Hockey Night in Canada Changes: Paul Romanuk Out, John Bartlett In

Although I've tweeted about this and discussed it on Toronto Mike'd and Hebsy on Sports, it was just brought to my attention that I never wrote about it here. My bad!

The big change at Hockey Night in Canada for the upcoming season is the removal of Paul Romanuk, who called a conference final last season. The official word from Rogers PR is that "Paul Romanuk has elected to move on to a new challenge" but that's simply PR spin. There is no way Paul elected to move on... he was told his services are no longer required.

I've always liked the way Paul calls a game, and was surprised so many Leafs fans passionately hated his work. I was also surprised so many Leafs fans disliked Glenn Healy's analysis, so what do I know? Before you accuse me of favouring a past guest on Toronto Mike'd let me assure you I was a big Romy fan well before I met the man. But yes, he did appear on my podcast, and not only was it a great episode, but he was incredibly giving. Prior to this news he was set to return this August to kick out the jams with me. I hope we can still do that one day as Paul's a huge music fan.

Hear my deep dive with Paul Romanuk below.

Paul Romanuk and Me

Paul was performing double duty at Rogers. He was the voice of Sportsnet regional Leafs games, and he called Hockey Night in Canada games nationally. His replacement for regional Leafs games is not Joe Bowen (sorry Leafs fans) but John Bartlett, who was most recently calling Montreal Canadiens games. Bartlett will also call some games for Hockey Night in Canada.

I don't know why Rogers parted ways with Romanuk, but I would speculate there were two primary reasons:

  1. The aforementioned vocal minority of Leafs fans who seemed to despise him calling Leafs games
  2. The rapid rise of Rick Ball who seems primed to become the number two guy after Jim Hughson

If you have further insight, please share in the comments.

In other Rogers Hockey news, Darren Millard has left Sportsnet. He's been there since its launch in 1998. Rumour has it he'll now take a job with the Vegas Golden Knights.

And meanwhile, there's no news yet on whether Bob Cole is calling games this upcoming season. He remains my favourite. Tell me why I'm wrong in the comments.


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Comments (29 - click here to join in!)

Wefewee

If you were older like me, Danny Gallivan may have been your favourite. He was more exciting than Bill Hewitt.
Right behind would be Dan Kelly.

August 29, 2018 @ 11:13 AM

Kyle

By year twelve, Rogers will have this whole thing figured out.

August 29, 2018 @ 1:15 PM

Beatts

I have no issue with Romanuk. He's way better than Bob Cole.

Healy however, is a turd.

August 29, 2018 @ 1:24 PM

Jason from Sudbury

Shitty. I liked Romy. Bartlett is good too though.

August 29, 2018 @ 3:20 PM

andrew

Never a fan of his doing NHL games.
International hockey overseas is his forte & he should stick with it.

August 29, 2018 @ 5:03 PM

Rob J

Agree with the first commenter about Dan Kelly (his call of Lemieux's go-ahead-goal in the 1987 Canada Cup is highly under-rated). His son John is the lead announcer for the Blues and has a similar tone and cadence.

Another favourite was current Orioles' play-by-play guy Gary Thorne, who was ESPN's hockey voice for years. I got NHL Gamecentre last year and it is interesting hearing all the different local voices doing their homeristic jingoism, which is the best way to stay in the fans' (and bosses) good graces.

August 29, 2018 @ 6:47 PM

Maxpower

"Romy" is an absolute amateur... he is best known for calling Spengler cup games! He must have been in shock when his two buddies called him for a job at hnic. There was absolutely nobody in canada who ever thought about "romy". The ratings tanked, not only because of him but he had a large part in that, even when the leafs suck they had good ratings, not with "romy" calling the games. Do the math, rogers finally did..
There was no vocal minority who hated him... it was a vocal majority... this guy took an absolute beating on social media when he was calling games, it was a bloodbath. He had to cancel his twitter account because of all the negativity. It was not a good fit.. he can do oshawa general games or ouaa sports but to have him as a hnic saturday night guy was blasphemous. It was as bad as andy frost replacing paul morrus or george snuffagopolous replacing ron mclean, i guess georgie wasnt good buds with the two turds responsible for this. By the way the one exec, pelley i think, is gone to be commish of european golf tour . Lol... seems like a major step down to me..
I for one can start watching leaf games again, havent watched since he came on board, unless he was thrust upon some other poor city .. i am so happy he us gone, i never feel bad when incompetent boobs get fired from jobs they should have never had ...

August 29, 2018 @ 7:20 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

@Maxpower

"he is best known for calling Spengler cup games"

Hogwash! He was best known for calling WJHC games. He did the Spengler cup games as a freelancer living in England.

And if the Leafs are good and advancing in the playoffs, I could call a game and it will set ratings records.

August 29, 2018 @ 8:00 PM

Jay Lockwood

Sorry to see Romy go, as a Habs Fan I hated it when John Bartlett called games it was unwatchable! I would listen to the radio feed out of Montreal and watch on mute or had the visiting team broadcast on.

August 29, 2018 @ 9:38 PM

Gilbert La

I wonder if Rogers analyzed the NHL GameCentre Live data to see how many viewers watched the opponents' feeds for Leaf games on Sportsnet compared to TSN? I for one chose to watch the opponent's broadcast when Romanuk was doing the games on Sportsnet.

When I watch a game, I'm looking for a play-by-play guy that can follow the play and tell me what's going on. And then have the pipes to make that bug play call when it happens. In my opinion, Romanuk is among the worst at following and describing the play. It's awful how many times he's not paying attention when there's a scoring chance or a big save. And even when he does see the play, his big calls are average at best.

It's ridiculous that Rogers spent $5.2B to get NHL rights, and the best they could do for play-by-play guys were the unemployed CBC guys, a guy not working in England, and the 3rd best play-by-play guy at TSN.

August 29, 2018 @ 9:54 PM

Rob J

MLB.TV has the feature where you can even overlay the radio broadcast (if you prefer them instead of the TV guys) over the video (remarkably in synch)...not only that, you can also choose to just hear the natural sounds of the park with the video with no announcers. That would be a desirable feature for Gamecentre Live (IMO).

August 29, 2018 @ 10:01 PM

I don't get it

I didn't think Romanuk was terrible but I didn't think he was all that good. Average at best.

Hughson is competent but boring as hell.

Gord Miller is fine.

But I don't get it. We've got the best announcer for the Leafs relegated to radio. Why the heck isn't Bowen back doing the Leaf TV games?

August 30, 2018 @ 12:44 AM

Derek Welsman

Kudos to John Bartlett. He is a great broadcaster and a hard worker and I'm glad it's paying off for him. We both worked Barrie Colts games back in the day (I did the in-stadium music and he did the play by play for Rogers Cable 10) and anyone could see he was headed for bigger things in broadcasting. I remember his first big break a number of years ago, as the play by play for the Marlies, Joe Bowen was unable to call a Leafs game down in Carolina and John was "called up" and filled in admirably.

@TorontoMike, you should have him on.

D

August 30, 2018 @ 9:51 AM

Magoo

How does Greg Mullen get renewed year after year?

August 30, 2018 @ 11:59 AM

Ian

I also think it was a vocal majority of fans - on social media anyways. He used the word "serpentining" (which is not a word) at least once every game to describe a player stick-handling into the O zone...he also told a story in a Leafs regional game about how a player's father tragically died yet that player's father was actually alive and well. After the commercial break, he had to apologize that he mixed-up that player with another, unrelated player! In short, he was awkward and bad and he was greatly disliked on Leafs reddit.

Also, Healy acted like a such a jerk during HNIC broadcasts - he would constantly rip players like Kessel for and not rip other players for the same, silly things. He came across as overly-critical, biased, and mean.

I'm glad they are both gone from our hockey broadcasts as I was one of those critics on social media. Looks like Rogers has been listening as they have made some very positive changes since their first-season debacle.

August 30, 2018 @ 1:44 PM

Maxpower

@toronotomike
Chris Cuthbert: 1984–2004
Ken Daniels: 1992–1997
Don Wittman: 1979–2008
Danny Gallivan: 1952–1984
Bill Hewitt: 1958–1982
Foster Hewitt: 1952–1960
Dick Irvin, Jr.: 1966–1999
Dan Kelly: 1977–1980
Mark Lee: 1997–2014
Jim Robson: 1970–1985
Jim hughson-present
Bob cole 1973- present
Paul romanuk fired
Looks like one of these doesnt belong....
As a big hockey guy i remember him only for spengler cup, i believe he started doing those in 2001. He is incredibly forgettable. He couldnt catch a cold in the broadcast world before this last debacle.
Mike when the leafs stink they still draw viewers, except when romy was calling the games in 2014... the rogers execs were so dismissive of social media criticsm and cocky but they got there just desserts with massive losses the first couple of years. Rogers was completely ill equipped to handle the scope of that contract, they had to dig deep into the broadcaster swamp to pull romy and kevin marks... horrible.... i resorted to the punjabi feed when that hack was calling games... free at last, free at last....

August 30, 2018 @ 9:59 PM

Rob J

Wittman was brilliant, especially calling games in the 1980s Battle of Alberta.

August 30, 2018 @ 11:18 PM

JC

Romanuk's biggest problem was calling the play like every a game 7 OT of a Stanley Cup Final. And he did that from start to end of every single game. Just too over the top.

August 31, 2018 @ 8:16 AM

Ed

Ok, time to hear from an old timer. First of all, love Maxpower's comments. Romanuk sucked when he was the main guy for TSN back in the day. He did NHL, WJHC and Spengler games for them. He was only approached by Sportsnet because 2 of the best in the business, Gord Miller and Chis Cuthbert preferred to stay with TSN. I listen to Joe Bowen on my phone and the sound off on my TV when Romanuk was on. As for Dave Randorf (3rd best at TSN????). He was the host for CFL games and was terrible at that and even worse as a play by play guy. His effeminate voice turns me off.
I disagree with the comments about Bill Hewitt. In my not so humble opinion, he is one of the best ever. Perhaps he gets criticized because of his last name. You needed a dictionary to keep up with his commentary. Cannonading drive??? What does that mean, Danny? It's 1967 and I don't have Google. Still great, however. Disagree with comments on Gary Thorne. Terrible. As is Doc Emrick. I know I am in the minority with that but I don't get the fuss. The best US based announcers are Ken Daniels in Detroit and Sam Rosen with the Rangers.
Closing comments with John Bartlett. An improvement over Romanuk for sure but only marginally. I remember him when he did Marlies games and quoting Randy Carlyle " He was ok, just ok."

August 31, 2018 @ 9:49 AM

Ed

I missed adding Danny Gallivan's name just after my comment about Bill Hewitt. I am putting it down to a senior moment even though I am a few years shy of being one.

August 31, 2018 @ 9:53 AM

Rob

I worked with Paul at 1350 CKAR in the early 80's. Paul was calling Generals games back then after Mike Inglis had left the station and I ran the board during those games. I always admired Paul for his success after CKAR at TSN but I lost track of him after that but was able to catch up when you had him on a few months back.

Now to qualify what I'm going to say...I didn't have cable for a few years until the Jays got hot in 2015. So over the past 3 years I've been back catching some sports again, cause quite frankly there isn't much worth watching except live sports. Paul is a radio guy and is awesome at calling games on the radio he makes you feel like you are at the game, he paints a picture of what is happening and makes you feel just about as excited as he is calling the game.

I think the reason for all the flake Paul takes is that he is calling a game on TV as a radio guy trying to get into the theater of the mind that radio is...but TV is not theater of the mind because obviously the pictures are right in front of you and you have to let the pictures speak for themselves. TV has made leaps and bounds over the past 25 years with not only picture quality but also sound with mics being placed all around a game to help you feel like you are at the game. Calling a game on TV is different...Dan Shulman in my opinion also sounds better calling Jays games on the radio. I haven't worked in radio for about 18 years but as you can tell I'm a radio guy it used to be far more exciting than TV as I worked at 2 different radio/TV station combinations and I couldn't have cared less about TV.
Thanks Mike for what you are doing...I think it was John Donabie that recently made a comment that your shows may well be the only link we may have to hearing the stories of Toronto radio and it's announcers from the past 30 or 40 years or so. Rob Cowell

August 31, 2018 @ 6:58 PM

Anonymous

It's a damn shame that Chris Cuthbert is still doing CFL games (no dis to CFL fans, I just think he's that good at hockey PXP).

Why did that really happen @ CBC? I thought I listened to all the hockey related eps, and I don't remember it being discussed.

Mike the difference between Healy and Romanuk was night & day to me.

Healy was too "negative" for the Leafs fan base; I don't think he made a lot of mistakes on air. Really, the net nerds didn't like his attitude--kind of like a lot of media don't like Tortorella, because he's old school. That would mean more for a former player/commentator than a PXP guy.

Romanuk had his share of rabid Leafs fans on his back, but they & others had legitimate criticisms. The three major issues with him were repeated often enough they were put up on twitter in near real time by frustrated fans. Any passing Rogers/Sportsnet suit could see them if they were following the games.

I know they decide by numbers now, but I wonder if everything being out there, and them actually seeing it made a difference.

September 2, 2018 @ 6:21 AM

Dave

It’s nice not to have to listen to play by play being screamed start to finish. Bartlett is a welcome change; however, I’m in the bring back Joe camp. They use his voice over on HNIC all the time so why not bring him back to do Leaf games? Just an opinion...

September 22, 2018 @ 8:15 PM

Gary Tomkinson

I see no-one has mentioned Bob Cole. He was good in his day but that has passed and he's stepping down. As a Canucks regional viewer we get John Shorthouse not to bad but there is better out there. I like Doc Emmrick on NBC broadcasts. Romanuk wasn't to bad ... better then Don Whitman that's for sure! Gord Miller is very good but I find Chris Cuthbert a little boring. As far as voices from the past my favs were Dan Kelly (his son is just as good) Danny Gallivan, Jim Robson and Bill Hewitt

October 3, 2018 @ 9:57 PM

Orometheus

Romanuk was awful! Dave (Snot nose sounding) Randorf is even worse.
Bartlett is marginally better but at least it’s an improvement.
Too bad John Shorthouse and John Garrett couldn’t do HNIC games more often!
They are the best in Canada.
Pat Foley is by far the top guy in hockey. Too bad he does Chicago games on WGN and nbcsn! Whenever the Hawks are on WGN, I watch their games, especially when they play Canadian teams.
Gord Miller is also really obnoxious! Up and down delivery style is so predictable!
Chris Cuthbert is ok but somewhat frustrating to listen to at times. He is better suited to Football!
I just refuse to watch when Randorf does play by play! Awful voice!
And finally, it would be so nice if an NHL team offered Craig Simpson a coaching job! He is always moaning and complaining about every play. Really surprised he’s still working games as colour guy!

October 7, 2018 @ 4:14 PM

Rob J

Mark me down as a Pat Foley fan as well. He's very distinctive in a job where being a vanilla-homer seems to be the main prerequisite.

October 7, 2018 @ 5:38 PM

JR

Scratchy Romanuk, never a big fan but at least he doesn't lisp like Randorf. A big impediment to a play by play commentator. Randorf is a good studio host but not for calling g a game.

Bill Hewitt was the voice of the Leafs so long, he was the best we ever had. Joe Bowen should be back on TV but in truth he has always been better on radio, where he's exceptional. Today TSN beats Sportsnet when it comes to broadcasts.

Bartlett is inoffensive, not a personality but maybe that's a good thing.

October 20, 2018 @ 6:52 AM

Anonymous

Romanuk was not a good play by play guy . He is more like a Joe Boyden(Leaf jerk) . I think he was on the Leafs payroll. Would not accept the fact that other teams other than the Leafs did good things .Good Riddance

October 26, 2018 @ 4:20 PM

Harvey Brown

I can' listen to Greg Millen . He should not be on Sportsnet doing hockey. I think every game sound the same.They should have got rid of him when they got rid of Paul Romanuk.I gust i will have to continue to mute the T.V.

November 28, 2018 @ 11:01 PM

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