The sports talk radio landscape has shifted in Toronto, and Leafs fans have a new voice on TSN 1050's Leafs Lunch from 12:00 to 1:00 p.m. on weekdays in longtime sports reporter Andi Petrillo.
And Petrillo's history with the Leafs runs deep.
As a first generation Canadian from Italy, hockey -- and the Leafs -- are what made the Petrillo's feel at home. When her grandfather settled in Toronto, he gravitated to the Leafs through constant chatter at work, and a love for the game took off in the family.
"It was pretty engraved in us," Petrillo said in a phone interview following Bell Media's announcement of her new role as host of the lunchtime radio show. "When my grandfather passed away we put a Toronto Maple Leafs pin on his lapel so it's a pretty big deal in our family."
She has covered the team extensively too, joining Leafs TV as a reporter in 2006 before moving on to work with Hockey Night in Canada (HNIC) and the NHL Network.
"I was actually the first female reporter to travel with the team and I did home games, road games, practices, absolutely everything," Petrillo said, adding that she's prepared for the "different world" that comes with covering the Leafs.
She hopes her experience with the organization, and her time spent covering all seven Canadian teams with HNIC and all 30 teams with the NHL network give her a unique perspective as the program's new host.
"While the focus is on the Leafs, I can definitely bring knowledge of the other 29 because I’ve been covering them for so many years," Petrillo said.
And while Petrillo is now the first female sports radio host in Canada, her focus is squarely on continuing to do the "fantastic job" that hosts Bryan Hayes, Jeff O'Neill, and Jamie McLennan did on Leafs Lunch.
"As far as my voice, at the end of the day I think it’s just going to sound like a women’s voice but other than that I’m talking hockey," the new host said. "Other than my voice sounding a little higher and my hair being a little longer and my high heels and my mascara it really is just hockey talk."
While she credits her rotating co-hosts of analysts and insiders such as Bob McKenzie as able to provide a different perspective, Petrillo thinks her new role signifies ongoing change in the sports world.
"What has been great about the evolution of women in sport is that at the end of the day there’s so many female sports fans out there but they don’t want to be treated as female sports fans they just want to be treated as sports fans and it’s the same with me," she said. "I don’t want to be known as a female sports host, I just want to be known as a sports host."
Moving forward, Petrillo is excited about the looming and busy trade deadline season. Leafs Lunch will be focusing on the Leafs role as sellers.
"It's really about draft picks and players coming the other way," Petrillo said. "We’re just going to keep our eye on the value, so if a guy like Roman Polak goes who is he going to and what should we get in return? Do the Leafs really want big name players right now or do they want draft picks because they don’t want a big name player to go to waste when you know the build is going to take at least a couple more years?"
And she doesn't doubt that it's going to be busy.
"So many names have been floating around."
The decisions made by Leafs management before the February 29 deadline will be telling as to how far along the rebuild process the franchise feels it is, Petrillo said.
"Let’s face it, if a guy like Steven Stamkos – and that’s not trade deadline – comes up in the summer you have to think the rebuild will be a lot faster than people thought to take talent like that and waste it for a couple years."
At TSN, and in the sports journalism world at large, Petrillo hopes the shakeup is indicative of a new path.
This is the fork in the road, this is where you need to make your changes and start on a new path and in a new direction," she said.
But it hasn't all been positive of late.
"I’m not going to lie it’s been sad," Petrillo said. "In the last couple of years I’ve seen a lot of good people lose their jobs or have their role diminished in some way so it’s been really sad to see some good people go."
But for Leafs Nation's newest, yet familiar, voice, it's time to get to work like she always has.
"When I got into the industry I was a restaurant reporter for crying out loud," she said with a laugh. "I got paid in food."
Now she's getting paid to talk about her childhood team five days a week at noon.
TSN 1050's new lineup premieres Monday, February 22. You can check out the complete schedule here.