Saturday Toronto Sports Media Wrap



Happy weekend!

Lot's happening so let's get this party started:

"Rogers Media laid off 27 staff at its English-language magazine publications Wednesday, a day after it announced 60 layoffs at its publications in Quebec."

Unfortunately, this is becoming all too common in the media world in Canada. While no specifics have been given, I am told that more layoffs are coming and that the #'s could be equally as big with the teams to be effected to be numerous. Sounds to me like Rogers is cleaning the house up big time before the new CEO arrives.


Another sign of troubling times as one the best in the business Cam Cole has agreed to an offered buyout from the struggling Post Media.


Meanwhile, on the upside…

This is fascinating news as the AthleticTO lands another well respected scribe to offer a subscription based alternative to newspapers in the world of sports.  Yanking Mirtle from the grips of the Globe sports is a big get and one that I am sure grabbed the newbie a ton of attention.

For those of you who haven't been reading the Athletic you are missing out. Mirtle joins Eric KoreenJohn Lott, Sean Fitz-Gerald, David Alter and others.  For a low fee, it's well worth it. Fresh content written by great writers.  What more do you want?

Speaking of David Alter, I think this article on Milan Michalek he wrote is without question his best work and the best article to appear on the site yet.  

Speaking of best. While most of the baseball world was fawning all over labor peace, Jeff Pasan over at Yahoo! threw cold water all over the high-fives:

"Because baseball is barreling toward a potentially nuclear negotiation in 2021, when this current deal expires, that could see a confluence of factors – massive revenue increases, a growing chasm between big and small markets, continued international strife – lead to a far more tortuous and torturous path toward a deal."

Ben Nicholson-Smith has been on the radio quite a bit talking Blue Jays these days.  He's getting better and is fun to listen to.

Did you hear (or see) Brian Burke in Toronto this week?  The former Leafs head hauncho was at his media best.  First ( I think) with Leafs Lunch and then with Andrew Walker.  You can listen here

Congrats to TorontoFC on making it to the MLS Cup.  Can't wait to see the Toronto/Seattle final. It has special meaning to me personally.  I'l admit it.  I've been to two TFC games in their history and a handful of Sounders games since their inception.  A soccer fan I am not, but I have been watching and cheering on the Toronto team- call me a bandwagoner all you want, I will admit it.

Tons fo credit to the fans and media who have loved and covered this team through some lean years. It's great to see.

"Why are things so positive on your website?" I've been asked recently…

Simple, Blue Jays 2x in playoffs, Raptors advancing in playoffs, Leafs tanking and drafting right and now TFC in the finals.  The media don't have a whole lot to bitch about these days which makes their jobs and therefore ours much more interesting.

Once and for all can we agree that there is nothing wrong with being a CFL fan.  What I find offensive are those who think that they need to defend or even recruit others to the game.  It's totally cool to the rest of us that it's your thing and you love it.  We respect that you do; now leave us alone.

If you build it they will come.  Not so much with the Argos eh?  Steve Simmons who was a season ticket holder this year at BMO is the one of the only mainstream scribes who wrote a non-technical piece on the Grey Cup.  When Steve goes, so to will print media coverage of the game in Toronto.

"It’s an awful feeling going to a game that everyone else has skipped. You begin to think you’ve lost touch with your neighbors and their tastes. It makes you feel uncool."

I am old that the article which contained that quote from Cathal Kelly was viewed as being overly negative by industry types, especially those at TSN.  Cathal hit the nail on the head.  I guess the truth really does hurt.

On many occasions I had a debate with Nelson Millman about the future of sports radio and the lack of young talent on air.  The problem, Nelson would tell me, is that the kids today don't want to put in the effort to work in smaller markets to get trained to work in larger markets.  One look at how lousy sports radio is in Edmonton and well, Nelson once again you were right. Imagine a station of full of Russics.

Back to print for a moment.  The Toronto Star, amidst it's own layoffs is looking for a sports editor.  Allow me to get on my soapbox and throw a name into the circle (not that one that matters reads this).  The best candidate for the role is former Globe and Mail sports editor and Yahoo! Sports Canada GM Steve McAllister.  The guy ran a print department and now an online department.  Get the union issues fixed and hire the right person for the gig.

Speaking of Yahoo! It sounds like it's game over for several of their Canadian focused sports blogs.  If that's the case, that's too bad.

I have no clue how the Toronto Raptors TV crew is viewed across the league, but I'd put them up against any team doing play by play in the NBA.  Fun, informative and just downright entertaining night in and night out.

Curious, are you watching more Rogers hockey because Ron is back hosting?  Didn't think so.

Did you hear Doug MacLean this week on the firing of Gallant in Florida?  More importantly did you read Mac on Twitter?? Raw passion.  We need more of it.

Here in the USA the American's just celebrated Thanksgiving.  In that spirit let's hand out the turkey award to without question the worst sports tweet, perhaps EVER!  I mean really.  If there was a contest for such a thing, this one wins hands down, game set match:

I'd like to think there is some degree of sarcasm here but I am pretty sure there was none.  Comparing a 108 year old drought in MLB to 40 years in the CFL, where the team was defunct not once but 2x???????? You have to be kidding.  And by the way, yes I hate the Ottawa Senators with a passion but I have nothing but respect for their suffering fans winning the Grey Cup.  I think it's great.  Comparing it to the Cubs??????




Scott MacArthur has been getting some radio time and big kudos to him for landing the big fish, Bob Elliott on TSN Radio. Elliott has been a long time guest of one Robert McCown and landing the Canadian Hall of Famer on TSN is a big deal.

And finally, on the topic of Elliott.  Please add in your questions for ask the MSM here Bob's going to answer questions from you and me on all things baseball, Blue Jays and Tom Cheek too!!


Happy weekend.




turkey photo from here

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December 3, 2016 4:54 am

Thanks for another great read . Unfortunate  to read of all the the continuing  loss of jobs in the media especially at this time of year, and trend doesn't look like it going to slow down anytime soon. Looking forward to your interview with Bob Elliott , always enjoyed this baseball writing and his radio interviews.

December 3, 2016 9:31 am

If some at TSN are angry at the Cathal Kelly column about the Argos and CFL, it can only be because they're the last ones to finally understand the situation that has been plainly apparent to everyone else in the GTA for many years. No matter how hard they try, people here are not going to buy what they're selling. 85-year-old Ethel from Saskatchewan has a better chance of getting the grand-kids to like her favorite big band swing music.

On the tangential topic of some leagues or teams believing their own lies (along with a few delusional fans somehow thinking they have to go along with being cheerleaders for the business they do not own), isn't it about time for teams to quit the silly practice of announcing game attendance, or at least for all the rest us of to completely ignore them if they continue? Except for the teams who sell out every game, they all lie, and we all know it. About ten years ago a San Diego columnist got hold of some supposedly confidential MLS documents that hilariously recorded in great detail how much each team was lying about attendance, even after counting the large number of tickets they had given away.

I mention this because the Argos were the ones who were the most ridiculous at this in Toronto in recent years, claiming numbers that looked to be 4 or 5 times more than were actually in the building, as opposed to the others lying by maybe 20 or 25 percent. I'm not sure who they thought were fooling, other than maybe potential sponsors? But when you saw sponsors for CFL games on TSN in recent years such as Safeway, Robin's Donuts, and Humpty's restaurants (all western Canada chains who do not exist in Toronto), I assume they knew the reality.

December 3, 2016 9:39 am

CFL fans hate the perception of the league as "small time". However, their eternal vigilance against any minor slight, be it media or fans, is part of what creates that perception. If a columnist, particularly a general sports guy like Arthur, Simmons or Cox, criticizes the CFL the fans go nuts. Call them haters, part of the problem, American "wannabes". They expect only positive coverage.

Imagine if hockey fans did the same thing every time a writer criticized Bettman or the league in general. Every day we hear about the lack of scoring, teams that need to be contracted, etc. Fans expect it and rol with it, and pile on. It's fine. CFL fans are just different. I've always been a CFL fan but prefer the NFL. Say that to a CFL loyalist and it is like saying "I'm a devout Catholic, but I also participate in satanic rituals and black magic". 


December 3, 2016 9:55 am
Reply to  Mullah_Kintyre

I believe Bob Mackin in Vancouver used FOI to find out actual attendance at BC Lions and Vancouver Whitecaps games. BC Place is owned by the province which made it accessible through FOI.

December 3, 2016 10:34 am

I don't watch more hockey because Ron MacLean is back but I do yell at the TV less. MacLean is a better hockey host. GS is great at other things.

Dustin Neilson and Wil Fraser host a more entertaining morning sports radio show than either sports station here in Toronto. I listen two or three times per week. Sure it's juvenile but as an Oilers fan I find I get a lot of good info/perspective on the team — and I always laugh out loud. I would take Neilson and Fraser over Blundell any day. As for the Kadri tweet, even Leafs fans have wanted to run him from time to time. And in another not-so-long-ago era, Kadri would have been pummeled for physically agitating Connor McDavid. In fact, I think the Oilers need to ask why he wasn't.

Rogers keeps missing some on-air people during its quarterly purges — and these folks would make two or three times what print people make. 

I hope @TheAthleticTO does well. Some quality people there. 

As for Cam Cole, he spent 41 years working as a sports writer. He was great at it. But let's not lament his buyout. That's a solid career. Most writers never get near 41 years. 


December 3, 2016 10:55 am

Am I watching more Rogers NHL since Ron has returned as host? Actually, yes.


Let's not pretend here.


The Strombo experiment was a disaster in many ways and this column happily reflected viewers disdain on a number of occasions. To purport now that viewership has barely moved or that the previous host was not the problem with the broadcast the last two years is nonsense. It is a far better presentation than it was since Rogers took over and leaps and bounds better than when CBC held the sole rights. 

WestDale Rocks
WestDale Rocks
December 3, 2016 11:10 am

I believe Naylor's point wasn't to compare the two championships, rather to point out that, to not win a title in an 8 or 9 team league for that amount of time is a highly inordinate amount of time, bordering on the bizarre.  It wasn't 40 years—more like 26 years because the city's CFL teams were either defunct or suspended for 14 of the 40 years.  But still….if you subscribe to the theory that even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in awhile, not winning a single title in 26 years is truly bad luck + bad management.  

December 3, 2016 11:43 am

Add me as another person who watches more hockey again now that Ron is back.  The presentation is much more polished, professional, and less gimmicky.  Seeing old footage of Strombo talk or standing around with a hockey stick still makes me cringe.  Talk about a failed experiment.  But if the point trying to be made was that ratings haven't moved with him back.  Well, this same column also said it had to do pretty much solely based on the fact all the Canadian teams were poor.  The Leafs are better with some of the best young talent in the league.  The Habs are better.  The Senators are better, albeit likely overachieving.  The Oilers have the best young talent in the league.  The Jets themselves have some exciting youngsters.  Yet the needle isn't moving.  So I guess that theory should be thrown out of the window as well?

The Athletic.  I still don't understand why or how they are going to get people to pay for it.  It's not like these writers increased readership at their respective papers before.  But we'll see.  It's an interesting case study.  

I've wondered if Steve Simmons would take the buyout from Postmedia.  No word as of yet, so I assume no.  They are > < close to shuttting the whole thing down.  

By all accounts Chris Zelkovich's column has been affected by Yahoo's decision.  It's a shame because he was a must read for those who wanted to see the weekly ratings landscape in the country. 

December 3, 2016 12:22 pm

Should the CFL just give up on Toronto? I don't know.

In terms of actual flesh-and-blood market, a.k.a. butts in the seats, leaving here probably wouldn't hurt the league all that much. But with so much control of national advertising dollars based in Toronto, there's always been an argument that an on-field presence here, even a marginal presence, is key for the league coffers.

Question for any PR pros and media buyers out there: Does having a team in Toronto in any way lessen the likelihood you'll attach your brand to the CFL? 

December 3, 2016 3:08 pm

Nice post, TSM. Good points!

That Naylor tweet was truly insane.  I doubt this was his intention, but it makes it seem like TSN is pumping the CFL's tires too much (as Rogers is often criticized for with the Jays).  Comparing the Ottawa CFL drought to the Cubs?  I doubt even the most hardcore Ottawa football fans think that.

Good point re young broadcasters.  I remember in the 90s, it seemed like The Fan had a lot more going on in evenings and overnights.  So many young guys who are now fixtures in the industry were on at weird times, doing (sometimes) weird/out there shows, trying to find their voice.  Game with Strombo and Marek obviously springs to mind.  Think that was on Fridays at 2am or something.  The Fan and TSN should loosen the reigns a bit in the unimportant hours and let guys try stuff out.  Would anyone really miss CBS sports radio?

As for the CFL.  I feel for Argos fans, but it really does feel like it's a franchise from the old days of Toronto, when it was a lot smaller and less cosmopolitan.  Especially with the recent TFC excitement, it really feels like the Argos are nowhere near the other 4 Toronto teams in terms of fan engagement or interest.  That said, if TSN/Bell feels it's best to prop that team up for TV reasons, then presumably the Argos won't be going anywhere.  I'm not a CFL guy, but I watched the Grey Cup game and thought it was a lot of fun – I think I would almost rather see the CFL look to teams in places like Halifax/Quebec City/ perhaps even smaller cities.  It just seems like that's where people really embrace it.

December 3, 2016 3:10 pm

TSM – you tweeted a  while ago you were hearing about changes with The Fan morning show.  Is that still a thing?

December 3, 2016 8:57 pm

I wouldn't say I'm watching more hockey now that Ron is back but I am watching the games only and skipping everything else on HNIC. Now if only they could get Hughson off the Leaf games on Saturday night we'd be in business.

Maybe I missed something but do we know if Dave Naylor is a Ottawa superfan? Might explain the tweet otherwise he's gone right into John Shannon realm of shilling for the CFL.

December 4, 2016 9:54 am

I agree with WestDale regarding the Naylor tweet. Naylor didn’t express this view in the best manner but if you consider the odds of a team going 40 years without a championship in a league as small as the CFL, such unlikelihood becomes relatively comparable, statistically speaking, to the Cubs’ own futility in a league as large as the MLB. Add to that the fact that the city went 24 years without a football team that even had a winning record, and it’s arguable that many fans had adopted the mindset that their team would never win it all within their lifetime, similar to cubs fans. It still doesn’t mean an absolute equivalence with the significance of a Cubs championship but the similarities are still more striking than they initially appear. I suspect that because such sentiment expresses additional praise for an Ottawa team is what makes it necessary for so many in the Toronto market to immediately dismiss it outright.

December 4, 2016 9:58 am

Sorry, should have said “mathematically speaking”.

December 4, 2016 7:45 pm

If you consider that David Alter article his best work then you must have low standards.  It's mostly quotes from Michalek.  It's the type of article that's printed in newspapers on a daily basis.


December 4, 2016 9:08 pm

What made you think that?

It might make for a good feature for one of the newspapers or neutral websites. It would take a lot of tedious work to produce one article examining the situation, but it would be interesting and attract readers. Have one or two people, maybe one on each side of the venue, with a relatively good camera that has an inconspicuous zoom lens go to an average regular season game (not home opener) for each Toronto pro team. Have them take photos of every section, maybe about a half hour after the game starts and almost everyone is in their seat. Later, have people go through the photos one section at a time counting the number of people in every section, add up the total, and compare it to the alleged official attendance that gets reported. After it's been done once for each team, put the relevant figures into a chart and write the article about who the biggest liars are when it comes to announcing attendance.

December 5, 2016 10:54 am

Worst moment of the week, Naylor and Feschuk engaged in a vigorous debate about baseball players holding out for a few extra million:

Naylor: That’s stupid.

Feschuk: No, it’s not stupid.

Best sports interview of the week was the Howard Stern interview of Lenny Dykstra though I don’t think he mentioned baseball once. Between detailed sex tips for Howard along with stories of his neighbouring cell mates in prison: a Mexican mafia leader who encouraged Lenny to read his first book and Micheal Jackson’s cardiologist who said Michael committed suicide, Lenny is a complete gong show. Fun listen.

Species 1967
December 5, 2016 11:18 am

I use GCL and I do vary my selection of feed from Sportsnet to the US side if available. I suppose I am a "power viewer" and not the typical hockey watcher, so maybe I don't move the needle much, but just yesterday the Ducks-Flames game had Colby Armstrong and John Shannon on for the intermissions and I flipped it over to the Ducks feed which was way better.

December 5, 2016 1:36 pm

Wondering is the loss of print jobs a reflection of the state of print and lack of original content or is it the digital realm that is much quicker to share the content?  I also wonder how far radio is behind print in these mass contractions if duality becomes the norm in radio?   


December 5, 2016 5:15 pm

Having Ron M. in intermissions and throughout game 1 on HNIC i much more preferable than Strombo ever was. I would rarely watch games when Stormbo was on the air no matter how good or bad a matchup was. Ron is infused with hockey knowledge and acumen and Strombo was put on the air to please millenials like those at tsm probably are.

Does TheAthleticTO have a web site and if so what is the site ?

December 6, 2016 9:11 am
Reply to  Pete

Where is this confirmation Yahoo is shutting down their Canadian blogs that everyone seems to be talking about?

December 6, 2016 9:13 am
Reply to  jackbee
December 6, 2016 10:54 am

Of course – me, too. However, I am less likely to put the mute on or change the channel or go into the kitchen when McLean is on as opposed to Strombo. That is really what I am referring to and I would assume that executives and sponsors would appreciate people paying attention to the broadcast between periods, as well.  

Thanks for responding!


December 6, 2016 2:04 pm

I'm watching more hockey this year but it has nothing to do with who is hosting.  I'm watching more because the Leafs are more fun to watch this year.  I would love for there to be an alternate feed where there are no hosts or PBP guys and its just the sounds from the rink.  I remember quite a few years ago when there was a strike/lockout at SRC (French CBC) and they broadcast the Saturday night games like this….it was amazing.

I've always wondered, are there any ratings numbers that compare WGR550 to the Fan590 or TSN1050 in the Southern Ontario market? 

Keep up the great work!!




December 6, 2016 3:04 pm

The CFL has a big city problem, and it's called MLS.  The league has clearly taken away the younger, hipster, cosmopolitan fans away from possibly going to CFL games. The excitement in Toronto for the TFC/Impact game vs the Grey Cup was a stark comparison to anyone paying attention.   The BC Lions are going through the exact same thing, albeit less drastic.  A winning season with exciting players on both offence and defense, and they couldn't get 20,000 fans for a home playoff game. 

This is not to say MLS is in the plum position though.  They have to deal with "Euro-snobs" who say they wouldn't be caught dead watching MLS vs the European leagues.  And just how engaged are fans with the league as a whole?  It's one thing to love the experience of the local games (I've been to Whitecaps and it is a ton of fun).  But can fans name a handful of players on the opposing team?  Can fans even name all the MLS teams?  Go up to random fans and ask them who won MLS Cup last year and I bet you most would draw a blank.  On the whole, ratings for the MLS are terrible in both Canada and the US.  Even if CFL ratings are down, MLS would kill to get the CFL's numbers.  So it's not quite true  that MLS has overtaken the CFL, but it is getting there, especially in the big cities. 

Original Mitch
Original Mitch
December 6, 2016 4:04 pm

I can't say I am watching MORE hnic since Ron has been reinstated, but I have found myself flipping and seeing Ron (with panel) and stopping to listen as opposed to continuing to flip channels when I saw Strombo. Ron is everything hockey: hokey, smallt-townish, genuine and old. Literally perfect for those still watching that sport (not to mention knowledgeable and imbedded). 

If George hosted some new music show and was suddenly replaced by Ron Maclean, the same thing would happen.

Order has been restored in the universe. Shame those at Rogers had to create a problem that never needed to be fixed in the first place. 

December 6, 2016 10:36 pm

Strachan’s twitter has jumped the shark.

December 6, 2016 11:03 pm
Reply to  dogpounder

Not sure what he said now, but it did a long time ago.

December 6, 2016 11:22 pm
Reply to  Pete

It's not really a case study. The Athletic has, by all accounts, done very well in Chicago. Newspapers are dying, and quickly. Besides the Toronto Sun, there isn't really a sports section in the city worth reading anymore, and at the rate Post Media is bleeding money, I would expect that to change shortly, too. People will pay (I have) for good content if it's at a reasonable price, which this is.

I'm not a fan of Mirtle, but his "letter from the editor" was good today.

December 15, 2016 11:33 am
Reply to  edge

You may be right.  It does seem like the CFL has taken a step back in the three cities that have gotten MLS teams.

MLS kind of occupies a similar space, as a summer time, slightly lower cost/lower profile league.

Certainly in our city, I think TFC passed the Argos a while ago.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x