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Wednesday, December 5, 2012


Marty Williamson probably is not getting much sleep these days, and I do not think it is visions of sugar plums dancing in his head or the impending holiday season that is keeping him up. 

Many CHL teams are in precarious positions these days, particularly if they have players who are deemed to be NHL ready.  There has been a sense of optimism around the collective bargaining talks that may lead to break through and a settlement.  If that happens, expect Dougie Hamilton and Ryan Strome to pack their bags and head off to their respective NHL teams.   Firstly, there is nothing left to prove for the two at the junior level.  Secondly, they are the most "season ready" of many of the players because they have been taking a regular shift and playing a full season when other NHL players have either been training on their own or playing in Europe.   Strome and Hamilton are ready to hit the ground running.  

Even if the lockout drags on, then Strome and Hamilton are earmarked for duty with our World Junior Team, and might be joined by Brett Ritchie whose stock has grown exponentially as the year goes on.  It could be argued that Ritchie could have the impact that Mark Stone had on the tournament last year.   

Regardless, the IceDogs are going to be shorthanded, and with the bulk of their offense coming from Ritchie, Strome, Hamilton, and to a lesser extend Mitchell Theoret, either the secondary scoring must step up or the IceDogs will be thirsting for goals.  

So Marty Williamson has a conundrum to deal with, regardless of the outcome of the NHL Lockout.  Does he add pieces for another run and risk leaving the cupboard barren for when the IceDogs when they enter their new arena?   Or, do they take a team that is solidly entrenched in a playoff spot in the conference and sell, sell, sell, therefore running the risk of a standings plummet, and a hasty exit from the post-season, should they qualify for the post-season. 

My prediction has changed from what I posted on Twitter yesterday, when I said that if the lockout persists, the IceDogs will keep all three players for a run.   There is too much reward to be gained for those three athletes on the trade market.  My thinking is that if the lockout ends, the Dogs will lose Strome and Hamilton and then will parcel off Ritchie for a 17year old and a host of draft picks.  If it persists, expect all or two of these valuable commodities to be moved, with an eye on filling a new building starting in 2014-1015. 

Easy for myself, and others to sit here and play arm chair GM, not so easy for Marty Williamson, whose phone is expected to be ringing off the hook come January.  

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


The first franchise domino to fall took place last week when Brampton Battalion became a M*A*S*H unit and mobilized to North Bay where a seemingly passionate fan base welcomes with open arms the repatration of an Ontario Hockey League franchise.  It was something of a no brainer, with all due respect to the loyal but small core of Battalion fans.  Economic sustainability simply was not possible with attendance eroding to the mid 1 500's.  Scott Abbot, the Battalion owner, should be credited by giving it the old college try, even though he ended up with a college level student debt!

The music maybe firing up again in another game of franchise musical chairs.  Several reports out the Hamilton Spectator have indicated that the new management team for Copps Coliseum may politely stiff-arm Bulldogs owner Michael Andelauer in lieu of an OHL franchise when it comes to lease negotiations.  Once again the Erie Otters have surfaced as the apple to the eye of the group that will be running Copps.  The Otters name first came up last March, and speculation was not quelled when the Otters used Ancaster as their training camp base this year.  Couple that with a very short two year lease at the soon to be refurbished Tullio Arena, and the Otters might be the next team to get Two Men and a Truck on speed dial.  There have been denials all around to the CBC Hamilton in recent article, but the speculation will not go away.  It was further ramped up with the recent announcement to build an arena in Laval that would house 10 000 people and a "professional sports team"   You do not need to be a charter member of Mensa to connect the dots.  The Bulldogs lease is up at the end of this year, and the building in Laval, championed by Habs owner Geoff Molson, is set for completion in 2015.  An AHL franchise affiliated to Montreal would fit in quite nicely in Laval.  A very slick unveiling ceremony was part of a report made by CBC Hamilton here.  

Smart money would see the Bulldogs play out their lease this year, and either pack up stakes, or sign a very short-term lease in order to transition to Laval.  This would coincide with the Otters team in Erie ending their lease, and if they do not sign a new one, then they are a free agent.   

Based on nothing but the reports in front of me it would not surprise me within to see an OHL franchise in Hamilton,and  an AHL franchise in Laval. I'm not sure the phrase "iron-clad" or "unbreakable" lease exists. 

I also think that there will be an NBL semi-pro basketball team in Hamilton too, but I'll save those thoughts for another blog.

Steve Clark

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


There was no grand ceremony, no "I'm taking my talents to South Beach" type Lebron-esque moment, not that would be his style anyways. A quiet disclosure to long-time basketball followers of McMaster University, a passing mention on a message board and a personal acknowledgement was all that marked the end of Victor Raso's basketball career in the Maroon and Grey of the Marauders.

Not much ink and publicity for of a valued member and starter of the team, and it was certainly understated for the fact that for this first time since 1991 the name "Raso" will no longer appear in the McMaster basketball program.

When you think of Joe Raso, you automatically think "McMaster Basketball"  He has left an indelible mark not only on the university, but also on the Hamilton basketball scene. Raso's imprint can still be seen in Hamilton area basketball with many former Marauders involved in teaching and coaching the game at all levels.   Son Victor became naturally interwoven in the McMaster program.  In fact often times you would see the whole Raso clan, along with Joe's now late Mother in Law Mary, front row Courtside at a McMaster game, clad in Maroon and Grey, cheering on the Marauders.  Practically born into the program, Victor became a fixture at Marauder games, making several journeys to Halifax for the national championships before becoming a teenager. As a young high school  athlete, Victor excelled not only at basketball, but also football, leading St Thomas More as their QB.  There was once a time that Victor would entertain the notion of playing university football at McMaster.  However, a conversation, ironically enough, with McMaster Football Assistant Coach Jon Behie, himself a two-sport star at MAC would set Victor's path in a different direction.  He quietly informed the young Raso that there was a pretty good prospect at Quarterback by the name of Kyle Quinlan ready to cement his place, and later his legacy behind center for McMaster.

Wisely, Victor set his sights on basketball.  There was even the thought of playing basketball at a place other than MAC along with good friend and current NCAA star of Baylor, Brady Heslip. The two had played for the respected Blessed Sacrament program for 13 years.    Brady would eventually head south to Boston College, and then Baylor.  The two remained close as Victor and Joe Raso were just nine rows up at the NCAA's last year when a legend was born as Brady dropped 9 three pointers on  Colarado helping set the stage for a Baylor run to the Elite Eight. 

Victor eventually would don the Maroon and Grey, showing the vaunted Raso passion and zeal for winning, while fashioning a good all-round game built around defensive intensity and three-point shooting . Then after his 1st year at McMaster, it all went sideways for the Raso family.  After 18 years on the job on April 26th 2010 Joe Raso was tersely dismissed by McMaster's new Athletic Director Jeff Giles who cited a decision to take the program in a different direction.   The dismissal stunned many in basketball circles, and became such a big story that Joe was interviewed on Bob McCown's top rated radio show Prime Time Sports. At the time he said

 "I got the corporate handshake,Eighteen minutes for 18 years. I was stunned ... they never ever told me I was in a trouble, I never had a performance appraisal during the season. I never had any reason to worry."

When Joe Raso was named McMaster Men's Basketball Head Coach in 1992, he succeeded Barry Phillps who moved to an administrative position in the Athletic department.  Joe was a natural fit for McMaster.  Hamilton born and bred, he was an OFSAA Champion with St Mary's High School, had just spent a year in his second turn as an assistant under Phillips and had ties to the program that dated back to 1980 when he was a student manager for Don Punch.  The affable, well-spoken coach with the easy smile demonstrated a fiery intensity that led the Marauders to unquestioned success, and earned the program a reputation as one of the elite in Canada, and while a CIAU, and later CIS Championship eluded him, his McMaster career would end with 440 wins,  6 OUA West Championships, 4 OUA Championships, 12 CIAU/CIS appearances and 4 CIAU/CIS Silver Medals.  

Faced with his father's untimely dismissal, Victor Raso was left with a difficult decision, and no one would have begrudged him had he chosen to leave the program.  After a period of reflection he made his choice.  

 "I decided that I loved Mac and that myself and my teammates had an opportunity to bring Mac back to the great program that I grew up with, so I stayed. "

What helped was that Raso's successor was Amos Connolly, a respected coach and teacher in the Hamilton. He was the Baskeball Director at  R.A. Riddell public school, an educational facility geared specifically towards developing elite local athletes.  He was also someone who served under Joe Raso as both a player and assistant coach. Connolly, along with former McMaster Assistant and current Windsor bench boss Chris Oliver were thought to be leading candidates for the position, and ones that would give the program the most natural transition during a difficult time.   

Playing for Coach Connolly was a good experience, one that I will definitely take many lessons from. As a team, we redeveloped some culture and we got better, and I had personal success as well."

During his time at McMaster Victor was named and OUA West All-Star, was among McMaster's leading scorers.  The latter part of the 2011-2012 season which was his third year,  would be marred by a concussion that cost him some of the season, returning only to play n McMaster's OUA Semi-Final defeat to the Carleton Ravens. Though obviously disappointed,  the loss was seen as a learning experience for a young program ready to take its place once again as the CIS's elite.  Victor Raso would have been in his fourth year this year, and likely a co-captain in 2012-2013. Instead, when he walked off the court at Waterloo, it would be his final appearance for the McMaster basketball program. The decision to leave the program that he loved and grew up with undoubtedly was an agonizing one for Victor: 

"I put as much into the program as you could ask from any athlete physically, and from a mental standpoint, I put more into that program then anyone should ask of an athlete... Combine that with all the stress that I felt from my unique situation at Mac, I made a personal decision to transfer. "

After making his difficult decision, Victor would take the time to personally reach out to the Courtside Club, a group of ardent, dedicated basketball fans and supporters.  They rarely miss a McMaster home game, even follow the team on the road, and regularly host post-game gatherings normally attended by the Coaching staff and members of the Marauders. . 

 "I wanted to reach out to them with the hope of maintaining our relationships, and thanking them for all they had done for me while I was a Marauder. " 

While Victor may be wearing different university colours in the future, there is no doubt that a large part of his character was defined at McMaster, and his desire is to remain close to the program.   

"I loved my teammates and some of those guys will be lifelong friends, and I really do wish the best for this team and the program and I will always be a Marauder fan. " 

To use cliched basketball pun, it is a slam dunk that the McMaster Hall of Fame will call Joe Raso's name sooner rather than later and his name will be enshrined with other great luminaries and McMaster citizens.  Three years might not be a big enough body of work to enshrine Victor Raso, despite the quality citizen he was for the program. However, the tantalizing vision of father and son hoisting the CIS Championship together will never be realized like it was for Ken and Scott Murray of Brock back in 2009.

Two indelible, permanent marks on the McMaster, and one family name that was a fixture since 1991  .However, neither Joe or Victor got the closure or exit they desired at the the end of their McMaster tenure.

Steve Clark

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


Very, very random stuff today on some of the things that caught my attention the past week, 
So fans and followers of the Niagara IceDogs, and owners Bill and Denise Burke can finally breathe a collective sigh of relief as the motion to pass the start of construction of a new spectator facility became a reality on Monday night by a decisive 11-2 vote.   It did not take a genius to figure out that had there no blueprint for a new spectator facility, fans of the IceDogs could have likely kissed their team good bye.  The Burkes, though deeply ingrained in the Niagara Region, are business people at heart and could ill afford to keep going at the antiquated Gatorade Garden City Complex.  The revenue streams, as well as the seating capacity were severely limited, and although many enjoy the intimate experience of an IceDogs game, for economic sustainability, well, there was none.   Now with 4 500 hundred seats to play with, along with all the modern amenities that $45M can buy, the IceDogs will be the anchor tenant, and now the potential arises to attract both hockey and non-hockey ventures.   Tires were kicked from the NBL of Canada, and it would not surprise me to see minor league basketball in the area in the next couple of years.  

My hope is that the arena resembles Sarnia's RBC Centre.  It seats around 4 300 people has ample concourse room, oval seating and an in-arena restaurant.  I'm not a huge fan of the U-Shaped arena, much like the one that Brampton has.  It has some very limited bench seating behind one of the nets and has a sort of "unfinished" look.   about it.  Regardless, the building is scheduled to open in September 2014, so IceDog fans will have endure two more years at the Gatorade Garden City Complex.  Good for the City of St Catharines for recognizing the need for the facility, and good for the Burke's who have worked tirelessly to ensure that the IceDogs have a regional focus, but with an eye on St Catharines as its home.  Good for Ed Burkholder and I, whose broadcast booth is quite generously a broom closet, and makes us look like the old guys from the Muppets heckling from the balcony when we are in it! 
I cannot say I'm truly upset to see Ivor Wynne Stadium close down.  After all, the stadiums' best before date had long past.   Now the city turns its eyes to the future and burning questions like where the Tiger Cats will play next year must be answered.  With McMasters' Ron Joyce Stadium seemingly out of the mix, options are limited to being Road Warriors for the whole year, or neutral sites such as the Rogers Centre, TD Waterhouse Stadium in London are also in the mix.  None of the options are particularly enticing.  Of course had Hamilton city council gone out on a limb and not built the new stadium where the old one was, we would not be in this dilemma. 

As for Ivor Wynne memories, I'm not sure I want to stroll down memory lane and talk about the guy who passed out in his own vomit during a game, or when I got a full cup of soda thrown at me.  My best memory was my first Ivor Wynne Stadium memory.  We got free tickets courtesy of 900 CHML's "Fun Zone", and also got lovely yellow and red toques to boot!  As we were new immigrants to the country from England, we thought that this was part of our "Welcome to Canada" gift package.  Though having no clue about the rules of Canadian football, a good time was had by all
The less said about the John Farrell affair the better.  I cannot be too impressed with a mine who pines away for another job for most of his tenure with the Blue Jays, and that is what John Farrell did.  He was a manager of middling skills, did not have much control of his clubhouse, and for a pitching coach did little to further the development of the Blue Jays young pitchers.  I would not say he mailed in his time with the Blue Jays.  That designation is reserved for the Detroit Tigers, whose effort and attitude on the grandest stage was deplorable and baffling to say the least.  When Game 4 ended, the team had the attitude of one that had dropped a mid-June contest versus the Kansas City Royals.   No wonder Jim Leyland went right down the tunnel as soon as the final out was recorded, and likely fired up a Marlboro light to ease the stress that clearly his own team did not feel


Sportsnet, who announced that they had purchased The Score a while back,  started dotting the "I's and crossing the "T's and have reached the home stretch on the sale.  The next question is what Sportsnet will do with the channel that they have acquired.  Conventional wisdom would suggest that with the new English Premier League deal struck by Sportsnet, that some of the games would be carried on the former Score.  They could also simulcast some of their radio programming there.    What I would like, and it likely would not happen due to production costs, is see the channel be something of an outlet for amateur sports such as the CHL, the CIS and CCAA. It would give university and college sport a much needed boost as it would be placed alongside the already high profile CHL.  Of course it's easy for me to spend other people's money and the production costs would be somewhat exorbitant for a venture like this and the advertising costs would not guarantee a profit.  Still, a man can dream...

'Til next time
Steve Clark

Monday, October 22, 2012


Deviating from the normal ramblings, it's time to focus on my hometown, which is actually Waterdown, though the exorbitant taxes go to Hamilton, and oh, it was a busy weekend if you were a supporter of Hamilton sports, fraught with both success, and a dash of frustration.    Hey, it would not be Hamilton if there was not a little frustration mixed in. Whenever I'm asked if I want the good news or the bad news, I always start with the good news.  So with that caveat in mind, here we go!

On the heels of their Vanier Cup last year, the McMaster Marauder football team completed an unbeaten regular season in the OUA as they dismantled the playoff bound Laurier Golden Hawks 43-0 at Ron Joyce Stadium.  Make no mistake about it, this was a score that flattered the visitors as the Marauders marched out to a 33-0 Halftime lead before letttng the second stringers usher home the victory.  The Marauders get a much coveted bye as they await their next opponent, which will be an OUA Semi-Final match at home. 

On a side note, kudos to my alma mater at McMaster, 93.3 CFMU-FM.   I do not know who the broadcasters are for the football game, but they are damn entertaining.  They are not the most polished broadcasters, but they took a good minute or two to make fun of The Score's on-air personnel and their dress code. I'm pretty sure they were associated with the team at one point, because they do know their football vernacular.  Oh sure CHML has the polished broadcasters, but give me the irreverence of CFMU-FM any day of the week!

Although the Hamilton Bulldogs only split their home and home versus the Marlies this weekend, their home opener drew a sellout crowd in excess of 9 000, and it was great to see a buzz around the Bulldogs again.   Hopefully the team can continue the momentum both during and when the NHL Lockout ends.   The team had a chance to strut their stuff during a Sportsnet broadcast on Saturday and will return home again this weekend.  The crowds this Friday and Sunday will be telling factors in momentum sustainability.  Another nod to the alternative broadcasters, as Cable 14 delivered a home opener on par with a network broadcast. This was no more evident than a rollicking beginning featuring the outstanding All About Maggie who delivered a very worthy opening, in the vain of Monday Night and Sunday Night Football who used to open with the now disgraced Hank Williams.  After that it was on to the smooth professionalism of Todd Crocker, Mike Fortune and Norm Miller whose presentation was "Easy Like Sunday Morning" to listen to.

Oh those Tiger Cats.  How can I lose thee game, let me count the ways?  In Henry Burris' return to Calgary, it was set up for a Tabby victory, with a chip shot field goal, all be it in less than stellar conditions.  However, sure-handed Andy Fantuz flubbed the hold, and the Stamps pretty much extinguished the play off hopes of the Cats with one that will fall under the category of "We'll take it!"   I feel bad for Fantuz, who is one of the best Canadians in the league, but unfortunately in my mind, he's become an adjective, as in "He really Fantuzed that up"   Ivor Wynne Stadium will host their last regular season game this weekend, and I cannot wait to see what the "Box J Boys" have planned. 

Steve Clark
Proud Waterdown-ite, and Hamiltonian

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


As the NHL Lockout lurches into its 3rd week, the punchlines are becoming more plentiful, the players are scattering for greener pastures, and what the NHLPA and the Owners are calling negotiations, others are calling a colossal waste of time and energy being devoted to such subjects as drug testing payment plans.  Man, even the elephant in the room has gone for a snooze.  

Meanwhile, as the NHL will learn, fans will find meaningful things to do with their time in the absence of NHL hockey.  Junior, AHL, and ECHL hockey will get a boost in live gate and eyeballs and earlobes watching and listening to their games.    Plus, other sports already more popular than hockey will help pick up the slack. The NFL, already a marketing machine, and the NBA, another hype built product, will gladly take their places on TV and in sports bars around North American.  Those leagues have already deftly negotiated collective agreements no one thought could be finalized in the time it took to put the old John Hancock on the contract and the NFL has already worked around a potential PR disaster with replacement officials.   

That said there is a surplus of people who are dependant on NHL hockey for their main source of revenue.  Sports bars will not fill up on Marlie game night the same way it would on a Leaf game night, so your favourite bartender and server will see a significant reduction in tips.  That friendly usher who greets you in Section 211 will see his hours cut, same for the concession worker who gets your beer and hot dog.  Those hardworking people who are behind the scenes have been laid off, or seen their hours cut.  This includes the likes of the Florida Panthers mascot, and what could be worse than a lonely mascot on a street corner looking for someone to entertain.  

For junior hockey, the era of uncertainty has begun.  Teams like the Niagara IceDogs do not know how long they will have the likes of Dougie Hamilton and Ryan Strome playing for them.  Those guys could be valuable  trade chips down the road, or valuable pieces as the IceDogs gun for a deep post-season run.   Other teams are in the same boat with their young talent.  Sure the game will be more star-driven and a little better, but these are athletes whose goals remain firmly on the NHL.  They can be forgiven if the shine has come off their game for a little bit.   

Meanwhile the hawkish owners under the guidance of their tiny mentor try and squeeze the maximum that they can out the players, despite the fact that the salary cap system they have in place was supposed to regulate the outlandish salaries.  Funny thing is, once these teams and owners agreed to the salary cap, they went out to hire a "Capologist" whose main goal was to manage, and apparantly circumvent the cap.  While the players have some of my sympathy, those who have selfishly gone off over seas and pushed a player away from a job, appear to want to have their cake and eat it too.  Brotherhood, it seems, is only good until there is gainful employment to be made in the KHL, or other European leagues.    

A third lengthy lockout in 20 odd years is well on its way to becoming the legacy of Gary Bettman.   The NHL sadly, cannot see the forest for the trees, and has failed to realize that leagues far more entrenched and successful than they are have managed to avoid major labour strife and have become better for it. 

The NHL, already on fragile ground, and with a tenuous fan base in some markets, risk the worst of all emotional responses, that being indifference.  Billionaires and millionaires fighting over profit do not seem to engage the average fan. 

Steve Clark

Monday, September 17, 2012


A quick a great response from my last blog, which was more personal than others.  Some may self-indulgent, and a tad maudlin.   I appreciate people reading and offering their commentary to me...

The Niagara IceDogs ended their preseason with a fourth consecutive victory, which was a 2-0 shutout of the Sudbury Wolves.  Bo Bessette and Marco Lizotte were releases, and the Dogs need to make a few more moves to get down to the required 20.  From this end, here is who I see on the roster, though I will try not to speculate too much on who may be let go because my sample size was limited to three games of viewing.  

Goalies:  Chris Festarini and Brent Moran (2)
Defense:  Dougie Hamilton, Jesse Graham, Brock Beukeboom, Shayne Rover, Luke Mercer, Broderick Kelly (7)
Forwards:  Ryan Strome, Steven Shipley, Brett Ritchie, Mitch Theoret, Carter Verhaeghe, Joel Wigle, Trevor Peterson, Anthony DiFruscia,  Brook Hiddink (9)

I've got two spots left over, and I know there are guys like Mike Robinson, Mitch Bursey, Brian Brosnan, Rio Anzolin, David Sysla, and Kopta still have their fates up in the air.   Considering that the IceDogs lost a lot of personnel from last years team (Mark Visentin, Freddie Hamilton, Jamie Oleksiak, Andrew Agozzino, Alex Friesen and David Pacan), they still have a solid core.  That said, once the lockout ends, Dougie Hamilton and Ryan Strome could leave a huge void.   The season starts Thursday September 20th 7pm vs Erie as phenom Connor McDavid makes his regular season debut.  TV Cogeco and the OHL Action Pack with myself, Ed Burkholder and Al Galloway will have the game starting at 7pm.

Those who stand to benefit from the NHL Lockout will be junior hockey and the American Hockey League, as they stand to get more media exposure and also quality of athlete thanks to the trickle down effect of NHL teams sending young talent down to the AHL to get them some reps, and a slew of junior age hockey players who will be returned to their junior affiliate with a decision to me made on their future when or if the lockout ends.   Sportsnet will increase their junior hockey coverage , and likely dive into the AHL for people to get their hockey fix.  That will give them a wider platform to play on.  Junior hockey already has carved out a nice audience niche with their Friday night games and stellar coverage of the Master Card Memorial Cup.  The AHL is another thing altogether.  Limited to local cable, or specialty networks like Leafs TV, the league has struggled to gain a TV foot hold.  Sportsnet did the occasional game last year, and the CBC broadcasted about 10 AHL games the year before, and then took a pass after the audience numbers were modest.   

Those who stand to lose in the lockout include administrative and office staff of NHL teams.  They will likely be temporarily laid off, or have their hours and/or pay reduced.   Arena workers from the guys who clean the ice to the person who ushers you to your seat and everyone in between stands to lose out on game nights.   Even broadcasters get the short end in some cases.  An article in the Vancouver Sun detailed that Canucks voice John Shorthouse will get paid during the lockout and likely will be assigned to other events, or shows, while Jim Hughson of CBC's Hockey Night in Canada says he will not get paid during the lockout, though I am sure CBC will find him a few things to do.   The people I feel for the most are the aforementioned office staff and arena workers along with bars and restaurants who derive a good portion of their income from the game night hockey crowd.   Sometimes I think the players and the owners need to get a visit from those workers in the background or at sports bars who derive their income from how busy a restaurant or bar is.  

While I tend to side with the players, I wish they would not do these little PR stunts to try and reach out to the fans, because I am not sure the fans really care.  They just want to see their team play, and seem to tire of billionaires fighting millionaires on how to dish out billions of dollars.   

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Back in July of 2011 I wrote a personal blog about the trials and tribulations of freelancing in the sports media business after I came across this quote by Scott Woodgate,  Vice President of News Information of Sportsnet:

Compounding the problem is the shortage of available sports TV talent. Hence the hiring of newspaper veterans such as Mark Spector and Grange. “A lot of the talent we have and that our counterparts (TSN) have comes out of the West, because the local stations there are still doing sports and junior hockey. Ontario's not. ... The new talent is harder to find in the East.”

I took it a wee bit personally as a guy from Ontario trying cover the same sports and junior hockey, all be it at the community television level.  I know that Mr. Woodgate was trying justify the continued hiring of newspaper veterans for his network to appear as both writers and "talking  heads" on Sportsnet Connected, Hockey Central and also as intermission guests/panelists on the many live broadcasts that Sportsnet does.    He was basically saying that he and TSN cast their eyes out West when seeking new talent, ignoring many of those in Ontario and all parts East.  I vividly remember not being really happy with this, because I worked had as a freelance broadcaster in Ontario with an eye on moving up in the sports world if opportunity presented itself and saw myself chasing my tail if an influential sports media member did not even really consider Ontario in terms of on-air sports talent.  

Now, while holding down the esteemed position of secondary school teacher (*pause* to duck rotten fruits and vegetables being hurled), I do my due diligence and try to seek out further opportunity.  I feel that I have to work harder than most in the sports media industry because I did not come from a broadcasting background, or any sort of journalism school.  I literally walked into my university radio station, fell on my face butchering sports broadcasts for a long period of time before finding out that I really liked broadcasting and that falling on my face countless times actually made me be able to string coherent sentences together in a conversational, somewhat broadcast-able way.  Alas, broadcasting was not exactly the top of the pay echelon and after a meandering journey through media relations and a disastrous and non-profitable turn in the film industry as a Booking Agent, I decided that teaching provided the safer financial alternative and thought I had left broadcasting behind.  That lasted about two months as when the opportunity presented itself to call more games, I jumped at it, and to make a long story short, worked my way from volunteer university radio to the CPSL soccer, to minor hockey tournaments, to Tier II Jr A and eventually to the OHL.  Next up, hopefully, is calling the odd AHL game.   

While I truly feel that I am self-made, the lack of broadcasting education has hurt me, as I did not do any internships, or get a chance to get a feel for the many other jobs available in broadcasting outside of on-air or play by play.  I'm not whining about my lot in life.  We all make choices, and decided to go away from the broadcasting route.  In fact, I had a chance to apply to journalism school, or Teachers College and chose the latter.  Probably should have hedged my bets with both, but that's water under the bridge  (holy cow, that was a lot of cliche's and colloquialisms! )

Right now I freelance both for two community television stations, covering the OHL, the OUA, and doing some feature reporting.  I have also decided to create, produce and host my own show, in the hopes that may turn into something down the road.  Of all the things that I have done in broadcasting, creating and producing four shows of The Broadcast Booth With Steve Clark is one that I wear as a source of pride. It's my name on the show, I put my stamp on it, and it sinks or swims because of me.  Hopefully there are many more shows to come. Diversity, it is hoped, will serve me well as I chase the sportscasting dream.  

The two things that I cannot change is the fact that I live in Ontario, or whether or not broadcasting executives respond to my rudimentary attempt at self-marketing because on-air positions are not always publicized. Therefore your best hope is to try and catch lightning in a bottle.   Guys like Joel Darling, Scott Moore, Rob Corte, Keith Pelley, Chris Hebb and Peter Papulkos are very important people in sports media and all have taken the time to respond to my enquiries, especially Joel Darling and Rob Corte who are patient and forthright with my numerous attempts to glean information or gain an inside edge.  I am not criticizing those who do not respond.  Cold e-mailing, self-marketing freelancers are not likely to be high on the list of "must respond to e-mail"    

The Ontario conundrum was further reinforced when I reached out to a LinkedIn contact from Calgary.   My sister-in-law and her family recently moved to Cow-Town, so I decided to cast my eyes Westward to see what opportunity was there.    As a family man with a young daughter my wings are a little more clipped when it comes to looking elsewhere for sports broadcasting jobs, but with built in family, and the blessing of my wife, Calgary seemed to be a viable alternative.   What my Calgary contact told me was that there was very little movement in sports broadcasting, and they looked to places like Winnipeg, Edmonton and other smaller markets.   So really, the Western/Prairie focus remains.  I won't call it a Western bias because that disrespects the talent that works in those areas, and are likely fully qualified for on-air sports positions.    

Basically, this leaves me at the crossroads of my broadcasting career.   I can continue to do what I do with the Niagara IceDogs of the OHL, McMaster University and with my sports show and hope that somehow my work is captured by the right eyes and ears, or I can accept that I have reached my pinnacle,  and be happy with the position that I attained because it is a solid level of broadcasting.  I am proud of everything I do on-air.  Nobody taught me how to call a game, show poise on-camera and develop a personality.  I feel that I am a better communicator because of the all the thought and skill that goes into a live broadcast, and truly feel that when it comes to applying myself to a higher level, that it is not fool's gold and I would not pale in comparison.  In short, I can look at the guys in the NHL and say that my skill level is comparable, and I would not look out of place.  Unfortunately, the skill level of sports broadcasting is high and the competition for those privileged higher positions at the network level is fierce.  

That said, I was in a great spot five years ago, as I was 35 years old and a TV play by play man in the OHL.  Now I am 40 and, while not in the great spot that I am, I'm still pretty good.  Young enough to keep the dream, but savvy and experienced enough to sound credible.   The glass half-full part of me sees the next level is the elite level, the one that I  strive for, and the one that will fulfill my sports broadcasting dreams.  The glass half-empty sees me as stagnant, stuck in the same position for the past five years and the glass ceiling appears somewhat impervious, almost bullet proof.  

A third option could present itself.  Years ago I The Toronto Star did a feature on me as a teacher/broadcaster chasing the dream (feature is:  here.   Chris Zelkovich, the fine reporter from the star asked me what I would do if there was no more broadcasting.  I paused for a long time before saying that I had not even considered a life without some sort of broadcasting.  It was kind of scary.  Not broadcasting would be like not having a piece of my soul, or losing a little spark or passion. 

That third option would be to push pause on broadcasting, and/or scale back a little bit.   I must admit it is getting a little tougher each time I drive to a game to leave the light of my life, my 15 month old daughter and wife and it is also not easy holding a full time job, a part time job, both of which depend on my ability to communicate to an unforgiving audience, while also trying to balance familial responsibilities.  

Option number three remains firmly in the rear view mirror right now, but I always assess things on a year to year basis, and will do so at the close of the 2012-2013 OUA, OHL, and hopefully AHL season, but there will come a time in which the third option moves from the rear view mirror to the shotgun position.   

That story is to be continued...

Steve Clark
September 11 2012

PS I teach Law and on September 11th always step aside from the regular curriculum to focus on that terrible, and tragic day from 11 years ago today.  While I try to capture some of the legal issues surrounding 9/11, the human spirit, tragedy and far reaching consequences always shine through.  Please take a moment and remember those who perished in 9/11 and those who continue to feel the crippling emotional and physical pain from that day.   

Thursday, September 6, 2012


The OHL is back in full swing, with exhibition games and the regular season looming in the next two weeks.  In fact, our 1st broadcast is tonight (Thursday) vs Erie at 7pm on TV Cogeco.   Broadcasters also have the scrape the rust off the vocal chords and get our timing down too!  I hear that we are going High Def in early October which is news that I greet with fear and enthusiasm.  While it is great to get that "big time feel" of being in HD, the reality of the situation is that I am not 100% sure that viewers are ready to see my visage live and in HD on your big screen TV's!! An extra layer of Pancake #5 may be in order.  

With the OHL starting, blogs should be increasing and there will be lots of highlights to post.   Looking forward to it.  

This is a tad off the beaten path, so to speak, but I could not resist, and I also have no idea why this got stuck in my head.  Michael Grange, the fine reporter/columnist on Sportsnet has been appearing on TV a lot, and I can't get the fact he looks like a curious amalgamation of Troy Aikman and Joe Buck of the NFL on Fox. 

Maybe I'm just way off base, but judge for yourself:  
Steve Clark
Michael Grange: 

Troy Aikman: 
Joe Buck: 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


Well, this news literally came out of nowhere, even though it was reported that a CHL Players Association was 14 months in the works.  However, for most of the players it came out of nowhere as many of them professed no idea that this was even remotely considered. 

As a full time teacher, I know fully well both the good and the bad of being a shop steward and a member of a union.   This idea seems, to me, a tad far fetched to have any real impact on a CHL player.  It is a well-known fact that CHL players are a source of cheap labour and the mechanisms of business have changed greatly over the years.  Some CHL teams play in state of the art scaled down versions of NHL arenas.  There is a national TV deal and a large number of regional channels has the CHL as one of the backbones of their programming schedule.  

Still, when I see the typical OHL owner I do not exactly picture a hand wringing Montgomery Burns or an arrogant Donald Trump standing at the bow of the ship cracking the whip against an exploited hockey player.  Yes, CHL players are compensated at meagre levels, one report stating that little has changed since Bobby Orr plied his trade for the Oshawa Generals.  Also, they are expected to be faces of the community, going to schools, open skates, and open practices, among other obligations.   All this is on top of attending school and practicing and playing 68 games a year.  It is a grind, but the carrot at the end is a chance to be drafted to the best league in the world or to continue playing pro hockey in one of the many other leagues around. 

Many players would give their right eye for that opportunity, regardless of the lack of compensation.   They accept the grind and in many cases embrace the limelight of being a minor celebrity.  What is not to like?   

I do think there is a role for representation in the CHL, but not as far reaching as a full-fledged union, more like an ombudsmen who could deal with issues on a case by case bases.  Plus, coaches and GM's already deal with media, agents, and parents.  Now you want to add a union to that? 

 Personally, I would like to the CHL address the following issues with its players.  Maybe it would not involve a full-fledged union negotiation, but certainly someone acting in the best interest of the players. 

- No trade during the school year for high school aged players
- A schedule freeze at final exam time (the last week of January)
- a raise in compensation from the reported $50 to $125 per week
- Some sort of financial incentive for participation internationally (World Jr , Hlinka) and also for other marketing purposes (Video Games etc)

It is a noble idea with the well-spoken bi-lingual Georges Laracque as the head.  I just cannot see a sustainable viability at this point.   

Saturday, August 18, 2012


Many people know that I am a full-time secondary school teacher, while broadcasting on the side (the official term is "freelance", but saying on the side makes it a little more mysterious).   The news has been full of the expiration of the collective agreement at the end of this month and the governments need to try and recoup some of a 15B deficit that they have rung up during their tenure.

 I know that I will go back to school in September and it will be "business as usual", though without an agreement it will be a little bit of a different atmosphere.  Teacher bashing has become a favourite pastime of many of the mainstream media.  I expect it from the anti-union right wing Sun, but not so much from The Star or the Globe and Mail.  Both of the latter papers have taken veiled shots at teachers from time to time and the comments sections have been full of vitriol against teachers and unions.  If that is people's opinions, that's fine as that it was a forum is for.  It is a tad misguided and I think that people like to believe they know teachers because they sat in a classroom for upwards of 13 years and were likely bored by some teachers along the way.

Also, lets face it, teachers have not exactly been portrayed very favourably in movies or TV.  For every "Dead Poets Society" and "Mr Holland's Opus" there has been "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" "Summer School", the list goes on and on.  TV is worse.  It seems that every teacher is either a stereotyped buffoon or nerd, or plot lines are spiced up with a teacher having a dangerous liaison with a student.  It's happened on Degrassi, Boston Public and shows like Mr. D and Saved by the Bell delight in lampooning the profession. 

I 've long since accepted that will be a wage freeze of some sort for the next two years, and I know that it is in the best interest of all to have a stable collective agreement, but it does have to have an element of fairness to it.  Time will tell I suppose. 

The NHL collective agreement has got my attention as well.   As an OHL broadcaster, I know that there are quite a few IceDogs who are anxious to get their pro-careers going. Many magazines have already tabbed Ryan Strome and Dougie Hamilton for the NHL already, while guys like Mark Visentin, Freddie Hamilton, Jamie Oleksiak, Alex Friesen and David Pacan are likely tabbed for the AHL, a league that will not be affected by the lockout and will start in mid-October. 

For the freelance (now I'm talking media, I will use the official term) broadcaster last year saw a ton of movement as teams like Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg, Phoenix, Washington and Calgary all saw TV or radio on-air personnel changes.   This year as hockey holds its collective breath, the same goes for the job market.  It has been very quiet in the hockey opportunity market as there is no need to expand on-air coverage, while there is no coverage to be had.

Again, settled agreements are better for the overall health of the industry and for this broadcaster, there is hope a settled agreement will catapult the search for fresh on-air talent!

Steve Clark

Saturday, August 11, 2012


It's the second week of August, so save for the trade embargo lifting on August 1st, these should be quiet days in the Ontario Hockey League until training camps open up later in the month.    That statement could not be farther from the truth as there are several pressing an issue casting a shadow over the Ontario Hockey League right now. 

$400 000, three first round draft picks and two second round draft picks.  Harsh justice indeed for the Windsor Spitfires whose player recruitment tactics were seen to be outside of the leagues rules for such a thing.  An investigation that began in 2010 concluded this week with Commissioner David Branch dropping the hammer down on the Spits.   Lots of speculation, and lots of people want names named, which to me speaks more to the curiosity factor or a zest to be in the know rather than anything altruistic.  Though this blog is not "traditional media", and not exactly the Washington Post, speculating, to me, would be foolish on this end.   You can probably do a little investigative research and come up with a short list of players worthy of scrutiny, but the bottom line is the league figures that they did their due diligence, while Windsor maintains their innocence.    I have no doubt that 19 other OHL owners likely did a very careful Q and A with the GM/Coach/Head Scout etc, and a forensic investigation of their roster recruitment.  Will there be more shoes to drop?   Not going to speculate, investigate or take an educated guest.  This is is a blog, and I'm a play by play guy, not 60 Minutes. 

 It has been a busy off-season in Windsor as there was already controversy afoot when all three of the TV broadcasters were replaced/dismissed/phased out/ going through a period of transition- choose your poison.   Dom Papa, Bill Kelso and Brian Trenholm are all not being welcomed back, with Papa and Kelso doing plenty of talking in the press about the process.  Regardless it appears that there will be a new crew in Windsor in the upcoming season. 

It has been no secret that fan support has ranged from sporadic to non-existent for the OHL in the GTA.  Both Mississauga and Brampton have had trouble sustaining a consistent fan base.   Mississauga has chosen the re branding route to dry and drum up support, as they are know the Steelheads. Brampton will know their immediate OHL future as of August 31st when their lease at the Powerade Centre is up.   Try as they might the Battalion have only drawn about 2000 fans, sometimes less on a nightly basis.  It is wondered if their owner is willing to absorb another lease of potential loss.  The Powerade Centre is more than a suitable OHL home, though with hard blue plastic benches behind one net, it does have an unfinished look to it.  Talk of a new scoreboard appears to have gone by the wayside, though I hardily doubt a new scoreboard will draw in the casual fan.   If the lease is not renewed days could be numbered for Brampton as an OHL franchise.   This would be a shame, as Brampton has had a number of very good teams, with Stan Butler as the constant.  He has been with the franchise as their Head Coach since Day One.   

With the former Tullio Arena, undergoing extensive renovations, the Erie Otters with phenom Connor McDavid in toe, will take their training camp on the road, eschewing sites such as Newmarket and Fort Erie, for, wait for it....Ancaster!  This may raise a few eyebrows as speculation had bombastic owner Sherwood Bassin kicking the tires in Hamilton as recently as May as he sought a new lease in Erie.  This was first reported by the Spectators' Scott Radley, a reporter not known for fiction, but rather a solid reporter who prefers to deal with the facts.   Now, the choice of Ancaster may just be convenient scheduling and a nice arena to work from, but the conspiracist may think there is more to the choice.   Irregardless, the move is a nice coup for Ancaster who will get to see the aforementioned David, author of over 200 points in minor midget last year and everybody's choice for the next big thing.   

TV Cogeco kicks of its broadcasting schedule for the Niagara Ice Dogs with Exhibition games on Thursday September 6 (Erie) and Saturday September 15h (Sudbury)  Niagara will get the first regular season look at McDavid on Thursday September 20th as Erie will be guests at Niagara's home opener.  

Myself, Ed Burkholder and Al Galloway are all back for our 6th season of home coverage.