The “New” HNIC Needs a Few More Adjustments

CBC is under-using Andi Petrillo in her new role at the "iDesk"

CBC is under-using Andi Petrillo in her new role at the “iDesk”

CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada began its 60th season on Saturday with record ratings. There were a number of changes to CBC’s broadcasts, especially to the studio programming and the “Prime West” game. While some of CBC’s changes were effective, others need tweaking. And still others made no sense whatsoever. And, of course, it wouldn’t be the first weekend of a new NHL season without Don Cherry analysis on the Brian Burke firing (remember when Burke tried to have Cherry fired?).

I’ll start with the good. I think Kevin Weekes and Glenn Healy are both far more effective in studio than they are on game broadcasts. Weekes is especially good as the slower pace of studio talk fits his delivery better. Healy’s better if only because I’d rather hear him for 10 minutes than 60+. In fact I actually thought he was kind of funny Saturday night, more like his pre-NHLPA self. I also think CBC giving Rick Ball the “Prime West” game was a great choice. He isn’t Cuthbert or Hughson, but he is far better than Lee and should grow into the spot fine. He is also a great candidate to lead CBC’s CFL coverage, should they ever get those broadcast rights again.

The only problem about Weekes and Healy in the studio is that Kelly Hrudey is also a better studio analyst. He really seemed out of his element doing colour commentary on Saturday night. He constantly stumbled over sentences and was just too slow to keep up with the pace of the game. Hrudey is at his best when he’s in the studio with a telestrator breaking down plays. This presents the obvious problem for CBC, they have too many goalies who all excel at the same thing.

So how do they fix that problem? Well most importantly there’s still plenty of time for Hrudey to adjust to his new role. If he doesn’t, I’d suggest moving him back to the studio with Weekes. CBC could also try putting Hrudey between the benches.If all else fails, then I’d love to see Daryl Reaugh back at CBC working the late game with Ball. Of course that would also depend on Reaugh’s commitment to do local Dallas Stars game on Fox Sports.

Luckily for Hrudey, it isn’t him everyone will remember Saturday HNIC season opener for. PJ Stock drew the ire of most of Twitter on Saturday night for his studio analysis. The “best” of Stock’s lines? “Take option ‘A’ or option ‘B’. [Toronto] didn’t beat Jack the Giant Killer in Montreal.” If you can figure that one out, then good on ya. And yes, I realize it’s a metaphor to the story, but it’s also a metaphor that makes little sense.

Stock also talked in circles during the Hotstove when he got confused about P.K. Subban’s contract negotiations. Or as Stock put it, “With him in the lineup they finished 15th, without him they can’t finish any worse.”  Well, duh, unless the NHL adds a 16th team to the Eastern Conference the Habs could skate a team of any 18 guys they like and not finish any worse. Stock also said he sells, which is great, but it’s not like this is Nashville or Phoenix. The Canadiens selling tickets and merchandise isn’t dependent on P.K. Subban. For CBC’s studio programming to improve, Stock needs to go.

Ron MacLean, Kevin Weekes and Elliotte Friedman followed up Stock’s “analysis” with some insight, rebuttal and facts, which I thought was great. Healy also put Stock in his place on the NHL lockout, where Stock thought the players did good to get to 50% HRR. Did anyone really believe the players would get less than a 50/50 split on HRR? Stock went on to talk over Healy.

Getting rid of Stock would also help improve CBC’s Hotstove, which was once the best sports studio programming on TV anywhere in North America. Of course that was also before the Twitter age (Satellite Hotstove, anyone?) when Saturday night was the time to get the latest trade rumours. The Hotstove, as it originally was, may not work anymore because of Twitter and 24/7 insider coverage on TSN with McKenzie and Dreger. But regardless, I’m not alone (see other media writers). If CBC is insistent on using the current format, then removing Stock and replacing him with Tim Wharnsby would probably do it for me. At least Weekes and Healy have their facts straight. Friedman needs more speaking time.

And then there were two things that were just odd about CBC’s broadcast on Saturday. The first was Andi Petrillo. Despite hosting the “iDesk” segment, there was no desk whatsoever. And the camera angles the CBC choose to use didn’t really help their case. Like her predecessors at the iDesk (Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek), CBC is wasting her talent on a useless segment. There is nothing worse than reading Tweets on-air, and it is becoming more common on every network. CBC should use her as the rinkside reporter for the afternoon game (when there is one). That would account for about 1/3 of their broadcasts this season. It’s great that she’s the first female studio host for HNIC, but what’s not great is the way they are using her.

The other oddity of CBC’s coverage was the second Don Cherry segment, at the first intermission of the Ducks @ Canucks game. It seems CBC has removed Cherry’s post-Leafs game segment for this one, which is odd in itself. What is even more odd is the arrangement. Ron MacLean sits down, while Don Cherry stands up awkwardly towering over MacLean. It was nice to see Cherry talk about teams outside the Northeast Division for once though.

Hockey Night in Canada will originate live from Calgary next Saturday. MacLean and Cherry will both be there. I’m not sure about the rest of CBC’s studio crew. Hockey Night will visit all seven Canadian cities this season.

Fact Checking… I thought Cherry was mostly on point with his Brian Burke analysis. Usually his line “Instead of getting Canadians he got US college guys and Finns and Swedes” would draw a lot of attention. Not so because of the rest of CBC’s studio programming. Anyone want to guess how many “Finns and Swedes” the Leafs have? Two, one from each country. They also have a, dare I say it, Russian.

HockeyCentral… Speaking of studio programming, Sportsnet’s HockeyCentral needs more Jeff Marek and Billy Jaffe. They two hosted the first HockeyCentral Tonight of the season on Monday and were excellent together. Jaffe never played in the NHL, he played college hockey at Michigan, but he sees the game brilliantly. His comparison of Patrick Kane’s goal on Saturday and Kyle Turris’ goal last night was great insight.

Sportsnet Scorebug… Sportsnet’s new hockey scorebug is a huge upgrade over their old one. It is very similar to the one Leafs TV used last season and it is designed by a Canadian.

Major Changes at Hockey Night in Canada

B.C. Lions radio play-by-play Rick Ball is the new voice of CBC's late Saturday games

B.C. Lions radio play-by-play Rick Ball is the new voice of CBC’s late Saturday games

Hockey Night in Canada is finally getting a much-needed makeover. Rick Ball and Kelly Hrudey will takeover calling the main 7:00pm Pacific/10:00pm Eastern game on many weeks this season. Scott Oake will continue to report rinkside and host After Hours for the second game of CBC’s doubleheader. Jim Hughson, Craig Simpson and Glenn Healy will continue to call the 7:00pm Eastern Toronto Maple Leafs broadcast most weeks. Bob Cole and Garry Galley will mostly do Canadiens and Senators games. CBC has demoted Mark Lee to Winnipeg Jets regional broadcasts, where he will work with Greg Millen. Dean Brown also remains with CBC to call selected games. CBC will only have four games twice this season, however, on Hockey Day in Canada and again on April 6. Kevin Weekes will also stay with Hockey Night in a new role.

In my opinion, it’s about time CBC made a change. Lee really brought down the quality of CBC’s western broadcasts. I’m not too familiar with Ball; however, I’ve heard good things about him from those in British Columbia. Hrudey’s new role will allow him to stay closer to home (he lives in Calgary). Usually during the playoffs Hrudey spends most of April and May in Toronto, away from his family.

I wonder if this might be the opportune time for CBC to move Bob Cole further aside. I’m a big a fan of Cole as anyone, I grew up with him, but if CBC really wants to promote Ball and Hrudey as the team of the future they should call a Conference Final. I don’t know if it will happen this year, but it seems that Ball is CBC’s secondary play-by-play commentator of the future.

CBC’s rinkside reporters will largely stay the same. Andi Petrillo, Elliotte Friedman, Scott Oake, David Amber and Cassie Campbell all return.

EDIT (1/17):  CBC has made all of this official now. Kevin Weekes is taking Kelly Hrudey’s old spot in CBC’s studio. Elliotte Friedman is now part of the main studio panel, while Andi Petrillo takes over the iDesk. Don Cherry will do Coach’s Corner at the end of the 1st intermission of both the early and late games.

CBC has also confirmed that Cole, Brown, Galley and Millen will split up regional games in the east, while Lee and Millen will do regional Jets games.

I’m not sure exactly what motivated CBC to switch Weekes and Hrudey; however, it is worth noting Weekes lives in Toronto and Hrudey lives in Calgary. Instead of having both travel across the country weekly, this makes more sense.

Stanley Cup Final 2012: Starts Wednesday on CBC, NBC and RDS

The 2012 Stanley Cup Final begins Wednesday May 30 in Newark, New Jersey. CBC and RDS will show all 7 games in Canada, while NBC will broadcast games 1 & 2 and 4 through 7. Here is CBC’s press release, then the schedule, followed by the NBC and RDS press releases after the break.

After three grueling playoff rounds comprised of 80 games in 45 days, 14 teams have been sent home empty handed. The Eastern Conference Champion New Jersey Devils and the Western Conference Champion Los Angeles Kings remain to do battle for hockey’s biggest prize in the 2012 Stanley Cup Final, exclusively on CBC’S HOCKEY NIGHT IN CANADA. Live coverage of the entire best-of-seven series is available on CBC-TV and streaming live at CBCSports.ca.

“The last month and a half of Stanley Cup Playoff action has been filled with unscripted drama and excitement and with the Kings and Devils facing off in the Final, we don’t expect that to change,” said Julie Bristow, CBC’s Executive Director of Studio and Unscripted Programming. “This is what hockey fans across Canada have been waiting for all year, the two best teams in this year’s playoffs going head to head for the Stanley Cup on hockey’s biggest stage – CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada.”

The action gets underway on CBC’S HOCKEY NIGHT IN CANADA with Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday, May 30 at 8 p.m. ET when Jonathan Quick, Dustin Brown and the rest of the Kings visit the Prudential Center to take on Martin Brodeur, Zach Parise and the Devils. Jim Hughson provides play-by-play for the Final alongside analyst Craig Simpson who joins him in the broadcast booth, while Glenn Healy provides additional analysis from between the benches with Scott Oake and Elliotte Friedman reporting from rinkside.

Ron MacLean hosts CBC’S HOCKEY NIGHT IN CANADA’s coverage of the 2012 Stanley Cup Final along with Kelly Hrudey and P.J. Stock, providing insight and analysis for each game. Don Cherry and Coach’s Corner returns in the first intermission while the second intermission features the Hot Stove and Andi Petrillo at the Chevrolet I-Desk. Scotiabank Hockey Tonight precedes Games 1 and 2 and Games 5 through 7 if necessary.

“The Stanley Cup Final on Hockey Night in Canada is a tradition that has been bringing Canadians together for the last 59 years,” said Trevor Pilling, Head of Programming, CBC Sports and Hockey Night in Canada. “We pride ourselves on bringing the fans closer to the action and deeper into the stories every night as we live the excitement of the game together from across the country.”

On Sunday, June 3 at 9 p.m. local (9:30 p.m. NDT), CBC will air a behind-the-scenes look at this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs with Inside the Cup. The special is an authentic behind the scenes look into what the two conference champions have endured on the road to the cup and features commentary captured by microphones worn by players during the first three rounds of the Playoffs. Inside the Cup offers a unique look into the passion and intensity players feel as they battle for a chance to raise the Stanley Cup.

With every game broadcast also streaming live online at cbcsports.ca, viewers on the go can remain connected to the action. Download the Hockey Night in Canada mobile app for instant access to news, analysis and game highlights and enjoy the ultimate “second screen” experience, Hockey Night Playoff Pulse, as it captures the heartbeat of a nation through in-game polls, pools and near-live access to the best three minutes from every game.

Hockey Night in Canada Radio on SiriusXM hosted Gord Stellick continues Monday through Friday from 3-6 p.m. ET on channel 157. Show podcasts are also available for download from the iTunes Store.

Hockey Night in Canada Punjabi presented by Chevrolet continues with Harnarayan Singh handling play-by-play duties for the Stanley Cup Final. The Punjabi broadcasts will be available on Rogers Cable channel 799, Shaw Digital TV channel 328, Shaw Direct classic channel 480 and advanced channel 429, TELUS Optik TV channel 131 and on Bell TV and FIBE TV channel 232 and will also be streamed live and on-demand on CBCSports.ca.

Here is the 2012 Stanley Cup Final schedule. All times are Eastern.

(E6) New Jersey Devils vs. (W8) Los Angeles Kings
Game 1 – Wednesday 5/30 at 8:00pm ET on CBC*, NBC, RDS
Game 2 – Saturday 6/2 at 8:00pm ET on CBC*, NBC, RDS
Game 3 – Monday 6/4 at 8:00pm ET on CBC, RDS
Game 4 – Wednesday 6/6 at 8:00pm ET on CBC, RDS
Game 5 – Saturday 6/9 at 8:00pm ET on CBC*, NBC, RDS
Game 6 – Monday 6/11 at 8:00pm ET on CBC*, NBC, RDS
Game 7 – Wednesday 6/13 at 8:00pm ET on CBC*, NBC, RDS

*A 30 minute Hockey Tonight pregame show will air at 7:3opm ET on CBC before these games.

TSN will also show a 1-hour edition of That’s Hockey before all weekday Stanley Cup Final games. That’s Hockey 2 Nite will follow every game on TSN2.

Continue reading

CBC, TSN and Sportsnet Have NHL All Star Weekend Covered

This weekend is NHL All Star Weekend 2012 in Ottawa. While I don’t really enjoy watching much of it (except for the Skills Competition), the Canadian sports networks are giving it their full attention. CBC, TSN and Sportsnet have all issued press releases detailing their coverage of All Star Weekend. CBC has the Skills Competition and the game itself, TSN has the All Star Draft and Media Day. Sportsnet doesn’t have coverage of any events, but is broadcasting live from the Rideau Canal and has a junior hockey game featuring the 67s on Friday.

Continue after the break for all three press releases.

Continue reading