2014 11:24 PM
      @mike toth My my, aren't you defensive? Calling for the censors to come in and protect you the first time you get challenged in this hardly used blog...
      How was that "way too much"? Any regular listener to Toronto sports radio in the last 8 years would know all of what I wrote. Or was that basically your entire life and there's nothing left to say? In which case, that's pretty pathetic.
      FACT: You were fired from FAN590. I know, I know... you'll try and say you were actually "bought out" or "contract not renewed" or whatever other nonsense spin you can come up with but everyone knows all that means is a face-saving way to say you were fired. Live with it.
      You would know a lot about trolling Mike since that time you trolled female sportscasters got you the most attention in your entire life.
  4. mike toth posted on 03/20/2014 02:16 PM
    Dirk.....Don't forget, I'm picking 'dem "Mighty Leafs" to go to the Stanley Cup final, where they'll lose to Chicago. As one of my biggest fans, you should mark that down for future reference.

    Matt.....Thanks for devoting so much time and energy to my "hardly used" blog . As I said before, you're obviously obsessed with me and my career. It means a lot because, as you mentioned, my outstanding broadcasting ability just doesn't get the attention it so richly deserves.
  5. Mike posted on 03/30/2014 10:16 PM
    I totally agree with Matt's comments, Mike. You know your stuff but your bobbing doll head and lame-ass attempts at humour were always so annoying. If you'd stuck to just doing sports, you'd probably still be on TV.

    As for Strombo, he paid more dues than most. He didn't just "intern" at the Fan but worked all manner of jobs including reporter, show host and producer. He was "paying his dues" on the all-night shift the same time you were probably taking off your make-up. So he knows his stuff.

    Your ignorance here shows how little you know the business.
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