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The road has been long and bloody, yet seven years later, the Team 1040 AM remains on the air.

That was far from guaranteed when the sports-talk radio station launched seven years ago today with a format seemingly destined to fail, and a start-up staff tossed together in one month. Soon thereafter, the station's very existence was threatened by a competitor, making Vancouver one of the few Canadian markets to go through a sports-talk radio war.

But the Team 1040 is accustomed to wars. One was waged quietly in its booth between key on-air personalities. Another was waged loudly, the product of afternoon drive host David Pratt picking a fight with then Canucks general manager Brian Burke.

Today, all that is history. The CHUM-owned station holds the broadcast rights to the Canucks and the CFL's B.C. Lions. It produces four in-house shows daily, several more on the weekend and is a ratings winner in its prized demographic: men aged 25 to 54.

It has become a destination for Vancouver sports fans seeking sports-themed debate and the city has been with rich with them, most notably "the Bertuzzi incident" and more recently, the firing of Canucks general manager Dave Nonis and ownership's decision to hire former NHL player agent Mike Gillis as a replacement.

Those subjects have fallen into the station's lap, inciting wildly divergent and sometimes irrational opinions.

In other words, talk-radio gold.

"After you start listening to an all-sports station, you miss it when it is not there," said John Rea, who in 1992 launched Toronto's The Fan 590, Canada's inaugural sports-talk station, but was back in his native Vancouver four years later. "I missed it, and I knew there were people like me."

In 2001, as luck would have it, B.C. broadcaster Paul Carson was pitching an all-sports format around the same time CHUM was conceiving a national sports radio network. Their efforts merged, and the Vancouver station was launched under Rea's watch with two local programs and several others emanating from Toronto.

The national network was a disaster waiting to happen, and it lasted less than 1½ years.

"What we found out in short order was: To do sports radio, you need to be local," Team 1040 program director Rob Gray said. "If you're not talking Canucks and Lions, people are not interested."

But even with more local content, the Team 1040 was not out of the woods.

For starters, there was massive turnover in the booth, particularly on the morning show, and in the important afternoon drive slot, Pratt and co-host Bob Marjanovich were feuding. Pratt wanted an entertainment show with sports as a backdrop, while Marjanovich was pushing for talk aimed at the hardcore sports fan.

Eventually, Pratt won out and television personality Don Taylor joined him for the Pratt and Taylor show.

"I'll admit to making a mistake," said Marjanovich, who left the station but is now back as host of Sports Action Saturday. "The show needs some showbiz to carry the market. Vancouver is not a big sports market like New York."

Pratt relishes his role as pot-stirrer, and one morning when he heard a blustery Burke refuting his commentary, the former TSN reporter saw an opportunity.

"It put us on the map," Pratt said. "If we had a hit show, there is no way we'd do it, but when you're already in last place ..."

But around the same time that the station's on-air roster was coming into view, so was a competitor. Corus-owned CHMJ relaunched with an all-sports format early in 2004, a move that stunned the Team 1040.

Gray said the competition made his station better. It forced management to develop more talent, and it focused them on luring the Canucks after having already secured the Lions' radio rights with pledges of elaborate pregame and postgame shows. When the Lions moved over from CKNW in 2004, the upstart had a legitimate property. (The Canucks followed two years later.)

"People have to find the games, so you get discovered," Gray said.

The war was won two years ago this month, when Mojo 730 AM refashioned itself as an all-traffic station, capitulating with half the market share of the survivor.

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