I want you to know a little bit about my longtime partner on radio, Gord Wilson. You hear him on the radio doing games and likely have little understanding of what goes on in his life each day.
First you should know he is and has always been a hockey junkie of the highest order, so while his schedule seems ridiculous, I can assure you he loves every day of it.
Let’s take Saturday for example. Before anyone else from the media is at the rink, Gord is already there with his suit on. He doesn’t have the luxury of going home during the afternoon to change, so he is ready to rumble before any of the rest of us are even there. Gord is MCing an ESSO fan event which will happen during the morning skate and he is at the rink early to prep for that and start gathering information which he will use in the afternoon to build his depth chart for the Leaf game later that night.
After the MC thing is over, he grabs his notes and a pen and heads up to the stands to watch the morning skate and take note of line combinations and who is missing, who is playing with whom and gather tid bits from some of our friends who cover the Leafs to add to our radio broadcast.
When the skate is over, it’s downstairs to listen to Cory Clouston’s media conference and after that a separate one-on-one interview Gord does with Corey to run during the pre-game coaches’ show. Right after that he is handed a mic by a camera man and it’s into the locker room to interview players for Sens TV. When that is completed its back into the stands to watch the Leafs skate and take more notes before heading downstairs to talk to Leaf players and listen to Ron Wilson.
One third of Gord’s working day is now done. He goes back to our broadcast office, takes his jacket off and gets down to work. On each game day we each construct a depth chart. It’s a layout of line combinations, league and personal stats of all the players in the game and taking all the tid bits both researched and discussed in the morning and logging them onto the depth chart for easy access during the game. It takes on average a little over 3 hours to build a depth chart for each game.
Since this is a Saturday, Steve Lloyd is off and that means Gord is also hosting the 2 hour pre-game show on the Team 1200. Gord is not the kind of person to just walk into the booth, flip the switch and start filling time. He wants it to be current, compelling and a must-listen for hockey fans. That takes work. Gord collects interviews and sound bites from earlier in the day and gets them ready for drop-in’s during the pre-game show. He gets his out of town scoreboard information ready which entails researching what is going on with each team playing in the NHL that night. He then writes his opening to the show and lays out a plan to synchronize when topics will be raised and how much time each discussion point will be given.
When most of the rest of the media heads to the meal room for the pre-game meal, Gord heads to the booth upstairs to get ready for the pre-game show. At 5pm he is on the air and first up is a conversation with Bob Mackenzie. You don’t talk to this man without being prepared and Gord has already figured out every question he is going to ask Bob. The 2 hours fly by as Gord controls and guides the 4 ring circus of himself, Mike Eastwood, Bruce Garrioch and yours truly. When that ends its on to a 3 hour game which includes 2 intermissions, both of which Gord hosts and digs into what has happened in the game as well as what is going on in the rest of the NHL.
Usually the first commercial break in the 2nd period is when Gord runs down the hall to go to the bathroom. You may want to listen to that some time because if you know the inside story you will get the inside joke. I often ask Gord a question about something that happened during the 30 or 40 seconds of play he missed while running back from the bathroom. A question he cant possibly know the answer to, but I love asking him anyway just to hear the imaginative, vague answer which is always a masterful bluff.
When the game ends, Gord and I go through the game summary, pick the 3 stars along with the hardest working Senator. When the stars are announced in the rink, they always say it’s the Team 1200 broadcast crew who picks them, but really that is Gord too. When the selections are required in order to radio down and grab the guys as they leave the ice, the game is actually still on and I am still calling it. So while I have input during the game, it is Gord again who is left with the responsibility to make the final picks and fill out the form while trying to keep at least one eye on the game which is still going on.
Now our part of the actual game coverage ends but that is not the end of Gord's night. He heads straight downstairs and does a post game on-line show for Bell which begins as soon as he gets back down to the locker room area. When that is done, Gord's working day is done.
Very few people know what goes into a hockey broadcast and nobody puts more into their broadcast day than Gord Wilson and he does it every day with Professionalism, poise, good nature and great patience. Another part of Gord’s daily life is babysitting his 2 play-by-play announcers. Both Dave Schreiber and I rely on Gord for a great many things, some of which have nothing to do with hockey.
Gord and I have known each other for almost 25 years and very few people know me better. Gord has always been my behavior monitor. I wish I were not this way, but I can often say some inappropriate things both on and off the air. I am a blunt and often sarcastic person and Gord is the one who lets me know which things require my inside voice and not my outside voice. He has saved me from myself many, many times.
Our broadcasting styles are very different. I pride myself on not becoming emotional while doing a game. I feel I lose concentration and the ability to accurately describe what’s going on if I don’t treat the game like a science project which is to be described correctly, analyzed correctly and broadcast correctly. Gord is the opposite. He wears his emotions on his sleeve and you are never wondering how he feels. I believe that is why we have made a very good team for a very long time. My weaknesses are his strengths and vice versa.
Selfishly I love working with Gord because he gets my sense of humor and we truly enjoy each others company in the booth. Both of us know exactly how lucky we are to have these jobs and we never take them for granted and with that shared appreciation of our circumstance comes a shared gratitude for each night we get to spend in a booth calling the greatest game in the world.
Gord Wilson is a talented and outstanding broadcaster who is rarely appreciated for how much he does and how well he does it.
I just wanted the rest of you to know.
See you at the rink.