The worst-kept secret in town is out of the bag – the Canadiens’ English-language radio broadcasts are moving up the dial to the Team 990.
The Canadiens and the all-sports radio station announced Wednesday that they have reached a seven-year agreement to broadcast all 82 regular-season as well as preseason games and any playoff games. Team 990 also plans to offer extensive pre- and post-game shows.
“I’m glad that this deal has finally been announced because I wasting tired of saying ‘no comment,’” said Team 990 general manager Wayne Bews. “My mother brought me up not to lie but I’ve had to tell a fib or two.”
Bews tried to wrest the rights away from CJAD a few years ago. He was unsuccessful but the competition did force CJAD to come up with some cash to retain the rights.
This time around, CJAD never had a chance of retaining the rights. The latest deal is all about synergy and all you have to know is that the press release announcing the deal came from the Canadiens’ offices and the Toronto head office of BellMedia, which is the Team 990’s parent company.
The Canadiens and Bell have been doing business for years and the longterm radio deal extends the relationship. Bell’s name is on the Canadiens’ home arena; Bell Media outlets RDS and TSN have television deals with the Canadiens and, when Geoff Molson was looking for partners in his bid to buy the team from George Gillett, BCE/Bell answered the call.
The deal is a natural. While CJAD reaches a wider audience, the Team 990 has a niche in the 18-49 male demographic which gives life to all-sports talk radio. The Canadiens are already topic No. 1 on the station and the only question mark is whether any critical comments will be muted now that the station is part of the family.
The next task for Bews will be to line up some talent for the broadcast. Elliott Price, one of the morning show co-hosts, has done some play-by-play on Canadiens broadcasts and most recently has called Montreal Juniors games. His hat is in the ring but Bews said the network will also look outside the station and that the folks in Toronto might have a suggestion or two.
One possibility is Derek Wills, who is the play-by-play man for the Hamilton Bulldogs. Wills, who is familiar with the players who have come up through Hamilton, is a solid professional who has filled in on Buffalo Sabres broadcasts.
Pre-season dates filling up: The Canadiens haven’t released their pre-season schedule but a few dates have confirmed from other sources. The Canadiens will travel to Halifax for the Sept. 25 game against the Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins. And they will finish the exhibition schedule with a pair of games against Tampa Bay. Guy Boucher’s crew will be at the Bell Centre on Sept. 28 and the Canadiens face the Lightning two nights later in Quebec City. The Canadiens will then find an out-of-town training site to prepare for their Oct. 5 season opener somewhere on the road.
Read more at the Montreal Gazette where this story was originally published.