Thursday, October 4, 2007

Hockey Radio: HNIC Hits the Airwaves

Oilers logoDucks logoThe new CBC produced Hockey Night in Canada weekday radio broadcast was definitely the hockey related media program I was most looking forward to this season.

The most surprising aspect of the new production is that it was so long in arriving.

The Hockey Night in Canada telecast is the biggest money maker for the national broadcasting corporation. The drive-time hockey show has the potential to increase the popularity of the weekly television match-ups even more. Think of it; a full week of hyping the upcoming games, discussing issues surrounding each team and in general just catering to the huge appetite that Canadians and many others have for discussing all things hockey.

Of course, I was excited about all that until I discovered that the radio broadcasts will only be available on Sirius satellite radio. As far as I know, their package is only offered within North America.

Though I'm sure there is a logical explanation as to why even listeners in Canada have to cough up for the satellite subscription, I haven't come up with one yet. CBC is a publicly funded organization. Without taxpayer dollars it wouldn't exist. So what is the rationale? Is it produced in CBC studios? I believe so. The daily hockey discussion show uses the CBC and Hockey Night in Canada brands which were both created and built using government funds, and yet it is only available with a monthly fee on a commercial satellite radio station.

Obviously there are aspects of CBC which are commercial in nature, such as the television arm. But while Saturday night hockey telecasts rake in advertising dollars which can be plowed back into maintaining and developing other program areas at the Ceeb, anyone in Canada with a TV can tune without paying a surcharge. That's not so with the new radio program (assuming I'm reading this correctly.)

The satellite station, Sirius, is apparently now partly owned by the CBC. Perhaps that factor is what makes the deal compliant with CBC guidelines. If in fact there are such guidelines. I'm probably basing my assumptions on some idealized notion of what a publicly funded broadcaster is actually obliged to do.

I don't want to come across in an "I'm gonna get to the bottom of this," kind of way. I would just like to know so that I understand the media business and the workings of such agreements better. I've sent a few e-mails to the CBC asking about the arrangement but they haven't responded so far.

For those in Canada and the U.S. who don't normally tune into the CBC and are considering the possibility of subscribing to Sirius for this show alone, I urge you to do it. If you're a regular listener of radio talk shows I have no doubt you will be impressed with the production values and the overall quality of a CBC program. I'm betting they will offer more than the ranting, raving, listener call-in formula offered by many of the other syntactically challenged hosts on various radio sports shows (though many of those are entertaining as well.) I wouldn't be surprised if you also get some of the in-the-field, mini-documentary type features that the CBC does so well.

I would sure like to listen to the 2 hours of daily hockey talk but it doesn't look like it will happen. Anyone who has had the chance, please leave some comments detailing your impressions. Or if you would like to write a full review of Hockey Night in Canada's radio show, let me know and I will be happy to post it here.

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Radio Interview with Kevin Lowe


Speaking of hockey and radio, an Edmonton radio host named Dan Tencer recently interviewed Kevin Lowe, general manager of the Edmonton Oilers. Spanning a full 45 minutes, Lowe goes over the strengths and weaknesses of the 07-08 Oilers, addresses the repeated dissing from Anaheim GM Brian Burke and covers a wide range of other topics.

Some have suggested in the past that Lowe has a tendency to publicly rip people who have passed through the Oilers organization and left on less than the greatest terms. It's the kind of habit than can create uneasy feelings in current employees for the simple reason that they've got to wonder if the knives will be out for them once they move on. Take a listen and decide for yourself.

Interview with Kevin Lowe

Here are a few quotes from the interview. On Jason Smith being named captain a few years ago compared to the most recent naming of Ethan Moreau as the new team leader:

"It was kind of irritating to me a few of the guys got their noses out of joint at the time. It was appalling. I can safely say that's not the question this time around..."

Oooh, I wonder who he's referring to?

On Brian Burke and the signing of (then) restricted free agent Dustin Penner:

"People need to know that he (Burke) really thrives on this stuff. He's a little bit of a media junkie and loves the attention...I suspect through all this, the barbs he's throwing at us and me, he's sort of insinuating that Dustin Penner's not a very good hockey player. Time will tell. I hope that Dustin Penner's reading between the lines and wants to use that as motivation to shove it you know where...He's (Burke) known for going over the top, being a bit of an egomaniac. He's just further proving that that's the case...I suspect it will come to a moment where...there's gonna be confrontation...but it's difficult to do because this is a public business..."

"I've had many calls, from New Jersey, New York, Columbus, Carolina, Florida, Vancouver, San Jose, Los Angeles, Montreal, Toronto...conversations I've had with managers in the last week alone and I haven't sensed anyone doesn't want to do business with us anymore...I sense Brian Burke left himself exposed, he went out and signed some big name players who have some injury risks and gave them a lot of money and as a result he had used up a lot of his cap room and whether he wanted to match our offer to Dustin Penner or not he probably eliminated his chance."

Well worth a listen.

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