"Now what?" Fans relieved to have the NHL back after months of labour turmoil are asking what's in it for them when teams return to play around Jan. 19. Will the NHL compensate them for their pain since October's cancelled start to the season?
The league has several options, but Sunday no one at the NHL was prepared to talk about make goods until the CBA is approved this week. Ideas being floated include free Centre Ice, the NHL's cable package, for some or all the regular season. Free live streaming would also be a possibility. Discounts for online merchandise could be a part of any incentive package.
Networks such as TSN or Sportsnet might also prime the pump by offering some of their secondary channels for free for a period of time when the league resumes. Contacted Sunday, spokespersons for TSN and Sportsnet told us that they will announce plans for special programming early in the week but had no news of any incentives to viewers as yet.
Teams contacted Sunday said they would have no announcements on any possible incentives until the schedules have been completed, reportedly early this week.
Edmonton president Pat Laforge tempered expectations for ticket price relief. "If we thought we could just wave a wand over it," he told CBC. "and all the memories of the lockout are gone away, I think that would be just silly on our part."
WOLVES ON A LAMB CHOP
After months with nothing to deliver but negotiating strategies, Canada's TV sports networks were like wolves on a lamb chop Sunday as news of the CBA settlement hit. Give TSN and Sportsnet credit for keeping hands on deck for live coverage at 5 A.M. when the deal was announced.
A lack of official confirmation on precise details from the NHL and NHLPA produced conjecture, assumption and out-and-out balderdash on Sunday. (Team executives we spoke to had yet to receive details on a number of issues.) But nothing could bring down the room in the euphoria of puckheads getting their game back.
TSN and Sportsnet went into full Trade Deadline Day mode with panels in New York City, Toronto and Vancouver plus correspondents across the seven NHL cities. While teams still have to get players under contract, playoff races were dissected. Giddy prognosticators were trading Vancouver's Roberto Luongo to everywhere but Dynamo Minsk.
TSN's Craig Button said Vancouver should hang onto Luongo. On Sportsnet, ex-Rangers GM Neil Smith said Toronto would never give up prospects to get Luongo. Mike Keenan, Smith's coach for the 1994 NYC Stanley Cup winners, said Toronto had no choice but to make the deal with the Canucks. On TSN Luongo said he wasn't sure what comes next.
Perhaps the best summation of relief on Sunday came from Montreal's P.K. Subban when asked on Sportsnet what he's most looking forward to. "My first pay cheque," said Subban, rubbing his hands. Indeed.
The U.S. football media is in high dudgeon over QB Robert Griffin III of Washington starting Sunday's playoff game with a bad knee and then remaining in the game against Seattle when it was clear his knee was damaged. Many intimated that Washington coach Mike Shanahan should never have left RG III in the game.
Shanahan might have played an injured player (although RG III absolved him). But isn't it a bit odd to see so much attention to RG III's knee when so little attention is often paid to the concussed heads of many NFL players?
AND NOW A WORD FROM OUR SPONSOR
Not a great weekend for NFL rightsholder CTV / TSN. As we reported before, there are technical differences between commercial breaks in Canadian and U.S. coverage. This can produce rough transistions between games an commercials.
Even allowing for that, the four NFL games – plus NCAA bowl games – were fraught with missed plays, announcers joined in mid-sentence, audio drop outs and other technical glitches. A key play in the Mississippi / Pitt game was missed entirely for a commercial.
You weren't imagining things if you heard NBC's Dan Hicks call the play-by-play for Saturday's Cincinnati / Houston NFL playoff game in Texas and then saw him in Maui on Sunday for the PGA Tour opener at Kapalua.
The veteran announcer travelled all night from Houston to Las Vegas to Honolulu to Maui to get to the course on time for... another delay in the weather-plagued Hyundai Championships. They managed to get the event underway hours late in howling winds but shut it down after a few holes. We'd feel sorry for Hicks, but, like, it is Maui, not Milwaukee.
With the lockout over, has the NHL won you back? Vote in our poll and compare your answer with others.