Who Owns Hockey? Sportsnet, & It’s Been Awful For Everyone


hockey-night-in-canada-960x500Are these not the worst ad’s?  Has anyone, anywhere, ever had this debate?  And why is the 2016 World Cup going to decide “once and for all” who owns hockey?  The 2018 Olympics won’t?  The 2020 World Cup won’t?  Winning 3 of the last 4 Olympic golds and 4 of the last 5 best on best tournaments hasn’t decided that Canada is the best, but whoever wins THIS World Cup will?  This is ACTUALLY your pitch to get people to watch?


It’s just the latest in the terrible job that Sportsnet has done thus far as we enter the 3rd season of their 12 year deal.  And what’s incredible is that thus far, it’s worse than I imagined it would be.


This is a piece that I actually intended to do during the playoffs last spring, but I never got around to it.  It actually isn’t the best time to bring this up, but I wanted to write this piece at some point, and with the World Cup and that awful ad campaign going on, it felt like as good of time as any.


In December of 2013, I compared Rogers to WCW and Bell to the WWE (if you aren’t a wrestling fan, the brand you’ve never heard of had no idea how to run their company so they just spent as much as they could).  That comparison to this date has been SPOT ON.


We’ll start with Tim Thompson.  Most of you likely don’t know who Tim Thompson is, yet I bet most of you adored his work like I did.  Tim was the man who did the opening montages for Hockey Night in Canada.  Rogers decided that the man who was getting crazy recognition for his work all over North America, simply for doing opening montages to games, was no longer needed.  So they acquired HNIC and then debatably got rid of two of the three best parts of the show in Ron McLean and Tim Thompson.  Terrific start!


Of course I skipped over McLean being replaced by Stroumboulopoulos because that wrong has now been righted.  But while that 100% is the right move, how stupid did they have to be to think that would ever work?  And while George shouldn’t have accepted the gig in the first place, they put him in a no win position.  There was a guy, and I really wish I could recall his name but I can’t, but he was a guest on Alan Mitchell’s radio show back in June who had formerly worked for HNIC.  And he made a great comparison.  It was essentially hiring a carpenter and asking him to fix the plumbing.


Ron McLean lives and breathes hockey.  George had a successful talk show.  Why in the…heck (I’ll keep it PG) did anyone at Rogers EVER believe it would work?!  That will go down as one of the most embarrassing decisions in sports television history.  ABC hiring Dennis Miller for Monday Night Football, MLB giving TBS playoff games, TSN using their five channels to show the same thing on four of them, and Scott Moore moving Ron McLean aside for George Stroumboulopoulos.


Of course it isn’t just these two things.  How about last spring?  How did you all enjoy watching the local broadcasts for the playoffs?  Like…they couldn’t even give us the NBC feed most nights.  Instead, we got to put up with guys like Daren Pang being an egregious homer.  And while I adored some of the responses Panger had to certain media members calling him out on it on social media, those tools were very correct in their assessment.


Speaking of homers, Kelly Hrudy does the HNIC panel, while he’s also the colour commentator for the Calgary Flames broadcasts.  He’s just as big of a homer for the Flames as Pang is for the Blues.  And for the local broadcasts, I don’t have a big problem with that.  But don’t bring that to a national broadcast!  The next time Hrudy has anything remotely close to a criticism of the Flames it’ll be the first time.  And if he can’t do that, I absolutely get it…but then he shouldn’t be on the panel.  There are MANY more people with much more objective opinions they can put in that role.  Hrudy from all accounts is one of the best people in the business, and this isn’t a knock on the guy.  But he’s not suited for that position.


Another brilliant move they made was putting maybe the most reviled member of the sports media in this country on HNIC.  And it isn’t as if Damien Cox is just polarizing.  No, he’s just hated.  I know pretty big name people in the broadcasting business who can’t stand the guy.  He isn’t the Skip Bayless of Canada, he’s just terrible.  Like the Ron McLean decision, they’ve righted this wrong.  But it doesn’t erase the memory that they were dumb enough to believe he would work.


Mike Johnson was on Oilers Now after the Kings/Sharks series wrapped up and was talking about how he was now on days off.  When HNIC and TSN were doing the playoffs, none of their guys got days off!  If they had a series wrap up, they’d move on to another.  And don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti guys getting to go home and see their families.  But it’s what comes with doing that gig.  Sometimes when things are busy in the summer and fall I have to work Saturday’s.  It’s part of the job.


I wouldn’t go as far to say that their piss poor ratings are a result of all these things.  Obviously the fact that no Canadian teams made the playoffs this season was a massive blow, but then again in 2015…five of seven Canadian teams made the playoffs and ratings were also down.  Soooooo…


This all brings me to the World Cup of Hockey.  And I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again…I’ll watch.  I won’t not watch.  But I also am nothing excited for it, and won’t be going out of my way to watch the games.  And while the gimmick/total cash grab tournament isn’t Sportsnet’s doing, they could have at least done a better job in marketing it.  Instead, they go with these cheesy ad’s that try to fabricate a debate.  The awful jersey’s aren’t their fault, the players who want the money but not to work for it so they’re dropping out of the tournament for any reason possible isn’t their fault, team North America and team Europe isn’t their fault, but the weak attempt to hype this tournament sure is.


Not every Rogers employee can be at fault for this.  Chris Johnston sure tried.  After the initial 16 was announced for Sweden he tweeted (and if Twitter wasn’t such a bitch to look it up I would show the tweet, but I can’t find it) about how they were a serious threat to win like it was breaking news….the team who had just won the Silver medal two years previous, apparently they’re his “darkhorse” for the World Cup.


I can bitch all day about this, but it isn’t going to change.  We have 10 more years of what’ll likely be their garbage.  I do applaud Scott Moore and company for trying to rectify their mistakes, but as a fan of the game I just don’t trust them.  Is it too hard for them to just make the simple and correct decisions?  It’s been the Sportsnet way since they first hit the airwaves.  And management has been overhauled several times since, yet it’s still the same shit of rather than just being good, they attempt to re-invent the wheel.


From here on out guys, how about you just try to be good?


Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

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