by Pat Hickey
As he approaches his 54th birthday, Bertrand Raymond has achieved the goals he set for himself as a young reporter in Chicoutimi, but he has no intention of resting on his laurels.
“I have the greatest job in the world and I wouldn’t trade places with anyone,” said Raymond
Raymond has come a long way from Chicoutimi, tghe principal city of Quebec’s Saguenay-Lac St. Jean region. While some Montrealers may consider the region as a remote outpost, it has provided the city with its top French-language sportswriters. Raymond, Yvon Pednault and Rejean Tremblay.
It was in Chicoutimi that Raymond received his introduction to journalism.
“I was always interested in language when I was young and I wanted to learn how to use the French language properly,” recalled Raymond. “When I was a teenager, I started writing articles for a couple of local magazines and then I got a job with the local newspaper.”
Raymond had been at the local paper for two years when he received a call from the late Jacques Beauchamp, who was moving from the established Montreal-Matin to the new Journal de Montreal. He was scouring the province for talented young writers and hired Raymond.
“He was one of my heroes and my goal was to write about the National Hockey League,” said Raymond. “When I came to work in Montreal, I told him that I wanted his job and that I didn’t care if I had to wait 10 years to get it.”
It didn’t take that long. Four years after he started at Le Journal, Raymond replaced Beauchamp, who gave up the hockey beat because of failing health and a new challenge as the paper’s managing editor.
“He remembered that conversation we had when I joined the paper,” said Raymond, who went on to become Le Journal’s sports editor before settling into his present position as the paper’s chief sports columnist.
As a columnist, Bert has had the opportunity to cover the Olympics and major events such as the World Series and the Super Bowl. But the man who was honoured by his peers with a selection for the media section of the Hockey Hall of Fame, noted that hockey remains his first love.
“I love hockey because the people are real and we can still talk to them,” said Raymond. “It may change with all the money in the game, but hockey players are honest. They tell you what they think. And when they say something, they stand by it. I remember when Henri Richard said Al McNeil was the worst coach he ever played for. The next day, he said he had made a mistake, bu he never said he was misquoted.”
Then there was the Guy Lafleur incident. Lafleur is one of Raymond’s favourite athletes, but Raymond played a part in Lafleur’s departure from the Canadiens organization in the late 1980s.
“He had retired as a player and was working in the front office, ” recalled Raymond. “It was the last year he was being paid on his player’s contract. He was getting $400,000 and (Canadien’s president) Ron Corey was offering him a 10-year deal worth $1million. It started at $75,000 and during the course of the interview, Lafleur said he felt insulted and didn’t want to be paid like a clerk.”
The resulting furore marked the end of Guy Lafleur’s association with the team.
“I think it was the most significant story I wrote, because Lafleur was a legend and his association with the Canadiens ended because of it. I felt a little bad, but I knew that I was doing my job and I was impressed with Lafleur because he stood behind his statements.”
Raymond is also proud of the fact that he has been at Le Journal de Montreal fro 30 years and has watched the journalistic equivalent of an expansion franchise become the largest-selling paper in Montreal.
“My boss (longtime friend Yvon Pednault) has worked for everybody but I never felt the need to go anywhere else. I love my job, I’m well paid and the treat me well. I can’t ask for anything more.”