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Toronto Maple Leafs center John Tavares, left, celebrates with defenseman Luke Schenn after Tavares scored the game-winning against the Tampa Bay Lightning during overtime on April 29, in Tampa, Fla.Chris O'Meara/The Associated Press

Sports broadcasters usually get only a handful of opportunities in their career to put their stamp on a team’s most memorable moments.

When John Tavares scored an OT winner to give Toronto its first series victory in 19 years on Saturday, the stage was set for what could have been a classic radio call by long-time Maple Leafs play-by-play man Joe Bowen.

Instead a remote radio coverage setup proved costly.

Bowen, who called the game from a Toronto studio on TSN 1050, said Morgan Rielly scored the winner in the 2-1 win in Tampa Bay. In fact, Tavares scored as his shot deflected off a Lightning player and not off Rielly as Bowen had believed.

“When the TV shot doesn’t show the Tavares celebration until well after the fact it’s rather difficult to make the call off the TV monitor,” Bowen said on Twitter. “By the initial celebration it appeared Morgan Reilly (sic) had scored. My bad!”

Travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic made remote coverage a necessity for many outlets. Since the sports world has essentially returned to normal, most broadcasters and reporters have resumed regular on-site coverage.

A handful of others have not though, and do so at their peril.

TSN, a Bell Media property, and Sportsnet, part of a subsidiary of Rogers Communications, split radio coverage for the Maple Leafs. Instead of being on site for home and away games like for most of his four-decade run on the Maple Leafs’ mic, Bowen has recently called road action from the same feed a viewer gets at home.

“It’s a challenge, it really is,” he told The Canadian Press in a midseason interview. “In my humble estimation, it’s not the right way to do it but the powers that be at present believe – I guess it’s a cost-cutting measure of some sort – so this is what we’re doing and we’re trying to do the best we can under the circumstances.”

However, coverage plans will be changing for Round 2. Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment confirmed Monday morning that Bowen and broadcast partner Jim Ralph will soon be back on the road.

“As the Toronto Maple Leafs prepare to face the Florida Panthers in a highly anticipated second-round matchup in the NHL playoffs, the team and its broadcast partners will have the radio broadcast crew covering the action in person both at home and on the road beginning Tuesday,” an MLSE spokesperson said in an e-mail.

The Maple Leafs will host Game 1 on Tuesday and Game 2 on Thursday. The series will shift to Florida for Games 3 and 4 with dates yet to be announced.

Hockey is not the only sport impacted by changing coverage plans. On a recent remote call of a Blue Jays road game, an in-studio fire alarm could be heard for about 10 minutes during the Sportsnet broadcast.

Several print and online outlets have also declined to staff road games involving Canadian NHL teams in the postseason. Some reporters have had to write stories from afar and are limited to quotes from formal availabilities, miss out on on-scene colour and can’t conduct in-person interviews.

“Good reporters, trained reporters, experienced reporters on the ground see things that other people won’t,” said associate professor Bruce Gillespie, who teaches journalism at Wilfrid Laurier University. “They may see things that teams and coaches and whatnot may not want them to see, but are still a more interesting story.

“Therefore being on the ground gives you access to people that they’re not bringing out. You bump into people in the hallways or in the locker-rooms or simply just go find better sources to talk to versus the ones who are being paraded out for the scrum.”

Almost all media outlets across the country have made cutbacks to in-person staffing over the years. Many now pick their spots depending on story appetite, if they still send reporters on the road at all.

Shrinking newsrooms, changes to the overall media landscape and slashed budgets are often to blame.

“The only people who think it’s a good idea that a reporter is not on the scene of an event that [they’re] covering are the bosses and the bean counters,” said David Shoalts, who recently retired after a long career as a Globe and Mail sports writer. “There’s so much you miss if you’re not there. This is one that really drives me crazy.

“Big, wealthy corporations not sending radio crews on the road and it would cost them peanuts to do so. But oh no, here’s 10 cents we can save and so those guys stay home.”

Zoom calls and online availabilities were the norm when sports returned during the pandemic. Most teams and leagues have resumed regular access, which can leave reporters who cover games remotely on the outside looking in.

“It’s unfortunate, particularly for the younger generations who won’t be romanticizing sport the way that it could be if the story were told in a different way,” said Mike Naraine, an assistant professor of sports management at Brock University.

Shifting coverage setups can also sometimes make things confusing for a viewer, listener or reader.

Some broadcasters make clear they’re calling the action from off-site while others do not. Some writers include their byline but don’t have a placeline indicating where the story originated from. Quote sourcing is usually made clear but sometimes is not.

Gillespie said his preference would be for a byline in almost all cases since it builds trust and transparency. With remote coverage, he added, a placeline should be used to note the location of the reporter who wrote the story.

“You wouldn’t write a travel story about Tahiti from Toronto without saying so,” he said. “People expect travel reporters to be there.

“I think in these [sports] cases, my guess is that companies who are not paying [for] reporters to travel to games are probably hoping that the readers won’t notice the difference, and therefore they don’t want to tell them the reporters aren’t there because they don’t want to bring any attention to it. But I think ethically, they should.”

Some outlets add an editor’s note to make things clear. The Star Tribune in Minneapolis, for example, includes an extra paragraph when it publishes content that was created remotely.

“The Star Tribune did not send the writer of this article to the game,” it reads. “This was written using a broadcast, interviews and other material.”

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