Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Sports networks are setting up their lines

Like many General managers at this time of the year, even Canada's sports networks are busy trying to put together the best line combinations that will make them a winner of the Trade Deadline sweepstakes.

The NHL trading deadline has an unusual place in the psyche of the television executives at TSN, Sporstnet and to a lesser degree The Score and the NHL Network.

It's a one day winner take all poker game, as the various sports networks make massive plans for their coverage that would have given the Canadian Commanders at Juno beach cause for thought.

Last year, Sportsnet went with a party atmosphere with pizza, girls and kind of an Animal House motif to the whole process, which as things turned out didn't quite find its niche during the broadcast day.

So it seems that this year the more traditional approach will be taken, with the usual complement of talking heads ready to deliver the latest rumour or confirmation, ready to celebrate a brilliant move or ridicule a desperate gamble.

One intriguing prospect that seems to have fallen through was the possibility that Bob McCown would be joining the deadline show on Sportsnet. However, that plan apperntly is dead now, as he cryptically provided a few hints on Tuesday's Prime Time Sports, that the negotiations between himself and the Sporstnet poohbahs broke down and won't it seems be re-started. A turn of events, that is no doubt a lost opportunity for Sportsnet to add a bit of oomph to their show.

Over at TSN they're loading up on former GMs', as recently dismissed Leafs GM John Ferguson will become a guest analyst on the broadcast, he joins former Islander GM Mike Milbury on the TSN roster, making for two former GM's that can perhaps provide insight on how things can go so wrong that you once again miss a playoff season.

The Score, hasn't really done much in the way of promotion yet, so we're not even sure if they have a deadline show planned, regardless it must be hard for them to muster up a challenge when they don't seem to have as large a budget as the Rogers gang or the folks at CTV/Bell ominpotent media.

Likewise, The NHL Network either in Canada or the US, hasn't exactly been trumpeting what they have planned for deadline day, a day in which you would think that they would have a high profile on.

As for Versus, which is the main national cable carrier of hockey in the US at moment, there is no mention on their website of any deadline day plans, though it's doubtful that the NHL deadline is enough of an event to knock Big Fish Madness or the PBR off the schedule.

Heading towards the February 26th deadline, TSN would seem to have the edge as far as potential content goes, they have a core group of talking hockey heads who host pre game and intermission shows all through the season, recognizable names like McGuire and McKenzie, who have keen analytical skills and know where the strengths and weaknesses are.

Sporstnet will counter with their line up of anchors and analysts, seeking to gain the scoop that sends the hockey fans clicker in hand over to their share of the digital universe.

All are using their websites to spread the word, though TSN's TradeCentre package seems to be more indepth and better updated than either of the other two sports networks.

All this information overload is set to prepare hockey fans for the twelve day countdown to a full day of endless speculation and occassional deal making. For the networks February 26 is like Game seven of a Stanley Cup playoff, the winner takes home all the glory for another year, wh ile the losers will once again have to re-evaluate their programs and begin the process of rebuilding for next seasons deadline day dramas.

TSN NHL TradeCentre
Sportsnet 2008 Trade Tracker
The Score Hockey page
Versus Hockey website
The NHL Network Hockey website

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