Saturday 4 July 2015

TSN 690's Tony Marinaro - a modern day Ted Tevan

I had an opportunity to be an in-studio guest at TSN 690 Friday with Tony Marinaro on the Montreal Forum. Tony saw the blog I wrote, expressing dismay over the Canadiens trade of Brandon Prust to the Vancouver Canucks, and gave me an opportunity to speak out.

Tony is our modern-day Ted Tevan: opinionated, controversial and  always entertaining. On this day he had Sean Coleman in the house as his producer/sports update announcer and his well behaved young son Anthony, sporting a cast after breaking his wrist in a soccer game. Anthony, you should know, is an outstanding player and one day Tony might just have to retire to become his agent.
With Tony Marinaro (left) and Simon Tsalikis.  
When it comes to Montreal Canadiens talk, there are not too many people better than Tony to listen to. He is never afraid to criticize a move by management or the performance of a player and you can always count on him for breaking new stories. Did he agree with my opinion that trading Brandon Prust was a bad move?  Not completely. He wanted to know why I liked the player so much. Well, I explained, Prust reminds me of former Habs enforcer Chris Nilan – someone who can play hockey and drop the gloves to protect his teammates. He came to Montreal by choice and wanted to stay here, mainly because his fiancée Maripier Morin is from here and does not intend to leave due to her successful career on French TV.

Before Tony let me go, he provided one of his regular Twitter boosts. You see Tony has 33,000 Twitter followers and counting. That is the magic of talk radio. So many of your listeners are either sitting by their computers or smartphones that they will quickly “follow” you. I have surpassed the 1,600 mark, a far cry from Tony’s numbers, but nothing to be ashamed of.

TSN 690 remains a jewel within our midst, the voice of the Canadiens, Alouettes and Impact, always delivering breaking news and analysis. We almost lost them a few years ago, but as part of a rock solid Bell Media team which includes CJAD, CHOM, Virgin  Radio and CTV Montreal, they look pretty stable.While the likes of Marinaro, Mitch Melnick, Elliott Price, Sean Star, Rick Moffat and Nilan represent the marquee players, Shawn Campbell, Rod Francis, Mitch Gallo, Connor McKenna, Simon Tsalikis, Jessica Rusnak, Amanda Stein and others make for a strong supporting cast,

For sports fans in Montreal, there can be no greater gift.

Thursday 2 July 2015

Brandon Prust deserved the chance to retire as a Hab

Last winter I had my first chance to interview Montreal Canadiens enforcer Brandon Prust when publicists from the W Network pitched a preview story for me to do on their reality series called Hockey Wives. Prust and his beautiful Quebec TV star girlfriend Maripier Morin were part of the cast.
Brandon Prust and Maripier Morin.

The call began with Maripier on the line. A model and TV show host, she was full of energy and personality as she spoke about their loving and committed relationship, how they met and of course the show. When our chat concluded I asked if Brandon was there. Seconds later he came to the phone, happy to talk and clearly thrilled be living in Montreal. When the show aired, Maripier was shown with a deep look of concern on her face and wondering what would happen if Brandon was traded. Her career is not transportable as far as French language TV is concerned.

Well only a few weeks after the W Network announced the return of Hockey Wives for another season, and Maripier and Brandon back in the cast, their worst nightmare was realized. Habs GM Marc Bergevin, the same man who signed Brandon to a four year, $10 million contract as one of his first actions on the  job in the summer of 2012, traded him to the Vancouver Canucks for Zack Kassian. Talk about a horrible engagement gift!  Brandon had just placed a ring on Maripier's finger two weeks ago.

I can only say that I am flabbergasted by the move. Here is a modern-day Chris Nilan who will drop the gloves and defend any of his teammates. He can score goals, kill penalties and acts as a team leader. Kassian will likely be another Rene Bourque, placed on waivers before we can blink while Prust adds more grit to the Canucks. Who do the Habs have now to act as a police man? Defenceman Jarred Tinordi is the only one who comes to mind, but he is the Rodney Dangerfield of the Habs and gets no  respect - consistently shuttled back and forth to the minors. Perhaps 2014 top draft pick Michael McCarron can do the job, but it is probably too early for him. It won't be Brian Flynn, who signing puts me to sleep nor local boy Torrey Mitchell or Devante Smith-Pelley, who uses the body, but does not fight. If the team does not find a successor to Prust in this department just watch how many teams go after their star players.
Prust dishes out a pounding.

Prust knows exactly how to fight. I love the way he'd tap an opponent on the shoulder and whisper "good one" showing what a real sport he is. He becomes a free-agent again at the end of next season. Now 31, he probably has several good years left. Post-career and during off-season expect to see him return as a Montrealer. TSN 690 should reserve a spot for him as co-host of Off the Cuff with Nilan.

This was not only a good hockey man, but someone who wore this city on his sleeve. He made community appearance and in fact had agree to visit some of our public schools when we spoke. So much for that I guess. Our loss is Vancouver's gain. Since this is Canada, there is indeed a French speaking community there and francophone media. Would Maripier make the jump to B.C.?

Prust and Morin actually met when in 2009 in New York. Prust was then playing for the Rangers. “I was at a bar with my friends and I did not speak English,” Morin told me in February. “I had a little too much to drink, so  I did not even remember meeting him. The clue was that I had a new contact in my phone. I had no idea who he was. Brandon ended up coming to Montreal and he invited to go with him to a UFC  fight card. Well, it was a ‘bloody’ first date and I kind of wondered ‘what kind of guy asks a girl to a UFC fight for their first date?’ But it worked.”

That summer Prust invited Morin to his native London, Ontario to meet the family. “I was embarrassed because I went with his sister for a spa day and I could not speak English,” he said. “I wondered what people were thinking about me.”

“Her English was a lot better than she thinks,” Prust chirped in.

Morin is  a former figure skater who gas graced the small screen since 2007 on a number of different shows for TVA and V.  She was a face for Revlon in Quebec, a partner with Prust in the Montreal restaurant Laurea in Mile-End  a partner in the Canadian cocktail line UNIK. She actually became close friends with Tiffany Parros during enforcer George’s brief  one season stay here. Tiffany, the mom of twins, runs her own fashion line, with celebrity clientele including Mariah Carey, Lindsay Lohan, Amy Smart and  DeWulf.

Morin and Prust already passed the true test of commitment, with a two year long distance relationship. Not only was Prust living and playing in New York City, but during the hockey season he of course travelled a lot. “I was basically going to New York every other week and doing so by bus,” Morin explains. “It was only six hours overnight and less expensive than flying.”

When Prust was a free-agent  he had good offers from many teams, but his relationship with Morin clearly played a role in his final decision. “I knew it would be a good place for me to play,” Prust said. “Obviously it was good for Maripier and her career. It was really a perfect match for me and I think the Canadiens knew it too.”

Morin’s English is excellent now. The gal from Rivière-du-Loup  credits Prust and her early trips to New York for that. Prust, meanwhile, co-stars with her in a TV commercial for St. Hubert BBQ in which he orders a poutine. “I am working on my French,” said Prust. “I can pick up some of the language. Speaking it is still pretty difficult.

Sunday 28 June 2015

Howard Liebman already thriving as Mayor Coderre's special advisor on international relations

Could Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre  have made a better choice for his special advisor on international relations than Howard Liebman?  Howard spent a decade as the chief of staff to Mount Royal Liberal Member of Parliament Irwin Cotler. At one point Cotler served as the country’s Minister of Justice and one of his cabinet colleagues was Coderre.

With Cotler preparing to retire once the October 19 election is called, Liebman decided to look for a new challenge. He has most definitely found one at Montreal City Hall and his years working with Cotler turned out to be excellent training.

“Mayor Coderre is an extremely engaged, dynamic, ever-present leader with the gift of vision and the political experience to deliver results,” Liebman says. “ The mayor previously served as federal MP for Bourassa for 16 years. He served as Minister of Sport  and brought the World Anti Doping Agency to Montreal and as Minister of  Immigration he placed Hamas and Hezbollah on Canada's terror lists.”
Liebman (left) shows B'nai Brith France President Serge Dahan and Yonathan Arfi, vice-president of the CRIF (Council of French Jewish Institution) a little bit of Montreal.  
As a special advisor, responsible primarily for international relations and part of the mayor's circle, Liebman’s first weeks  on the job have been jammed packed. Among his work - all duly posted to social media notably the @HowardLiebman Twitter Feed - has been the annual meeting of Metropolis in Buenos Aires, the International Mayors Summit on Living Together (where Montreal hosted 23 mayors from every corner of the planet), the Mayor's Montreal - Paris international panel on the role of cities in combatting antisemitism, and dozens of meetings with visiting mayors, consuls, ambassadors, governors, senators, ministers, parliamentarians, former prime ministers, the mayor's annual gathering of the Consular Corps, and Her Excellency Michaelle Jean's first official visit to City Hall in her new capacity as Secretary General of the Francophonie.

Mayor Coderre has announced plans in the fall for a Mission to China, including an economic delegation, a leading role among international mayors at the United Nations environment summit COP21 in Paris in December, and looking further afield, a possible mission to Israel in 2016. 

The brutal attacks on Charlie Hebdo and then on the kosher market in France last February compelled  Mayor Coderre to take action. The round table on anti-Semitism prompted him to state: “Anti-Semitism exists [and] we have to denounce it, we have to talk against it,” he said.Montreal has not been spared – there have been attacks and troubling hate crimes perpetrated here.

Serge Dahan, the president of B'nai Brith France, says we can and should learn from one another, sooner rather than later. “In France, we've gone from graffiti to murder,” he said.
The House of Commons in Ottawa recently voted unanimously in favour of a resolution condemning anti-Semitism, and it specifically mentioned the role that municipalities play in curbing the problem.

“They have the most direct with people, they're engaged in the whole civil society,” said Cotler.

The mayor suggested a new hate crimes division could be created within Montreal’s police department and emphasized better integration of newcomers and stemming the tide of hate speech on social media.
Smadar Brandes, members of council and dignitaries present the translated Montreal Charter to Mayor Denis Coderre.
Last week  Coderre unveiled a Hebrew translation of the Montreal Charter of Rights and Responsibilities. The translator was Smadar Brandes, whose mom Pnina is a longtime teacher at JPPS-Bialik. Smadar’s proud husband is Lev Berner, a teacher at Vincent Massey Collegiate in Rosemount.

Howard Liebman is truly making his mark!