Toronto Sports Radio- A Review

A happy Sunday evening to all. I had a great time on the radio today. Murray and his crew were terrific. Little TSM and I enjoyed ourselves and I would love to do it again. Murray has promised me a copy of the segment and I will put it up as soon as I get it. For those of you who were kind enough to both listen and email me privately thanks for kind words, they are greatly appreciated.

With that review of my foray into the medium, lets switch gears and start to focus on the first media power rankings. Here is a review of the folks on the two radio stations that cover sports in the city:

On the Fan: Rick Ralph, Don Landry, Gord Stellick, Daren Millard, Nick Kypreos,Mike Brophy,Doug Farraway,Jack Armstrong, Doug MacLean, Bob McCown, Stephen Brunt, Jim Kelly, Roger Lajoie, Norm Rumack and throw in Eric Smith, Paul Jones, Paul Johnson, Sherman Hamilton and Jack Armstrong, Howard Berger, Rob Faulds, James Deacon and a myriad of regular guests(Dan Shulman, Rob Becker, Peter King, Brian Cooper, Jeff Blair, Richard Griffin, Bob Elliot, Michael Grange, Mary Ormsby, Keith Law, Iain Page, Gord Kirke, John Wells, David Shoalts, Glen Healy, Scotty Bowman, Jay Triano, Chris Schultz, Damien Cox, Elliott Friedman, Nick Kypreos, Pierre Mcguire, Adrion Smith, Eric Smith
On 640: Bill Watters, Darren Dreger, Greg Brady, Jonas Siegel, Andy Frost and their guests(Bob the Bear Cowan, Darren Dreger, Scott Morrison, BoB McKenzie, Christine Simpson,Brian Duff, Rob Higgins, Jim Ralph, Joe Bowen, Sean Baligian,
The first caveat is obvious, one is a 24 hour sports station, the other, well, it’s a talk radio station that does several hours of sports a day. The Fan is the measuring stick in this town. They have been here the longest, built an established brand and continue to create and host excellent programming. Are they perfect? Of course not. One of their biggest problems, in my opinion anyway, is that there simply is not that much to talk about 24/7. Having said that they do a damn good job filling the hours. I am not an Argo’s fan nor do i follow soccer or high school sports. I don’t bet on football either so there are times that I just have no real reason to listen. To either stations when those topics are being discussed.
I am not listening to the fan early enough to listen to Rick Ralph start the day, so I can’t comment on his show. I think he does a great job on his news updates though. Stellick and Landry, in my opinion are a big tease. They own the morning drive when it comes to sports. They are on a sports station but I feel that they do more sizzle and less steak. They don’t talk hardcore sports as much as they do hi-jinx. The odd joke or “bit” is fine. In my opinion it is just over kill. The John Gibbons, Ken Dryden, Vito from Woodbridge and the mind reader schtick are just lame now – again in my opinion. Their insiders can be great. When they talk sports they are terrific. The segments they used to do with Sam Mitchell were the best on the station. I could do without Kathryn Humphreys to be honest.

You listen to Mike Hogan and Mike Tooth, you can’t help but think these are two good guys. They love all things Canadian, junior and college athletics and of course the CFL. Unfortunately, and maybe it’s just for me, but, very little of that makes for interesting radio. Like I said, they sound like nice guys talking sports. They have some decent guests who seem to know a lot about the CFL and Canadian college football. They do get some good NFL guests as well, however I think I am the only sports fan in this city who is not enamored with Chris Schultz. From my perspective, he is way too technical and relies too much on that from his playing days. He too, seems like a nice enough guy, just not compelling enough to listen to. I find their hockey and baseball coverage lacking. They do spend at least an hour each and every week during the season on the Raptors and that is great to listen to. As I have said though, by virtue of not being an Argo/CFL guy there are at least 2 days a week where I will instantly change the channel because that is all they talk about.

The first daily battle starts at the noon hour. This is a war that is starting to get more interesting as the days go by. Every time Kypreos and Watters are on the tv together they look like they are going to kill each other. Watters the ex-agent, assistant GM, high school coach and color commentator vs. Kypreos the ex touch guy player turned analyst/insider. You can’t help but believe that they truly want to cream the other every chance they get and they go head to head on most days at the noon hour. Mallard and Brophy are there with Kypreos and a ton of quality guests. The one nice thing about this show is that it pretty unstructured. In this case it sounds like a couple of guys talking about hockey the same way we all do with our own friends. Brophy lost of respect from me this past week when he went toe to toe with Pat Quinn, tried to embarrass him and was wrong. Up the dial, you throw in Dreger and another great group of guests and you have a show that is quite good too. Dreger seems to the new(er) boy wonder on the scene. He breaks a ton of stories and where he used to have to sit in McKenzie’s shadow he has his own track record now and people look to see what he is going to have to say when a story seems to be breaking, if he wasn’t the one to break it. Kypreos is a little too pro-player and Wilbur too ignorant (I prefer bigoted but I am flexible Mike S.) and his anti-MLSE stance has just about run its course. Truth is, I try to listen to who and what each are going to be talking about on a given day and listen based on that information. If you don’t care about listening live then you can do what I tend to do and pick after the fact by listening in on the web late at night.
Doug Fairway is the Fan’s DH. I have no clue if this true, but I get the feeling that he is the go to guy at the fan. He does an admirable job filling in WHENEVER. He ihas some good opinions and I love listening to his sarcasm when he does the deadline show or other big event shows. I have never heard his 1pm show so I can’t comment on it.
The one show I really like on the Fan is Maclean who just needs to stop talking about his own wealth for a segment and Armstrong who seems to know his basketball (hell if I know) and makes a great effort to talk shop in all the other sports, including hockey. These guys work really well together, they get good guests and both bring unique perspectives to the events as they unfold each and every afternoon.
The big boys come out during the drive home show. As I wrote this past week, when McCown and Wilbur are ON their respective games, both are excellent. McCown with Burke this week was the best interview I have heard with Burke since he took the job. When Wilbur actually interviewed Collangelo and didn’t try to use jokes and innuendo to prove to his listeners how close he is to the guests as he usually does he proved to be a great interviewer. It was the first time I had heard that in him. He should go that route more often. The shows are very different if you think about it though. McCown is the host on Prime Time Sports. Kelly or Brunt (or anyone else sitting in as co-host) fill in with opinion while McCown leads the discussions and directs the show. On 640, it is almost as if Brady is driving the ship. That is not to suggest there is no deference on the air, it is clear it is Wilbur’s show (hell, look at the name). Brady is driving the show though; Brady leads the show through, calls, breaks, news traffic etc. He is the one who introduces guests. Neither format is right, but they are different. Kelly is McCown’s Ed McMahon, Brunt much less so. There is no real sense of that on 640. The guys disagree quite often and there seems to be a mutual amount of respect for the opinion of the other. To me again, it comes down to the guests. In this category McCown wins for diversity. Whom is best is based on opinion of course. Put Mckenzie on with McCown up against the combo of Dreger and Morrission on 640 and you have a pretty difficult decision. 2 nights a week McCown does round tables. I think the format used to be great. I am not overly fond of a lot of the folks who have been around the table recently. Nothing personal, but Rob Faulds, and Mary Ormsby just don’t interest me that much, and a result I seem to be flipping more often away from them as I did before. The same can be said for having Morrison and Dreger on every night. I know, this is a leaf town, and we all love to talk LEAFS, LEAFS, LEAFS…but I would like to have a little variety. As with the lunch hour, my listening depends greatly on who is going to be on the show (both hosting and guesting!) I look every night to see who was on the show I didn’t listen to and try to catch parts of what they put on the web.

There is no better interviewer in the game, in this city then Bob McCown. We all know if big news breaks in the world of sports McCown will have a take on it, and someone involved at a high level will be on PTS to talk about it. It’s hard to compete with that. When it is hockey related, especially the Leafs 640 is the place to go. Wilbur and Brady do a great job breaking down all things Maple Leafs. With Burke in town they are providing much more balanced opinions on the Leafs and despite the fact they are on each and every night, Morrison and Dreger have the league covered. I will take Jonas’s green-ness over Howie’s editorials every day. If Berger could just report on the facts he would be a good beat guy. Jonas needs to spend more time in front of the mirror and work on his own material.

After 7pm, I don’t listen that much unless I am in the car. I listen to pre, post and live games. If I have twitter on, the Fan does a phenomenal job keeping folks up to date as to what is coming up on the air. If any of the shows have interesting topics/guests I tune in. Norm Rumack (I know, I sound like a broken record)does get some interesting people on who just don’t get called upon during the normal business day. He is much easier to listen to know that he adopted a team other then the Leafs and his rah rah Syracuse is pretty funny. I will say this, I will take the personality of Andy Frost vs. Mike Wilner any day. Both guys have the worst jobs in sports media, taking post game calls. It has become more apparent that this has taken a toll on Wilner as he gets more crotchety each and every year. Frost seems to have the right demeanor for the gig and man no better a voice for radio exists in this town.
So, there you have it. A fairly comprehensive run down on sports radio here in Toronto. I am going to try to provide the weekly media power rankings. Everyone is fair game. Radio, TV, print, play-by play etc. So many of you send me clips, links and articles, I will need more of the same so keep em coming.

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The Meatriarchy
January 12, 2009 2:58 pm

Glad you liked it. Feel free to use it at will!!

January 12, 2009 2:30 pm
Reply to  puckbuddy

Wow, what an awesome response, thanks. If you notice, the praises I sing pretty much are attributable to the guests on the show.

“Norm Rumack? C’mon you couldn’t have taken a shot at Rumack? I have a rusty ballpeen hammer that is smarter than him. ”

Is a quote I am going to use from now on.

It is hard to disagree with your take on Watters. He used to be able to provide valuable insight. His name on the door helps, but I am not so sure how much value he adds these days with Dreger and Morrison. Having said that, he did a great job with Collangelo the other day.

I am still laughing at your Rumack comment….

Mike S
Mike S
January 12, 2009 10:26 pm

I always enjoy hearing and reading other people’s opinions on subjects like this……………I will post my own comments later tonight or tomorrow (I will try to keep them short but it won’t be easy)…………for now I will add two clarifications to what you wrote…………….Farraway is actually the sports director of FAN 590 so he is the boss of many of the on-air people we hear…………..the only reason why he has his own show is because they thought 3 hours per day was too much for McLean & Armstrong so they had an hour per day to kill after Swirsky left…………..also, Bob McKenzie does not appear on McCown’s show……………in fact, he hasn’t been on that show for many years……………however a few months ago he started showing up on Watters’ show once a week and Leafs Lunch once a week.

The Meatriarchy
January 12, 2009 2:19 pm

Wow. A couple of appearances on radio and now you are singing everyone’s praises!

You are right about Landry and Stellick’s over use of the comedy stuff – although their Kenny and Wajit bits were pretty amazing.

Toth and Hogan: yarghh. I used to actually switch from Hogan to the Fabulous Sports Babe when she was on a rival station.

Toth sounds like an extra from the Great White North. Just listen to him say “coach” sometimes.

And nothing worse than having him host his own show because then he will break out some maudlin topic like “what’s your best sports memory you shared with your dad” or some other saccharin tripe.

Toth’s best moment was tearing a strip off Corey Cross during the lockout which he now says he regrets because the owners hoodwinked him into thinking that the lockout was for the sole purpose of lowering ticket prices. Is he really that dumb? Really? No. REALLY?

Hockey Central at Noon is a brilliant program and easily goes toe to toe with the over used Waters up the dial. I secretly believe the show was created because of this post I did years ago:

Farroway at least is an unabashed leaf fan. However he pulls out the “planning the parade” chestnut so often you want to punch him.

MacLean and Armstrong are excellent. Their weekly segment with Pierre McGuire on Fridays is a must listen.

McCown is the most talented of all the group on either station. Trouble is he clearly hates some sports so much that it carries over into his broadcast (especially hockey) . Brunt and Kelly are tolerable on his show. The other “beta males” are painful. You get the sense that they are screened based on: slavish agreement to everything McCown says., and demonstrated lack of talent compared to McCown.

Norm Rumack? C’mon you couldn’t have taken a shot at Rumack? I have a rusty ballpeen hammer that is smarter than him.

Paul Jones: worse play by play guy I have ever heard in my whole 45 years on this planet.

Mike Wilner: I enjoy his call in shows with the fans because he makes the fans back up what he they say. You just can’t call into his show and say “so and so” is terrible if you don’t have the facts to back it up and we don’t have enough guys like that in this town. Want proof? Call into McCown’s show between 4-5 and pick the best performing Leaf player this season and say how much he sucks and you won’t get any push back whatsoever.

As for 640 Leafs Lunch is generally listenable especially when Dreger hosts. The addition of Bob MacKenzie is an added bonus. The evening drive show suffers when it wanders away from hockey content. The 6-7 hour featuring Scott Morrison is far better than the navel gazing that occurs up the dial at the fan.
I have said it before and will say it again Waters is the weak link on that show. They should try to steal Doug MacClean away and have him do the evening drive with Waters doing Leafs lunch. That would be awesome.

Mike S
Mike S
January 13, 2009 2:19 am

Here are my thoughts on this subject:

Let’s start with FAN 590……………..their weekday lineup from 6 AM to 7 PM is quite good but their weeknight and weekend personalities (ie: Rumack, Lajoie, Seixeiro, etc) are not very good………………Stellick & Landry are fun to listen to at times and they get pretty good guests, but I agree that most of their comedy bits aren’t very funny (especially those done by that Jeff Samut guy)…………the best morning shows seem to be when one of them (especially Landry) is away on vacation and someone like Friedman or Cox is the co-host…………..The Bullpen is a decent show with good guests………….I don’t mind Hogan and I can tolerate Berger but I can’t stand Toth………….it was a better show when they used to rotate Sportsnet people as co-hosts……………I like the noon hockey show on Tuesday & Thursday better than Mon/Wed/Fri because I really like Brophy and I am lukewarm toward Kypreos……………I don’t like Farraway so I don’t listen to his show…………I like McLean & Armstrong better than Swirsky because they have pretty good chemistry (radio shows always seem better to me when there are 2 hosts rather than one)…………… I mentioned before I like McCown’s show but it was better before it became affiliated with Sportsnet (there are many great guests/hosts who aren’t allowed on anymore because of that)………….I really like Brunt and I tolerate Kelley…………as long as McCown stays away from being a journalist (Sundin to the Rangers – oops) and stays away from the same tired issues (fighting in hockey, etc) his show is very entertaining………….most of the guests on his show are high quality.

Now on to AM 640…………..Leafs Lunch is a solid show……………Dreger knows his stuff and is a solid journalist………….I was surprised when he agreed to host because he already has a lot on his plate (I think he hosts the show from his house in Durham rather than from the downtown studio)………..Watters in entertaining on Leaf Lunch when he stays away from his biases………….and Jolly Jonas is a decent reporter but is too afraid to say anything negative about anyone………………at 4 PM Watters & Brady have a good show which deals with many interesting issues (mostly about hockey) that never even get discussed on McCown’s show………… is a completely different show than McCown but they are both enjoyable to listen to…………….Watters & Brady probably go overboard on hockey but sometimes that is not a bad thing……………….my main criticisms are Watters’ many biases (and how he feels the need to impose his political views sometimes) and Brady’s slagging of the competition when it is inaccurate or hypocritical……………many of their guests are great but others (especially Leaf players/management) are quite boring.

I guess my quest to keep this message short has failed miserably.

February 13, 2009 1:39 pm

Cool article and comments. A few of my opinions:

Note – I only listen to the fan, and listen to HockeyCentral and McCown religiously on podcast

Landry/Stellick – agree with get rid of the comedy, and some of the guest can be weak. Really look forward to the morning hockey insider.
Hogan/Toth – Don’t normally listen to. Hogan’s a good guy. Toth says something very interesting once every three months other than that he’s a total idiot.
HockeyCentral (I will not call it “HC”, unlike Millard) – really like the show, prefer Kypreos to Brophy. Kypreos I find better recently as he’s cut down stupid comments alot – once in a while is hilarious. Millard is a good host.
Farraway – fine, will not go out of my way to listen.
McLean/Jack – Ok, McLean is strong and I like listening to him but as mentioned above the “I need a job” type comments and related are really beginning to detract from the commentary. Jack is good too, not that big of a bball fan tho.
McCown – the reason I’ve really got into this. He is excellent… over time I’ve noticed some annoying tics (eg. slave to CFL) but otherwise very good and agree he’s got great guest. Couldn’t believe they got Tom Brady. Really like Brunt as he will go against McCown. Kelley is ok, maybe more experience will deliver more of a spine.

Since I’ve started listening to the Fan, I’ve really stopped watching McKenzie and Dreger – who are still very knowledgeable – but pompous windbags (esp. McKenzie) that take 10 sentences to say what could be said in 4. Though comedy gold was McKenzie calling Dreger “junior insider” on one of the broadcasts.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x