Canadiens become Canada's team for a while
It's long been assumed that the Toronto Maple Leafs, for reasons apparently not connected to logic, are Canada's team.
They consistently draw the highest TV ratings, thanks mainly to a large Southern Ontario populace that bleeds blue and white regardless of the team's ineptitude. (Maybe the bleeding comes from being kicked in the wallet repeatedly for the better part of 40 years.)They also have a huge following across the country, as witnessed by the number of Leaf jerseys worn in Vancouver, Calgary and Ottawa.
But maybe, just maybe, the Leafs' hold on Canadian hockey fans is slipping. Maybe, just maybe, their legion of slavish fans are noticing that other Canadian teams are worthy of their loyalty.
The evidence lies in the returns from the first round of the National Hockey League playoffs, where the Montreal Canadiens have been drawing huge ratings. Saturday's game against the Washington Capitals drew an average of 2.1 million viewers to TSN, a strong but not an overwhelming number and one the Leafs have topped during the regular season.
But another 1.3 million watched the game on French-language RDS -- an impressive 39 per cent of the Quebec French market.
This attention will probably pass if the Habs fail to come back in the series and Quebecois interest dissipates. But with a Saturday night audience focused on the Canadiens, it's possible that some viewers will have noticed that there's at least one other team worth cheering for in this country.
On the other hand, things will probably return to normal the first time the Leafs score a pre-season goal.
Here are the top weekend sports ratings on English-language television, according to BBM Canada overnight calculations:
1. NHL, Kings at Canucks, Saturday, CBC: 2,135,000
2. NHL, Canadiens at Capitals, Saturday, TSN: 2,100,000
3. NHL, Senators at Penguins, Friday, CBC: 1,912,000
4. NHL, Penguins at Senators, Sunday, CBC: 1,690,000
5. NHL, Red Wings at Coyotes, Friday, TSN: 877,000
6. NHL, Coyotes at Red Wings, Sunday, TSN: 829,000*
7. NHL, Predators at Blackhawks, Sunday, TSN: 815,000
8. NHL, Devils at Flyers, Sunday, TSN: 788,000
9. NHL, Avalanche at Sharks, Friday, CBC: 784,000
10. NHL, Bruins at Sabres, Saturday, CBC: 722,000*
11. NHL, Sharks at Avalanche, Sunday, CBC: 708,000
12. NHL, Flyers at Devils, Friday, TSN: 599,000
13. Curling, Grand Slam men's final, Sunday, CBC: 484,000
14. Baseball, Angels at Blue Jays, Sunday, Sportsnet: 481,000
15. Swimming, World synchronized championships, Saturday, CBC: 447,000
16. Curling, Grand Slam women's final, Saturday, CBC: 427,000
17. Baseball, Angels at Blue Jays, Saturday, Sportsnet: 354,000
18. Baseball, Angels at Blue Jays, Friday, Sportsnet: 324,000
19. PGA, Verizon Heritage final round, Sunday, Global-CBS: 292,000
* Viewers on NBC not calculated
OTHER STUFF: Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, which basically runs the NBA's broadcast operations in Canada, has managed to find homes for all playoff games this week. But you'll need a pretty comprehensive cable/satellite package to see them all. Raptors NBA TV has nine games, with TSN2 airing eight this week. The Score has another six while TSN managed to find room for three. ... If you don't have the NFL Network and really want to watch the NFL draft Thursday night, you're going to have to do some work. TSN2 will show the first hour at 7:30, before going to the Chicago-Nashville playoff game. Now here's where it gets really complicated. When the 7 p.m. NHL game between the Flyers and Devils ends (let's say around 10 p.m.), the Chicago-Nashville game will migrate to TSN and TSN2 will pick up what's left of the draft. TSN3, anyone? If you do have the NFL Network, it will have every excruciating moment. By the way, the next day's picks will be carried live on TSN2. ... When the Rogers Sportsnet has added a couple of ex-NHLers to its playoff editions of Hockeycentral. Recently fired Tampa Bay general manager Brian Lawton appears Tuesday (6 p.m.) while retired defenceman Marty McSorley will be on Wednesday's show. McSorley will also do other work during the Canucks-Kings series. ... If real sports news isn't enough for you, try out this ``report" on Saturday's mixed martial arts fiasco: http://etruesports.com/index.php?page=article&articleId=400 At least, I think it's not real.