Credit where credit is due: The Channel 4 sports staff deserves a tip of the cap for a noteworthy scoop this week. So then, good work by Dan Roche in beating his media peers and the Patriots public relations staff to the news that Julian Edelman had been placed on injured reserve with a season-ending foot injury.
Not the one you had in mind? Understandable. After all, it wasn’t Roche, but colleague Steve Burton who made news from here to the farthest reaches of western Canada with his report Monday night that a secret meeting had spurred major progress toward ending the NHL lockout.
Here is exactly what Burton said three minutes into Monday’s 10 p.m. newscast:
“Today is Day 79 of the NHL lockout. A select group of owners and players are scheduled to meet tomorrow in New York. My sources tell me that an unannounced meeting was held today with a high-ranking official from each side and significant progress was made toward salvaging the hockey season. It’s possible that an announcement could come as early as tomorrow or Wednesday.”
And here is what happened after that:
Significant progress in negotiations Tuesday and Wednesday suggested Burton may have knowledgeable sources, especially when a podium was set up at the New York site of the negotiations Wednesday night, seeming to hint that the announcement of a labor deal was imminent. Hashtags such as #burtonknows and #believeinburton were popping up on Twitter.
But it didn’t happen.
Negotiations grew more tense Thursday, and in the early evening, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly informed Players Association executive director Donald Fehr via voicemail that the most recent offer was being rejected, thus leaving the season — and Burton’s reputation — in limbo.
What is most remarkable in all of this is that Burton — who has broken Bruins news such as Phil Kessel’s cancer diagnosis but is not exactly known as a hockey insider — stood alone in his report. On Tuesday, no hockey reporter of note was saying anything remotely similar. No one.
Bob McKenzie, the widely respected TSN reporter, wrote on Twitter: “I’m not saying the Boston report is untrue or not accurate. I’m saying I can’t get info to support it. That’s all.”
Rogers Sportsnet’s Michael Grange tweeted: “Three separate sources, closely involved with #NHL CBA process on all sides, say reports of potential settlement are without basis.’’
Sports Illustrated’s Sarah Kwak added a little levity: “Asked if there was ANY MORSEL of truth to WBZ report that deal is imminent, [Daly said] ‘Not even a single morsel.’ ”
If the lockout had ended Wednesday, Burton would have been justified in taking the greatest hockey-related victory lap in this city since the Bruins’ Stanley Cup parade in June 2011. But it drags on.
And though his report was couched with the word “could,’’ there’s no “close enough’’ in breaking news. The further away the ultimate end of this shameful labor mess gets from his Tuesday/Wednesday time frame, the less likely it is that we will remember Burton’s report as anything other than an inaccurate shot.
Burton did not return messages seeking comment. CBS Boston spokeswoman Ro Dooley-Webster said in a statement, “Based on Steve’s information and the updates coming out of the talks, we remain hopeful that this is resolved soon and a season gets underway.’’
When serious health issues put Gil Santos’s status as the radio voice of the Patriots in question before this season, CBS Radio executives indicated there would be a nationwide search for the longtime play-by-play man’s replacement should he not be able to return.
With Santos having made a remarkable recovery from double pneumonia to return for his 36th and final season in the booth, that search has begun under much better circumstances.
CBS Radio, The Sports Hub’s parent company, is requesting applicants for the eventual opening. The listing, as posted on the Sportscasters Talent Agency of America job board, reads, in part:
“Qualified applicants must have extensive football radio play-by-play experience at the major college level or better, as well as a willingness and ability to participate in the station’s talk shows on a regular basis. The applicant will also be expected to work with the station’s sales department to help generate new business and service existing accounts.”
It’ll be fascinating to see how the search to replace the legendary Santos for this coveted job plays out. There are several local candidates who are known to or should covet the gig, including Dale Arnold, Jon Meterparel, Gary Tanguay, and John Rooke. But it’s such a high-profile gig that it makes sense for CBS Radio and The Sports Hub to open it up to as an accomplished and varied field of candidates as possible.
As first reported on Boston.com Thursday, Kevin Winter will debut Monday as the replacement for Meterparel as the update anchor on WEEI’s “Dennis and Callahan’’ morning-drive program. The energetic Winter should offer a different dynamic than did the agreeable Meterparel, a staple since 2000 who left at the end of his contract in October to pursue play-by-play opportunities. Winter has been at ESPN Radio since May 2004, serving as an anchor and host, but has experience in Boston, having worked for ESPN 890 and WWZN 1510. Winter is expected to continue to work for ESPN, which is partnered with WEEI in the Boston market, having taken over the familiar 850 AM signal from the Entercom-owned station in September, with WEEI 93.7 ending its simulcast . . . Abby Chin, currently an anchor/reporter at Comcast SportsNet Northwest, will be heading east to join the on-air team at Comcast SportsNet New England. Her Twitter handle is @tvabby.