Toronto Sports Media Generational Gap, NHL Media Rates & Give Huey A Break


I have a few favorite episodes of Happy Days the TV show. The first one is the Jump The Shark episode where Fonzie on waterskis attempt to jump a shark which is commonly viewed as a key moment for the show signifying that the show had been on too long- hence the name jumping the shark. The other is the one in which Fonzie admits that he can’t say the word wwwwwwrong. As in, I was wrong.

Well, I am here to admit that I was wrong.

Blinded if you will.

For months now I have been pondering the ever-evolving change in media. Clearly, with the spiraling of physical newspapers, the evolution of web content, the rise of podcasts with the downturn of radio things were changing.

I’ve noticed and written about the friction between the old school media scribe and the new form of writer. While not solely based on analytics, in hockey a clear change is the younger author who is data inclined as opposed to the older scribe who is, um, not so much. No, that’s not the only difference or change but it is clearly a difference.

What I’ve not given much focus on is the ever-changing attitude change in the audience. Dumb old me..

Maybe it’s just on twitter but the times they are definitely a-changing.

What used to be normal for the media to do, how they would report or what they would report on has evolved today as much because of the change in the audience as it has with the rise of a new(er) group of MSM.

The reception to the Auston Matthews COVID-19 test is a classic example. The most common battle cry on social media was about Matthews’ rights to health privacy. I have no interest re-litigating the issue on its merits but the reception of at least part of the fan base and MSM themselves was striking.

This continued after Toronto’s first play in loss when Matthews took to the stage for his media availability.

Simmons asked Matthews a question to which Matthews responded:

“First of all, it’s unfortunate I’m getting a question from you at this point, Steve, I just wanted to say that I didn’t appreciate the article you wrote about me a couple of months ago. I thought it was a bit unethical, to be honest.”

and then AM answered the question asked.

The response to the incident was typical of what I am now taking greater note of…

Not picking on this one Tweeter.. but that is the type of response that was littered all over twitter.

The old school fan/MSM noted AM using his media availability to address Simmons’s disclosure of his contraction of Corona following a “playoff” game as clearly within an odd time to doing so.

The newer (not necessarily younger) audience literally cheering AM on for doing so.

That led to an interesting exchange on Twitter between James Mirtle and Steve Simmons:



Twitter continues to make for great theatre between MSM for those of us who like this type of stuff…

BTW, Damien Cox has been on fire lately..

BTW, the Athletic has been running some great promotions and I urge you to subscribe. First, it’s phenomenal content. Mirtle, Kaitlyn McGrath, Andrew Stoeten, Blake Murphy, Eric Koreen, John Lott just on the Toronto side create some of the best daily content available. Mirtle’s Leaf articles recently are amongst their best. Second, it’s imperative that startups like The Athletic succeed. We here all too often of cuts in media, they were the only ones hiring before their cuts. So please support your local writers and stations.

So, what do I make of it all?

The voices of disagreement are very vocal these days. The attitude of the many is louder than ever before. Neither good nor bad. Just fact.

At the same time, the more experienced Twitter audience I used to love engaging with had a much better sense of sarcasm. The audience today has literally none and at the same time treats everything as a personal afront.

The most puzzling thing to me is that those with the loudest voices continue to follow those with whom they have the biggest problem with.

There are many media members (sports and non-sports) that I don’t care for their opinions (in twitter or any platform) and as a result, I don’t listen. I don’t get the idea of filling my feed or inbox with the work of those whose opinions I don’t appreciate or consistently disagree with. That to me is maddening.

It’s no different from those who read the columns here or follow me on twitter. There is no shortage of digital content available out there. IF you don’t like what I server up and I think I am pretty consistent why are you here?

So if you don’t like Simmons, or Cox or Arthur or whomever why are you ingesting their content. I get it, you want to watch a game there are only so many options as to who is on TV or on radio commentating. You are stuck there. But why people choose to follow, listen to or read content from those whose work they literally hate makes no sense to me.

As it does with so many things, the answer goes back to Stern:

I guess the easy solution is to keep monitoring the ever-evolving behaviors of both media and the audience. For those who keep coming back here for more, I’d be curious to read your take. Is it simply a change in the media landscape or is the audience evolving too?

So the other day prior to the start of the Leafs playin series I tweeted #freebobcole. As so many Leaf fans hoped, with the addition of Chris Cuthbert to Rogers Sportsnet, Jim Hughson would return to the western coverage while Cuthbert would take over the Leafs. Nothing personal on Hughson, but IMHO despite the audience size he does not do his best work while doing Leafs games. My tweet was as much about that as it was for lamenting the fact that I miss hearing Bob Cole call games.

Several people responded to my tweet with comments like, “Cole makes too many mistakes”.

Well, there we were when this happened:

Now, let me say this.

Jim Hughson is a great broadcaster. He has earned his stripes and he does not need me to defend him.

Broadcasters all make mistakes.

Remember Hughson was not at the Scotiabank arena when the game was being played, he was in a studio watching on monitors.

I was led to believe that the PBP crews were NOT in the bubble arenas. Several people have advised that they are indeed in the arena watching live. Either way, a mistake is a mistake is a mistake.

So, I would not be throwing any sand his way for the gaffe of the call BUT for those of you who throw a lot of rocks at another legend for the sole reason “Bob Cole makes too many mistakes”.

Now Steve Simmons threw Hughson some props in his weekly column today which I don’t believe are warranted after the miscall. In my opinion, Simmons could have made the point re: Rogers lack of talent on air right now (see below) without appearing to come to Jim’s aide by giving props. Whether that was Steve’s intent or not it came across to me that way and at a time where the credit was not warranted nor the help needed. To his credit, Hughson immediately fixed the error on air. Sources tell me he was quickly notified by someone on the truck but who cares how or why he corrected. Not oddly enough Sportsnet has either replaced Hughson’s call with Joe Bowen or cut it after the goal prior to the error.

James Duthie was on OverDrive the other day. You have to take a listen to the segment where he and the guys talk about the disappearance and re-appearance of maturity on the part of the Maple Leafs. It was great radio.

The opening to Friday’s Over-Drive with Simon and Garfunkel’s The Sound of Silence was HILLARIOUS.

Shockingly muted during the Leafs series has been Jeff O’Neil. Should the team bow out I expect
Jeff to return to his animated self.

Labour Day is about a month away. Are the drumbeats of a large organizational change at Rogers Media that I keep hearing true? Will that spell the end of Tim and Sid in the old PTS slot? Inquiring minds want to know.

I can tell you this, multiple reliable sources told me that despite really strong ratings in Canada for the play-in series Rogers overhyped the games to potential advertisers to the tune of 35-45% less than achieved. How damaging was the Leafs’ early performance? I am told that Leaf rates for radio and TV for game 4 and a potential Game 5 prior to game 4 were bargain-basement low. What are they for game 5??? Not sure yet. Prior to the Leaf turnaround win a prominent exec told me that if the Leafs bailed out in the first series after game 4 “Rogers may have to sell the Blue Jays.” That was a joke.. get it?

The Dome is sitting empty until at least April. if Edward Rogers doesn’t unshackle Mark Shapiro’s hands and pour serious money into the stadium now he deserves all the criticism as an owner he will get. There is no good excuse for major renovations not to start now. Don’t give me the BS that it takes time to get approvals etc. By all accounts, Shapiro has been trying to loosen Edward’s purse strings with specific asks since he arrived. They know what needs to do, all they have to do is write the cheque.

MLB owners and the union look like morons compared to their NHL and NBA counterparts on the Corona plan. This game is canceled, that one is not… who can follow along? Please tell me the NFL is going to go bubble syle..

A birdie tells me that Gary Bettman will not leave office prior to owning the title as the longest-serving commish ever. While the hate-hate relationship with the fans is obvious as he has done with franchise value and tv money (let’s see where he goes on the new deal) Bettman has delivered during the epidemic.

John Chayka, the story goes got greedy. In a potential LARGE deal with the franchise close to but not in NYC was going to essentially run the sports empire. However, Chakya first lied to his organization and then insisted that the title NHL GM remain part of his new title, and therein is the reason he remains in Bettman’s sin bin. Had he just kept the CEO, or Executive VP title many expected Bettman or the Yotes would have little room to say boo. Instead, he is out and league is none too pleased. The last thing they wanted right now is more attention on the Arizona franchise.

We were sold, by the way, that Vladimir Guerrero Jr. came to spring training in exceptional shape. “He never picked up a weight before” the story began. Maybe that’s true. Many people have told me that Shaprio inc. aren’t overly impressed with Guerrero Jr’s COVID regimen. I am not one to talk, but whatever they say he weighs in their media guide is pure fiction.

You probably don’t know him, and likely never heard of him, but sports and sports radio lost a really good one this week when Jamie Samuelsen passed away at young age of 48. Not from Detroit he embraced the market and was one of the really, really good ones in that market. You should do two things as a result, one if you are around his age get a colonoscopy and two read this amazing article. Sympathies to his family, his wife and his kids.

Congrats to two of the best on their retirements from the Toronto Star: Mary Ormsby and Paul Hunter. Life longers on the sports beat. Their work will be missed.

Finally, in the Simmons’ weekly column he (correctly) states the current state of panels on Rogers Sportsnet hockey games. Well, we have landed at the place we all expected. You get what you pay for. Given the current crew, I’d make it tight and clean. Burke, Friedman, Amber,Hrudey and Ron and maybe Christine Simpson. The rest? Wow. I remind you this is playoff hockey, supposed to be the best of the best and we are left with that crew? wow. Where is Jeff Marek?? Where is Caroline Cameron?

The other night the second-period intermission, with the exception of Burke and Friedman it was hands down the worst intermission Rogers has aired since taking over the games. In a word.. BRUTAL.

I like Colby Armstrong when he does regional work. Kevin Bieksa? Sorry, I am not a fan.. Neither, by the way, is Roberto Luongo

Tweet of the week:

Thanks for reading..

As always:

Listen on all your favorite podcasts or listening services..

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August 9, 2020 1:57 pm

I’ve definitely noticed the division in the Auston Matthews COVID story and coverage. 

Old people see it as fair game, young people don’t. You can see it based on the old guard (newspaper guys) in Toronto and how they all defend the decision and Simmons for reporting it. 

As for Cox, hard no. He hasn’t—and never will be—“on fire lately”. 

Does he even write for the Star anymore? 

August 9, 2020 2:05 pm

The Rogers broadcasts have hit an all-time low this week. Hard to imagine any other broadcaster covering a major sports league putting in less effort than what we’re seeing from Sportsnet these days.

The Brady Bunch four-panel intermissions are these joyless, mediocre slogs where you have four dead-eyed people (doesn’t matter which combo, they all look bored) staring into the camera and tossing off half-hearted observations about the game (or in Burke’s case, Grandpa Simpson stories about how Reed Larson ripped off his toenails with a shot in the 70s etc etc) Zero chemistry, zero fun, bad TV.

Build a bigger set like the NBA on TNT did so people can actually look at each other and communicate like human beings. Or hell – why not go outside? August playoff hockey is (hopefully) a once in a lifetime event, why not emphasize this? Go outside! Other sports broadcasters have figured out that with even a microscopic bit of creativity and ingenuity you can make pandemic-era broadcasting work just fine. You’re footsteps away from the bubble in Toronto, meanwhile Hrudey and Campbell are in Calgary and could easily make a trip up to Edmonton. If you don’t want to go inside the bubble, rent a rooftop somewhere nearby the rink and broadcast from there. Instead they’re in their dark, black and blue “forgot to pay the power bill” chambers, or their home offices, or whatever – it looks and feels cheap and tossed-off.

What must they be thinking in the NHL offices? They invest all of this time and effort into making the in-arena experience look and sound as authentic as they can given the circumstances (and they’ve done a pretty solid job of that IMO) and it’s completely undermined by these brutal intermission segments. The only shocking thing about those ratings reports is that they’re not worse.

August 9, 2020 2:08 pm

Regarding Simmons, someone explained it best to me that while what he did was ethical and fair reporting, he writes for a paper that is the local hotbed of politicizing and defining all opinion and actions along partisan lines. So, yeah, receiving Matthews medical status from a source is ethical, and a requirement of his job description, but I have no sympathy over some blowback he has to deal with when his own employer trades in that daily.

August 9, 2020 4:38 pm

Totally agree on the Dome. They might have two full seasons with no baseball being played there (who knows what the plan will be for 2021). Absolutely no excuse not to address the stadium issue in this time. Would like to see somebody in the media press the team on this. 
I’ve subscribed to The Athletic for 2 or 3 years and am very satisfied. Great content, great writing. Would like to see more Toronto/Canadian based podcast content on there. Would have a great stable of writers to choose from as cohosts or guests.
Can’t believe how badly Rogers has mishandled The Fan in the last 18 months. I feel for Tim and Sid, I think their old 1-4 show was a lot of fun, but they’re being asked to make a TV first show, that also somehow works on the radio, and replace Bob, and compete with Overdrive. I don’t think any show would succeed in that situation. I think Bob could have easily had another few years in him, Rogers should slowly eased him out over time (maybe shortening his hours) while grooming a successor. Now if they ditch Tim and Sid who takes that slot? I like Blair and Brunt but I don’t think that’s a drive time show. The only current Rogers personality I could think of that I’d really want to hear would be Dan Shulman and that doesn’t seem likely. And what happens to Tim and Sid then? TV only? Radio only in a different slot? Gone from Rogers?

Bingo Bango Bongo
Bingo Bango Bongo
August 10, 2020 9:41 am

Repeat after me. ” Twitter is not real life.” I would take it one step further; it’s poison. It seems to me that 90% or more sports content on Twitter is superfluous instant analysis, a kind of stream-of-consciosness exercise that is completely unnecessary. The attacks on Steve Simmons , in my opinion, aren’t best described as an age issue but rather fans defending a star player versus a reporter who doesn’t pull punches or try to be a fanboy. The point that can be looked at through the age lens is the definition of the reporter’s job, and even that is more an ethical journalism debate. Too many people want everything and everyone to be agreeable to their particular point of view. I’m not defending Simmons here. I understand there are underlying privacy issues and I don’t buy Simmons argument that Matthews is a star player and thus fair game. But, and it’s a big but, he got the information and went with it. My guess is it would have come out anyway. 
As for griping about Sportsnet’s intermissions, get over it. It’s not an easy job. If people had any idea how tough it is to find the kind of chemistry TNT has with their NBA telecast, they’d be amazed it happens at all. With that show, it’s about the personalities. They’re all larger than life. The NHL is a completely different environment. The reason Ray Ferraro is so good is that he’s smart, articulate, and is not afraid to step on toes. I think Bieksa could get there. And Anthony Stewart is getting better all the time. Again, it’s not easy. Give them time.

August 10, 2020 10:45 am

We’ll see how smart Bettman and Silver look compared to Manfred when they try to figure out how to play a regular season next winter. The pandemic will not likely have abated enough that wide scale travel and living at home will be possible any more than it is now. And playing a regular season in a bubble is not possible because of the number of teams. So they’ll have their work cut out for them.

August 10, 2020 11:12 pm

Old media: they lost because Matthews’ head wasn’t in the game.

New media:. Matthews had better stats since the incident.

The old style was “bar talk” but now with everyone having a phone and Google, you can’t make stuff up.

August 11, 2020 11:28 am

I’ve been watching HNIC for 20 years. It’s never been worse.

Hughson and Simpson are dull, bland, and average at best. When you think of the #1 booth in other sports (Nantz/Romo, Michaels/Collinsworth, Buck/Smoltz, Breen/Van Gundy/Jackson), HNIC’s “lead” team is a relative joke. It’s at the point where I’m legitimately disappointed to turn on the TV and hear Jim Hughson, especially when they sneak him in for the off mid-week national Leafs game. Chris Cuthbert was an amazing get by Rogers and should be elevated to the #1 PxP slot immediately.

The studio intermission show is painfully dreary and boring. There’s talented broadcasters there, most notably Ron, Friedman, and Burke. But the lack of chemistry and the dull tone to the whole show makes it borderline unwatchable. Don Cherry, for all his haters, is clearly missed. Rogers tried hard to innovate when they first acquired the national rights but it looks as if they’ve reverted back to a run-of-the-mill studio show produced by a team that is clearly mailing it in. Hockey fans in Canada are completely under-served by the product we’re getting. NBC (and TSN for that matter) produce exceedingly superior studio shows.

August 12, 2020 10:50 am

You’re in the minority about Bieksa. He’s a breath of fresh air. And all you can offer for a critique is “I’m not a fan”?

August 12, 2020 5:50 pm

The Sportsnet broadcasts have been an abomination for years, but this playoff is especially horrendous. They take themselves way, way too seriously. Sports are supposed to be fun. When I realized that TSN wasn’t going to be doing any games the joy almost completely left because I knew it would be boring play by play and non-stop boring, complaining, flat out idiocy in the intermissions. My son and I are huge hockey fans and we’re skipping most of the coverage. It’s just not fun to watch

August 14, 2020 5:25 pm

Just want to throw this out there – in a time where basketball is rapidly gaining in popularity in this country, and both TSN and Sportsnet presumably would like to diversify a little bit – why hasn’t either network brought William Lou from Yahoo onboard? He’s a great twitter follow and his ’10 things’ columns after Raptors games are must reads.

August 15, 2020 8:22 pm

I’ve been largely skipping Sportsnet pre/post & intermission shows for years, but unfortunately I haven’t figured out a way to get around listening to Hughson & Simpson. Of the recent additions only Burke is polished enough for TV & has any kind of presence. I’ve liked Anthony Stewart on the radio, but on TV he comes off as not ready for prime time. I’ve seen some of Bieska’s work & he might develop into a decent contributor, but I just can’t get behind someone that seems that slimy.

Original Mitch
Original Mitch
August 15, 2020 8:43 pm

Haven’t turned on sports or read this website since sports shut down but happy to be back with the nba and NHL back on! 

I agree the Sportsnet hockey broadcast is borrrring. But, I’ll give them a pass because 1) it’s weird for all involved and 2) it was pretty boring beforehand so why change? Lol 
Elliot Friedman is embarrassing himself every time he’s on television. Seriously at this point l would replace him. He’s just terrible. 

Mike S
Mike S
August 16, 2020 2:18 am

Here are my thoughts on this summer’s version of HNIC so far:

Cuthbert is excellent, the best free agent acquisition by a Canadian sports network in years
Hughson is decent but nowhere near as good as Cuthbert
The two main color commentators (Simpson and Debrusk) are mediocre at best
Friedman is very good and so is Burke (although he is underused), Hrudey and Bieksa are decent, all of the other studio analysts are sub-par
Ron MacLean can be annoying but has always been a solid host………every time I think he should be replaced I think back to the Strombo era and I change my mind

August 17, 2020 3:22 pm

If Cuthbert is the best hockey pbp voice in Canada, Miller is a close second and it’s a big drop to third. 

Why does Hughson persist in making no effort to pronounce French names correctly? People point it out on Twitter. He and/or RSN have to know. Lazy? Closet redneck? I remember when old school commentators took pride in learning to be accurate on Russian names. What a decline. 

Bieksa isn’t bad, but he is trying too hard and they are pushing him a little too much. He’s really locked in to the Ben Chiarot narrative and just keeps hammering it, favouring frequency over specificity. 

I may be in the minority, but MacLean is a ham. He’s had the tip seat for years and still has no gravitas whatsoever. He’s always bursting to get in a pun or a factoid about Hometown Hockey. If you put David Amber in his spot nothing would be lost. 

Finally, that Lays ad is painful in many ways, and does nothing to help Hughson’s profile. 

August 19, 2020 12:32 pm

It’s a weird time for hockey. This time of year I’m way more used to turning on the TV and seeing a random baseball game than a hockey game. Even bubble basketball just feels more natural than bubble hockey. It’s time to experiment and make the best of a bad situation, yet HNIC doesn’t even try. It’s 4 guys sitting around droning hockey cliches. Remember the quirky stuff that TSN tried? The Quiz? The fake ice sheet? They aren’t all home runs, but it shows effort and it shows they try to have fun with it. Even things like segments where they stand lend a different feel (TNT does this, NFL pregame and halftime shows do this). Again, it’s a weird time. You’re looking at August hockey where it looks likely all Canadian teams will be knocked out of the playoffs. You won’t be blamed for thinking outside the box.

Mike S
Mike S
August 19, 2020 12:45 pm

Apparently Ben Ennis disagrees with most of us about HNIC……….here is what he said on Good Show today:

“The TNT panel on Inside The NBA is the best panel in sports, although the current Hockey Night In Canada panel is right there nipping at their heals”

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