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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Ami Angelwings
November 9, 2010 2:15 am

All for hiring Shannon! Need something to get him off the street and PTS xD

Raptors Devotee
Raptors Devotee
November 9, 2010 7:20 am

Nice article covering a lot of ground TSM. If Shannon goes back to produce HNIC it is a win win for all concerned. Another bonus of getting Shannon to produce HNIC is that he won’t also be on Sportsnet’s hockey show. The man should ALWAYS be behind the scenes or an occasional guest on PTS.

I have not watched HNIC for many years, and that is strictly attributable to the horrible viewing experience on many levels. The most frustrating part is the lack of out of town scores. Why they can’t have a running ticker or one that updates more than once a period, if they do that, is beyond me. Look how the NFL does it. Here we have Saturday night when the most games are played, especially across Canada, and we are forced to check online or by flipping for updates. Their goal updates I believe also focus strictly on the Canadian teams but I may be wrong on that one.

The problem is attributable to being publically funded, and until that business model changes (yeah, right) I just can’t see a major revamping occuring. Even by doing nothing they are guaranteed good ratings. The sad thing is by revamping and promoting a more crowd-pleasing format they can win back a lot of eyeballs that have moved away.

You really summed up my feelings on TSN versus Sportsnet. I have felt that way for many years. I would like to include the Score as well into the mix, as they also deserve some accolades.

You can take it to the next level, where the Score guys are to Sportsnet what Sportsnet is to TSN, so you can imagine how different the viewing experience is from TSN to the Score then.

Watching the Score is kind of like hanging with the guys, and for anybody that actually partakes in betting in sports, the Score covers it and owns that market. After all this time, it is apparent that both TSN and Sportsnet have no interest in appealing to that audience. IMO this alone has propelled the Score to profitability. They also own the basketball market, as they cover it immensely better than TSN (most horrific) and Sportsnet (almost as bad). This includes both the Raps, entire NBA, and College hoops. Don’t forget how they stepped up to cover the Canadian national team in Turkey at the World Championships where they got the feed. The one area that is neglected, and I don’t care since I have no interest, is Canadian Univesity basketball. I am sure that is due to the ratings, or lack of, it would generate.

mike (in boston)
mike (in boston)
November 9, 2010 8:09 am

TSM, you know you won’t clog up the intertubes if you make several posts on different topics rather than one long one.

Shannon worked for CBC/HNIC and Leafs TV. He is very much part of the “old guard” in hockey, and counting on him to revamp anything would be, in my opinion, a mistake. He’s too connected to the establishment. With a few adjustments for age and weight, he’s basically Bill Watters.

i think there is more reason to attribute the current state of affairs at HNIC to him, than there is reason to think he can solve it. I recall him saying on PTS that a lot of what they do nowadays in hockey production started under his watch.

Don Cherry embarrasses me as a Canadian. His bigotry is disgusting, and we shouldn’t indulge it because he “supports the troops.”

November 9, 2010 8:40 am

Why would Shannon want to give up a nice gig on PTS and Sportnset for the stress of big time producing?

Ami Angelwings
November 9, 2010 9:24 am

@Steve-O: maybe he prefers that? i dunno what he prefers, but he keeps talking about producing so often that I wonder if he does miss it… not eveyrbody has the same priorities or interests after all 😀

Mike S
Mike S
November 9, 2010 2:21 pm

I think I am falling in love with Ami Angelwings

November 9, 2010 3:04 pm

I don’t mind Shannon on the air actually, though he is at his strongest when he is talking about league issues, on-air production and media stuff rather than hockey general knowledge.

Though I guess it would not shock me if Shannon made a return to the production side.

Steve from Waterloo
Steve from Waterloo
November 9, 2010 4:00 pm

I don’t fully agree that HNIC is that bad. Compared to MANY Versus broadcasts that I’ve seen while out and about, I am ALWAYS thankful for the quality of hockey coverage we receive in Canada.

There are various segments that I like better than others, but I assume the ones that I don’t particularly like are liked by someone else. Grapes has been off this year, but I still find it must see tv. Same with teh 2nd period segment.

To be honest, I’m getting tired of Kypreos’ schtick on Sportsnet.

I am just happy we have three quality sources to watch hockey.

If we want to take someone to task, we should be complaining about the quality of LeafTV broadcasts!

Gerry from Burlington
Gerry from Burlington
November 9, 2010 10:14 pm

Well good timing for this article, given Scott Moore leaving, i guess we shall see if there will be some changes at HNIC.

November 10, 2010 11:12 pm

Couldn’t agree more about HNIC. I’ve found HNIC to be an intolerable viewing experience for a couple of years now. I find their “golly gee”, old-school approach just tired. Maclean’s act wore thin some time ago, and Cherry needs to be retired now. As Mike (in Boston) noted, the idea seems to be that we should tolerate Cherry’s inane, bigotted comments because he wears the poppy on his lapel. Sorry, that doesn’t wash anymore.
Plus, I find the Hot Stove segment is a pure knuckle-dragging experience. Someone please explain to me what Mike Milbury ever did in his career to deserve screen time on HNIC? And PJ? Pleaaasse!
Roy MacGregor of the Globe did a great article on HNIC’s troubles a few weeks back, and basically said the same as TSM: time to just sweep aside the entire production and start fresh. I couldn’t agree more.

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