Canadiens Usher in New Era With Hiring of Chantal Machabée

When Montreal Canadiens Owner and President Geoff Molson sat in front of the media in November to field questions after firing Marc Bergevin, Trevor Timmins, and Paul Wilson, he talked about the franchise needing a fresh start and a new direction.

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On Wednesday, he delivered on his vision for the organization with the appointment of Chantal Machabée as Vice President of Communications.

The Perfect Person for the Job  

It’s extremely rare for Quebecers to agree on anything, especially when it comes to the Habs, but the reaction to Machabée’s hiring was overwhelmingly positive and with good reason. She was the face of Réseau des sports (RDS) for over 32 years as a reporter covering multiple sports, including the Canadiens. In 1989 she became the first woman to anchor a daily sports newscast in Quebec when she hosted the inaugural episode of Sports 30 on RDS.

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Since then, she has become an incredibly popular and beloved public figure in the province thanks to her generosity, professionalism, and dedication to her craft. She has won many TV media awards and had a book written about her. Most importantly though, she is a pioneer in the industry and a role model to countless women who are pursuing their sports journalism dreams, including yours truly.

“It’s amazing, it’s wonderful. They all reach out to me and text me and that’s incredible. When I got into this business I never thought I’m going to be a role model,” Machabée said. “I got into the business because I loved sports and I loved hockey. But I wanted to do it the right way and by doing this it’s wonderful if I inspired only one woman,” (from ‘Guy Lafleur paved road to the Canadiens for Chantal Machabée,’ Montreal Gazette, 2022/01/06).

Now Machabée is ready to break down even more barriers on the other side of the media fence working for Guy Lafleur’s team, the person she most admires who inspired her career path. It’s no secret that the Habs’ image needs a makeover following multiple PR blunders courtesy of the team’s previous regime. Who better to repair the bond between the Canadiens and their fans than one of Montreal’s most revered personalities who has deep ties to the team and the media?

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Machabée and the Canadiens are such a great fit, it’s hard to fathom that no one thought that this match could be a possibility. Perhaps it’s because nobody could imagine RDS without her. It’s the end of an era but also the beginning of a new one.     

More Transparency and New Ideas

Machabée faces a daunting task in her new role with so many people to please and relationships to mend. She has to rebuild the trust between the front office, both current and former players, and the media all while ensuring that the team is more accessible to the fans.

Geoff Molson Montreal Canadiens
Geoff Molson wants to eliminate the divide between the Canadiens and the media.
(Photo by David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The key is that Molson and France Margaret Bélanger, President, Sports and Entertainment of Groupe CH, want to change the mentality and are open to trying new things which is exactly why Machabée was their top candidate for the vacant senior communications job. Essentially, she has been given a blank canvas and is already filling it with new, innovative ideas.  

The position has been moulded to suit her strengths which means that she will serve as a spokesperson for the team, similar to what the White House Press Secretary does. She will regularly hold court with the media to provide updates and information about the team, taking some of the pressure off head coach Dominique Ducharme. After all, if anyone knows how a message should be delivered, it’s Machabée.

Hitting the Ground Running

She certainly won’t have the luxury of easing into her new role, it’s the Canadiens after all. Her to-do list is already littered with crucial tasks, and she hasn’t even started. 

Related: Canadiens’ 3 Keys to a Successful Rebuild

She’ll have to prepare the new general manager for their first introduction to the media in the coming weeks and guide Carey Price once he is ready to speak publicly for the first time since entering the NHL’s player assistance program. Logan Mailloux, Montreal’s controversial first-round pick in last year’s NHL Entry Draft, is set to return from his suspension in the Ontario Hockey League with the London Knights and is sure to attract lots of attention. Not to mention having to navigate this challenging season and the changes that loom in the near future.

  

Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens
Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

If anyone can handle the pressure and embrace the daunting challenge, it’s Machabée. She has paved the way her entire career and this latest venture will be no different. She will continue to inspire many with an even bigger platform and will be a welcome breath of fresh air for an organization that desperately needs it.