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, Sergio Momesso shares his path to working for TSN Radio 690.
Take us through the process of you ending up working in media. Was it you or the network that really got things going?
SERGIO MOMESSO: I wanted to come back into hockey. A few years ago, I went to see Bob Gainey when he was GM and I asked him if there was something I could do to help the team in any capacity. He offered me a job to help the team’s prospects on and off the ice in Hamilton a few days every month. I enjoyed that because I used to be an assistant coach in Shawinigan a few years before. I was helping out Don Lever – who coached the Bulldogs at the time – to get through to some of the younger players. When the Canadiens fired Guy Carbonneau, Lever was promoted to Montreal as an assistant to Bob and I was offered a full-time position as an assistant coach to Ron Wilson in Hamilton. At the end of the season, Wilson was let go and Guy Boucher was hired and he eventually brought Dan Lacroix and Martin Raymond with him. Once the organization told me that they didn’t need me anymore as a player development coach, Rick Moffat – who was the play-by-play guy at CJAD at the time – gave me a call and asked me if I wanted to fill in for his partner Murray Wilson when he couldn’t be there. So I started as the back-up and the following year Murray didn’t come back. I applied for his job. After doing some tests and splitting the year with Bobby Dollas, TSN ended up buying the station and offered me the full-time position.
What did you think of the media during your playing days? Has your opinion of them changed now?
SM: As a player, you understand that they’re doing their job. But to be honest, there’s always a percentage of them that you don’t trust. There could 10 media people, eight of them could be very professional but the other two would only be there to look for another story. When you say things, they might take it one way and write it the other way. It happened to me, and I guarantee that it happened to all the players. You always have to be careful with your answers. You always have to conduct yourself properly around the media, and I think as an ex-player you have to be even more careful. I think that little extra guard will always be with us.
Did you ever think you’d be on the other side of the microphone and that your role would be reversed? Do you enjoy it?
SM: It’s funny because when I retired and when I came back home after four years of playing in Europe, I never really thought about what I wanted to do after that. But during the majority of my career – from the Juniors to the Pros – I’ve always been a captain or an assistant captain and a leader of my team. I’ve always been really comfortable talking to people and being around others. Since I played for many years and I’ve also been behind the bench, explaining what’s happening on the ice has always been easy to me and I really enjoy it. I also try to be really honest in my opinions, and I think our listeners really enjoy that. We also get a lot of compliments from former players and scouts and they listen to us while they’re driving. They come up to us when we see them and they’re telling us that we’re doing a great job. Even Wayne Gretzky – who I played with in New York and now lives in California – told me he enjoyed listening to us on the NHL Network.
How do you find analyzing or breaking down the way your former team plays?
SM: It would be the same thing if I’d be analyzing the games of the Blues or the Canucks. I’m still analyzing a hockey game. The names are different, but the game is the same.
Is it tough to be impartial?
SM: If a player makes a great play, I’ll say it. If he’s lazy on the back check, though, I’ll also point it out. I can’t always be biased. Do I want the Canadiens to win? Sure. It’s always more fun to work when they are. I don’t wish anything bad to the players because I know what they’re going through.
Do you think former athletes really do make good broadcasters and analysts?
SM: No. Most of them know what they want to say, but it doesn’t always come out like they would like it to. It’s funny now because whenever I watch sports on TV, whether it’s hockey, football or baseball, I listen to the analysts and see what he says and how he says it. I try to look at the good ones and learn from them.
How do you think the media has changed since you started out as a player?
SM: It’s too much now. There are so many people covering the team. That’s why you have to hold a press conference for the coach and take out three players at the time. I remember when I was playing, I used to sit at my stall and have really casual talks with the media. Now, everything is so structured. Times have changed. That’s the kind of world we’re living in.
Have you ever said something awkward on the air that you regretted?
SM: I remember one time we were at Madison Square Garden and I was doing a game with Rick Moffat on CJAD. The way our booth was set up, the fans were literally right behind us. We had fans behind us on the top that had been drinking for a while and they were starting to get really loud. At one point, I turned around and told them: ‘Guys, shut the f*** up or I’ll slap you on the head.’ But, I forgot to press the mute button before saying it! The fans wanted to get into it. I was ready to go with them, but I realized I was still on the air. Rick was laughing so hard.
Interview conducted by Hugo Fontaine.
On the other side of the microphone with… Chris Nilan
On the other side of the microphone with... Jose Theodore
On the other side of the microphone with ... Mathieu Darche