You can count on the toes of a three-toed sloth the number of times TSN's Bob McKenzie has had to apologize on a story. He's the habemus papem (we have a pope) of hockey reporters. When he comes out on the balcony, the white smoke rises on a story.
So when McKenzie tweets an apology for the snafu on the Jarome Iginla trade, it's news: "To be clear – no excuses – our group at TSN, of which I'm part of, regrets making a reporting error tonight. Apologies to our audience."
TSN's Aaron Ward confirmed a story live on air at 12:05 a.m. Eastern time Thursday that Iginla was going to Boston from Calgary. Virtually all the media (including Sportsnet) took this story as gospel, a decision that blew up when the Flames announced shortly afterward that Pittsburgh, not Boston, was the landing spot for the Olympic gold medalist.
Sources tell Daily Grind that Boston thought it had a deal, and that was communicated to TSN. But until Calgary – and Iginla himself – confirmed the story, it was still speculation. Unfortunately for TSN and all those who accepted its story, TSN went ahead without getting the Flames' confirmation.
Bad idea. Look, these things can happen. Especially when people are under time pressure and trying to race for a scoop. What's worrisome is how many other media have abdicated responsibility to TSN and Sportsnet for doing their work. A few preached caution on Wednesday/Thursday, including McKenzie, but too many sat back and trusted a rival to do the work. Viewers can be forgiven for asking, does anyone else chase stories besides TSN and Sportsnet?
Most nights it's a safe enough gamble for the proxy press. On the Iginla story, the smoke came out black, and they all were burned.
Wonder what's on TV this weekend? We had meaningful couch time booked starting today for watching the young Canadians in the NCAA March Madness on CBS and (when curling doesn't get in the way) TSN. There was the prospect of dunks from a long-haired dude at Gonzaga and the athletic freak at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas who's about to become rich in the NBA.
They would be Kamloops Kelly Olynyk of Zaga and Anthony Bennett of UNLV. Gonzaga was one of four No. 1 seeds in the tournament. Watching the B.C. boy and his pal Kevin Pangos of Newmarket, Ont., lead Gonzaga through the three weekends of the Madness was TSN's strategy for the sprawling tournament.
So was following Bennett, whom many see as a top-five pick in June's NBA draft.
Then what happens? Bing Crosby's alma mater loses to Wichita State, a team with two other Canadians, Nick Wiggins of Toronto and Chadrack Lufile of Burlington, Ont. Bennett's UNLV Runnin' Rebels run themselves out of the tournament by losing to California in their opener.
Can't anyone stick with the script around here? From 29 Canadian players in the opening round we are down to five.
Now what? There remains Junior Cadougan at Marquette, Wiggins and Lufile, three-point expert Nik Stauskas with Michigan, and Noel Jones, a junior forward at Syracuse. But they lack the je ne sais quoi of the stars.
Is there any curling?
TSN's first March Madness weekend was a bit of a moving target with the play-in games online only, then curling shunting some games to TSN2, and finally, mix 'n' match with CBS affiliates to catch other games.
It made one pine for the days when The Score owned the property and broadcast everything from the cheerleaders putting on makeup to guys blowing up the basketballs. Of course, The Score had ample room for such ambitious coverage. TSN is already straining to give proper airplay to its abundant properties on the two main TSN channels.
TSN's Kate Beirness is a departure from the style of the Tim 'n' Sid Spectaculars on The Score. But she's no less prepared. You can see her playing experience coming through (she played competitive basketball throughout high school and had hopes of playing point guard at the CIS level until a torn ACL forced her to abandon her dream). Plus, she's not intimidated by having ESPN superstar Dan Shulman and ex-Raptor coach Sam Mitchell on the desk with her.
Even when she tells viewers that the network is bailing on another game, her upbeat presentation saves you from chucking the remote across the den.