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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.