When hockey players decide to hang up their skates, their desire to stay connected to the sport they played and were so very passionate about since childhood, is still as strong as ever before. Some end up working directly with their respective teams, while some decide to work on the other side of the microphone as TV or radio analysts. Many Habs alums now cover the Canadiens in one way or another, and we caught up with a few of them to learn more about their transition to the media. This week, we have Vincent Damphousse, who is an analyst for RDS.
What motivated you to make the transition into the media world? Was it yourself or the network that made the first move?
VINCENT DAMPHOUSSE: After I retired as a player, I took my first strides on the administrative side of hockey when I worked for the Players Association for about a year and a half. But it was only later on that I reached out to the president of RDS Gerry Frappier - who is also a close friend - to express my interest in coming on board to join the media outlet. A follow-up was conducted and they subsequently decided to hire me. I essentially had to learn on the job, but fortunately Yvan Ponton helped me get acclimated to my new surroundings. When I first arrived at RDS the league was in the midst of further negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement, and my experience with the NHLPA interested them greatly. When you combine the fact that I played in the NHL for 18 years with my years as captain of the Canadiens, it gave me a level of expertise and a way of dissecting the game that others couldn't provide.
What was your perception of hockey journalists when you played? Has it changed now that you're on the other side?
VD: I always had a good relationship with the journalists when I was a player. I realized early on in my career, that when you playing in a major market like Montreal or Toronto - and I experienced both - rubbing shoulders with the media is just part of your routine every day. As team captain, you are expected to be the link between the team and the fans. It's part of the responsibility of wearing the 'C'.
While you were playing, did you ever picture what you would look like on the other side of the microphone?
VD: Not really, but I knew the possibility existed. I pictured myself being more involved in the business world, like I have been since 1998 with 'Scandinave spas.' Thankfully, I have been able to combine those to passions in my career today. I am comfortable analyzing hockey games because it gives me a chance to talk about a subject a truly know. As a former player, we can draw upon our experiences in the NHL to further our analysis, so it comes to us naturally. Also, I'm am a youth hockey coach for my two boys back home and I do it because I know my hockey. The fact that I was often in front of the camera during my time with the Players Association helped me become more comfortable talking about things other than just hockey.
Analyzing the performance of your former team must feel a bit weird, right? Is it difficult to remain impartial?
VD: Not really because it is my job to be critical. In addition, critics can be both positive and negative. It all depends on the players on the ice. I analyze what I see, I have no issue speaking my mind. If I see something negative, I will address it because it's my job to do just that. But that goes for every team, not just the Canadiens. We must remain impartial. If the Canadiens opponent is playing well, they deserve credit.
In your opinion, do former athletes make good analysts?
VD: Like anything in life, there are good ones and bad ones. It's a case by case scenario so you cannot simply generalize; although people still tend to do so. There are not two identical hockey players on the ice. My parents worked for many years in the education sector, and that always helped me to properly express myself at home. The fact that all of us at RDS are unique and come from different backgrounds, and that's what makes us interesting. Otherwise our show would be flat.
How do you find that the media world has changed since your first began as a player?
VD: There are a lot more former players on TV nowadays. It's as if we have mirrored the coverage of the NHL. If you watch an NHL broadcast, almost all of the analysts are former players with a host. Those guys can talk about what really goes on in the room, what happens in high pressure games, and they can decipher between when things are going well and when there is a team issue. Their experience is combined with the expertise of the journalists who are always aware of the latest breaking news. The two mix well together.
During your career, which city's journalists did you like the most or hate the most?
VD: As I mentioned earlier, I maintained good relationships with the journalists during my career. With me, nothing was 'off the record.' If I didn't mean what I was saying, I kept it to myself. That helped me stay out of trouble.