CBC takes a gamble on Sens and Pens
You have to admire CBC's courage, if nothing else.
Under the National Hockey League's Canadian broadcast deal, CBC gets the first two picks of playoff series in the first two rounds with TSN choosing third. After that, they alternate selections.
CBC's first pick was a no-brainer, what with the Vancouver Canucks expected to have a long playoff run and the team having a pretty strong following, especially left of the Rockies. As for the second pick, nobody would have blamed CBC if it had chosen the Montreal Canadiens-Washington Capitals series over the Pittsburgh-Ottawa matchup.
After all, the Habs have a much bigger following than the Senators and CBC's been trying to mend fences in Quebec for a few years. But instead, the public network chose to go with the Sens-Pens and risk a torch-and-pitchfork revolt in La Belle Province.
CBC Sports head Scott Moore explains:
``It was a tough, tough choice. We have spent a lot of time cultivating Montreal Canadiens fans and the fact they're playing against Ovechkin made it potentially interesting. But we couldn't see walking away from opening with the Stanley Cup champions.
``We think it may be a more competitive and longer series and there's potential for an upset."
The deciding factor was Sidney Crosby, coming off his Olympic moment.
``One of the major reasons is that Sidney Crosby is the Gretzky of his time and we felt pretty strongly that this is a big year for him," Moore said. ``His stock may never be higher and we felt he was the guy to follow."
There were other factors at play. In Quebec, CBC has to split its audience with RDS, the network of choice for many bilingual hockey fans.
That's a pretty big gamble for CBC. I'm not sure Crosby has enough drawing power to make up the difference in the teams' fan base. Ottawa has the smallest legion of fans among the Canadian teams and Montreal's is right up there with the Leafs and Canucks.
Either way, TSN is happy. It gets a built-in audience with the Habs and should enjoy some pretty solid ratings in the first round. But that will probably be it for TSN's playoff Canadian content since it's unlikely all three will make it past the first round.
In addition to the two aforementioned series, CBC will also have San Jose-Colorado and Buffalo-Boston. Jim Hughson and Craig Simpson will call the Vancouver-Los Angeles series while Bob Cole and Greg Millen get Ottawa-Pittsburgh. Dean Brown and Garry Galley will handle the Buffalo-Boston matchup with Mark Lee and Kevin Weekes doing the San Jose-Colorado series.
TSN has the Devils-Flyers, Blackhawks-Predators and Coyotes-Red Wings series in addition to the Habs and Caps. Gord Miller and Pierre McGuire will take the Montreal series while Chris Cuthbert and Ray Ferraro will do most of the New Jersey-Philadelphia and Chicago-Nashville series with help from Miller and McGuire.
TSN will pick up most of the Phoenix-Detroit series from Versus.
Three of the first-round games are scheduled for TSN2 because of conflicts, though obviously none of Montreal's games will end up on the secondary channel.
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