Author: konstantin kharitonov | contributor
Let the comparisons begin
I’m pretty sure you are all familiar with sitting down in front of the TV (or computer, all praise be to streaming), heading to your favourite sports channel and checking out the game – whether it be hockey, basketball or I guess even darts. Everyone has their own sport that they want to watch, and they watch it on their respective sports channel(s). However, one has to be better, right? On one side, you have TSN with its love for Canadian and American football, and the Raptors (with some other basketball games sprinkled in). On the other, you have Sportsnet with baseball (just wait until the middle of July when baseball is all that is on), international soccer, and DARTS (WOOO YEAAAHH). Clearly, this isn’t about who has what, because they cover very different sports, the good and the bad. As anyone would have guessed, it’s all hockey.
With TSN, you get everything. The highlights, the analysis shows, the breakdowns of every trade, free agent signings, the league business news, everything involving the game – except the actual game. Well, not at the NHL level (unless you are in Toronto, Ottawa and Winnipeg, where you get Leafs, Sens, and Jets games. My condolences), but you get all of your international needs here. Sportsnet, on the other hand, is all about the NHL and CHL, mainly because of Rogers’ 12-year $5.232 BILLION deal. Before this deal there was no argument; it was all TSN. Their play-by-play commentary as well as analysis pre-, during, and post-game was absolutely phenomenal. Who didn’t love hearing Gord Miller’s scratchy shrieks anytime the puck was within five feet of the blue paint or Ray Ferraro’s umm, let’s say, interestingly detailed, coloured commentary (at least it isn’t Pierre McGuire)? You got everything, and then after the game, you could watch That’s Hockey 2Nite for hours, since it is looped until the next day. And, of course, SportsCentre. Jay and Dan. That is all.
Times have changed, though. While Sportsnet was always fairly solid with their own programming – Tim and Sid, Hockeycentral, etc. – they were never really on that TSN level, mainly because it wasn’t as entertaining and was slightly more awkward. I mean, I used to watch Sportsnet all the time to catch the Flames or the Oilers play, but it was pretty meh. But how that all changed one November day, ever since Sportsnet took control of most NHL games in Canada and, with that, even consumed Hockey Night in Canada into its mix. A year into the deal, though, reviews have been mixed, to put it nicely. The great part is that all of the great commentators (and Glen Healy) from HNIC are now also on Sportsnet broadcasts and they still deliver what is expected of them. I mean, who doesn’t love Bob Cole? Easily the best in the business. And once the game is over, you have to hand it to the Sportsnet analysts. While there is the occasional hiccup, there are more and more advanced statistics that they cover, which let’s be honest, is how the game is moving toward being consumed by diehard fans. Not so much with TSN. However, there are major flaws as well. TV blackouts, glitches where the audio or even video can be cut, and “played the game” biases still plague the overall enjoyment of the product. And while you do have the HNIC crew, it’s still nowhere near as enjoyable as the original Hockey Night. That being said, there are still 11 more years of it, so we can all hope that it can get better, which I think is entirely possible. Though you have to wonder, it would have been nice to have a TSN exclusivity deal instead.
Overall, both Sportsnet and TSN are very reasonable stations where it all depends on which sports interest you most. If that happens to be hockey, it depends on your choice. If you’re a casual fan wanting to cheer on your nation, nothing beats TSN. Though, if you are interested in the analytic approach to your favorite NHL team, then Sportsnet, no matter what, is your cup of tea. But, to each his own.