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If James Duthie and Daren Millard are half as tired as we are of seeing another hockey panel, then the pair of TV anchors are going directly to IV drips after the kickoff marathon to NHL free agency on Thursday. Yes, it was "once more into the breach, dear friends, once more" for the hosts of TSN and Rogers Sportsnet, respectively.

At least they had a warm hotstove to kick off the show. The Kris Versteeg-to-Toronto Maple Leafs trade received the predictable dissection for Leaf Nation, as did the Colby Armstrong to the Maple Leafs (does Brian Burke not know you win with centres?). Sergei Gonchar's migration to the Ottawa Senators allowed them to tick off the "other Canadian city" box on the script. And who could get enough gabbing about Martin Biron to the New York Rangers? Really? (For good measure, TSN peppered the hockey hotstove with some prerecorded NBA hotstove.)

After the swift start to Canada Day dealings, the trade supply dissipated three hours into the shows (Dan Hamhuis notwithstanding). In what seemed a fitting conclusion, the dazed talking heads - just removed from the playoff odyssey - went into sugar shock as Calgary Flames general manager Darryl Sutter repatriated the Finnish Flop, Olli Jokinen, at $3-million (U.S.) a season. While Darren Pang (turnoff your phone ring!) and Keith Jones tried to put lipstick on the pig, Duthie could only blurt, "It's nuts." Pierre McGuire solemnly intoned, "This is one of the most strange things I have ever seen in the past 12 years in the NHL. I mean that sincerely."

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But hey, the Calgary GM is just showing the same loyalty to failed ideas that Calgary's owners displayed when they signed the Jolly Rancher up for another campaign as GM. Think Matt Millen/Bill Ford at the Detroit Lions and you'll get the picture.

Shop Talk

Apparently the purge last week of Millard as host of Hockey Central at Noon at the FAN 590 still stings. Millard was reining in the loquacious Doug MacLean when the ex-GM shot back. Millard: "Are you asking questions now?" MacLean: "Are you the new host of … [pause]" Nick Kypreos: "No, [Millard is]the new analyst." Millard: "I'm the new analyst, that's what we're talking about … on Hockey Central? That's another story for another day." They laughed when they said all this.

Over at TSN, Gino Reda pointed out the broken ankle of analyst Matthew Barnaby. Barnaby claimed it was from tripping in his back yard. "I don't know that I buy the falling down in the back yard," a disembodied Duthie said. Give Barnaby credit for repeating his damning opinions of Jokinen voiced when Calgary acquired the Finn in 2009.

Forde-ing The Stream

Duane Forde worked the Calgary Stampeders/Toronto Argonauts game on TSN's CFL season opener Thursday. On a TV crew that plays up oversized characters, the former CFL player is understated. But few in the country are better versed on the league, the style of play and the workings of the game than Forde.

Usual Suspects wanted to know what's the hot topic as the 2010 season begins? "The biggest thing I think you might see this year is the emphasis on Canadian talent," Forde said Wednesday at McMahon Stadium. "You had the two Grey Cup finalists, Montreal and Saskatchewan, who used more than the required quota of Canadian starters. They realized that having Canadian starters is not a weakness, it's a benefit. You see more teams recognizing that.

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"It used to be you had an all-Canadian offensive line to hide Canadians at positions where you could hide them. Now, it's, 'If I've got a Canadian at a skill position, I'm getting him on the field, whether I have seven or 10 starters'."

Forde also noted the new CFL drug policy but wonders if it's not more of a problem in the NFL.

"The typical thing you associate with steroids - size and bulk - are not in the nature of Canadian game. So I don't think it's been an issue here as [much]it has been in American football. The guys typically associated with this stuff are not the elite guys, they're the fringe guys - and if some of those guys can't make it, so be it."

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