Bryn Griffiths: Over 100 Minutes of Stories
Updated: 4 days ago
If you've listened to sports radio in Alberta anytime in the last three decades, you probably know Bryn Griffiths. He's been positively prolific in covering the NHL and CFL teams in the area since the 90's- which is around when I met him.
Bryn joins us from Edmonton this week to talk about his lifelong passion for sports and broadcasting, and fair warning, this episode is a big one. We begin by exploring why he got into radio, and my jealousy over the fact that different time zones allowed Bryn to catch Monday Night Football as a kid without staying up past his bedtime. We continue into stories about his career in radio, his favourite interviews, the usual sports talk, and of course, a long chat about the current state of sports radio (and radio in general).
As you might expect from someone who's been the rockstar of Albertan sports radio for the last 30-odd years, Bryn also drops a metric ton of broadcasting wisdom throughout this episode. From how to tell a story, to what makes certain radio and TV shows feel special, and much, much more. Quite honestly, this is a tricky one to summarize, because we just talk about so much- but it's all worth hearing, I promise. Bryn is an endless font of wisdom for any aspiring radio star.
For another interesting little tidbit, check out this YouTube channel belonging to Mark Summers. He's saved all the air checks from a ton of Edmonton radio stations, and they're definitely a fun listen:
Nowadays, Bryn is the Director of Podcast and Audio Production at Road 55, a production house in Edmonton that works with you every step of the way to help you create the best version of whatever content you want to make. If that sounds appealing, you can check out their website here.
Check out the kind words of two time guest on this podcast, Marty Forbes:
"He built something that I think the industry needs, and that is what we call one stop podcasting. And what I hear from everybody is, 'Geez, I really would like to do one of these things. I don't have the time and I don't have the wherewithal,' but they have the knowledge... Well, Bryn has all the parts that you need, and all he needs is knowledge. So he's built... a complimentary service so that guys can use podcasting for pure commercial intent and backgrounding for their businesses. So he's very good at it... It's a neat template that's rather unique, and (Bryn) has built this template to be really profitable and meaningful in his life, that he's now doing something he really enjoys. He's a great guy to talk to."
If you'd like to keep up with Bryn, you can follow him on Instagram, Twitter, or LinkedIn.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:00:01
The Soundoff podcast. The podcast about broadcast with Matt Cundill.... starts now.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:00:10
I've known Bryn Griffiths since the 1990s when he was working for the Edmonton Oilers. He was the guy you called when you needed something media related... like an interview. In and around those times, though, is a very storied broadcast career. And I say storied because he's really good at telling stories and knows that stories are the key to great radio. So here we go. From Edmonton to Moose Jaw, to Calgary, the Oilers, the Flames, the CFL, and all points in between. Bryn Griffiths joins me from his home studio in Edmonton, Alberta, where the stories started before I hit the record button.
Bryn Griffiths (Guest) 00:00:45
First of all, you've got to always have content. Two, you've always got to be creative in how you present the content. And the third one is the one that most people completely forget about. And that is there's got to be conflict. If there's not an element of conflict between hosts, host and guests, host and listener or a texture or whatever it is, is going to work, it'll work okay, but you can't take it to the next level if you don't have that third C, give me the three C's and don't forget that third one. You've always got to be able to push a few buttons a little bit. You don't have to go away from what you believe, but there's always a way you can spin it.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:01:22
Bryn, you know, you're like the rock star who comes in, sits down to do the interview while the records playing, burns all the stories while the records playing. And then when we go to air, there's nothing.
Bryn Griffiths (Guest) 00:01:33
I don't know. I think I could find something for you.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:01:36
I mean, what you were saying was so good.
Bryn Griffiths (Guest) 00:01:37
I'm like, why is he not talking. About this while I'm recording? So I just hit record and off we go.
Bryn Griffiths (Guest) 00:01:42
Lots to talk about, man, and thanks for having me on today.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:01:45
I know. Well it's like therapy, right? So where shall we begin?
Bryn Griffiths (Guest) 00:01:49
Well, let's begin at the very beginning. I think Julie Andrews once sung that in The Sound of Music.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:01:54
But start at the beginning of a broadcast career if that's where your story does begin, because so much of what you do is intertwined between working with sports properties, for sports properties, and as well, media. You've gone back and forth for so many years and we'll try to touch both those bases. But which came first, the sports property or the broadcast property?
Bryn Griffiths (Guest) 00:02:16
I think the love of sports came first. And it's funny because my want and need to get into the broadcasting business started in grade seven when I was going to junior high and I wasn't quite good enough to make the basketball team where two of my best friends were good enough to make that basketball team. So I figured, what am I going to do here? Gee, I'm kind of enjoying watching this new cable show that we're getting here in Edmonton called Monday Night Football. And Howard Cosell is kind of crazy. And so, anyway, I was intrigued by Monday Night Football, and they had a great team back then. And I thought to myself, that might be kind of an interesting thing to get into. So I convinced my parents to buy me. I wanted to get a little panasonic cassette recorder where I could basically do play by play of my friends basketball games and just start to have some fun with it. And that's kind of where it got started for me. And it's funny because I still am very close to a bunch of my junior high friends and they all say the one thing. They say there's only one or two people that I went to school with where I knew what they were going to do right from the get go. You were one of them. And I never really wanted to do anything else. I got a little distracted when I got out of high school because I think everybody does. But it took me a few years to get started. I went and did volunteer work at the cable TV station here in Edmonton, just basically watching how everything works. And then I also volunteered at the campus radio station, CJSR. And Morley Scott, who is now the voice of the Edmonton Elks, he was doing the play by play for the U of A Golden Bears. And I kind of hosted just for fun. I wasn't getting paid. I was on this campus station. I didn't even go to the U of A, but it was fun for me. And then Morley got a gig in St. Paul doing some junior A games. And so I moved in to do play by play of the Bears. And also, I was the sports director at CJSR. They paid me, like, $800 a month and my folks were on board. They said, look, if you want to give it a try, do it. You can still live at home, and you can still pull in a little bit of cash and you can have another part time job at Sport Check. And so I kind of did both. And I got a chance to talk to a guy called Clare Drake, legendary coach. And I learned so much about hockey by talking to both he and Billy Moore, who was an assistant both with NHL experience. But Clare one of the winningest coaches in all of university and college hockey in North America, anywhere in the world. But you learn a lot on the bus, right? So, sure enough, I was getting ready to do my second year at the U of A and I got a call from CHAB in Mooshaw, Aaskatchewan. Saskatchewan. Super Eight. And they wanted to hire me to do the Moose Jaw Warrior broadcast because Scott Armstrong, who had been doing the games of the first year, Scott had decided to head back to Ontario. And this was kind of sudden in August. So I sent my tape to the general manager, Stan Ravendale, because the program director, Sharon Taylor, wasn't there. And Stan had to get somebody in fast. So that was kind of my jump. And all through this I wanted to go to the NAIT course, the radio and television arts course, but my English mark was never strong enough. But my desire and my passion was there. But they still went aggressively after the 85 and the 90 percenters, so I had probably been turned down about four or five times. That's why I started doing volunteer work. I always tell people, if you're really passionate about something, find a way in. And that's how I found my way in.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:05:51
So some of the things that ran through my mind as you're talking is like, how come you got to watch Monday Night Football? Because my bedtime sort of coincided with when it started. But then I remember you're in Edmonton, so that's a 07:00 start. Lucky you. And then the other thing I'm thinking is that transitional period between late 70s into the 80's in Edmonton, can you tell everyone what it was like? You don't have to go into the building of the Oilers. I think we'll get into that shortly. But the city really changed from the late 70s into the 80's - the place exploded like no other. And really it sort of vaulted the city into what it's become today.
Bryn Griffiths (Guest) 00:06:26
And I think that all happened in 1978 when we got the Commonwealth Games, when they were big, and all of a sudden we went from Clark Stadium, where I grew up as a kid in the Knot Hole Gang, watching a horrible, horrible Edmonton Eskimos team. Sorry, but that's who they were back then. So I watched the Clark Stadium and then through the middle part of the 70s, you can see just northeast of the stadium, the new stadium being built, and everybody kind of got charged up about this Commonwealth Stadium that they were building. We're going to host these Commonwealth Games. We're going to have an opportunity to host the Commonwealth to come in here. And it was a big thing. And the other thing that was really interesting, my parents were always very supportive of anything I did, but they love sports, both of them. My mum helped me learn and love the sport of tennis, which is not a really big thing, but she would get me up at seven in the morning and watch Wimbledon because she just loved it. My dad was a huge hockey guy, very supportive, but they were always big on sports. And the one thing about the Commonwealth Games was my parents, who are of Welsh descent, had decided to open up our home to guests during the Commonwealth Games because they were worried about hotel rooms and hotel space. So they invited these people, the people who came to stay with us for those two weeks. He was the head of the Welsh Tourist Board, so he was really well connected. So what was interesting to me, we were invited to go to this event at the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium, and it was a reception that the government was holding, the UK government were holding for their teams and their officials. And we got invited along because we were with the Saunders. That's who they were. So when I was there, mr. Saunders was really connected. So I got a chance to meet Sir Roger Banister, kind of set the mark on the old Mile at Empire Stadium in Vancouver, got a chance to meet a lot of famous UK athletes, and it just kind of charged me right up. And that was in 78 years I'm graduating from high school. So that kind of got me really, really started. But I really believe that's what pushed the city to achieve. The football team had started to win a little bit just prior to that, so the ball was already rolling a little bit. But just to get an opportunity to host the world, I think push the city to recognize we can be a little bit better than we think we can. The other thing, too, we're in the World Hockey Association at that time, and there was always this talk of a merger with the National Hockey League. And while we heard Toronto and Montreal were not interested in Vancouver to a certain degree, not interested in having other Canadian teams, mostly because we weren't big enough, winnipeg, Quebec City and Edmonton were not big enough, calvary wasn't even in the mix at that point. So anyway, it's just circumstances. Everything just kind of fell into place. Got into the NHL. The football team got on an unbelievable role. I look at the winners. Blue Bombers right now at the time of this taping, are on the precipice of winning three Gray Cups in succession. It also makes me realize how unbelievable five is, so that the football team was on fire. Then we had this kid, Wayne Gretzky. I remember going to his very first game at what was the Coliseum, and it was the first time I'd ever gone to a hockey game. And there was somebody playing on a professional team who was younger than me very first time. So I don't know, I think the city just kind of got caught up in it, and the city has never really looked back. We like hosting big events here. If it's not a big event, we might be there, we might not be there, but if it's a big event, we're going to show up.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:09:51
And for American listeners who've made it this far into the podcast, don't think they might understand that the Edmonton Eskimos with those five great Cups. It was Warren Moon who was quarterback for, I think, three or four of them on the back half. And also it was Forrest Gregg who was the coach. He went on to, I think, coach the packers at one point.
Bryn Griffiths (Guest) 00:10:12
We've seen a lot of good talent go through here. We've seen some guys make it to the NFL. Warren is obviously the biggest. Warren was outstanding right from the moment he stepped from the University of Washington, the Huskies in Seattle, to Edmonton, and so proud to call him an escort alumni and also proud to see what he did in the NFL and proud to see he's in the Football Hall of Fame.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:10:32
Yeah, absolutely. And I'm also thinking back to that merger when the Oilers did come on board, and the Winnipeg Jets and the Hartford Whalers. But times don't change. Canadian clubs still don't want other Canadian clubs in the NHL because they got to share the TV revenue.
Bryn Griffiths (Guest) 00:10:48
Well, there were two rounds of merger talks. The very first one, it didn't go very well, and it was kind of shocking to us. And the city, I think, at that time might have rained around 7500 people maybe, but it was shocking to us. Vancouver were kind of iffy they were on the fence. But both Harold Ballard and the Leafs and the Molson's and the Montreal Canadien were not wanting any part of an Edmonton or Winnipeg or Quebec City. So the first round went poorly. It didn't ever happen. But the fact that we're talking is what I convinced my dad to buy season tickets that year, because I said, you know, if they're talking now, something is going to happen here and we'll get in eventually. So I convinced my dad to buy season tickets. We got great tickets and we watched them get all the way to the World Hockey Association final against the jets. And then the merger talks started up again, but would really push things. And the reason why things changed. Vancouver now was on side, but Montreal was still iffy and Toronto was dead against it. But it didn't have to be anonymous vote. So Harolds could just kind of go away and Harold was Harold. But the thing that really tipped it was in both winterg and Edmonton, we did this thing called a beer boycott. We boycotted Molson's. And Molson was the number one beer product in Western Canada. And we got a little support out of Vancouver in British Columbia, and we basically shut down their brewery for about two to three months to the point where they went, you know what? This is not good for business. And so the Molson part of it overruled the Montreal Canadians part of it, and the halves came on board, and the next thing you know, we're in. We're into the big league. And then Calvary obviously came along after the Flames decided to make a move, but there was no interest in having Canadian cities, let alone Canadian cities who were only around 600,000 to 750,000. But I think it worked out okay.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:12:31
Where were you around 1981 when all this starts to really take off?
Bryn Griffiths (Guest) 00:12:36
I was working at Sport Check. I was selling shoes, and I loved it. I'm still very close to a lot of the people I worked alongside at Sport Check back in the 80s. They've become very successful people in the community here and throughout Western Canada, but I just loved to check in with them. Before that, I worked at the auto center at Sears, which was also great because I always watched Cheers, the television show, and I used to look at the ensemble cast that they had, and everybody was a colorful character. But I worked at an auto center at Sears, and I always thought to myself, this would be a great sitcom because everybody in here is so wildly crazy in their own special way. So basically, what I was trying to get into, Nate, into radio and television arts, I decided I needed to make some money. So I worked at an auto center, which was fun, also paid the bills. I learned a lot about cars, and then I went to Sport Check. I didn't need to know much about shoes, but it was a great filler. And then when I went into the U of A at CJSR, I was able to maintain that job just to make sure that I was able to generate a little funds, which is one of the things you always have to do in radio as well.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:13:41
When you started to work in a place, let's say, like CHAB, you want to call the hockey games, but you get a whole bunch of other jobs that sort of come with it. And sometimes I think that you go all going to call the hockey games, but then you have to go into the radio station to learn all these other things that you need to do, because you can't just call hockey games. So what else did you do?
Bryn Griffiths (Guest) 00:14:01
Yes, I did the morning show, and when I first got there, Kelly Latremouille was the host, and doing news was a guy named Doug Blackie. .... and Doug. I didn't even know, and this is how long ago this was. We had to edit with the old grease pencil, and you'd cut the tape on the reels and everything. So I learned that because I was excited and I was enthusiastic and passionate about it, so I learned really quick. But the thing that was really a struggle in the first year was the fact that you would do the morning show on a Monday. You do the morning show on a Tuesday. Then you would go right from the radio station after doing a little post show prep. You go right from there to the arena, drop your car off, grab out of the back, your blanket, your equipment and your pillow, you jump on the bus and you'd head to Prince Albert, which would be about a three hour trip. You get into the arena and you'd have to sleep on the bus because you're just on the morning show. So you get into Prince Albert, let's say around five in the afternoon or whatever, and you get off the bus, you go up to the press box. We used to use two phone lines, and you have to make sure that they were working. And you'd set up and you go down and you do your post game stuff with the coaches. And then you come up, you do the broadcast of the game. Afterwards, you would go downstairs, get a couple of quick clips for the morning show. The next day you get on the bus, you drive all the way back to Moose Jaw. You get back in the Moose Jaw at 330 in the morning. I always slept in a chair. Eventually they put in a sofa in the very back in the lounge, and I would sleep for an hour, hour and a half there. Kelly would wake me up, okay, we're ready to go. Or Doug and I would go in and I would type up my sports and I would go and I'd perform for the next 3 hours during the morning show. And then back there in the first year, I did a split shift. So I would go home after the morning show, I would sleep, and then I would wander into the radio station again around three to do the sports at four, five and six. And that's it. If you're not passionate about it, that would have got me out of the business, like, in a heartbeat, because it was a grind. But I just loved it. It was so much fun. But yeah, you do other things too.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:16:27
I'm not even sure you need to rent an apartment at that point. I think you can just use the station couch.
Bryn Griffiths (Guest) 00:16:33
But you know what? If it wasn't fun, I would not do it. And the other thing I started doing on the morning shows, I started doing character voices. So what we used to do is and it was so much fun, because radio is really kind of magical in a lot of ways, right? So what we would do is you'd get the Electric Weenie, which was a comedy service, and you'd find a bad joke in there. So I did a few characters. I did one was Skippy the Newspaper Boy, and it was basically a takeoff of Arnold on the Flints list. Hey, Mr. Flintstone. You know, that kind of stuff. I did another one called Guido. Guido talked like this, and he was our garbage guy. And then the other guy was Dr. Mel Practice. I can't believe we still use that name, but we did, and Dr. Mel talked a lot like that. Like Truman Capotee and Droopy Dog or whatever.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:17:49
Bryn Griffiths (Guest) 00:17:50
What we would do is I would go into the studio with Kelly and then later on, Barry Weiss and I would be the character and the host would be the host. And the whole thing was to set up this bad corny joke. Every time. The bit would go about a minute, minute and a half. But what we would do is occasionally the character would say, good morning, Barry. Good morning, Bryn. And then we'd leave a little gap. And so when we ran it on the air off of an old cart machine, I left my mic open so that I could go, Good morning, Dr. Mel So nobody knew that it was me. And when Dr. Mel would be lining up his joke, I'd be going and like I said, that was the magic of it because nobody had a clue who these people were, and it was me. And I just thought it was so much fun. And once again, if it wasn't fun, I'm not sure I would have made it through those few years. And the other thing that was a little tough in Moose Jaw was that it was really Moffat High. Moffat Communications put all their young and up and comers there. And so I watched a lot of great talent go through there in about a half a year to a year. Well, sports. I knew when I went to Saskatchewan I was going to be there for at least three years because sports jobs don't open up. So I knew that I had to kind of suck it up for three years. But it was really I found it a little depressing. Like when Kelly left out, it would kill me. But Barry Weiss came on board. Barry was great. Love working with Barry and Rob Carney. But it was a tough run at times in Moose Jaw But the fact that I got an opportunity to do absolutely everything, I just think made me a better broadcaster.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:19:35
And what came after Moose Jaw?
Bryn Griffiths (Guest) 00:19:37
My parents had come out for a visit in my fourth year, had come out for Easter, and the warriors didn't make the playoffs that year. And so a friend of mine, Roger Millions, who was doing the PlaybyPlay for the Saskatoon Blades on, I think it was CFQC Radio City. Brinster, why don't you come out to Swift Current tonight and do color for me on this playoff game? And it was always fun to go to Swift because you get a chance to watch Joe Sakic play. Joe is such a talent. So I went, but I dragged my parents with me and the Broncos were kind of upset me up with tickets and everything, so my parents had a chance to sit right in the crowd. And of course, a few people found out who they were and they were very complimentary of me to my parents, which was really nice, meant a lot to me. But of course, in Swift Current we had the number one morning show. Cab boomed everywhere in the province, so our morning show was big. People were always great to me in Swift unless I came in with the warriors and then I was the enemy. But anyway, so I went in with my parents, I did the broadcast. We had dinner with the Blades in a little restaurant, and then we were driving back and I don't know, it was kind of quiet in the car. I think my mum had fallen asleep. Dad was awake. But we got back to my place and around four in the morning I could hear my dad waking up and he was shifting around and I could hear him in the other room saying to his mom that he must have eaten something bad because he had some indigestion. And that kind of caught my attention. And then the other one was, my arm is feeling a little tingly, my left arm. So I immediately jumped out of bed. He was going to go walk across the street in the park. I'm glad I didn't let him go because he would have dropped dead in the park, but I got him to the hospital. It was a blowout of his aorta. So dad passed away in Moosha and so I had to drive my mum back home and everything like that. But I came back for the fifth season in Mooshaw and I didn't make it the whole way through because I knew I had to get back to Edmonton to be with my mum and my sister. So I got a call from K 97 and they were making a change, and so they hired me. So I left in February that year and I came back to Edmonton and I worked at K 97 for a year and a half to almost two years with a fun morning show as well.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:21:41
Who was on that morning show?
Bryn Griffiths (Guest) 00:21:43
Well, The Breakfast Club. Bruce Kenyon was the main anchor.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:21:47
That's right. Many years there, and just the time, I think he took a small time out to go to Montreal and then back to Edmonton.
Bryn Griffiths (Guest) 00:21:54
I can't remember which station he was at Montreal, but anyway, Bruce was great fun to work with. I worked with Sharon Mallon, who was doing news. Sharon was the ultimate professional when it came to news, and Mark Summers was our operator, Sharky, we call him, and he did traffic when he wasn't operating the board. And it was so much fun working with the three of them because we were really in the heyday. There was no other real rock station. There was 96, which was K Light, which I think turned into Mix. It's funny. Len Thuessen. Len was programming, and they could never quite crack that nut when I was there, but I had a lot of fun there. It was just, I think, so highly of all three of those guys. I've always worked with great people. I've been so lucky, and I've learned from everybody I've worked with, which I think is so important. But the K 97 experience was a blast. I really loved it. Yeah.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:22:43
If I were to think about a great incarnation of a K 97 morning show, that was one that I knew, that went through the late eighties and on into the early nineties, and Mark Summers had some great retro stuff up on a YouTube page somewhere.
Bryn Griffiths (Guest) 00:22:57
Oh, yeah. Well, the other thing, too, we had a 42/ 43% market share at one point. And I will tell you, one of my career highlights in 1990 was they sent me on the road to be with the Oilers through the playoff run. And the year before, the orders were playing Wayne Gretzky and the Kings, their first clash in the playoffs since the sale or trade, depending on how you view it. I view it as a sale. But I went on that first trip in 89, and it was a seven game series. They lost in seven. But the thing that I remember about that trip was how intimidated I was to be on that bus with the Mark Messiers and the Kevin Lowe's and was a very talented team. The only thing they were missing was 99. But I remember getting on the bus one day, it was after a game they had lost, and I was going to cab back to the hotel and Bill Tuele, the longtime public relations media relations director with the hockey club, said, you go back to the hotel, Brain, just jump on the bus. So I jumped on the bus and I looked and there wasn't a freaking seat in the front. So I kept moving back and moving back, and I went, now I travel on the bus. I know that it's sanctuary at the. Very back. That's where the veterans are. And of course, as you move towards the back of the bus, you can see the age changing as well, because it's the older guys at the back. And I was getting nervous. I'm going and one guy goes, there's a seat back here. So I went to sit in that seat, and I was sitting next to Charlie Huddy, and I just sat there, and I was kind of staring straight ahead like I went, don't talk, don't talk. Just say nothing. This is only a ten minute bus trip, and everything like that. And I still remember Charlie turning to me and saying, but she's giving you a hard time, huh? And I looked. What? He says, all the guys are giving you a hard time about being on the road with us. And at that point, I recognized that, you know what? Shit, this guy's a listener. This isn't just Charlie Huddy, the hockey player, and then Kevin and Mark and a bunch of the guys at the back, the veteran guys, well, you could tell those guys to screw off. I all of a sudden recognized that, okay, I'm the same age as these guys. And while I see them differently, and I thought they would see me differently, the one thing we had in common was I was on the radio and they were listening to that station. So it was a real eye opener for me, and I loved it. And in 1990, I got a chance to cover the team home and away through the entire playoff run right to the Cup Final. And it was a blast. And it was fun for me because the one thing I've learned is I don't cheer for teams. I never really have, but I cheer for the guys wearing the jerseys, because you make really great friendships in hockey as you're doing the media business. So for me, when LA won the cup that one year, it was great fun to see a couple of the guys who I knew in Edmonton win, because they were good guys, right? But the whole thing was just very, very strange. But the whole K 97 experience was a blast for me.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:25:37
When did La win the cup?
Bryn Griffiths (Guest) 00:25:39
Oh, man. What year would that have been?
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:25:42
Bryn Griffiths (Guest) 00:25:43
Yeah. Somewhere in there, Boston won it. If my good friend Bob Stauffer was here, he would be embarrassed because he would be able to nail out immediately.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:25:52
Just interrupting here to let you know there's an excellent documentary called The Boys on the Bus featuring the Edmonton Oilers. The link is in the show notes. Okay, back to the podcast.
Bryn Griffiths (Guest) 00:26:02
Now, during my time in Moose Jaw, I've been sending cassettes to Winnipeg to be critiqued by Curt Keelback. And every once in a while I would get a fax or a quick little phone call. But here's what you should work on. I can't do Curt's voice very well. I can't go that deep and I would work on those little things, or I get a I'd get a letter back with some handwritten notes real quick. I just thought it was really special. Anyway, so I came back to Edmonton because I needed to be closer to family. And during the last couple of months at K 97, I got a call from the Winnipeg Jets were making a shift because their longtime legendary broadcaster Kenny Nicholson, who they called the Friar, was suffering from diabetes. And Michael Hearn had been filling in a little bit, but they wanted somebody who could come and fill in for the final year of their current contract. So my name had been mentioned about what about that kid in Moose Jaw? Well, they didn't know that I moved to Edmonton, but they tracked me down, flew me in, hired me, and the next thing you know, I'm doing games in the NHL with another guy who I respect and Curt Keelback. And that was fun. Some of it was fun. Not all of it. A lot of it was. But there were some moments when I went'wow, what am I doing here?
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:27:12
In just a second. More with Bryn. What's it like working for the Edmonton Oilers around names like Kevin Lowe and Glenn Sather. Players like Doug Weight and Bill Guerin. And what about that time in Winnipeg? There's more to come. And I've posted a bunch of things on the episode page, including ways to connect with Brian if your business is interested in a branded podcast, and also a link to Mark Summer's YouTube page where you can connect with a whole lot of other Edmonton radio nostalgia and air checks.
Tara Sands (Voiceover) 00:27:41
The Sound Off podcast with Matt Cundill.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:27:58
What was it like to work with Curt Keelback?
Bryn Griffiths (Guest) 00:28:00
Well, Kurt was great. It's funny because the first couple of weeks I was a little down. And the reason I was a little down, and it shouldn't have been down I'm doing games in the national hockey. I'm not doing play by play, I'm doing color. But Curt's reasoning for getting a broadcastering was he wanted to work with a broadcaster, and I want to work with another former player who could not broadcast. He said, Get me a broadcaster. How about the kidna in Moose Jaw? So Curt was fantastic, but those first couple of weeks, I was a little down because I was doing all this game prep. The fun part was working with Curt was that after every game it was on the road, we'd go for beer. So he says, how are you feeling about things? I said, Well, I'm a little down because I'm only using 20% to 30% of my game notes. And he started to laugh with his deep voice. And he said, there'll come a couple of games where you'll use 80% to 90% of your stuff. Don't worry about it. So it was about a week or two later, I think we were at Madison Square Garden in New York. And sure enough, a pain of glass breaks and it took them forever to fix it. The key for me was I didn't want to become a stat guy. I wanted to be a story guy. I wanted to go down to the room and I talked to Eddie Olczyk or Randy Carlyle or Scott Arneil or any of those guys. But anyway, those guys will always give you great stories. And that's what I've used for show prep. And then you have to have your basic stats. But on that one particular game, I ended up using about 80% of it. And he looked over at me and nodded his head because he went, that's why you do the prep. You do the prep for those times where you need it. Sometimes you don't need it. Sometimes the story is right in front of you. Sometimes you just got to describe the game a little bit. But there's going to come a time where you need to be a little deeper than just what you're seeing on the ice. So I learned lots there and I learned and the other thing, too, the Nicholson family, ken and his wife Marge treated me like another son. And because I had moved to Winnipeg, I get this call. What are you doing? I don't know. I'm just going to stay at home. The apartment here and probably watch the game tonight because then you've got a quality one game a night and he had this big honking satellite dish. Come on over. We'll put something on. We'll put Mars. Can you make something for dinner? So I will go over frequently. And he treated me so well. I really loved my time in Winnipeg. I only stayed a year because the contract expired and the rights jumped from CKY over to CJOB. And they decided the one thing you learned really early in broadcasting is that when changes are made, changes are made. And the other thing about it is that often new generals want their soldiers. They want to go to war with their guys. So I lost my gig in Winnipeg to Don Whitman. No embarrassment there. When I think back in the top ten sports highlights for me in my life, I'll bet you he's broadcast six of them. He could do pretty much everything exceptionally well.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:30:39
1996 Atlanta is What comes to mind immediately in my head.
Bryn Griffiths (Guest) 00:30:42
Yeah, exactly. And the other one for me, I hate to say it's the Ben Johnson one, because for me, that was where sports lost a little bit of its innocence. For me, I started to recognize there's a little more to this than just running a hundred meters. It's a little more than just scoring goals. So for me, it was a bit of a wake up call. But the time in Winnipeg was fantastic. I love the people. The summer was great. I still tell my good friends in Winnipeg that I know it gets cold and Edmonton in the winter, but we get Pacific Air frequently over here, right? We can go into a cold snap for maybe five to seven days, and we get a push of Pacific Air. Calories gets it every two to three days in Winnipeg. When you're in, you are in.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:31:21
As this podcast is being recorded, it is November, and I can confirm we are in.
Bryn Griffiths (Guest) 00:31:26
Yes. Are you okay? Good for you. Like today here, I think it's plus three. But anyway, it was fantastic. So anyway, the contract expired in Winnipeg, and so I'm kind of sitting around and I was trying to figure out, what am I going to do next? And my phone rings and it's a legendary voice that I grew up listening to, inhabitants named Bryan Hall. And Halsey goes for instance what are you doing? I said, I don't know. Bryan thinking of coming back. I said, I don't know. I haven't really started even looking for another gig, Bryan. He says, well, Fred Fleming. And there was a longtime CFL player, freddie Fleming. Fred had gone into broadcasting and worked alongside Halsey for years. Fred was very, very tight, too, with a friend of his in Edmonton at the time, and that was Pat Bolan, who ended up purchasing and was the owner of the Denver Broncos. So Pat decided he wanted to drag Freddie down to work with the Broncos. So Fred goes to Denver, Bryn Griffiths goes back to Edmonton to work alongside Bryan Hall at 930 CJCA for three years. I got the chance to do color on the Trapper AAA broadcast for the PCL, hosted the football broadcast for two and a half years, had a lot of fun. And then they ended up pulling the plug on the radio station because the ownership were going through a crazy time with ownership, and they decided that it would be, rather than sell the station, we'll just we'll basically pull the plug and just turn the license. And I don't know anybody who would do that, but they did. Anyway, I wrote that. I wrote that for a while. Got more experience and it was too much fun. I got a chance to work with Brian Hall and another guy named Bill Matheson. And Maddie was doing a show on the radio and was also doing weather on ITV, which turned into global television. And the one thing I learned from both guys is that you can be yourself on the radio. Don't be afraid to be yourself on the radio. But what you have to do is you have to take it. You have to multiply it times ten. You have to be the shining star. You can't just be another star. You have to be the shining star.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:33:21
So I remember listening to Bill Matheson when he would do the afternoon show on CHED. It was some of the most innocuous stuff, but it was some of the most interesting stuff. He would talk about where the origins of expressions would come from and I'd go, this is really good talk radio that in this day and age would just it's just been all tossed aside. But I remember listening to it and being this is really good stuff, I'm interested. I mean, listen, we can Google all this stuff now, but this is just around the time that the internet was coming into its own. I thought, this is really interesting stuff and builds an interesting guy and he's communicating and talking with people and I don't have to listen to the person who was before him with his incendiary views. Rutherford. There, I said it on CHED.
Bryn Griffiths (Guest) 00:34:01
Yeah, exactly. Okay. But anyway, it was a blast. So I don't know, I just keep moving from gig to gig. I think part of it is because people like me generally and they liked what I did and so therefore I had gone like 25 years from job to job and had never had to hand in a resume. I just kept getting hired and it was great. My resume is rather lengthy, as one PD and Edmonton said once, I don't know if we should hire him. He moves around a lot. Well, I can tell you why I moved around a lot because I love a challenge. And so one, if the station isn't unplugging me, or my father's not passing away or radio rights contract isn't expiring, I could have stayed at those places a long time, but there's always a new challenge and in the ended up moving from there. When the CJCA thing collapsed, I went to Mexico for a few weeks and I got a call from CISN and CHQT and they wanted to hire me. So I put them off for another month and then flew back to Puerto Vallarta feeling good about the fact that I was going back to another job. Stayed there for a while, but by that point I was really burned out. So I stayed for maybe about a year and a half and then I decided just to simply walk away, which really surprised a lot of people. But sometimes you have to do the right thing for you mentally. The mental health thing is essential. So for me, I just walked away and took some time off and then I moved into television for a while.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:35:23
I can see why you took that break. The middle. A lot of radio stations began to get very I think they were quite set in their ways in what they were doing. Music radio really became music radio. I think they felt a little bit less of a need to have a sports voice on and if they did, they were asking for some personality out of it. So that's kind of what I was doing. I was on the Aaron Edmonton with Jake Daniels, but Jake was going to contribute more and be more of a personality rather than just coming in and reading the news and getting up and leaving. First of all, you deserve a break at that .1 of the things that came up, though, when you're talking, you go back to Kurt, who I want to work with a broadcaster. I don't want to work with a sports personality who's breaking it down. And I do see once in a while on Twitter there are people who say, why do they hire sports people instead of broadcasters to do this job? And so I want to know how you would look at that from today's perspective. I mean, I think there's bringing on Tony Romo and Tom Brady has already been signed to a contract, and it didn't take long for Luke Wilson to land at a Bell property, and so on and so forth, versus finding a broadcaster. How do you look at that?
Bryn Griffiths (Guest) 00:36:29
Well, I think you learn really quickly by talking to guys who are playing the sport, whether or not this guy can talk. Okay, I'm going to go back to my one page Jet days because we're hanging in there a little bit. When I got there, the Jets Mike Smith, who was the general manager after John Ferguson had acquired Eddie Olsen as part of a trade. Eddie is a great talker. The other thing that I always was amazed by with Eddie was his ability to remember names. I would not see him for about three or four years, and he would just, granted, I was with the team for a year, then you could go another ten years and not see him, and he would remember your name. He was very good at names, but the one thing he was very good at, he was very good at talking. So when he got into broadcasting, there's a guy who gets it. There's also a guy who understands that when his hockey career is over, he doesn't have to leave the sport. So if I can talk really well, maybe I can move into broadcasting. Some guys can do it, some guys cannot. Tony Romo, for me, is exceptional, and the reason being is that he's never really lost the fact that he understands who his audience is. He's explaining things to me without making me feel like I'm a dummy. But you can tell he's got the ability to get in with the coaches and the quarterback of the opposition team to the point where he's almost calling the plays before they happen. And I love that. It's like the experiment that ESPN went with, and I'm still enjoying it with the Manning brothers on Monday Night Football. Often I don't go over there in the first half because I want to hear the broadcast, but if it turns into a blowout, I still want to watch the football game. I flip over to those guys because they're both great talkers. They're different guys and they're just exceptional at it. But there are some guys that just shouldn't be doing it. But you know what? I understand. They did their time in the league. And sometimes fans don't want to hear it from a broadcaster. They want to hear it from a player who has been there, done that. And I heard that a lot when I was in Winnipeg. But you never played. But the one advantage I have over a fan is that I can go down and talk to a guy after the game and find out why that happened, why that happened, what would you do differently? And I can put that in the memory bank and I can go forward with that. I've always been a believer that if you don't know the answer, it's not embarrassing to say I don't know the answer, but I can find out the answer for that, so I don't have to get too hard. Craig Simpson does a great job. There's a lot of great guys out there that are exceptional. And it's also fun to watch some guys who've got the ability to talk learn. But now we're going to go down a road where I've really watched radio go down here over the last 20 years, and that is the inability to work with your talent, because they're eliminating program directors. And so often now I listen to radio stations, or I listen to sports guys on the sports talk radio stations that are around. And I'm thinking, okay, this guy hasn't improved much in the last three years. And that's because nobody is working with them. And all these guys are coachable. They want to get better. But that's a failure for me on the part of a radio and on television. I think it's also now there nobody's working with some of these guys that have got great potential. And there are some great former players who I think could be sensational color commentators. I guarantee you somebody's been working with Tony oh.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:39:34
They gave him the crash course.
Bryn Griffiths (Guest) 00:39:35
Absolutely. And he's also at CBS. He was working with a guy who can pretty much do everything right. And I love broadcasters who can do a lot of things. Jim Manskin can broadcast a lot of things. Al Michaels can do it. One of my all time favorite guys in the US was Dickenberg. He could do a baseball game, he could do a football game. He could do Wimbledon. He could do it all. He could do track and field. Wit was another one of those guys in Winnipeg, don could do pretty much everything. And then there's other guys that specialize, like in Canada. My two favorite guys who are specialists in what they did was the late, great Danny Gallivan, who I loved, and Bob Cole in his heyday, could set the tone and you could just feel the emotion in his voice. And he didn't overanalyze. The one thing that I really don't like about broadcasting right now is the one I need to overanalyze everything. Call the game for me and be excited and just give me the descriptions. I still prefer radio over television because Bob Costas once said he said that he had been talking to a legendary baseball broadcaster, red Barber Hall of Famer, and Red had told him. And now I'm telling you because I'd heard Bob say it. And that is the one thing television gives you, is it gives you the picture. And you just have to concentrate on giving it the captions. Vin Scully. Another legend. Vin, on the famous home run by Kirk Gibson, didn't speak for a minute and 43 seconds. He let the crowd speak on television. And I had seen stories where downstairs in the truck I go, Van, start talking. Nothing. Ben, we got to please. We talk. Did that thing. He understood how important it was to let the crowd be as much a part of the broadcast as the actual action was. So I love it when guys are guided and directed and are made better. And I guess Curtin maybe had some bad experiences or he just wanted to have somebody in there who understood the broadcasting game. I think the guys that are coming up now get it. I'm not so sure they got it when they're coming out of the 80s into the early 90s. But, hey, it was an opportunity for me to work the NHL and travel. I loved it.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:41:37
What do you think of this glut of radio companies who are not sending their broadcast teams on the road to call the games?
Bryn Griffiths (Guest) 00:41:44
I hate it. I absolutely hate it. It's nothing more than bean counters cutting costs. I think it's essential. There was one game involving the Edmonton Oilers, and there was an injury and they were doing the broadcast. I think the funny part was, is that the play by play team, and it might have been Jack Michaels and Louis de Brusque they were doing the play by play. And the color of this broadcast from Los Angeles, from the studios in Edmonton, and Jean Principal, the host, they flew him 4 hours to Toronto to sit on the set at Sportsnet to host the broadcast when it only is two and a half hours to fly into Los Angeles. There was this injury and I'm kind of going, okay, now this is where I really expect the host to be active. I need the host to go down to that room. But right now they're pretty much handcuffed to their desk in the arenas. Gene Principe did a great job that recently on the Evander Kane wrist being slashed in Tampa, where he went right down to the room and got the information and reported it back. We actually had a guy reporting. So when I see all these guys working out of Toronto and Edmonton, when the games in Los Angeles hey, listen, I'm not going to get I want some inside stuff. I want to know how was the skate this morning? I'm not a big, real big believer in the lines like who's lining up with who and a morning skate, because that's going to change in the first five minutes. Scotty Bowman telling me and Peter Maher, don't waste your time with that shit, because in the first five minutes, if it ain't going, they're going to put it in the blender anyway. Don't waste your time. And if Scotty Bowman saying that, well, then I'm going to listen. So I really hate that. Now I get the COVID thing. I understand why they did it. It's nice to have guys back on the road, but I think it's cheap and I don't think it services the fan base well. It doesn't service the radio listener well it doesn't service the television viewing audience well. They deserve better than that. Just my opinion.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:43:37
I have something that you kind of jarred in my mind. And that was Craig Simpson after he had retired from hockey sometime in the mid ninety s. And the next thing you know, he's wandering the hallways and I was just going to get a cup of coffee or something like that, and I ran into him and I introduced myself and I thought, Why is this guy here? And it turns out he was going to start doing some sports work and here he was learning radio and he was like I thought to myself, yeah, he's going to go far because he's in the right building surrounded by the right people and it's pretty easy to make that transition. You're already a performer and all you need is that last little bit of here's how the microphone works, and here's, here's what you do. They're 90% of the way there, so I'm not surprised. Craig Simpson has had a great career that he has had behind the microphone as well.
Bryn Griffiths (Guest) 00:44:24
Well, only if you looked a little better. If it only looked a little more appealing on television, if his hair wasn't such a mess. I can say that because I know Simmer and he'll probably laugh. I'm sure he will laugh.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:44:34
He's so good looking. His radio career died instantaneously and found his way to television.
Bryn Griffiths (Guest) 00:44:39
Yeah, exactly. So anyway, the business is just kind of radically different. It's just crazy. Yeah, it is.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:44:47
To the point where I don't understand some of the moves that get done and how radio is treated in the landscape. But one thing that I think really resonates with so much that you've talked about, and that's don't be a stats guy. Sports radio is completely unlistenable when you're breaking down the third line and who's going to play center? The average person does not care. And I'm so put off by and I heard it just the other night on a broadcast and I don't want to throw them under the bus, et cetera, et cetera. So I'm not sure they've got a program director, but I don't need to know all your stats information and what you think you know and how that you're just showing off to me. I really need to know some real context to some of the things about why the Blue Bombers have a problem at quarterback for the Great Cup.
Bryn Griffiths (Guest) 00:45:31
Well, quite frankly, yes, there's probably no program director involved, not getting any feedback. And two, probably had the same issues that I had back in 1990 in Winnipeg, where I was getting worried about the fact I wasn't using my show prep. So let me throw it, all right? Right now I've got stats at the Wazoo. Let me get to them right now, quickly. I can get a couple more things in here. It's not the last radio job I had, but I did spend a year and a half in Calgary at Sports Night 960, the Fan. I did the afternoon show with Pat Steinberg, who I love Pat, great guy. I just love him passionate about what he does. He was also hosting the Postgame Open Line show after the Flames games. My job was to co host with Pat and was to also host the Flames broadcast, which was a blast because I got a chance to work with a legend, peter Marr, in Calgary, and I love Pete to death and Mike Rogers, a former NHL or sorry, Western Hockey League and Oral Hockey Association player. And so I learned lots from those guys, all three of them. But the one thing, I was hired initially to come on board to be a story guy. And through the year in the year and a half, and I was going through some marital problems, too. So my wife at the time was living in Edmonton and did not make the move to Calgary with me. So I don't think my effort was very good in Calgary, I will admit that. But through the year and a half I was there, the job kind of went from, we need you to be a story guy because you're 50 and Pat's 25. Pat's a fancy stats guy. He understands the analytics. I know that you do, but I need you to come on and talk stories. But as the job progressed, the audience and they would do all these audience surveys, and they were all guys ready now, 25 to 40, and stats was a big thing for them. Stories weren't. So I could start to feel that my usefulness at the radio station was not going to be strong for much longer if I didn't become a stats guy. And so I ended up moving on after a year and a half. But I really enjoyed my time in Calgary and I really enjoyed working with those guys. But I'm not a stats guy. To me, I want to hear the stories. I also know it's in trouble in Calgary once, because I think it was Jean. Bellevo had passed away. And I said to Pat, I said, we got to do a segment on Jean Belleville. I can get somebody in Montreal. And Heartbeat. We might have even got Dick Irvin, to use an old guy expression. I have a pretty good rolodex. Anyway, we did this one segment. We talked about Jean Belleville and what kind of guy he was, and he still was my all time first favorite hockey player. My dad took me to meet him at an auto store here in Edmonton in the 60s. He's the very first autograph I ever got, and every time I met him, he just made me feel great. Even in my later years, any time I met him, he was so kind and so generous with his time and was never in a rush. So anyway, we did this one segment and I was told afterwards that might have been a turn off for our audience. I'm thinking this guy's hockey royalty. Like when Gordy passes away, you're not going to stop and talk about Gordy for a segment or two but it's just the audience to change, right? It's not a real issue with the radio station as much as that. Things have changed, but now there's nobody to guide these stations, and it's a shame. They're kind of just flying by the seat of the pants.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:48:39
I gave a pair of Montreal Canadians tickets to a friend. He's a Francophone friend. I was working with him at the moment, and I said, Enjoy the game. I couldn't go. I had to work the shift. And then he came back to me the next day and he said, what were those tickets? And I said, well, they're just the tickets I had. He said, do you know who I sat beside? I said no. It was Sean Beloveaux. Can you imagine getting to the Montreal Forum sitting down in your seat, in your red seat, and you sit beside, and there's Jean Belleville right beside you.
Bryn Griffiths (Guest) 00:49:06
And did they speak?
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:49:08
They certainly did. He had the best time ever. And the other Jean Bellow story I had as my grandmother got sick and she was in the hospital. But Quebec healthcare being what it is, everybody doubles up and she shared a room with John Belleville. And the press, of course, was outside. He just had a stroke, which he recovered from. But outside the building was the French media. There's another morale, and you could look out the window and wait for them.
Bryn Griffiths (Guest) 00:49:31
Unbelievable. Hey, listen, sports is full of great people. It's funny, I'm always asked who are influencers in my career and my career. I've been lucky. I worked on the media side, and I was able to work behind the scenes, behind the curtain. And both sides. Consider the other side the dark side. I always used to laugh at that. But I worked a year for the jets and I worked for almost five years with the Oilers doing media and public relations in the late 90s, so you get a chance to see how the other side works. So when I look at people who are huge influences on my career in radio, I've had three general managers that stand out for me. The first one was the very first general manager I had in Mooshaw, stan Ravendale. Stan was a guy who did the news on a station that I listened to as a kid. 630 Chat, when they were the hot Rock and Top 40 radio station. Stan would do the afternoon news. So now he's my general manager and he taught me the basics that first couple of years. Then he was replaced. They flipped. Actually, Stan moved it back to Edmonton, and the guy who was the general manager at Edmonton came home to Moustache. His name was Vern Trail. The cowboy. He's been called legendary. And Vern listened for a couple of months, and one day he said, Tiger, let's go down for breakfast. The studio was above a place called the Modern Cafe, which really wasn't all that modern, but we used to go down for breakfast all the time. And he says, so what happened in sports last night? I didn't hear you this morning. And so I said, oh, well, you'll never believe what happened. And I just basically rambled on for about four or five minutes telling him what happened in sports. And I still remember him looking at me for about maybe a ten beat, and he goes, can you write it like that? And I thought to myself what? He says, can you write the sports the way you just told it to me? Don't read it. Don't read it right off of Canadian Press or Broadcast news. I want you to write it or write it in point form where you can do you know what you're talking about? So I need you to just basically tell it to me. So the next two years in Mushy, I worked on it. So Stan and Vern were instrumental. Stan with the basics. Verne told me, I need you to ramp up your personality because you have one and you're doing all these other things for the morning show, but I want you to work on your sports cast. Your broadcasts on the hockey game are crazy, like it's rock and roll hockey broadcast. You're having so much fun. I want you to do that on the morning show. Don't tighten up. So I learned that from Verne. And then the other general manager in radio is Marty Forbes. And Marty, he already had got a broadcaster who learned the basics and learned how to be himself. Marty taught me how important it is to get into the community and that you can take your persona and multiply it times another ten by just getting out into the community and being a role model and always be approachable. And so those three guys in the radio, I could never say enough positive things about Stan I see once in a while and have a coffee with him. I love it. Marty, I talked to, like, every other day, and if we aren't tweeting or texting, one of us is sick. Simple as that. And then the other general manager isn't in radio at all. It's Glenn Sailor. Because the very first day when I got hired at the Oilers, the first question I was asked is, can you move to Houston? Anyone? Whoa. Because I heard all these rumbles about les Alexander was looking at buying the team.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:52:45
I was actually going to touch on all this, but I'm glad you brought this up. I think it was around this time he started to work for the Oilers. And I wanted to talk about that because it was a big deal. Winnipeg had lost its team. Les Alexander come sniffing around looking for a hockey team to buy. We'll let you tell the story. But the story came and went very quickly.
Bryn Griffiths (Guest) 00:53:04
Yeah, it did. And I'll tell you exactly why. It went away in a minute. But the first question I was asked is, what? We want to hire you. I got this job because I had been doing cable TV. After I left radio and took that little time off, I came back and did a cable TV show called The Edge. And it was on everywhere. And it was a great community plugged in show. I had so much fun, got well looked after. Our clothing sponsor was Henry Singer. And all the clothes I was wearing was Hugo Boss and Ralph Lauren. It wasn't just basic brands. It was top, top brand names. And they would let you keep it. But anyway, so Bill Towilly was looking for somebody to replace, somebody who'd been working there to work alongside him. And he was home one night talking to his wife Sylvia, and slipping through the TV and said, I need to find somebody who can fill this position. And my picture came up. I was interviewing him, hey, there's a guy I should talk to. And anyway, so didn't have to drop a resume offer that one either. I got hired. And then the first question was, the only thing that would stop us from hiring you is, can you move to Houston? And I went, wow. I didn't realize, really? Is it that close? And it was. Got the job, met Glenn, and Glenn said, you know what you're doing. I go? Yeah. Great. Away you go, and don't fuck up. And he laughed, put the Stovey back in his mouth. And the one thing I learned from Glenn was, you always have to show backbone. If I ask for your opinion, I want you to give it to me. Don't candy acid, don't sugarcoat it. And so I learned that when your opinion is asked for, you give it. And the other thing I learned from Glenn was I was very supportive of everything you did, and if there was an issue or there was a learning episode out of it, he would pull you away quietly. There was no yelling across the room, nothing. He was very good at that. So I always respected him for that. And I also understand why his players love him so much and why they played so hard for him was because he was able to pull the right levers. He was not a micromanager, which I see way too much of these days. Just let the talent go. You know what you're doing, don't fuck up. As simple as that. So, anyway, so I spent five years with the orders, and it was a blast. It was great.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:55:10
I'll bet it was. Those are some great times, because I think shortly after you came on board, the team went on this great run. Young you know, they didn't have the most finances in the world to go and buy players, but great coaching, and they would get to the playoffs, and they would knock a team out, and.
Bryn Griffiths (Guest) 00:55:29
Then they play Dallas.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:55:30
Yeah, the Marchant Golden 97.
Bryn Griffiths (Guest) 00:55:37
Scores, first stop scores. And the essence, head Oilers are going.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:55:46
To move on the next year. They knocked off Colorado and found themselves moving ahead again. I think it was probably Dallas they played after, and then Dallas prevailed this time out.
Bryn Griffiths (Guest) 00:55:57
Yeah, that's exactly that's exactly how it worked. Well, you mentioned that series against the Avalanche. The picture on the wall here, the Kujo signed for me. It's of him making a save off of I think it's Adam Denmarsh, where he's reaching back with a stick. And that was a seven game series. That was a lot of fun. There were some great guys on that team. The team just wasn't quite good enough. But it was as good as you could get with the money that they have.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:56:21
Bill Garrett, Billy Garrett.
Bryn Griffiths (Guest) 00:56:23
Bill I still talk to Bill. Dougie wait. Mike Greer, todd Marchant, sean Horcuff. There's a bunch of guys on that team that are great guys, and I love the fact that they're still working in the NHL because they have a passion level that's extremely high, and they don't want to leave the game. And it's not because they don't want to leave the game. Some guys are pulled away from the game screaming and kicking, but these guys were good quality people and know the game and now are doing great jobs with the teams that they're at.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:56:51
You didn't say Roman hammerlike. You also didn't say yanni neimana.
Bryn Griffiths (Guest) 00:56:55
It's funny you should bring those two guys up, because I had to pick both of those two guys up at the airport when they got traded here. The hammerlock one was funny. That was the El Nino winter. I think that might have been 98 or 97, and we didn't have a stitch of snow in Edmonton, and we made that trade for Hammer, and he was flying in from Tampa that night. It was New Year's Eve and this snowstorm moved in and man, did it come down. I swear you could just see the snow piling up as he was just sitting in the car. It was just piling up. And that was Roman's first look at Edmonton was all the snow and thought, this is what I expected. Roman was a good guy and Jani is a colorful character too. And another one of those guys I picked up at the airport, he had those really good discussions with these guys about being traded from Tampa and Philadelphia to come to Edmonton. And they, of course, grilling you and didn't so much want to know about the team, wanted to know about the city. And so I always felt like you were the tour guide for those guys when you picked them up. Those are the things that you not only learn, you're able to put to use when you get back into radio again.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:57:53
I look at the culture of hockey over the last 20 some odd years in the two thousands and the way where the players come from, the lifestyles they lead. And a Canadian team has not won the Stanley Cups since 1993. Now, there have been opportunities for many of those teams to win because there have been appearances in the finals. It's not that it's impossible for them to win, but the way hockey works I don't know that it is because they're not getting the best free agents. Because you don't want to come and spend half the winter in Winnipeg and leave your wife all winter in Winnipeg or Edmonton or Calgary when you could be playing in a Tampa and not having to deal with snow and being away. And then there's the money situation. There's a tax situation. I think the chips are all sort of aligned against Canadian teams winning the Stanley Cup.
Bryn Griffiths (Guest) 00:58:41
Well, the biggest thing, too, is that players want to go where they think they can win. Players want to go where they think they can be paid and players go where they think their better half will enjoy. Can they immerse in the community? The one thing I learned this in Winnipeg first and in Edmonton it's also there calvary also has it the wives and girlfriends have as an association. So they work really close together and they get involved in community projects. I really enjoyed working with those associations. I didn't work so much with the group in Winnipeg, but I worked with the ladies here and I watched how tireless they were in working with the community. But I think it might have been Doug Wade who said to me, he said, the secret and the key is in January. He said, when we go on a sixgame road trip is to make sure that Allison gets down to Phoenix for ten days. It's a bit of a break for her. Her family was there, but all those guys recognized. It's important for the ladies to get away a little bit. And if they're not involved in the community, it's not going to work. But there's so many of them start to take these community projects under their wing and then fall in love with them. Billy Garren's wife Carol, same thing, got involved with numerous charities here and they absolutely fed off of it. But those are the three things. Guys want to win, they want to get paid and they want to make sure they're better. Half is going to be busy and it's going to like it and you have to work at that. You have to work at all three, but it can be done. I think the one thing that is interesting since 1993 is all the Canadian teams that have got to the Standing Cup Final have one thing in common. What is it? All Austin game seven. It's close. I think you can compete. I think the salary cap world makes it so you can compete. But there's the odds there's more American teams than our Canadian team. So it's hard just to get to the final, let alone win it. If I look at all those teams, vancouver could have easily beat the Rangers in 94. The Koenox could have easily beaten the Bruins in eleven. Flames probably should have beaten Tampa in six way back in 2004. And the Oilers just they played so great in game six and then came in a little flat to start, fell behind in game seven in Carolina. And when you fall behind in game seven, you sell them, come back. So they all had opportunities to win, but the odds are stacked against you because there's only so many Canadian teams and there's so many American teams. Now let me just quickly get back to what we're talking about with Les Alexander because we're talking about American teams. The one thing that really bothers me more than anything is there's a lot of reasons to not like Gary Bettman. He's the commissioner. He makes decisions on behalf of the league, so he makes decisions on behalf of the owners. First and foremost, those are his boss. But I've never seen anybody work harder to keep a team in the city than I watched from the sidelines. Just I wasn't way back, but I was close enough to watch how hard he worked to keep the team in Edmonton. And so I always hear these stories when people are saying, oh, he doesn't care about Canadian teams and I think that that is nothing but bullshit. He realizes he's got to have really good, strong Canadian teams. Gary also worked very hard on getting the arena built here. He worked with not only the hockey team, he worked with the ownership, obviously worked with the city, worked with the province, although they didn't kick in anything. It sounds like the province is going to kick some money in on the Calgary Arena. Great, because I don't want to see the Flames go anywhere either. It's important to keep these teams, but Gary Bettman works behind the scenes without a lot of limelight on them to keep Canadian teams active. He didn't want the team to go from Winnipeg to Phoenix. Trust me, the arena was the problem in Winnipeg. Ownership was also a problem in Winnipeg with the arena. Couldn't sell it. We got to play in that place. No, let's get them out of here. So there was nothing that could be done there to save the team, but to have them come back to Winnipeg as long as the ownership was lined up properly and True North has done an unbelievable job of that. I think it was an easy move for Gary to say, we got to get back up there. I'm sure you'd like to get back into Quebec City, but there's a lot of things. Once again, you're running up against opposition like the orders did back in 78. But a lot of those teams don't want a Canadian team in well, the.
Matt Cundill (Host) 01:02:37
Montreal Canadians don't want to share twice. They would have to share the Canadian revenue and then their local revenue. And local being Quebec, you got to split some of that, too, with RDS.
Bryn Griffiths (Guest) 01:02:47
Yeah, exactly. So there's a lot of issues. But Gary worked very hard in keeping the team from running away to Houston. And I just don't think enough people understand that. Some people think that every time I've gone online and I've said that, people just are very dismissive, honestly, without a word of a lie. My office was only about four or five doors down from the big guys. And so you'd see him in there quietly. So there were sometimes he would come into town, he wouldn't even know he was here. But you could see he was working hard keeping the franchise here. So if people want to discount my thinking on that, they are more than welcome to do it. It's a free world, last time I checked. But I'm here to tell you that I watched it and I know why the team is still here. They found somebody to take over from Peter and a great group, and then they're okay, stepped up when that group was ready to step away. As long as there's somebody there. And the other thing, too, I don't need to see real. I don't want to see owners. I don't know about you. I know in the NFL, owners are always on camera. We always see Jerry, those Dallas Cowboy games, you know, we always see a shot of Pat when he was around with the Broncos when he was alive, or, you know, Mr. Craft. There's always somebody. But I really like it when ownership is there. Just pay the bills and let the hockey guys run the hockey team. That's all I ask.
Matt Cundill (Host) 01:03:59
It's even worse when they go and pick up the trophy at the end.
Bryn Griffiths (Guest) 01:04:03
Yeah, that's another one. That's America. I think you should hand it to the guys who work for it.
Matt Cundill (Host) 01:04:08
Myself, I think of two cases when it comes to Gary Bettman and his relationship with Canadian teams. There's the right way and there's the wrong way, and the right way to do it was the way Mark Shipman did it. And that was we'll build the arena, we'll put the infrastructure in, and we'll do what we need to do to do it, and it happened, and there's the wrong way. And that would be the way Jim Pacili tried to operate. And that was outside the lines.
Bryn Griffiths (Guest) 01:04:34
Yeah, I forgot about that one. Anyway, I think that Gary Batman in that regard is very undervalued. And like I said, I'm not saying everything Gary does is great, but I can tell you right now, I know why the team is still in Edmonton. I know where there's a team in Winnipeg because I know he worked hard in both cases anyway. So having the opportunity to see how things run behind the curtain was invaluable for me.
Matt Cundill (Host) 01:04:56
In just a second, we'll talk about Britain's battle with cancer, what makes Edmonton the city of champions, and the sports radio experience in both Calgary and Edmonton, where Bryn got to team up with my old pal, Jake Daniels. And by the way, if you're looking for some more Edmonton radio nostalgia, look no further than episode 100 in this series, where Jake Daniels and myself did a very, very, very long reunion episode. I think you'll like it. You can find that at the bottom of the episode page along with the transcript to this episode. Over at soundoffpodcast.com
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The sound of the podcast.
Matt Cundill (Host) 01:05:46
And then you got to bring it to Sports Radio because Marty Forbes comes at you. And this is just after I left and I'd gone to Montreal. But there's an opportunity now to start sports Radio in Edmonton. You're not going to be the rights holder. You're going to have a sports station. You're clearly the right guy to be doing this because you can work within the lines and outside the lines at the same time. You're the perfect hire for this.
Bryn Griffiths (Guest) 01:06:11
Well, you know what's funny about that is that I had actually gone from the Oilers to work at CTV Edmonton on the television side. I was the sports director for six and a half months, and I got to work with Ryan Roche was working with me, and Brian Mudrick were working with me.
Matt Cundill (Host) 01:06:26
And so, literally, you're in the building. By the way, I'm right across the.
Bryn Griffiths (Guest) 01:06:30
Hallway from Marty and the radio side. So the secret for me on television was, okay, so I'm running it as a sports director. I'm going to hide myself on the noon cast I'll put the really good looking guy, Brian Richard, on at supper time, and Brian Mudrick, who wants to go out and party after his shift. It's a perfect shift. You can go right from doing the evening sports. I love working with both guys who are fantastic, but Marty came knocking on the door and said, look, I want to try doing something. I want to launch the chum guys running the team network at the time, and they wanted an Edmonton affiliate. We had 1060, which was running oldies at the time, and Marty thought, well, that might be a pretty good fit. We can run their network programming, but we need a morning show. That's all we need to do. So he came over and he talked me into leaving television, where I was just kind of getting established and having some fun doing it. But the thought of starting something right from the ground up with a guy that I had known a lot about and respected, but it never worked for him. The only thing that concerned me a little bit about coming over to work for Marty was that Gary wasn't convinced that that format was going to work in Edmonton, and Marty convinced him that it would. So anyway, Marty got me to come over and he says, well, I want you to host the morning show and then just make sure everything is running okay. It's pretty easy. We just pull everything off the satellite so it's not going to be a real problem. So you just got to worry about the morning show. And so we were listening to a lot of American sports morning shows and they were basically a traditional sports guy, so that was going to be me. And we need a guy who's more like the fan, the guy who's more prepared to sit in the seats and sit in the press box. So we had a list of guys that we're looking at and we're wanting to take a look at those guys, and we wanted to look at a few other guys, but we didn't really know who. And we're sitting in Marty's office and our friend Jake Daniels walks by, hey guys. And so we talked with Jake a little bit and he leaves. He's happy go lucky the way he always is. And I turned to Marty Go. What about Jake? He's a sports guy, he likes to go to games. So we ended up hiring him. And then we ended up doing the morning show together, which was a blast. And the one thing I was told, jake, don't think like a sports broadcaster. I need you to think as a fan. I need you in Section O. I don't need you in the press box. I got that. I don't need you even to go down to the locker room. Although sometimes he did piss off the football team a few times because Jake would go down there and so unassuming in a lot of ways. And the funny thing about football teams is the guys that are the most down to earth are the offensive line guys. So they immediately like jake. So Jake would come down a few times. They would just go on around him. One player that they had here who didn't like to deal with the media was Mike Pringle. Dave Jamieson, who was the longtime public relations guy for the football team, said, Mike Pringle really only liked one media guy in this town, Jake Daniels, because he didn't fear that Jake was always looking to undercut him or find some shit on him. It was always, hey, how you doing, Mike? Those guys seem to get along very well. The only problem we had with Jake was that the offensive line guys like to have a beer or two in their stalls after a game, and they would offer Jake one. And of course, Jake was always too kind to say no, so he would have a beer. And Dwayne Manduziak, who was the longtime equipment manager, and a few of the other media guys would look over at this guy that they perceived to be a media guy having a beer with players in front of them in the locker room. It didn't go over with some well, mostly with Dwayne and some of the other media guys, and I just laughed. I figured that's how it had to work, but I didn't know how long it was going to last.
Matt Cundill (Host) 01:09:58
Well, that's how Jake is. Jake looks like by the way, I know that we're on a podcast and I can't produce a picture necessarily, but Jake looks like Greg Allman with the long hair, and, you know, he's got a beer in his hand and that's who he is. And by the way, he had co hosting experience. He co hosted with Jeff Woods and he cohosted with Sleddog, and then he spent five years co hosting with me. And now there he is. He makes a transition over to Am and works with you.
Bryn Griffiths (Guest) 01:10:22
And so the first two years, it was frustrating to listeners because they couldn't listen to us online. That was a big thing then, right? I could turn on my computer, I can go to their website, and I can hit listen live. And we didn't do it. And Marty kept saying, well, we don't really have that in the budget. I found out later that the reason why we didn't go online for the first year was because Marty didn't really want Gary to listen to the radio station Listen.
Matt Cundill (Host) 01:10:48
My thought exactly was the Baron Edmonton ran so well. It was because Gary couldn't hear it. And I think I was offered a job in 2004 in St. Catherine's, and somebody said, no, you can't have this job because Gary will hear the station and your life will be miserable. And I thought oh, okay. But listen, that story you're telling completely checks out.