It’s already a great start to this NHL season, and not just because Auston Matthews had a four-goal night in his first game for the Leafs a few nights back.
It is Saturday night, and Hockey Night in Canada is back. Or more particularly, the Hockey Night in Canada we’ve known is back — not the imposter version that fans had to put up with over the last two seasons.
Welcome back to the host’s chair, Ron MacLean.
Our long national (hockey) nightmare is over. After spending two years in exile criss-crossing the country on Sunday evening hockey, Ron MacLean has been reinstated as host of Hockey Night in Canada on CBC. He’ll host the early game; the late game is hosted by David Amber to accommodate MacLean’s travel schedule as he continues to host Hometown Hockey on Sunday nights.
This is among the changes Rogers is bringing to what has been a boring, overwrought, ratings-losing production for the last two years. Today was a sad day for the hockey broadcast; Rogers let go a ton of people from the production, the biggest names being Glenn Healy and P.J. Stock, and of course, George Stroumboulopoulos. He’s taking the fall now for a lot of decisions that were really not his doing.
My take on Strombo: the wrong host, for the wrong show, for the wrong audience. Mainly, he simply wasn’t Ron MacLean and the fans knew it. Strombo will rise again elsewhere, hopefully.
I have held off on commenting on the Toronto Star story earlier this week about Ron MacLean‘s pending reinstatement as host of Hockey Night in Canada — mainly because I was waiting for the official announcement to happen. But nothing’s officially announced yet. Seems like they are still working out the details.
Meanwhile, Keith Olbermann, one of the few prominent American sportscasters who actually cares about hockey, was ranting and raving this week about how his buddy George Stroumboulopoulos was being dumped as host. Olbermann called it the “the dumbest thing I’ve seen in 36 years in TV sports.”
Well, Olbermann has a right to express his opinion, but with all due respect Olbermann does not live in Canada. He has not fully experienced the cultural experience of Hockey Night in Canada the way Canadian sports fans have. And any Canadian who has been watching this show religiously for all their lives and who remembers what the old days of HNIC were like will tell you the last two years of Rogers rule have been terrible. Strombo and his skin-tight suits have been a bad fit. His hipness turned the die-hard fans off, and the bad ratings are proof of that.
The bottom line is the fans have been mad about Ron MacLean’s departure from day one. They want him back, and that ought to be that. Too bad, Olbermann.
Reinstating MacLean on Saturdays will be a big step in the right direction for Hockey Night in Canada, but lots of fans feel Rogers needs to go even further than that. The fans want even more changes to what has been a boring, soul-sucking broadcast the last two years. They want even more of these Rogers on-air people gone. I notice the bloodthirsty people on social media have it in particularly for (1) Damien Cox, and (2) Nick Kypreos.
Bottom line is Rogers needs to make it a much livelier telecast next year to get the fans back watching. Anyway, it does seem like the viewers are being heard and that Rogers is making an effort to try and right the ship.
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.
Yes indeed, the new era with Rogers in charge of the new-look, new-host Hockey Night in Canada begins tonight with NHL games tonight not just on CBC but on multiple channels all over the dial:
Tonight on CBC, it’s Pittsburgh at Toronto, followed by Edmonton at Vancouver.
On City, it is Montreal at Philadelphia.
On SN1, it is Ottawa at Tampa Bay.
On SN360, it is Calgary at St. Louis, followed by Winnipeg at San Jose.
And on FX Canada, of all places, it is Washington at Boston.
For more about the games, check this Sportsnet preview here.
Conspicuous by their absence from this lineup, though, is the main Sportsnet feed covering all the regions of Canada. “What the heck, why don’t they have on hockey?!” you are asking.
Here’s why: they are showing a baseball game. Not just any game, too, but it’s San Francisco Giants at St. Louis Cardinals. That’s right, the playoffs. Which, by the way, is probably a bigger deal to St. Louis folks than the game between the Blues and the Flames tonight.
The bottom line is that it doesn’t matter whether you prefer to watch baseball or hockey. Either way, Rogers wins.
(Oh, and for those looking for “alternative programming”, TSN has the NASCAR race from Charlotte on one feed and a CFL game between Ottawa and BC on the other. This means while TSN will surely be crushed in the ratings across Canada tonight, they stand a chance of winning my household, at least.)
The news was confirmed at a press conference today. George Stroumboulopoulos is the new host of the new Hockey Night in Canada under Rogers control. Ron MacLean continues Coach’s Corner with Don Cherry and now gets to crisscross the country for a Hometown Hockey feature on the Sunday night hockey cast. Rogers is calling it the broadcasting Dream Team.
It seems clear to me now that what Rogers has in mind is pretty much to follow the ESPN formula for college football coverage on all its multiple platforms. In the news conference today Scott Moore of Rogers even referred to College Gameday as the idea behind this whole Hometown Hockey idea.
On College Gameday, ESPN sends a crew out to campuses across America each week, where they do a big pre-game show. It is a pretty big deal in its own right, so if that is what they have in mind for MacLean it ought to be good.
Still, I notice fans are still on the fence about the new package. I read a lot of comments at all the news websites about the announcement, and most of the fans were just trashing Strombo and trashing Rogers. Then again, the fans have been hating Rogers ever since the new TV deal was announced. Basically, the fans are convinced Rogers will hose the hockey fans in the end, and that is why you have all this venom out there. We shall see what happens. Hopefully it is much ado about nothing.
Personally, though, I am not sold on Strombo. I suppose Rogers is going for a younger demographic, but to me it sure seems like Rogers is looking to fix things that don’t need fixing. I have no idea how Strombo will be as host. I will say this right now, though: if George S. goes on the air on HNIC dressed all casual and wearing earrings like he did today, he will look like a goof. Tell Rogers to buy you some suits, George. That is my fashion statement for today.
Contrary to all the usual panicking we have come to expect from the nation’s media about radical changes and people being fired and so on, it looks like they may try and keep on both Ron MacLean and Don Cherry in the new scheme of things.
The plan is for Rogers to show something like 1250 hours of hockey, with Hockey Night in Canada games airing on multiple channels on Saturday including on CBC, with a Sunday-night package on City that will have a Hometown Hockey emphasis to it, and a Wednesday night package as well on Sportsnet. They also are planning a Thursday matchup of US teams (likely an NBC feed, I think) and will continue on with coverage of regional games for the Canucks, Oilers and Flames.
It sounds good in theory, having all these games available. Still, these guys at Rogers had better not start hiking up the cable fees or forcing people to pay more for live streams and so on, because then I will tell them exactly where to go.
Seriously, I’m still mad at the NHL over all their work stoppages, lockouts and other idiocy. This league is on thin ice with me, and I’m quite prepared to tune in other hockey instead, or for that matter other sports such as my beloved CFL. These guys need to watch what they are doing.
Now a few words about TSN and their continuing recovery strategy after being dealt this big body blow in losing the national NHL rights.
They have been continuing to load up with other sports, making a deal with Major League Baseball to add ESPN games on Monday and Wednesday nights in addition to their Sunday night schedule.
I have to laugh about TSN’s new-found interest in baseball, though, because only a few years ago they were totally dumping the sport and dumping the rights, all so they could load up on hockey. Times have sure changed and I think baseball fans will welcome this move.
The other move they made was that massive 12-year deal to steal Ottawa Senators regional rights away from Sportsnet and put those games on TSN.
This is big news, folks, because it means TSN will stay relevant as an NHL rights-holder in most of Canada, from Newfoundland all the way to the Alberta border.
They now have regional rights to the Senators, the Montreal Canadiens, the Toronto Maple Leafs (though Rogers still have the majority of their games) and the Winnipeg Jets. Since Saskatchewan gets Jets games is part of their territory, this means TSN has access to eight of the ten provinces for regional NHL rights.
The only places TSN are shut out is Alberta and BC, where Rogers has long term deals with the Flames, Oilers and Canucks. Then again, those places always regarded TSN as the “Toronto Sports Network” anyway.
Even in those markets TSN is not totally out of luck, because they hold rights to curling, the CFL, and to Vancouver Whitecaps of Major League Soccer, all of which are popular in these areas. In fact, in Saskatchewan the CFL is pretty much all that matters, so TSN will always have a captive audience in Riderville.
I am guessing that at the end of the day the people who are coming out laughing after all this rights-shuffling are the people at TSN, because they still get to show NHL hockey to most of the country, and for less of a cost. Something to think about, folks.
Today was a historic day for hockey fans. That’s right, for the first time ESPN2 in the USA was showing a live Kontinental Hockey League game. It was Alex Ovechkin and Moscow Dynamo taking on HC Lev. Then they repeated the game later that night!
Here’s a live blog of what went down. From what I gather, a lot of the fans were not impressed with commentators Steve Levy and Barry Melrose. In any event, American fans had better put up with it because this is about all the big-time hockey you’re going to get for a while.
It is odd, really odd, for ESPN to make this deal for the KHL. To me, this seems like the ultimate stick-it-to-the-NHL type of move (since the NHL’s TV deal is with a rival organization), as well as a fine way to rub it in to the folks at NBC Sports whose cable and TV networks are all left holding the bag by the NHL shutdown. The Worldwide Leader in Sports is showing hockey, all right, while NBC’s not. It’s just more world domination on their behalf, and more rubbing of NBC’s noses in it.
I’m actually surprised that ESPN even picked up the KHL, given their recent history. I was under the impression that they could care less about the sport — that all they really care for is the Big Three of baseball, football and basketball. As a bonus, they’ll show NASCAR and a few other things, but it’s obvious that’s what these folks care most about.
At one time that wasn’t the case. This network used to be the place to go to see all the funky non-traditional sports, like Aussie Rules football, the USFL, yacht racing, and stuff like that. It was great! And in those days the NHL fit right in.
I guess ESPN figured they could throw a bone to the hockey fans and get some of them tuning to ESPN instead of NBC. In any event, it worked, because it created a lot of buzz in the hockey blogosphere.
The coverage must have brought back memories for folks down in the ‘States who remember the old ESPN coverage of hockey that lasted up until the big 2004-05 NHL shutdown — coverage that included names like Gary Thorne, and Tom Mees, and others. Of course, the coverage brought back no memories for Canadian fans used to Ron MacLean and Don Cherry. Because CBC and the cable channels always produced their own packages in Canada, we hardly ever saw ESPN’s hockey coverage. Oddly, though, we’ve seen more than enough ESPN basketball, ESPN football and ESPN baseball coverage up here on TV. Strange.
Incidentally, today’s KHL game wasn’t even shown in Canada at all. I don’t know why the networks up here won’t want to touch the KHL.
Seriously, these games would be far better than the international hockey reruns we have been getting from TSN lately. The latest one TSN wants to rehash again is the 2009 World Juniors matchup between Canada and Russia, and I can tell you right now, fans at home are sick and tired of watching this nonsense. Any live sport is better than this junk, INCLUDING the KHL.
Hey guys, instead of showing us old international hockey, why not show us some new international hockey, for a change? Seriously, I just don’t get it!
In a way, though, rerun hockey games are not all bad. Word is now that Hockey Night in Canada is going to show reruns on Saturday night of classic games, at least for the time being, and are even inviting fans to vote on which games they want shown.
Well, that’s a better idea than the “Movie Night in Canada” debacle we got stuck with during the last lockout. It’ll also help those of us Hockey Night in Canada addicts get over the lack of NHL games and keep up some semblance of a Saturday night hockey routine. Believe me, this attempt to fill the void for fans disgusted with both sides of this labour dispute is welcome indeed.