Monday Morning Commentator: September 5
It is now Labour Day Monday here in Canada. That can only mean one thing, lots of football. In this week’s edition of Monday Morning Commentator I delve into the CFL’s choices for the Labour Day Classics this year, as well as the hottest sports broadcasting issues. Have a good Labour Day everyone.
- I’ll start with some news that somehow managed to slip under the radar, until TSN’s Gord Miller and Bob McKenzie Tweeted about it on the weekend. Former Stars coach and Hockey Night in Canada analyst Marc Crawford has joined the NHL on TSN. Crawford will be a studio analyst this season, working alongside James Duthie, Aaron Ward and Bob McKenzie. McKenzie’s Tweet seemed to imply that these four will be TSN’s regular studio panel. Pierre Lebrun and Darren Dreger will be along with insider information. You can follow Crawford on Twitter here.
- I know a lot of people get on Crawford for having an annoying voice, but in my opinion that doesn’t really detract from him being one of the best analysts in the business (much like my stance on Pierre McGuire). I really enjoyed Crawford’s work with CBC; plus, working with Mark Lee can make any analyst sound bad. I think Crawford is a great replacement for Craig MacTavish.
- The question of who will be TSN’s replacement for Pierre McGuire still hasn’t been answered, but two names thrown about can now be knocked off the list. One is obviously Crawford. The other is Mike Johnson, who was announced to be one of TSN’s Jets analysts earlier this week. TSN has also told to me that Johnson will return to his role as Montreal Canadiens analyst, which seemingly rules him out of working nationally broadcast games for TSN. My money is still on Darren Eliot. There should be an official announcement within the next couple weeks on both Crawford and Pierre’s replacement.
- TSN will also release their Montreal Canadiens schedule sometime this week, either Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday or Friday. I can’t say for certain which one yet. I expect that TSN-Habs will show 30-35 games, complementing 28 on CBC, 15 on TSN and 3 on Sportsnet East (which will be Senators broadcasts). That means that at least 76 Canadiens games will be shown on English-language TV this year. It is an outside possibility that all 82 will be.
- With the announcement of the local TV schedules for each Canadian team, I will have a special post recapping the schedules for all 7 teams later this week. It will feature a Excel file with the full broadcast schedule for each team.
- This next item was asked about by someone who commented on a Bruce Dowbiggin article at GlobeSports.com. I figure I might as well discuss it here, even though I believe I already may have. The question was in regard to who will call CFL games on TSN during the Olympics. First off, it appears Chris Cuthbert will stay behind to call CFL games on TSN. Gord Miller won’t have to be in London until Monday July 31, at the earliest, as athletics doesn’t begin until Friday August 3. So, Miller and Cuthbert can call two CFL games a piece the weekend of July 28. Then the CFL can schedule bye weeks of August 4 and 11, with Cuthbert calling both games each week. Former Canadian Football network host Dave Hodge will likely be the studio host. That seems to solve the conflict, unless CTV decides to use Miller on a sport like judo or canoe/kayak slalom.
- All 3 members of CTV’s athletics commentary team were in Daegu, Korea this week at the World Championships to prepare for the Olympics. Play-by-play commentator Gord Miller was there as a spectator, while CTV’s two analysts worked teh competition for two different networks. Michael Smith was an analyst for CBC, while Dave Moorcroft was an analyst for Channel 4 in the United Kingdom.
- The CFL’s scheduling of the Labour Day Classics is a mystery to many. The traditional Tiger Cats-Argonauts Labour Day game has been put on hold this year, with the Cats instead hosting the Montreal Alouettes. The Cats and Argos have hooked up 42 times on Labour Day. The CFL’s reason for breaking up the tradition for this year was scheduling conflicts involving the Argonauts. The Blue Jays have priority at the Rogers Centre, and they play host to the Red Sox on Monday afternoon. The Blue Jays have also prevented the Argos from playing home games on a number of weekends this year.
- I think the CFL could have re-scheduled the Labour Day Weekend to include all three traditional rivalries, even if they aren’t played on the traditional days, this weekend. Hamilton @ Toronto should have been played on Friday Night at 7:30pm ET, as part of Friday Night Football, with Montreal @ BC following at 10:30pm ET. That way the CFL avoids a busy weekend in sports on Saturday and Sunday, and gets some strong ratings with two games on its traditional game night. If the CFL would prefer to play Lions and Alouettes on Saturday (or to have the game in Montreal), then a Saturday 3pm ET start would make sense. Then on Monday, Blue Bombers @ Roughriders (who have met 47 times on Labour Day weekend) could be a 3pm ET start, with Eskimos @ Stampeders at 6:30pm ET. It makes sense to me, but maybe not the CFL I guess?
- College football fans have been left in the dark by the Canadian networks this weekend. Sportsnet One was originally slated to show four games this weekend, which should be applauded. However, for some reason only two of those games aired. The Thursday night season opener between Mississippi State and Memphis was removed from the schedule at the last minute, in favour of an encore of the Veulta a Espana from earlier in the day. Then the Sunday night game between Southern Methodist and Texas A&M was removed late in the week, with a 40 year old movie, Brian’s Song, airing instead. The omission of both games is puzzling to me. I have reached out to Rogers Sportsnet about both, and as of late Sunday night I haven’t received a response. I encourage all readers to reach out to Sportsnet about this, and if you get a response, let me know. I was very excited, and hopeful, about Sportsnet’s college football coverage when the schedule was released a couple weeks ago; it is hard to be so hopeful now.
- Meanwhile those with the Super Sports Pak on providers like Rogers and Cogeco were confused as well. The Super Sports Pak usually shows all of the big games that aren’t shown on TSN2 and theScore. However, this past Saturday night the game between #19 Georgia and #5 Boise State wasn’t (legally) available to Canadians at all this past Saturday night. TSN owns rights to the game, but they couldn’t show it because of contractual obligations with the US Open and NASCAR.
- This conflict will also happen next weekend, when ESPN’s primetime game is the first night game at Michigan Stadium when the Wolverines host the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. It is quite likely that this game won’t be on Canadian TV either, despite the fact that it is between two of the most popular college football programs in Canada. In the past TSN sold all games they couldn’t show to theScore or the Super Sports Pak, this doesn’t seem to be the case this season for some reason.
- The good news for Canadian college football fans is that I don’t see any conflicts on TSN2 on Saturday nights after next weekend. This should mean that the rest of the ESPN Saturday primetime games should be shown on TSN2. College Gameday will also air on TSN2 from 10am-noon ET on Saturday mornings beginning September 17. TSN2 had a conflict with a Canadian basketball game this past Saturday, and has a conflict with the Premier League next Saturday. Again, the good news is that there are no conflicts with the Premier League until a Manchester United game on November 26.
- I know that many are wondering how college football TV contracts work in Canada. I’ll admit that it isn’t even 100% clear to myself. I believe that each conference sells worldwide TV rights to a US broadcaster; in turn, that broadcaster can sell rights outside of the US to whoever they want. ESPN obviously gives rights to their games to TSN, who in turn sub-lease some games to theScore and the rest to premium providers like the Super Sports Pak. Fox sells the rights to all of their games (from FSN, FX and Fox itself) to Rogers, who puts them on Sportsnet One. The only thing sold separately to the highest Canadian bidder are the 5 BCS games.
- One last point on college football, I know fans of the sport are frustrated, especially those will pay $30 a month for the Super Sports Pak, but do understand that TSN has rights agreements with the USTA and NASCAR that we don’t really know the details to. Most of these deals require TSN to show all of their events, if possible. This is especially true for NASCAR, where TSN (not TSN2) had to show the 2010 Daytona 500 even though the Olympics were ongoing that day. NASCAR and tennis are also more popular than college football in Canada.
- And finally, a couple of notes on the blog. Canadian Sports Media Blog now has RSS feeds; see the link on the right hand sidebar to subscribe. I’ll also be bringing back my weekly college football rankings. The first edition has already been posted. I don’t care if nobody else cares, because I enjoy doing them. I won’t always agree with the AP and Coaches polls, but my rankings are usually similar. Weekly NFL schedules will be coming here, usually on Tuesday or Wednesday, beginning this week. I will post the weekly schedule for CTV, TSN/TSN2 and Sportsnet/Citytv. I’ll also post links to J.P. Kirby’s maps for CBS and Fox.