Building on a Blog
Updated: Aug 30, 2020
By Mike Toth
In my last blog, "Puck heads vs. Talking heads" (which you can also read on our tothsportsinc.com website) I wrote about viewers being subjected to boring, cliche-filled intermission interviews during NHL telecasts. In that piece, I also complained about the rude and condescending manner in which Columbus Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella treated the media during the current pandemic play-offs.
Well, I'm pleased to provide you with an update.
First off, Tortorella was fined $25,000 for his boorish behaviour in the aftermath of the Blue Jackets first round loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. This is definite proof that NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman is a huge fan of our tothsportsinc.com blogs. We might only have a handful of readers, but they're obviously a bright bunch that include movers and shakers such as Bettman…..Adam Silver…..Dr. Anthony Fauci…..Prince Charles…...Oprah…... There's really no need to continue. I think you get the idea…..(that we're completely full of…..beans.)
But as those old stand-up comics used to say, "Seriously folks".....We do have a few faithful followers that know a thing or two about a thing or two. One of them, for instance, is my old buddy Grant Pollock. Grant and I worked together in the late-80's and early-90's at Channels 2 & 7 in Calgary. Along with Mike Lownsbrough and Ron Manz, Grant and I were part of the team that hosted "Sports at 11" - a nightly hilite show that was "Must See TV” in Calgary before TSN and Sportsnet began to rule the airwaves. Grant also hosted the Calgary Flames games on 2 & 7, working the broadcasts with the legendary Ed Whalen who handled the play-by-play duties. After reading my blog about the bland quality of NHL intermission interviews, which are even worse now thanks to the hostage-like COVID Zoom chats, Grant dropped me the following email.
“Years ago during intermissions, players were taken to a studio where they sat on a stool and were handed a towel and some water. A host would do a 3-4 minute interview, discussing the game, perhaps something interesting about their career and maybe even talk about something interesting in their lives. Viewers were able to see players in a relaxed atmosphere and hopefully gain some information about the game they were watching while also getting to know the player a bit more.”
A great point by Grant. I had forgotten about the old intermission studios that were a staple of NHL telecasts. During the early days of the pandemic, I watched a 1970’s Montreal Canadiens game on YouTube that featured a pair of Hockey Hall-of-Famers - Dick Irvin interviewing Serge Savard. It was a fascinating chat in a relaxed setting; much different than the "Tell us about the first period" - "We gave it 110 percent" dribble you get during today's quick and mind-numbing arena hallway chats.
Grant's email also jolted my foggy brain into remembering the times I would visit his studio down at the Calgary Saddledome. In truth, these "studios" were nothing more than spare dressing rooms hooked up with bright TV lights. But as Grant pointed out in his email, they provided the players with much more intimate surroundings that made them feel more comfortable about sharing some of their personality with the fans at home.
At the same time, however, talented TV hosts such as Irvin and Pollock also deserve a lot of the credit for those interesting old-time interviews. Grant, for instance, always had an amazing passion and curiosity when it came to covering the Flames. To this day, the "Sports at 11" gang still teases him about the day he came back to the TV station and excitedly shared the big news of the day with us from Flames practice.
"Joel Otto changed the curve on his stick!," Grant breathlessly informed us.
Now, that's what you call being truly invested in your life's work. But it's that kind of commitment to excellence that made Grant the best all-around broadcaster I've ever worked with and earned him a well-deserved place in the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame.
These days, Grant is retired from sportscasting and is more interested in hiking the gorgeous trails in Kananaskis as opposed to the size of Joel Otto's curve. But he still keeps an eye on the broadcast biz and if he's ever interested in making a comeback, I've got the perfect assignment for my pal.
Hey, Grant…..How about sitting down for a one-on-one chat with grumpy John Tortorella?
On second thought, it would probably be more fun going one-on-one with a grizzly bear in K-Country than it would be to interview “One-word-answer John“.
But I guarantee that if anybody could get Torts to talk, it would be Grant; a true broadcast legend who I'm proud to call a friend.