Sunday, 1 December 2013

Chance To Be Hockey's Best

I have taken a few days to process the information of Rogers Communications' landmark deal to secure the rights to everything NHL in Canada. I was on holidays in the Lower-48 when the announcement was made, so I got little reaction from anyone down in the USofA as the announcement barely rippled the water down there. However, it seemed as though the world was coming to an end for some, and others saw nothing but an unlimited horizon. The twelve-year deal is unique, though, because it could allow the best of the best hockey people in this country to work together, forming hockey's ultimate broadcasting team. Let me explain.

It is clear that there are some great play-by-play guys on the air. CBC's Jim Hughson has been doing hockey play-by-play for years, and he's developed into one of the game's best. TSN's Gord Miller and Chris Cuthbert are excellent play-by-play guys in their own rights, but they do more than just hockey as both men have done CFL games for TSN and Miller is a fixture at the World Junior Championships. It's fairly clear that Hockey Night in Canada will retain Hughson in their deal, so there may be an opportunity for one of Miller or Cuthbert to jump ship.

The question is: would they? Honestly, if I'm Chris Cuthbert, there might be more opportunity to call hockey games, but I'd lose out on CFL games. With Miller, he'd get all the NHL games he could handle, but he'd miss out on both the CFL and World Junior Championships. Cuthbert has worked with CBC before, though, so he knows the system, and with Sportsnet calling the shots he could see more hockey than he has ever seen before. The problem is all the extras that come with the TSN work, so Sportsnet will have to guarantee Cuthbert work right through the playoffs if they want him to jump. Honestly, I'd love to see Cuthbert back. His calls on some of the Edmonton Oilers games when they were battling Dallas were legendary.

Let's book Hughson as the lead play-by-play man on CBC, and Cuthbert takes the reins on Sportsnet. From there, we could see all sorts of changes. Joe Bowen should remain the Toronto play-by-play guy. I know there will be some who demand Bob Cole, but Bowen is fantastic as the Leafs' guy. His "Holy Mackinaw" calls are the stuff of legend. Mark Lee does a pretty solid job in Montreal, so I'd keep him where he is as well as part of the CBC broadcast team. So we'll run this down easily here:
  • SN EAST/ONTARIO - Joe Bowen.
  • MONTREAL/OTTAWA - Mark Lee on CBC only.
  • VANCOUVER - Jim Hughson on CBC only.
  • SPORTSNET PACIFIC/WEST - Chris Cuthbert.
  • SPORTSNET WEST - Kevin Quinn on Sportsnet.
  • ALTERNATE - RJ Broadhead on Sportsnet.
Sportsnet has stated that TVA will cover Montreal regional broadcasts, so there shouldn't be any sort of overlap between games. Montreal games would always be a regional broadcast if Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal play on the same Saturday night. If there is a Saturday night where Toronto wasn't playing, but both Ottawa and Montreal were, Joe Bowen may have to make a visit to Ottawa to cover off the game there. In any case, the overlap should be fairly easy to cover. If there are times were an additional crew is needed, the Sportsnet CHL play-by-play man in RJ Broadhead could be brought in.

Out west, the Saturday night games would be fairly easy to cover. TSN still holds the regional contract for the Jets through 2021, so there would rarely be a conflict on a Saturday night since Sportsnet would simply cover the later games out west where they could cover the Jets. It would also be possible to cover weekend afternoon games for the Jets with a crew. In this case, Sportsnet would need an additional broadcasting crew, and Kevin Quinn would be a suitable play-by-play man for additional games in the west. In essence, there could be three Western Conference teams on the CBC/Sportsnet broadcasts every Saturday. Again, Broadhead could be used if another crew was necessary.

The colour commentators would be fairly easy to coordinate as there are some excellent commentators already in the hockey world. Craig Simpson, Greg Millen, and Garry Galley are excellent on CBC, and Ray Ferraro and Mike Johnson have really shown their brilliance on the TSN broadcasts, but John Garrett has been an excellent color man for a long time. Something's gotta give there.

Pairing them up with their play-by-play guy would be pretty easy as well since each of the men seem to know their hockey really well.
  • SN EAST/ONTARIO: Bowen and Ferraro.
  • MONTREAL/OTTAWA: Lee and Galley.
  • VANCOUVER: Hughson and Simpson.
  • SPORTSNET PACIFIC/WEST: Cuthbert and Millen.
  • SPORTSNET WEST: Quinn and Garrett.
  • ALTERNATE: Broadhead and Sam Cosentino.
Of course, there could be some shuffling amongst the crews, but I think each of these crews has their strengths where the tandem would be extremely strong. The Joe Bowen-Ray Ferraro tandem could be extremely entertaining, especially in the playoffs, and I like the Hughson-Simpson tandem already employed by CBC. Cuthbert and Millen would be a very good team with a ton of hockey knowledge. The Quinn-Johnson pairing may take a little time to build, but those two individually are excellent at what they do and should be a good pairing. The Broadhead-Cosentino tandem already works the CHL games on Sportsnet, and they do a fine job there so I see no reason to break them up. I like how these broadcast teams played out.

The in-studio hosting jobs can and should still be handled by Ron MacLean on CBC. There's no reason to change that up. The Sportsnet in-studio stuff is handled by one of Jeff Marek or Daren Millard. I like both of these guys, but they don't compare to James Duthie. I doubt that TSN will let Duthie walk, but if he does, Duthie should have all the in-studio work done on Sportsnet. He has become one of Canada's premiere in-studio guys, and he deserves the job if he so chooses.

Alongside MacLean on the CBC panel, there should be a couple of new faces. Elliotte Friedman and Kevin Weekes are fantastic on the CBC broadcasts, and they seem to rarely stray from objective insights when featured. I would like to see Kelly Hrudey make a return to CBC's between-period analysts, and I'd be satisfied if they rounded out the CBC side with someone like Mike Johnson. That would put three players of differing-but-exceptional talents on the desk, and a well-informed hockey reporter.

On the Sportsnet side, let's not redesign the wheel. If they are available, Bob McKenzie, Darren Dreger, and Aaron Ward should certainly be in the mix for three of the desk jobs. I was against the idea at first, but Nick Kypreos would actually round out that desk fairly nicely. Again, there are two well-informed reporters, and two hockey players. I don't think that Sportsnet has to change much on their side. Just please keep Doug MacLean off the panel. Please.

The CBC iDesk or whatever it's called should always be manned, or womanned, by Andi Petrillo. She's handles that job well, she's well-informed and is respected, and she's a nice break from the men on the CBC broadcasts. Make no changes there. Over on the Sportsnet side, though, I think that this kind of position would be extremely well-suited for a guy like Jeff Marek who, like Miss Petrillo, is well-informed, respected, and has a lot of contacts through the hockey world.

If Sportsnet is going to expand coverage on the post-game side of the coin as well, Scott Oake should remain as the AfterHours host on CBC. He's excellent as the host there. If Sportsnet is going to run two different post-game shows, Daren Millard would be an excellent choice here as well. It was pretty easy to nail these two spots down. Of course, various guests and/or analysts from above can be used in the post-game shows as well.

We can't forget about the in-arena reporters. Scott Oake, David Amber, Cassie Campbell-Pascall, and Gene Principe do great jobs as it is. Each of them has done a wonderful job in creating their own style, and all of them have succeeded in becoming a reliable source of in-game reporting. Christine Simpson would be a good addition to any reporting crew as well, and she would be a welcomed addition to this reporter squad for the five broadcasting teams.
  • SN EAST/ONTARIO: Bowen, Ferraro, and Christine Simpson.
  • CBC EAST/SN EAST: Lee, Galley, and Campbell-Pascall.
  • CBC WEST: Hughson, Craig Simpson, and Oake.
  • SPORTSNET PACIFIC/WEST: Cuthbert, Millen, and Amber.
  • SPORTSNET WEST: Quinn, Johnson, and Principe.
  • ALTERNATE: Broadhead, Cosentino, and Amber/Principe.
Now some of you may have noticed that I hadn't discussed the Don Cherry situation yet. In that case, let's discuss it now.

Just leave Coach's Corner the way it is! Look, there's no doubt that some of what Don Cherry says is controversial. But that's exactly why people watch Coach's Corner! The CBC has had the opportunity in the past to fire him for some of his comments. They have taken heat from a number of groups for some of the stuff that Don Cherry says. But he's still employed by the CBC to do his thing every Saturday night because they make a ton of money off the sponsorship of his eight-minute diatribe and they get a ton of viewers during this time. Heck, I know some people who won't even watch the game, but will flip the channel over just to watch Don Cherry rant about something.

It's a simple message for Coach's Corner: if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Let him be controversial. He's still the CBC's problem. Don't water his opinion down, don't editorialize him, and don't tell him what not to say. That's not who Mr. Cherry is, and it doesn't make for good TV. Ok? Ok.

Lastly, Sportsnet would be wise in expanding the Punjabi broadcast as well. It seems to do very well on CBC, and I think it would open up a whole new dynamic for Sportsnet in expanding coverage to other sports. Things that work shouldn't be discontinued.

If you're a hockey fan in Canada, I've thrown a lot of info at you. Did I miss a personality you think Sportsnet should go after? Should anyone that I've listed not be included? Have your thoughts in the comment section below. I'm very interested to hear what everyone else thinks on this.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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