Interview with TSN's Onrait and O'Toole

Dave Mathieson
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Dan O'Toole (right) and Jay Onrait signed autographs for hundreds of people last night in Pugwash.

PUGWASH – After writing up the script for the SportCentre broadcast in Pugwash Monday afternoon, Jay Onrait and Dan O’Toole granted an interview with the Amherst Daily News.

Sitting at the back of their tour bus dressed in t-shirts, shorts and runners, Onrait and O’Toole talked about Pugwash, the Olympics and what it’s like working together since 1984.

Amherst Daily News – How do you like Pugwash so far? Is it what you thought it would be like?

Jay Onrait – We don’t really have any preconceived notions of anywhere we go.

We arrived at Fox Harb’r and it’s unbelievable. The resort is just spectacular. It’s the nicest place we’ve ever stayed on the tour for sure.

We showed up today and it’s just a perfect location here on the Northumberland Strait.

It’s gorgeous and the folks are excited to have us here. We like to come to smaller towns.

Dan O’Toole – Looks out the bus window and say’s, “My impression of Pugwash is when I look out to my right is that I’m looking at a post card of Canada. You realize on the Kraft tour what a beautiful country we live in.

I don’t know why we’re surprised every year how beautiful this country is, but we are.


ADN – Onrait and O’Toole had dinner with Alex Parker, the organizer of the Pugwash event, Sunday night at Fox Harb’r Golf Resort, along with Parker's girlfriend, his mom and dad, and his grandparents. They were asked what it was like to have dinner with the Parker family?

 Onrait – It was great. We just kind of hung out and took it easy. They set up a big bonfire for us, so we had homemade smores by the water.

 O’Toole – Most of our crew are city dwellers and, although I grew up on a farm, I’ve never been in that pitch of black before. There was no light whatsoever down by the water, so it was another experience that was completely new to our crew that the people here probably take for granted. You could see millions of stars.

Onrait – They were the best smores we’ve ever had in our lives. It was a lot of fun and we had a great time.

Alex is 19-years-old and I can’t believe a 19-year-old would have the fortitude and wherewithal to write a letter (to TSN to bring the Kraft tour to Pugwash). He was 18 when he wrote the letter; to put something like this together is amazing.

When I was 18 or 19 years old I wasn’t bright enough to even think of doing something like that.

We were really impressed with how mature he is and what a nice kid he is. He’s done a great job.

 O’Toole – When I was that age I was nothing like him. A lot of kids when they’re that age, not to say they don’t like their hometown, but they can’t wait to leave, but you can see how proud he is of the place he’s from and that’s what you see from the bids that people put in. It’s the pride that they have in the place that they were born – and he gets to showcase it to all of Canada.


ADN – Did you play golf at Fox Harb’r?

 Onrait – We got here late yesterday, so we haven’t had time to golf.

Some of the crew might have time tomorrow if they get up early enough. The bus leaves at 10 a.m., so maybe they can play before that.


Onrait and O’Toole played the Cross Harbour Golf Challenge where they hit a ball across the Harbour in Pugwash.

ADN – Was that fun?

Onrait – We did it and it was fun – I love the whole concept of being on the trailer and wearing a kilt.

O’Toole – I’ve seen Onrait golf and those were literally the three best shots he’s ever had. The crowd was wowed. I was nowhere near the target, so he won the competition.

Onrait – I think it was the kilt.


ADN - Was it the first time you both wore a Kilt?

O’Toole – Yes, I was wearing it wrong, I guess the pleats go in back, and I had to put clothes on underneath because it was very windy and I wanted to keep it a family show.


ADN - Do either of you have Scottish ancestry?

Onrait – I have no Scottish ancestry but I was fascinated to see all the street signs in Gaelic.

O’Toole – Anything that can make your town unique is good.


ADN – What stands out most from the London Olympics?

O’Toole – I liked the experience because I didn’t even think I was going to London until the day before the Olympics. Going to London and getting the chance to broadcast from Trafalgar Square is something I’ll never forget.

The two defining moments for me was, one, was watching the closing ceremonies at Canada House with a room full of Canadians. To see Christine Sinclair bring the Canadian Flag, you could see she was beaming and the place went nuts. It was really cool.

The heartbreak I felt for Paula Findlay. She was apologizing while running the race. My heart broke for her. She didn’t need to apologize at all. Those are two moments I’ll never forget.

Onrait – I agree with Dan, and we were so fortunate to broadcast from Trafalgar Square, instead of the International Broadcast Centre at Olympic Park in East London.

We were staying five minutes from where we were broadcasting from, so it was awesome.

For me, what I liked was watching Milos Raonic play (Tennis) and then seeing Roger Federer play on centre court. It was a one, two punch I’ll never forget.


ADN – Did you get caught up in Usain Bolt fever?

O’Toole – Bolt was like a rock star there. Even among gold medal winners and all the athletes in the village, they said there was always a buzz when he was there.

By the end of the games we saw families taking pictures and doing the Usain Bolt thing.

He’s such a likable guy. He helps out kids in Jamaica and he’s just a kid you want to see win.


ADN – Some people criticized Bolt for being boastful. Was the criticism fair?

Onrait – I don’t think he’s being boastful, he’s just stating facts. He’s not saying something that hasn’t occurred, he’s accomplished all these things. He’s a legend.


ADN – The 4x100 Canadian sprinters were disqualified after coming in third place in the final. They were disqualified after PEI’s Jared Connoughton stepped on the line between running lanes. What was it like to watch that loss?

O’Toole - At Canada House at the closing ceremonies we ran into his (Connoughton’s) dad and you could tell he had a heartbreaking couple of days, so we pulled him aside and asked if he talked to Jarrett.

He said, ‘yeah,’ and said he knew when it happened, he knew something was wrong, and he said never in his track career had that ever happened, but he was still so proud of his son.

Canada House went crazy when they came in third place, and then it was utter devastation.

No one knew what was going on. They (the sprinters) put down their flags and they looked upset, but it was so loud in there we didn’t know what the problem was, and then we saw the replay.


ADN – Any thing else to add about London

O’Toole – I have never seen Europe, and if you ever get the opportunity to go to London, do it. I cannot recommend it enough. I cannot wait to go back with my family. I fell in love with the city.

The people are fantastic and they love their pub culture.


ADN – Onrait and O’Toole have worked together since 2004. What keeps you together?

O’Toole - Nobody else will do our time slot.

Onrait – And no one else will work with either of us.

O’Toole – So they said, “you either do it or you don’t work here.”


ADN ­–Any moments when you get on each other’s nerves, like a Jaggers/Richards moment?

 O’Toole – We’ve never had those moments. We find a perfect, happy medium. We don’t get in each other face. We hang out and have fun.

Onrait – We’ve never really had a disagreement. We kind of have the same temperament; well I have a worse temperament that Dan does, but a good job of simmering my temperament down. I think we have the same philosophy about the show and we like to put it together a certain way.

O’Toole – And if we didn’t get along, we wouldn’t have fun on the show because you can’t fake it.

Onrait – You can’t fake it. You see anchors on TV and you can really notice it when they’re not close. It’s not as comfortable to watch. TV shows are always better to watch when there’s chemistry between the anchors.


ADN - How much longer do you plan to continue doing the show?

Onrait – Probably another 30 years and then we’ll retire to Pugwash.

We’ll hit 65, cash in on our pension and buy the two plots of land next to Anne Murray’s and Kenny Rogers cottages here in Pugwash and hang out with them.









Organizations: Amherst Daily News, Canada House, Canadian Flag International Broadcast Centre

Geographic location: PUGWASH, Canada, East London Trafalgar Square Gaelic Olympic Park Jamaica Europe

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