Head coach of the Stingers soccer programs takes his talents to the broadcast booth
When one of Canada’s most gifted and proficient sportscasters asks you to join him in the broadcasting booth, you do not say no.
Greg Sutton found himself in this exact situation.
Sutton has been the head coach of the Concordia men’s soccer team since 2013, and as recently as 2019, he’s been captaining the ship for the women’s team as well.
The months that precede the kick-off of the Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec soccer season is the time of year in sports referred to as the off-season: a time of year where there is no official competition. But don’t tell Sutton that—because for him, there is no off-season.
While his bench boss responsibilities are suspended in the RSEQ’s off-season, Sutton’s focus shifts to the broadcasting booth at Saputo Stadium for a Major League Soccer season that typically runs from March to November.
As the sun was setting on Sutton’s illustrious 14-year soccer career, he was approached by Vic Rauter–a legendary sports broadcaster–who had one simple question for the former goalkeeper.
“I was in the tunnel during warm-ups or pre-game and I ran into Vic,” said Sutton. “We started to chat a little bit and we started to have some more fruitful conversations […] and it basically came to the point where he said, ‘What are you interested in doing after retirement; would you have any interest in doing television?’”
Rauter’s voice has been heard on The Sports Network since 1985 and has since become a staple in Canadian broadcasting.
“Vic is a legend when it comes to television and TSN,” said Sutton.
For the Hamilton, Ontario native, it was an offer too good to pass up on. In 2013 it became official–Sutton was working alongside Rauter as a colour commentator for Montreal Impact games on TSN.
Sutton said he wasn’t foreign to the idea of broadcasting. Even prior to his encounter with Rauter, others had recalled his “voice for the television,” which becomes clear when speaking to the former Canadian national team ‘keeper.
The 43-year-old’s life has evolved around the game of soccer and that is something he continues to carry through retirement. With over 200 appearances on the professional stage, Sutton has taken on the role of an ambassador of the sport.
Now, as a coach at Concordia and as a colour commentator at TSN, he is taking strides in growing the game by using his unique perspective and profound knowledge of soccer to educate the next generation.
“I like the fact that I can try and help explain the game to new viewers that maybe are just starting to get an idea of what soccer is all about, to old viewers, to the educated, the uneducated, a whole spectrum of different people that are tuning in to watch the game,” said Sutton.
Sports broadcasting in the modern era is loaded with former professional athletes; in football, Tony Romo; in basketball, Charles Barkley; in hockey, Ray Ferraro, and the list goes on.
Sutton believes that people like himself, and the aforementioned stars of the game, have an advantage in their positions. However, he acknowledges that there are still many colour commentators who succeed without playing at the highest levels.
“At certain points in our career, we’re right in the middle of it all,” said Sutton. “There’s little tendencies that some people wouldn’t normally pick up, having not been playing at the professional level and being involved.”
And there are reasons that people like Sutton and these naturally gifted broadcasters continue to show up on air and excel: the unique insight and analysis that they provide goes beyond the action on the field of play.
“Not just in the games but even in the training and the understanding of the mentality it takes to be successful at the pro level, and you know the psychological things that guys go through and all those intimate details that are kind of behind the scenes,” he added. “I think that goes a long way in helping kind of describes certain situations to fans and certain scenarios.”
While coaching and commentating are two different things, there are similarities that can be drawn between the two: the preparation, the analytical aspects, and the extensive knowledge, to name a few. Sutton, who balances time between both, sees it as two skills that feed off each other.
“There’s a lot of basic tactical situations that occur at any level in soccer and especially as you continue to get to more of the advanced levels; and the university level is not that far behind,” Sutton said.
When calling a game, Sutton does trace back to his coaching experience on the sidelines with the Stingers to help communicate a thought.
“I think it's something that having some coaching background also allows me to express the ideas in certain situations a little bit, so it's helpful for sure,” he added.
Sutton’s impact on the soccer community in Canada has been nothing short of remarkable. For 14 years, his legendary status was felt on the pitch; it’s since moved to the broadcast booth at Saputo Stadium and in this pandemic-driven year, currently resides at the TSN studios in Toronto, where he and Rauter call the games.