HNIC- Slip Sliding Away

There I was, home on a Saturday night with the TV on. Mrs. TSM was out of town, I had the kids and I was ripe with jetlag. It was rarity for me. An opportunity to kick back and watch an entire episode of Hockey Night in Canada.

Most Saturday’s I get to watch bits and pieces, ever since we moved back to Toronto I just don’t get to see all that much. With the kids sports, entertaining LT and Mrs. TSM well, weekend nights are no longer mine.

Absence they say makes the heart grow fonder, well, whomever “they” are didn’t have HNIC in mind, I can tell you that. Man oh man has the product slipped since the last time I watched an entire episode.

Where to start….

The opening is truly embarrassing. I mean is this SCTV, Rogers 10 or the premiere hockey production in the world? I don’t care what anyone says, HNIC without that damn song is like peanut-butter without the jam. The new song, to quote judge Smails, Sssssucks. It’s so damn hokey. It’s not watchable.

Then there was the overall production in general. How many times did it seem like camera guys or the actual director were totally asleep at the wheel? There were long segments where the cameras were missing the puck entirely OR even worse, we only got one angle for an endless amount of time.

Do I really need to mention the number of times HNIC came out of a commercial to find the play had already resumed? I mean come on!! This isn’t versus. This isn’t an odd game down in Raleigh or somewhere like that. This is Hockey Night In Canada, that which our tax money pays for, it’s supposed to be the standard, it was total bush league.

Let’s talk briefly about the intermissions. I love a good tribute to those who are fighting over seas. I wear my poppy with pride. Why is Don Cherry still doing coaches corner? I mean, even in Old Yeller they took the dog out back, you know. This segment has clearly worn out. It’s tired, it’s predictable and to be honest, it’s downright boring. I know, it’s nice to see Don get teary eyed, it’s nice when he has heart warming stories, but is this really what we want on Hockey Night in Canada. Maybe I am alone, but it’s high time we move on.

I am a geek. I will admit that I used to tape the hockey hot stove on Saturday nights. I don’t tape games, but pre-internet I used to like to watch what the guys would say. I loved when John Davidson was on. He was a favorite. Hell, I even liked when, gulp Al Strachan was on. Again, halfway through I yelled at the TV in my best Homer Simpson voice BORING!

It it is high time they take a broom to this entire production and start again. Your going to snicker when I say this but, here goes. Hire Mr. McGoo. John Shannon is an excellent TV guy. He knows that show, he knows what it should be and he knows the talent that should be on it. (he knows less about being a radio show co-host in my humble opinion). The kind of stuff I watched this past Saturday night wouldn’t have occurred on a John Shannon production. I don’t believe it would.

There was a time when HNIC was numero uno. Well, TSN has taken that from CBC for sure. They are the new standard (in my opinion of course). Sportsnet is making big gains though. The one thing that Sportsnet has that TSN doesn’t right now is character. That’s not to suggest that TSN people aren’t good guys. It’s just that TSN has gotten to be a little stiff. It’s a little to tight around the collar. As a viewer I am not entirely sure the guys are actually having a good time when they are doing the show.

Sportsnet is much more relaxed. There is more joking around, more laughter etc., it’s getting to be more fun to watch. It isn’t quite the premiere show but I’m thinking with a few key additions it certainly could start to give TSN a run in terms of quality. HNIC is clearly behind those two in terms of production quality. The Score may actually be neck and neck with the CBC right now.

So, maybe I am nuts, but to me HNIC has gone way down hill. Right now it’s a 2 horse race for leader of the hockey broadcast, TSN is in the lead, Sportsnet is just behind and Zenyata, I mean HNIC is bringing up the rear. I certainly hope this changes and soon, or I may not fight for more Saturday nights on the couch.

Speaking of hockey broadcasts, I tweeted a story earlier today about ESPN getting back into the hockey game. Kevin McGran has a story on the piece in tomorrow’s Toronto Star:

“Timing is everything,” said John Shannon, a longtime TV executive on both sides of the border. “Based on the success they had in the playoffs with their ratings numbers, the fact the quality of hockey is better, the success of the Winter Classic, do they have a chance to make (their TV dollars) grow? Absolutely.”

The sport was left for dead five years ago when it came out of the lockout and signed a TV deal with a network that many people had never heard of, much less subscribed to.”

Grow??? I would hope so. Considering the state of their current deal. I mean there is no where to go but up from here right?

Many have emailed me asking for my opinion on the whole Brian Burke defending Dion Phaneuf and now Ron Wilson. It’s pretty simple. It’s Burke doing exactly what he is supposed to. Burke has said publicly on numerous occasions that players get off light here in Toronto. It’s the management and coaches who get criticized and not the players. What happens the first time one of his boys gets criticized? He deflects attention from him. We know that he has said when he was in other cities if a guy played poorly he got booed, yet in Toronto if a guy plays poorly, the coach and GM get booed. So when he said players didn’t get booed in Vancouver you have to snicker. It’s Burke doing his job.

In the same breath when the mere thought of Ron Wilson’s job security is mentioned he once again deflects the attention. It’s just what he does.

Steve Simmons said it right in his blog earlier last week:

“If you read between Burke’s lines, other than coming to the defence of his captain who needed no defence, all Burke was doing was diverting attention from his sagging hockey team. He was trying to do a Harold Ballard, take over the headlines, to avoid hearing and reading about the subject he doesn’t want to address – the state of his team. It was a noble attempt on his part – and he is very good at spinning things his way.”

That’s bang on.

So, Pat Gillick ‘s name is going to be on the Hall of Fame ballot. Time to start a pool. Which media personality will say or write this first “if Pat Gillick goes in the hall of fame, will he (or should he) go in as a Blue Jay”? Guaranteed, it’s coming soon to a newspaper or radio near you soon.

Speaking of the Blue Jays, they hired Pat Hentgen as the bullpen coach today. Is there another team who consistently makes the feel good hires. I mean for years people ripped on the Leafs for lousy alumni relations. It’s seems the Blue Jays, unlike other teams really go out of their way to do right by their alum, and bring them back into the fold on every opportunity. I, for one hope this one works out for the Jays.

Ok, let’s all say this again one more time until next year, the Bills in Toronto bears (pardon the pun) no reflection on the viability of Toronto as an NFL market. The Bills aren’t our team. There is no reason for fans to go support a Bills game here. More so it isn’t an event type game either. There is no reason for fans to go see an NFL game between the bears and bills here. If you want to test the market, bring in a marquee matchup or a game that means something or hell, just give us our own team.

It is kind of funny to read and listen to the pundits bash Rogers though isn’t it. I mean, how dare a media company lose fortunes on a sports event. Can you imagine if gulp, they didn’t spend on the Blue Jays???? The way people are carrying on about Rogers blowing their brains out on the Bills in Toronto you would think it was their own money going down the drain. They overpaid for the games, yawn, who cares. At least they stuck their toe in the water. It sounds like nearly every MSMer was at the game on Sunday, and not in a paying capacity. What else would you be doing????? As John Popper once said there’s no such thing as a failure who keeps on trying. If Rogers hadn’t done the deal and this series wasn’t going on here and the media found out it was for $ reasons the same group would be screaming bloody murder.

Lastly, for those who have asked, Australia and New Zealand were incredible. I strongly urge each of you to take the long and I do mean long flight over there. While the weather wasn’t terrific, if you are a sports fan and into the ponies for sure, you should go when the Melbourne Cup is on. I have never seen a single sporting event so wildly celebrated in an entire country like that before.



The Star story is here

Simmons’s blog is here

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