Speaking of clever Canadiens ads, CKAC came up with this simple yet effective one, which appears in today’s Journal de Lockout.
Let’s hope it’s proven right tonight.
Speaking of clever Canadiens ads, CKAC came up with this simple yet effective one, which appears in today’s Journal de Lockout.
Let’s hope it’s proven right tonight.
If you pick up the print version of The Gazette (or at least the sports section), you might have noticed that there’s a lot of articles and columns from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and before that the Washington Post, commenting on their hockey teams.
Since you may not have picked up the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette recently, you probably haven’t seen the Montreal Gazette columns that have appeared in those pages:
Even though, in an ideal world, no sports journalist is biased toward the home team, the reality is that Gazette sports columnists know more about the Canadiens and talk more about the Canadiens than the opposition. There’s an unavoidable Montreal-centric perspective. So it’s useful to get an idea of the other side.
Sharing copy like this isn’t new. Both the Gazette and Post-Gazette have done it before, their editors tell me. The Gazette did it two years ago with the Boston Globe and Philadelphia Inquirer.
“Basically, the idea is to give Gazette readers an in-depth look at the visiting team from reporters who cover that team on a regular basis and know that team as well as our guys know the Canadiens,” says Gazette sports editor Stu Cowan. “Also a chance to read some different opinions and styles of hockey writers from other cities.”
When the Canadiens faced the Washington Capitals in the first round, Cowan contacted the Washington Post to see if they’d be interested in sharing copy. The Post jumped on board, and columns from Thomas Boswell, Tracee Hamilton and Mike Wise appeared in the Gazette.
(There’s a bit of irony here, in that until recently the Gazette was a subscriber to the Washington Post’s wire service. The Post cut Canwest off after Canwest filed for creditor protection.)
In Washington, though, there wasn’t much reciprocation. Even though the Capitals finished the season as the National Hockey League’s best team, there was little space in the sports section of a paper known for political stories to fit what are essentially wire stories from Montreal. In fact, I couldn’t find a single Gazette piece that was used in the print version.
The imbalance is particularly striking simply because hockey in the U.S. capital isn’t as important as here. They have an NFL team (the Redskins), a baseball team (the *spit*Nationals*spit*), an NBA team (the Wizards), plus college and other sports. Even during the hockey playoffs, they have to devote pages to these.
“When I contacted the Post hockey editor on the weekend of the NFL draft to ask which one of their columnists would be writing on the Caps, the answer was none: they were all writing on the NFL draft, even though the Redskins are brutal,” Cowan wrote to me by email. “The Redskins are to D.C. what the Canadiens are to Montreal.”
But the Post did use the Gazette pieces online, and it looks like they got some interest there.
“The Gazette columns were a big hit on the Post website throughout the series and on some days recorded higher traffic numbers than our own stories. They enriched and broadened our coverage to a considerable degree,” says Matthew Vita, Washington Post sports editor, somewhat press-release-like. “All in all the content-sharing was a great success that we envision using in the future.”
After the Canadiens epically came back from a 3-1 series deficit and advanced to the Eastern Conference semifinal, Cowan was himself contacted by two Pittsburgh papers – the Post-Gazette and Tribune-Review – looking to setup a similar agreement. “I had to make a choice and went with the Post-Gazette,” Cowan said.
In Pittsburgh, this kind of sharing has gotten routine.
“Every playoff series, we try to hook up with a newspaper to run at least a column a day from ‘the other side’,” says Post-Gazette Assistant Managing Editor/Sports Jerry Micco. “We do it for other sports, too. Particularly for the Steelers. Throughout the week, we’ll do RSS feeds from the opposing newspaper’s site as well as trading copy. We rarely have space for copy throughout the week from the opponent, but on the Monday after a game a ‘view from XXX’ is a mandatory run in our section.”
Micco says the agreement has been a win-win for the two papers. He listed two major advantages for him: “1. It frees our writers up to cover the Pens. Even if they write an opponent’s story, it’s not going to be a column. 2. I allows our readers to get another viewpoint on the series.”
Still, the Post-Gazette isn’t using nearly as much copy as the Gazette is, even though their sports editor said the Gazette has “excellent hockey writers” and “our fans here want as much hockey as they can get this time of year.” They have the Steelers (and its quarterback in the news recently) and Pirates, while Montreal can focus on the Canadiens (with the occasional mention of the Impact), running two or even three pieces a day from the Post-Gazette.
“Basically, the popularity of the Habs in this city goes through the roof during the playoffs, with people who don’t normally follow hockey jumping on the bandwagon,” Cowan writes. “The copy-sharing agreement allows us to provide additional hockey coverage during the playoffs, with a closer focus on the visiting team.”
None of the editors mentioned much about direct response to the enemy copy, so I’ll leave that to you: Do you think the new perspective is a valuable contribution, or a waste of space?
A fellow editor noticed this ad that appears in Tuesday’s Gazette. It’s an ad for Ford that seems pretty generic until you think about it for a second.
The text says “Passion to go the distance”. Penguins in the windshield, and in the rear-view mirror is the Capitol Building in Washington. At the bottom, the logo of the Canadiens.
Ford hasn’t had the best of luck trying to be funny in advertising in Canada, but this one was pretty cute. Not the most subtle ad ever created, but still relatively clever.
And hey, full-page colour ads pay my salary, so I’m not going to complain.
There was something I read recently (and, of course, can’t find now that I want to link to it) about car companies wanting to stop having Canadian firms develop their own marketing campaigns. Instead, they could just use U.S. ads in Canada. This is a pretty good reason not only to keep Canadian-specific ad campaigns, but locally-focused ones.
Remember how I said the number of Habs songs was disappointing this season, particularly since the massive roster overhaul over the past year has made those old ones obsolete?
UPDATE (July 25): The inevitable parody version went up a few weeks later:
Capitals in four
Capitals in five
Capitals in six
Capitals in seven
Canadiens in seven
Canadiens in six
Canadiens in five
Canadiens in four
Concordia’s journalism program, which has been making a habit of posting its class TV productions onto YouTube, has produced this 45-minute documentary about Canadiens fandom – one of the few things we can claim to have an advantage over all the other teams in the NHL.
Spoiler alert: The Canadiens aren’t a religion, but they do have a lot of enthusiastic fans.
I don’t know if it’s because of the recession, because nobody expected the Canadiens to even make the playoffs – much less be able to compete against the Washington Capitals – or just because the Justiciers Masqués aren’t on the air anymore, but the number of Habs songs and Habs-related song parodies produced in preparation for this year’s playoffs is pretty sad compared to previous years.
And if there was ever a year we needed more songs, it’s this one. We can’t just take the songs from last year and replay them – it’s hard to get excited about Saku Koivu, Alex Kovalev, Mike Komisarek and Christopher Higgins since they all play for other teams now.
Still, a few amateur songsters have stepped up to the challenge:
by Clermont (featuring Kra-Z-Noize)
by Vince Colletti/Tanya Kassabian
by Alex G.
by Alex G. (also available in French)
by Martin Scully
by Patrick Charles, Cat Spencer and Mark Bergman for CJFM. Sung by Lissa Vescio
by Annakin Slayd
by CHOM FM
by Daniel Iorio
by Justiciers Masqués
by Virgin Radio
by Porn Flakes
by Christopher Pennington and Felicity Hamer
UPDATE (April 9): With Friday’s Rangers win over the Flyers, the Canadiens’ chances have dropped from over 99 per cent to 97.7 per cent (note to CHOM: Use that in a promo somewhere). Things have happened to make it more likely that the Canadiens will fall out of the playoffs, but it’s still highly unlikely.
All of these things need to happen for the Canadiens to fall to ninth place and miss the playoffs:
That middle part is the most unlikely. A regulation win by the Rangers would drop the Flyers out of the playoffs. A regulation win by the Flyers and the Rangers don’t make it. An OT/SO win by Philly and the Rangers lose the tiebreaker with the Canadiens. A point for the Flyers makes them tied with Montreal, and they win the tiebreaker with more wins.
The Bruins are in sixth only because they have a game in hand. They still need a point to break the tie after 82 games. Because they lose the tiebreaker against all three other teams, if the Rangers and Flyers both get points, the Bruins need at least a point to make it to the playoffs.
If Montreal gets a point against the Leafs, the Rangers won’t be able to catch the Habs (they could match in points and wins, but the third tiebreaker is the record between the clubs, and the Canadiens won 3 of 4). A win against the Leafs, and the Habs finish no worse than 7th place.
Complicated enough for you? All eight teams have already clinched in the West.
Lost in all the hoopla of the Habs centennial is a really long piece by Red Fisher (it was spread out over three pages) about his career covering the Canadiens and all the great moments of the second half of its first century.
I point to it particularly because Fisher goes into a bit of detail in how he got started in the news business, before he even started covering the Canadiens:
A man named Hugh E. McCormick helped make the dream a reality.
I was a first-year student at Sir George Williams College, The Georgian’s one-person sports staff, when McCormick, the owner of the suburban N.D.G. Monitor, Westmount Examiner and Verdun Guardian, sent out a call for college students to report on the sports activities at their schools. A phone call to his office told him I was interested.
“You’ve got the job,” McCormick said immediately.
“How much do you pay?” he was asked.
“Nothing,” he said.
“I’ll take it,” I replied.
It goes from there to an adorable story about him writing a story about a junior football game for the Standard and having it tossed in the garbage by an editor.
But what gets me is that Fisher worked for free, and later took a significant pay cut, just so he could follow his dream of reporting on the Canadiens early in his career.
Half a century later, not much has changed. Plenty of young journalists would make a similar choice now, willing to sign their souls to the devil to get a press pass into the Canadiens dressing room.
More insight into Fisher’s career can be gleaned from this Dave Stubbs piece, first published in April 2006, when the Habs honoured his 50 seasons covering the team.
Speaking of the Canadiens centennial, Mike Boone’s weekly Eeee-mail makes note of the team’s mastery of marketing (to the point where we’re all getting sick of it). Jack Todd echoes that, noting the contrast between the Habs’ history and its present (and perhaps suggesting a link between the non-stop commemorations and the bad performance of the team).
By the way, I used to find it funny that Boone’s column, which appears opposite Red Fisher’s Red Line page every Saturday, was essentially a column about Fisher himself. Only Boone could pull off writing a column about another columnist and making it worth reading. Sadly, even Boone has reached his limit. Last week he officially retired the Living Legend of Sports Journalism schtick after 10 years.
A moment of silence for the passing of one of The Gazette’s silliest running gags.
I have, in the past, been critical of amateur bloggers following pro sports teams. Particularly in the wake of the success of my employer’s Habs Inside/Out website, I just couldn’t fathom how people without access to the team and with daily jobs that might affect their posting schedule could ever really hope to compete for news. Even analysis, it seems, hasn’t been very convincing (though people talking out of their ass about what players the Canadiens should sign and what lines they should put them on is a problem in just about every medium).
But while many of these blogs are long gone from my RSS reader, one is proving me wrong. Four Habs Fans is reminding me that if you can’t be informative, you can at least be funny:
It’s not perfect – they use acronyms for nicknames that makes it hard to follow if you’re new – and it’s rather sexist with the scantily-clad women (not that I … uhh … pay attention to the hotties or anything). But this Photoshop job alone has me singing its praises now.
Okay, maybe not singing. But I’ll offer them a lap dance.
Meanwhile, HIO’s Mike Boone – who also relies more on humour than original breaking news or analysis to create a following – is offering to liveblog Habs games from the home (or bar) of just about anyone with an HDTV and WiFi.
I’m going to come right out and say it: I like Georges Laraque.
When I found out last year that the Canadiens had signed him as a free agent basically as an enforcer to intimidate opposing teams and get into fights, I was disappointed. I’m not a fan of fighting in hockey, and I’m not crazy about goons.
Laraque is still a goon. He’s a fighter, an enforcer, a guy who’s there more for his size and the strength of his fists than the accuracy of his slapshot. But, for better or for worse he lives by a strict, unwritten code that supposedly uses one-on-one fighting to self-regulate against cheap shots that would otherwise target small superstars. And he’s always smiling when he fights, which I found incredibly odd. He finds it amusing when some guy from the other team thinks he can take on Big Georges Laraque. There’s clearly a big difference between Laraque and someone like Chris Pronger or Todd Bertuzzi.
TVA Films has released the trailer for “Pour toujours… les Canadiens“, a kinda-fictional movie about the team’s 100th anniversary that will be released this Christmas. It stars Saku Koivu, which means it’s already out of date.
I’ll never understand the concept of free agency in sports. Or drafting, for that matter. Sure, it makes the odds even, so that a hockey team from southern California can compete against another from Montreal even though one city has ice and the other doesn’t. But it just makes the whole system seem so fake. Much as I hate to agree with some of the xenophobic francophones who want to cleanse their country of impure races, I feel for them in the thought that a team based in Montreal should have Montrealers on it. Otherwise, what’s the difference between the Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs other than the city in which they play their home games. Why should fans here blindly follow the Canadiens, as if location alone gives their team an advantage?
Maybe it’s supposed to be like that. Maybe sports rivalries are supposed to be meaningless to preserve their fun. But it’s hard to think of the idea of a team when people can just come and go as contracts dictate, even sometimes when they don’t want to.
And so, just like that, Canadiens captain Saku Koivu signed a one-year deal with the Anaheim Ducks. The writing was on the wall for at least a week now (though most thought he’d be going to Minnesota to join his brother Mikko), but those crazy logic-defying fans held out hope that he’d still be here next season (at least the ones that don’t irrationally blame him for everything. We’ve now lost our C and both As (Alex Kovalev to the Ottawa Senators and Mike Komisarek to the Toronto Maple Leafs, both pouring salt into the wounds). Next year will see the biggest turnover we’ve seen in a while.
So, like Red Fisher, I will miss our captain, and thank him for his service. He spent his entire NHL career in Montreal, went through a lot (with us living it vicariously through him) and did a lot for our team and our city. He doesn’t speak French, isn’t from here (neither are Kovalev, Komisarek, Andrei Markov, Carey Price, the Kostitsyns, Tomas Plekanec, etc.), but he was an integral part of Montreal and loved by its citizens. He certainly won’t be booed by me next time he comes to town.
We’ll get a new captain, as parents explain to their young children what “salary cap” and “unrestricted free agent” mean, and why those things led to them losing their hero. But our fans will soon go back to irrationally predicting that the Canadiens will win the Stanley Cup next year (with lots of Quebec-born francophone players), because … well, just because.
Life will go on. Because hey, it’s only a game, right?
A year after refusing an “insulting” contract renewal at CKAC and a month after his last column at La Presse, Pierre Trudel has joined Fanatique.ca as a star Habs blogger. His first post is a self-introduction. You can also read this old Journal piece to get an idea of who he is.
On his blog, he talks about the Habs and recounts rumours (though at least he describes them as such).
Fanatique.ca is owned by Branchez-Vous, and while not the most spectacular poaching in journalistic history (talk to me when you’ve convinced François Gagnon or Red Fisher to come on board), it is a step toward making BV a serious media outlet in the city.
Now that I’ve posted this, maybe Carl Charest will stop bothering me.