A Canada Loss is Good for Junior Hockey

SportsCentre anchors Darren Dutchyshen and Kate Beirness led off last night’s 11:30pm ET broadcast with what they described as a sad Canadian hockey story to begin the New Year. Watching, you could tell they were sad just by their facial expressions. I had a hard time feeling sad about the lose, considering I know there aren’t many in Russia who watched the game and cared that they beat Canada. This wasn’t like the 2006 Olympic hockey quarterfinal loss to Russia, or even the back-to-back losses to Russia in the 2008 and 2009 World Hockey Championship finals. The TV reaction was sure the same as that 2006 game, mostly because it was such a shock to TSN, who count on a Canada final every year for ratings. Canada had made ten straight finals, dating back to 2002. Since 1991, when TSN began broadcasting the tournament, Canada had made the final 17 of 21 times.

I think that Canada’s loss was a great thing for hockey. The main reason is the tournament needs credibility in Europe. Russia and Sweden are two traditional hockey powers. After Canada, most top NHL draft picks have come from those countries. Their round robin game on New Year’s Eve, which decided the winner of Group A, was a 4-3 overtime result for Sweden. The 2013 World Junior Championship is in Ufa, Russia. The 2014 World Junior Championship is on Malmö, Sweden. Surely people in Russia and Sweden, and maybe throughout Europe, will watch this game. A Canada vs. Sweden final wouldn’t have had any interested in Russia.

TSN, who promote the tournament as a source of Canadian pride, will surely take a hit in the ratings Thursday evening because of this though. An average of 6.9 million Canadians tuned in to watch last year’s final, where Canada lost to Russia in a third period collapse. I think TSN can draw in the 2 to 3 million range for a final without Canada, which is still great compared to the NHL on TSN’s regular season ratings, but is not what advertisers expect.

Order of Canada… Is anyone in sports broadcasting more deserving of the Order of Canada than Brian Williams? Williams, who has covered almost every Olympic Games since 1976 in Montreal, is the most recognizable face in Canadian sports broadcasting. Then there was this classic 2000 Air Farce sketch that featured Williams (you need Real Player to watch it). Congratulations to Mr. Williams from me; I have many great Olympic memories with him at the helm.

2012 Winter Classic… NBC’s ratings for the 2012 Winter Classic were slightly down based on previous years; however, the number of people watching was up from the last Winter Classic played in the afternoon in 2010. CBC hasn’t made their Winter Classic ratings public yet.

2013 Winter Classic… For years Canadians have complained about not hosting a Winter Classic. Canada won’t get to host next year’s either, Detroit is the front-runner. However, the Maple Leafs are a possible choice as the Red Wings opponents. This would give CBC a major ratings boost, plus it would keep Canadian fans happy. Other possible opponents next year include Colorado, San Jose, Los Angeles and St. Louis. It seems that Washington is the favourite for the 2014 Classic, while New York’s Yankee Stadium is the favourite for the 2015 edition. Remember with the Winter Classic, it is driven by US TV.

Did he really say that?… I don’t know what was better about Monday night’s Fiesta Bowl, the actual game (an OT thriller between Stanford and Oklahoma State) or ESPN analyst Matt Millen. His analysis on NFL #1 draft pick-in waiting Andrew Luck: “He bores you with completions, he bores you with efficiency.” Millen also took John Madden’s “a hat on a hat” into a new era with “a guy on a guy” and offered this gem that would leave you wondering if you are watching football or a gay porno: “When he gets inside of a guy and bends his hips, he’s pretty good”. For more quotes, check out Awful Announcing.

Paul Romanuk… He is known to many Canadians as the voice of the World Juniors in the 90s. Now he lives in Europe and commentates on the Spengler Cup instead of the Juniors for TSN. With next year’s Juniors in Russia, TSN should use Romanuk in some capacity.


10 thoughts on “A Canada Loss is Good for Junior Hockey

  1. I don’t think an all-European final matters much for Europeans. I’m from there, moved to Canada last year, and I am totally AMAZED by how much Canadians care about junior hockey. In Europe many hockey fans have no interest whatsoever in junior competitions.

  2. While i agree Canada not in is a good thing the best thing for this tournemant would for both Canada & Russia not in the final i think a Finland-Sweden final would have done huge ratings.

  3. I think TSN will likely still get a decent rating for the SWE-RUS game too. But I think Thursday night is usually a busy night across the dial for TV viewing in general. There will also be a near full slate of regional NHL games on the air as well, which there will probably be more interest in without Team Canada involved tomorrow night. Only BC/Yukon region won’t have a regional NHL game available.

    • TSN will be helped by Big Bang Theory, Bones and The Office in repeats. Grey’s Anatomy is new, but I can’t imagine there’s a lot of crossover there.

    • With Team Canada in the bronze medal game, I will be watching the Senators game tonight. It does suck that Team Canada lost on Tuesday night. As the saying goes: “With every black cloud, there’s a silver lining.” Which is that there is always next year.

  4. Josh – correct me if I’m wrong, but I remember reading a few years ago that the WJC wasn’t even watched in Canada until TSN acquired the rights and started hyping it up in the late 80’s to boost ratings? Either way, I totally agree with your opinion. And I wonder if Europe’s indifference toward junior hockey (Russia in particular) is rooted in the fact that most of their best young players will likely not stay in the KHL?

    I feel the same way about Women’s international hockey – Canada isn’t doing themselves any favors by beating Slovakia 18-0. If other nations don’t start competing, women’s hockey could be removed from the Olympics altogether.

    • Yeah, you are more or less correct. TSN and CBC broadcast it throughout the 80s, but it didn’t get a lot of attention. TSN acquired exclusive rights in 1991 and promoted it heavily.

      One of the problems for Russia has to be that the tournament has been in North America the past four years. That’s a lot of 3am finals. Even Russia’s game vs. Sweden in the group stage was at 10pm ET/4am CET/7am in Russia. Just playing the game earlier in the day at 5:30pm ET/10:30pm CET/1:30am in Russia would have helped. But of course TSN chooses where every game will air.

      The only thing that saves women’s hockey at the Olympics is it would look really bad on the IOC and IIHF from a gender-equality standpoint if they took it out.

      • The 1987 brawl certainly helped increase the attention of the World Juniors in Canada. Five years earlier, Canada won its first-ever gold in the tournament in front of a few hundred in Minnesota, and there was no coverage of the game on TV. The brawl was shown live on CBC, and that drew the attention. But TSN was able to turn it into the tradition it is now.

        I don’t know about Josh’s argument that the Russian win will help draw more attention in Europe. Junior tournaments in Europe, in any sport, draw much less attention than senior tournaments. Most Canadians don’t realize that the big international hockey tournament in Europe is the Worlds every May, of course, by then we are in the thick of the Stanley Cup playoffs. I don’t think you’ll ever make the World Juniors (or, as it’s called there, the “U-20s”) very relevant in Europe. That’s why Canada gets 4 out of 7 championships between 2015-2021 without much of a fuss.

        As for women’s Olympic hockey, I would make the tournament a six-team single round-robin (although I think Olympic rules require eight, in which case, make it eight…) I would play the Canada-US game on the first night of the Games, when there is really no other marquee event being played. A good game to start the Olympics. After the round-robin, no semi-finals: the top two teams play for gold, and 3rd and 4th play for bronze. This way, one of the two powerhouses would immediately be in trouble by losing their first game (or they go to OT and neither teams gets maximum points). The losing team would run the risk of losing one more game and falling out of the gold-medal game. No chance for redemption by winning a semi-final against a weaker team.

  5. Chuck
    Removing womens hockey would not help the game don’t forget mens hockey had the same thing lots of really lop sided scores 45-0 etc but they kept it as for removing womens hockey while i don’t think it would help the game but the other thing if they did remove it i could see the mens event asli impacted by that i mean remove the weak teams so it could go froma 12 team event to a 8 team event.

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