TSN Should Suspend Jeff O’Neill

TORONTO (Feb. 22) — It was nothing short of a disgusting, demeaning reply… and O–Dog should pay the price.

During Tuesday afternoon’s edition of Overdrive across the TSN radio and television networks, Jeff O’Neill joined host Bryan Hayes and co–host Dave Feschuk (of the Toronto Star) in a discussion about the Toronto Maple Leafs, who were embarrassed in Montreal on Monday night, losing 5–2 to the National Hockey League’s worst club.

O’Neill has never shrouded his man–crush on TSN’s “home” team; who can forget the sorry spectacle of O–Dog pumping his fist and exclaiming “Yes!!!” when the Leafs won the 2016 NHL draft lottery and the right to select Auston Matthews first overall? But, his response to an argument posed by Johnson on Tuesday was altogether different. As Johnson deployed an advanced metric to show that the Leafs No. 1 defense unit of Morgan Rielly and T.J. Brodie may not be as solid as the adoring Toronto media suggests, O’Neill interrupted rather boorishly.

“I’m sorry, Johnny, I’m not buying it… you can shove that stat right up your ass,” he said, talking over the telephone guest. Hayes and Feschuk, without time to process the remark, laughed obligingly, while Johnson was stopped in his tracks. After a moment of awkward silence, Hayes said “go ahead, Johnny”, at which point Johnson finished his argument. Now, I’ve been around sports long enough to know that professional athletes — past and present — are fond of sailor talk. When the boys get together, nary a sentence passes without an f–bomb or other pleasantries dotting the discussion. That’s all well and good. But, on a national network governed by the Canadian Radio/Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), it is highly inappropriate to tell a colleague (or any person) to shove something up his ass. That’s Internet and Satellite speak; not the sort of remark an impressionable youngster should be exposed to on a cable network that appears in millions of homes across the country.

Whether or not O’Neill understands, there is a difference between Spittin’ Chiclets and TSN Overdrive.


In this case, the remark went beyond a mere cuss word. It was a, repulsive, low–ball insult to an exceptionally fine hockey analyst and co–worker. And, entirely uncalled for. O’Neill, to his credit, has fashioned a solid media career after scoring 237 NHL goals for Hartford/Carolina and Toronto between 1995–96 and 2006–07. Though largely placid on the ice, he has morphed into the tough guy on radio and TV, speaking irreverently about virtually every topic. Such candor in today’s submissive media climate has made him a refreshing subject. But, he does tend to cross the line, as he clearly (and gracelessly) did with Johnson. You’ve got to know that this is nothing personal; in fact, I had an excellent rapport with O’Neill in my radio reporting role at The FAN–590 during his two seasons with the Maple Leafs (2005–07). Jeff was unfailingly cooperative, humorous and self–effacing. I liked him… a lot.

But, when the lights go up each afternoon in the TSN studio, or from his home studio during COVID, he is no longer in a dressing room. The CRTC has mandated a level of decorum long before Jeff appeared on the scene. That decree was rolled upon when O’Neill told Johnson to shove the stat up his ass. Neither was it a remark. I suspect, that the prime Overdrive sponsor, Pinty’s Food Inc., would applaud. As such, if I were TSN president Stewart Johnston, I would suspend O’Neill without pay from the TV and radio networks for one week.

I’d make him watch a replay of the utter disrespect he showed toward Mike Johnson.

A dose of humility never hurts.

EMAIL: HOWARDLBERGER@GMAIL.COM

7 comments on “TSN Should Suspend Jeff O’Neill

  1. The statement by O’Neil is offensive and he really should apologize, but of course he won’t because that’s part of the schtick, and dozens of people who listen probably didn’t care.
    I’ve largely abandoned sports radio and podcasts as I’m not a fan of the lowbrow “bro” culture they’ve adopted. Not to mention the chuckling and giggling at insipid observations and remarks. Is everybody stoned before they go on air nowadays?
    It seems to me it’s all a product of Rogers and Bell shedding their older and experienced on-air talent for younger and cheaper, less talented former jocks and “bros”.

    1. Berger this is an awful take. You should apologize for subjecting folks to your negativity without warning. Why are you so angry? Plus if you think John Klingberg is a Cup piece you need to put down the pipe. Exactly the type of player we don’t need.

  2. Howard. I’m not sure what the appropriate steps are for TSN but it certainly was an awkward moment to say the least. The only excuse I can make for this is that it must at times be difficult to make the leap back and forth between being “edgy” on a podcast and speaking for TV.
    I think its only a matter of time before Bis blurts out the F-word on TNT.

  3. Why not let the CRTC decide what is acceptable as well as the listeners. CRTC can impose a penalty if they feel it’s deserved and listeners can vote with their listenership. And he should apologize, because it’s a small world and the internet never forgets.

  4. I heard it live, Howard. It was vulgar.
    O’Neill should apologize.
    Also, I echo that Johnson is a fine commentator.
    The Leafs aren’t the only ones falling off the rails.
    I’m really worried about Campbell now too.
    Maybe it’s better that these issues come out now and they eventually overcome them. I don’t know.

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