Right out of the gate here I wanted to address the cuts made last week at Bell Media, specifically the sports layoffs, but information was pretty scarce and what info I was able to find was quite conflicting and inconsistent depending on who I asked. I don’t want to write too much about it until I gain a more clear understanding of what exactly happened and what the future looks like. I wrote in my very first blog post here that I won’t speculate willy nilly in this space and throw stuff at the wall hoping some things stick. I try to write what I believe is 100% accurate, sprinkled with touches of measured, well thought out opinion. It’s terribly sad and scary when cuts are made, and not just in media of course. It’s frightening in any industry. Unfortunately in media, layoffs are a real sign of the times right now. Bell Media staff I talked to this week all assume more cuts will come. It’s the ‘When? Where? Who?’ that makes things uncomfortable. They all know the ‘Why?’
One media person is actually walking away from his job on his own accord at the end of November. Here’s his story…
Most of us hope we can go out on top, or on our own terms. For a million different reasons very few of us can. I can think of a few athletes who were able to. Wayne Gretzky skated off into the sunset after scoring 62 points in his final NHL season. It certainly wasn’t anywhere near The Great One’s best output but very few hockey players would consider hanging up their skates while still being able to produce those types of numbers. John Elway walked off the gridiron after winning back to back Super Bowls. Hall of Famer Lorena Ochoa walked away from golf as the number one women’s player in the world. Toronto photographer Michael Peake feels he is going out on top, and at the right time. Peake, 65, is retiring, putting his cameras down one last time at the end of November after 42 years snapping pictures for the Toronto Sun.
The Toronto born Peake went to Ryerson for journalism, and then found his way into photography. “The place for photography back then,” Peake said, “was the Sun. The (Toronto) Star was the big paper but you’re not going to get in there, so I started freelancing with the Sun.” Peake has shot everything for the Sun over the years. He covered lots of sporting events in the city, including the very first Blue Jays and Raptors games. His first Leafs game assignment was at the Gardens in 1975. He was also at the Dome in 1998 for Roy Halladay’s near no-hitter versus the Tigers. Peake has covered lots of news stories as well. He’s been part of many press scrums chasing down Rob Ford, and he conducted numerous Sunshine Girl shoots for the paper.
When Lanny MacDonald scored in overtime in New York, helping the Leafs knock the Islanders out of the 1978 playoffs, Peake was back home in Toronto.
After the game that night, an editor suggested Peake take his camera out to Pearson Airport to see if there were Leafs fans gathering to welcome the team home. “I went out to the airport,” Peake recalled. “The Leafs plane arrived, like a regular plane. The players all got off and walked down at 1am, and (the fans) grabbed Darryl Sittler and put him on their shoulders and carried him through the terminal. That could never possibly happen today.” Peake was able to snap a memorable pic of Sittler, in full glory, being carried by the gathered throng of fans.
It’s not all fun and glory being a professional photographer. Danger pay should be awarded at times. There are eight camera “holes” for hockey at the Air Canada Centre where photographers can shoot at ice level, right along the glass of the rink. “I had a puck hit my lens (Thursday) night,” Peake said. “They clear (the puck) around. They can shoot it so hard. It was coming up around the glass, I was right flush with the hole but it ticked the top of my lens but it didn’t deflect it. I had a stick come through there as well. One of our guys (Dave Abel) got butt ended in the temple and he was out months with a concussion.” It’s dangerous covering politics too. “The Rob Ford scrums were the worst I’d ever seen,” Peake stated. “Those were full contact. (The) security guards were pushing. They were actively pushing.”
Peake covered his last Leafs game this past Thursday night as the Leafs faced the New Jersey Devils. His final attempt at a Leafs game picture went off the rails. “It was overtime,” Peake said. “Two seconds left, which I thought was very nice. Appropriately, William Nylander showed me nothing but his ass, because I was in the far end, so it did mean the end. So it wasn’t much of a picture.”
Shortly after Thursday night’s game, Peake was in the middle of his usual postgame routine, filing photos he snapped during the game. “I was in the photographers room,” Peake said. “I (heard), ‘Hey Mike, way to go. 42 years years, eh?!’ I look up, it’s (Mike) Babcock!” The Leafs head coach was walking to the media room to conduct his post game press conference. Babcock invited Peake into the media room. “I walk in the room,” Peake said. “And Babcock says, ‘Say hi to Mike Peake from the Sun. He’s hanging them up after 42 years,’ and everyone applauded. I got to admit, I was pretty taken aback. It was pretty cool.” What better way to “go out” than being celebrated by a room full of your peers.