Kukla's Korner

Goal Line Report

An Interview With a Hockey Insider: Bob McKenzie

This hockey personality needs no introduction. Most, if not every, hockey fan knows who he is and knows that the work and content he provides us puckheads is absolutely terrific.

Bob was kind enough to take time out of his hectic schedule (to say the least) and tell us about how he got into the game of hockey, how he became a writer, his thoughts on his new book, and more.

Let’s give a big round of applause to the one, the only, Bob McKenzie!

PH: How did you get into hockey?
BM: Like most Canadian kids, I started playing at a very young age. If I wasn’t playing on the ice, I was playing road hockey or watching it or whatever. For as long as I can remember, hockey was the focal point of my life.

PH: Growing up, who was your favorite team/player?
BM: I grew up in Toronto. I was a Toronto Maple Leaf fan and Tim Horton was my favorite player.

PH: At what point in your life did you know that you wanted to be a hockey writer?
BM: Coming out of high school, I thought that’s what I wanted to do but I wasn’t entirely sure. I enrolled at Wilfrid Laurier University to study English and sort of keep my options open, but I quit after eight weeks as it was too boring. I worked for the balance of that year and enrolled at Ryerson Polytechnic Institute in Journalism in 1976. At that point, my only goal was to be a hockey writer.

PH: How did you get your start in hockey? Tell us about the outlets you worked for.
BM: In the summer of 1978, between my second and third year of RPI, I got a summer job at The Sault Star in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. It was mostly as a news reporter but I got two weeks in the sports department and it was when Craig Hartsburg and Wayne Gretzky signed with the WHA so it was an exciting time to be in sports. Upon graduation from Ryerson, The Sault Star hired me fulltime in the sports department. For the better part of two years, I covered the Greyhounds in the OHL. I was up for a good job with the London Free Press but didn’t get it. I wanted to return to southern Ontario, so in the summer of 1981, I returned home to Toronto and worked freelance for almost a year, writing for a variety of publications including The Hockey News and working three rewrite shifts a week at the Globe and Mail.

In the summer of 1982, at the age of 25, I was hired as Editor in Chief of The Hockey News. I stayed on as Editor in Chief for nine years. In the summer of 1991, I left THN to be the hockey columnist with the Toronto Star. After six years there, I returned to The Hockey News as Associate Editor, but it was really just a fancy title for being their primary writer/reporter/columnist. I did that for three years before leaving my fulltime print job to do broadcast work fulltime.

PH: How did you get your current gig at TSN? What are your responsibilities?
BM: My work at TSN evolved over many years. I first started to dabble there in 1987 when THN had a magazine show and I had a short segment. I wasn’t very good on TV, but I suppose I had some decent information so they started to use me more often, on NHL broadcast and junior games. The turning point came in 1991 at the World Juniors. After that, I started doing a lot more work a lot more often. I would say for the better part of the 1990s, I effectively had two fulltime jobs – one at the Star/THN and one at TSN. In 2001, I decided it was finally time to choose one over the other and I opted for self employment as an independent contractor and I have been doing that ever since.

As far as my responsibilities at TSN, they are wide ranging. I report and comment on news on http://www.tsn.ca I do .Insider reports on SportsCentre and That’s Hockey. I am on the NHL on TSN studio panel. I am also the analyst on TSN’s World Junior Championship broadcasts. My basic job description is to do anything required as it relates to hockey on any of TSN ‘s many platforms.

PH: What do you try to bring readers/viewers who read/watch your work?
BM: I just try to deliver the basic information people are after. The most important thing is to strive to be accurate and trustworthy. It’s important to break news first because it’s a competitive business and at TSN we want to be the “source” for all things hockey, but it’s more important to get it right, not make mistakes or violate the trust of the reader/viewer. I get up every day and just grind away on whatever news or info that is topical that day and do my best to get the inside scoop to our listeners and viewers.

PH: Besides TSN, what other hockey outlets are you involved with?
BM: I do a fair bit of radio, in Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Edmonton, Vancouver as well as satellite radio. I have in the past done U.S. TV work for ESPN and others but that hasn’t been as frequent since ESPN stopped being a rightsholder.

PH: What was it like writing Hockey Dad: True Confessions From a (Crazy) Hockey Parent? Where did you draw your inspiration from?
BM: It was great. It was a book I always wanted to write and knew I was going to write. As proud as I am of all the work I do, I don’t think I’ve been more proud than the work I put into the book. The inspiration for it was my kids and my family. We’re a close knit group whose lives pretty much revolve around hockey so it was only fitting to do the book on that.

PH: Thinking of writing any more books in the future?
BM: I have a few ideas kicking around and I’ve got a publisher and a book agent who would like me to do it, but writing a book is a real labor of love and you better be passionate about what you’re writing or it’s way too much like hard work. So I will have to think long and hard whether I’m ready to take the plunge again.

PH: Now for some actual hockey talk - which teams/players have surprised you most this season? How about disappointed?
BM: I don’t think there’s any question the Colorado Avalanche have been the surprise team in the West. I thought they would be the 15th team in the West and now they could win their division. Phoenix has been a surprise too although not as much because until the all-star break last year, they were the fifth seed in the West. In the East, Buffalo and New Jersey are both playing better than I expected, although I thought for sure New Jersey was a playoff team and Buffalo would challenge for a spot. Obviously, they’ve both been very good. The Islanders are also better than I thought they would be.

Carolina is probably the biggest disappointment. I really thought they would be a playoff team for sure but the wheels fell off early and that was that.

PH: Quick - name the three medal winners at the Olympics? Why did you go with these three choices?
BM: As Toe Blake said, predictions are for gypsies. That’s a convenient way to avoid having to make myself look stupid. I mean, who really knows. Canada and Russia, on paper, look like the teams to beat and Canada is always a tough out on home ice, but we have had three NHL Olympics and had six different teams in the three gold medal games. The whole format of the Olympics lends itself to upsets. So as far as predictions go, I’m not sure I see the point. I will say this: I don’t think the Americans will win a gold medal but I would wager they’ll upset a team that thinks they’re a gold medal contender.

PH: Any words of wisdom for readers here at Kukla’s Korner?
BM: Nope, I have no words of wisdom other than to enjoy the game, keep reading and following Kukla’s Korner because Paul does a great job and provides a tremendous service to all hockey fans. Thanks for taking the time to speak with me. All the best…

Filed in: | Goal Line Report | Permalink
  Tags: bob+mckenzie, tsn

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About Goal Line Report

Patrick has a tremendous passion for hockey. Besides covering the Rangers and the NHL for Kukla's Korner, you can also find Patrick's work over at Sportsnet.ca, The Red Light District Hockey Blog, NHL Home Ice, and Liam Maguire's Ultimate Hockey web site.

Prior to writing for the above mentioned outlets, you could find Patrick's musings at hockey web sites/outlets such as TheHockeyNews.com, TheFourthPeriod.com, Spector's Hockey, Hokeja Vestnesis, Blueshirt Bulletin, SNYRangersBlog.com and many more.

For questions, comments and hip checks, feel free to e-mail Patrick at patrickhoffman3530@gmail.com.