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Monday, October 20, 2014


In the booth, opening night at the Meridian Centre. Ed Burkholder (left) and yours truly (right)

Phew! That's all I can say after a whirlwind weekend that involved three games, two home openers and one arena opening.   Three hockey games, all with varying degrees of emotion had me drained by the time 10:00 Saturday evening. That was when I was officially done and could start to reflect on what was certainly not a routine weekend of broadcasting.  

The Meridian, by the way, is a spectacular building.   From the time that I first walked into it, I was awestruck by the obvious care that was put into the building as well as the quality of the work.   Blue seats provided a wonderful visual.  The private boxes were beautifully constructed and our broadcast booth, was everything we could ask for and more.   Yes, there was some grumbling about line ups to get in the building, what might happen if it gets cold and you're stuck on the bridge.  Some took to social media to grouse about the Draconian measures that had been put in place.  Note to those people:  This is a brand new spectator facility, not an aging cramped building that the Jack was.  It is run by a professional marketing group, who specialize in running arenas.  It's not that big of a deal to have your bag searched Outside beverages are going to be confiscated and no one wants to sit beside someone who reeks of smoke.  So you won't be able to leave the building to fire up a dart and hope to get back in.  Sorry.   

Now, that said, for people who specialize in running a building, and by default, customer service, they could use a lesson or two in terms of how to deal with people.  I will put it down to opening night angst, in which everyone was on edge and everyone wanted things to run smoothly.  Also, many people had a reasonable list of grievances, and those will be looked at.  It's all part of ironing out the wrinkles in a new building.  

On to the hockey.  The first night it did not take long to make history as Mikkel Aagard of Niagara scored at 1:32 of the first and we were off and running on a rollicking wild ride that saw the IceDogs win 7-4, almost coughing up leads of 4-1 and 5-2 in the process.

Here is how the first goal looked and sounded:  (and yeah, for some reason I got the poor guy's first name wrong)

 The sense of relief was evident by all, especially the IceDogs, as they had started off the year 0-6, and to have a loss hung on you opening night would have been a real downer.   The IceDogs would go on to win their 2nd game at the Meridian Centre, 4-2 over Sudbury in what was a far calmer night both on and off the ice.  Overall, hats off to all as the new barn is simply magnificent. 

I was at more familiar surroundings on Friday as the Hamilton Bulldogs opened up their 2014 -2015 home portion of their schedule versus the Marlies on Friday.   The terrifying catwalk journey has not changed, and I swear the floor was less stable this year than it was last year.   First Union Centre has added a couple of amenities this year with the advertising ring that was featured last year back in full force and apparently there is a new poutine place, and what goes better with hockey and $3 beer?   Naturally poutine was answer.  Arteries start your hardening! 5800 people were on hand for the Bulldogs/Marlies home opener and we all got a treat of seeing the new OT rules in full force.  Three minutes of 4 on 4 was followed by four minutes of 3 on 3 and both teams had the long change for all of the OT period.   Toronto and Hamilton traded odd man rushes, break aways, and the OT was wide open before Hamilton's own Spencer Abbot ended the game on a breakaway.  Unfortunately, the Hamilton native plays for the Marlies, but the faithful went home entertained by the new OT, which will hopefully see less of the silly shootout competition.   

Saturday's game, as I alluded to before, was a calmer affair than the sell out arena opening.   3900 plus were in attendance to see the IceDogs double up on Sudbury 4-2.  The Dogs are now 2-0 at home and 0-7 on the road, something the team hopes the hockey gods even out as five of those road losses have been one goal games.  A personal favourite part of the evening was when the Meridian Centre staff was dishing out free hot dogs post game as they had made too many.   I have learned two things about being with the media and being on TV.  One, wear make up as it takes the shine off your forehead (and I have a rather large forehead) and Two, never turn down a freebie of any kind!   

Two games later this week, both at the Meridian Centre on Thursday and Friday! See you then!
Steve Clark

Thursday, October 9, 2014


I had a chance to appear on a podcast called The Fan Boys the other day and had a blast doing it.  Listening to the whole podcast, these guys have something special and I am not saying this because I was invited on as a guest!

The two guys who host the show are what I would call legitimate, dedicated fans of the Ontario Hockey League.   They talk about the jersey's that they buy, and go around the league before their feature interview.   Sure, there is the odd blue language, and it's a bit off the cuff, but they are knowledgeable and both have supported multiple teams.  Steve MacLean, one host, was a dedicated Brampton Battalion fan, but switched his allegiances to the Guelph Storm when Brampton franchise took flight to North Bay. The other fellow was a Belleville Bulls fan, but now supports the Windsor Spitfires, and both knew their stuff and seemed to have an astonishing number of OHL sweaters.

Anyway's I had a blast, and I hope that they keep doing the podcast as it does serve as an alternative to what is out there.


  • I feel like I might be the only person in the Niagara Region who has not been inside the Meridian Centre, and chances are I will not until October 16th, when the lid is officially lifted for hockey.  All reports that I have read and pictures I have viewed have been extremely favourable.  Niagara hockey fans endured the cozy, quaint Jack Gatcliffe Complex for 7 years, so it is wonderful to see that they are proud of their new facility.   Anyone want to hook me up with Hip tickets?   

  • As a team, the Icedogs need to return home with some points after going 0-3 to start off the year.  No reason to sound the alarm bells, though there should be some concern that the Dogs had leads or were tied going into the third period in all three games, and have given up 7 third period goals so far.   Kingston/Ottawa and Belleville loom this weekend, and four points should be the goal

  • Congratulations to Red Deer and the CHL, as the Alberta city was chosen to host the 2016 Master Card Memorial Cup.  The CHL could have chosen the larger venue and population in Vancouver, but went in another direction.   I had blogged in the past that I thought the CHL was painting themselves into a corner by limiting the venues to large markets, and bigger arenas.  This in a sense re calibrates the process and shows the medium markets in the CHL have just as a legitimate shot as the usual suspects.  

  • Nothing wrong with sneaking in another cheap plug here is there?   the Hamilton Bulldogs will kick off their regular season on the road this weekend, and open at home Friday October 17th.  I, along with Norm Miller, Alex Maveal and the rest of the Cable 14 crew every Friday home game starting at 7:30 pm in HD.  The Bulldogs have come up short for the playoffs three years in a row, and look to get back into the post-season hunt.  That said, it was a great season for me personally last year, and I look forward to season number 2.  I will never look forward to the daunting catwalk clamber to the broadcast booth. You are just way too high above the First Ontario Centre man!

  • Rogers kicked off their 12 year partnership with the NHL in splashy style showing off their multi million dollar set, and cutting into the Tragically Hip's free concert down at Yonge/Dundas square.  The ref cam was a big hit, as was the cable camera in the 200 level.   I get the whole choose your own camera angle thing on NHL Game Centre, but I don't like too many bells and whistles with my hockey.   Rogers has not reinvented hockey broadcast but the changes that they have made and the camera's they have added were very, very good.  

  • When Rogers starts their CHL package in November, will fans get to see some of the different innovative production features, or camera angles?   Guessing that there will be a steady does of Connor McDavid this year on TV.  As a bonus, if you get McDavid, you also get Dylan Strome, younger brother of New York Islander Ryan Strome, and also potentiallylly a top five pick.  Crashing for Connor?  How about Sucking for Strome?!!

  • I think having Ron MacLean host Hometown Hockey is a great idea.  Though, well known, he has that touch of being the everyman, and the kind of guy you see at the bar having a beer who you could shoot the breeze with.  One quibble I have is that jacket he's wearing for the promo, which is from Roots and looks half-leather and half-denim.  Not even the early 90's are calling for the return of that fashion disaster!   The tour hits St Catharines December 12-14, and the IceDogs are home that weekend so it will be interesting to see what sort of cross programming we can come up with!

  • I am not sure I can take 82 separate autopsies on each individual Leaf game.  There are too  many post game shows, too much angst on Twitter and generally too much "fire the coach" "trade for a first line centre" for any game, let alone game 1,  Same should go for every fan of every sports team, even the IceDogs.  I know the natural tendency of the fan is to live game to game, and not look at the season as a marathon. Analyze the game, talk about the game, but do not start about jettisoning coaches, players, mascots (sorry Bones), broadcasters after one game.  
Enjoy the games and breathe a little bit.  It's early October, and the seasons run until March/April!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014


Steve, seen in this report, with an attempt at looking thoughtful, intelligent and articulate

More details coming tomorrow, but just to let everyone know that I have not abandoned the blog, life has become so busy between that other job I do, and being a good dad to my now extremely active and talkative three year old!

Here is what I have planned for the blog over the course of the season.  I really want to keep a good running documentation of my year in broadcasting, as well as making sure Junior and AHL fans get their team fix.

I have had it in my head to start writing a book detailing my climb up the ladder in broadcasting.  Of course, the last chapter, the move up to the NHL has yet to be written or will never be written.  Who knows at this point?  That's not glass half-empty thinking but there are factors beyond control at work out there!  This idea of kicking around a journal/anthology/book has been there for a while, I just need to get the kick in the ass to write about it.  The working title is Tougher Than A Two Dollar Steak. Now I just need to get Jim Ross to sign off me ripping off his signature catch phrase :-) 

So the blog this year will feature IceDog video highlights for sure, and a very short recap.  Not sure about Bulldog highlights because I would have to do all the editing myself and I likely will not have time.  I am also thinking of the odd audio/video blog/commentary, assuming I can navigate the technology.  I've seen the Apple Gigantic Commercial.  IPads, iPhones can do just about anything right?  

Expect there to be a lot more content on this blog, with a lot of variety!   Writing can be cathartic and it can articulate things in a way that helps clear your head or clarify a thought.  

You may also get some none sports blogs.  I am the combative sort, so if a controversial topic that is non-sports related becomes discussable, you will likely read about.  I will give a full disclosure on non-sports content, as I know its is not everyone's cup of tea!

Until tomorrow or Friday...

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Broadcasting Life...

Sometimes the life of a broadcaster trying to make their way to the elite levels sucks.   We are not unlike the players we cover, slogging it out in the junior ranks or minor leagues hoping for that call to The Show.I  love what I do.  THere is an energy, and an adrenaline rush whenever I enter a bulding to call a game.  I enjoy every thing about it, from the camaeraderie of the TV crew, knowing you are working together to put together a quality product, to interracting with the fans and the players.  That said, this off season, for me, was a  lot more frustrating than others.

  I applied for a number of NHL or network gigs, only to come up empty.  While the supply vastly outweighs the demand in broadcasting, every time you get that "thanks but no thanks"  it sticks with you and you start questioning the business, your broadcasting ability, and whether or not you fit in it.I am not full time in Sports Broadcasting.  I am freelancer, on the fringes, on the periphery- many different ways to phrase it, but I to do feel like an outsider to those who are full time in broadcasting.   

 I do not mind saying that at points this summer, I became greatly encouraged by the opportunities presented to me, but then quickly fell to the depths when they did not work out and at times felt quite in despair.  I take a fair amount of time away from my family for a modest financial gain over the fall and winter and began to feel really guilty that the time I was taking away was a result of a selfish decision to purse a dream I never had a hope in making happen.  Couple that with an extra long off season thanks to the IceDogs early playoff exit, the Bulldogs missing the playoffs, a and a late home start to the season this year, It gave me way too much time to think about where I am in my life and broadcasting career. Yep, that's right it got that profound and that deep!

  Fortunately I do have a wonderful support system in my wife, who always reminds me I'm in a great position and that there is a plan for me.  That along with this podcast helped crystallize my thoughts and gave me pause.   I realized that I had taken something that was a hobby and a passion and had turned it into something I could not relax and enjoy because I had not reached the summit, so to speak.  

Here is the podcast:  Sportscasting Challenges Podcast

This podcast really resonated with me and it came at just the right time.  Sometimes you feel like you are the only one in the business struggling and suffering, and in a sense it was good to know that there are other people that feel that way. You might think that the attitude of misery loves company is not the most positive one, but I prefer to think of it that I am not alone.  I had got very, very down on myself and began questioning the quality of my work. I thought that I had blown my big opportunity. In short, what was my hobby, had become not something I could relax and enjoy because I had not reached the summit so to speak. 

What did not help is that there were big changes in the sports broadcasting world.   Rogers getting the national NHL rights essentially decimated the CBC and while a lot of good sports people landed with Rogers, many others did not and are looking for work.   TSN/Bell managed to stay afloat thanks to their regional NHL coverage, but I have no doubt they took a hit as well.   In a strange way that made me really appreciate what I have right now.   

 I 'm now really looking forward to the season and what it could bring. I have not given up on that dream of reaching the elite, but have tried to focus on the present instead of dwelling on the past and looking too far into the future.  This year will be a big year in terms of my professional development and I will utilize to take chances, up my game and be the best damn play by play/on camera broadcast I can be.   The thing is, I will enjoy doing it and will not let where I am not in my broadcasting career bring me down.  Upwards of 47 mini road trips potentially await me this year, and that means a lot of drinking coffee on the fly and long work days as I segue from my day time "pay the bills job" to my hobby and passion.  

The one piece of advice that I have to remind myself of time and time and time again is that whatever your role is at games, be it fan, usher, coach, player, referee, off ice official, broadcaster, enjoy the game and appreciate where you are because that's what I'm going to do.  We're all in this together. 

Steve Clark

Wednesday, September 17, 2014


Image result for niagara ice dogs logo
Finally it appears that the exhibition season in the OHL is drawing to a close and the real games can begin.  I understand the need for exhibition season and training camp.  You want to get your team prepared for the season, assess your talent and start to ingrain the athletes that you have in the team concept.  It can however drag on a little bit.  Coaches have a pretty good idea of how they want to shape their roster, so someone really has to stand out in order to make the surprising jump to the squad.   

The IceDogs did the write thing by doing a mini barnstorming tour for their exhibition season and played in regional places like Thorald and Beamsville.   Hey, the new building has 5300 tickets to move! Getting out in the region likely sold a few more ducats.    Last nights game versus Windsor was a spirited tilt in which the final score means very little in the final equation (Windsor won 5-4 in a SO by the way).   Late in the third period, three separate fights broke out.  Twitter immediately responded , though I wonder if these following two tweeters were at the same game:  

Niagara IceDogs Twitter Feed: 16:15: It's getting a little wild now. Three scraps at once. Pandemonium.

St. Catharines Standard Twitter Feed: Stupid time. 3 fights break out at once. Nonsense. Quickly cleared up.

One sounds like legendary wrestling announcer Jim Ross, and the second one sounds like an old guy who sits grumpily on his front porch yelling at birds!

The IceDog fans showed they ability to do their opposition team homework as reports indicate there were a smattering of boos for Logan Brown, the hulking forward who chose not to report to Niagara and got shipped off to Windsor.  He won't get the Lucas Lessio treatment by Niagara Fans.  Remember when the agitating forward also did not report and then flipped off the fans late in a playoff game?  Now, those were good times!

The IceDogs have the luxury of a strong returning corps, so there are not that many spots available.  Remember this is a team that took the OHL finalists to seven games last year and had them down 1-0 heading into the third period of game seven before losing 2-1.  Expectations and hopes are rightfully high.  Combine that with the Meridian Centre opening, IceDog fans can expect some fine entertainment this year. 

We at TV Cogeco are anxiously awaiting the new season and how the new arena will look on camera.  Some buildings like Kitchener, Windsor and Oshawa look great on camera and in HD, while others like Mississauga, London look a little darker and not as TV friendly.  One thing that we can announce is that on Saturday night games, you can expect expanded coverage in the form of a half hour pregame show called End 2 End Rush.  Ed, Al, and I are will preview not only the game, but what is going on around the league.  You can expect something a little different from the norm, as we are all excited to share our knowledge, personality and expertise.   Personally I wanted to call the show either "Locker Room Towel Snapping" or "Puck Bunnies".   On a side note, does anyone have the need for a custom fitting bunny suit?  I only wore it on weekends, honest!

We will present a special Thursday night Edition on Thursday October 16th, the night the IceDogs open up the Meridian Centre for hockey with a game against Belleville.

Sportsnet360 did a fine profile on former Erie Otter/Maple Leaf hopeful Connor Brown. Brown, the former captain of the Otters was drafted a couple of years back by the Leafs despite an albatross-like -72.  Of course with the advent of analytics, that number has been dissected, trisected and analyzed six ways from Sunday.  Note the soothing OHL voices that you hear when they show some of Brown's highlights.  See I told you that Ed and I would be on Sportsnet someday! 

Until Next Time!!

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Broadcast Shuffle

Image result for Rogers hockey logoImage result for Rogers hockey logoImage result for Rogers hockey logo
Dangling on the periphery of the sports media business, I have a healthy interest in the comings and goings of sports broadcasters.   Broadcasters, for the most part, are not that dissimilar than players in regards to their goals and dreams.  They want to get to the NHL as much as the players do.   This off-season was one of the more fascinating ones in terms of the amount of movement of hosts, play by play broadcasters, and analysts.  Of course a large part of this was the gigantic 12 year deal that Rogers signed with the NHL for national broadcast rights.  Make no mistake about it, Rogers has a sizable task ahead of them.  They have pledged to deliver games nationally across multiple platforms like no other broadcaster before.  Plus they have the regional rights to Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Montreal, and part of Toronto's schedule.   

With that in mind, Rogers wanted to recruit the best talent available from a pool of on-air personalities largely derived from TSN, CBC and its own existing talent.   TSN fired the first salvo locking up much of its elite talent.  Gord Miller, Chris Cuthbert, Bob MacKenzie and James Duthie stayed with TSN and there was little doubt that had the aforementioned been available, they would have been coveted.  From there Rogers built up a strong on-air team.  Without going into too much detail (you can find all the personalities in this release:  HERE , Here is a list of main shuffling of talent with the odd commentary:  

Play by Play
While Jim Hughson and Bob Cole were given for Rogers, Dave Randorf and Paul Romanuk were somewhat surprising.   Randorf was the biggest talent to migrate over from TSN where he hosted the CFL on TSN and called Canadiens regional games as well as other World Tournaments.   To me Randorf works better as a host than a play by play guy, and I think he is a very good play by play commentator.   He is an outstanding host who controls the CFL Panel, while letting their personalities shine.   Romanuk is repatriated after several years in England where he dabbled in broadcasting covering hockey in England, calling the Spengler Cup every Christmas as well as penning a couple of books.   He used to be TSN's main broadcaster for the NHL and the World Juniors.  Credit to him for staying relevant after an absence of several years. He will call national games, as well as Leaf regional games.  That last move bumped Joe Bowen to radio only for the Buds, a move that drew something of a mixed reaction.  Many have a strong allegiance to the affable broadcaster, while others are not fans.   Joe Bowen in any medium is a good thing for Leaf fans.  He is close to reaching an iconic status reserved for the likes of Bob Cole, and Peter Maher 

Other regional changes included Rick Ball moving from Vancouver radio and Hockey Night in Canada over to Sportsnet where he will call Calgary regional games.  He is a very good get for Rogers as he has had national exposure and could slide into a spot vacated by Bob Cole, if and when he retires and would it surprise anyone to see the venerable broadcaster behind the mic for a few more years yet!?

Colour Analysts/Hosts/Reporters
Craig Simpson was a given for Rogers, given his long association with Jim Hughson. Glenn Healey whose style is not for some hockey fans also comes over.  I enjoy Healey's style and broadcasting but wish he would incorporate more of his dry sense of humour into his analysis.  Others flat out dislike the guy for some reason.    Gary Galley also was no surprise as he has been paired up with Bob Cole a lot in the past . Cole calls the game the old fashioned way.  When the play is on, the microphone is his, but when the whistle blows he defers to his analysts.   Galley, in particular has adapted well to Cole's style.   Mike Johnson, who seemed to show great promise with TSN last year as a colour analyst and panellist moves over to Rogers, likely in a similar role, though lots more panel work is apparently in his future.   Millen will call Leaf regional games with Romanuk. Kelly Hrudey, who moved upstairs to analyze games will take the regional colour spot alongside Rick Ball while Drew Remenda, late of the San Jose Sharks broadcast team, will occupy the regional colour spot in  Edmonton.  On the host side, much of the team was unveiled as the "Dream Team" but then Rogers added Leah Hextall, who was with NESN.  One wonders if she will carry over the combative nature that is symbolic of much of the Hextall clan. 

Loose Ends:
There were a few other moves that I may have failed to mention but those were the ones mentioned.  A few omissions from the Rogers team were Dean Brown , who likely goes to radio only for Ottawa, as TSN has their regional games.  Andi Petrillo is still with CBC, but with the Women's World Cup, the Pan Am Games and the Olympics in the next couple of years, she will be very busy.  Kevin Weekes was not listed among the Rogers talent, and I know he works with the NHL Network, but I'm not sure if that will be his full-time gig.  The only openings I can see are with newly signed Montreal regional deals and with Vancouver radio with the departure of Rick Ball.

On The Radio Side
I will be very interested in seeing how both The Fan 590 and TSN 1050 approach coverage this fall and winter.  Will The Fan go all in on hockey and use its station as essentially a marketing tool for its NHL package?  Will it continue to balance the coverage?   Jeff Blair favours baseball and soccer over hockey and Tim and Sid tend to bounce around a lot, but they do seem to focus more on football, basketball and games shows that are hit and miss!  That definitely could change.  Personally, the national package will sell itself.  People love their hockey and despite some of the grumbling you read about a monopoly on hockey by Rogers, they will migrate over and watch the games, especially if Rogers makes good on their goal of delivering unique coverage of the game.   TSN, I expect will stay the course, with perhaps more of a focus on their regional coverage by their resident experts Bob McKenzie and James Duthie.   

Enough movement for you?  Its been a while since we've seen a talent shift of this performance, and it was actually a little less than expected as TSN stopped any talent raid in its tracks with its signing of key personalities.    All eyes will be on Rogers as they have 1000 games to cover, over 500 on a national level, and multiple platforms to deliver to the consumer.   They have a whopping 39 people on their on-air roster when you count all the broadcasters.  The numbers suggest wall to wall coverage.  The placement of that talent will be something to watch.  Do Nick Kyreos and Doug MacLean get the main Saturday night games?   What about PJ Stock?    Darren Pang?  All questions to be answered come October..Stay tuned!

Steve Clark
TV Broadcaster Niagara IceDogs now in his 8th year.  Last year covered the Hamilton Bulldogs on TV as their play by play announcer. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

OUA/CIS Need to Raise Their Media Profile

Image result for sportsnet logoImage result for oua logo
It was reported late last week and in the most of innocuous of fashions that Sportsnet was going to significantly reduce their commitment to university sports just one year after unveiling their SportsnetU/University Rush line up.  Gone are the weekly OUA football games and other non championship games.  The spin is that Sportsnet is continuing their commitment to our unviersity athletes but only at the national level.  Only the Mitchell and Uteck Bowls and the Vanier Cup will be covered in football while basketball and volleyball will get only their CIS Championships covered.   A couple of things need to be clear here:

1. CIS sports is a very undervalued product.  Many CIS athletes will compete beyond their university days. There are many CIS pro's playing CFL football and even the odd NFL one.  Basketball players are making their mark in professional leagues overseas.   Countless others dot the landscape playing pro soccer , Team Canada Rugby..  The list can go on and on

2. The CIS also draws very low numbers from a TV perspective and in TV land the number of eyeballs pays the freights.  As the OUA ponied up a fair amount of cash to ensure football got on the air on The Score/Sportsnet, you can imagine advertisers are not exactly flocking to the product.

So there appears to be a disconnect between the quality of athletic competition and the viewership.  Why is this?   Well, as much as I hate to disappoint the plethora of loyal OUA/CIS followers, nothing has really changed since the 1990's, when I started to closely follow university sport.  It has never found a consistent niche in the Canadian sports broadcasting landscape.

My own involvement in university sport started in the early 90's at the campus radio station at McMaster University.   We covered mens' and women's basketball, football, even soccer and had a varsity themed show called The Midday Marauder Report created and hosted by myself and Ken Phillips, a guy who went from knowing nothing about women's basketball to being one of its most passionate advocated.  Heck, he even married a basketball player!  Two other guys, Paul Johnson, now working a high profile job with the City of Hamilton and Steve Yull,  a Hamilton elementary school principal were the other two who were pretty passionate about university athletics.  Together we traversed all Ontario and Canada for zero compensation except the odd plane flight and hotel room and covered the Marauders in Thunder Bay, Windsor, Halifax and later on I continued on and added New Brunswick and Newfoundland to the old travel docket.

 Before we start firing up nostalgia music from The Wonder Years, these were good days in university sport.  There was a consistent presence on TV in the form of the OUA/A Game of the Week on CHCH Channel 11 covered by a crew featuring Paul Hendrick, now with Leafs TV and Ken Welch.  Later on TSN Radio's Mike Hogan and Rogers Reporter Elliote Friedman would serve as play by play broadcasters.  TSN would pick up the coverage for the Vanier Cup and The Final 8 Men's Basketball, with a young Gord Miller (I'll never forget Miller alone in a Halifax bar smoking a cigarette and hoping to pick up. I do not know if he did, but I'm pretty sure I went home alone).

While the numbers were not mind blowing in terms of viewership, they were steady and thanks to CHCH. Athletes in Ontario got a fairly consistent profile and viewers gained a familiarity with the stars of the league.  Then CHCH stopped covering and that consistency in coverage, that vital link to the national championships disappeared and with it went the profile of OUA Athletics.  There would be sizeable gap in coverage until The Score picked up University football and some basketball with Tim Micallef and later Simon Bennett, both solid reputable broadcast voices.  Adding colour commentators like Mike Morreale, a McMaster and Hamilton Tiger Cat star and legendary basketball coach Ken Murray added to the credibility. 

Ok, history lesson over.  What's going on now?   The same issues that plagued the OUA continue today.   There are a small army of passionate fans who believe that the OUA/CIS deserves a higher profile. Trust me, I get it.  I was one of those guys back in the day banging the drum for them to get better coverage. Realistically to build big, you have to start small.  To me the OUA is more of a regional property that could build a modest audience at the national level at national championship time.   Build in your region, and get support that way would be a logical place.  McMaster has it right.  They get football games covered on 900CHLM, a solid local news/talk station, and on Cable 14 TV.  Now that it is in HD the on-field product looks a lot better.  The aforementioned campus station, 93/3 CFMU-FM also does a nice job and they get reasonable newspaper coverage.  It's a shame that the local TV station CHCH is unwilling to commit the dollars to cover games on a Saturday but their mandate has drastically changed and live sports are not a part of it.

That said the OUA could do themselves a lot of favours by appealing to the TSN's and Sportsnet's to come out and cover their athletes and teams  and do stories on them.   Carleton men's basketball humbled an NCAA school by 32 points and it barely caused a ripple.  The Canadian women's rugby team that just lost in the final to England was filled with CIS athletes.  Were there stories done on them?  If you are not going to get live coverage then make sure your athletes and programs are going to be featured.  Make sure that you elbow your way into those Sportsnet Connected, TSN Sports Centre highlight shows.  

The OUA is also going to pump their streaming service OUA.TV as a means to cover events live, which is great.  That said they had better make sure that the technical difficulties are minimal and the on-air crew are taking their job seriously.  It is not easy covering live sports as an on-air personality.  It takes time and repetition to stay on top of the game.   Putting forth an amateur production will turn off even the most die hard of viewers.   Make sure you are getting veteran talent to oversee these productions to make sure that they are getting communicated in the most effective and most commercial way.  This admittedly will take time so try and be patient.  While I agree that streaming is going to be the way he view sports, a lot of people still like their traditional TV.  Building an audience will not happen overnight.

Informing your target audience is key as well.   The OUA did a fairly significant realignment of their basketball divisions and playoff format for the upcoming year.  Did you know?   I did, but it was not publicized.  Little things like that will draw a little attention to your product.  Make more of a big deal of it and make sure that it is explained clearly.  The release I saw about the division change was not really crystal clear in terms of where each team was playing.  The AHL (American Hockey League) did a very good job of presenting their realignment in clear chart form with each teams logo highlighted. It was released across multiple platforms.  That simple thing did a lot to highlight the changes that were forthcoming.

If you do get TV coverage, make sure your venue looks as TV friendly as possible.  Nothing turns off a viewer like patchy turf, empty stands and substandard lighting.   I know these things take resources, but work hard to create a TV friendly product.   Make sure the TV crew has ample knowledge and then some.  I've gone to venues and received a great statistics package.  Other venues only give you the game day program.   The universities SID should be working hard and bending over backwards to accommodate media.  Also, present TV friendly games and tournaments.  Now that we are not getting our clock cleaned by NCAA competition in basketball, how about covering those games either live or getting a reporter out there to cover the team.    Change the playoff format to accommodate TV.  Do it in a tournament style regional fashion over a weekend.  I know these are not exactly out of the box ideas, but they could be workable.  

The one thing the OUA and CIS cannot control is the dominance that some teams have in their respective sports.  Its no fun watching blowouts whether it is in hockey, basketball or soccer.  Right now a lot of Carleton men's basketball games, Windsor women's basketball games and Laval football games are over before the game is half over.    40 to 50 point differentials are no fun to broadcast .  Teams will try and rise up and match the dominant program, but that too will take time.   Kind of tough to build that audience you so crave if your team is kicking the other teams rear end or you support the team taking the beating.  

On the whole there is a market out there for university sport, but it is not on the same level of junior hockey in terms of popularity.  It's a niche market that needs to grow at the regional level before it truly things national.

Steve Clark
Steve covered varsity sports for a number of years, and managed to hit Newfoundland, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and most Ontario Universities.   There is no truth to the rumour that bar revenue went up significantly when he was in these places.  That is purely coincidental.