McCown Will Have A Long Recovery

TORONTO (July 2) — The legendary voice of Prime Time Sports has been silenced.

For how long, we do not know.

Bob McCown, 71, is resting in hospital after incurring two, maybe three, strokes since June 15, when his alarming appearance during a podcast with sidekick John Shannon and former National Hockey League coach Bruce Boudreau prompted immediate action. “After the Boudreau episode, we were all concerned and insisted that Bob seek medical help,” said Shannon, the former Hockey Night In Canada executive and panelist at Sportsnet. “He was admitted to hospital right away.” McCown, wearing sunglasses and a striped golf shirt, slurred many of his his words and presented with a noticeable droop on his left cheek. While listening to Boudreau, McCown’s mouth fell wide and unnaturally open. Clearly, he had limited motor–control over his muscles. Facial palsy occurs as a result of damage to the facial nerve inside the brain, caused by a lack of oxygen. During an ischemic stroke, blood flow to a part of the brain is restricted by the narrowing or partial blockage of a blood vessel. Facial weakness occurs on the opposite side of the body from where the stroke impacts the brain — on the left side for a right–hemisphere attack and vise versa. McCown’s stroke occurred on the right side of his brain. At least one concurrent stroke, in hospital, impaired his ability to speak and to walk. “He’s got a long recovery ahead,” Shannon offered, solemnly.


After hosting the podcast, solo, for nearly two weeks, Shannon encouraged McCown to make his condition public.

“I met with Bob in the hospital on Thursday and he wanted me to break the news,” recalled Shannon. “But, I said it should come directly from him… and that’s when he composed the Tweet that everyone saw. For obvious reasons, we figured the news would spread quickly.” McCown mentioned that he “can’t walk or talk” but was hoping to “get home and back on the podcast as quick as possible.” The BOB McCOWN PODCAST has become an Internet staple since the host parted with Rogers Communications in June 2019 after a 30–year run as the main voice of Prime Time Sports, the iconic afternoon–drive show that debuted on Oct. 2, 1989. What began as a 50–minute production on local radio in Toronto morphed into a three–hour spectacle (4–7 p.m.), simulcast nationwide on radio and Sportsnet TV. For a brief period, in 1994, Dan Shulman took over as host of Prime Time while McCown moved to the FAN–590 morning show. Ultimately, Bob was fired by the radio station but he returned in early 1995 after TSN hired Shulman to become voice of the Toronto Blue Jays. McCown initially worked alongside co–host Bill Watters, who left in January 1991 to join the Toronto Maple Leafs as assistant general manager. Jim (Shakey) Hunt, the mercurial radio broadcaster (CKEY) and sports columnist (Toronto Sun), replaced Watters. Hunt, 79, died in March 2006. Subsequent co–hosts included Toronto Star sports columnist Damien Cox; Globe and Mail columnist Stephen Brunt and American writer (Sports Illustrated, now The Athletic) Richard Deitsch.

McCown was born in Columbus, Ohio on May 21, 1952.

A stroke that impairs speech and mobility is a serious health issue. If not treated quickly, it can lead to death. Shannon’s prompt intervention, therefore, on June 15 cannot be understated. Patients normally require months of physical and speech therapy to regain their capacities. Complete recovery is rare. Ron Wilson, who coached the Maple Leafs from 2008 to 2012, suffered a debilitating stroke in December 2016 and only partially regained his ability to speak. Verbal communication is obviously the hallmark of McCown’s career. Whether therapy can help him reclaim appropriate speech will not be known for awhile. The cause of his strokes wasn’t revealed, but the Bobcat has been a chain–smoker since his teenage years. During my tenure (1989–92) as the first producer of Prime Time Sports, McCown would routinely duck out of the studio and into a smoking lounge during commercial breaks between segments. He went on to become the most–prominent and widely listened–to sports host in Canadian media history. An icon in every sense of the word. We wish him only the best in his long–term recovery.

I wrote this blog with McCown on Mar. 30…


If anyone can truly figure out the prevailing strategy of the Toronto Maple Leafs, drop me a note. I’ve gone from being incredulous to thoroughly befuddled. What I can tell you is this: Connor Brown, Zach Hyman, Ilya Mikheyev, Ilya Lyubushkin, Jack Campbell, Ryan O’Rielly, Noel Acciari, Michael Bunting, Alex Kerfoot, Luke Schenn, Justin Holl, Erik Kallgren and Erik Gustafsson are players, under the presidency of Brendan Shanahan, that have departed the club for no return. Other than a fatal attraction to his core of playoff underachievers, I cannot even fathom what Shanahan is plotting today. Prior to the trade deadline in March, it was determined the Leafs needed more muscle on defense and post–season experience up front. As such, former GM Kyle Dubas sold the farm in a flurry of deals that brought O’Reilly, Acciari, Schenn and Gustafsson to Toronto. All four walked away from the team on Saturday. The O’Reilly and Acciari acquisitions cost the Leafs first–round and third–round draft picks this year; a second–round pick in 2024 and a fourth–rounder in 2025. The Gustafsson trade will go down as one of the most–damaging in recent franchise history. For a defenseman that could not crack the playoff roster, Dubas gifted the Washington Capitals skilled blueliner Rasmus Sandin, still only 23. Toronto’s first–round pick in 2018, Sandin compiled 15 points in 19 late–season matches after the trade. It was a desperation move by Dubas that will haunt the team for a number of years. Gustafsson signed, on Saturday, as a free agent with the New York Rangers.

To partially compensate, the Leafs, also on Saturday, inked veteran defenseman John Klingberg to a one–year contract and behemoth forward Ryan Reaves to a three–year deal. Both decisions were puzzling. While Klingberg moves the puck well and could compliment Morgan Rielly, he is soft as putty in the defensive zone — now joining a team that established the need for muscle on the back end prior to the trade deadline. Confused? So am I.

Reeves, 36, is a popular teammate and a willing scrapper. Whether he can find an opponent to drop the gloves in today’s non–violent NHL is questionable; neither is he skilled enough to occupy a roster spot during the playoffs.

Most damaging, however, was Shanahan’s stubborn unwillingness to seek fundamental change after seven years of playoff oblivion. As such, he and new GM Brad Treliving do not control the future of the hockey club, ceding that authority to Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner, who can no longer be traded, and to William Nylander, who has submitted a list of ten teams to which he cannot be dealt. Unless they agree to contract extensions, all three can join those mentioned in the first paragraph as players bolting the Blue and White for no return. What a dreadful circumstance Shanahan allowed Dubas to foist upon the team while committing the triumvirate to its current pacts.

Neither, given overwhelming evidence, can the hockey club be assuaged by hanging onto the failed foursome (which includes immovable veteran John Tavares). A lucrative extension for Matthews — the soft, uninspired pivot who was invisible during a five–game playoff rout by Florida — will doom the Maple Leafs for as long as he remains the franchise fulcrum. Only Shanahan and his sycophants in the media believe otherwise.

Perhaps a year or two of Patrice Bergeron*, the best defensive forward in modern NHL history, would help the Leafs. He might show Matthews what is required to win during the playoffs. Bergeron is an unrestricted free agent.

The mass exodus on Saturday spoke volumes about the Leafs.

O’Reilly, the much–respected, Conn Smythe Trophy winner in St. Louis, wanted no further part of skating for the Blue and White. Remember how Leafs Nation got suckered into believing Dubas had gone “all in” after acquiring O’Reilly at the deadline? Well, Ryan escaped as soon as he could, accepting less term and money to join the rebuilding Nashville Predators. As did Schenn. You can go on blaming the flat salary cap for the Leafs losing all of the aforementioned players. More destructive, however, is the manner in which Shanahan and Dubas allocated bountiful cap space to forwards that are demonstrably and irrefutably lame when playoff money is on the table.

Tragically for fans of the hockey club, that trend will continue. Unabated.


19 comments on “McCown Will Have A Long Recovery

  1. Hoping for your complete recovery, Bob. Seems like another lifetime ago, screening phone calls in the late ’70s in that tiny second-floor studio on Grenville St., then heading across the street for a Big Mac. Get well soon.

  2. Thanks for sharing the details on Bobcats stroke. The guy IS the reason I listen to sports talk radio and thanks to the Podcast he stayed as a “go to” listen. There are a couple that emulate his frankness and honesty. But I fear that the corporate reach is long and that is why in my opinion, independent media/writing/podcasts are the last hope. Thanks again.

  3. The news concerning Bob is very tragic. I share everyone’s concerns, and I echo their best wishes for Bob’s recovery. He will be in my thoughts and prayers. With respect to the Leafs, well, what else is new? One positive from their current cap situation (being about 10% over, the maximum allowed) is that it may finally force the team to finally trade one of the core four (probably Nylander, as he is the only one not with a complete no-trade clause). At least the new GM is trying to change things up, but I fear it is too late, and the team has gone as far as it can go. I am concerned about their goal tending going forward.

  4. I was pumped when the Leafs acquired O’Reilly, but it quickly became apparent that there isn’t much left in the tank during his short time with the Leafs. A four-year deal would have been a mistake. I don’t mind the one-year bets – you get guys with a lot to prove who just might surprise. Let’s see what the roster look like by camp. Several more moves still to come, methinks.

    1. McCown was the best sport broadcaster in the country. Buck and Shulman are great but Bob was not afraid to be very controversial no matter whose toes he stepped on. He also knew everyone of importance in the sporting world like Ryan of the Boston globe and numerous others. I will miss him terribly and hope he can make a full recovery and return to radio. David Farb

  5. The Leafs are a core group of five overpaid players, some of which are stars, some not. The remainder is an annual patchwork. No long term plan here. Just whatever. No draft picks, no prospects, and they can’t even stay under the cap. Six picks missing in the next three draft years as we speak, and they’ll need to piss away a few more to get under the cap. And after all that, they may or may not make the playoffs. Forget about anything more.

  6. Howard,

    My thoughts and prayers are with Bob and his family. There was no one better to listen to on the radio, tv or podcast.

    It is sad to see how negative some members of Leafs Nation have become. Grumpy old men without hope. Trevling deserves the chance to remake the Leafs in his own vision before he is buried by the legions of doubting Thomas’ that infest Leafs Nation.

  7. Howard, this is absolutely devastating news about the Bobcat, I have listened to him since the first day that CJCL 1430,every time a major news story broke, whether it has to do with sports or not, the first thing I, and millions of sports fans across this country did, was tune into the FAN to hear what Bob’s opinion was. He is the Johnny Carson of sports radio in this country. Me and the millions of his followers from coast to coast wish him and his family God speed.

  8. As Dave posted, Bob has not been sounding right, but I would go further on the timeline, as it is more than months. Health issues are private, but you had to be completely oblivious if you followed McCown over his career to know that something was not right for a long time, Hopefully this will be a wake-up call for Men, who are more reticent than women to investigate their personal health matters. If we had enough family doctors and can conduct real physicals in-office and not remotely that would help to. BOL for Bob to regain as much of his health as he can ahead. The podcast and returning to it should be the least of his concerns.

  9. IMO, O’Reilly never wanted to play for Toronto. I was aghast when Dubas flushed TOR’s 1st round pick in ’23, TOR’s 2nd round pick in ’24 and TOR’s 4th round pick in ’25 down the dumper for a player who wasn’t going to sign a long term & team-friendly contract.
    Developing a great team is like brewing a good cup of tea. You can’t just throw the bag in the water for a second, and then whip it out. They need to practice together, and then battle together the whole year.
    I like the Domi signing. I like the Bertuzzi signing. I view the Klingberg signing as a scratcher – It’s a lot of money to blow on a scratcher but he is a righty with a big shot from the point. If it works out, then Toronto is getting a heck of a deal.
    Keeping the core intact appears to be the shanaPlan

  10. Bobcat hasn’t sounded right for months. I’m just a guy but thought on a number of occasions of trying to contact the pod.
    It’s a long road ahead and he has to learn to walk again, before he can even start the journey.
    Good luck, my friend I’ve never met.

  11. Best wishes for a full recovery to the incomparable Bob McCown…he’s got a big job ahead of him but unlike the TML, HE WILL WIN THE BATTLE!
    As for the Leafs…Dubas is Pittburgh’s problem now! Sadly, the Leafs are still under the “leadership” of Shanahan and he’s found a GM, he can push around that’s never won anything either. (Nice Guy, tho)! But, he’s got a personality that fits the TML MO of losing and are OK w/ it!

  12. Wishing the Bobcat a speedy recovery and looking forward to hearing his banter on the podcast soon.

  13. Hi Howard, you continue to blame management and not sure why!! They run a business and all that matters is the revenue generated, which is a plenty. It’s time for you and all others to put the blame where it squarely belongs and that’s the wishful and unknowledgeable morons who continue to spend their hard earned dollars on this pathetic hockey team.
    Once the continued revenue stream is no longer lining the pockets of the cable and phone conglomerates then and only then one might see some change. I wouldn’t hold my breath!!

    1. My suggestion to you sir is you, yourself stop watching the games on TV & helping the team get rich on TV rights! Instead of telling everyone else what to do do something yourself!

      1. Odd how my comments have hit a nerve for you but 57 years without a Stanley Cup or even getting to a final do not seem to bother you. I guess the term “unknowledgeable” was used correctly for the Leaf fans who settle for a team that can not produce in the playoffs.

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