‘Onions-baby-Onions’: Swirsky returns to Canada as play-by-play voice for CEBL
Chuck Swirsky was the play-by-play voice of the Toronto Raptors for a generation of fans and now he has returned north of the border to call games for the Canadian Elite Basketball League.
Swirsky worked alongside Paul Jones on TSN for the CEBL’s season opener Wednesday which featured the Ottawa Blackjacks hosting the defending champion Brampton Honey Badgers.
Ottawa made a thrilling comeback and capped off a 95-93 win when guard Kadre Gray drained a three-pointer from well beyond the top of the circle to reach the target score.
Swirsky, who primarily works as the radio voice for the Chicago Bulls, said it took about 30 seconds to convince him to take on his new role and he holds it in very high regard.
“It is one of the best things that's happened to my broadcast career and I mean that sincerely because it allowed me to return to a country that I love and, of course, a sport I've embraced since I was a little boy,” Swirsky told TSN.
“I'm very, very appreciative of the fact that the CEBL folks would give me this opportunity because obviously with the NBA season – with the Bulls ending in April – this is quote unquote downtime. But for me, I like to keep active and I want to work and I love basketball and I also enjoy the country that I'm a dual citizen with the United States. So it's really the best of both worlds.”
Swirsky treated viewers to his assortment of catch phrases – such as “Onions-baby-onions” and “Get out the salami and cheese, mama” – and was as boisterous as ever when Gray’s shot went through the hoop.
"It brought back a lot of memories of game-winning shots when I was calling the Raptors games,” Swirsky said. “Those things always come to my mind, but I kind of focus on where I'm at and where I'm at right now is with the CEBL.
“For Kadre Gray to hit that shot was unbelievable as both teams were really probing and manoeuvring inside because they were getting to the foul line and yet it took a three to win it.”
CEBL games are divided into four 10-minute quarters, but regulation time ends with four minutes remaining in the final frame. Nine points are then added to the total of the team in the lead and the game concludes when the target score is reached.
The Blackjacks were trailing 86-78 when target-score time began and closed out the game on a 17-7 run.
Swirsky is very much in favour of this method.
“I love the target score,” Swirsky said. “I hope the NBA adopts that because I think that it would be outstanding from a fan's perspective to say, 'Okay, you know what? We may not do it in the fourth quarter but we're going to start overtime with it and do a plus-nine or a plus-11,' whatever the case may be. But I think a target score would be outstanding.”
Furthermore, Swirsky was very impressed with the product on the floor and the CEBL brand of basketball.
“I mean, if you saw [Gray’s shot] or you saw like the last two, three minutes of that game – it was must-see TV. These two teams battled and it was so competitive. It was really riveting. It really was.”
Overall, Swirsky is complimentary of the CEBL and what it brings to professional basketball, saying that it has opened up opportunities not only for players but also for team employees such as front office executives, coaches, and trainers.
“All these things are great and you get the foundation and the landscape of the passion that a man or woman wants to excel in and it can all happen with the CEBL.”