Whether you know him as J-Roc from Trailer Park Boys, from Mr. D, or as the host of Jonovision, Jonathan Torrens has been a mainstay on Canadian television for over two decades. What you may not know is that he is a massive Oilers fan despite being born on PEI. I was lucky enough to sit down with him and talk about the Oilers, Trailer Park Boys, and what it was like an as Oilers fan on the east coast. This is part of our conversation…
Baggedmilk: Being from the East Coast how did you end up as an Oilers fan? How did you avoid the horrible tractor beam that is Leafs Nation?
Jonathan Torrens: Veteran CBC broadcaster Peter Gzowski wrote a book called The Game of our Lives, in which he spent a year with the Oilers in the 80-81 Season. It was the first book that I read as a kid that really spoke to me. Of course it didn’t hurt that the people he was writing about were Gretzky, Coffey, Messier etc. I’ve been a fan ever since, through highs and – ahem – Lowe’s. It’s pretty cool to read the book even now, knowing what they went on to accomplish.
BM: Did your buddies break your balls about being an Oilers fan growing up? How did you manage to stay strong?
JT: It was easy to stay strong in those dynasty days because there were lots of Oilers fans, even out East. I was a goalie and Andy Moog was my favourite player. As I got older, and they hit some bumps, you care less about what people think anyway. During the cup run in 2006, I was shooting a TV show for the travel channel in the states. We were on Catalina Island in California and it was pretty hard to find a TV carrying the games. It was the only time in my career that I’ve ever slipped away from a set. Couldn’t help it.
BM: How did you react when you found out the Oilers won the draft lottery? Where were you when it happened?
JT: I was home on the couch and leaped up in the air with my hands over my head in joy. Then I had a brief moment of uncertainty when I realized that – while there’s no question McDavid is a huge coup for us – in a way, he is the solution to the one problem we don’t have. No shortage of young, skilled offensive players on our team. Having said that it’s huge in so many ways because not only is Connor tremendously skilled but he’ll also attract high-caliber players to Edmonton that just want to play with him. I’m sure like all elite players, his presence will up everybody’s game.
BM: What do you think of how the roster is shaping up for this season?
JT: I’m cautiously excited. Todd will be great. I’ll be interested to see how Cam Talbot fares. Darnell Nurse is going to be incredible. But I think there’s no question we could still use a veteran d-man like a Shea Webber. Or a Chara six years ago. Or a Pronger. Haha.
BM: How about the moves this summer?
JT: I was sad to see Boyd Gordon go. He played hard and with a lot of heart. Always liked Perron too. That’s the nature of fandom though: just when you get attached, they’re gone. As long as we keep Luke Gazdic I’m okay.
BM: What are your expectations for the Oilers this season?
JT: I’m an optimist by nature. Truth be told, I really felt Dallas Eakins was the man for the job last year. He’s obviously a great coach, given what he accomplished with the young players on the Marlies. It couldn’t have been easy for him to weather the storm that was last season. I’m trying to manage my expectations but it’s hard. I don’t live in Edmonton so I’m not around it all the time but I don’t like it when the fans turn on the team. As un-fun as it is for us to watch, imagine how hard it is for them to live through. They’re competitive athletes who love to win. It was cool watching Hall and Eberle’s spirits soar at the Worlds. Like it was a trip to be on a winning team again. We’ll get there. As long as we show growth, I’m happy. Oh – and also win the Stanley Cup.
BM: With this being the last season at Rexall Place do you think you’ll be able to make it to Edmonton to catch a game?
I actually went on StubHub yesterday just to see where ticket prices are. I even debated buying season tickets just to get to go to the first game. Then I remembered I work in Canadian Show Business. But I do have some Aeroplan points, so I’m halfway there. Maybe J-Roc could be the new mascot?!
BM: What is your favourite memory as an Oilers fan?
I went to the home opener last year and it was my first ever game at Rexall. Even though we lost the Battle of Alberta, it was a memorable night for me. Folks in the organization were so welcoming and gracious. I was right beside the bench and could count the beads of sweat on Victor Fasth’s forehead.
BM: If you could change one thing about the NHL what would it be?
JT: That a 42 year-old guy who plays a fake rapper on TV could make the Oilers squad.
BM: Jonovision was probably the greatest talk show in the history of Canadian TV. What do you miss most about that show?
JT: Was that written in Sarcasm Font?
BM: Absolutely not! I loved that show. I’ve probably seen every episode!
JT: Honestly, now I can look back and be proud of the fact that we gave a lot of bands a national platform who never would’ve had one otherwise. We shone a light on some heavy issues that kids were tangling with. And we gave kids in rural Canada some access to what city kids were up to. No shame in that.
BM: Tell us about the new season of Trailer Park Boys? Any teasers you can give us?
JT: The challenge of writing a show like TPB, in its tenth season, is that you want to find new storylines. Fans of the show tend to not embrace new characters or when you take the guys out of the park. We’ve found some new grass to mow this year. Some high profile visitors are coming to the park – it’s the worst kept secret in TV history!
BM: Where can the people find you?
JT: Folks can see me on Mr D on CBC. Season 5 starts airing in January. And Season 10 of TPB will be on Netflix in March. They can also check out @TAGGARTnTORRENS (my podcast with Jeremy Taggart) on iTunes. We’re writing a book about this great country that will be published by Harper Collins and in stores Fall 2016.
BM: Thanks so much for your time, JT. I still think you should have an eternal producing credit on Degrassi for that Jonovision reunion show not to mention how you basically discovered Sum 41.
For readers of the site that are roughly my age (I’m 30 btw… seriously!) shows like Jonovision and Street Cents were staples in the afternoon after school. I used to plop down on the couch and watch this guy on TV pretty much every day. To have a chance to talk with Jonathan Torrens was big for me. Amazingly, the 14 year old girl living inside me didn’t freak out too much.
Have a suggestion for an interview? Hit me up in the comments or email me at [email protected]