Stu Cowan: Robertson, Lu covering Canadiens from the other side

TSN play-by-play announcer and reporter left Montreal for Winnipeg to cover the Jets for different reasons.

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WINNIPEG — After eight years doing radio play-by-play for Canadiens games on TSN 690, Dan Robertson said it’s going to feel strange Thursday night when they’re in Winnipeg and he’s working in the Jets broadcast booth.

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It will be a similar feeling for John Lu, who will be doing interviews from outside the Jets’ locker room instead of the Canadiens’ locker room after working the last 15 years for TSN in Montreal.

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Robertson and Lu moved from Montreal to Winnipeg recently to take new jobs. Robertson is the TV play-by-play announcer for Jets games on TSN and Lu is TSN’s Winnipeg bureau reporter (he will also start working Blue Bombers CFL games next season) and is host for Jets games on TSN.

Robertson and Lu moved to Winnipeg for different reasons.

Robertson had set his sights set on moving from radio to TV for a while and the Winnipeg job opened up when Dennis Beyak decided to retire at the end of last season after calling Jets games for 11 years.

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Lu’s new job opened up when the Jets hired Sara Orlesky away from TSN to become their senior host and producer, providing exclusive behind-the-scenes coverage of the team.

Robertson didn’t know much about Winnipeg since his trips there with the Canadiens were very short. For Lu, the move to Winnipeg was a homecoming. He was born in Vancouver, but his family moved to Winnipeg when he was 3 and he stayed there for more than 30 years before moving to Toronto in 2000 when he was first hired by TSN.

Lu calls it his dream job — but something that always seemed out of reach because he never expected Orlesky to leave TSN.

“I mean she’s an institution in this city — not just with the Jets, but with the CFL and the Bombers,” Lu said. “Sara leaving created this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me and so I jumped at it immediately.”

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Lu’s brother and other family members still live in Winnipeg and he has friends in the city going back to his days in kindergarten. Lu had tears of joy when he got confirmation from his TSN bosses that the Winnipeg job was his and he and his wife, Caroline, have already purchased a house in the suburb of Fort Richmond.

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For Robertson, it’s nice to have a media friend from Montreal to help him settle into his new city and he has moved into a downtown apartment at True North Square.

“I can walk into the arena without having to go outside, which will be pretty good in January,” Robertson said with a chuckle.

His furniture arrived last Monday and the next day Robertson headed out on a six-day road trip with the Jets.

“I’m finally getting settled in now,” he said with the Jets playing their next three games at home.

For Montrealers who might be wondering why anyone would want to move to “Winter-peg”, Lu has a response.

“You’ve got to give Winnipeg a chance,” he said. “It’s a great place to raise a family because it’s a large enough city with sports and cultural amenities like the Jets and the Bombers. There’s the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, the Manitoba Opera. We have the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival in the summer and professional theatre venues like the Prairie Theatre Exchange and the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre. The restaurant scene in Winnipeg is also sneaky good. There are a lot of undiscovered gems.

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“Winnipeg is a really underrated city because it’s very unpretentious,” Lu added. “The people and the vibe in the city itself. The slogan ‘Friendly Manitoba’ is a thing — that’s for real. Many people who are from other parts of Canada or the States, they come to Winnipeg and they say the people are so nice. It’s totally true and that’s the culture I was raised in. There’s a real sense of community.”

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What about the weather?

“It’s kind of a cliché and people might think it’s a joke, but it’s a dry cold,” Lu said. “Winnipeg at minus-40 with 20-per-cent humidity is in some ways easier to bear than Montreal at minus-20 with wind and high humidity.”

That’s something Robertson can discover for himself this winter, but he is already feeling embraced by the Winnipeg community.

Lu and Robertson are thankful for the time they spent in Montreal and also the response they received on social media from fans about their moves to Winnipeg.

“It was really something else and it made me feel great just to know that over eight years some people were listening and some people liked the work that we did,” Robertson said. “I’m proud of it. I still listen to the radio station and listen to Canadiens games when I can. It was a big part of my life and the positive feedback I got really meant a lot to me.”

It’s hard to meet two nicer people in the sports media business and Winnipeg is lucky to have them.

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