Jay Onrait, the taller half of TSN SportsCentre’s two hosts, has deep roots in Saskatchewan and attested it has been this province in the past that has stuck most in the memory.
He, along with co-host Dan O’Toole, will be gracing Estevan with his presence and that of $25,000 to be donated to Estevan Minor Football, as part of the Kraft Celebration Tour on Aug. 25.
During last summer’s tour, Outlook was Onrait’s favourite place to visit. His grandparents on both sides of the family are from Saskatchewan.
“I think that was our favourite stop of all last year,” he said. “We just find that people are so generous and fun to us when we come to their town, and the smaller the town the more fun we have. Estevan’s actually the biggest town we’re going to this year.”
That doesn’t mean Estevan is expected to be the low point of the tour.
“We encourage people to get there early because there’s lots of stuff to do before the show,” he added.
While the pair of SportCentre hosts will be visiting the Estevan Motor Speedway, the stock car race between Onrait and O’Toole might not be happening. A TSN PR rep has said O’Toole is likely to climb in one of the cars but that Onrait may have to sit that one out.
The rest of the itinerary for the SportsCentre stop is still being ironed out.
Onrait said that people should show up expecting a show.
“We do a ton of dancing and singing and all sorts of general goofiness to get everybody ready. It’s just a blast.”
For Onrait, it isn’t only about coming to Saskatchewan but also about seeing the rest of Canada, from one coast to the next.
“The biggest thing is probably the fact we just get to see parts of the country we might not normally get to see. The thing I’m always amazed at is we finally get to travel within our own country. I think we, as Canadians, don’t always travel as much within our country as we’d like to, and when we do get a vacation, we want to go south.”
This trip across the country isn’t exactly a vacation for the SportsCentre gang, however; they still have to produce to a show every day. Onrait said a fun day at the office is par for the course, and with production hitting the road, the tour gives the hosts an extra chance to stretch their legs. He noted that the tour’s purpose is not to give himself and O’Toole much needed space.
“In all seriousness, we get along great, and the show’s never been more fun. We have a great time doing the show. It's a nice way to make a living,” he said. “ There’s a lot of people doing more important and harder things than Dan and I do. We're just entertainers, and we like to provide a little levity to everyone’s day for sports fans, and I think we do that.
“I asked Dan's wife, Mrs. O'Toole, if she watched our show, and she said no, and then I mentioned it on air, and she called Dan a tattletale, so I feel I may have started a domestic (dispute) between them that I didn’t mean to do. I’ve tried to learn not to open my mouth about those things and mind my own business about Dan’s marriage.”
That’s not the only time Onrait admitted to saying the wrong thing on the air.
“We always get in trouble for blurting the wrong things out, but luckily we have a very supportive boss.”
What’s his favourite memory of his days as a SportsCentre host so far?
“We've had so many, it's been so much fun over the years. Maybe the time I dressed as the Phantom of the Opera. It's always nice when you can show off your pipes for the nation. We're pretty low budget. It is Canadian television, right, so as low budget as it gets.”
Onrait loves to give a performance, as evidenced by his claim that one of his favourite moments is dressing up as a character from a musical-theatre production.
“I don't really know where (my sense of humour) came from. I've always loved to make people laugh, and we like to do this show the way someone else would like to do it. Sports are supposed to be fun.”
His latest show, The Week That Was is on MuchMore and is a humourous look at pop culture events. The last show aired Sunday, and while he’s not sure if it’s coming back next season, he hopes so.
Onrait will be in Estevan to host SportsCentre on Aug. 25 with co-host O’Toole and the TSN crew as the Kraft Celebration Tour rolls through southern Saskatchewan.