Tuesday, July 14, 2015

BEHIND THE MICROPHONE WITH McFARLANE, BOWEN AND McDONALD


The June edition of 'Inside the Room', hosted by Mike Wilson (The Ultimate Leafs Fan), featured three popular broadcasters - Brian McFarlane, Joe Bowen and Jiggs McDonald - from the game of hockey.

Most of us are familiar with their work, taking into account the number of years we have watched and listened to them over the airways. After countless hours of broadcasting, they still get a gleam in their eye when recalling how they broke into the big leagues.

Here are their stories about getting that first-crack to move behind the microphone on the big stage.

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Brian McFarlane, on going from CBS to joining Hockey Night in Canada...

"I got a job with CBRB in Toronto and that led to a job with CBS. I auditioned for Hockey Night in Canada. I did a great interview with King Clancy, but they told me I was too young and they hired Ward Cornell. That same week, CBS called and said we'd like a guy who can get on skates and go around the ice and do interviews. And that's how I broke into television, not with Hockey Night in Canada, but with CBS."

Later in time, McFarlane was hired by Hockey Night in Canada and after working behind the scenes he was ready for a new challenge.

" I asked, why don't you put me in the gondola with Bill Hewitt? I guess it didn't dawn on them that I might be a fit in there. I was there for the next 17-years."

Danielle Iverson (that PR thing Inc.) models Brian McFarlane's HNiC jacket, which everyone enjoyed seeing and trying on!

~ ~ ~
Joe Bowen, on a phone call he will never forget...

"My dream was to replace Johnny Bower and I failed miserably," Bowen said of his attempt to become a goalie with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Prior to becoming the voice of the Maple Leafs, Bowen was working for a radio station out east.

"Allan Davis called me one day from Toronto and told me Ron Hewat was going into radio sales and wouldn't be broadcasting Leaf games anymore. I had bought a house in Halifax where I was working at the time. I sent my resume in and a tape, but nothing happened over the summer."

Then, came the call Joe Bowen will never forget.

"One day after having done the morning sports run, I got a phone call from a gentleman named Len Bramson. He said, 'Joe, we've listened to your tape and we'd like to fly you in this weekend to do an exhibition game between the Leafs and Edmonton Oilers as an audition for the job'."

The kicker is, Bowen thought he was talking with Allan Davis.

"I said, Allan go bleep yourself and don't be yanking my chain! Then, there was a silence and I said, you're not Allan Davis. He said, 'no I'm Len Bramson and this is the first time anybody has told me to take my job and shove it up my bleep, before I even offered it'."

"Ten-minutes later, he called me back and told me that was one of the greatest audition telephone calls he ever had and offered me the job," Bowen recalled of how their telephone conversation ended.

"Thirty-three-years-ago I arrived in Toronto and we still haven't won a Stanley Cup."

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Jiggs McDonald, on his first job interview with Los Angeles Kings owner Jack Kent Cooke...

"I'm going to tell a story here tonight that I've only told maybe four or five people at the very most," McDonald stated.

And with a line like that, he quickly got the attention of everyone.

" I had applied for the job in LA and got information back from Mr. Cooke. Everything was done in writing because telephone calls were too expensive. I still have a lot of the correspondence. They were down to five candidates and I was one of the final five. I was informed that Mr. Cooke was coming to Toronto and will be at the Royal York Hotel and he wanted to meet with me."

"It's Valentine's Day night," McDonald noted of his scheduled job interview with Cooke.

"I showed up and had to wait as Mr. Cooke was in a meeting. When the door opened and three gentlemen walked out," and McDonald was surprised as to the identity of one person in Cooke's party.

"Out of the room comes Jack Kent Cooke with Larry Regan, who had been hired as his general manager and Red Kelly."

Putting two-and-two together, it became obvious to McDonald that Red Kelly, who was still playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs, wasn't meeting with Cooke and Regan to make dinner arrangements for them. He was certain the three were talking about Kelly working for the expansion Kings and his gut-feeling was correct.

"If you fast-forward to the expansion draft, the Leafs protected Red. A deal was supposedly done between LA and Toronto, but Stafford Smythe said, 'no, this isn't going to happen'. Then, all hell broke loose and you can't imagine what was going on at the LA Kings draft table."

McDonald, who landed the play-by-by job with Los Angeles, provided insight on what happened next.

"I had the responsibility of going over to the Leafs hotel and getting Mr. Imlach and Mr. Smythe into a cab and bringing them back to Mr. Cooke's suite. It was loud, it was long, it was profanity laced, but somehow they got it sorted out and Red Kelly became the Kings first coach."

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Left to Right: Brian McFarlane, Joe Bowen, Mike Wilson and Jiggs McDonald

Three stories from three of the best, "Inside the Room".








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