Radio Wars Starts Earlier Than Expected

As I told you on Saturday, numerous folks were telling me that the Fan 590 was likely to be renamed something along the lines of Sportsnet Radio. Well, today, they did just that, as the old Fan 590 is now Sportsnet Radio Fan 590 Toronto. They also crowned the Fan 960 in Calgary as Sportsnet Radio Fan 960 Calgary.

If you needed further proof that TSN radio was coming, well, here you go.

It’s impossible not to see a connection between the name change (or “re-branding”) and the potential of a new competitor in the space. The war is coming. The Pelly/Moore era has officially begun!

So, let me get this straight… it’s now Sportsnet Radio Fan 590 Toronto? (Try and fit that on the back of a jersey.) And one guy who appears on regularly on Sportsnet (television) is Bill Watters. Clearly, Bill Watters of Sportsnet TV should appear on Sportsnet Radio Fan 590 right?

What’s that? He’s on the other station? AM640?  In direct competition with Sportsnet Radio Fan 590 Toronto?

Speaking of  Watters, I’m beginning to think that ol’ Cesar Romero has perhaps really started to lose it. Did anyone catch Cesar on the Maple Leafs pre-game show? He was rambling on forever about the skills and performance of one, François Allaire, Toronto Maple Leafs goaltending coach. It wasn’t enough to hear the ripping of Allaire’s performance (or at least the goalies he works with), but Cesar then blurts out that François Allaire makes $350,000!?

Now, as sports fans, we are blessed with tons of salary information in the NHL. There are phenomenal websites out there that purport to tell you exactly what every player in the league makes. There are also those who report, from unnamed sources, what head coaches make. We aren’t sure we have ever seen what an assistant coach makes, and can assure you we have never seen a report on how much much a goalie coach makes.

So the problem, as I see it, is that Cesar is way off in left field. Or shall I say, over the left field wall and past the bleachers. In other words, Wilbur apparently doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

Many of you heard the rant, and I was asked if indeed, Allaire’s salary is accurate.  I fired off an inquiry to the good ship Maple Leafs and was promptly told that the figure was erroneous, “way high”. It seems like Dr. Watters (sorry, I couldn’t help it, Cesar has taken to calling GSG Dr. these days) should go back to his agency days and represent François Allaire until he gets that $350,000 salary.

Moving on… Steve Simmons has a great article in today’s Toronto Sun.

“The other night, when the Leafs were playing the Los Angeles Kings, the obvious comparisons were made: One team building patiently through the draft. The other trying to fast track. One team doing it right, the story went. The other, missing all the cues.

If only building hockey teams were so simple.

While the Kings may seem to be a model for managerial patience and bottoming out — building through the draft being the catch phrase — understand this: The Kings missed the playoffs six straight years to get the draft picks necessary to compete. In the seventh building year, they made the playoffs and were eliminated in six games. This is Year 8. If the season ended today, the Kings would not be in the playoffs. So for all their patience, all their doing things the “right way” you can ask yourself a question: Where exactly are they?”

Look, it’s easy to read stories like this when the Leafs are on a modest winning streak, and Simmons is right. We are all in a frenzy over the trading away of draft picks. While many view building through the draft in a slow and steady way as the only way to the promise land, the truth is it takes a lot more. Specifically, it takes good drafting.

“It isn’t just the Los Angeles Kings, although they have the nicest roster of the recent rebuilds. The notion that Brian Burke messed up by trading away two first-round picks for Kessel is a wonderful debating point — but the evidence of successful teams building through the draft is not entirely clear.

The model franchise in all of hockey is the Detroit Red Wings. They’ve had 10 straight 100-point seasons. Almost everything they do seems like the right thing. Their team was built around three draft choices — Niklas Lidstrom, a third-round pick; Pavel Datsyuk, a sixth-round pick; Henrik Zetterberg, a late seventh-round pick. The Red Wings have traded their first-round picks away in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2006. Only one important player on their team, Niklas Kronwall was their own first-round pick.

Which means what? It means there is no one way to find success in the NHL.”

To me, it’s about one thing and one thing only: perspective. I am not prepared to say draft schmaft, but perhaps a hybrid model could work.

Simmons’s article the second I have seen recently from a respected MSMer in Toronto on the subject of the good ship Maple Leafs. The other was by Damien Cox:

“Even teams boxed in by salary cap problems haven’t had to divest themselves of top-end, high-salaried players in significant numbers, as Burke and others anticipated. The cap has kept increasing year after year — by next year, a 57 per cent increase since ’05 — and allowed teams to increase their payrolls rather than make tough choices.

So, whether by trade or free agency, marquee players haven’t been moving much. Burke’s miscalculation, then, wasn’t dealing for a 21-year-old Kessel; it was believing Kessel could quickly be surrounded by other talented players through trades and free agency.”

Would anyone argue with that stance?

“Toronto is already among the NHL’s youngest teams. Three high first-rounders are in the system — Kessel, Luke Schenn, Kadri — while Bozak, Keith Aulie, Jussi Rynnas, Jerry D’Amigo, Jonas Gustavsson and Carl Gunnarsson appear to be bona fide prospects, if not blue-chippers. The majority were acquired by Burke, a clear commitment to youth.

Mikhail Grabovski is 26, Nikolai Kulemin is 24, Phaneuf is 25.

In other words, the cupboard isn’t bare. Collectively, it just isn’t ready to win. If anything, the Leafs need more youth, not expensive vets, to augment their young core.

So, the “in-between” approach makes sense. Play more youngsters now and give them more minutes. Hang on to all prospects and young players. Keep future first-rounders in place. Spend conservatively on mid-range free agents for depth this summer while protecting cap space.

Let kids take the place of departing veterans Tomas Kaberle and J.S. Giguere. Go younger wherever possible and absorb one more difficult, painful season on the chin.

Make the 2012 entry draft the payoff, then spend more aggressively that summer, if possible”

Seriously, Leafs fans. If that was put in front of you, am I the only one who would sign off on the spot? Forget the current winning streak!

I point out these articles because they are the antithesis of why I started this blog. I started because in general terms I was frustrated by the lack of objectivity on the part of the MSM in Toronto.  Two articles don’t make a trend, but if two of the top columnists demonstrate perspective and objectivity, then can’t they all?

Let’s just call it a refreshingly good sign.

I’ve read the comments, and the first step in any recovery is admitting you have a problem. Therefore I am happy to announce I have retained the service of a copy editor!

I hope that you will notice a big difference.



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January 13, 2011 12:39 am

Great post.

One thing, I swear that I heard Sportsnet Radio The Fan 590, noticeably without the Toronto part. Am I just going crazy? Anyway, I can’t understand why if so when the station is pure TO sports.

Can’t agree more on the second part, thanks
for pointing out those two great articles. It’s funny, you hear all the time how their is no way to fix the leafs, but to me Cox laid out a nice blueprint (let’s hope Burke follows it?).

And it’s no surprise that they are the top hockey writers in TO, and that they are the ones who are behind these pieces.

mike (in boston)
mike (in boston)
January 13, 2011 8:49 am

i thought the then/than mistakes were part of the charm of this site … oh well, hopefully you’ve retained some College of Sports Media intern to read over the postings sent from your iPhone.

i didn’t comment in yesterday’s TSN Radio thread, but i’m glad to hear that it seems like a reality. I live in a city with 2 full time sports radio stations (there was a short period where we had 4, then 3) and having options is a wonderful thing. there are still lame shows on each station, but it means more interviews, a wider range of points of view, more experts, a better mix of local/national stories. choice is good for the consumer, and competition motivates better performances out of those with real talent.

i read in yesterday’s discussion that the Brady/Watters show “failed to make a dent” in PTS’s numbers. I have never believed that a show needs to best PTS in order to compete with it. I was impressed that they were able to consistently draw an audience with an out of town unknown host and a bitter ex Leaf. This confirmed to my mind that Toronto could support 2 local all sports radio stations, and the FAN’s decision to hire Brady away suggests they were somewhat threatened.

Perhaps someone in the know could comment on this: were the Brady/Watters numbers respectable? (Maybe Bruce will answer this in his next column – thanks Bruce!)

January 13, 2011 8:57 am


The service and opinions you bring to those either in sports media or are interested sports media far outweights the odd typo and grammatical miscue.

Other questions: Whither Jeff Blair, who writes for the Globe whose job postings are on BellGlobeMedia? Will he have to pick?

Damian Cox also double dips.

Watters, whose hair looks like the remnants of a squirrel, should stick with Sportsnet, if he is offered a spot there.

January 13, 2011 9:44 am

While the Sportsnet rebranding must have been in the works for a while, it is uncanny how it happened as soon as stories about TSN radio started to appear. I have to wonder though how 2 radio stations with little in common(Toronto and Calgary) make a “network”?
Regardless, TSN radio sounds like a bad idea for a number of reasons, most of which have been pointed out in the comments of the last blog.
The primary reason is that radio works best because it is local. There will not be national interest in most sports stories. If you talk Leafs, westerners won’t care and vice versa. An affiliation of local radio stations doesn’t really make sense. McCown and PTS do the best job of talking about ‘national’ stories, but it would be hard to sustain over an entire day’s programming. Think about when they cover baseball and basketball – there is only 1 team in Canada in each sport, a Toronto team.
The TEAM 1050 was tried here years ago and they had good people on it as I remember (Jim Van Horne and Paul Romanuk) and it could not get ratings. There is not a large enough audience for 2 sports stations, it has been proven. As far as TSN radio broadcasting ESPN radio as content, we can get that on WGR 550 from Buffalo, and all they talk about is American based stuff, NCAA, etc. Hardly any hockey coverage – how is that going to go over in Canada?

Mike S
Mike S
January 13, 2011 11:36 am

I am trying to think of which TSN personalities appear on 590 these days and I can’t think of too many, other than Damien Cox.

Chris Schultz used to be on quite a bit but that stopped when Hogan got bounced…………Vic Rauter used to be a guest co-host on the morning show but that ended when Landry got bounced………..Gino Reda used to do a junior hockey show but I don’t know if he does that anymore…………..Brian Williams appears on Grapeline each day…………other than that I can’t think of any others

Keith Pelley
Keith Pelley
January 13, 2011 2:17 pm

Fire your copy editor. It’s Pelley.

January 13, 2011 4:26 pm

The FAN gradually started getting away from using TSN personalities to the point where currently there are very few if any appearing. I think I heard Gino Reda’s Junior Hockey program recently, but I can’t think of too many others. Dave Hodge also was a guest on the morning show from time to time but that is probably over too.
If and when TSN launches their radio network, at least that will be one thing they would have going for them, their large stable of talent (which I think is superior to Sportsnet’s), but the problem still remains content.

January 13, 2011 4:32 pm

TSN definitely had better on air talent – but are they going to ask guys like Jay Onrait and Dan O’Toole to host a radio show in addition to the TV show? I would think that may be too much work. Although I guess Darren Millard did two hours a day on The Fan.

January 14, 2011 10:15 am

First off, while the occasional typo does lower the quality of presentation (I should know, I’ve cringed when I’ve re-read some of my own writing after I’ve posted to this site…), the content that is provided within this blog is consistently excellent and needed. This is especially so after the demise of Zelkovich’s column (I still don’t understand why that was done.). Keep up the good work TSM.

Would you enter the MSM with this blog, if asked? There is precedence for this with “Down Goes Brown” being picked up by the National Post. One big change with his blog is that it is now only Tuesdays and Fridays as per the Post’s request. He has also had to abandon his Leaf-specific postings in order to provide general NHL content for the national audience of the Post.

I’ve got to give credit where it’s due…I agree with TSM about Damien’s article as it’s one of his best efforts in a while (though a small sample size on my part as I have cut back on reading his work in the last year). This is the type of work he used to consistently produce several years ago. Am I the only one who feels that the quality of his work has declined as he has been given more responsibilities at the Star (i.e. being the associate sports editor)?

With regards to the Sportsnet Radio network, my thinking is that each station will continue to provide local content for the majority of time while the “network” would only be utilized for programming with a national following and/or focus (i.e. PTS) or for sporting events with a national appeal (i.e. Blue Jays games). This would be similar to what already occurs with the widespread collection of affiliate stations that carry PTS and/or the Jays. The difference would be having at least some dedicated network stations in major markets, Sportsnet would be able to do “network” broadcasts of other events that have a national appeal (i.e. radio broadcasts of the CHL Memorial Cup tournament), which would coincide with Sportsnet TV’s work.

Just some thoughts…

January 14, 2011 7:17 pm

I don’t mind typos on here, as long as what’s written is interesting.

If there is TSN radio I hope they are smart enough to get radio people for it. It really clear to me that there is very few people who can do both very well. Just have SportsCentre guys go being the mic for a couple of hours I don’t think works.

Not sure if it is a bit negative having now radio and TV guys all in their on “teams” without any interaction as the Sportsnet and TSN. The days of interaction on a neutral site seems to be a thing of the past now only reserved for print people.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x