First and foremost, it’s never a good thing when someone loses their job. Let’s make that perfectly clear.
Having said that, it doesn’t sound like Howard Berger is shedding any tears:
“I have absolutely no hard feelings,” Berger said. “After what they allowed me to do that last 20 years, I can’t criticize them.
“I didn’t understand why they didn’t want to make that investment any more, but that’s their decision.”
Berger said the move almost came as a relief.
“I don’t think it was a secret that I wasn’t happy the last year and a half or so,” said Berger, who joined the station before it moved to an all-sports format.”
Hat Tip to Chris Zelkovitch for that.
We all know however that Howard would only be honored to be fired though right?
Here’s my take on Howard, nothing new, you’ve read it all here before. Growing up a Toronto Maple Leaf fan Howard was the go to go guy for Leafs scoops. He was THE beat guy. Not only did he have the scoops but he also loved the team. You could just tell it. There were two guys who did and they wore it on their sleeves, Norm Rumack and Howard Berger. Rumack soured on the blue and white and no one really noticed. The tone in Toronto changed and Howard obviously felt he had to change too, he turned totally negative, sour and for the most part unlistenable. It’s as if someone told him he had to throw away the pom poms. I fondly remember him screaming into the phone after a Leafs GM (was it Quinn) wouldn’t address the media after a trade deadline day. It was all down hill from there.
Honestly, when was the last time the beat guy had a scoop? Curtis Joesph resigning in Toronto? Instead he became the lightning rod for leaf fans, at times taunting them.
Who can forget the glee from Leaf fans when Ron Wilson pasted old Howard:
In this past season you could just tell as Howard told Zelkovitch, he was miserable. Upset that he wasn’t traveling with the team he started taking photo’s of his television set. Despite being at Leaf home games, he wasn’t the one providing in game updates for a bit as we were accustomed to him doing. If nothing else it was apparent that he wasn’t pleased with his role in the new empire. Ironically enough it wasn’t the new Fan regime that reduced his role. Nelosn Millman is the one who pulled him off the road. Don Kollins just followed the trend. You notice who’s name Howard left off of his own eulogy though didn’t you.
Over the last year or so I was told from reliable sources that Howard was shopping his services. The fact he remained at the Fan either tells you that he is incredibly loyal or that he was unable to secure the same gig that he had elsewhere. 20+ years, ended so quickly. From this seat, his actions of late almost dared them or teased them to fire him. Given the track record it’s quite sad.
So, our namesake Jolly Jonas is the only Toronto Maple Leaf radio beat reporter right now. The bar isn’t exactly set very high is it in the radio game. (Oddly enough, I met a woman tonight with an 8 year old son named Jonah. When I told her my name was Jonah too, she said with total sincerity “I thought we were the first to pick the name”. Clearly she didn’t see the movie Sleepless in Seattle!).
Who will be TOFU (you know, Berger replacement) at the Fan? Much of that I believe depends on who owns the Maple Leaf radio rights next season. I firmly believe they will end up on Sportsnet’s Fan 590. If that does occur (blog coming), I think it changes the dynamic. Keep in mind TSN Radio will want it’s own Leafs beat guy too. Short list of names to keep an eye on include Elliotte Friedman, Jeff Marek, Tony Ambrogio, Alex Seixeiro, Dan Dumleavy, David Alter to name but a few.
As for Happy Howie. I wouldn’t lay odds on him getting another radio gig. He has his Eklund gig and has written for the National Post before. Perhaps he could get a writing gig at the Globe or Post. Hopefully for him he get’s another gig soon, Cliff’s party wouldn’t be the same without him.
Good luck Howard