See it on Habs Eyes on the Prize HERE
As the horn to end the first period sounds a camera assistant flicks a switch and the 10’x10′ studio at the Canadian Tire Centre floods with light. Ties are straightened, microphones adjusted and as the red light turns on so do Sportsnet’s two hosts.On-air John Bartlett and Jason York work seamlessly as the Montreal Canadiensplay-by-play and colour announcers. While they are perfectly in sync on camera, just beyond the lights their styles couldn’t be more different.
In Sportsnet’s makeshift studio five people are nearly stepping on each other’s toes- two hosts, a stats keeper, a cameraman and a camera assistant. Wires are coiled along every wall. The ledge that overlooks the ice in front of the pair is a mess of papers and empty coffee cups strewn about.
In front of York sits one legal sized page with both team’s rosters in black, ages in green, numbers in red with any pertinent facts cramming in along the sides. Every player gets their own square – it looks more like a blueprint or a map of a battle plan rather than a memory aid. According to York the cheat sheet takes about 2 to 3 hours to make for every game and has nearly everything he needs to know on it.
the horn to end the first period sounds a camera assistant flicks a switch and the 10’x10′ studio at the Canadian Tire Centre floods with light. Ties are straightened, microphones adjusted and as the red light turns on so do Sportsnet’s two hosts.
Bartlett’s station tells a different story. Pages are stacked over pages with tiny, near illegible writing scrawled up and down margins. A quick glance beside Lars Eller’s name shows that he has four points in the past eight games and is tied for 2nd in the NHL in game-winning goals. The array of coloured papers include lineups, goal details, period-by-period stats and promotional scripts all scattered into what only a broadcaster with 20 years of experience would see as organized chaos.
Bartlett himself is the ultimate multitasker with the ability to call the game, speak to the producer of the show, answer texts and even schmooze with the boss all while keeping an eye on what’s happening on the ice. While he seems like a human encyclopedia Bartlett says remembering the rosters and stats, “just comes with time and the territory. The more you see a team, like a divisional opponent, the more familiar you are. The prep is a mix of constant ongoing things like watching a lot of other games.”
“You know that video of Elaine dancing on Seinfeld? This is worse.” -Jason York
As the second period gets underway seeing the duo work is like a dance. As Milan Michalek streaks down the wing to set up Erik Karlsson, Bartlett keeps his pace in time with the play. He takes a breath to watch Karlsson snap the puck over Dustin Tokarski’s shoulder before his goal call is nearly drowned out by the roar of the fans. As he quickly scribbles down the names of scorers York watches the tape back. While York is analyzing the Habs defensive breakdown Bartlett taps him on the shoulder to point out that Pacioretty is back on the bench after tending to an injury.
Maintaining energy throughout a three hour broadcast takes creativity and there is literal dancing involved. While waiting to come back on camera from a break John takes the time to show off his moves to the top 40 hits piped into the Canadian Tire Centre. “You know that video of Elaine dancing on Seinfeld?” York said, “this is worse.”
It feels like the pair have been together for longer than they have been. Their first broadcast together was October 9th in Washington. Bartlett was signed on after three years as the voice of the Habs on TSN Radio. “The opportunity presented to me by Sportsnet to do the Habs on TV was one I simply couldn’t refuse. To do Habs games to a national audience, along with the opportunity to be part of the iconic Hockey Night in Canada brand is something very special,” he said. Bartlett will get the chance to realize his 20-year dream Saturday as the Senators face the Hurricanes when he calls his first national Hockey Night game.
York is now on the broadcaster’s side of the microphone after 17 years in the league with five different teams. He started on on the sidelines but says he much prefers the job in the booth. “This is exactly what I wanted to do, I prefer it to interviewing players and being an analyst gets you into too much trouble,” he joked referencing that he still knows many active players in the league.
As the game winds down to an unspectacular 4-1 win by the Senators Bartlett and York manage to keep the energy in the booth going. The two hold their smiles well after they throw the broadcast to a studio in Toronto because as long as the red light is on, so are they.