I was watching TSN’s NHL lockout, er “Game On”, coverage yesterday and something occurred to me. None of the three analysts TSN had in New York City breaking the negotiation news were with the network last time there was a lockout five years ago. Darren Dreger worked for the competition, Sportsnet. Aaron Ward was playing for Ingolstadt in Germany (and would return to the NHL after the lockout). And most importantly, Pierre Lebrun was working for the Canadian Press, where he won Sports Media Canada’s Outstanding Sportswriting Award for his coverage of the lockout. TSN’s host in New York, Ryan Rishaug, had just joined the network’s hockey coverage as a rinkside reporter. They all came from different places, and in the end it was those four who gave TSN’s New York coverage the edge over Sportsnet. Without Lebrun and Kypreos, as in 2005, I have to wonder what kind of coverage TSN could have offered while Bob McKenzie was busy covering the World Juniors.
TSN’s two insiders, Ward, and Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos broke most of the major lockout resolution news. However, it was the Denver Post’s Adrian Dater who first broke the news that the two sides had agreed on a new CBA. TSN’s Lebrun and Ward had previously Tweeted that sources told them a deal was close. TSN’s insiders broke many of the details of the new agreement. Lebrun probably deserves an award again for his coverage. Sportsnet’s biggest get was Kypreos breaking the news that the cap next season is 64.3 million. Sportsnet beat TSN by about twenty minutes on that one.
Other than Kypreos, Sportsnet’s coverage had few redeeming qualities. PK Subban, who was in Sportsnet’s studio covering an AHL game earlier in the day, did give Sportsnet one advantage TSN didn’t have, a current player on the panel. It could have went horribly wrong for Sportsnet, but Subban was mostly unbiased. Doug MacLean and Kypreos probably gave viewers the closest imitation of the negotiation room as they fought back and forth over owners’ and players’ views through the 113 day lockout. It was a bit fun it first, but quickly grew tiresome. I actually thought Sportsnet’s coverage was at its best before the main crew arrived, when Ian Mendes and Michael Grange were the main on-site voices.
TSN’s post-all-night SportsCentre Lockout Extravaganza (a better name than “Game On”, honestly they could have done better with 113 days of planning) began in earnest at 7:00am ET as James Duthie and Bob McKenzie made the trek into the TSN studios on what was supposed to be a day to sleep in late after the World Juniors. Darren Pang and Mike Johnson joined. While TSN’s panel was more interesting than Sportsnet’s, which I swear was almost on my TV for 24 consecutive hours (not that I was always watching), it was still hardly interesting enough to capture my attention for more than a few minutes.
Apparently there are plenty that disagree with me though. According to a TSN press release, an average of 138, 000 viewers watched TSN’s coverage from 7:00am until 12:30pm on Sunday. Coverage peaked at 322, 000 viewers. Sportsnet also issued a press release today promoting even more coverage on Tuesday, I kid you not. The most telling part of Sportsnet’s press release was what wasn’t there. Ratings. I’d suspect that TSN’s coverage dominated Sportsnet’s again, as it usually does at the trade deadline and on July 1.
Game On… Within minutes of the new deal TSN had a flashy new graphic for their newly invented coverage. They called it “Game On”. It took Sportsnet a while to get caught up, but I guess TSN didn’t copyright the phrase as Sportsnet was using too (their’s sponsored by Molson) within a few hours. If there was a sign that TSN is the primary place for hockey news in Canada, Sportsnet following their lead on branding is as sure a sign as any.
Behind the Scenes… For a behind the scenes look at all the Canadian reporters covering the lockout in New York City, see this Grantland piece. It is maybe the most surreal sports media-related column you’ll ever read.
Schedules… The 2013 schedule will probably be released later this week. TV schedules should either come with it, or follow soon after. Many schedule fixtures are up in the air, including CBC’s Hockey Day in Canada coverage. Official ceremonies are cancelled; however, that doesn’t necessarily prevent CBC from offering a scaled back version of the day long festivities. Maybe even with four live games broadcast nationally featuring Canada’s seven teams. With teams playing 48 games in 13 weeks, more Canadian teams could have to play on Wednesday nights as well. TSN has timeslot-exclusive coverage on Wednesday, so I’m interested to see how an increase in Wednesday games will affect national and regional TV schedule.