Is there any better weekend for sports than U.S. Memorial Day weekend? Sure, we had our long weekend last week, but nothing can compare to the sports events in America (and around the world) this weekend. Here are some quick thoughts/reminders on what’s on.
- Bigger than anything else, for me at least, is the Memorial Cup. The local Saint John Sea Dogs are playing hosts Shawinigan in the semifinal tonight (7pm ET, Sportsnet). The winner gets a birth in the final Sunday night against London (also 7pm ET, Sportsnet). The Sea Dogs are the defending champions, while the Knights are of the most decorated franchises in CHL history. I’ve really enjoyed Sportsnet’s rejuvenated coverage of junior hockey this season. The weekly Friday Night Hockey broadcast has a 90s-esque Hockey Night in Canada feel. It is THE place to see junior hockey on a weekly basis, much like Hockey Night was for the NHL before TSN and Sportsnet began showing games every night. I’ll have more on this next week.
- While I prefer the Memorial Cup, the highest ratings earner this weekend will surely be game 6 (and possibly 7) of the Eastern Conference Final between New Jersey and the Rangers. Game 6 goes tonight (8pm ET, CBC). I haven’t seen ratings for game 5 yet, but game 4 hit 1.42 million viewers Monday night. Season finales (House, Dancing with the Stars and American Idol this week) and the lack of Canadian teams have resulted in low Conference Finals ratings for CBC. Game 5 of the East Final last year (Boston vs. Tampa Bay) averaged 2.29 million viewers on CBC.
- FOX’s Saturday Baseball heads to primetime for the second straight week this Saturday. Sportsnet One will show Tampa Bay @ Boston (commentators: Dick Stockton and Brian Anderson). This game is also on many of the Eastern Fox stations available in Canada, including Boston, Buffalo and Rochester. Those with FOX stations from Seattle and Spokane will get Anaheim @ Seattle (commentators: Victor Rojas and Eric Byrnes). I like Fox showing primetime Saturday baseball in May and June. It coincides nicely with the end of Saturday night NHL hockey.
- Going head-to-head with FOX baseball on Saturday night is ABC’s coverage of game 7 of an NBA playoff series between the Celtics and 76ers (8pm, ABC). The NBA’s Conference Finals begin on Sunday as the Thunder visit the Spurs (8:30pm, TSN).
- The Roland Garros Tournament starts Sunday on TSN2. The men’s final will air on CTV Two to protect the start of the Canadian Grand Prix on TSN. TSN will use a mix of ESPN, international feed and NBC coverage.
- A big weekend in racing. The crown jewel of Formula 1, the Monaco Grand Prix starts off a long Sunday for race fans (7:55am ET, TSN); then its the 96th running of the Indianapolis 500, which will feature tributes to Dan Wheldon (11am, ABC); as usual, NASCAR’s longest race, The Coca-Cola 600 caps off the evening from Charlotte (5:30pm ET, FOX).
- The Indian Premier League championship match is Sunday morning (10am, Sportsnet) as Kolkata faces Chennai. While the league’s world television ratings have fallen in 2012, coverage in Canada has increased vastly. Just last season the final was only available on PPV. I am interested to see if the league, which goes against all traditions of cricket, is sustainable long-term. Especially now that it has competition from other countries, such as Australia’s Big Bash League. There is also talk of a potential American league, which could start as early as next year. Many in traditional cricket markets think Twenty20 is perfect for American television, due to its similarities to baseball.
- Golf even has a couple of big events this weekend. In Europe there is the British PGA Championship, the second largest event on the continent (after the Open Championship). England’s James Morrison is the surprise leader through two rounds (-12). Luke Donald, Alvaro Quiros and Juston Rose aren’t far behind though. Golf Channel has the final two rounds on Saturday and Sunday. This side of the Atlantic there is the Senior PGA Championship. I’d argue that outside of the majors and the very top PGA Tour events, the Senior majors still have the most attraction to the average sports fan.