Holy mackinaw! Leafs radio crew bounced from road games

Update: After a change of heart, Joe Bowen and Jim Ralph are allowed to travel with the Leafs once more.New.

Update: After a change of heart, Joe Bowen and Jim Ralph are allowed to travel with the Leafs once more.

New Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Lou Lamoriellos reputation for being, well, a dick, preceded his arrival in this town from his years helming the New Jersey Devils. He ran that team with an old-school iron fist, tightly controlling players on and off the ice and, like the New York Yankees, a team he owned a piece of, banned players from sporting facial hair.

Now, just months into his Toronto tenure he has banned the Leafs’ radio broadcast team, Joe Bowen and Jim Ralph, from the hockey squads charter flights to road games. Most other NHL teams allow the radio crew on flights with Lamoriellos former Devils among the few that dont.

So Bowen and company will now call Leafs away games watching a TV feed from a Toronto studio.

Of course, the case could be made that media shouldnt be on team flights anyway, conflict of interest and all of that. But, come on, home team broadcasters tend to be homers, thats just the way it is, cheer leaders as much as reporters.

Faced with the increased costs of having to pay for their radio crew to fly to away games, it looks like the mega-media companies that own the radio outlets that carry Leaf broadcasts, Bell and Rogers, wont put up the increased expenses to cover the crews travel costs. Ironically, the same two companies own the Leafs, along with Larry Tanenbaum.

Further proof, the owners don’t care about the fans or building a fan base: as of this year, instead of having the games broadcast on The Fan 590, the two corporate masters will split broadcasts 41 each between Rogers-owned 590 and Bell’s 1050. Might make corporate sense but again could leave new fans searching, and giving up, to find the Leafs.

At its core, this just continues to show the over-all arrogance of those running Torontos team of bumbling losers, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE).

The Leafs operate on the principle that no matter how bad the team, how expensive tickets, how much arena beer costs, and how many billions of dollars they try to squeeze out of supporters, the Toronto fan base will never, ever turn on the team, even if the Leafs seem terminally incapable of winning.

Reducing the quality of radio broadcasts by having Bowen and Ralph broadcasting from a tiny studio staring at a monitor will inevitably make the games less exciting. They wont be able to convey the drama and energy of a hostile stadium and will no longer be free to view the game through their own eyes but instead those of an anonymous camera operator.

New Leaf-loyalists are less likely to be created by being drawn to an exciting radio broadcast. People that arent brought up on the blue and white just won’t be attracted to lifeless broadcasts from radio men forced to pretend they are sort of at the game.

As game attendance increasingly is limited to those with corporate seats or corporate connections and team after team blows past the Leafs in the standings, MLSE is proving that it is possible to destroy the fan base.

Reducing proud radio broadcasters to phoning it in instead of being at games is one more way to insure what was once unthinkable actually happens.

Say it aint so, Joe.

michaelh@nowtoronto.com | @m_hollett

UPDATED TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 29 After a wave of negative publicity, word came down last night that MLSE has rethought its decision not to fly the Leafs’ radio broadcast crew to away games. Bowen and Ralph are back on the bus, er, plane.

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