The Montreal Impact made history in qualifying for the Concacaf Champions League Semi-Finals, yet the official Canadian MLS broadcaster, TSN, failed to show highlights of the game the day after on SportsCentre.
On March 3, 2015 the Montreal Impact played the second leg of the Concacaf Champions League quarter-final in Montreal at Olympic Stadium against Mexican side Pachuca. The Impact were on the verge of making history. After tying the first leg in Mexico 2-2, the Impact would advance with a victory or a draw of 0-0 or 1-1.
Given the significance of the game, the Impact fans showed their support with 38,000+ strong in attendance. The Impact were down 1-0 and outplayed by their opponent, and then a miracle happened in the 94th minute. Just seconds away on the brink of elimination, Cameron Porter scored a historic goal which made the Impact advance to CONCACAF Champions League semi-finals.
The Montreal Impact made history, becoming the first Canadian team to make it past the CCL quarter-finals and only the third MLS team to beat a Mexican club in a two leg series.
It was an amazing accomplishment and done with such drama, a made for TV moment where it became such a natural thing among the fans to say “you gotta see it to believe it.” It was a magical moment, one for the ages, both for the fans in attendance and those watching on TV. The kind of moment that does not happen every day, the kind of moment that warms the heart. The kind of moment that you would want to watch, and re-watch, many times.
A moment you would expect, when watching TSN SportsCentre the next day, to be the main story. Yet somehow, somewhere in Toronto, an omission of epic proportions was made. The next day after the historic accomplishment, not a single mention or any highlights of the game were presented on TSN’s flagship SportsCentre.
It is difficult to determine which is worse, that the programming director “forgot” to include the highlights of the Montreal Impact’s historic result, or that he/she made a decision not to show them. Either way, considering TSN is the official broadcaster of MLS in Canada, this omission goes against the broadcaster’s objective of growing the game.
TSN president Stewart Johnson had this to say when TSN acquired the national broadcast rights:
"“As seen with the success of Toronto FC and MLS’s expansion to Vancouver and Montreal, there is an incredible appetite for professional soccer in Canada. This is a long term partnership with MLS and we are looking forward to working with them not only to give fans ‘best in class’ game coverage but also to help build the profile of the league and grow the game of soccer across the country.”"
Deciding not to or forgetting to show the highlights goes against the principles outlined above.
It was just a short while ago that Impact President Joey Saputo, during a media round table, lamented on the lack of ‘buzz’ regarding his beloved club. One has to wonder how Saputo felt, along with the Impact organization, when one of its media partners snubbed them like they did. Here was a golden opportunity to share this magnificent triumph to all of Canada, and send a positive image to the casual fan in the hopes of turning him/her into a paying customer.
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To put things in perspective, TSN is the Canada’s most watched specialty channel with over 9 million subscribers, according to the CRTC (Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission). The wonderful story of the Impact advancing to the semi-finals merited adequate coverage not only locally in Quebec but across the country. The Impact were the only club representing Canada, and as Canada’s team, merited TSN’s full attention.
Yet the morning of March 4, 2015, between 9:30am and 10:30am I watched SportsCentre with great anticipation, wanting to relive the joy of the previous night. During the intro recap, no mention of the game. The first 10 minutes of SportsCentre were dedicated to the Toronto Maple Leafs, followed by two minutes each of hockey coverage for the other Canadian clubs. I kept watching, waiting, a whole hour gone by, and then it was a repeat. Nothing, nada, rien, zilch, niente about the Montreal Impact.
After pondering plausible explanations as to why TSN would make such a gaffe, only one came to mind. Perhaps TSN did not have the rights to show highlights of the game, given that it was broadcast by Sportsnet, their competitor. I didn’t feel it was a valid excuse, knowing full well each network shows highlights of games it does not broadcast.
In order to prove (or disprove) this theory, I asked John Molinaro, Sportsnet’s chief soccer reporter, to confirm whether or not TSN had the right to show highlights of the Concacaf quarter-final, or if it was exclusive to Sportsnet.
"“We aired highlights on our TV news show. Plus we had extensive coverage on sportsnet.ca. We try our best to give the Impact as much coverage as we can. (There was) no exclusivity. I guess they (TSN) just decided not to mention it. Better to ask them, as I can’t speak for them.”"
My efforts to get an explanation were to no avail. I sent tweets to every prominent TSN media personality that I know, didn’t get any reply. My calls to Dimitri Baraimis, TSN communications coordinator who handles customer concerns, were not returned.
What is disappointing for the fans, is that TSN is also the official broadcaster of the CFL. There is a big difference in how much they promote the CFL in comparison to the MLS. In Montreal TSN has John Lu as the local reporter, but he only covers the Canadiens and the Alouettes. Why can’t he give the Impact some coverage too once in a while?
It is time for the fans to let their voices be heard, and put pressure on TSN to provide adequate coverage for the Montreal Impact, especially for the Concacaf semi-final. Reminder to TSN, the first leg of the semi-final game is next Wednesday, March 18 at 8:00pm at Olympic Stadium against Alajuelense.
You can rest assured that the morning after, I will be tuning in to TSN SportsCentre and see if the Impact will be snubbed again.