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Friday, September 5, 2014

The Broadcast Shuffle

Image result for Rogers hockey logoImage result for Rogers hockey logoImage result for Rogers hockey logo
Dangling on the periphery of the sports media business, I have a healthy interest in the comings and goings of sports broadcasters.   Broadcasters, for the most part, are not that dissimilar than players in regards to their goals and dreams.  They want to get to the NHL as much as the players do.   This off-season was one of the more fascinating ones in terms of the amount of movement of hosts, play by play broadcasters, and analysts.  Of course a large part of this was the gigantic 12 year deal that Rogers signed with the NHL for national broadcast rights.  Make no mistake about it, Rogers has a sizable task ahead of them.  They have pledged to deliver games nationally across multiple platforms like no other broadcaster before.  Plus they have the regional rights to Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Montreal, and part of Toronto's schedule.   

With that in mind, Rogers wanted to recruit the best talent available from a pool of on-air personalities largely derived from TSN, CBC and its own existing talent.   TSN fired the first salvo locking up much of its elite talent.  Gord Miller, Chris Cuthbert, Bob MacKenzie and James Duthie stayed with TSN and there was little doubt that had the aforementioned been available, they would have been coveted.  From there Rogers built up a strong on-air team.  Without going into too much detail (you can find all the personalities in this release:  HERE , Here is a list of main shuffling of talent with the odd commentary:  

Play by Play
While Jim Hughson and Bob Cole were given for Rogers, Dave Randorf and Paul Romanuk were somewhat surprising.   Randorf was the biggest talent to migrate over from TSN where he hosted the CFL on TSN and called Canadiens regional games as well as other World Tournaments.   To me Randorf works better as a host than a play by play guy, and I think he is a very good play by play commentator.   He is an outstanding host who controls the CFL Panel, while letting their personalities shine.   Romanuk is repatriated after several years in England where he dabbled in broadcasting covering hockey in England, calling the Spengler Cup every Christmas as well as penning a couple of books.   He used to be TSN's main broadcaster for the NHL and the World Juniors.  Credit to him for staying relevant after an absence of several years. He will call national games, as well as Leaf regional games.  That last move bumped Joe Bowen to radio only for the Buds, a move that drew something of a mixed reaction.  Many have a strong allegiance to the affable broadcaster, while others are not fans.   Joe Bowen in any medium is a good thing for Leaf fans.  He is close to reaching an iconic status reserved for the likes of Bob Cole, and Peter Maher 

Other regional changes included Rick Ball moving from Vancouver radio and Hockey Night in Canada over to Sportsnet where he will call Calgary regional games.  He is a very good get for Rogers as he has had national exposure and could slide into a spot vacated by Bob Cole, if and when he retires and would it surprise anyone to see the venerable broadcaster behind the mic for a few more years yet!?

Colour Analysts/Hosts/Reporters
Craig Simpson was a given for Rogers, given his long association with Jim Hughson. Glenn Healey whose style is not for some hockey fans also comes over.  I enjoy Healey's style and broadcasting but wish he would incorporate more of his dry sense of humour into his analysis.  Others flat out dislike the guy for some reason.    Gary Galley also was no surprise as he has been paired up with Bob Cole a lot in the past . Cole calls the game the old fashioned way.  When the play is on, the microphone is his, but when the whistle blows he defers to his analysts.   Galley, in particular has adapted well to Cole's style.   Mike Johnson, who seemed to show great promise with TSN last year as a colour analyst and panellist moves over to Rogers, likely in a similar role, though lots more panel work is apparently in his future.   Millen will call Leaf regional games with Romanuk. Kelly Hrudey, who moved upstairs to analyze games will take the regional colour spot alongside Rick Ball while Drew Remenda, late of the San Jose Sharks broadcast team, will occupy the regional colour spot in  Edmonton.  On the host side, much of the team was unveiled as the "Dream Team" but then Rogers added Leah Hextall, who was with NESN.  One wonders if she will carry over the combative nature that is symbolic of much of the Hextall clan. 

Loose Ends:
There were a few other moves that I may have failed to mention but those were the ones mentioned.  A few omissions from the Rogers team were Dean Brown , who likely goes to radio only for Ottawa, as TSN has their regional games.  Andi Petrillo is still with CBC, but with the Women's World Cup, the Pan Am Games and the Olympics in the next couple of years, she will be very busy.  Kevin Weekes was not listed among the Rogers talent, and I know he works with the NHL Network, but I'm not sure if that will be his full-time gig.  The only openings I can see are with newly signed Montreal regional deals and with Vancouver radio with the departure of Rick Ball.

On The Radio Side
I will be very interested in seeing how both The Fan 590 and TSN 1050 approach coverage this fall and winter.  Will The Fan go all in on hockey and use its station as essentially a marketing tool for its NHL package?  Will it continue to balance the coverage?   Jeff Blair favours baseball and soccer over hockey and Tim and Sid tend to bounce around a lot, but they do seem to focus more on football, basketball and games shows that are hit and miss!  That definitely could change.  Personally, the national package will sell itself.  People love their hockey and despite some of the grumbling you read about a monopoly on hockey by Rogers, they will migrate over and watch the games, especially if Rogers makes good on their goal of delivering unique coverage of the game.   TSN, I expect will stay the course, with perhaps more of a focus on their regional coverage by their resident experts Bob McKenzie and James Duthie.   

Enough movement for you?  Its been a while since we've seen a talent shift of this performance, and it was actually a little less than expected as TSN stopped any talent raid in its tracks with its signing of key personalities.    All eyes will be on Rogers as they have 1000 games to cover, over 500 on a national level, and multiple platforms to deliver to the consumer.   They have a whopping 39 people on their on-air roster when you count all the broadcasters.  The numbers suggest wall to wall coverage.  The placement of that talent will be something to watch.  Do Nick Kyreos and Doug MacLean get the main Saturday night games?   What about PJ Stock?    Darren Pang?  All questions to be answered come October..Stay tuned!

Steve Clark
TV Broadcaster Niagara IceDogs now in his 8th year.  Last year covered the Hamilton Bulldogs on TV as their play by play announcer. 

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