The crew of Hockey Night In Canada was flying home from the 2000 Stanley Cup final when Ron MacLean found a magazine article about Tim Russert, who went from working behind the cameras to one of the most famous news anchors in U.S. TV. MacLean tore the piece out of the magazine and handed it to his executive producer, John Shannon. "You should do the same thing," he said. "You'd be good at it."
Nine years later, Shannon is taking MacLean's advice, graduating from behind the scenes in the production trucks and executive suites to in front of the Rogers Sportsnet cameras on its Hockey Central package. As well, he'll be the alternating co-host (with Stephen Brunt) on Prime Time Sports with Bob McCown starting this month. The man who once produced the Olympics, the NHL and Leafs TV is now going to be a visible part of the business on both TV and radio.
"People asked me why I wasn't nervous when I started on Monday," Shannon laughs. "After all the big games and events I've done, they don't have to tell me which camera to look at. Hey, we're playing in the sandbox of life. It's supposed to be fun."
Since leaving his job as executive vice-president of programming and production for the NHL this spring, Shannon has been talking to Sportsnet executives. But Shannon thought they were picking his brain about other prospects.
Finally, David Akande, Sportsnet's vice-president for content, admitted, "We're asking you about yourself."
After mulling over the offer, Shannon accepted. He says his focus will be on the on-ice stories more than the "inside baseball" of the business. "I'm a fan first. I don't want to hear about the litigious goings-on with the union now that the season is starting. Let's play hockey."
As a native westerner, Shannon also plans to focus on more than just the Maple Leaf media juggernaut.
"I told David that I have to be able to speak to people in our regions about the Canucks, the Flames and the Oilers. There are great stories there that get missed because of the Toronto dominance."
But the 53-year-old is also expected to be appointed as a media consultant to the OHL as early as today.
With more than 600 games on TV this season (many of local access stations), the league wants Shannon to help guide its televised product into the future. Calls to the OHL were not returned.
Easy, boys: What's in the Kool-Aid of sports radio shows these days? First it was the Pratt/Taylor dustup over poker star Doyle Brunson. Next, it was the McCown/MacLean imbroglio over Jim Balsillie. Now it's TSN's Glen Suitor and Vancouver Province scribbler Tony Gallagher making like The View on Tuesday on Vancouver's Team 1040. The subject: Gallagher slagging the CFL's easy playoff requirements where only the "lame and the drooling" don't make it.
Suitor, the former CFLer, took umbrage, suggesting, because Gallagher had "never put on a jock in his life", he couldn't tell a football from a footprint. "Be careful when you try to belittle (the CFL) in an unprofessional manner" an emotional Suitor warned Gallagher.
"I thought you worked for TSN, not the league," responded Gallagher.
"Maybe you shouldn't talk football," replied Suitor.
"That's one of the reasons I don't take football seriously," fired back Gallagher, warming to the debate by saying Bud Grant, not Wally Buono, was the greatest CFL coach ever, because he was good enough to get a job in the NFL - "the real football league".
"I think this conversation is over," replied Suitor, lamenting the NFL's status over the CFL.
Finally, David Pratt intervened saying the whole thing had gotten too personal and he was calling it off. C'mon, Dave, we were just getting to the good stuff. Banning guests. Throwing head sets. Shouting in the halls. Darn.
Direct Democracy: The war between DirecTV and Versus has finally brought the NHL into the fight. With the hockey season beginning tomorrow, DirecTV still hasn't reinstituted Versus to its lineup. Leaving 30-million households without NHL coverage. So the NHL has taken out ads urging fans to bombard DirecTV with requests for service. "As a DirecTV subscriber we encourage you to tell DirecTV that you want Versus back so that you don't miss any NHL games this season." The ad then thoughtfully supplies phone numbers and e-mail addresses for DirecTV.
Ah, democracy in action. The NHL responding to the overwhelming desires of its fans. Getting them what they want via a clever internet campaign. Just like the Makeitseven.ca campaign to get Hamilton into the NHL. Oh wait. That was so-oo different.
Sage Advice: Used to be hockey players gave kids advice on their slap shot or their skating. Then there's Usual Suspects' fave Theo Fleury. Asked on TSN's Off the Record what he would tell young players should he have the chance, a brutally honest Fleury told Michael Landsberg: "I would tell them don't get married till you're 35... and when you do, get a pre-nup." Don't know if that would fit on a BeeHive hockey card.
Nor would tonight's performance of David Letterman's Top Ten being announced by the New York Rangers. No word yet on the topic for the CBS show Late Night. How about Top Ten Reasons Phoenix Is Still In The NHL? Hmm. You said 10 reasons? That might be tough... Sean Avery will think of something.
Fallen Angels: The Anaheim Angels of 213/310 area code decided to honour their deceased teammate Nick Adenhart the other night. So they doused his jersey in beer and champagne then went to his picture on the centre-field wall to continue the ceremony. Only problem? Adenhart was killed by a drunk driver. Oh-oh. Here come the PC police.
"... a thoughtless choice given that the driver of the car that struck the vehicle in which Adenhart and three friends were riding allegedly was drunk at the time," said the L.A. Times. Mainstream sports media wrote it all off to the untrammeled love the Angels had for Adenhart clouding their judgment. Leading to the Angels new playoff slogan: "The L.A. Angels are going to get pounded by Boston again... please enjoy responsibly."
Don't Fear The Brentster: Finally, Brent Musberger was heard mouthing lyrics to Blue Oyster Cult songs last weekend on ABC's NCAA football coverage. Brent Musberger a fan of Don't Fear The Reaper? That Brent Musberger, the one who looks like your high-school vice-principal? Turns out that Brent was neighbours with the Cult's bassist once and is all giggy with the Godzilla guys. Who knew? Oh well, it's better than that time Brent suggested next time Erin Andrews goes to visit Hugh Hefner at the Playboy mansion she bring the 70-year-old Musberger along. Wrong in so many ways.