A studio in rural Surrey has become the hub for a popular broadcaster’s quick return to the local sports scene.
Evening call-in show host Rob Fai was among those let go when Vancouver’s TSN 1040 sports radio station pulled the plug on Feb. 9.
Days later, Fai found a home hosting Canucks post-game analysis at Hubcast’s studio, located in a converted barn in the Port Kells area.
The high-tech space has been used for concerts and other productions in recent years, and now Fai’s “The Nation” is streaming hockey talk for an eager audience, with guest commentators including Jeff Paterson.
“It’s gone incredibly well, and probably exceeded all my expectations,” Fai told the Now-Leader.
In 2019, Fai was calling Vancouver Canadians baseball games when the franchise partnered with Hubcast for televised broadcasts. That’s when he first met studio boss Peter Young.
“Peter would always come to me with these out-of-the-box ideas,” Fai recalled. “When I left TSN, or when TSN left me, however you want to describe it, I always remembered his quirky ideas, and within 24 hours of (the radio station closing), I reached out to Peter and he said, ‘Can you be in the office tomorrow morning at 9 a.m.?’ I said, ‘Heck yeah.’”
“So we sat at a white board and we had all these ideas about being able to bring viewers into the show like we’re doing,” Fai said, “like being able to have a one-on-one conversation with a caller, giving the ability to put your phone up to the screen to direct people to our ad partners – stuff you’d never think of, Peter has been sitting on that stuff for years.
“So now I’m starting to add it to my show, and people seem to be liking it,” Fai added. “Most podcasts are guys sitting at home in front a book case, but this is a like a full-fledged show.”
Fai, who commutes to the studio from his Port Coquitlam home, has worked in the Vancouver-area sports media scene for more than two decades.
Turns out, Surrey has been “near and dear” to the Scarborough native’s heart since the late-1990s.
“When the National Baseball Institute was out here with John Haar and everybody, I tried walking on to that team (as a player),” Fai recalled. “I just kept waiting by the fence at Whalley ballpark hoping that John would let me in on the other side of the fence one day, because that’s where the best players in Canada were. John finally opened that door and said, ‘You can work out with the players, yeah.’ So I used to commute from North Vancouver to Whalley every day of the work week, to wait by the fence and hope I’d get let in. That eventually happened, and that was a special time for me.”
Three weeks ago I walked into HubCast Media with an idea for a show on the heels of losing my previous one.
— Rob Fai (@RobFai) March 9, 2021
With “The Nation,” Fai, Young and team want to ramp up the interactive nature of the post-game show, and expand on the Facebook, YouTube, Twitch, Zoom, Apple podcast website platforms employed for it.
A show title sponsor has been found in Chambers of Commerce Group Insurance Plan, and on March 9 Fai tweeted news that he and Hubcast have agreed to a full 82-game Canucks schedule for next season.
“We took this to air in five days,” Young said, “and the response has been great, and we’re hoping to make it better and better. As a company, we’ve got new things we’re working on, beyond the Canucks coverage, including putting in cameras at Mahony & Sons (pub) in Vancouver and also St. James Hall, with a Creative BC grant. We know there will be hybrids caused by COVID, and that includes during the transition we’re in. We might have some more broadcast talent coming our way, too.”
Plans are to take “The Nation” on location, eventually.
“We want to take this show on the road, some shows at venues, because my whole bit is being completely interactive,” Fai emphasized. “Peter’s been awesome in being able to bridge my need for interaction. They’ve been really forward-thinking in getting over the some of those hurdles.
“Right now it’s built as a post-game show but we’re already in talks about what we’re going to do in the summer when the Canucks aren’t playing,” Fai added. “In talking to some of the other TSN radio guys, they’re all trying to get creative as well and think outside the box. I’ve had a lot of them reach out to me, and I tell them that Hubcast was pretty much plug and play, and I just had to conceptually make it fit with what they could do. Some of those guys are going back to TV, some online, and I feel I get the best of both worlds.”