Depuis janvier 2018, vous retrouvez chaque semaine, à la fin de votre lettre InfoFPJQ, sous la plume de journalistes et chroniqueurs bien connus, un point de vue ou une analyse sur l’actualité médiatique.

Les propos reproduits ici n’engagent que l’auteur. La FPJQ ne cautionne ni ne condamne ce qui est écrit dans ces textes d’opinion.

What the Puck snuck into the ivory tower of sports journalism ici

Par Brendan Kelly

The biggest media story in Montreal, day in and day out, is the non-stop soap opera that is the Montreal Canadiens.

Maybe, way back in the day, the No. 1 spot on the media hit parade was the language conflict but, thankfully, that’s no longer the case, though even writing that makes me nervous because it seems like I’m tempting fate and it has me fearing that we’ll be throwing rocks at each other again before I have a chance to hit ‘send’.


But even in the 1970s when language politics was indeed front-page news, there was no escaping the one story that united anglophones and francophones – le bleu blanc rouge.

Le Journal de Montréal was founded by Pierre Péladeau on the principle that you could never go wrong by putting the CH on le front. And the truly whacked thing about the endless appetite ici for Habs coverage is the fact that it goes on 24/7, 365 days a year.

I love being down in the country during the construction holidays in late July and, after a day in the sun and a nice little BBQ, you head back into the cottage, flip on the TV, and lo and behold, there on L’Antichambre is Carbo and a bunch of other ex-Habs coaches yelling at each other, trying to figure out why the Habs’ power play is such crap.

In January 2016, I had just entered into a new role at the Montreal Gazette as a “digital first” reporter and columnist – yeah I’m still not sure what that meant either! – and I was sitting one morning with a couple of digital editors trying to figure out what I should be doing. One of the editors, my old friend Denise Duguay, asked if I might consider doing something like Top Shelf With BK, for the Gaz site. I agreed on the spot.

Top Shelf was a blog – wow does that word seem quaint today – I started with my son about five years earlier. He was 11 at the time and I figured we could have some fun writing together about hockey. Being 11, he soon tired of the exercise and after he left to play video games (and hockey), I began in earnest penning highly emotional highly critical pieces about the Habs and their lack of success.

Just over four years ago, Top Shelf morphed into What the Puck and the founding concept was to do a column that was unlike everything else being written about hockey in Montreal. The founding idea was that I write WTP from a fan's perspective and unlike every other sports journalist on the planet, I don’t pretend to be the definitive hockey expert.

That’s one of the things about the column that drives so many fans crazy, which is, by the way, not an unwelcome result. I always wanted it to divide people and I think dividing readers, without resorting to dangerous demagoguery, is something worth pursuing in the nutty world of journalism 20 years into the 21st century.

The biggest problem facing the traditional media is how to carve out even a tiny slice of the digital pie, a pie completely dominated by a couple of hegemonic multinational corporations. You want to engage people, to make them care about what you write, and that’s no easy task today.

Why do you think Le Journal has loads of columnists, a few of whom practice the kind of dangerous demagoguery that’s...well dangerous. The other founding principle of What the Puck was the notion that I was not going to go cap in hand and beg for a press pass from the Canadiens bosses. I was going to sit at home and pen my critiques so that when the Habs brass came to complain, as they did of course, they had no power over me. They can’t threaten to take away the interview with Carey Price because I have no interest in talking to Price.

(Of course I actually would love to talk to Price. I think he’s such a fascinating character and I have never seen an interview with him anywhere that comes close to letting us know what’s going on behind that impassive face. I’d also love to know more about the importance of his aboriginal heritage. End of aside.)

The other intriguing thing about the great What the Puck experiment is how so many readers send off furious comments in my direction complaining that the column is so one-sided. They’re right. It is. It’s a column, a concept not entirely understood by everyone outside the journalism racket.

It also rubs many in the sports media the wrong way and that’s fine too. I have the impression that they feel this caveman from the paper’s entertainment department has somehow snuck into the ivory tower of hockey journalism without paying his dues. And they’re right.

I did spent the past quarter century covering rock stars and Québécois filmmakers, so I get why the gate-keepers are mad. Hey, blame it on the digital revolution. The old media rules are falling faster than the Habs’ playoff chances.



Brendan Kelly is a reporter/columnist with the Montreal Gazette and is a cultural columnist on Daybreak, CBC Radio One’s morning show in Montreal. He also contributes regularly to shows on ICI Radio-Canada Première.

Les propos reproduits ici n’engagent que l’auteur. La FPJQ ne cautionne ni ne condamne ce qui est écrit dans ces textes d’opinion.

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