At one point during the Hockey Central broadcast prior to Wednesday night’s Toronto Maple Leafs-Montreal Canadiens season opener, Rogers Sportsnet broadcaster Jeff Marek breathlessly announced that it was the dawning “of a new era in the NHL.”
The dawning of a new era in the NHL because Rogers Sportsnet has a new, long-term deal with the NHL — a bit of a stretch.
But all things considered, Wednesday’s broadcast and Hockey Central presentation was impressive, although it was pretty obvious from the opening that Rogers’ modus operandi was to show off the $5.2 billion they’ve invested on NHL hockey over the next 12 years, with the new studios and funny game boards, etc.
What they didn’t show was the millions of exasperated Blue Jays fans throwing down handfuls of Pepcid AC … The first guy on camera — new lead host George Stroumboulopoulos — is absolutely thrilled to be part of everything. At least, he kept telling us that. Cut to the Hockey Central panel featuring Doug MacLean, Nick Kypreos and Daren Millard. Solid panel. Then on to Darren Pang and something new called the Puck Wall. I was waiting for someone from the audience to shout out the price of a new washer/dryer set … Later cut to Ron MacLean surrounded by artificially excited hockey fans. It’s clear MacLean’s role in the Rogers broadcast has been diminished somewhat from his role with CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada. He did his main segment from a truck. A pretty fancy truck, but a truck nonetheless. According to MacLean, the truck has a makeup room, which explains the $5.2 billion … Cut to Marek at Dundas Square surrounded by muted Leafs fans. Marek promptly yells that he can’t believe how quiet they all are, at which point four fans yell “Whoo!” while the rest remain beaten down … Back to Doug MacLean, Pang and Kypreos, this time with hockey sticks, explaining something about the best way to check P.K. Subban. Thank goodness for the hockey sticks, otherwise the lesson would have gone right over our heads (sarcasm) … Stroumboulopoulos interviews Dion Phaneuf and we learn that the Leafs captain has been known to smile sometimes and have fun. A regular Frost/Nixon showdown … Back to Dundas Square, this time with Scott Oake and the fans are profoundly more enthusiastic, at least those immediately in front of the camera. Obviously, during the break, somebody pleaded with the crowd to do something other than look glum … Glenn Healy is then introduced between the benches at the ACC, followed by Ron MacLean and Don Cherry. Don talks about Bobby Orr and how he won’t change his act on TV. Exciting new material. The segment ends with a head-scratching Ron MacLean riddle … Cut to Marek introducing the Tragically Hip at Dundas Square. Gord Downie sings 50 Mission Cap. At least, I think he was singing.
AND ON WITH THE GAME
According to Healy, training camps are a waste of time for most players. So much for NHL coaches saying they wish training camps were longer … Phaneuf looks like a pylon and Jonathan Bernier like a sieve on Montreal’s first goal, by Max Pacioretty, though Bernier settled down nicely … Great storyline: Brandon Kozun’s first game in the NHL and Nazem Kadri deflects a Kozun shot to tie the game, though the play should have been called offside … Never a truer word was spoken. During the first period Healy says we’re going to get tired of analytics. Amen to that … New Rogers broadcast, same “life isn’t worth living without hockey” ads … Huge first NHL game for Leafs defenceman Stuart Percy, including an assist on Tyler Bozak’s power-play goal … Cut to Leafs fans in Maple Leaf Square after the first period. The crowd looks bored (like they’re waiting for Dave Nonis to shout “F— Montreal” or something), until they notice the camera is on, and then they cheer. Nothing like spontaneity … Fans in the platinum section at the ACC still can’t get to their seats for the start of the second and third periods. Rogers should have done us all a favour and spent some of that money on cattle prods … Daniel Winnik sets the bar for dumb penalties in the second period, throwing the puck into the Montreal end from the neutral zone … Sky cam, ref cam … waiting for popcorn-vendor cam … So, if you buy Pumas, you’ll end up in a hot tub with beautiful babes? Okay … Some new bells and whistles on the Rogers broadcast, but one thing remains exactly the same: Interviewing NHL players between periods is a waste of time … The Leafs’ first line looks terrible on Montreal’s third goal, by Subban … Good bounce-back game for David Clarkson after a forgetful 2013-14 season … Doug MacLean calls Toronto’s defensive play “pathetic” and that the missed assignments by the Leafs against the Habs were “unbelievable”. Actually, if anyone watched the Leafs last year, it was all very believable.