This is part two of a series. Part one can be read here.
As an American I can say, with excessive amounts of jealousy, Canadians have it good when it comes to the NHL on television. This is a natural evolution of hockey being Canada’s national sport. So it follows that the NHL is the biggest show in town on Canadian television. Whereas in America you can see how some sports grew with the rise of television (football) and some sports still have people saying it is better on the radio (baseball) in Canada there was one choice, it was the NHL. And Canadians don’t just love hockey, they love the best hockey ergo the NHL.
Before I get to the landscape shattering change that are occurring north of the border this year let’s review, briefly, how hockey became an integral part of Canadian television.
In October of 1952 Hockey Night in Canada (HNIC) was born. For an American to understand the cultural touchstone that HNIC has become, combine Monday Night Football with PBS and start it 17 years before Howard Cosell entered the public consciousness. HNIC is a presentation so rich in history tradition that for the most part it breaks out of the traditional mold of how sports is usually presented. Beyond the games themselves if you really want to get a feel for how this presentation both honors and has fun with the game look up Coach’s Corner and the HNIC montage videos on Youtube. Personally, whenever I think a game is being presented on HNIC I switch to the away team presentation on NHL Gamecenter and soak up the Canadian goodness.
Next is TSN, who themselves do a great job of covering and presenting games. Where TSN really shines is in it’s coverage of the events that surround the league. If you have never had the chance to see how they turn the trade deadline into must see TV or how well they handle the first day of free agency then you have missed something. They have a nearly matchless stable of talent headlined by Bob McKenzie. Their coverage of the draft has been simulcast for on NHL Network in the states. From those who have seen both TSN’s quality of coverage of the NHL is near the top of sports coverage from any network across any sport.
But lets get to the 800 pound gorilla in the room.
With the beginning of the 2014 season NHL media in Canada orbits around one entity. Rogers Sportsnet. This is the first season of a 12 year $5.2 billion dollar contract between them and the NHL to be the exclusive national broadcaster of the NHL. Sportsnet is going all the way with this kind of coverage. Everyone in Canada will be able to see every Canadian team. In a move that caused great rejoicing around Canada they are keeping HNIC on the CBC, although produced by Sportsnet. In addition to this they are adding a Sunday night show called Hometown Hockey which will travel around Canada and focus on more human stories, imagine an NHL version of ESPN’s College Gameday. Combine this with Sportsnet’s own leaps and strides in covering both the trade deadline and the first day of free agency with great, and at times quirky, talent and Canada has an embarrassment of hockey entertainment riches.
For those of you in Canada you can probably provide me with lots of examples where these groups could improve, for those of you in America you are probably salivating as much as I am. The reason for this post to go up first is that in reality all American hockey media are held in comparison to Canadian hockey media.
The next post should raise some ire…..ESPN.