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Long-Time Woodbine Annoucer Loiselle Honored

Dan Loiselle has countless memories of his career at Woodbine, but asked to recall his first-ever experience with horse racing and the longtime announcer offers a lengthy pause.

For those that know him well, it’s a fitting response.

“There really was never a time when I wasn’t at the racetrack,” said the longtime Miltonian and voice of Canadian horse racing, whose family members — including wife Wendy (recently retired from her role as Woodbine’s Manager of Corporate Responsibility) — have pretty much all been involved in the sport in one capacity or another. “I was always there and always had an affinity for the mic.”

That passion indeed began early.

Before he even hit his teens, a now 63-year-old Loiselle could often be found lugging around a suitcase-sized tape recorder at the old Greenwood Raceway — laying the groundwork for the iconic career that was to come.

“I’d tape myself calling the races and then bring them to (announcer) Paul Hanover… asking him what I was doing right and what I was doing wrong.”

That humble but determined start paved the way to a 48-year announcing career — 29 of which were as the voice of Woodbine.

Recently retired after calling 28 Queen’s Plates and a whopping 55,000 races, Loiselle enjoyed a hearty reminder of his impact on the horse racing industry late last week.

It came in the form of induction into the Etobicoke Sports Hall of Fame last Thursday, and — the following afternoon — receiving Sports Media Canada’s President’s Award.

“It was great to see so many old friends and the outpouring of affection from the time I announced my retirement in December to now has been incredible,” said Loiselle, who called his last race on May 31, closing out a career that saw him interview celebrities such as Mickey Rooney, Alex Trebek and Gordie Howe. A huge hockey fan while growing up in Scarborough, he was even picked up by Johnny Bower while hitch-hiking to the Maple Leafs’ practice barn. “You don’t realize the impact you have on some people’s lives. You become part of the fabric (of sport).”

While picking up helpful “bits and pieces” from seasoned announcers in a variety of sports, Loiselle stressed that it was essential to develop his own style on the mic.

“Brian Williams (CBC sportscaster) probably gave me the best advice. He said ‘Danny, don’t be anyone but Dan Loiselle.’”

Known for his fluid play-by-play and clever play on words when it came to horses’ names, the retired announcer admits there’s a lot of pressure that comes with calling a horse race.

“There’s no stoppages in play. It’s just six furlongs… no pauses, no do-overs. If there’s dead air in a horse race you’re vilified the next day.”

Not that that was much of an issue for Loiselle, who recently took full advantage of he and Wendy’s first summer vacation in three decades — visiting Las Vegas, Boston and the Maritimes.

Returning to Woodbine a few weeks ago for the Pattison Canadian International, Loiselle discovered a newfound appreciation for the sport that’s been his life.

“It was great to sit in the grandstand and just watch the action, without the obligation.”

While serving as the voice for numerous epic moments at Woodbine, Loiselle doesn’t have any one particular favourite from his illustrious career.

A favourite annual race, well that’s another matter.

“The day of the Queen’s Plate, the air’s electric. It’s Canada’s Kentucky Derby and is just a magical day,” said Loiselle, who saw a lengthy lineup for his autograph upon retirement, which was both much-appreciated and rather humbling. “I was fortunate to call 28 of them. And to see all the people who wanted to say goodbye to me was amazing. I’ve been blessed.”

-Stevel LeBlanc/InsideHalton.com

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