Tag Archives: retirements

Posted in Canadiens, Media, Montreal

(Some awesome pun involving the words “Red” or “Fisher”)

Updated June 20 with link to Ken Dryden’s story in the Globe and Mail.

The news hit pretty suddenly on Friday morning. In fact, I heard about it on CFCF’s noon newscast, having just woken up. Red Fisher, who has covered the Montreal Canadiens for more than half a century for the Montreal Star and The Gazette, has retired at the age of a billion and three (or, more accurately, 85).

There’s no farewell column, no big party. He’s not even giving interviews. Other media who wanted to report on the end of this long career had to settle for talking to some of Fisher’s friends and colleagues. Dave Stubbs, in particular, was busy talking to various media while preparing his own story on Fisher’s departure. It’s the only one I’m aware of that quotes Fisher directly speaking after his retirement was announced.

Fisher is a legend in more than just his hockey writing. He has a reputation as a friendly curmudgeon, who wouldn’t go after players unnecessarily but wouldn’t acknowledge anyone’s existence until they proved themselves worthy of it. The list of respected figures in Canadiens history who lauded Fisher speaks to the man’s reputation.

Even though I work at the same paper, I’ve never spoken to him in person. Sports writers in general spend little time in the office, and Fisher even less. We’ve conversed over the phone, but by “conversed” I mean he called to confirm that his postgame column had arrived by email and after a quick reply of “yeah, I got it” we hung up.

There are many stories of younger (and by that I mean under 60) colleagues at The Gazette that involve the elder sportsman uttering the words “who the f*** is …” – I don’t think I even reached that level. Though I remember the first time I saw him file a story that had my name in the address list. I imagined him typing my email in and wondering who the heck I was.

Everyone knew who Red Fisher was, though. For years, his reputation was such that there was a column devoted to him, the only column devoted to writing about another columnist. Of course, that column was Mike Boone’s Eeeee-mail, and it wasn’t so much writing about Fisher as it had some fun at the man’s expense (consistently referring to him as the Living Legend of Sports Journalism or LLSJ). But still, I can only wish for status like that someday.

Fisher’s refusal to give interviews is unusual in today’s hypermediatized world, but not so much for him. Fisher wasn’t the type to appear on radio or television regularly, chatting with the TSN hockey panel or giving his take once a week on CKGM’s morning show. Even though his reputation and wealth of knowledge about Canadiens history would make him a fantastic guest, he’s said no to such requests from those broadcasters and others who haven’t long ago given up trying to get him.

There are some who say Fisher retired 10 years too late, that his relevance had waned significantly in the past few years. There are points in favour of this argument. He wasn’t the scoop machine he used to be, and many of the big announcements come via RDS, TSN, La Presse or some of the younger front-line journalists who cover the Canadiens, if they beat the official announcement at all. Fisher stopped travelling with the Canadiens years ago – Pat Hickey does day-to-day team coverage. And the weekly Red Line page sometimes felt more like a roundup of hockey news reported elsewhere than anything original from Fisher.

But Fisher was still influential, and he could still write things that made a difference. In 2008, Fisher won a National Newspaper Award - the most prestigious Canadian award for this industry – for a column saying the Canadiens should not retire the jersey of Patrick Roy (they did anyway, of course, but Fisher’s column provoked a lot of discussion). It’s hard to argue someone has one foot in the grave when he’s winning an award many of his colleagues only dream of one day getting once in their careers.

It’s unclear if Fisher will continue to contribute occasional freelance pieces for The Gazette. He was the go-to guy for Canadiens-related obituaries, for example. But it is clear that the Saturday Red Line is history, and nobody should be expecting a regular column in its place.

He’s done.

Coverage

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UPDATE: Mike Cohen says he moved this resolution at Côte St. Luc city council Monday evening:

Whereas Red Fisher is a longtime resident of Côte Saint-Luc.

Whereas Red Fisher has covered the Montreal sports scene for The Montreal Star and The Montreal Gazette, specifically the Canadiens for the past 56 years.

Whereas Red Fisher Fisher won the National Newspaper Award for sports writing in 1971 and 1991 and has been nominated for that award on two other occasions.

Whereas Red Fisher was also the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from Sports Media Canada in 1999.

Whereas Red Fisher is a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Whereas Red Fisher last week announced his retirement.

It was

MOVED BY COUNCILLOR Mike Cohen

AND SECONDED BY COUNCILLOR Allan  J. Levine

AND RESOLVED

THAT Council wish Red Fisher the very best in his retirement and that a formal letter of good wishes be sent to him signed by the mayor and council.

“I will now come back to council with some recommendations as to how we can further honour Red Fisher,” he says.

Posted in Montreal, TV

Herb Luft has left the building

Herb Luft says goodbye, surrounded by family and friends, from CFCF on Wednesday

Herb Luft, who has been working at CFCF since – we have it on good authority here – the dawn of time itself, gave a final signoff to viewers on Wednesday’s show. Once his remaining vacation time is burned off, he’ll be officially retired.

Classy station that it is, it devoted a substantial segment of both the noon and 6pm newscasts to Luft and his career (and a brief segment on the 11:30 newscast), showing the highlight reel, chatting about his 39 years there and even doing a streeter asking random people on the street to wish him good luck (one lady complimented him on always being clear and never stuttering). His family was invited to join him behind the anchor desk for the 6pm newscast’s final minutes.

You can see videos from both the noon newscast and 6pm newscast online. I’ve included a few stills below from his highlight reel, so you can see the progression of his hair reporting through four decades.

Luft’s last news report, for the record, is this two-minute piece on illegal taxis, from the previous day’s newscast.

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Posted in Media, Montreal, TV

Herb Luft retiring from CFCF after 39 years

Herb Luft in one of his estimated 10,000 reports for CFCF

I was going to start this post off by saying “when it rains, it pours,” but CFCF news director Jed Kahane beat me to it in his announcement to staff Thursday afternoon. Shortly after the news of the impending retirement of Quebec City bureau chief John Grant, veteran reporter Herb Luft is also calling it quits and turning in his microphone for good.

Luft is among the most recognizable faces (and voices) at CFCF, and has been there so long even your grandparents probably recognize the name.

According to his bio, Luft moved to Montreal to work for CFOX radio in 1969, and in 1971 moved to CFCF radio, and by 1977 was working for the television side full-time. He’s worked as a general assignment reporter just about that entire time, though he’s probably better known among Montreal’s early risers as the anchor of the morning newscast from 2000 until it was cancelled in 2009. Sources tell me he took that pretty hard, though it didn’t show in the solid reporting he continued to do in the months afterward.

“Herb has been one of the great contributors to building this station into the respected landmark it is today,” Kahane told staff in his announcement. “Day after day he produces solid journalism that our viewers respect. And by my quick count, give or take a few thousand, he’s cranked out around 10,000 stories in his time at CF, and done it without losing his passion for telling a good story, and telling it right. He’s a fixture in the present, and an on-air link to a very storied past.”

Luft himself was brief and to the point about the news. “Let’s call it nervous excitement,” he wrote in an email, no doubt sifting through many from colleagues who only heard about the news today.

The retirement is official on Aug. 4, but by then he’ll be at his cottage on vacation. He’s filing his last report for CTV News on June 30. It goes without saying that this will be noted on air. Hopefully that will include video of him getting tased in a police demonstration in 2001, which unfortunately I can’t find online.

Luft’s daughter, Amy, works behind the scenes at the station as well as at The Gazette. She’s building a journalism career of her own, though not on the coattails of her locally famous dad.

Herb Luft, who grew up in southwestern Ontario, turned 62 in January. That’s about two thirds of his life spent at CFCF, of which I can only find this short clip from 1984 on YouTube. Let’s hope the archivists at CTV Montreal can find better ones.

UPDATE: The Gazette’s Basem Boshra writes about Luft’s retirement (and Grant’s), with quotes from both and Kahane.

UPDATE (June 30): CFCF has posted videos of Luft’s goodbye from both the noon and 6pm newscasts (yes, the taser video is in there), along with a short story.

Posted in Media, Montreal, TV

CTV’s John Grant to retire

John Grant in Quebec City

John Grant, the CTV reporter who has been CFCF’s Quebec Bureau Chief since 1996, is retiring at the end of August (UPDATE: Pushed back to Sept. 30), according to news director Jed Kahane.

Kahane said Grant would get a “proper goodbye when he wraps up, but nothing specific planned yet.”

The search for his replacement at the National Assembly has already begun. The job was posted Wednesday and was spotted by a keen observer. It calls for 10 years of experience in journalism, so this probably isn’t the kind of job you’re going to get straight out of J-school. (UPDATE: Well, almost – it went to CBC’s Kai Nagata)

Born and raised in Saskatoon, Grant was actually a CBC man for many years, hosting Radio Noon in the 70s, becoming CBMT’s weatherman and then its National Assembly reporter, where he spent five years in the 80s filing reports. It was during that time that he fought against the government to broadcast footage of Denis Lortie, who stormed the National Assembly in 1984 and killed three people before being negotiated into surrender by Sergant-at-Arms René Jalbert. The footage was eventually released in 1987.

Grant left CBMT in 1988 to become a CBC morning radio host in Edmonton, but eventually returned to Quebec City working for CBMT’s competitor CFCF. His 14 years as National Assembly reporter for CTV is about the same as his predecessor Ralph Noseworthy, though his departure is much more amicable (Noseworthy was reassigned to Montreal and then given a buyout after he got into a legal battle with his own station over a piano.) Added to the five years with CBC, that’s 19 years of reporting for Montreal television from inside the National Assembly.

Grant filed a brief look back at the National Assembly and CTV’s Quebec City bureau as part of CTV’s 50th anniversary.

UPDATE: The Gazette’s Basem Boshra writes about Grant’s retirement, along with that of Herb Luft.

UPDATE (Sept. 30): A clip of Grant’s last day and goodbye messages from Jean Charest and Pauline Marois.