It has been repeated by a variety of philosophers starting Heraclitis in Greece 2500 years ago. “The only constant in life is change.”
So, nobody should be suprised, especially in light of the current depressing state of Montreal English media, that three of it’s luminaries are leaving the scene.
It was announced that Michael Farber, who has been the most literate and longest-tenured hockey writer in the fifty-eight year history of Sport Illustrated, has accepted a buyout from the magazine and will be limited to “special contributor” another word for “freelancer”.
In recent days we have also seen the announcement that, (unless the CRTC has a rare enlightened moment and blocks it), TSN-990 (nee-The Team 990) will be dismantled and converted to a French sports talk outlet affiliated with RDS. This will throw another group of English speaking broadcasters into the street including Mitch Melnick, the station’s, and arguably the city’s best talk show host on any subject.
And two months ago, Red Fisher announced that he is retiring from writing a regular hockey column for the Montreal Gazette after fifty seven years on the beat.
Farber came to Montreal in 1980 and never left. He spent 15 years with the Gazette, where he won two Canadian newspaper awards before moving on to SI. Even though a frequent flyer for the magazine, he remained a resident of Lasalle and was very much a part of the Montreal sports scene through his daily reports on CJAD and his regular appearances on CTV’s weekly Sportsnight 360 (also a casualty of changing times). Talent had nothing to do with this. Anyone who has bought or subscribed to Sports Illlustrated over the last decade has seen the size of the magazine diminish with the decline of advertising revenues. Michael was one of thirteen who accepted buyouts (another three were laid off). Michael is in London right now, where he will be covering the swimming portion of the Olympics. After that, as the magazine states, “special assignments”. What SI and the NHL loses is stylish, witty and very intelligent voice and a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame. In Montreal, unless he decides to totally pack it in, we’ll still be able to here his wisdom on CJAD’s morning show. You don’t suppose the Gazette might be interested in bring him back do you?
While I can’t imagine Melnick being out of work long considering the quality of the show he produced every day on “The Team”, there are quite a few connected with the daily on-air product who will be looking for work elsewhere in market that has been incessantly squeezed by the elimination of English media outlets, whether it be the reduction of local production on television, the merging or closing of radio stations or the elimination of suburban newspapers.
Last, but in no way least – Red Fisher. When I first started covering the Canadiens in 1966 Red was in his eleventh year on the Canadiens beat and had already covered seven Montreal Stanley Cup wins . He was writing great stuff then and he never stopped for another four and a half decades. But the game changed for Red. While the timing of his retirement was a surprise to me, the fact that he finally put an end to it was not. The last five years, at the end of another abortive season, when asked whether I would see him in October, Red would always say “We’ll see.” For Red, things had changed from those championship years of the 50’s 60’s and 70’s. He, like myself, could remember the day when a player and a coach would give an honest quote to an honest question, without regard to political correctness. He joined the team in heyday of Frank Selke and Toe Blake and watched Sam Pollock and Scotty Bowman take over seamlessly in the 1970’s. He the Richards, Beliveau, Harvey, Lafleur, Robinson, Plante and Dryden through their Hall of Fame careers in Montreal. Red then sadly watched the team’s purpose disintegrate to the sad state it’s become. Like there will never be a team to win five straight, or for that matter-four Stanley Cups in a row, there will never be a hockey writer like Red Fisher – not in Montreal – not anywhere.
The landscape changes. Gone are Danny Gallivan, Rene Lecavalier, Dick Irvin and now Fisher, Farber and The Team. And where on the horizon is the talent to replace them?