Business as usual seems to be the mantra the NHL's major television partners were operating under Thursday. While the NHL and NHLPA continue to negotiate towards a new collective bargaining agreement prior to the September 15 deadline, major Canadian broadcasters CBC and TSN/RDS (along with NBC in the U.S.) released their television schedules for the upcoming season.
The 2012-2013 season marks the 60th anniversary of CBC's Hockey Night in Canada and will feature 101 live games including 29 Montreal Canadiens games and 25 Toronto Maple Leafs games. But it could also be the penultimate year for HNIC on CBC as the television rights are up for renewal in 2014. Rumors have been swirling for months that media giants Bell Media and Rogers are going to take their best shots at gaining the rights to the hockey program that draws millions of eyeballs every Saturday night from October-June and CBC may not have the budget for a bidding war.
CBC's former executive vice president for English Services Richard Stursberg told the Globe and Mail in May:
"I think the chances of (retaining the contract) are low," Stursberg said Wednesday in Calgary as he promoted his book The Tower Of Babble. "It's going to be very, very difficult. The sports networks are jacking up the prices, so they're going to have even deeper pockets when they come to the table. TSN and Sportsnet have proven that they can get big TV audiences as easily as the CBC does. And that's very hard to fight against. Especially when their owners are very keen to have the property."
Showing the love
It's unfair to gauge the attention CBC gives to certain American teams because all the games aired on HNIC include at least one Canadian team and over 30 percent of the games involve two Canadian-based teams. However, on TSN only a small percentage of games feature solely Canadian teams, and a handful of games feature only US-based teams meaning more opportunity for fans to watch some of the game's biggest stars
Some winners and losers from TSN's NHL broadcast schedule:
Winner: Sidney Crosby. The Penguins played just four times on TSN last season, but that could have something to do with the massive question mark behind Crosby's return. No doubt a Crosby-less Penguins team would be a harder sell to Canadian viewers, but with the Pens captain healthy and ready for the beginning of the season (if and when that happens), Pittsburgh is scheduled for eight appearances on TSN in 2012-2013.
Loser: Rick Nash. It doesn't appear the addition of Canadian star and former Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash makes the New York Rangers a bigger sell for TSN. The Rangers had a total of seven games air on TSN last season and will have just six this year.
Winner: Minnesota Wild. The addition of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter not only boosted the number of appearances the Wild will see on NBC, but TSN has taken an interest in the new faces in Minnesota as well. The Wild will have seven games air on TSN this season — including a March 12 game against Pheonix — compared to the three that were broadcasted in 2011-2012.
Loser: Carolina Hurricanes. Though general manager Jim Rutherford made two big off-season splashes in acquiring Jordan Staal and signing free-agent forward Alex Semin, the Canes will have just two of their games aired.