Well, that didn’t last long: four weekdays.
As periods of unemployment go on the volatile local anglo radio scene, Ted Bird may have set a new record for brevity on that front.
Bird, who left K103 Radio in Kahnawake after his last show Friday, begins a new morning gig Friday on TSN Radio 990, joining Elliott Price and Shaun Starr on air. There had been an opening on the show since Denis Casavant departed the station in November.
“I couldn’t be more delighted. Finally, I have negotiated the all-coveted one-day work week,” cracked Bird, in reference to his Friday start.
Such a kidder. He will, of course, be rising before the sun at 4 a.m. every weekday to do the 6 to 10 a.m. shift.
It’s a solid catch for TSN Radio 990, which has been busily building its brand with, among other moves, the acquisition last year of broadcast rights to the Canadiens.
Like afternoon host Mitch Melnick, the Birdman, a veteran of CJAD, CJFM and CHOM, will bring strong opinions and a cleverly eclectic combo of sports and pop culture to the mix. Unlike most talk jocks, Bird, a history buff and one of the brightest personalities in the business, will be able to tutor some of his less-learned colleagues, if they are so inclined, on subjects like the Battle of Stalingrad – which was also played out on ice but without blades or Alexander Ovechkin and back in the dark days of the Second World War.
Bird is also one of the wittiest in the business, too.
Wayne Bews, general manager of TSN Radio 990, “and I had been playing footsie since I left CHOM about 2 1/2 years ago,” said Bird, 53, holding court in the boardroom of the Greene Ave. station. “But the stars really aligned only in the last four to six weeks after Denis left this place and my two-year deal was ending at K103. “
Bird and the K103 board mutually agreed that he would move on. It was in the best economic interests of both parties. But there was no acrimony whatsoever. Bird goes to great lengths to thank his former employers for giving him the “best time” he ever had on radio.
“I had all the artistic freedom I wanted for two years,” he said. “I was left alone. I was also embraced by the community and for that I will always be thankful.
“In return, I like to think I was able to heighten their profile. And I’m grateful to hear them say I was able to bring a professional quality to the station.”
Bird’s departure from K103 was in marked contrast from his decision to bolt CHOM. Bird had philosophical differences with CHOM’s then-program director. So despite the fact he was earning close to $250,000 a year there and despite the fact he had no job prospects, Bird simply up and left – to the shock of friends, family and colleagues.
“My wife, Danielle, thought I was completely nuts,” Bird allowed. “Even after I landed the K103 gig, she was a little skeptical. But as I liked to put it to her: It was five times the fun at one-fifth the salary.”
But Bird felt he had his principles intact, and, for him, that’s all that really mattered.
Apart from other differences with CHOM management, another factor in his exit from the station was that his long-time radio sidekick and buddy Terry DiMonte had also up and left for less turbulent, more lucrative pastures in Calgary.
Now that DiMonte is back behind the microphone at CHOM, however, there has been considerable buzz that Bird might again team up with him. Such a reunion is not in the works – for the moment.
But BCE, which owns Bell Media, which in turn owns TSN Radio 990 (among its 33 radio stations across the country), recently purchased Astral Media, which owns, among other outlets, CHOM as well as CJAD and Virgin Radio. All of that could put Bird and DiMonte back in the same family – if the CRTC doesn’t rule otherwise – and then anything is possible.
“As I said when I left CHOM (about one day reuniting with DiMonte): I will burn that bridge when I get to it,” Bird deadpanned.
Bews, Bird’s new boss, elaborated.
“It’s really up to the CRTC to decide what happens in the fall, so there is no point in speculating about anything,” he explained.
“But I can say that with the authority of our president, I was able to bring Ted to our station and I’m really pumped about him aboard, as is our staff.”
Bews also points out that Bird will attract more than just sports fans.
“Like Mitch in the afternoons, Ted will really open up the station to those who don’t want to hear only about the number of goals a player scored or the number of home runs another one hit.
“He also opens the door for Ellliott (Price), who is a very funny guy, too.”
So the laughs should be flowing in the morning. Those who have caught Bird on air before or who follow him on Twitter are well aware of his acerbic take on sports.
For example: “Pastor Maldonado is not only the first Venezuelan but also the first member of the Lutheran clergy to win a Formula One race.” Or, “Nice suit on Don Cherry for a change: 1930s gangster trumps madam-at-an-Okinawa whorehouse every time.”
But few get under Bird’s skin more than CBC-TV hockey announcer Bob Cole, especially when he brings up phrases like “forechecking supreme.” Bird wonders if that is a dish “served in the press room” before the game.
Bird acknowledges he will be hard pressed to hold his tongue on many issues, no matter how sensitive.
“Count on me to be honest. Okay, maybe not as brutally honest as before,” he said with a big smile. “I do, after all, have to be aware of the business relationship between TSN 990 and the Canadiens. And I do have to make payments on my pickup truck – if I can still afford it.”
To which grinning, soon-to-be colleague Melnick responded: “Sorry, but if you’re working here, you can’t afford it.”
Melnick drives a bicycle, but he lives a few minutes from the station. Bird lives in the West Island and can’t fathom ever biking into work from there.
Bird, a native of Fredericton, doesn’t need a tour of the station. One of his first jobs in radio was at the same venue, then called CKGM, 33 years ago. He did the news on the legendary Ralph Lockwood’s morning show. After five months, Bird moved to Toronto for a five-year series of radio jobs. He came back to Montreal and has stayed put since.
Bird has a 22-year-old daughter from his first marriage, and sons, 11 and 13, and a daughter, 4, from his second marriage, to Danielle.
“The last one is called Allison, but we’ve taken to calling her ‘Oops’ on occasion,” he said.
Danielle noted: “Ted is more mellow than ever. I’m really excited for him, because he is so excited about this new job. I just don’t ever want to hear him say again: ‘Guess what I did today, honey.’ ”
Bird nodded. Apparently, the last time he used those words on his wife was the day he quit his job at CHOM and the family embarked on a new adventure in downsizing.
“I think I’ll stay put for a while now,” Bird said. “And if I ever manage to utter, ‘Guess what I did today,’ it would be prudent for me to follow up with, ‘I bought you some jewellery,’ or something.