TSN radio host Jeff O'Neill back on air after unexplained absence

Jeff O'Neill returned to TSN's airwaves on Wednesday after a brief absence. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston)
Jeff O'Neill returned to TSN's airwaves on Wednesday after a brief absence. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston)

After a week-long absence from the airwaves under conspicuous circumstances, popular TSN personality and OverDrive radio host Jeff O’Neill made his long-awaited return on Wednesday's show.

“Feeling good, boys,” O’Neill said off the top of Wednesday's program without offering specifics regarding his time away. “It’s good to be back. And as I tweeted out earlier, I just wanted to let people know I really appreciate the messages — family, friends, everyone. I just appreciate it.”

The TSN personality stepped away from the microphone midway through last week without any prior announcement, leading to speculation as to the cause of his absence. He also went silent across social media, last retweeting from his account on April 23.

The network chose not to speak on the matter initially, only further fuelling rumours. Co-host Bryan Hayes finally broke the silence on Monday by explaining that O'Neill was “on leave.”

“He’s OK. He’s getting messages from people. He’s seeing all this kind of stuff,” the Overdrive host told listeners at the conclusion of Monday’s show. “But that’s as far as we can go. That’s what we’re going to leave it at – that the O-Dog is on leave.”

No further information has been provided as to what the cause of O’Neill’s absence may have been. The timing was also exacerbated based on the fact the Toronto Maple Leafs had just advanced to the second round for the first time since 2004, leading to a greater degree of viewership for the show, and subsequently more questions as to why O’Neill ultimately was absent.

O’Neill, one of TSN’s most popular on-air talents thanks to his brash personality and at times unrelenting homerism for his alumnus Maple Leafs, joined TSN 1050 back in 2013 as part of the station’s pre- and post-game coverage of Toronto games.

He’s since become a mainstay on the network, forming one-third of Canada’s most popular drivetime sports show and serving as a prominent figure during Leafs games broadcast on TSN.

O’Neill is also no stranger to the limelight as a whole. His controversial Twitter account was among the reasons he rose to prominence in the first place, with former TSN 1050 program director Robert Gray saying at the time of his hiring, “Anyone who follows Jeff on Twitter knows he is not afraid to mix it up and speak his mind on pretty much any subject.”