Winners and Losers of the NHL’s Opening Weekend on TV

Four of the NHL’s five TV partners (VERSUS, TSN, CBC, NHL Net) got their season’s underway along with our favorite game on Thursday and over the weekend.  Here’s a straightforward list of who impressed me over the weekend and who did not.

WINNER: Kevin Weekes.

  • Weekes has claimed that if an offer came to him from an NHL team over next summer, he would take it, but we might recommend that he stick to the booth.  While he started out both of his first two CBC telecasts (VAN-CGY Thursday, CGY-EDM Saturday) somewhat nervous, he quickly grew into the role both times.  He still needs to fill in some dead air every now and then, but he clearly has more than enough talent to do it.  A special mention to him connecting with the audience by showing an embarrassing goaltending moment of his own after Nikolai Khabibulin’s egregious gaffe on Saturday during After Hours.

LOSER: VERSUS’ Coverage of the Premiere Games

  • Dave Strader, Rick Peckham, Billy Jaffe and Darren Eliot all performed admirably under rough circumstances.  VERSUS was clearly having trouble with the system of having announcers call the game off monitors by not properly allowing the announcers themselves to see the games at times.  This led to play-by-play sounding very disjointed at times, and especially during the Chicago-Florida game you could tell there were stretches where Strader couldn’t see the puck.  Embarrassing.

WINNER: Almost Everything Else VERSUS Did

  • Give the cable home to the NHL a lot of credit though.  Aside from keeping the same, clunky graphics from last year (change that score bug!) VERSUS did some good stuff to shake things up.  Darren Dreger’s invaluable addition (which included much needed talk on the Phil Kessel trade) and the Sidney Crosby interview ate up minutes of time that in the past would’ve been spent on meaningless, dull banter between Keith Jones and Brian Engblom.  The studio show has been tightened up, and certainly for the better.  832,000 Americans agree…

WINNER: NHL Network

  • The NHL Network showed off why it truly is the home for hockey.  NHL Live returned to the joy of all it’s loyal viewers.  NHL On the Fly debuted a stunning new set (though could it kill to change the bottom line and move to HD?) and a shift in focus on OTF: Final to highlights first, then time spent breaking them down.  It’s as if the viewer can choose to watch two shows.  The first being about 20 minutes of just highlights, and then 40 minutes of more detailed hockey breakdown.
  • That said, nothing can compare to NHL Network’s cross-the-world coverage of Super Saturday.  Four games in four countries from noon until 1AM.  It was fantastic TV.  They should consider doing it again if the NHL schedule allows at some point this season.

LOSER: TSN

  • It’s hard not to see TSN as a loser this weekend, as their presence seemed limited and lazy.  Not only did they have Gord Miller and Pierre McGuire call BOTH premiere games off monitors on Friday (way to ruin the illusion) but they couldn’t even keep Miller away from the network’s CFL coverage on Saturday to do the second Chicago-Florida game, to which Ryan Rishaug admirably filled in.  Look, we’ll be singing TSN’s praises throughout the year, but on opening weekend, they clearly seemed off the radar.

WINNER: CBC Overall

  • Very little has changed for the returning champion in hockey coverage, and it’s absolutely for the better.  All of the love-it-or-hate-it intermission segments are back.  Glenn Healy will be a joy to hear banter with Strachan and Milbury on Hotstove this season.  After Hours made Pat Quinn seem entertaining.  Most importantly, the game broadcasts remain tops in the industry, with the top talent in the industry.
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About stevelepore
Steve Lepore is the Managing Editor of Puck the Media. His work has been featured in The Hockey News. Feel free to contact him at stevemlepore@gmail.com

4 Responses to Winners and Losers of the NHL’s Opening Weekend on TV

  1. leafsfan1967 says:

    The NHL Network did a great job on Saturday. I only wish they would reconsider their plan to not show both Hockey Night in Canada games on Saturday night.

    As for the CBC, they remain the gold standard of hockey broadcasts. I suppose it’s hardly surprising they are good at it since they have been doing it for more than fifty years on TV and longer than that if you include their radio history.

  2. Chris says:

    I agree about the TSN thing. Not very good watching it. CBC will always be number 1, but could it kill them to spread out the distribution of the 3 7pm games across the country? It’s always Leafs, Leafs, Leafs every Saturday night. I’m sure the majority of people in Alberta and Saskatchewan would rather watch the Habs.

  3. leafsfan1967 says:

    I wouldn’t be so sure that “the majority of people in Alberta and Saskatchewan would rather watch the Habs”. I lived in western Canada back in the 1980′s and almost never got to see a Leafs game and they were as bad then, if not worse, than they are now.

    CBC keeps an eye on the ratings and does adjust distribution of games depending on how teams are doing.

  4. Josh says:

    @leafsfan1967: There are two problems with that line of thought. First, the CBC is a crown corporation and is theoretically supposed to care about more than ratings. A steady diet of Leafs is not showing anyone that they care about anything more than ratings. Second, there are nights (like this Saturday the 10th) where a Canadian team is playing (in this case my Sens) and the CBC chooses not to televise it – not locally in Ottawa, not nationally… nowhere.

    And what this means is that since CBC has exclusivity on Canadian teams on Saturday nights, nobody gets to show it. And since the game’s not being broadcast by an Atlanta station either, there is no option. Some crown corporation, some national broadcaster.

    Thanks a lot, CBC.

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