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PARK POINT… The National Hockey League has forged a new deal with Rogers Communications to take over Hockey Night in Canada broadcasts from the CBC paying the league $5.2 bil for a 12 year contract. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation is a government owned entity and has had control over the HNIC broadcasts since 1952 and will hand the show off after the 2013-14 season. Due to a sub-licensing provision, the show will remain on the CBC for at least the 1st 4 seasons of the new deal. From what I can tell there are mixed feelings about this amongst followers of the show.
It has been a longtime tradition for Canadian hockey fans to watch the Saturday night broadcasts. Some followers though believe that it was time for a private entity like Rogers to take the show over and add some new pizzazz to the broadcasts. They felt the show has suffered from creative restraint because of the government controlled network. I first heard of the negotiations for the new deal several months ago on the SiriusXM Home Ice network and the opinion back then was that it would probably be hard for the CBC to outbid someone like Rogers for the rights to the show.
So, the deal is done and was announced at a press conference last Tuesday before the American Thanksgiving holiday. I have watched some of the broadcasts and by and large they do a good job. Obviously they put the Canadian spin on the broadcasts and most of them have been fun to watch. If you have the NHL Network on your cable or satellite you can get the HNIC show. Like a lot of Yanks, I sometimes tire of the overbearing smarmy viewpoint that Canada is the center of the hockey universe, but I watch, having learned how to put up with it. And then there is the lovable, knucklehead, buffoon-like Donald Stewart Cherry. He is fascinating and polarizing all at once.
In fact many fans are hoping that when Rogers takes over the broadcasts that they will jettison Cherry. Me? I have found Cherry to be sometimes interesting and sometimes right on in his opinion. But a lot of the time I have thought him to be merely seeking out the opinion that would generate the most controversy thus shining the brightest light upon him and then the show itself. But that can be said for a lot of big media types. How else do you keep your place on the stage if you are not beating your own drum?
But after reading his biographical info on Wikpedia I do have a newfound respect for Cherry. I probably disagree with more that he says then I agree with, but the way he handled life when his 1st wife passed away from a battle with cancer gave me a new way to look at him. Give it a read. As for the league this deal will not impact US broadcasts but does help to solidify and enhance them north of the border eliminating local blackouts of game broadcasts and also eliminates regional broadcast barriers.
Some league followers will continue to berate Commissioner Gary Bettman over the new deal but even they cannot deny that in Bettman’s tenure league revenues have consistently risen and the leagues economic health is most likely better then it has ever been. In the States here we might not see any direct benefit to the league or to the game, but believe me, this deal does much for the game I love…
I WAS AT THE Minnesota Wild-STL Blues tilt last Monday eve in the Gateway city and saw a 3-0 Wild loss to the Note. In this game the club lost Zach Parise in the 1st period when he was hit on the side of the foot while blocking a shot. He tried a couple of shifts after the foot calmed down a bit, but to no avail. He ended up sitting out Wednesdays tilt with the Phoenix Coyotes, a 3-1 Wild loss.
I am not going to do a “gamer” here and outline the details of both games, rather, here is a quick in-season synopsis of where I think the club is at right now. After the Blues and Coyotes losses, the team then dropped a home and home to the Colorado Avalanche losing the 2nd tilt in the Shootout. Parise though, after an initial diagnosis said he would miss 2-3 weeks played both games against the Av’s. Add in a recent minor injury to Goalie Josh Harding and the club has struggled. After a 13-4-4 start the team has gone 2-4-1 since and is on a 4 game losing streak. What can be made of the teams current position?
Harding has emerged as the new #1 net minder and when he goes out the club takes a slight step back at that position with Niklas Backstrom. The team has more depth then it has had recently, but some of that depth is still relatively inexperienced. (Coyle, Granlund, Zucker, Fontaine, Dumba, Scandella, Spurgeon, Neidereitter) And too much of the “experienced depth” (Heatley, Rupp, Konopka, Ballard, Mitchell) provides little in the way of offensive help.
When the club plays teams that I believe are or might be in their Cup window, they have a very tough time achieving a victory. The STL game was a good benchmark of where this team is probably at. Many analyst’s think the Blues could hoist the Cup this year, and the Wild could mount little if any sustained offense against them. The bulk of the teams offensive points have come from about 7 players. They are 15th in Shots on Goal per game and 23rd in Goals per Game average. (2.27 per game) They stand at a Goals Differential right now of +1.
Defensively the club is 7th in Goals Against Average, (2.20 per game) 8th in Power Play percent, (20.7%) and 25th in Penalty Kill percent. (78.5%) The team is currently hanging on to the 8th and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Club has scored 4 goals in the previous 4 games, all losses, so unless your goalie is pitching shutouts every game, your chances at winning are slim. Hate to say it, but I think this clubs playoff chances are on the bubble right now, and I hope that bubble doesn’t burst… PEACE
Marc Elliott is a free lance sports opinion writer who splits time between his hometown in Illinois and Minnesota. Elliott grew up in the Twin Cities with many of his childhood neighbors working or playing for the Vikings and Twins. He participated in baseball, football and hockey before settling on hockey as his own number one sport. Elliott recently wrote “The Masked Fan Speaks” column for the Lake County News Chronicle for ten years and was a prominent guest on the former “All Sports” WDSM 710AM in Duluth.