Feature Story

The common thread connecting Toronto Raptors media

Sports writers Michael Grange (‘90), Dave Zarum (‘11), and Louis Zatzman (’14) got their start at Mount A
By: Teru Ikeda

Back in 2010, I transferred to Mount Allison not only for its reputation, but I also felt I had a better shot of walking onto the varsity basketball team, compared to other then-CIS (now U SPORTS) schools.

I spent a lot of time at the Athletic Centre at Mount Allison and that’s where I met Dave Zarum (‘11) and Louis Zatzman (’14), playing pick-up basketball. Little did I know then, Zarum would go on to work for Sportsnet, later becoming their NBA editor. Zatzman would become the managing editor of Raptors Republic, a website I would write for and become one of the most in-depth writers covering the Toronto Raptors.

After Zarum graduated, I reached out to him when I read his My Day with DeMar DeRozan article, trying to get the secret sauce that went into his writing. In the same way Zarum inspired me, one of the country’s leading basketball analysts, Michael Grange (‘90), made the dream possible for Zarum.

“I knew that Grange had gone to Mount A and that was a source of, like, ‘Okay, it can be done.’ So that definitely played a factor in me pursuing the field for real,” says Zarum.

Dave Zarum, author of NBA 75: The Definitive History of the National Basketball Association

The two have crossed paths at Sportsnet, but Zatzman and Zarum did not know each other.

Zarum says of Zatzman, “The name was kinda familiar, but I had no idea he went to Mount A.”

Zatzman says of Zarum, “I know who Dave is. I don’t know him personally. He is, you know, much more accomplished than I am,” he laughs.

Grange has been covering the Raptors since their inception and co-authored Steve Nash: The Unlikely Ascent of a Superstar. Zarum published NBA 75: The Definitive History, but says, “My big break is about to happen, as crazy as that sounds.”

Zarum co-authored DeMar Derozan’s memoir titled Above the Noise: My Story of Chasing Calm, chronicling his public struggle with depression, due out later this year (you heard it here first!).

Zatzman has created an impressive and immense body of work — 77 pages under his Raptors Republic byline since 2017.

Louis Zatzman, managing editor at Raptors Republic

These Mount A grads have punched above their weight when it comes to Toronto Raptors media.

“Entering Sportsnet, my first newsroom, I was probably the only person there who hadn't already been working in publishing or who hadn't gone to journalism school,” says Zarum. “And I kind of wore that as a source of pride, you know, kind of motivation that like I can come from Mount A and have my experience in Sackville — in this town of 5,000 people — and it can rival whatever you've learned at your journalism school, or whatever you've done covering sports at The Toronto Star,” he says. “There's something about that Mount A experience that made me feel like I was just as capable of swimming in those waters as everybody else.”

Fierce independence is a common thread between the three — none of them had any connections to someone already venturing into sports media’s precarious waters, just as they didn’t know a single soul before setting foot in Sackville.

Because of its geographical location, Mount Allison tends to draw a specific type of individual looking for a small-town experience. Grange and Zarum are both originally from Toronto, while Zatzman is from Halifax, NS. Despite being educated in a quaint place, they all possess a type of grittiness needed in a hyper-competitive industry and pushed themselves into a space where they were forced to succeed.

Only Zarum went directly into journalism after Mount A, but he was a self-proclaimed terrible high school student, who had applied to Mount Allison as a mature student. After he landed his first gig at Sportsnet, “I really felt this need to have to prove myself, to prove [my boss] right for giving me a chance…I didn’t want to blow it,” he laughs.

Michael Grange, Sportsnet

Grange worked as a welfare case worker after Mount A, sacrificed a decent job, and paid his own way through a master’s degree in journalism.

“I was very, very, very determined,” Grange laughs. “I was, like, ‘Okay, I’m not gonna mess this up.”

That desire burned so much that he cold called The Globe and Mail and New York Times and got bylines in both before graduating from his master’s degree.

Zatzman, after moving to Toronto from Kingston, worked as a bartender to pay the bills, but kept his creative and intellectual juices flowing through basketball journalism. He gives a poignant reminder of what it’s really like freelancing.

“You have to have steel skin,” he pauses. “Man, I‘ve received so many rejections over the years and not just rejections, I’ve received so much silence from editors…It’s just such a lonely industry. And it takes so long to get anywhere you want to go…And so you can’t let it bother you.”

Out of the three, Grange remains the only full-time basketball journalist. After seeing the “writing on the wall,” Zarum left Sportsnet to work for Maclean’s as a digital director and is currently part of Canada Post’s creative team. But he stays in journalism through book writing.

For Zatzman, managing and writing for Raptors Republic is one of many things he does — from holding down another job as a LSAT tutor, to raising two kids and a dog with his wife.

I’ve run into Zatzman covering the Raptors’ farm team and have seen Grange typing away after media scrums at OVO Centre. I’ve seen Zarum on Sportsnet, but haven’t met him again since those Mount A pick-up days.

I sought to tie the threads that connect us all, a thread that started in the same gym where I met Zatzman and Zarum and where Grange starred as a Mount Allison Mountie — the only one to play varsity basketball out of all of us.

The Athletic Centre at Mount Allison has undergone significant renovations since my time there and Mount A will host its first-ever CCAA men’s basketball national championship from March 13-16.

In the midst of it all, there might be the next basketball journalist in the stands, covering the games or simply enjoying the big event with the Mount Allison community. And like the three above, along with myself, I’m sure they’ll find their own way to navigate the tough industry of sports media.