Tuesday 30 September 2014

Bob Babinski resurfaces as part of City/Sportsnet NHL coverage

One of the really nice guys in the sports television business has resurfaced in a new/old role as Rogers gets set to launch it $5.2 million, 12 year deal of covering the National Hockey League. We are talking about Bob Babinski, who left his post last summer as executive producer for City TV's year old Montreal station. He has signed on as a content producer with Rogers and will be heavily involved with the much anticipated Hometown Hockey Community Celebration with Ron MacLean each Sunday night on City as well as the traditional Hockey Day  in Canada in  February.

Babinski was recruited for this role last summer, but chose now to go public with it. His sudden departure from City Montreal and Breakfast Television stunned his adoring staff, but he believes it was the right decision. "I am very proud of what I accomplished there," Babinski says. "My main job was completed and that was the selection of a staff and getting things going."

Babinski did indeed choose well. The fact the same on air staff remains intact is positive to begin with. Alex Despatie, Joanne Vrakas, Catherine Verdon Diamond, Laura Casella, Wilder Weir and Elias Makos are supported by an outstanding team behind the camera. Ratings for local morning TV have never been strong here. But with NHL games now about to air on City that should allow for more Breakfast TV commercials to be showcased. Ditto for the weekly sports magazine show, hosted by Weir. Chantal Desjardins has joined Sportsnet as a local correspondent while John Bartlett will handle play by play for Rogers regional broadcasts of the Canadiens - two more high profile individuals City could benefit from.
Babinski, Chantal Desjardins and PJ Stock

"I still watch Breakfast TV," says Babinski. "I am really proud of the team I assembled. They are all developing very well."

Back to his new job, Babinski says he is returning to his first love. Following a number of years as a sportscaster for CBC Montreal, from 1994 to 2000, he enjoyed great success as a freelance producer for many special events such as the Vancouver Olympics, the FIFA World Cup and Hockey Day in Canada.

"I already know Ron MacLean from  my previous experience with Hockey Day in Canada, so that makes the move easier," Babinski says. "Right now I am really busy travelling back and forth to Toronto and working on the content we will use for Hometown Hockey where we will visit a different community in Canada every Sunday. We'll be on at 6:30 p.m. leading up to the Sunday game of the week and then have additional hits during the intermission. Ron is totally engaged with this format."

Babinski was recently in Toronto, hopping a plane with colleagues Desjardins and PJ Stock, for the Rogers NHL Summit. "This was a series of meetings to introduce ourselves and get set for the rest of the season," he says.

Stock, the former NHL tough guy, was outstanding on Hockey Night in Canada and I am happy to see him part of the Rogers team.

Hockey Day in Canada will be broadcast live from Halifax on February 14 and Babinski says work is well underway for the 13 hour program.

Away from the rink, Babinski has also launched a business whereby he serves as a performance trainer for clients who want to express themselves more effectively - either in front of a camera, at a conference, or in a boardroom. "My training program is called 'Babinski's reflex,'" he says.

Sunday 28 September 2014

Habs play by play announcer update: winning candidate to be revealed before season opener

TSN 690 Radio Program Director Chris Bury is not tipping his hat as to who will replace John Bartlett as the new play by play man for Montreal Canadiens broadcasts.

Bartlett left his post very recently to accept a job with Rogers Sportsnet TV, where he will call the plays for regional Canadiens telecasts.

Bury seems to have been using the Habs pre-season games as a chance to evaluate the talent.

Veteran Rick Moffat should be at the front of the line. He's done the job before and only stepped away when CJAD lost the rights to the Habs to TSN. Of course now they are part of the same family. Moffat already worked with colour commentator Sergio Momesso and it has been great listening to them during the exhibition season.

These days Moffat has a full plate. He is part of the TSN 690 morning team, does the sportscasts on the Andrew Carter Morning Show on CJAD and also does play by play for the Alouettes and the Impact.  While Bartlett only worked play by play, the thing I always admired about Moffat is how he would call the plays for a night game and be on the sports desk the following morning. Another plus to Moffat getting the gig would mean Conor McKenna finally getting a permanent spot on the roster. He fills in for Moffat when he is away, spells Mitch Melnick and does the Habs intermission and post game shows. Elliott Price and Brian Wilde could handle the Als and Impact duties.

Price should not be counted out as a candidate either. He was, after all, Bartlett's backup the last few years and has decades of experience with baseball, hockey, football and soccer.

AJ Jakubec from Ottawa's TSN 1200 Radio already has the experience calling games for the Ottawa Senators, Ottawa RedBlacks, Ottawa Fury, Ottawa 67's
AJ Jakubec
and CIS basketball. He has sounded good during his Habs stint.  The other new voice we have heard is Dan Robertson, a polished  play caller from the Maritimes who has been behind the mic for countless university basketball, hockey and football events.  He too did nit seem out of place during his so-called TSN 690 audition.

Bury said that the identity of Bartlett's successor will be announced in time for the face off at the Habs opening game against Toronto on October 8.

"I’ve received a lot of applications from people with all levels of experience and strong resumes," Bury shared with me. "We’re in a good position and excited."