TORONTO â€” 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, she is the only female play-by-play announcer in the D-League. There are none in the NBA, and just one â€” ESPN’s Pam Ward â€” 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.”
McPeak also works as a radio host for Raptors pre-game, halftime and post-game shows on TSN 1050, and has been an occasional guest analyst on NBATV Canada’s “The Hangout” along with Bell TV’s “Open Gym: Fast Break.”
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 barrier-breakers 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 others 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 D-League 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 D-League for someone like Meghan, it’s more than putting your foot in the door.
“She’s genuinely a basketball fan, she likes the game, and that comes across in her work too.”
McPeak said her dream job is “simply to be able to call games consistently,” but would love to work as a broadcaster in the WNBA or NBA. Calling basketball games at an Olympics is also a goal.
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 â€” period.”
â€” On the web: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B7pn9c7FW6Y
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Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version had the wrong first name for Doug Fox.