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Sunday, December 27, 2015


Image result for RiverLIons logoImage result for RiverLIons logo\Image result for RiverLIons logo
Months and months of studying the demographics, finding out where your basketball fans are.

Goals of trying to fill the Meridian Centre, a tough building to fill.

Coach unveiling, team unveiling.  Logo unveiling. Colours and uniform unveiling.

Tirelessly banging the drum for a sport like basketball that often leaves a hollow beat, when talking about pro basketball. (Remember the Niagara Daredevils? Went belly up in a matter of months, the ending like a smashed barrel going over the Falls.

You work hard to put as many paying customers into the seats, not knowing what lies ahead.

Yep, minor league sports can be a bitch to promote, and reach the conscience of the casual sports fan,  the worst animal possible.

And yet, the best marketing happened in a split second.  Clinton Springer Williams, former star of the Carleton Ravens hits a fall away buzzer beating three pointer and ignites a Niagara basketball fan base and sends them deliriously into a crisp St Catharine's evening ready to hustle to Gords Place or Kully's, or any of the great Niagara establishments to talk about their latest heroes and relive each heart stopping moment of Niagara's newest team.

Aahh, there's nothing like a walk-off victory in your home opener, and 1st ever game at the sparkling Meridian Centre.   Yep, the RiverLions will be the talk of the town and hopefully will spill over into next Sunday's game at home, and the next game, and the next game.

You can do all the marketing you want. There is no better marketing than winning, and in such a dramatic fashion?  You couldn't script it any better.  They'll be clamouring for this performance at Niagara's Shaw Festival next year.

Heck, I was not even at the game and I felt compelled to write about it.  Watched some of last nights live stream, and watched the 1ast half of tonight's live stream, and wished I was there both nights.  Therein lies the rub.  People who wished they were at the home opener will want to buy a ticket and hope to catch the next great moment in RiverLions history. 2800 and change attended the game tonight.  It will seem like 10 000 were there as the buzzer beater will be relived time and time again.  

"You were there?  Me too, Section E. Saw you, meant to come over"   

Must admit, that I had my doubts and I'm a huge basketball gane. I got my broadcasting start calling OUA basketball and beat the drum for the sport for years.    Nothing against the team, but pro basketball has not fared well in these parts.  The last pro team with any success was the Hamilton SkyHawks of the early 90's. I was in my early 20's and cynical about the team.  Put me in my early 40's "Get off my lawn years", and cynicism becomes skepticism.

I still harbour high hopes for local basketball in this region.  Butch Carter's league the CBL, came out of the gate with a flourish, announcing a workable cost effective model and a deal with CHCH TV.  After some delay, the league is expected to be a go, though without Kitchener- Waterloo, hailed as one of its flagship franchises.  A quick perusal of their website sees Hamilton, Ottawa, Scarborough, and Vaughan in their schedule.    There are enough basketball fans to accommodate the two leagues, though will they support the worthwhile ventures?   

in 2007 the IceDogs came into this region with some of the same skepticism.   Here they are 9 years later, entrenched in the region, and without them the new Meridian Centre likely remains a parking garage.

2015, the RiverLions with their sharp, sharp uniforms, well regarded coach , and savvy marketing department might just make a permanent footprint in the Niagara Region.

Tonight, a basketball team arrived in the Niagara Region.  They just might entrench themselves like their hockey forefathers.

Steve Clark

Of Note:  I erroneously posted that Butch Carter's CBL was on hiatus until 2016.  That is incorrect as I was informed that the league will play this year.  The blog has been corrected to reflect this and I aplogize for the mistake. 

Monday, December 14, 2015


Image result for CHCH logo



Blood Letting. 

It was a game of word association that no one wants to play.  It was the answer to the question that no one really wanted to answer.  The question?  

What was your immediate reaction to the bankruptcy of CHCH Television?  or Describe what happened at CHCH in one or two words.   

The story, by now, is well publicized.  CHCH TV , a Hamilton staple that just celebrated their 60th year on air was in deep trouble, hemorrhaging money and in a stunning turn of events on Friday, was basically turned on its ear.   Blown out the door were 138 full time workers, another 29 part time people.  About 50% of them might be hired back with "competitive wages", according to the company Channel Zero.   80 hours of local television would be scaled back to 17. 5.  Do the math and you see over a 75% reduction in local content.  Safe to say those who will be welcomed back will see their roles reduced. 

Those not welcome back?  A veritable who's who of Hamilton broadcasting.   Men and women woven into the steel fabric of the city for as long as you can remember. 

Matt Hayes, Ken Welch, Scott Urqhart, Lauran Sabourin, Mark Hebscher, Lori DeAngelis.   Can you imagine a CHCH TV without these dominant personalities?   These are people who were your TV friends, and were faces and voices that you connected with.  How hard will it be to turn on the television and not see Matt Hayes, and his smiling face not giving you the weather, or to seen Ken Welch deliver the sports in his own droll way, a man who was established in the Hamilton community and gave local sports a boost it would not have otherwise got?  

I will miss local issues show Square Off because it provided current events issues and debates.  I will miss the rapid fire content of Sportsline with Mark Hebscher and Bubba O'Neill.  I will miss the morning show that I tuned into regularly, now scaled back significantly.   Bob Cowan, Annette Hamm, Lori DeAngelis, Tim Bolen, Jaclyn Colville and Brian Wood were the staples of that show.  How many will we see in the new 2 hour model and how much local content will be delivered?   How on earth do you service Hamilton, Halton and Niagara with 17.5 hours of local news?   That is a population of over a million people.  How will their stories be told?  Niagara has been serviced with news by Lauran Sabarin and her camera man.  Both were not asked to return.  Will we just pretend that there is no news in Niagara to deliver?     

Probably the cruelest fact is the way the news got delivered.  Extra money deposited into an account covering up to date pay and vacation pay.   A sudden cancelling of news programming on Friday and a hastily arranged statement by the CEO delivered live on the TV station. It would be the only local programming delivered after the 4:00 hour.    Who cancels news programs for one day anyways?  The news should never stop, even when its the television station itself making the news.    A declaration of bankruptcy delivered the most punishing blow. It provided a back door escape route from paying loyal employees severance pay.   

While the news itself on Friday was stunning, the financial issues plaguing the station and the company were likely not exactly a shock to all involved.  Delivering 80 hours of local news programming a week is a costly venture, and that was even with a lot of the news cycle repeated, and a lot of the news canned.   Quite frankly the format was not working to what it should be and delivering local news was an increasingly expensive expenditure.   The national advertising sponsors were not there, and really it was a tough model for a national company to get behind.   A national sponsor for a TV station that promised local is a bit of an oxymoron.    

The CRTC has done the local model no favours either.   Scrapping a $5M local television fund for stations like CHCH removed a significant revenue stream, one that could not be made up no matter how much ad time Hamilton staple John Savidis bought, or how much air time the erstwhile Frank D'Angelo could buy.   The CRTC's recent  decision to basically open the doors to U.S. advertising for the upcoming SuperBowls on CTV sent Canadian advertisers scattering and was one of the factors that saw Bell reduced their own work force, with the media division taking a particularly large hit.

I will leave the financials, quite frankly, to those better equipped to do it.  All I know is that a lot of good people, good at their jobs, some you saw as friendly faces on TV and many you did not see behind the scenes are either no longer gainfully employed or not employed at the same level.   

I will say that there was lots of nostalgia for CHCH.   Fond memories of local icons Norm Marshall, Dick Beddoes, Dan MacLean and Connie Smith were duly.  Shows like Tiny Talent Time were fondly remembered, as were the old OUAA Game of the Week, a relationship by the way left in the lurch. The OUA just had signed a new agreement with CHCH.  What happens now?    Maybe that was the problem.  Nostalgia, while nice, did not pay the bills.  Perhaps people were remembering the golden age of CHCH while paying lip service to the current model.    

So CHCH will debut a newer, sleeker model on Tuesday.   17.5 hours of local content is enough to give you a 6pm newscast, an 11 pm newscast cut down to 30 minutes and a truncated morning show from 7-9am.  The hope now is that one of the big cable companies sees some viability in a sleeker model and looks to snap it up at a bargain bin rate.  Maybe then they can increase the local presence, and give local news a chance because local programming and news is dying on the vine, and it does not have to be that way.  

CHCH just celebrated their 60th anniversary of broadcasting not so long ago. How many more anniversaries will be commemorated?   

Tuesday December 15th CHCH will debut not only their new format, but their new reality.  How long until 17.5 hours of local programming becomes zero?  

Of all the questions asked in this blog, and there were many, that is the most important one. 

Steve Clark

Great coverage and articles by The Spectator helped in this blog,  Here are the two main ones.  

Sunday, December 6, 2015


When the trade announcement came out indicating that IceDogs goaltender Brent Moran had been trade along with a passel of picks to Flint for Alex Nedelkjovic and Josh Wesley, my first thought was that I hated it, I really hated it.   So I tweeted that and you should never send anything out on social media without a mandatory cooling off period.  How long should be?  Probably longer than it would take to do a background check on guns in the U.S., but lets not get into THAT or we will be here all night.   

Now here I sit about three hours later and my final opinion on the trade is that I really do not like it.  I do not like use the word "hate", and especially for something like a hockey trade. Again, nothing to do with the guys who made the trade.  There will be no "Marty Williamson,or Terry Christensen, his Flint counterpart,  got fleeced on this one pretty good" type analysis.  I will leave that to the true experts and those who hang around the periphery trying to break down trades

My thumbs down on this trade has reall nothing to do with the merits of the trade themselves.   Goaltender Nedelkjovic is a Carolina 2nd round pick and likely headed to the World Juniors in Helsinki, while Defenseman Wesley is also a Carolina draft pick and with dad Glenn a long time NHL'er, along with Uncle Blake, the bloodlines are good.  I am sure that Wesley will swapping yarns with Ryan Mantha, whose Uncle Moe was also a solid NHL'er.  Any team in the league would be lucky to have a fine goaltender like Moran, a Dallas Star draft pick who stands 6'4, which appears to be the minimum height for a goaltender this days!  Plus extra draft picks is the currency of the league now it seems. 

Here's the bottom line.  The OHL likes to tout itself as a developmental league, but here is Brent Moran in his 4th year in the league and now he his headed to his 4th different goalie coach.  I do not profess to know the Flint goalie coach, but you can be certain that he will have a slightly different philosophy from Ryan Ludzik, the current IceDogs goalie coach who likely has a slightly different philosophy than last years coach Lucas Lobsinger, who likely had a slightly different philosophy from Ben Vanderklok.  You get the picture.   All great hockey goalie minds.  All guys who did their homework and know their craft, but each with a different message, and that maybe enough to confuse anybody. I feel bad for Brent.  Last year the IceDogs acquired a goalie as they felt Moran needed support. This year he is the one moving on.  Hey, here's hoping that Brent Moran can have the key unlocked to his vast potential, something it appeared, was not consistently reached in Niagara.  The thing is that it seemed that Moran was getting closer and closer with the IceDogs.   His goals against average was just above 3, and his save % was close to .900.  He was getting a decent run of starts, more often than not playing very, very well and was a large reason for the IceDogs recent run of success. 

The human element of this sucks too.  Brent Moran's family travelled to most, if not all of his games travelling a long distance to watch Brent play. Good people, nice people and very supportive of Brent.  Being the parents of a goalie sucks.  You get to hear how much your son or daughter blew the game, or should have stopped that one etc, etc.  Many times I would see Dan Visentin, father of IceDogs star Mark, embark on a lonely intermission walk to blow off steam, or relieve whatever had stressed him out the period before.   Now that journey gets a little longer, unless there is a super highway being built linking Ottawa and Flint.

Also, I was struck by the picture of Brent Moran with his billets.  He had established a three year relationship with them, and all of a sudden he has to pack up and say goodbye in far too less of a time.  While I get that trades are part of hockey, the relationship and bond that players can build with their billets can last a life time.  My wife's aunt and uncle billeted Sarnia Sting players for years, still speak fondly of them and maintained a relationship with a player and his parents when that player embarked on a professional career.

While Nedelkjovic and Wesley travel together to Niagara to a brand new arena, welcomed warmly by fans and teammates alike, getting to play in one of the finest, if not the finest building in the OHL and a team that is invested in going all in, Brent Moran travels a different journey.  He travels alone to a new country, a new team, a team with nowhere near the potential of his former team and a team that was on the verge of insurrection earlier in the year.  The good things is I guess is that he leaves behind being the unfair lightning rod for criticism heaped upon him and hopefully the change will be a good one.  He is the unquestioned number one in Flint, while there was a reluctance to give him that in Niagara the past two year and he is still playing to get signed by the Dallas Stars.  Maybe the latter part of this year will convince the team from the LoneStar state to get Moran inked. 

The reality of this trade is that we are reminded of how this can be sometimes a harsh business. This is ironic as the league is trying to distance itself from any sort of business model for obvious legal reasons.  It should be pointed out that the NCAA does not trade its athletes, though I suppose I hijack my own arguments as a player can transfer and that can be far worse prospect than getting traded.   I guess there is no perfect system but I'd like to think there is a better system than the one in place  because it is a system that will allow high school age students to get shipped when they are weeks away from their final exams, or in the midst of a school crunch of final projects. They are usurped from billets and friends and dropped into a new city, or new country with new teammates and coaches.      

Trades will continue to be consumated.  Scouts and teams will update the depth charts, check the cupboard for avaiable draft picks,  and those who follow such things will start to float more picks and more names of high school aged or post-secondary aged players to see if they will be a fit in Sault Ste Marie, or London, or Kitchener or Kingston or any other team.   

The human aspect is rarely reported, but the business grinds merrily along.