Holy Mackanaw! U of W Alumnus in Canada’s most famous broadcast booth
Growing up in Sudbury, Ontario, a young Joe Bowen knew a few things about his future. That he was going to get a university degree, and that he was going to be a professional sports broadcaster. What he didn’t know was that his career would take him from the mines of the Nickel City to the most famous broadcast booth in Canada, with a stop at the University of Windsor in between.
Bowen, a graduate of the Communications Studies program in 1973, moved quickly up the broadcasting ranks. In less than 10 years, he went from calling Lancer basketball games on CKWW Radio to the Gondola at Maple Leaf Gardens as the voice of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Twenty years and over 1,500 National Hockey League broadcasts later, Bowen still fondly remembers his days at the University of Windsor.
“I attended the University of Windsor from 1970 to 1973 and was fortunate to have been involved in the Communications Studies department and the campus radio station,” Bowen said. “I knew that I wanted to be in radio broadcasting and my time at the University of Windsor provided me with the foundation for what I’m doing today. I was able to develop my style and make entry-level mistakes that all new radio people make,” he added with a smile.
Bowen was a member of the campus radio sports department. For three seasons, Bowen was the play-by-play announcer for the Lancer hockey, football and basketball programs. His Windsor broadcasting highlight came in 1973, when the Blue and Gold qualified to play in the CIAU Championships at St. Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
“I was hired by CKWW to travel to the East Coast to broadcast the two-game tournament. We lost the opener to the host Huskies, but rebounded to win the consolation final 87-65 over Loyola. It was a great trip despite not winning the championship.”
Bowen learned more than just how to fine-tune his call while at the University of Windsor. He remembers how the Communications Studies program offered him insights into the regulation of the broadcasting industry.
Although Joe never moved into the management side of broadcasting, he did return home after graduating to work for CKSO radio. Over the next 10 years, he would broadcast games in the Ontario Hockey League (Sudbury Wolves) and the American Hockey League (Halifax) before landing his current job in 1982.
Since that time, he worked as the radio play-by-play voice of the Leafs before moving to television with Global Television (1988) and The Sports Network (1998). He was also a sports reporter at the all-sports radio station “The Fan 1430/590” for 14 years before he was hired as a full-time employee of the Leafs in 1994.
His trademark “HOLY MACKINAW” and alliterations of the starting goaltenders’ names before every game has helped this Windsor grad to earn the respect and admiration of Leafs fans everywhere.
Over the years, Joe’s exciting calls of great Leaf moments have elevated him to a status where Leaf fans refer to him in the same breath as broadcasting pioneer Foster Hewitt.
Excerpted from a story by John Bower, Spring 2002 issue of VIEW, the University of Windsor Alumni Magazine