Player's Own Voice

Player's Own Voice podcast: Jason Priestley discusses Harold Ballard documentary

CBC Sports' Player's Own Voice podcast chats with director Jason Priestley about the controversial former Toronto Maple Leafs owner Harold Ballard, the focus of a new documentary 'Offside' by the man who first came to fame in the hit series Beverley Hills 90210.

Director, actor chats about his documentary on controversial former Toronto Maple Leafs owner

Director Jason Priestley, dressed in a blue suit, points at a promotional poster for his documentary Offside: The Harold Ballard Story before a screening of the film.
Director Jason Priestley attends Offside: The Harold Ballard Story screening held at the Scotiabank Theatre in Toronto on Jan. 18. (George Pimentel/HO-The Canadian Press)

He has been a well-respected, working film and television director for 30 years, so it's probably time to stop asking Beverley Hills 90210 questions in conversation with Jason Priestley.

Luckily, the lifelong hockey buff is more than happy to chat about another 30-year-old bit of business: everyone's favourite Toronto Hockey punching bag — Harold Ballard.

Priestley has just released his documentary Offside about the man who literally lived in Maple Leaf Gardens and tried to cheat anyone who stepped foot in his house.

In a world full of brilliant subjects for sports documentaries, why spend time on such a controversial figure?

The answer, as Priestley passionately points out, is that the bad stuff is all that most people know about the man — but in private, Ballard had redeeming qualities. He was an incredibly generous philanthropist. He gave money away like it was going out of style, and he kept it under wraps because he wanted everyone to think he was a hard ass.

To his credit, Priestley never puts his thumb on the scale. He gathers all the contradictions about Ballard and leaves us to decide what to make of the man.

In the meantime, Player's Own Voice podcast host Anastasia Bucsis also puts the 53-year-old former race car driver to work solving an old TV puzzle.

Why is it so hard to show speed on the screen? Watching F1, speed skating or the Tour de France you can never tell how quickly the subjects are moving. Priestley has a deeply detailed answer for that too.

Budding cinematographers, take note. It's all about low cameras, moving close to ground, and reference objects on screen.

Other seemingly random but definitely entertaining topics of discussion? What The Great One, Wayne Gretzky, did for hockey culture in Los Angeles. How the million or so Canadian expats in that town fight over slots in the beer leagues. And why actors want to be athletes, and vice versa.

There is a transcript of this podcast for our hard-of-hearing audience. To listen to Priestley, Mimi Rahneva, Cito Gaston, Robert Parish, Aaron Brown, Kaylyn Kyle, Kurt Browning, Bianca Farella, Summer McIntosh, Beckie Sauerbrunn or any of the guests from earlier seasons, go to CBC Listen or wherever else you get your podcasts.

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