During the course of this pandemic I have repeatedly praised our local media for their fabulous coverage. On the English side, our four TV stations (CTV , CBC, Global and City) and two news talk radio stations (CJAD and CBC Radio One) have indeed been on their game. But what about TSN 690? With all of the professional sports scene shut down, they had the biggest challenge to try and come up with relevant programming.
I am an avid listener to TSN 690. For any sports fan, it is the “go to” dial on your radio or via the iHeart Radio app. I do not care what the ratings say, this station has a dedicated listenership.
Well, for now, they have made it through the most difficult period of the lockdown. With pro soccer, hockey, golf and baseball back, as well as amateur sports, topics are becoming much easier to come by.
While I am among those individuals who tries to listen to every radio station each day, I have been focused on TSN 690 more lately and their team of commentators Shaun Starr and Conor McKenna, Tony Marinaro, Shawn Campbell (Chris Nilan is off for the summer), Mitch Melnick (with Joey Alfieri and Mitch Gallo), Simon Tsalikis, John Still, Matthew Ross and Dave Trentadue.
In the evening I tune in to the audio section of their website, where you can listen to highlighted interviews. And in the evenings and weekends you can hear replays of different shows. There have been broadcasts of classic Expos, Habs and Alouettes games. They have indeed been innovative.
“This entire experience has been a challenge,” Marinaro told me. “Personally I reached out to as many different interesting people as possible: doctors, coaches, scouts and other media.”
Marinaro is more than just a radio show host; he is an entertainer. I have often referred to him as a modern day Ted Tevan. He has more than 62,000 Twitter followers. How many would Tevan have had?
“In terms of passion, a big part of sports radio is the reaction to a team’s win or loss,” Marinaro explained. “We lost that and it was difficult. It’s funny. The way the Canadiens were playing, a lot of fan seemed to have had enough with the season. But we saw right away that fans needed their hockey fix and now they will get it.”
I am personally very excited about hockey’s return. Players from all NHL teams now must be very prudent until they get to the bubbles in Toronto and Edmonton and not take any risks, especially in the United States where thanks to a horrible horrible leader in President Donald Trump, COVID-19 is rampant.
Dan Robertson and Sergio Momesso will be back calling the Habs play-in series versus Pittsburgh. “I assume I’ll be calling the games in our studio off TV,” said Robertson shared with me. “The layoff has basically been what I’m used to when it comes to time off. Last season it was five months between Montreal’s last game and training camp. This year it’s four months, although with a great deal of uncertainty, of course. The new format is fine with me. The NHL has obviously done a great deal of work in order to get to where they are. Nothing was ever going to be perfect but I think they’ve made the best of a bad situation.”
I was so excited to see sports back that I watched and listened to the entire Impact MLS is Back game, first on TV and then on my app with Alfieri and Grant Needham as I took my walk
What will be the case with the Canadian Football League? Perhaps Commissioner Randy Ambrosie should have spent more time looking into a plan B than selecting what kind of scarf to wear. I feel horrible for the new administration of the Alouettes. There was so much promise. With Prime Minister Justin Trudeau once again in trouble, this time for the WE funding story, he might give the CFL the $45 million lifeline they asked for to detract attention from his blunder and allow for a Winnipeg hub city mini-season in September.
Let me give a few final shout outs to Jessica Rusnak of CBC Daybreak and Douglas Gelevan from Let’s Go With Sabrina Marandola on CBC Radio One and the suppertime news for keeping their sportscasts relevant and local. Ditto for our very own sports editor Mark Lidbetter, who continues to come up with great local stories and can be seen on our new Suburban On Air feature.