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.

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Ron MacLean Compares 9/11 and Hockey; Apologizes

“It’s New York and Washington. The economic and political engines of America. United in the birth of the country; they were also linked in tragedy. They were the twin targets of the coordinated attacks on 9/11 and it’s crazy to compare what the emergency responders did during that time, but a spirit has to start somewhere… You can’t help but be struck by the players and how they’ve played these games. They are like police officers, they are like firefighters. You can’t fight fire with ego.”

Those were the words Ron MacLean presented as Hockey Night in Canada came on the air for game 6 last night in Washington. My only question is, why? Why even bring up 9/11. We all know what happened 11 years ago, but it really has no relevance for the hockey game. And comparing 40 hockey players to those who risked (and in some cases gave) their lives to save others just seems stupid and pointless.

I think the bigger problem for MacLean is he tries too hard. It seems he’s always trying to come up with the big pun. Or the big opening for the big game. How about a couple stats on the series? Maybe some history from the last time New York was up 3-2 on the Caps in the playoffs? If he didn’t try so hard for the big comparisons and the big puns he would be a better host.

Usually it is MacLean’s Coach’s Corner sidekick Don Cherry who has to issue apologies. Today it was MacLean and the CBC Communications team who had to. Here is their release.

As Hockey Night In Canada went to air for last night’s game between Washington and New York, in his opening remarks, Ron MacLean described the on-going battle between the two teams and made reference to the respective cities, both of which were 9/11 targets.

Ron and CBC would like to clarify what may have been misunderstood by his comments.

“Washington and New York. The two cities united by the tragedy of 9/11. I, like everyone on the planet in his or her lifetime, saw beyond the horror, the single greatest testament to the strength of the human spirit in the efforts of the first responders”, says Ron Maclean.

“We never know if we’ll have that spirit. The bravery, the resilience. As I made clear, the hockey games in no way compare. However Sports has proven a worthy training ground in nurturing the qualities which beget that spirit. To say he plays like a firefighter or a policeman would instantly conjure the traits an athlete most desires, especially in New York and Washington. There could be no higher praise of a player, no greater choice of a role model .

But as I said of first responders, ‘Our worst day is their everyday’. They stand alone.”

12th Hockey Day in Canada: Saturday on CBC

This Saturday CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada will present coverage of the 12th edition of Hockey Day in Canada, a celebration of Canada’s game. Summerside, Price Edward Island, the hometown of NHL players Steve Ott, Daryl Boyce and former NHL GM Doug MacLean, will serve as the host city.

This is the first time Prince Edward Island has hosted Hockey Day, and it is the 3rd time Hockey Day has visited the Maritimes. The Northwest Territories is now the only province/territory that has never hosted Hockey Day in Canada.

Here is the CBC’s press release with more information on their broadcast.

SCOTIABANK HOCKEY DAY IN CANADA journeys across the Confederation Bridge to bring its nationwide broadcast to Prince Edward Island for the first time, on Saturday, Feb. 11, beginning at 12 noon ET as Ron MacLean hosts live from a specially built outdoor rink in Summerside, P.E.I. MacLean will be joined by Don Cherry for Coach’s Corner, with fellow CBC stars and hosts P.J. Stock, Cassie Campbell-Pascall and Dick Irvin. The NHL Alumni will also have a strong presence with Bryan Trottier, Lanny McDonald, Wendel Clark, Doug MacLean, Mark Napier, Stéphane Richer, Tim Taylor and Gerrard Gallant, along with Olympian Tessa Bonhomme.

The 2012 edition of SCOTIABANK HOCKEY DAY IN CANADA celebrates “Heroes”—from childhood idols to the organizers who make the game possible on and off the ice, to the motivators and role models who are part of the fabric of hockey. The program features a wide range of inspirational stories, from Kelly Hrudey’s profile of a 23-year-old St. Albert man who continues to play hockey while waiting for a heart transplant, to Mark Lee’s story about 90-year-old Bert Keany Sr. of Sudbury, Ont., the oldest PA announcer in the country. Another feature profiles 16-year-old hockey phenom Nathan McKinnon, the Cole Harbor star who’s playing in the shadow of Sidney Crosby, while another feature looks into the way a small island like P.E.I. has produced so many outstanding players, from Forbes Kennedy to Brad Richards.

In addition to the P.E.I. broadcasts from Summerside and Charlottetown, satellite locations will also be established in Windsor, N.S., Verdun, Que., Thunder Bay, Ont., Winnipeg, Man., Prince Albert, Sask. and Richmond, B.C. for a host of community events also taking place across the country to mark SCOTIABANK HOCKEY DAY IN CANADA:

Windsor, N.S. – CBC News’ Colleen Jones hosts the “Long Pond Heritage Classic” featuring “Original Six” teams playing a day-long tournament to raise money for the Hockey History.

Verdun, Que. – Host Andie Bennett joins the Montreal Canadiens organization for a skate drive to provide rinks with loaner skates.

Thunder Bay, Ont. – CBC Sports’ Scott Russell covers a special equipment donation as the NHLPA’s Goals and Dreams initiative and the Staal family come together to give back to minor hockey.

Winnipeg, Man. – A special family-focused SCOTIABANK HOCKEY DAY IN CANADA event live from The Forks hosted by Mitch Peacock.

Prince Albert, Sask. – Mark Connolly hosts coverage of a Pee-Wee Tournament with 16 teams from across the province.

Richmond, B.C. – Celebrities including Michael Bublé, Trevor Linden and other Canucks alumni take part in a ball hockey tournament at the Richmond Olympic Oval, hosted by Karin Larsen.

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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.

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