Sports

SHOOTING OUT THE LIGHTS: It’s TSN’s time

Not that there was a contest, but with its new high-definition studio, TSN has solidified itself as the superpower of Canadian sports. In all realms of sports broadcasting, TSN is superior to its rivals at the CBC and Rogers Sportsnet. But what does having sports-broadcasting hegemony mean for the Canadian market?

Most significantly, it means that CBC and RSN might as well kiss the NHL goodbye after 2007-2008. Aside from the fact that the two have no hope of matching CTV/TSN’s proposed 10-year, $1.4-billion deal to add terrestrial rights to its cable package, the fact is that CBC and RSN don’t deserve to have hockey. The consumer deserves the best product and TSN offers it. Aside from Don Cherry, Ron MacLean and CBC’s hallowed tradition, TSN’s coverage blows the competition out of the water. Judging each network’s studio, in-studio personalities, broadcasters, analysts and in-game coverage only goes to strengthen this argument.

TSN recently upgraded its studios into high-definition and while most people still do not have HD, the sparkling studio still makes CBC and RSN look foolish. CBC’s main studio is nice enough but it is only prominent during the playoffs, while the Coach’s Corner booth is obviously set up in about 10 seconds. It is still better than RSN which is sticking with the 90s-era single desk format. The bottom line is that compared to TSN’s expansive set-there is even a hockey surface in it-CBC and RSN are decades behind.

In terms of in-studio personalities, it depends what kind of sports viewer you are. The Hockeycentral crew at RSN-defined by Bill Watters and Nick Kypreos-is goofy and disorganized, yet mildly entertaining. Having dumped editor Scott Morrison and lost insider Darren Dreger to TSN, RSN has chosen personalities over real insight. At CBC, Don Cherry obviously leads all networks in the personality department but after him and Ron MacLean, the in-studio talent drops off. Kelly Hrudey is a very solid analyst, but alone, he simply can’t compete with TSN’s all-star panel of Dreger, Bob MacKenzie, James Duthie and the recently retired Tie Domi. In terms of enlightening debate and insider information, TSN can’t be topped.

In terms of national broadcasts, RSN is immediately disqualified because it’s a regional broadcaster, though I can say from experience that Senators announcers are so brutal that it’s probably a good thing that this network is localized. CBC’s main tandem of Bob Cole and Harry Neale are past their prime, and no one is debating that; they do, however, bring a sense of history and mystique to the games, which does count for something. Eventually, though, new broadcasting legends will have to emerge and TSN’s Pierre McGuire may be the prime candidate. Despite what some “hockey fans” might say about him, Pierre is the best, hands down-he knows his stuff. Gord Miller is solid and is part of this great tandem. TSN’s number two man, Chris Cuthbert, is a strong backup and an exile from CBC.

In-game coverage is the closest of all the categories, as it should be. RSN isn’t even in the race though-their broadcasts seem to preclude ice-side reporters or inventive cameras. CBC’s Scott Oake does an excellent job with player-interest stories and during HNIC playoff games, it innovated a great new feature where a camera follows the players through the tunnel and onto the ice during introductions. They also give the viewer a good feel for what is happening in the stadium by placing cameras inside the concourse and outside in the parking lot. TSN uses similar shots, but it also has Glen Healey in between the benches, which adds a good touch and has since been duplicated by the American networks. This category is as close to a draw as any, but in my mind, Healey’s bench-work is the tiebreaker and puts TSN in front.

Canadians should not be afraid of the imminent move of the NHL to CTV/TSN-it offers the best coverage and highest entertainment value. We need to accept that while Canada grew up with Foster Hewitt and Danny Gallivan, the CBC simply isn’t worthy of holding on to Canada’s game. It’s time for substance to trump sentiment. It’s time for the NHL on CTV.

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