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The Jets Have Landed (On TSN & Sports Radio 1290)

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Despite the fact that everyone knew most of the details months ago, the Winnipeg Jets made it official on Wednesday when they announced the broadcast deal with TSN and Sports Radio 1290 to be the home of the Jets on TV and radio for the next 10 years. The details are well known now, but for those who are unaware here is a recap.

  • TSN will be creating a specialty channel called 'TSN Jets' which will debut on September 20th for the Jets first pre-season game versus the Columbus Blue Jackets. Bell TV is the only television provider at this point that is confirmed to carry it, on channel 1423 in HD and channel 423 in standard definition. However, TSN is said to be working on getting this channel to other providers.
  • Sports Radio 1290 becomes the radio home of the Winnipeg Jets, replacing CJOB 680 who was the home for the Manitoba Moose for the past 15 years as well as the final few years of the Jets v.1.0.
  • Dennis Beyak and Brian Munz earn the play-by-play duties for TSN Jets and Sports Radio 1290, respectively. Shane Hnidy earns the radio colour gig, while Brian Engblom and Mike Johnson will provide the colour for TSN Jets. When the Jets are carried on a national broadcast (like CBC or the main TSN channel), Beyak will jump over to 1290 to do the radio play-by-play.
  • TSN will create a permanent TSN bureau in Winnipeg, with Sara Orlesky being anointed the anchor.

So what does this all mean? Well, it means that Winnipeg has officially moved into the upper-echelon of professional sports in this country. A permanent TSN bureau in Winnipeg is a major move for this city, and it will help to add some River City content (the Jets and the Blue Bombers) to TSN, which we here in the 'Peg have lovingly referred to as the 'Toronto Sports Network' for many years. There is a lot of on-air talent relocating to Winnipeg, and it's more then just because Beyak, Orlesky, Hnidy and Engblom are initially from Manitoba. They are coming here because Winnipeg has become a major market and the chance to cover the teams in this city is a step up for them. In fact, Beyak is walking away from a gig with the Toronto Maple Leafs to join the Jets, which isn't something that happens everyday. Welcome (back) to Winnipeg crew!

The jump from CJOB 680 to Sports Radio 1290 is a very interesting one, but it hardly surprising when you look at the details. Sports Radio 1290 is a recent addition to the Winnipeg marketplace, and when it showed up last year I thought right away that it may be a pre-cursor to the return of the Jets. However, if you look at who owns Sports Radio 1290, you will see a familiar company. Bell Media. Oh yeah, they also own TSN too. So while it makes sense to find a company that can provide both television and radio at the same time, this results in True North simply walking away from CJOB 680, who they partnered with for the past 15 years as the home of the Manitoba Moose. With all of the talk about how TNSE was going to stick with who and what they know, walking away from a major partner is quite an interesting decision. On top of that, Brian Munz is leaving CJOB to jump over to 1290! That's a stinger!

Having said that, I am very pleased to see that Sports Radio 1290 is getting the gig. I have thoroughly enjoyed their local coverage of late, as the Hustler & Lawless show from 4pm-6pm is great, and the Illegal Curve show provides great hockey coverage as well. With the recent addition of the Jay & Westwood show in the afternoon, it looks like this station could eventually provide 24/7 local coverage instead of relying on ESPN programming for most of the day. I love what the Team 1040 provides Vancouver Canucks fans out on the West Coast, and hope that we can get that kind of non-stop local sports talk here. Also, for many years CJOB was always quick to pour cold water on any talk of the Jets returning to Winnipeg. I'm not sure if they were trying to protect their brand which was the AHL Moose, but it sure put a sour taste in my mouth to listen to them continually shoot down the possibility so I'm glad that they didn't get them. Despite the fact that CJOB is going to add their own Jets coverage by bringing back former Moose voice Kelly Moore as well as adding Jim Toth, they are a 24/7 news station and wouldn't be able to provide the in-depth coverage that Sports Radio 1290 can.

However, forging this alliance with Bell Media has set off a few alarm bells. The fact that Bell TV is the sole television provider to carry TSN Jets sounds a little fishy to me, but TSN is said to be in talks with other channel providers. However, TSN said the exact same thing when they launched their Regional Montreal Canadiens channel in October of last year, yet as of now it looks like Bell is still the only carrier of that channel and I was unable to find it available on another provider. Well, MTS (Manitoba Telecom Services) just re-upped with TNSE to keep their name on the MTS Centre for what I can only imagine was a boatload of money, and they also feature MTS TV which is a major provider here in Winnipeg. I can only assume that TNSE wouldn't want to strain this business relationship and will do what they can to get TSN Jets onto MTS TV, but what if they don't? All of this talk about providing coverage for all Manitobans rings a little untrue if it will only be available through Bell, but I do believe that MTS and Shaw will get this channel eventually. They had better for me at least, because I just left Bell for MTS!

Regardless, this is a monumental agreement for Winnipeg. I recall hearing the doubters who questioned the ability of Winnipeg to get a team back because of their lack of television options. Well, if TSN, Canada's Sports Leader, thinks it is worth it to come in here, set up shop and provide wall-to-wall coverage for our Winnipeg Jets then I guess the doubters were wrong. Having every game on television and the radio, as well as getting devoted coverage before and after games, will only increase how many people will have access to the Jets 2.0. With season tickets gone for the foreseeable future, all of Winnipeg will be able to at least listen to every game while Bell TV subscribers will get to see every game, while the rest of us will get the national coverage of which there is a lot. That is still a pretty good start and it has me very excited. Next step - release the darn jerseys!