Canadian sports broadcaster enjoying life and work in London
The Vancouver Sun – October 28, 2011
LONDON – Another NHL season is just weeks away, but instead of preparing for another set of Saturday nights in the press box, one of Canada’s most famous hockey voice is half a world away.
Rather, Paul Romanuk is basking outside a Covent Garden pub in the heat of a rare cloudless day in London.
Staking out a space in the sun to down a cold pint on a warm day isn’t the only small English tradition he’s taken to.
Inside, he spoke of ‘football’ not soccer and ‘punters’ instead of fans without the awkward cadence typical of a North American. And, his familiar Ontario twang remained unblemished by any trace of an English accent as he griped about the tube service and dreary weather.
But fitting in with a new culture and city wasn’t always as effortless as it now appears.
“You know you’re in trouble when you arrive in a country and the sport you’ve worked on all your life is referred to as ‘ice’ hockey,” he said. “It’s not on the radar … any more than rugby or cricket are in Canada.”
Six years ago, Romanuk and his wife Kari re-located from Ontario after her job as an executive with Coca-Cola transferred her across the Atlantic.
The couple had frequently vacationed in the British capital, and had enjoyed the city’s culture and history, but had never seriously considered moving there.
He left behind a reputation as one of the country’s most popular sports broadcasters as well as his job as the radio play-by-play voice of the Toronto Raptors.
“It was a tough decision because I loved that job. It was very enjoyable. But… [it was a] once in a lifetime opportunity, a great opportunity for my wife and her career. So we decided to go for it.”
Despite establishing himself after working 11 World Junior Championships and a dozen seasons broadcasting the National Hockey League for TSN, he had to rely on hard work more than his reputation to get started in his new hometown.
“I felt that 20 years of working the Canadian market would have more traction than it did over here. I wasn’t naive enough to think that I was going to have the same amount of success here that I did in Canada,” he said. “It definitely was tough to sort of get going.”
Today, he can most frequently be heard calling hockey as well as basketball, baseball and other North American-style sports for the Eurosport TV network.
He’s also produced video and online content for the International Ice Hockey Federation and written for various North American newspapers and magazines.
The 25th edition of his Hockey Superstars series of children’s books was also published earlier this summer.
“It’s been very different working in a different sports culture, different business culture, different media culture … I wouldn’t trade it. It’s been a real eye-opener. Everyone should do it,” he said.
In Canada, he’s now best known as the voice of the holiday-season Spengler Cup tournament. This year will mark the 10th time that Romanuk has called the Swiss-based event.
“The thing I really love about that tournament and the players is, it’s by and large a bunch of guys who wouldn’t otherwise get to wear the [national] jersey,” he said. “And I get a little slice of Canadiana every Christmas.”
The south London resident still follows the North American sports scene and checks in on his old NHL beat through his Twitter account.
Away from sports, he revels in the music and entertainment possibilities London affords.
He recalled a 2009 weekend when Blur played before 55,000 fans in Hyde Park on Friday, Madonna performed across town the next evening and the Wimbledon tennis tournament wrapped up on the following Sunday afternoon.
“With the exception of New York City, we don’t get that in North America,” he said.
He and his wife are also frequent patrons of London’s theatre scene, taking in shows as often as three times a month.
“The best theatre in the English-speaking world,” he said after listing productions like Jerusalem and Enron as some of his favourites.
Despite enjoying his time abroad, Romanuk said he plans on eventually returning to the sunny skies and hot summers that he misses most from his native Ontario.
“We will go back to Canada, without question, because there’s no place like home,” he said.
“Whether we’re here another couple of years, another five years … I don’t know. We don’t really have an exit plan at this point, but we’ll look back on it as a good experience.”
As originally published in The Vancouver Sun