Doing the news and sports on the K103 morning show, working for Larry King on CNN or anchoring the sports on CTV – Paul Graif’s life is run by time.
So what? Isn’t everyone’s?
Yes, the world works and operates by the clock. In Graif’s case – fifteen seconds late deciphers into a public embarrassment. An error that can decide his fate.
” When I anchor sports on CTV, the supper edition – I have a little over five minutes to get all the important sports news of the day into that time period. ” Says Graif as his eyes wander between the Bruins – Capitals’ playoff game and his computer. ” The later edition at 11pm gives me ten minutes, not a lot to give a concise round – up of the day’s sporting headlines!”
If the Hampstead – born Graif screws up, an entire city witnesses the gaff. A mistake that could send him to the unemployment line in a hurry. Which is why, according to Graif – it is important to be prepared and to love what you do.
Before each shift, Graif enters his workplace with an idea in his head of what he will write for his upcoming newscast. The biggest news on this day was the passing of former Habs’ captain; Emile ‘ Butch ‘ Bouchard. Sometimes, a little luck goes a long way …
” I was fortunate in this case to know Emile’s son ( and former Hab ) Pierre Bouchard. I gave Pierre a call on this difficult day to get his reaction on his Father’s death.” Graif says.
My Dad called the doctor around four o’ clock this morning and told him that he thinks he is going. He passed away at five.
It was the Rocket who brought attention to my Dad to the newer generation. When asked by Ron Fournier who was one of the older guys that was underrated – Maurice replied it was Butch Bouchard who needs more respect!
When they retired my Dad’s number, it added seven years to his life. I knew it meant a lot ( to my Father ) when I saw him blowing kisses to the fans! It affected him!
Paul was working for Global TV in 2003 – 04 when he was assigned to cover an up and coming hockey player by the name of Sidney Crosby. It was the future superstars’ first year in junior hockey with the Rimouski Oceanics and Graif headed to Drummondville. Emile Bouchard ( Butch’s son ) was there and Paul spent the afternoon meeting and hanging out with the Bouchard family. A few hours well spent and one of the things he loves about his job as a sportscaster as he recalls the night of Ken Dryden’s jersey retirement.
” During the first intermission of the game, myself and a few reporters were standing around listening to Dryden. Someone asked;’ Mr. Dryden, you are considered one of the best goalies who ever played the game, how do you respond to that? ‘”
Dryden, in his usual analytical way – responded;
” I don’t know if that is true. I may be that way for a certain generation of fans who were 8,9,10 years old when the Caanadiens teams I played on were great. At that age, you form the opinions and choose your heroes;they have the most lasting impression on you!”
” I thought to myself: Yes ! Exactly! It was moments like this that made me appreciate not only my job – my own way of seeing things!”
Although Paul adores this city’s teams and the personalities that make them up – it is the New York Islanders and John Tonelli that remain close to the forty – one year old’s heart. A love affair that began in 1977 – a couple of years previous to New York’s dynasty.
” I had a friend named Judd Feldman when I was seven years of age. Judd received an authentic contract from the Islanders, an agreement that was given to him through connections. I thought it was the coolest thing and I became a big fan of the organization.”
Along with the team from Long Island, Graif lists the National Football League’s Cincinnati Bengals, baseball’s Baltimore Orioles and basketball’s Boston Celtics as his favorite sports teams.
Baseball is very close to the Dollard residents’ heart as he recalls watching Andre Dawson play his first game as an Expo in 1976. Graif was six years old. Recently – deceased Gary Carter was among one of his heroes as was Cal Ripken Jr. Not only did Paul play baseball ( third, first base and catcher ) – his father, Irving Graif was a very talented baseball player and athlete in general. So talented – the elder Graif received a try – out with the Montreal Royals in the early fifties, taking the field with the likes of Rocky Nelson and a young Tommy Lasorda; the Royals’ all – time winningest pitcher.
” My Dad, an engineer who is still working at the age of 75 – instilled a great work ethic into my brother ( a lawyer in Toronto ) and I. If I had to choose role models for my life – it is my Mom ( an art historian ) and my Father.”
On a professional level, Brian Williams, Brent Musberger and Ron McLean ( yes Ron McLean of coaches corner ) are people he looks up to. ” McLean is always so calm and composed – I really admire that in the man! Any person ..!” Says Graif as he jots down the time of the Capitals goal as they even the score against the Bruins. Dave Van Horne and Duke Snyder … ? ” Do you have to ask? ” Says Graif.
Paul commenced his sportscasting career half- accidently. He was attending Concordia University in political science and was kind of lost – wondering what to do with his life. He volunteered to work on the school newspaper – ‘The Link ‘. One of his first assignments was to cover the men’s basketball team. Says Graif; ” John Dore was the coach. We did not like each other from an earlier date. Suddenly,I was travelling with the team all the time!” Graif chuckles. ” Following a few games – Dore started respecting me and we remain friends to this day!”
That experience led to an on-air radio position as Graif produced and called the play-by-play of the football broadcast at McGill University. Just after – CKRK (now K103) radio station in Kahnawake, brought Paul on board as a roving reporter for the Expos, a position that gave the listeners a ‘ Graif ‘ perspective on the ball game every morning. He was also writing for The Suburban newspaper in Montreal.
While at university – Mr. And Mrs. Graif’s second offspring applied for a summer internship with CNN and in 1992 – off he went to Washington to work for the legendary Larry King at CNN. King – says Graif, is exactly as you see him. Rough and gruff with a real soft place in his heart.
“It was the experience of a lifetime,” he says. “I met everyone. They actually offered me a job but I still had a semester of school left. It was a tough decision. I wanted to finish school and it was going to lead to something behind the camera and that’s not what I wanted. It was production, being a producer. I knew I was already geared towards on-air.”
Graif returned to Montreal, collected his degree and joined K103 radio as the afternoon newscaster and volunteered as Mitch Melnick’s producer at CIQC ( am 600 ). It was with Melnick where doors starting opening for Graif as he scooped one of the biggest sports stories in 1994.
” I broke the end of the NHL referees strike about 3 hours before it ended. It was a whirlwind for me after that! For the next 48 hours all kinds of job offers came in. It was really nice. I think that summer I worked something like 72 of 75 days. Some days I actually would work four jobs.”
On his way to the ‘ dressing area ‘ to apply his make – up as the time nears for his on- screen appearance, Graif pauses outside of the editing room. He politely asks his editor Shannon to call him if anyone scores. The Capitals and Bruins are still tied at one goal and it is Shannon’s job to find the footage Paul will use in his sportscast. If something changes while Paul is on – air.
” I need the time of the goal and the name of the players involved!” Says Graif as he meticulously adds a blue and white tie to his wardrobe. ” It’s all about time!The rest falls into place …!”
Running from his duties at K103 and anchoring the sports occasionally at CTV – does not leave much time for the single Graif to do things for himself. When he does have a few moments, it is spent with his five year old daughter.
The sole occasion he would like time to stand still …
- Emile (Butch) Bouchard, former Montreal Canadiens captain, dead at 92 – Toronto Star (thestar.com)
- Rating the Sportscasters in Montreal – Part One (laforumdemontreal.wordpress.com)
- Former Habs captain Emile Bouchard dead at 92 (ctv.ca)
- Canadiens Hall Of Famer Emile Bouchard, Dead At 92 (rantsports.com)