Busy Weekend in Sports

This weekend is probably one of the busiest of the year in sports. There is plenty going on, so here is a quick rundown by sport.

Formula One… The first race of the season, the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne, is early Sunday morning/late Saturday night at 1:55am ET/10:55pm Pacific. Formula One will race a 19-race calendar this season after the New Jersey race was postponed until 2014 and wasn’t replaced. Otherwise, the 2013 calendar is more of the same. In fact it’s the exact same aside from the dropping of the European Grand Prix in Valencia (the Spanish Grand Prix will now alternate between Valencia and Barcelona). Driver changes this year include Sergio Perez moving to McLaren replacing Lewis Hamilton, who is now at Mercedes. For more on TSN and NBC’s Formula One broadcast plans, see my article from earlier in the week.

World Women’s Curling… The 2013 event begins Saturday in Riga, Latvia. The field is stacked, perhaps even deeper than the Scotties field, I’d argue. Canada’s Rachel Homan opens against Scotland’s Eve Muirhead (Saturday 1pm ET, TSN). The top contenders for playoff sports include (World Curling Tour rankings): Homan (5th), Muirhead (6th), European Champions Anna Siderova of Russia (7th), Sweden’s Margaretha Sigfridsson (9th), Switzerland’s Silvana Tirinzoni (11th), Erika Brown of the US (21st), China’s Bingyu Wang (23rd) and Denmark’s Lene Nielsen (24th). That’s 8 of the 12 teams in the field ranked inside the top 25 in the world. The Scotties, by comparison, had half that number. The host Latvian team is in tough; their last appearance at the Worlds was 2010, where they went 1-10.

CIS Hockey… The CIS Men’s Hockey University Cup is in Saskatoon this weekend. Sportsnet will have live coverage of two round robin games on Saturday, as well as the final on Sunday. In the first game St. Mary’s [0-1] is in desperate need of a win against Waterloo [1-0] (Saturday 3:30pm ET, Sportsnet). The second semifinal pits UNB and UQTR in a game where the winner automatically goes to Sunday’s final (Saturday 10pm ET, Sportsnet). The final is Sunday at 7:30pm ET on Sportsnet ONE. Of note, in +/- rating, UNB has 8 of the top 9 players in Atlantic Canada. Impressive.

College Hoops… March Madness officially kicks-off next Thursday; however, its easy to argue the madness has already begun with conference championships this weekend. Just ask anyone who say Illinois beat Minnesota on a buzzer beater Thursday afternoon (a game called by Gus Johnson, no less). TSN is showing the final Big East Tournament final from MSG as (19) Syracuse takes on (4) Louisville Saturday night at 8:30pm ET. Also tomorrow (8) Michigan State plays (10) Ohio State in a Big Ten semifinal (4pm ET, CBS). The winner will possibly face (3) Indiana in the Big Ten final Sunday afternoon (3:30pm ET, CBS). Other conference finals include Conference-USA (Saturday 11:30am ET, CBS), the Mountain West (Saturday 6pm ET, CBS), Atlantic-10 (Sunday 1pm ET, CBS), ACC (Sunday 1pm ET, TV38), and SEC (Sunday 1pm ET, ABC). I’ll have more on CBS and TSN’s coverage of March Madness next week.

World Baseball Classic… Now that the U.S. is out, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico will play each other for the third time in a week Saturday afternoon in a pointless seeding game (1pm ET, SN1). Despite that the DR has already beat PR twice in a week, they will play again. The winner gets a day off and will play Holland Monday night. The loser has a quick turnaround and will play Japan Sunday night. Japan outscored their opponents 30-11 in three games in the second round. And any of their pitchers can pitch on regular rest.

In Case You Missed It: March 1, 2013

March has began, and with it have came programming plans for many of the big events this month. Here is a quick roundup of what’s happened in sports media this week.

The World Baseball Classic begins later tonight in Taichung and Fukouka. Sportsnet will broadcast all 39 games, beginning with Australia vs. Taiwan tonight at 11:30pm ET. 25 games will air exclusively on Sportsnet ONE. Canada’s three games will air on all four regional channels. The other 10 games will air on a mix of the two, due to scheduling conflicts with regional hockey. I may be wrong on this, but as I understand there is only one broadcast feed for the World Baseball Classic. MLB Network will produce games in the United States. MLB International will everywhere else. That means we will get two Americans calling the Canada-US game. For the first round Rich Waltz and Buck Martinez will call Group A games in Fukouka, JB Long and Joe Magrane will call Group B games in Taichung, and Gary Thorne and Jose Mota (my favourite team) will call Group C in San Juan. Matt Yallof and Jeff Nelson, and Matt Vasgersian and Jim Kaat will split Group D games in Arizona. Bob Costas will come in to call the final. Sportsnet will show all games in their entirety, except for two that are joined in progress this weekend. That’s better than in 2009 when the start of almost every game was cut off by Connected.

The 2013 Tim Hortons Brier begins tomorrow afternoon in Edmonton. TSN has more than 65 hours of live coverage of the most prestigous curling event in the world. Favourites include defending champ Glenn Howard, Jeff Stoughton, Kevin Martin, Brad Gushue and Brad Jacobs. Also take this as a sign of things to come, graphics-wise.

Sportsnet will broadcast the CIS Men’s Hockey Championship for a sixth straight year. The regional channels will show the final two pool play games on March 16, with the final on Sportsnet ONE on March 17. Alberta and Saskatchewan from Canada West, as well as UNB and St. Mary’s from the AUS have already qualified. The OUA also has two spots.

Sportsnet has officially announced their 2013 IndyCar Series coverage, as they enter their first year as the Canadian broadcaster. Sportsnet will show every race live, which I don’t think TSN ever did in all of their years covering the series. Sportsnet will have six races, including the two races in Toronto and the Indianapolis 500; Sportsnet ONE has nine; and Citytv has the two races in Detroit. Sportsnet will even have a studio crew anchored by Rob Faulds with analysts Paul Tracy and Bill Adam for four of the races. Todd Lewis will work as a pit reporter for those four races.

For those wondering about the Jays games airing on FX, there is a  reason for why those broadcasts are airing there. The decision to show them came well too late to make them Sportsnet productions. Plans are often made months in advance for any sports production. Rogers doesn’t want to show Jays games on Sportsnet that use the other teams’ feed, so they are marketing them as bonus games on FX. Of course it also can’t hurt as a promo tool for FX either.

Lastly, how about ratings this week? Sportsnet set a record for a Jays spring training game, while TSN had its highest NHL audience since the first game after the lockout in 2005.