'Holy Mackinaw!' Leafs broadcaster Joe Bowen reaches 3,000 games behind the mic

The Toronto Maple Leafs' longtime play-by-play man spoke with CBC Toronto about his journey, the upstart Leafs and how "Holy Mackinaw" was born.

Bowen called his first game in October 1982 way back when Harold Ballard owned the team

Joe Bowen has called more than 180,000 minutes of Maple Leafs hockey over 35 years. (Michael Charles Cole/CBC)

To give you an idea of just how long Joe Bowen has been calling Toronto Maple Leafs games, let's go back in time to when he started in October 1982. Pierre Trudeau, not Justin Trudeau, was prime minister, NHL players were still using wooden sticks and many still weren't wearing helmets, and not one player on the Leafs' current active roster had even been born yet.

An hour before calling his 3,000th game (a 3-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings), Bowen spoke to CBC Toronto about his 35 years on the job, the Leafs' championship potential and his signature goal call: "Holy Mackinaw!"

This interview has been lightly condensed and edited.

CBC Toronto: Are you feeling any different tonight?

Bowen: Shorter and heavier and older [laughs]. It's a special moment obviously, because it just shows the longevity that I've been here. It's like being at your own funeral, but you get to hear everything. [laughs] All the nice things that are being said, I'm going, 'Oh, that's awfully kind of them.'

CBC Toronto: What are the people saying? Anything stand out?

Bowen: Well, just that they've enjoyed what I've done. And to any broadcaster, anybody in this kind of an industry, that's very gratifying. Maybe you've been in their home or in their vehicle when a special Leafs moment has happened that they've reminded you about. People are sending some very nice comments about how they've grown up with me over the 35 years that I've been here and that's special.

Joe Bowen in the radio broadcast booth at the Air Canada Centre, home of the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Michael Charles Cole/CBC News)

CBC Toronto: Does an occasion like this have you looking back to some of your early days? You had a pretty interesting experience at your first-ever Leafs broadcast.

Bowen: I was nervous as hell and was going to Chicago Stadium early. I got in a cab with the biggest, burliest guy I'd ever seen and we started down West Madison street, which was a tough part of town in Chicago, and I thought I'm going on my last ride before I even get to do one game. And then Chicago Stadium, the mausoleum, came out of the horizon and I thought, thank goodness, I'm actually gonna get to it. [After arriving], we couldn't get on the air. The engineer was having difficulty hooking up. They were just about to drop the puck and he went. 'You're on.' So everything that I had rehearsed? That went out the window and we just started. Maybe that was the best thing.

CBC Toronto: This Leafs team has the city buzzing. There are some awesome young players on the team. You haven't called a Stanley Cup win.  Do you think you've got a shot here? How do these guys stack up?

Bowen: You know what? There's no guarantees. The Edmonton Oilers were supposed to be moving in the right direction and it's taken them almost five years to be in a position now that they think they're reaping the benefits. But when you see eight kids dot the lineup the way this has happened this year in Toronto, I think it speaks volumes for the core that is going to be moving forward. I really hope that game 3,018 means that they've made the postseason. I'm very excited about this team over the next five, six, seven years. That core of those young players that have all contributed so much this year are going to be pretty exciting.

CBC Toronto: Are you going to be calling their games as this core grows?

Bowen: Why, have you heard something? Am I being fired?

CBC Toronto: You've got a few more years in you.

Bowen: I think they're gonna have to drag me kicking and screaming because I tried retirement; it was called the lockout. I didn't like it.

Joe Bowen poses with some appreciative Leaf fans at the Air Canada Centre. (Michael Charles Cole/CBC News)

CBC Toronto: How many more thousands do you want to do?

Bowen: I would like to do at least five or six more years and see how this core kind of develops. I mean ultimately, I guess anybody's goal is to call a Stanley Cup final. We'll see what happens.

CBC Toronto: Lastly, I've got to ask. What's a mackinaw?

Bowen: I have no idea. My dad used to say it when I was a kid and he passed away just before I went into high school, so I never got to ask him where he got it. But I guess it was from 'Holy Toledo' and 'Holy cow..'

CBC Toronto: And somehow, some combination of that got jumbled up?

Bowen: Yeah it's in there. As opposed to a deleted expletive.

CBC Toronto: Ah, that would have gotten you kicked off the air a lot sooner than 3,000 games in, right?

Bowen: That's it, exactly!

About the Author

Nick Boisvert

Reporter, CBC Toronto

Nick Boisvert is a reporter and one-man band video journalist based in Toronto. He previously worked for the CBC in Vancouver, Windsor and Kitchener-Waterloo. When he’s not chasing politicians or driving to a crime scene, Nick enjoys cooking, comedy and following the NBA.