NHL Playoff Coverage Up in Round 1; Under the Radar in Round 2

2012 might be one of the most Jekyll and Hyde playoffs in the NHL’s history. Especially in terms of television coverage and ratings. Round one was great. It grabbed all the headlines. There were three seven game series. CBC averaged over a million viewers for three of the four series that Hockey Night in Canada broadcast. TSN averaged almost 1.5 million for Penguins vs. Flyers, a record for a 1st round series on the network that didn’t feature a Canadian team

In all TSN averaged 927, 000 viewers over 21 games. A 41% increase over last season. According to BBM numbers (however accurate they are), 42% of Canadians watched at least a minute on TSN’s first round coverage. CBC averaged about 1.7 million viewers, or almost double TSN. That’s not surprising, of course, considering they had 12 games featuring Canadian teams. CBC also boasted that about half of Canadians tuned into their coverage. Obviously there is overlap in viewers between both networks.

With the Senators and Canucks flaming out in the first round, and teams like Phoenix, Nashville, Philadelphia, Washington and St. Louis advancing to the second round over more popular teams such as Chicago, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Boston and San Jose, the second round ratings have fallen. Dramatically. CBC’s highest rating in the first week of the second round was 1.6 million for the OT game between the Rangers and Capitals. CBC has yet to release any ratings this week.

You’d think TSN were guarding the secret to the Holy Grail (and I don’t mean the Stanley Cup) the way they’ve kept quiet about second round ratings. TSN’s PR department has only released one number so far, 1.2 million for game one of the Kings-Blues series. I think its safe to say every game since has averaged under a million viewers.

Oh Baby… I’ve read lots of comments this year about the quality, or lack-there-of, of CBC’s legendary broadcaster Bob Cole. Cole takes the heat for hid downhill slide, he is 78 years old now, every spring. This year more have spoken up though. Many viewers are upset with CBC using Cole instead of Mark Lee or Dean Brown. Many cite his inability to follow the play and identify players as reasons the public broadcaster should remove him from action.

I’ve always loved Cole, his voice is one of the best. He gives every playoff game a “big game” feel. Mike Emrick and Chris Cuthbert are really the only others who do that for me. However, his time to step aside as CBC’s #2 commentator is coming soon. He should continue doing regional games and even a first round playoff series. However, I think Mark Lee has improved enough to become CBC’s number two. I’d also consider using Dean Brown and Garry Galley as the #3 team, if I was CBC. Dropping Cole and Millen to #4.

It is worth remembering that HNIC doesn’t always give into public pressure. Case in point: Don Cherry.

As far as Cole and Garry getting the nod over Lee and Weekes, it is almost certainly contractual. So unless CBC wants to fire Cole, they are probably stuck with the current arrangement. I would like to see Weeks move into Glenn Healy’s position though. Healy fits better in any role where Canadians don’t actually have to hear him say “Karlsson is the straw that stirs the Senators drink” week after week.

Other commentators… Of course Cole isn’t the only one taking flack online. It seems every commentator has their haters, as is the nature of the job, I guess. In the comment section of a recent The Globe article every commentator from Chris Cuthbert to Mike Emrick to Pierre McGuire gets bashed by at least one reader. The shit these guys have to put up with in the 21st century with social media is amazing. Especially considering they are (mostly) all great professionals, great guys and the best at what they do. Everyone has their likes and dislikes, but before you send them a Twitter comment, remember that.

Studio analysts… Kudos to CBC for bringing in NHL head coaches Bruce Boudreau and Kirk Muller as guest studio analysts. Boudreau in particular is a breath of fresh air to CBC’s stale studio show. Nobody knows the Capitals players like he does. I’ll admit to not watching every Coach’s Corner so far, but from what I’ve seen Don Cherry has been right more often than not. I can’t believe I’m actually saying that. CBC should also strongly consider using Tim Wharnsby on The Hotstove next season. He made a guest appearance on Sunday and was, well, better than Healy or Francis.

NHL Conference Finals… TSN will most certainly show games 1-3 of the Western Conference Final. When it begins is still to-be-confirmed. The general sense is if both eastern series wrap up by tomorrow night, it will start Friday, with HNIC getting game 1 of the East Final on Saturday. If not, it might wait until Sunday. CBC will almost certainly either have a game 7 or game 1 on Saturday night though.

If the Kings, Lakers and Clippers continue to play well, the scheduling committees at their respective leagues are going to have headaches. During the scheduled time of the Stanley Cup Final, and NBA Conference Finals, Val Halen, LMAFO and Nickelback are all scheduled to play Staples Center. Yikes.

NBA playoffs… Speaking of under-the-radar, you’d seek out NBA highlights to find them on TSN or Sportsnet. As least with TSN down to only 3 NHL games left, many NBA games will air on TSN, not TSN2, now.

Manchester Derby… Yes it was over a week ago, but ESPN’s coverage of the Manchester Derby was fantastic. Ian Darke proved he is one of the best soccer commentators in the world and Steve McManaman hid any anti-Manchester United bias well. Certainly better than ex-Manchester City player Niall Quinn did on Sky. ESPN’s soccer coverage is among the best things they do.

EURO 2012… No word yet on what commentary feed TSN will use for EURO 2012. I’m hoping for ESPN, who are using Darke, former Champions League/current Scottish Premier League commentator Derek Rae and MLS commentator Adrian Healey. There isn’t a better line-up of commentators in the world for this event, including BBC and ITV in Britain.

Premier League week 38…. I’ve heard a lot of complaints that TSN and Sportsnet are only showing four live Premiership matches this Sunday. Most in Britain would love to have four games on live. I’ll have more on the final day of the Premier League, La Liga and Serie A seasons later this week.

18 thoughts on “NHL Playoff Coverage Up in Round 1; Under the Radar in Round 2

  1. Honestly, the only reasons Cole bothers me (and these days he *really* bothers me) is that he gets the names wrong and misses penalties and other crucial elements of the play. I meant, really, that’s the basic requirement you ask for from a PxP guy.

    Even as a Sens fan, I don’t care if he’s a bit of a Leaf homer (although that’s less evident now that he works Leaf games way less often) – what I care about knowing who is doing what. And Cole fails at giving me that information. If the game is going on and I get up to walk into another room, I can’t depend on his call to tell me what’s happening. That’s the bottom line.

    • I love Cole he has being a fantastic commentator since young love him! Always will remember those child hood hockey night in Canada days, and I watch playoffs and enjoy all commentators usually, Chris Cuthbert is a favorite for me on TSN, but about Cole I noticed he mixes names up a few times and idk about penalties but apparently he has done it alot from listening to you guys, alittle surprised he is old and might not see or keep up as fast as he used to but there’s other guys on CBC that do a great job!

  2. It has come to the point for me that I have turned to radio broadcast to go with the HD picture on TV. As a lifetime Flyer fan and a Senator follower it has been simply awful for me, Cole did the Ott series and than was given the Flyer/Devils. He is just terrible, forgetting players names constantly, missing whistles and I honestly wonders if he even listens to who he is working with, he constantly interups. So I have enjoyed the team 1200 and the Comcast radio network. Please CBC, give him an option to bow out gracefully next year and if he refuses then fire him, he is 20 years past his prime.

  3. Exactly WhitehorseJosh! You here bad commentators from time to time, but failing at the basic fundamentals of calling a game is just ridiculous. The final straw for me, was in a game last week sometime when he confused two players with completely different skin colours.

    • For me, it was hearing, time after time, Cole miss penalties. I could see the ref’s hand in the air, in some cases after the whistle had blown, I could even see the player skating with the ref towards the box, and at the very same moment, Cole was prattling on about how “hopefully soon we’ll find out what this stoppage was for”. And then Galley or Healy would have to jump in and explain what was going on.

      Like Josh (the other Josh, the one who maintains this blog), I love Cole’s voice, and hearing it takes me back to my childhood. But in 2012 he just can’t keep up with the play. It’s embarrassing. I feel bad for the guy, but frankly this is a tough business and he should know when it’s time to get out. Or at least scale back.

      • I agree. The penalties is the one thing that actually bothers me. If he messes up a name, and I know he does, then okay. I can see for myself who the player is.

        But for penalties I’ve heard the conversation between he and Galley go like this so many times this year.

        Cole: “… Alfredsson dumps it into the zone… and wait, there’s a whistle. I don’t what that could be for? Was the puck touched with a high stick?”

        Galley: “I think it was a penalty on Ottawa, Bob. They called Phillips for interference behind the play.”

        Cole: “Well, we’ll figure out what that whistle is for during the commercial break. You’re watching the Stanley Cup Playoffs.”

        Although, to be fair, I think it was earlier in the NJ-PHI series where Cole caught a penalty that Galley missed.

        • Maybe I’m playing armchair psychologist a bit too much here, but I can remember back to a time when the analysts’ role was much more clearly delineated from the PxP man’s role, and I think Cole misses those days.

          What I mean is, Dick Irvin would never have jumped in to correct Danny Gallivan on the air like that, and I think that’s how Cole looks at his job. It almost seems like he gets a bit resentful of the guy sitting next to him if that guy jumps in to correct anything. As though viewers should be waiting through the commercial break for very basic information.

          • Cole definitely comes from the older school of announcers where the play-by-play man would talk during the play and it was the analyst/colour guy’s turn to speak during the stoppages. Galley is a younger guy who probably feels inclined to interject some analysis while the play is on. Guys like Craig Simpson and Pierre McGuire seem to have a habit I find for cutting in with comments while the play is on. I like Simpson’s analysis but have found it annoying at times when he cuts Hughson off in mid-sentence.
            You mention Dick Irvin, I recall reading one of his stories where he says in his first few years in the booth before they went to the headset mics, there was only one handheld mic so the only time Dick got to speak was when Danny invited him to say something by passing him the mic. Irvin was more of a traditional colour man who’s job was more of a sidekick before they started bringing in ex-players and coaches as analysts like they all are now.

  4. I love commentators there are quite a few I enjoy and I don’t really mind any at all, maybe a few american NHL teams commentators who didnt make playoffs but never mind that, I like most, Cole has being a legend for commentating for CBC, always enjoy hearing his voice yelling “scores”! Just great! I mean there’s so much I want to say! TSN and CBC both do a great Job for playoffs and season, I love seeing CBC there’s so much hype and history to it, always remember as a kid Watching it, more then tsn probably. But ya from Ron and Don being great, and all the panel and tsn has it’s greats too with james duthie and bob Mackenzie and whoever, Pierre McGuire was funny too, I don’t know what to all say besides I love them both. For sportsnet I like soccer central main guys, I love the english commentators for all soccer games and stuff

    • I accidentally send that in without sending, I love hockey sucks my teams aren’t in playoffs this year(jets and leafs) and I really think round 1 playoffs was insane and so exciting! It sucks both Canadian teams out that does make it less exciting for Canada when we all watch Canadian teams in I enjoy following it still but it be better if round 2 had some Canadian teams or whatever but ya, and I could say alot more about canadian sports and commentators I enjoy stuff I love Watching good sports hd and stuff, I could say alot more but I always seem to mumble stuff up

  5. I’m just glad for the odd occasion when NBC puts a game on and I can listen to Mike Emrick. For mine, easily the best in the business.

    As for the Staples Center conflicts, they are more than capable of handling two events in a day. So they could always have a NBA/NHL game in the afternoon and a NBA/NHL/concert at night. I’m sure they would rather not, but it’s a possibility depending on how far the three teams go.

    • I think Emrick’s a consummate pro, but his voice doesn’t do it for me. Give me Emrick’s brain with Hughson or Cole’s vocal chords, and I think we’d have a winner!

      • Agreed. I like Emrick, but the problem is when he, Edzo and Pierre all do a game there are too many voices. Just him and Pierre might be my favourite pair. I’ve mostly watched NBC’s Stanley Cup Finals coverage the past couple seasons because Emrick and Pierre are better than Hughson and Healy, for me at least. Of course CBC’s pre-game show beats the infomercials NBC Detroit shows at 7:30 on Saturday evenings though, haha.

    • Would work on the weekend, but certainly not on week days. Between that and NBC wanting to control the schedule, it could end up with a strange schedule.

  6. Yeah I really noticed that Bob Cole went long stretches in the first round rarely identifying players by name. I’ve heard many commentators say that Madison Square Garden has perhaps the worst broadcast booth location in the NHL though. But Cole definitely sounds out of gas at this point in the second round.
    I don’t consider Mark Lee worthy of the number 2 seat. I find he doesn’t know how to flow his voice with the play of the game… he’ll be monotonely describing the play and then “OH A HUGE HIT BY…..” As for Dean Brown, I like him when he’s not doing the Sens games but he’s only been an HNIC part-timer over the years so I’m not sure he’s paid his dues yet. And would he eventually have to leave his gig with the Sens for an increased HNIC role like Hughson ended up doing with the Canucks?
    HNIC definitely needs more options going forward if they retain the broadcast contract in the next deal. Especially with up to 5 games now airing on many Saturdays with the return of Winnipeg.

  7. I think Dean Brown should be behind Jim Hughson. Bob Cole is done. It is nice to have the NBC option.

  8. If Dean Brown were to call only west coast 10 pm et games for Hockey Night In Canada and make him the #2 pxp guy… that’s assuming the CBC retains the rights to broadcast NHL games starting with the 2014-2015 season, I don’t necessarily think that he would have to give up his job calling Senators games for Sportsnet & Team 1200. When Jim Hughson joined CBC’s broadcast team for the 2005-2006 season, I’m pretty sure that he was still calling Canucks games for Sportsnet. Now if Brown were to call a mix of 7 pm & 10 pm games on a regular basis, then I would think he would have to give up calling Senators games for SN & Team 1200.

    • Not sure what you’re saying here. What difference does it make if he’s doing all 10pm ET games ror some in each timeslot? Chances are Brown’s next role at CBC is to simply Bob Cole calling Habs games on Saturday. He could certainly stay on at Sportsnet.

      Not sure why CBC would want to send him out west when Lee/Weekes already have that position.

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