Welcome to April, traditionally a big time for playoff activity here in frozen Canada.
Unfortunately, the NHL won’t be providing any of it, because as of Wednesday night, all of Canada’s NHL teams are out of the playoffs. The last time this happened was 1970, and the only Canadian teams in the league that year were the Canadiens and Leafs. Although, technically, 2005 was another year without Canadian teams in the playoffs, because the whole league was shut down due to the labour dispute that year. But other than that, it dates back to 1970.
This news is a surprise to no one; hockey fans knew this was going to happen for weeks, but it’s still jarring for it to finally be official.
Let me tell you, it takes epic incompetence for all seven of Canada’s teams to manage to be this bad, since the NHL lets so many teams into the post-season — 16 of them. You would think at least one of these 7 Canadian teams would be half-decent, or at least, half-good enough. Heck, the NHL draft lottery gave the Edmonton Oilers several second chances at turning themselves around over the years with the No.1 pick, and last year they picked Connor McDavid. Yet here they are again, in the losers lottery, and in a position to get another high draft pick.
Compare this situation to the other sports in Canada where Canadian teams have really been doing well. Canada’s lone Major League Baseball and NBA teams, the Blue Jays and Raptors, not only have made the playoffs but won division titles. All three of Canada’s MLS soccer teams, the Whitecaps, Impact and Toronto FC, made the playoffs last fall and it was the first time in MLS history that has happened. At least two National Lacrosse League teams from Canada are going to be in (the Rush and likely the Roughnecks), and of course the CFL is all-Canadian anyway. The bottom line is that the vast majority of Canadian major league teams in every sport operating in Canada is a playoff team, with the exception of all the Canadian NHL teams.
But of course this is nothing new. Canadian NHL teams have been stinking it up ever since 1993, the last time a Canadian team won a Stanley Cup (the Canadiens). The last time a Canadian team even made the finals was 2011 (the Canucks). Recent years have been really bad, with both Canadian playoff teams going down in the first round in 2012 (Canucks and Senators) and only one team making the playoffs at all in 2014 (the Canadiens). Last year, it looked like Canada was turning the corner as five teams made it, but then they were all gone by the end of the second round anyway.
Yet this is supposed to be Canada’s favorite sport! Why, then, do Canadian fans keep on watching this sub-par hockey product, you say? Actually, they aren’t — the ratings have been down for Hockey Night in Canada all season, and the midweek game ratings have been even worse, according to reports. And it’s all because this year in particular, Canada’s teams have been awful. There has been a lot of talk about that expensive Rogers NHL contract and how much of a bath they are going to take on this year’s playoffs. Folks over there are right to be freaking out, because really, no one in Canada cares anymore. The only people in Canada who still care about the NHL are people entering these playoff hockey drafts, and interest in that is probably down, too.
It will be very interesting to see how Canadian fans react, since the Cup playoffs are supposed to be the highlight of the year. But I know for a fact that interest goes right down the drain whenever the last Canadian team is KOed in the playoffs. Now that all of them are KOed, and with a few games still left to go in the regular season, what are Canadian fans supposed to do other than sit and watch American teams in the Stanley Cup playoffs?
Well, there is the Raptors, who will be in the NBA playoffs, so you can expect all the playoff interest in Toronto will focus on them. Plus, Major League Baseball returns this weekend, so the Blue Jays will be on if you’re dying to see a Canadian team play something. (For those who can’t wait, the Blue Jays play the Red Sox in preseason play in Montreal today.)
The National Lacrosse League still has a few weeks to go before their playoffs. And of course there is still the AHL and yes, junior hockey. Here in Saskatchewan alone, the WHL and SJHL playoffs are going full blast, and in fact our local Battlefords North Stars are having an excellent run of their own. The North Stars are in action tonight, against the Flin Flon Bombers, in the first game of the SJHL semifinals.
Word of advice – stay clear of the penalty box tonight, guys. That is all for now.
Another well-known Canadian cable TV channel is leaving us. Teletoon Retro will be signing off for good during the early hours of Sept. 1. Which means this, unfortunately, is their final weekend on the air.
My own cable carrier will be moving Cartoon Network to the same channel, but I am still not happy. Teletoon Retro was the home of all the classic cartoon shows I grew up watching, like the Looney Tunes, the Flintstones, the Jetsons, Scooby-Doo and so on.
In fact, one of the prime reasons why I subscribed to my current cable system was the fact they offered Teletoon Retro on the basic tier. So to be honest with you, I’m really quite annoyed.
My buddy Brian Zinchuk was similarly aghast when he heard this news; his Facebook reaction was “Nooooooooooooo!”
I will say, though, Teletoon Retro was allowed to go downhill the past couple of years. Instead of showing more Warner Bros. and Hanna-Barbera stuff, they’ve been running a lot of Eighties and Nineties junk that I’m not the least bit interested in (ie. the Care Bears). No wonder this channel is being shut down.
This news has me seriously thinking again about whether to “cut the cord.” The end of Teletoon Retro is one less reason to keep cable. Not impressed, but I guess I’m too old to be watching cartoons anyway.
Unreal. Instead of waiting two or three more weeks, the reports are widespread that Prime Minister Stephen Harper is possibly going to call the election by Monday.
Not that it matters a lot, the date will still be Oct.19 as per the election-date legislation. Still, this development ticks me off because this will be the second federal election in a row in which I’ll be off work when the writ is dropped. The last time it was due to injury, this time it’s due to a much needed vacation! It figures.
If it happens and the election writ is dropped, this will bring out all the usual complaints from all the usual opposition people about how the Tories are manipulating the rules so they can spend more money in the campaign. There will also be gripes, and lots of them, about how long the election is going to be and how terrible this is for Canada.
But really, the attacking has already begun and we are already getting these Justin “Just Not Ready” Trudeau attack ads all over our air. These are littering our TV screens regardless of whether we are officially in an election campaign or not. If this campaign is on, it’s on, so let’s just make it official and get on with it.
Besides, those people who complain that the campaign period will be too long really have no idea what they are talking about. Last year, the mayor’s race in Toronto lasted several months, for example. And look at our friends down in the United States and the lengths of their races. There are 21 people already campaigning flat-out right now to become President, and yet the election is not going to be held until November of next year!!!
Well, so much for Canada in the Stanley Cup.
Five Canadian NHL franchises had made it into the playoffs, the most teams in a decade, prompting talk not only about a Canadian team winning the Stanley Cup, but of an all-Canadian Cup final for the first time since 1989.
Anyway, it’s all gone to heck. The Flames were eliminated on the weekend, and with the Montreal Canadiens’ elimination in the second round it means there are no further Canadian teams in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The Canadian cup drought now extends to 23 years, to 2016. What’s even harder to accept for the Canadian fans is that two of the squads remaining are teams from the Sun states (Tampa Bay and Anaheim).
Fans of Canadian teams now officially have no reason to care about the Stanley Cup. And because the TV coverage under the new TV deal has been so thoroughly panned in Canada, with Ron MacLean’s role totally minimalized and with George Stroumboulopoulos being shoved down the fans’ throats on Hockey Night in Canada, the fans have no other reason to watch now, either.
With no Canadian teams left, and with a real prospect of an all-Sunbelt Cup final series, the ratings in this country for hockey are going to go right down the tubes. How do Rogers executives feel today, having handed over $5.2 billion dollars to the NHL for the rights to the hockey games on TV — only for this total playoff debacle to happen?
Time for the fans to tune in the Blue Jays full time. And as an aside, CFL football cannot come back soon enough.
The news from the other day is that the Saskatchewan government is finally legislating an athletics commission, with the commission expected to be up and running and able to accept applications by April. Rumors have been rampant for months about Saskatchewan as a possible locale for a UFC event, most likely at SaskTel Centre in Saskatoon. This latest news about a fight commission should get the rumor mill flying even more, because up to now this lack of a commission was the one big holdup to getting MMA events held here.
According to the story that ran in the Star-Phoenix, UFC Canada has circled August 23 for an event in Canada, and has apparently placed holds on several buildings.
Here’s some food for thought: August 23 falls on a Sunday, and the event on that date is slated to be a “Fight Night” for Fox Sports 1. The longstanding rumor has always been that the first UFC event in Saskatchewan would be a “Fight Night”, not a pay-per-view event.
Other food for thought: I did some digging and found out the Saskatchewan Roughriders host a CFL home game the day before, on August 22 versus Calgary.
My point is, any UFC event on August 23 would have no direct competition with the Saskatchewan Roughriders, which leaves the UFC free and clear to set an event for that night in the wheat province with no fear of a conflict and with every expectation of a sellout crowd. Surely Tom Wright, UFC Canada director of operations, realizes this as he used to be commissioner of the CFL.
Just adding to the rumor mill, folks. Doin’ my job.
Early this morning Sun News Network ceased operations. A proposed sale of the channel fell through, and so that was that.
Viewers who tune in the channel today are instead seeing a message that states the channel is no longer available. In truth, the conservative-leaning channel, home to Ezra Levant, Michael Coren, Brian Lilley etc., was not being watched by most people anyway. That entire operation has been plagued by distribution problems right from the start. And viewership levels were, to say the least, atrocious. I will say this: at least this operation lasted longer than CityNews Channel, which went kaput after about a year.
(If you want to see the SNN channel’s final moments, I notice it’s been put up on YouTube.)
It’s a sad day for TV in Canada to see so many media jobs go up in smoke — apparently 200 people. In this case I happen to personally know some of the people affected, so it’s a sad day. But this sort of thing has been happening too often lately.
I’m not surprised this closure happened, though, because there were rumors out there for a few weeks now about the end being near. For me, this channel was on borrowed time ever since the entire Sun chain of newspapers was sold to Postmedia — with the Sun TV channel not included as part of the deal.
I know there’s a lot of people on Twitter dancing on this channel’s grave today, because they hated its conservative point of view and the personalities on there. (Pretty shameful comments, if you ask me — but also typical of what we have come to expect from social media lately.)
The reality, though, is Sun News Network did offer something original and different from what these other Canadian channels were doing with their usual boring rerun programming.
SNN’s particular high point came when they covered the now-famous Justin Trudeau-Patrick Brazeau charity boxing match a while ago. That was entertaining stuff. Actually, come to think of it, the fact that this Trudeau-Brazeau fight was their high point probably says it all. (They also ran the “Ford Nation” show, with Rob and Doug Ford, but that was more of a low point because they cancelled it after one airing.) This channel probably would have done better if they were a little more entertaining, and a little less in-your-face with its right-leaning viewpoints and with its programming and hosts. Ezra Levant and Michael Coren, in particular, repel about as many people as they attract.
But really, in the end the main issue was distribution, as not even viewers who wanted to see these people on TV could get easy access to them.
Anyway, that’s that, a perfect exclamation point to a truly awful week for the TV news business.
People are still mad about the latest layoffs that hit Bell’s media properties including MuchMusic.
Here is a post at Blogto lamenting the situation, talking about how the channel went “from crucial TV to bust”. People say the reason Much is in trouble is because people are turning to YouTube and Vevo for music videos, but as the post at BlogTO correctly points out, MuchMusic was always about more than the videos — it was also about attitude.
And that was why people tuned in — it was not just about the videos for the audience.
But then came the new ownership, and the programming changes that turned Much into just another rerun channel on TV like the rest of them.
Personally, I’m with Master T and the other people who say Bell ought to give the channel back to Moses (Znaimer). But I think that scenario is about as likely to happen as the return of the Montreal Expos.
Lesson in all of this: enjoy your favorite things in life now while you have the chance, because the day will come soon enough when it will have all gone to heck.
Word came down tonight that Stompin’ Tom Connors – The Hockey Song, Bud the Spud, etc., — has died at age 77. Truly a Canadian musical and cultural icon. The story here.