Canadian sports broadcasters are still embarrassed after the pandemic


TORONTO (AP) — Radio broadcast crews around the NHL and NBA are essentially back to normal after a few years of pandemic-related challenges — with exceptions on the travel front and almost all in Canadian markets.

TORONTO (AP) — Radio broadcast crews around the NHL and NBA are essentially back to normal after a few years of pandemic-related challenges — with exceptions on the travel front and almost all in Canadian markets.

The Toronto Maple Leafs, Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks radio broadcast crews are not on hand for road games this season. The Montreal Canadiens’ English-language radio team also remains grounded.

Remote coverage that was previously a necessity due to travel restrictions has become the new norm for broadcasters who are told to stay home and call matches on the road from a screen.

“It’s not perfect, far from it, I’m a little embarrassed that we’re not there yet,” longtime Maple Leafs broadcaster Joe Bowen told The Canadian Press. “But that’s the situation it is. So we try to do our best in what we think are difficult circumstances.

In the NBA, the Toronto Raptors are also sticking to remote radio coverage for road games.

TSN, a Bell Media property, and Sportsnet, part of a subsidiary of Rogers Communications, shared radio coverage of the Raptors and Maple Leafs. A Sportsnet spokesperson declined to comment while a TSN spokesperson did not return messages.

Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Ltd., the parent company of both teams, declined to comment.

“COVID has presented many challenges for the league, including our broadcasters,” said Gary Meagher, senior executive vice president of NHL communications. “While 95% of our broadcasters are back to calling matches in the arena, we know that the handful of radio teams that are still calling matches remotely are providing their fans with the unparalleled professionalism they have come to expect.”

Meagher said Ottawa, Winnipeg, Edmonton and Montreal (in French only) were the four Canadian teams that had radio crews on site during road games. He added that “a few” US-based crews provide radio TV simulcasts for on-the-road shows.

In the NBA, Jim LaBumbard, the league’s senior director of basketball communications, said 28 of 30 teams have radio crews on site during road games. He said the Orlando Magic – who also use simulcast – are the only US-based team without a traveling radio crew.

Broadcaster Paul Romanuk, who has called hockey and Raptors games during his career and made remote calls for Olympics coverage, said a remote radio team is limited in its ability to provide the best possible product.

“You can’t look at the bench and see if a player is in pain after blocking a shot,” he said. “You can’t see if a player has gone to the dressing room. You can’t see if the coach goes downstairs to speak with a player. You can’t see if a few players are mixing in behind the play. You miss all that.

“You might also miss the odd line change. You can’t do such a good job. You can’t be that precise.

Bowen, who has called Maple Leafs games for more than four decades, travels to the TSN studio in Toronto and the Sportsnet studio downtown to voice the games on the road from the same feed a viewer receives at home. home.

“It’s a challenge, it really is,” Bowen said. “In my humble opinion that’s not the right way to do it, but the powers that be right now believe – I guess it’s kind of a cost-cutting measure – so that’s what we’re doing and we try to do the best we can under the circumstances.

Radio crews feel the atmosphere when thousands of fans have filled a room and this atmosphere can be felt on the air. Interacting with athletes and coaches during morning skates or shootouts can also be invaluable for on-air story fodder and news nuggets.

“It’s a necessity to be on the road, it is,” said Paul Edmonds, who does play-by-play for the Winnipeg Jets on CJOB. “To do your job properly and then also to do it, I think with all the integrity you want to have on your show, broadcasters have to be on the road in my opinion.”

Many clubs allow broadcasters to join them on team charters. Other crews, however, must navigate commercial flights and potentially longer stays in highway towns, which can increase travel bills.

In Major League Baseball, the Rogers-owned Toronto Blue Jays used remote coverage on Sportsnet 590 earlier this year before resuming in-person roadside radio coverage for the second half of the season.

With the 2022-23 NHL and NBA seasons only a few weeks old, there may be changes to radio coverage.

“It’s sad because that’s not how it should be,” Romanuk said. “I think at the end of the day, in all of this, I think it’s the public who are most disappointed, whether they realize it or not.”

The Associated Press





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