TORONTO â€” When Jay Onrait and Dan O’Toole return to Toronto this summer, they might look a little different from when they left to join Fox Sports One in Los Angeles four years ago. But their new show on TSN â€” the network they starred on for 10 years â€” will look very much the same as Canadian fans remember.
“We’ve definitely lost weight, I can tell you that. We’ve eaten a lot healthier here, more acai bowls than before,” Onrait joked in a phone interview from his Santa Monica, Calif., home. “But honestly we really enjoyed the experience (in Los Angeles). I remember when my wife and I were talking about coming down here, we were debating whether we should do it and we said we didn’t want to be 80 years old and look back and say ‘we could have gone to L.A. for four years and we didn’t, what the hell were we thinking?’
“So it’s good to embrace new things, try new things but it’s also good to come back to the thing you love the most.”
TSN announced Wednesday that the duo will host a new version of SportsCentre, “SC With Jay And Dan,” that will air weeknights at midnight ET starting in September and loop the following morning.
Their new contract begins in July.
“The biggest thing we want to let viewers know is the SportsCentre that they hopefully knew and loved and woke up with everyday and went to bed with every night is the same SportsCentre that they’re going to see when we return, just with some added elements,” O’Toole said. “They’re not going to tune in and say ‘what the hell have they done?’ We know what worked before and we want to bring some new things that will only add to that show.”
The announcement that the two were returning to TSN came a week after FS1 cancelled their “Fox Sports Live” show and chose not to renew their contracts.
Onrait said the show’s cancellation was expected, especially after a shift in management philosophy at FS1 two years ago began striving for more of a “debate-style” show than what the Canadian pair had been used to.
“They (management at FS1) were completely great to us but we knew the writing was probably on the wall so we started to think about our next steps at that point,” Onrait said. “TSN was nice enough to approach us and it all came together really quickly. I think all parties involved were interested in getting a deal done so it worked out pretty well.”
Onrait and O’Toole moved to Los Angeles to join FS1 in 2013 after 10 successful years hosting SportsCentre.
The transition from Toronto to Hollywood wasn’t as smooth as they had hoped.
“It was sometimes frustrating for us because I think in our minds the simplest thing would be to pick up the show that was super successful in Canada, airlift it down here and do a version of it that had unfortunately much less hockey because as we’ve discovered no one cares about that sport down here,” said Onrait, a Calgary native. “So that was kind of what we were hoping for but it’s Fox â€” everything’s bigger, you’ve got to try to make a splash out of the gate.
“I think we tried to embrace it but we were also in TV long enough to know that the first version of the show was not going to be successful.”
O’Toole and Onrait grew to love Los Angeles and make it their home.
Onrait’s daughter was born there â€” “if we’ve left any positive gifts for the Americans it’s the knowledge that my daughter can be President one day,” he joked â€” and O’Toole became addicted to watching car chases on local news, which he described as “amazing.”
The duo said they’ve learned from the mistakes of the FS1 show and plan on bringing the successful elements to TSN.
“As much as we weren’t kind of on board with the initial show down here, by the end we think we had it figured out,” Onrait said. “We want to bring some of the stuff from the end of our run here up there because it was really great. … The thing we’re probably most excited about is the creative side.
“Like Dan said, it’s going to be very familiar but it will have some new stuff too. It should be a lot of fun. Plus we get to be addicted to Tim Hortons steeped teas again.”
Melissa Couto, The Canadian Press