Toronto Sports Media Wrap Up: Year End thoughts; Favorite Isolation Items & Gary Lawless In the Pressrow Last post of what's been an interesting year! A review of some cool lockdown tools & last podcast of the year

<span class="entry-title-primary">Toronto Sports Media Wrap Up: Year End thoughts; Favorite Isolation Items & Gary Lawless In the Pressrow</span> <span class="entry-subtitle">Last post of what's been an interesting year! A review of some cool lockdown tools & last podcast of the year</span>


Well, here we are. We’ve almost made it to the end of 2020 and not a minute too soon. We’ve all had years before that were not so great ( I know I have had my fair share) but I am not sure many of us have ever experienced a year where we are all begging for a mulligan as we are now. Let’s admit it, this year was memorable but for reasons, we’d all really rather forget.

So, let’s recap, look back, look forward and see where this ends up.

January started off with the news that Bob Mckenzie was going to semi-retire at the end of the 2020 NHL season, the two networks duked it out over ratings and Stephen Brunt kicked off a new Youtube channel called open invitation. The NHL season lasted into late summer and we got a little more Bob as a result. Both networks ended up struggling mightily this year and layoffs and cuts were a topic of discussion as the shutdown carried on and on. Brunt’s show was very good and yet very limited. Then, the Kobe news broke and it’s been a total shitshow ever since. No such thing as a positive but the media did some of their best work in paying tribute to Kobe, something that seems so much longer than 11 months ago.

February Was not a good month. With fires over in Australia, we should have known things were looking dire. Oh, and the Maple Leafs lost to a Zamboni driver. Remember that?

With spring training staring us in the eyes, Mike asked if it were time to redo the Blue Jays broadcasts (you overwhelmingly agreed), and little did he know what was going to change when later in the fall Mike Wilner was not asked back. The Masai is leaving story was in full force back in February as the Knicks were in the market for new leadership. Wojo was all over this one from afar as were several Toronto-based MSMers. The Knicks ended up getting a man, not necessarily their man and Masai remains in Toronto. He and Bobby Webster still don’t have new contracts, but all is well we are told. Oh, and Ashley Docking exited the Fan morning show after a short stint as the first woman host on 590 in a generation.

March, you remember March right? March was the month sports shutdown, starting with the NBA. Tom Brady signed in Tampa Bay and the NCAA announced no Final Four in 2020. The Olympics were canceled after much delay in doing so. Radio ratings were notable back then in that for the first time in their history The Fan 590 lost in all demographics in both the morning and afternoon drive. Landsberg and Carlo Colaiacovo bested the new Fan morning show and OverDrive topped off the combination of Writer’s Bloc and Tim and Sid. Little did we know at the time that was the last meaningful radio book we would see in – well- for a long, undetermined time. March ends with little hope of an end to our lockdown. Many, many media members rise above and go way beyond their day jobs either covering “news” or simply just being there for many of us in need, notably Jamie Campbell who really did go way above and way beyond.

April was not a great month either. Many freelancers and others found that their services were no longer needed and, well, the Corona started getting serious. The Toronto Star made significant cuts. There was talk that the lockdown was going to last a lot longer than a couple of months. Tiger King was a thing and well, so was the Michael Jordan mini-series. The virtual NFL draft took place and it was better than their normal live event. Bell Media cut the hours of a number of their “idle” staff across the country by 25%, with salaries reduced the same amount.

May is usually a time of rebirth and hope, instead, it was a month of sadness and violence as the murder of George Floyd sadly occurred the resulting days, weeks, and months leading to massive division around the world but certainly in the United States that continues on today. Soccer started overseas and Tom Brady, Payton Manning played Golf with Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson a great tv event took place. SI cut 9% of its staff under new ownership.

June brought the exciting news that Chris Cuthbert was moving from TSN over to Sportsnet to call Maple Leaf games. The NHL, NBA, and MLB were all working hard to salvage seasons. The world continued to evolve post-George Floyd and sports was no different. A new light was shined on racism in sports and hockey was not spared. Rightfully so this was a major topic of discussion making many talking heads and athletes uncomfortable. The month ended with Steve Simmons writing about Auston Matthews testing positive for Corona; an event which would continue to be raised for the rest of the year as the role of media, what is private, and how sports will be covered in the future all continued to be discussed and pivot. As if that were not enough, Daniel Carcillo’s unleashed detailed allegations of hazing and sexual assault in sports. The Athletic laid off 8% of its staff as cuts in sports media continue to be a thing.

July brought it with hope for the distraction we call sports. The NBA, NHL, and MLB all planned to return. In Canada, with the Blue Jays and Raptors, this was problematic as the government was not prepared to open the border for teams to flow in and out. As a result, the Blue Jays seemed homeless for a long time before picking Buffalo as their temporary home for the 2020 season. The Raptors played in Florida as part of the NBA bubble. Toronto and Edmonton were picked for NHL bubbles to be held to wrap up the 2020 season. Racism in sports continued to occupy headlines as new stories continued to appear as our society was finally asking the hard questions in an attempt to right years of wrong. Bob McCown kicked off his podcast with John Shannon. The issue of reporter access was a big deal as games were being played and media access would be limited or entirely via zoom. The NFL team in Washington DC announced they would change their team name after years of pressure to do so. Seattle unveils its NHL team name, The Seattle Kraken, and their logo and team look.

Finally, in August we had games to talk about. The Maple Leafs played 5 and got bounced. Auston Matthews took a swipe at Steve Simmons re-igniting the issue of his corona news several months later. A very scaled back NHL intermission crew appeared on HNIC with current NHL agent Kevin Bieksa playing a prominent role. Baseball and basketball were underway until shutdowns hit all sports in protest to repeated police racial issues in the United States. Mike Milbury likely appeared for the last time on NBC hockey after making insensitive comments. The XFL was shuttered and then purchased. Will it come back?

The NFL sans fans is most stadiums kicked off in September as the NBA and NHL playoffs rolled on in their respective bubbles. The Raptors got bounced and again the issue of reporter player/management came up a few different times – first in a session with Pascal Siakam and then with Masai and Simmons and even Kayla Grey, indicating that we all have had enough of lockdowns, isolation, and Corona in general.

In early October the NHL and NBA ended and we appeared to be headed for a very dark time in sports. Ratings from all four major sports were in and the numbers were awful. MLB was still playing and the NFL was on its way but it appeared the chances of a 2021 season were going to be dim. Greg Sansone took a new role at the Fan that will likely lead to changes. The Blue Jays were part of a modified playoff getting people excited for what may come in future years. John Lott retired and Andrew Stoeten was retired from The Athletic. NHL free agency came and the Maple Leafs acquired some grit in adding some aged veterans. LeBron and the Lakers win the NBA Championship. The LA Dodgers win the World Series and the baseball analytics world comes under attack as the Tampa Bay Rays pull a pitcher because the numbers said so.

November, election month! Literally, this time as the USA election continues to wage on despite the actual voting taking place on November 3rd. Both the NHL and NBA were bogged down in discussions on how and where to play shortened seasons in 2021 as the NFL continued to weave through its season. The Blue Jays were in the news – a lot. First rumor of a new stadium and then that they were literally in on every free agent and potentially available all-start via trade. The month ended with long time Blue Jays broadcaster Mike Wilner parting ways with the team. Serge Ibaka bolted Toronto for greener pastures joining Pasol in fleeing the Raptors. Dustin Johnson wins the Masters. A bright light in gender equality arrives Sarah Fuller who became the first woman to play and score in an NCAA football game, while the Cleveland Browns named Callie Brownson interim tight ends coach and the Miami Marlins name Kim Ng as GM, GM a first-ever. Rogers made significant cuts, especially in Vancouver and Calgary. ESPN announced massive cuts with more to come over the next several months.

Which gets us current and December. The NBA and NHL are indeed going to play. The Raptors based out of Tampa are now 0-2 and an all-Canadian division in the NHL will start on January 13th. Tiger Woods introduced us to his 11-year-old son who is pretty good at golf. Not much has happened with the Blue Jays yet. The World Juniors are taking place, the NFL season is coming to its conclusion.

So, I think I have thought of most big-ticket items. What did I miss? What are your top events of the year? Clearly, Corona is number one, but what are your top sports stories of the year? What will be the new normal and what will have been a one-year thing?

As one who typically spends the bulk of time on the road, I was stapled to my house, with the exception of the summer I was able to spend in Barrie. I’ve always enjoyed the lists and suggestions others have made regarding gadgets, items, and “toys” so upon reflection, I decided to rattle off some of the cool things that I got to enjoy (and not) this year in no specific order (no, referral links here):

I believe it’s important to be an early adopter to try to push the technology along. While the Oura ring is not perfect, it’s really, really good. I am not a huge exercise buff, however, I have found over the years sleep is harder and harder to come by, and in several tests, I can say that the Oura ring is the best at tracking and measuring sleep.

Perhaps the most disappointing device of the year to me is my Apple Watch. I don’t have the latest one, I got the one before that. First, the battery life on the thing sucks. You are supposed to wear it all the time, but it’s constantly in need of charging. By comparison, the sleep tracker on it is actually dumb. It can’t decipher between the time I spend in bed vs. the time I am sleeping.

I used to work for Amazon, so it pains me to say that the Alexa devices are amongst my most disappointing of the year too. Great for ordering products from Amazon, however, the voice technology is very meh and the overall functionality of Alexa devices is pretty limited. Google and its line of devices are by far superior. One by one I have been replacing Alexa with Google and we are getting way more use and functionality out of the devices. Huge plus? Youtube videos for recipes.

Speaking of recipes, we have tried out both an air fryer and an Instapot and in my opinion, the Instantpot is the winner. I literally use mine every day. Rice, eggs, soups, stews veggies, etc. Game changers for me. One suggestion, if you have more than a couple of mouths to feed go big, get the biggest size you can.

Still in the kitchen, I decided to downgrade from my professional espresso machine this year but wanted to upgrade from my Nespresso machine. After much research, I landed on the Breville Barista Touch. Make no mistake, it’s not cheap but it makes a great cup of coffee, it’s really easy to use and especially easy to maintain. Hands down the best coffee machine I’ve ever had.

So I have the machine, what do I drink? As a former Starbuckian you’d think I only drink from the Siren. Variety, it is said is the spice of life. I stumbled across Trade Coffee. Once a week I get a new bag of coffee delivered right to my house. Some I don’t like but most I do. Good value and it’s fun to look forward to new coffees to try.

No idea why I like this coffee cup so much but I do. I was literally sad when someone broke it by accident and immediately ordered a new one.

This is the year I moved back to the iPhone. I’ve been on Android for several years now and I was totally unimpressed with any of the Android devices this year. I’ve found the Samsung devices to be pretty terrible. They are like the car that has all the bells and whistles but none of them ever work. I was with Google for the last several years and unfortunately, the specs on any of the newer Pixel devices were the least bit appealing. I will admit that due to work I typically have to have some sort of MDM on my phone (security for work emails) and one thing that I have learned that MDM’s typically require the latest security patches from the IOS manufacturer. In Android that means you have to stick with Google. I will say this about the iPhone. It works. Yes, many of the same issues that bothered me before still persist, and I live on my phone but for the most part, it works which is what I want.

This one you may find funny, but I am in LOVE with the Paste app. I have it installed on my laptops (work and personal) and it also works on my cellphone. What does it do? Well, for one if I copy something on one device, I can paste it on the others! That’s cool. The other thing that is awesome? If you do a ton of copying and pasting it saves them in an easy tool to access time and time again. It’s dirt cheap and one of the best apps I’ve used this year.

Since the shutdown, I’ve helped several small to medium retailers and manufacturers go online. While there are many excellent e-commerce platforms out there, Shopify really does make life easy. Not sure if you are looking to sell your own things or simply move to online sales, it’s easy to use and fairly inexpensive. They have good customer service and I am on it for several hours a day. How easy? I’ve learned how to program in it.

Again, if you play in that space, one of my favorite apps is Klavyio. I can’t believe how easy email marketing can be and how inexpensive. Brilliant service. Highly recommended.

I didn’t do a ton of reading up or trying out but I did luck out in a search for a new desk chair. I really like the Autonomous desk chair. Totally comfortable, looks good, and was easy to build. Try it here.

I keep my Mac Laptop closed, and as a result, I like it off the desk. I went with the Raindesign laptop stand. You can find it here.

I live on the west coast and prior to the shutdown flew 175k miles a year. I do business all over the world and am constantly moving across time zones. Even in the world of Zoom meetings time management sucks and booking meetings is a total waste of time. I actually couldn’t work without using Calendly. I have a simple URL that is in the footer of my emails and people can easily book time with me no matter what time zone they or I am in at the time. One complaint, it gets pricey if you want to have multiple links- i.e. one for personal/blogging and one for work.

I have a work calendar and I have a personal calendar and I need those two to remain independent but I need them to work together. Enter Syncgene. Again, for a low price, I can sync as many calendars as I want. Meeting with my kid’s teachers? add it to my personal calendar and within seconds my work calendar shows that I am tied up at that time! #brilliant.

Ok, I tried to find the link to the company that makes this thing but I couldn’t. I have two external monitors, a wireless keyboard (see below), and several other devices that I try to connect to two different laptops. This Saferell device is THE BEST juggler. With it, I can keep my Mac Laptop screen closed and utilize both external monitors easily and move between different laptops with one plug. So this thing is called the MacBook Pro Docking Station – 4K@60Hz Triple Display 9 in 2 Multiport Laptop Docking Station Compatible for MacBook Pro/Air Thunderbolt 3 (Dual HDMI 100W PD3.0 2USB SD/TF RJ45) I got mine on Amazon.

How do you get the benefits of a Mac keyboard in a full wireless keyboard that doesn’t chew through batteries? you get the Logitech wireless solar Mac keyboard. Big fan.

One of the things I miss about being in an office is the ample supply of glasses wipes. So, being stuck at home I bought a box of these wet naps for home use. Dumb? Sure. I use them every day.

Just prior to the shutdown I wrapped a gig in the autonomy space. So I was curious about the Roomba vacuum cleaners. The M6 is one of the coolest gadgets I have. It takes a while to learn your house but when it does, set it and forget it! We use it as a robot mop. It cleans the hardwood floors on its own 3 days a week. Brilliant. The only downside is the cleaner you are supposed to use is pricey. Side note I have the newest one that only vacuums, it is good but the M6 is a game-changer.

Black Friday this year led me to Costco for a few items and they had a killer deal on the new Apple Air Pod Pro’s. They work REALLY well. The only annoying part to me is they always feel like they are going to fall out. I have the old Bose one but I will say the Apple ones are better.

So, I have the iPhone, the Apple Watch, and the headphones, how to keep them juiced? I love this Logitech stand that sits next to my bed. All three charge wirelessly and I no longer wake up to surprises that any of them aren’t fully charged.

I have now tested and tried all the mobile carriers in the USA. Without a doubt the best one of them all right now? T-Mobile. On our drive to Toronto, the only place I couldn’t get service was in Yellowstone. That was true of all the carriers. They have the best customer service and no additional cost roaming is HUGE. Free Wi-Fi on the planes plus the odd surprise and delight offer on T-Mobile Tuesday is great too.

Need to send a gift but don’t know what to buy? I am a huge fan of Sugarwish. You pick the amount and the type of “junk” you want to send and they do the rest, including letting the recipient pick exactly what they want.

Two apps that I use a lot but don’t get a ton of love? First, when driving across the country or in daily life I hate overpaying for gas. Gasbuddy is one of my favorites. The other is really dumb, but it is really useful. It is called Bring! why so good? It’s nothing more than a grocery store app but what it does is allow multiple members of your family to see or add to the list. So when I go to the store everyone can chime in on what they need or want. I can send a text to all the users that I am headed to the store. It allows photos too. All that is missing is integration with some outlet to get coupons.

Yes, I watch a ton of TV and movies. Yes, at times I have been sick of all of it. So I have turned to Masterclass of late to get some e-learning in. It’s really awesome and they are so well done.

I suspect I will be adding to this over the days, feel free to add your own in the comments below.

Have you picked up anything cool this year? What are the one or two things you have discovered that you can’t live without?

Finally, saving the best for last…

There is not much that Gary Lawless has not seen or covered in the world of sports. He worked in Winnipeg covering the Jets for the local paper and also hosted his own, top-rated sports talk show forever. He began as a beat writer and columnist for the Winnipeg Free Press. He covered the Winnipeg Blue Bombers(CFL). In 2006 he created “Hustler and Lawless”, a radio show on TSN 1290 AM, where he remained until 2017. Lawless regularly appeared as an analyst on multiple television programs, including TSN That’s Hockey, TSN Sportscentre, and TSN’s broadcasts of Winnipeg Jets home games. He also contributed regular columns and feature stories on TSN’s website as their Senior Correspondent.

In Vegas, he is the team insider. He creates content for their website, handles color commentary on the radio side, do pre and post-game as well as having a first intermission segment as well.

In this episode, Gary discusses his career in sports, the evolution of radio and print and what the pandemic has done to both, the evolution to team controlled content and voice away from the media, and what things could and should look like in Seattle leading up to and during the release of the Seattle Kraken.

Brought to you by Bleav,, and our friends at Jiffy on Demand – use the word SAVE at checkout for $25 off your first Jiffy job 🙂

Listen on all your favorite podcasts or listening services.

The Kraken are 7 months away from being a reality. Do you think the Golden Knights have added “win now” to the list of things Seattle fans should expect? Are you excited about another team in the NHL?

While it’s easy to say that this was a shitty year and that we can’t wait to turn the cover to 2021, I think we have a lot to be thankful for and yet it is equally important to be mindful of the fact that we are not through this yet and have a lot of sick and suffering people around us. Personally, I am thankful for those whose day jobs involve sports. Those of you, especially the unsung heroes behind the cameras, in the truck, on the road doing the things you do that keep us intrigued by sports almost 365 days a year. I hope that those of you who had adverse work experiences this year have better luck in 2021 and that you and your families are happy, safe, and healthy.

To my sidekick Mike, hard to believe we have been at this as long as we have. It’s awesome to have you as a partner in whatever, exactly this is. Here’s hoping 2021 is our best year yet and I hope that you and your family enjoy the rest of the holiday season.

Finally, whether here or on Twitter I am eternally grateful for those of you who spend any part of your time reading this website, following on Twitter, and listening to the podcast. Now more than ever there is a limitless amount of content choices out there. The fact that you give us some attention from time to time is very generous of you and we greatly appreciate your loyalty.

All the best to each of you and your families and friends this new year season.



  • comment-avatar
    Dylan 6 months ago

    My sports highlight of the year was finding the English broadcasts for Taiwan’s CPBL. The games were great and they did a full schedule from April to October, so as a baseball fan it was very much feeling normal soon into the year. They had a Canadian as one of the commentators, Wayne Scott McNeil, who Blair talked to early in the season. (Hopefully that formats correctly).

    They opted to go with a local set of commentators instead of the KBO/ESPN route, which kept the broadcasts focused on the actual games rather than on whatever American NFL/NBA/MLB news was relevant that day, which was refreshing. My highlights on commentary there were McNeil, Richard Wang and Jacky Lee. Those three could call the MLB World Series and I’d choose it over both currently available English feeds in a heartbeat.

    The English broadcast demand will likely be too little to justify another year of it, but that won’t stop me continuing to watch the league, personally. I’ve also been watching Vlad Jr. play some games in LIDOM – he’s got incredible enthusiasm and hitting potential, but he continues to not be a third baseman.

    LIDOM and CPBL presented a more traditionally played alternative to the scripted nature of the MLB playoffs as well – so that was kind of a nice change. Not a fan of trying to script baseball.

    Thanks for the updates through this tough year, guys. Hope you’re all well.

  • comment-avatar

    Thank you for sharing!

  • comment-avatar

    I actually got back my interest in the Jays. As a a young team, the players’ enthusiasm was obvious…as were the rookie fielding etc. errors. Nonetheless, I found the on-field product refreshing and an appreciated daily escape from this pandemic environment.

    For the first time in a few years, I watched every game and my kudos to Buck & Dan. Notwithstanding the fact that they were forced to call the games off monitors; I found the coverage more enjoyable than that of recent years.

  • comment-avatar

    I agree with Paul G. Having Buck and Dan together for a whole (shortened) season was a real pleasure. Sportsnet needs to find a way to lock Dan up for 140+ games. If they can also make a smart hire on radio then Jays fans will have some great choices for what will hopefully be an exciting season.

  • comment-avatar

    We are just a “get up ball” away from the broadcasts being perfect 🙂

  • comment-avatar

    I also really enjoyed the Jays this year. Young, good team coming together. I really started enjoying the strange 7 inning double header days and I found myself wishing the season was longer. Totally agree on Buck and Dan. Just great having them do every game. Keeping Dan close to full time would be such a huge move.

  • comment-avatar

    You lost me at ‘…the murder of George Floyd’ Wow!

  • comment-avatar

    Sports story or moment of the year for me personally was the Bundesliga’s return in May, hands down.

    Morally, it felt wrong to have sports back. Selfishly, it was great to have a sense of normalcy back and that’s when life sort of improved until the end of August or start of September.