Throwing Darts

When I first heard TSN 1050 in Toronto was giving today’s most “famous” Leafs fan, Dart Guy, his own weekly radio show, I kind of laughed. It sounded to me like a bit of a publicity stunt by the station. As I thought more about it though, I considered what I wrote here a couple of weeks ago about the station’s search for a co-host for the Michael Landsberg-led morning show. I was told they were maybe looking for something “different.” Now, hold on. I’m not suggesting TSN 1050 management is considering a “Landsberg-Dart Guy” combo in the mornings. Though, that would be quite different, wouldn’t it?! But, that ain’t happening. But, Todd Shapiro, the SiriusXM host and former Edge 102 Toronto morning man, has been guest hosting with Landsberg a lot lately. Shapiro is hosting the Dart Guy show with Dart Guy. The 1050 management team may believe Shapiro is a relative unknown to the sports radio audience. How do you introduce him to your audience? Easy…have him sit in with Landsberg a bunch of times. And…give him his own weekly show. Pair him up with Dart Guy, and see if you can figure out if your audience likes Shapiro’s style.

So, there are a few interesting things at play here…

1) Shapiro is a candidate to pair up with Michael Landsberg full time in the mornings. I’m told there is no front runner at this stage, but Shapiro is definitely a serious contender here. Can Shapiro succeed in the sports radio universe? Sports fans are an interesting and fickle bunch. We can be down right snobbish at times. We don’t always like it when someone isn’t a walking, talking sports encyclopedia. Shapiro isn’t my bag. I didn’t like his on air contributions at the Edge 102. For what it’s worth, he told the Toronto Star a couple of years ago that he’s moved far away from his Blundell show-era antics. Will sports fans like him? I don’t know. I suppose that’s the million dollar question here. TSN 1050 Program Director Jeff MacDonald and the TSN decision makers would love an answer. Will they get enough feedback from Shapiro’s guest stints with Landsberg? Is management using the Dart Guy show to showcase Shapiro’s on air talents? I believe that’s what the Dart Guy show really is all about. Sure you get some pub bringing Dart Guy on board. Die hard Leafs fans will probably like the show. But putting Shapiro in the main host chair for this gets him some consistent reps hosting a sports show, and it allows management a chance to introduce him to their audience.

2) The Dart Guy getting his own show has rubbed some industry folks the wrong way. When the show plans were announced, a bunch of people took to Twitter voicing their frustrations about how unfair it is that a broadcasting “rookie” would be given his own show. Now, I always have to remind myself that just because something is ‘Blowing up on Twitter,’ it certainly doesn’t mean the whole world is talking about it, or in this case, everybody in the Toronto sports media scene, including listeners, viewers and readers. But, I asked around, and yes, some people are indeed pissed off, including some TSN 1050 staff members. Some are feeling they are wasting their time trying to climb the ranks. In this era of tight budgets, opportunities to host a show, even if it’s on a weekend, are rare. Not everyone I talked to was cheesed off though. One woman I talked to, who doesn’t work at TSN 1050, but is trying to get on air opportunities, said, “Do I think (Dart Guy) deserves his own radio show? Maybe not, but who am I to really say. I’ve learned by working in this industry first hand that most of the time it’s not how hard you work, or how much you know, but it’s about who you know, timing, and luck. Obviously, the people who hire on-air talent at TSN saw something in him that they liked and saw an opportunity to use it at this point of time. Now it’s up to (Dart Guy) and his team to keep an audience.” I asked Program Director Jeff MacDonald how the Dart Guy Show came about, MacDonald said, “We were looking for something fun and different, which also spoke to the passion of a Leafs fan. The guy paints his face, shaves his head and drives to Washington for a Leafs playoff game. Genuine passion and a genuine fan. So we thought it could be an opportunity to do a show for diehards featuring a diehard.”

3) I do recognize the frustration people in the industry would have with a show like this. I do wonder though, how often does Jeff MacDonald get pitched show ideas? As someone who was pitched show ideas multiple times by freelancers, I would suggest, if you have an idea, simply pick up the phone, or email your well thought out show idea to the station’s Program Director. Assume the PD is not going to call you.

4) My only issue with this Dart Guy show is, if there is indeed money to spend on show programming, why not address the fact that the 10-11am hour Monday to Friday is still syndicated American programming? If there is money to spend, then address the 10-11am hour. Be live and local weekdays between 6am-7pm, like every other relevant station in the market.

The Stro No

I was really surprised last week to see Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman take such a public shot on Twitter at Sportsnet’s Blue Jays broadcast team.

It’s such a petty thing. Stroman had a great year in 2017 and the fan base absolutely loves him. If he has a few more seasons like he did in ’17, he will own the city of Toronto, if he doesn’t already. He doesn’t need to waste his energy on stuff like this.

Calling America

I had a chance recently to chat with former Sportsnet personality Jackie Redmond. Redmond is now the host of NHL Now on NHL Network. The Network is based in New Jersey. We talked about how quickly the NHL Network opportunity came about, creating your own broadcast style, and how much she’s going to miss the world of professional wrestling.

Todd T. Hayes: What (was) the moving process like?

Jackie Redmond: Oh my goodness! You think ‘I’m gonna get a truck and put my stuff in it and go move,’ but there is so much more to it than that. I had to find a place, but my stuff is not here yet, so I’m not living in my place. I’m still in a hotel. I’m trying to sell my place back in Toronto. And, on top of all that, I was getting my (work) visa, getting set up at work, getting an American bank account. It is incredibly hard to get Canadian money from an Canadian (bank) account put into an American account, which I learned over this process. It’s very difficult.

TTH: Are you living in New Jersey?

JR: The (NHL Network) offices are in Secaucus (NJ), and I’m going to be living in New Jersey, but close enough to Manhattan that I can enjoy New York City.

TTH: You get on the train, and 10 minutes later you’re in Manhattan.

JR: Oh yeah, it’s like 15 minutes and then you’re at (Madison Square Garden).

TTH: How long (had) this been in the works for? When did you first discover this was an opportunity?

JR: It was right after I did the Rogers Cup in Toronto. I was pretty quick.

TTH: How did the conversation go about your role with (NHL Network)?

JR: Well, I was very, very happy at Sportsnet. I got to do a lot of different things. I had my hands in a lot of different pots. The good thing about Sportsnet is, they allowed me to be myself and show my personality, whether it was studio shows or interviews. In talking with NHL Network, I think that’s what they really liked about me. They have a show here called NHL Now, which is the show that I’m hosting, and they very much wanted it to be a show that was injected with personality and was laid back and it’s fun. Athletes, coaches, whoever can come on and feel really comfortable, and viewers at home and hockey fans here in the United States can turn, and (say), ‘Alright, this is a hardcore hockey show, these guys know their hockey, but they also have fun.’ I think that’s what attracted NHL Network to me and really it’s what attracted me to this show and this job. Coming out here and meeting everybody, going through a couple of auditions and seeing what the vibe was like, that’s really what made me want to come here. I thought there was a real chance for me to show my personality here, and put my efforts into one thing, and cover one league, and maybe two down the road. That’s really what is was about, to have a daily opportunity to tackle the NHL, cover hockey, which was a sport I grew up playing and loving from a very young age, and to be able to do it in my own style. That’s really what I like about this network.

TTH: You created ‘your style,’ which is not easy to do. How were you able to develop that at Sportsnet?

JR: When I did the reality show Gillette Drafted, my friends and people close to me were worried, ‘If you do this reality show, what are people going to associate you with? Are they going to take you seriously? I kind of looked at it as, ‘This is a reality show. This is my chance to actually do something a little bit different.’ I feel being on that show, and starting at The Score, which as you know, had a vibe of its own, I think that helped me. I was able to find my voice there and find who I was. I was still a kid when I won that show. That starting point is what gave me the confidence moving forward to just be myself and just go for it. I think, to a fault sometimes, I just am who I am. I’ve always been this way. I’m very close with my father and when I told him I wanted to get into sports, I wanted to get into television and entertainment, he has always said to me, ‘If you’re going to do it, make sure you do it your way. If you’re going to go for it, go for it as Jackie Redmond, no matter what happens. Even if you fail, even if you make mistakes, or if you get rejected, no matter what happens at least you know that that rejection or that failure was really you. Your successes will be attributed to who you are and so will your failures, but you can always rest on the fact that you went for it as a genuine person and really tried to do it. The way that you want to. If you’re going to go for something or you’re going to chase a dream but you’re not going to be yourself, what’s the point?

TTH: What was your, ‘Welcome to broadcasting Holy Cow moment?

JR: I still remember my first day at The Score. This was after I had done the reality show. I had been in studios. I got to do some really cool things on that show. But, my first day walking into the actual office, and seeing how busy it was and how many people were running around getting things done, booking guests, talking about shows. It was all happening around me, and I’m just thinking, ‘Oh my goodness, this business is just crazy and busy.’ I just remember being floored the first day. I don’t think I left my desk the entire first day because I was so scared of everything. Everyone was on a mission and I didn’t have one yet so I was terrified. That was a wow moment for me and my first ever Live at The Score, which was the first live talkshow I ever did. Just walking into a studio, opening up a show for the first time live and talking sports. It blew me away. I don’t think it really hit me in the moment but once that first show was over I went home, just thought, ‘Wow! I just did a television show. That is crazy.’

TTH: Who was (at The Score) at the time who you looked at and wanted to follow in what they were doing and admired?

JR: There were a few there. Renee Paquette was one. She’s at WWE now. She was somebody I had been watching who was on The Score and was covering sports but she very much had her own flavour and did her own thing. She wasn’t just reading a prompter. She had a lot of personality. I love (her) and still do. Cabbie wasn’t there when I started there but I was very familiar with Cabbie on the Street. (He) was another person who had their own thing, did their own thing. (He) sort of changed the market a little bit also. And, Tim Micallef. I always thought (he) was a very, very informative and good sports broadcaster who thought about things from a different angle. He always makes me think about things a little differently.

TTH: Are you going to miss the wrestling show (Aftermath) more, or are the wrestling viewers going to miss you more?

JR: Ohhhh. I think I’m going to miss the wrestling more. That whole world of the WWE universe is such a special, unique world. It’s such a unique audience. It’s such a unique product. It’s so much fun. I’m going to be going to a couple of WWE shows here in December. They’re coming to New Jersey, so I’m not going to be totally done with it. I think you’ll still see some wrestling tweets. I’ve been talking to some of the resident WWE fans here at NHL Network and MLB Network. I’m trying to scope them out and find who they are so I have people to talk wrestling with. I have all my wrestling memorabilia all packed, I’m just waiting for its arrival. That’s not going away. I’m really going to miss that.

TTH: So tell me about this new role and some of the things you’ll be doing this year.

JR: My main project is a show called NHL Now. It’s on Monday to Friday from 4-6pm. Live everyday. EJ Hradek is my co-host. We’re going to have a couple of different players as our third host. Mike Rupp is doing it this week and next. He’s amazing. Basically, it’s a two hour hockey show everyday. We’re going to talk about the big stories of the day. We’ll get people set for the games, go around to the arenas, have guests on the show. We had Jack Eichel on (this week). It’s very much a hockey show for hardcore hockey fans that just can’t get enough and they want their pregame but also want something more. They’re looking for a little bit of fun. That’s what NHL Now is. It’s not a pregame show. It’s not a highlight show. It’s a hockey talkshow.

Downie Tributes

Not surprisingly there were an incredible amount of tributes last week to the Tragically Hip’s Gord Downie. Many of the tributes came from members of the Canadian sports media. I’ve posted a few of them below. All are worth checking out.

TSN host James Duthie wrote a thoughtful piece about how much Downie and The Hip meant to him.

Fan 590 Toronto host Jeff Blair spoke eloquently about what it was like to be a huge Tragically Hip fan early on, and how the Hip’s music will always be with us.

Filmmaker and Downie friend Tim Thompson produced a beautiful video tribute to his friend.

TSN’s Bob McKenzie dedicated his latest podcast entirely to Downie. McKenzie lets us hear parts of an interview he conducted with Downie in January 2014 for McKenzie’s book, Hockey Confidential. Downie explains the stories behind the Tragically Hip’s four hockey-infused songs, Fifty Mission Cap, Fireworks, Heaven is a Better Place Today, and The Lonely End Of The Rink. It’s incredible stuff. A must listen for any Hip fan.

One non-hockey related piece on Downie that caught my eye was written by Simon Vozick-Levinson of The New York Times. It details how Downie’s new solo album came together so quickly.