Why the Leafs radio crew shouldn’t be stuck at home

It looks like the voice of the Toronto Maple Leafs will be making his calls exclusively from home. According to a report from Toronto Sports Media, Joe Bowen and Jim Ralph will be commentating on Leafs road games from a local studio, rather than travelling with the team.

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The Report

Multiple sources are telling me that the direct result of the Toronto Maple Leafs banning Bowen and Ralph from team charters (along with TV folks) is that the radio crew will be left to call the games from a studio, here in Toronto, watching on tv!!!

More at TorontoSportsMedia.com

A Bad Decision

When it was reported that the Leafs would no longer be bringing broadcasters along with them on chartered flights, I wasn’t against the idea at all. It’s a stupendously old-school move by Lou Lamoriello, but at the end of the day, if it eases the comfort level of his team in even the slightest regard, it’s a move that makes the team better overall.

I don’t, however, have good feelings about this side-effect.

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Admittedly, I’m not an unabashed supporter of Bowen and Ralph. I’ve dealt with them both in a professional setting, and they’re fantastic people. Bowen’s passion for the team and his long career as a broadcaster with the organization have made him just as much of a “face of the franchise” as any player, and deservedly so. Listening to his calls became a part of my childhood and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I also happen to think that the current head broadcasting duo of Paul Romanuk and Greg Millen delivers a better and more TV-ready product. So this isn’t going to be the “BRING BOWEN BACK 5EVA” post that you’ll see elsewhere.

But hey, somebody has to cover the games on the radio, and radio is a platform where emotion trumps finite details. It’s where Bowen started and where Bowen is best. I’m very content with him being on the radio. At the same time, I’m not overly content with him having to call the road games from television.

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As we all know, TV does an awful job of showing the “whole story”. You can’t see what’s going on in an area where the camera isn’t focused – if something interesting happens behind the rush, you’re at the mercy of the broadcaster to let you see it happen. You lose a step in quality.

As we all know, humans, by nature, feed off energy. There’s a different dynamic when you’re on the road and the team you’re covering is the “bad guys”, but an electric atmosphere or a deafening silence will come across in a broadcaster’s words no matter what the situation is. Now, you move Bowen from being above the crowd and the ice to a cold and dark studio downtown. You lose another step in quality.

As we all know, there’s a lot of information to be gained by being at the rink itself. You talk to a player or coach a bit before puck drop to see what’s up in their lives, hockey or off-ice. You talk to the opposition’s crew to learn a bit about the team in the other colours. You know what’s going on in the building where the game is being played. You can, in many respects, do these things from a studio, but it takes more effort for less detail. You lose a step in quality.

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Overall, a remote commentary is certainly possible, but that doesn’t mean that it’s the optimal choice. Jonah over at TSM estimates that it would cost Bell/Rogers approximately $200,000 to send the crew on the road without integrating them into the charter. That seems like a small cost to a company that owns the team. Even if there’s not as much to gain financially for them, there’s something to be said for paying for quality, and investing in the goodwill of the brand.

Besides, we’re talking about less than half of a league minimum salary, or three games of Dion Phaneuf’s salary. It’s a small cost to pay to make everyone happy.

In the meantime, it looks like Bonsie is taking things in stride. On the positive side, he’ll get to spend more time with family, and this probably gives him even more opportunity to tamper with Steve Stamkos’ father. For his sake, though, I hope the media moguls come to their senses and do the right thing for the fans and their own staff.

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  • Gary Empey

    A decision recently made by the Leafs I don’t agree with.

    I was also a Bowen fan as a child (despite not being aware of it), only until I noticed the difference between Bowen and others, and then last year when I barley heard him at all.

    He deserves better than this. Why would they reduce him to radio? Let alone not let him travel with the team anymore.

    Ugh. After his years of excellent service, just doesn’t sit right with me.

    • Gary Empey

      The Leafs didn’t reduce him to the radio, his employers did. The Leafs are simply creating a safer environment for the players. Think of the team charter as an extension to the dressing room and there are often times the media does not belong there.

      Toronto MSM media has not done itself any favours over the years considering the negative influence it has had on the team. I’m looking at you Simmons. And he’s not the only one. In saying that Bowen is one of the good guys and is an innocent casualty in all of this. But it is what it is. Until the MSM media can prove it can be trusted, this will be the way.

  • Gary Empey

    This is just another example of Bell/Rogers being as cheap as they can get away with. There is no real consideration for the fans.


    You mention in the article “Paul Romanuk and Greg Millen delivers a better and more TV-ready product.”

    The last game I saw them, I am sorry to say, was the worst TV broadcast I ever heard in a long lifetime of watching hockey.

    • Gary Empey

      What he said. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion but I’m pretty sure 9 out of 10 Leafs fans would prefer to watch the game with Bowen broadcasting instead of those two losers that are doing it now.