Former Flames television play-by-play man now rebuilding his career in radio with Rogers Sportsnet
July 13, 2011 was the lowest day in the career, and possibly life, of Peter Loubardias.
A quick Internet search shows that three suicide bombers hit Mumbai, India on that day. Loubardias didn’t have time for world news: he was focused on the implosion of his own career that summer day in Calgary.
Loubardias, then 45, had finished his third year of being the play-by-play man for Rogers Sportsnet’s television broadcasts of Calgary Flames games. It was his dream job.
Then, he was called to a meeting with his boss at a downtown Calgary hotel: Loubardias was on the chopping block.
Sitting in the lower bowl of the Scotiabank Saddledome, Loubardias is wearing a dark grey suit and black shoes, the usual style of broadcasters, while sitting with his fingers entwined and his left foot resting on his knee.
This subject appears to be difficult for him to talk about. He takes numerous pauses then utters:
“To this day, I still don’t know why I was dismissed,” Loubardias said. “My immediate boss had the unenviable task of delivering that horrendous news, and said the new hires don’t think you’re very good at calling hockey.’”
“There was a piece of me that died that day. And in some ways, I’m not sure I’ll ever completely get it back,” he said.
Charlie Simmer, the former NHL player of 15 seasons who provided colour to Loubardias’ game calling, recalls his disappointment.
Simmer said, “It takes a while to get a good rapport going between you and your partner.
You work together and you both get on the same page and have the same plan that we have for the game, so it was disappointing, more so as a friend because I know how much he loves the game and how much he loved his job.”
This story, however, is about Peter Loubardias’ determination to recover his broadcasting career. He tells me the story as we sit in the very building where he used to live the dream. And, in part, he is back.
Photo by Neil HiltsLoubardias’ love of sports started while growing up in Saskatoon, Sask. His mom told him that he would sit still and intently watch junior hockey games as young as the age of three.
Like many teenagers, Loubardias had the dream of being a professional athlete.
“While I was an OK athlete, I knew at about 13 or 14 that I was never going to make a living playing any sport — especially this one (hockey),” Loubardias said, laughing. “I can honestly say from when I was six or seven, I knew what I wanted to do and have been lucky enough to do for a very long time.”
He was well aware of his dream job: a sports broadcaster. In 1984, after just over four months in the Western Academy Broadcasting College in Saskatoon, Loubardias went straight to work.
He headed to Estevan, Sask. to work with CJSL Radio in July of 1984. He started out in news, but after the first year, made his way into sports.
He then became the play-by-play voice of the Estevan Bruins of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, and he was there for the better part of four years.
After broadcasting his first Western Hockey League game in 1988, Loubardias worked in the league until 2000. He took a job in Toronto with Sportsnet and eventually became the voice of the Memorial Cup, which he was “fortunate to call eight of.”
In 2008, he was called to the majors: Sportsnet offered him the job of play-by-play voice with the Calgary Flames for the West Region, so he moved back out West.
Simmer said, “I love his enthusiasm and he makes me laugh. He’s such a passionate broadcaster that it’s almost at the point like he feels that he’s playing. He’s very expressive in the box. He doesn’t sit down; he jumps up and runs around. There was one time I thought he was going to fly right out of the booth when the Flames scored a goal. It was exciting for me.”
Back with Sportsnet
Photo by Neil HiltsLoubardias worked to rebuild his career after the dismissal from the Flames play-by-play gig. He held a job with Shaw TV, not only broadcasting Western Hockey League games, but also Western Major Baseball League games in the summer.
Dave Dawson, who first met Loubardias working with Shaw TV and the WHL, said he was “intimidated” to work with the former Flames voice for the first time calling the WHL.
“I thought, ‘this guy has worked in the big leagues for so many years, and to be able to work with this guy will be quite the privilege’,” Dawson said.
The two have also worked together the past two summers with Shaw covering the Western Major Baseball League. It’s been a constant learning experience for Dawson throughout their work together.
“(Loubardias) convinced everybody that by doing your homework and being prepared, you can create an incredible broadcast and product. Be prepared. Have information and do your home- work.”
Dawson and Simmer both enjoyed the enthusiasm of Loubardias, which, if you read online fan sites, some fans tend to complain about.
“There is nobody more positive about life and about sports than Peter Loubardias,” Dawson said. “You listen to a lot of play-by-play guys and a lot of sports guys, and it’s easy to pick things apart on a broadcast.
Peter, above all guys, will pick out positive things about a player, something this team is doing well, or if there is something great about the city, Peter will always speak positively.”
Dawson said Loubardias “can quote stats upon stats, and he knows all the sports. He can talk about different sports and talk about them in depth. He is very studied and intelligent.”
Flash-forward to the present and Loubardias is working with Rogers Sportsnet again, this time as the colour-commentator for games on Sportsnet 960, a Calgary fan radio station.
Although it’s just a “one-year project, with no promise that it’s going to go any further,” Loubardias decided to come back.
Although he wasn’t involved in the rehiring of Loubardias, Kelly Kirch, the program director of Sportsnet 960 said: “You always just hire somebody because they are the best person for the job that’s available at the time. He’s come back and that’s great.”
The colour-commentator’s role during broadcasts is to provide insight and analysis during breaks in play or slight lulls. Loubardias prefers calling the play-by-play like the gig he had before, but he’s content on adding colour to broadcasts.
“Whether it’s this level, or baseball or whatever sport, to me there is no feeling that I get from pretty much anything else in the world like being involved in calling live sport — nothing,” Loubardias said.
He has had many different experiences through- out his career so far, like calling eight Memorial Cups and eight or nine 2010 Winter Olympics men’s ice hockey games, which he lists as his favourite career moments.
With the major news of Rogers buying the Canadian broadcasting rights of the NHL for the next 12 years, Loubardias’ career path could be altered. He didn’t want to comment on what that might or might not mean.
The art of the call
Listening to Loubardias provide colour commentary over the radio as the Flames battle the Chicago Blackhawks on Nov. 27, it’s clear that his knowledge and passion is elite. His ability to recall a play in so much detail is apparent to the listener.
When referring to a fight between Brian McGratten and Brandon Bollig: “That is absolutely the most ultimate respect. Brandon Bollig got hit with enough rights, he might have been begging for a left! He hung in there, and at the end, he literally tapped McGratten on the top of the head to say ‘ya, you got me.’ That was fun to watch.”
Loubardias’ journey forward is unclear, but he just wants to work somewhere in the sports broadcasting industry.
“I can’t imagine not being involved in sports in some capacity. As long as I am, I’ll be OK. It’s
all I know and it’s all I really want to know. I wish frankly, in some ways, that I were really interested in other things.
“But I’m not.”