When it comes to Canada and hockey there is no end to the possible cliches. But cliches usually become cliche because they are true. It cannot be denied; we Canadians love our hockey. Therefore successfully televising NHL hockey should be about as difficult as selling bottled water in the desert. Yet the new rights-holder to all things NHL, Rogers Communications, continues to find ways to make things difficult. Oddly my new hockey-watching experience brings to mind Carole King’s classic lyrics:
It used to be so easy
Livin’ here with you.
You were light and breezy
And I knew just what to do.
I have posted before about the need for a decoder ring and maps to figure out what channel your team’s game is on. Once located the big question is whether or not you actually get that channel.
The airing of the Montreal Canadiens tribute to a former player on Saturday night was a fine example of how Rogers has complicated things. Guy Lapointe’s number 5 was to be retired in a pregame ceremony. The Canadiens do this sort of thing as well or better than any other sports organization. During the preceding week it was mentioned several times in various media that the ceremony would commence at 6:30 PM and that although the actual game was scheduled to be broadcast on Montreal’s CITY-TV, the main “homeroom” Hockey Night in Canada program on CBC would carry the ceremony nationwide, then broadcast the Toronto Maple Leafs game.
So there I was plunked down in front of the telly at 6:27 PM, chores done, cold beer in hand, ready to be transported back to the glory days of the Habs as they were recounted during the retirement proceedings. On came the HNIC program featuring new host George Stroumboulopoulos and an army of analysts and commentators: but no Guy Lapointe. After a few items of general hockey interest Strombo informed the viewers that the Lapointe number retirement was now being broadcast on something called SportsNet360, and that the main network would join things just in time to see the raising of the banner.
Now I had to find where SportsNet360 was; having done so I, not surprisingly, also found out that I don’t get that channel. Since Rogers took over I have been forced to rejig my cable subscription twice to find Canadiens games, I was getting tired of doing so. I don’t know what the hell F/X is, nor why my Canadiens games are on it. I tried CITY-TV where they would eventually air the game, but no dice, they also had the main Toronto feed of George and his panels. Unlike many people, I don’t have anything against P.J. Stock, but when a legendary member of the Montreal Canadiens is being honoured, I’d rather watch the hoopla than P.J.
True to their word – at least their second word – HNIC switched to the BELL Centre just in time to see the raising of the banner and hear Lapointe’s speech. Once done, the broadcast schedule was picked up and various games were to be found on the array channels. Except CITY-TV Montreal where the entire ceremony was now being rebroadcast!
Evidently the NHL itself contributed to the confusion. They used to hold these ceremonies after the pregame warm-up, and before the puck drop. Depending on the length of the ceremony, players may have sat for almost an hour since warming up. Now the ceremony and warm up have been flipped. Retirement fun followed by pregame warm up, ice resurfacing, national anthems and bingo! the game. But it looks like they forgot to tell Rogers.
Ironically if there is an upside to this confusing new world of hockey broadcasting it’s that with so many games on offer, the average fan, armed with a remote control may never have to watch another commercial.