The Bell Media v. Rogers war for the wallets of Canadian sports fans has proven a gold rush for professional jock sniffers in Toronto.
While their colleagues in the working press get kicked to the curb every day, sports hacks are enjoying a bidding war not seen since Tubby Black launched the Daily Tubby 16 years ago.
Last November, Rogers (which owns Sportsnet) spent $5.2 billion to acquire rights on all platforms to every NHL game through to 2026.
Much soiling of undersilks sent in the executive suite at Bell Media, which runs Sportsnet’s rival, TSN. Rogers/Sportsnet also went gunning for TSN’s top hockey broadcasters, chief among them James Duthie.
Panicked, TSN threw open the Bell Media vaults and awarded Duthie a $1.1-million, seven-year contract. Not bad for a guy who, not so long ago, was a part-time lip mover for CJOH-TV weekend news in Ottawa.
Doubtless, Duthie’s bonanza will give CTV News bingo caller Lisa Laflameout some ammunition in her next contract negotiation/nut-squeeze.
Once Duthie was locked in, the dominos started to fall. Sportsnet scooped George Strombolopolous to be its Hockey Night in Canada host. That freaked out current HNIC host Ron MacLean, and he’s been disassembling ever since. The breakdown culminated in his epic death rattle boner about francophone referees working Montreal Canadiens play-off games.
The Rogers v. Bell Media rivalry has also been a bonanza for print hacks. Stephen Brunt, Michael Grange and Jeff Blair left the Globe and Minion for TV and radio, and their ace hack, Roy MacGregor, is moving back to general news.
To avoid total irrelevance, Globe sports poached Cathal Kelly from the Toronto Star, which shares Damien Cox with Sportsnet.
Star editor Michael Cooke, convinced it was all a conspiracy, last week poached Bruce Arthur, the National Post’s over sharing typist ( 152,000 tweets and counting).
Naturally, Arthur announced his new gig via Twitter: “Yes, I’m joining the @TorontoStar as lead sports columnist.”
“Lead sports columnist!?” shrieked Dave Feschuk and Rosie Dimanno, who thought they were the lead sports columnists. Confrontations with Cooke ensued, who assured them they were all lead sports columnists, and then everyone went back to sleep.