Friday 17 February 2012

Breaking news: CJAD to get Impact soccer broadcasts

It looks like TSN Radio 990 will no longer be carrying Montreal Impact soccer games. On the eve of the team's much anticipated debut  in the prestigious Major League Soccer (MLS) circuit,  I have learned that the broadcast rights will move over to CJAD Radio 800.

Brian Wilde
TSN Radio 990, previously known as THE TEAM 990 and soon to become TSN 690, handled Impact broadcasts for the last few seasons. Most recently CTV's Brian Wilde did the play-by-play, joined by colour  commentator and soccer expert Noel Butler. Sources close to the scene tell me that the Impact's new MLS schedule just does not work since they also have the broadcast rights for the Montreal Canadiens. The vast majority of MLS games are on  Saturdays and the 34 game schedule goes from March until October. Unlike CJAD, which has Astral sister stations Virgin Radio and CHOM as backups, TSN 990 has no FM partners.

Noel Butler
So, TSN 990 will survive minus the Impact. Provided Butler remains on board, hosting his popular Oranges at Halftime program and popping up on other shows. TSN 990 listeners will therefore still get their fill of soccer news. CJAD gets another sports property to join the Alouettes. They were in fact the original broadcasters of the Impact.
Rick Moffat

I am told that Wilde would like to return as the play-by-play man. He is unquestionably passionate about the job, which was clear every time the Impact scored a goal and he went out of his mind. I was worried he'd burst a blood vessel. But there is always the chance CJAD will go to Rick Moffat, who did the Habs and is the voice of the Als or versatile Abe Hefter. As for who will do the colour, well besides Butler the best man for the job is former Impact captain Lloyd Barker, who remains busy on CTV as their resident soccer expert. There are a number of other former Impact players who might be available as well.

The Impact play their first MLS game on March 10 in Vancouver. Who will be in the broadcast booth?

Thursday 16 February 2012

Gary Carter: proud to say I knew him personally

There is a lot being said and written about the life of Gary Carter, the Montreal Expos legend who lost his battle with cancer at the age of 57.
Well, I was among those who can say that Gary and I knew each other on a first name basis.  When he joined the Expos for good in 1975 I was 13 years of age. My dad, Lawrence Frederick Cohen (aka Larry Fredericks), worked in the press box for  the United Press International wire service. In those days the team gave all media a pair of season tickets at cozy Jarry Park. From his seat high atop the crowd my dad could keep his eye on my younger brother Chuck and I.

Gary Carter began the season as the starting right fielder for the Expos. Chuck and I must have gone to close to 50 games that year. Our seats were located right near the players' families. This included the then young wife of Carter, Sandy. We spoke to her often. Gary's dad Jim flew in from California frequently and he was quite the gentleman.

It did not take long for Chuck and I to become big Gary Carter fans. My dad reported from the dressing room what an amazing guy he was. "He's calling  me 'Larr' already,"  dad told me proudly.

Carter was visible in the community. Each summer he accepted an invitation from Johnny Elias to come teach at his Grand Slam Baseball School, which happened to be behind my house. Here was a major superstar in the game coming to a community park to talk to kids because of a friendly relationship he developed with Elias, a batting practice pitcher in his spare time.

There was a reason Carter was called the "Kid."

My biggest thrill came at the age of 18. My dad always promised that when I was 18 and in CEGEP I could come help him in the press box. This give me dressing room access and a chance to see Carter in action with the media. Win or lose, he was always available for a comment and did so with a smile and plenty of good sound bites.,

The following  season  I had gotten a job at the now defunct Sunday Express Newspaper. The Express had a pretty steady readership and at a young age I was named assistant sports editor. I had a column with my baby face photo and wrote   a slew of stories each week on virtually every sport. It gave me great visibility among the athletes. One day I was in the dugout talking to then Expos manager Jim Fanning. As we concluded our chat, Carter walked by. He turned around, looked at me and said, "How is Mr. Cohen doing today? What can we expect this week in The Sunday Express?"

From that point on he always remembered my name, even after he was sadly traded to the New York Mets, the LA Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants. I was among the elated fans when he returned to the Expos for his final season. The double in his final at bat at Olympic Stadium still gives me goosebumps.

Carter came back to Montreal as TV broadcaster for a few seasons. We heard him on local radio even after the team left town and witnessed him being honoured at the Bell Centre with Andre Dawson, his sweater number 8 lifted to the rafters.

There will never be another Gary Carter. I know he would have loved to see the Expos stay in Montreal and for him to one day be the manager. We can only dream.

Here is Annakin Slayd's tribute video: