One of a kind call­ing the shots

Meghan McPeak, the voice of Rap­tors 905, is D-League’s only fe­male broad­caster

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - LORI EWING

TORONTO — Game nights at Hum­ber Col­lege were al­ways a bit nuts for Meghan McPeak.

She’d suit up as the start­ing point guard for the Hum­ber Hawks women’s bas­ket­ball team, and then it was a mad dash of show­er­ing, chang­ing and the in­evitable sprint across the gym to slide into her seat on press row to work the men’s game. She’d slip on her head­set with a mere minute or two to spare.

McPeak was en­rolled in Hum­ber’s ra­dio broad­cast­ing pro­gram. Her coach Denise Per­rier, sup­port­ive of McPeak’s bud­ding broad­cast ca­reer, was kind enough to de­liver a swift, down and dirty post-game speech.

“It was pretty quick,” McPeak said of her wardrobe change.

Those hec­tic nights paid off. The 29-year-old McPeak is in her sec­ond sea­son as the voice of Rap­tors 905, the D-League af­fil­i­ate of the Toronto Rap­tors.

Ac­cord­ing to the NBA, the St. Thomas More grad and former ra­dio and TV voice of the McMaster Ma­raud­ers women’s bas­ket­ball team is the only fe­male play-by-play an­nouncer in the D-League. There are none in the NBA, and just one — ESPN’s Pam Ward — in the WNBA.

McPeak grew up play­ing rep bas­ket­ball in Hamil­ton and pickup bas­ket­ball with her older brother Matt. She’d set­tle in on Sun­days to watch foot­ball with her dad. When she be­gan driv­ing, the voices of Paul Jones and Chuck Swirsky call­ing Rap­tors games pro­vided the sound­track.

McPeak first at­tended Fanshawe Col­lege, and had dreams of be­com­ing a sports and con­di­tion­ing coach like the Rap­tors’ Scott McCul­lough. Her other in­ter­est was in­te­rior de­sign.

“I re­mem­ber when I would get home from col­lege, watch­ing the HGTV de­sign shows with my mom, that stuff al­ways in­trigued me, the way that some­one can look at a room or a house and just sort of turn it into some­thing that it wasn’t,” McPeak said.

In the end, it would be former long­time Hum­ber ath­letic di­rec­tor Doug Fox who would steer her to­ward broad­cast­ing “based on the fact that I don’t stop talk­ing,” McPeak said with a laugh. “It was prob­a­bly the best de­ci­sion some­one else has ever made for me.”

She doesn’t see her­self as a trail­blazer. In­stead she credits the women who’ve paved a path be­fore her.

“At some point there was some­one else that was in front of me that had to do it for me to even be in this po­si­tion,” McPeak said. “So I tend to look to the Doris Burkes of the world, who, al­though she does colour com­men­tary (on the NBA for ABC and ESPN), she still had to be a trail­blazer in or­der for women to be taken se­ri­ously in a male-dom­i­nated po­si­tion within the broad­cast.”

She looks up to Beth Mowins, who does play-by-play for women’s col­lege sports, and in 2005 be­came only the wo­man to call na­tion­ally tele­vised col­lege foot­ball games for ESPN.

“Women like that in my opin­ion are big­ger trail­blaz­ers and bar­rier­break­ers than I am, sim­ply be­cause if it was not for them, do­ing the hard work and the leg work and re­ally (eras­ing) the stereo­type that women can’t do cer­tain po­si­tions in sports or sports me­dia be­cause it’s so male-dom­i­nated,” McPeak said. “I re­ally wouldn’t be in the po­si­tion that I am, so I try not to look at my­self in the same light as them.”

She lis­tens to other broad­cast­ers to study their ten­den­cies.

“I try not to al­ways fo­cus on just one per­son’s style, be­cause I don’t want to be a du­pli­cate of some­one who’s al­ready in the busi­ness, I want to sort of have my own style,” she said.

“I’m one of the lucky fe­males in that I do have a deeper voice, but it’s not as deep as a male’s voice so I’m not go­ing to be able to call a huge, crazy wild dunk or a huge timely three in the fourth quar­ter the same way that a Mike Breen or a Matt Devlin or a Paul Jones or an Eric Smith would be able to call it sim­ply be­cause our pitch is com­pletely dif­fer­ent,” she added. “I try to take lit­tle pieces from dif­fer­ent an­nounc­ers and dif­fer­ent peo­ple.”

Leo Rautins, who is TSN’s bas­ket­ball an­a­lyst, said the D-League is the per­fect launch­ing pad for a young broad­caster.

“Ma­sai (Ujiri, the Rap­tors’ pres­i­dent) of­ten talks about the DLeague as far as the de­vel­op­ment of the team and the play­ers, but I think for other in­dus­tries like the broad­cast­ing world, it’s a huge as­set,” Rautins said. “Ba­si­cally you’re do­ing NBA bas­ket­ball, be­cause there are NBA play­ers play­ing there, and it’s run by NBA clubs, so the DLeague for some­one like Meghan, it’s more than putting your foot in the door.”

Since the NBA is touted as the most pro­gres­sive of the four ma­jor North Amer­i­can pro leagues, she’s in the right sport. “If you look at the (NBA) side­lines, the side­lines are full of women, so if any­body’s go­ing to do it, it will be the NBA,” Rautins said, men­tion­ing Burke, Stephanie Ready, a side­line re­porter in Char­lotte, and ESPN stu­dio hosts Sage Steele and Michelle Bea­dle.

“So there’s def­i­nitely a pro­gres­sion there. I think it just comes down to if you’re good, you’re good — pe­riod.”

, THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Meghan McPeak is the play-by-play an­nouncer for Rap­tors 905. She is be­lieved to be the first fe­male to have that role for a team in North Amer­ica.

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