By Mark ZwolinskiSports Reporter
Wed., Sept. 15, 2021timer3 min. read
updateArticle was updated 4 mins ago
Andi Petrillo, who has talked about the Maple Leafs as much as anyone on the planet in her time on the air, has decided to take a break.
This week, the Toronto native stepped down after more than five years as host of TSN Radio’s “Leafs Lunch” — to focus on her other two jobs, and simply take care of life.
“I think it always feels good when it’s your decision, but this is bittersweet,” said the 41-year-old Petrillo, who announced the move Tuesday on Twitter. “The people at TSN, the people I worked with and laughed with, that’s the hard part. But it’s a life choice that needs to be made.”
Petrillo, whose broadcasting career started in 2004, had been behind the mic for the popular show on all things Leafs since February 2016, when she became the first woman to have her own daily sports talk show in Canada.
In that time she has also worked as a host on CBC’s Olympic coverage and an analyst for OneSoccer.
“When people talk about 50/50 and the balance between life and work, it’s more like 90/10 here,” Petrillo said. “There are just so many gatherings of family and friends that you can miss. There’s just so much time with my husband (Toronto FC goalkeeping coach Jon Conway) that you can miss. So I had to adjust my life balance.”
TSN Radio hasn’t announced a replacement, but Julia Tocheri of TSN’s BarDown has been mentioned.
While Petrillo still plans to make appearances on hockey shows, the first woman to work in a full-time studio role on “Hockey Night in Canada” acknowledges that women have a long way to go in her industry. A 2019 Ryerson study found only five per cent of sports radio voices across Canada were female.
However, Petrillo, who started her career on a food show before entering sports broadcasting by calling Newmarket Hurricanes games, notes there are a number of women working in the business in other important roles.
“We talk about women in front of the camera, like ‘If we can see it, we can be it’ … but we also have to talk about all the wonderful work being done by women behind the scenes,” she said while mentioning Stephanie Apolito, one of her best friends and a key member of the TSN Radio production crew.
Petrillo has worked with all of TSN’s high-profile hockey insiders.
“Her love of the Leafs was always clear, yet she could maintain a balance,” said one of those insiders, broadcaster and Star columnist Dave Poulin, a “Leafs Lunch” regular. “Except when it came to Freddie Anderson. Zero balance. Then she was simply a fan.
“I also think her overall knowledge of the game and its history was an important part of what she brought. She’d literally been in the trenches, up through junior hockey, through the minors and then the league, and her appreciation of the game was evident. She was a teammate. A really good one.”
Petrillo has travelled the world in connection with the sport: to Haiti with Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment to deliver supplies after a devastating earthquake in 2010, and to Afghanistan with former NHLers in support of Canadian soldiers.
She has also seen TSN’s owner, Bell Media, abandon all-sports radio formats in Vancouver, Winnipeg and Hamilton, while household names such as Dan O’Toole and Natasha Staniszewski have been laid off on the TV side.
Petrillo says all the changes were difficult to see, but didn’t factor into this week’s decision.
“I needed to take care of myself,” she says.
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