For those who read my column and blog, you know what a big fan I have beeen of TSN Radio 690 (nee TSN 990, nee THE TEAM 990) from the day it first went on the air. I was among those who expressed great dismay when word came down that Bell Media planned to transform this dream come true for local sports fans into an all French sports station. Fortunately that did not happen.
TSN 690 is a classy organization, starting right at the top with hard working general manager Wayne Bews. He wears a lot of hats in this organization and they are all a perfect fit.
While THE TEAM 990 carried the final years of the Montreal Expos and had the rights to the Montreal Impact and Montreal Juniors games, it was the seven year deal signed with the Montreal Canadiens prior to the 2011-2012 season which really put this station on the map. Of course, the talent pool in the main programming slots has also been strong. Elliott Price, Ted Bird and Shaun Starr in the mornings; Tony Marinaro's Montreal Forum 10 a.m. to Noon; the Intermission with Marinaro and, until recently Randy Tieman; veteran Mitch Melnick with the Drive Home from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. and a cast of many others. John Bartlett and Sergio Momesso, of course do a masterful job calling the Habs games.
The morning show, particularly with the addition of Bird, is fantastic radio. This trio has great chemistry and they have a lot of fun on the air, bringing all listeners along for the ride. Melnick is simply the best in the business: smooth, experienced and respected.
Marinaro is ball of fire, never afraid to express his feelings. I was recently looked at his Twitter numbers (close to 20,000 as of this writing). His following rivals some professional athletes. As part of my own campaign to get to 1,000 followers, I shared this with Bews. He in turn discussed it with Tony, who invited me to co-host his February 7 show and promote my mikecohencsl Twitter handle. While I did not quite get to 1,000 during my two hours on the air, Tony did indeed bring me from 793 when I woke up that day to 927 when I called it a night.
The two hours with Tony just flew by. He was ably assisted by producer Amanda Stein and intern Jiancarlo Aimone. Simon Tsalikis, host of the Habs This Week, has been one of the personalities filling Tieman's vacant slot. Tsalikis is a real estate agent by day, covering Laval, the West Island and other territories. I stepped out of the studio for him to join Marinaro.
Marinaro started off the show with an excellent analysis of the previous evening's 2-1 Boston Bruins win over the Canadiens. Without even looking at a single note, he covered all of the bases and naturally got the tongues wagging of listeners who immediately began to Tweet, email and call in. Tony also works the Habs post game show with Conor McKenna and Mitch Melnick. He knows his hockey and I must say is quite addictive to listen to. Last year, with the big Pierre Gauthier mess, he was the "go to" guy. Even the francophone media tuned in to see what scoops he broke. Perfectly bilingual, Tony has appeared on the popular RDS TV show Anti Chambre. It has been a while since they put him on the air, which is a real shame. Hopefully they will wake up and give him a call as it is nice to have someone other than PJ Stock representing the anglo media. Plus, when he is on their ratings go up from the English side.
Marinaro brings on a number of special guests. This includes basketball analyst Peter Yannopoulos. When he came on the show I asked him about pro basketball in Montreal and how much I enjoyed the days when the Montreal Matrix/Royal played at the Centre Pierre Charbonneau. Well excuse my ignorance, but I was completely unaware that a team called the Montreal Jazz from the National Basketball League of Canada started up here a few months ago, at the same home as the Matrix/Royal. They were originally supposed to play in Laval, but Yannopoulos explained how the league had to take the franchise over. Dubbed the Jazz, they were relocated to Montreal and new owners are now being sought.
Tony had a writer covering the Buffalo Sabres on, to set up that night's Habs encounter, took some more calls and before you knew it noon struck. I appreciate his support of my Twitter campaign. Radio is magic when it comes to attracting followers, especially with listeners able to sign on instantly with smartphone in hand. I will never reach his level, but getting past the 1,000 mark will indeed be a milestone.
For those of you who did not listen to the show and would like to do so, thanks to chief engineer Chris Robitaille here it is in four clips. Just right click on the segment you want to hear.
Oh yes, and do not forget to please follow me on Twitter @mikecohencsl.