What Now For TSN?

Jeremy Wiebe November 26, 2013 15
TSN PanelNational Post

As many of you know by now, the NHL announced a landmark agreement with Rogers Broadcasting on a 12 year deal to televise NHL hockey. The deal stunned many observers as rivals TSN were completely left out of the picture, as Rogers paid an astronomical $5.2 billion, to purchase the rights. Rogers will sublet Hockey Night In Canada to CBC, who will continue to televise Saturday night games for at least the next 4 seasons. Fellow F4S writer Mike Smith has more on what that means to the Toronto Maple Leafs and you can read it here.

But the question remains, what does this mean for TSN, specifically the on-air talent? There are many observers (myself included) who thought TSN did the best job at covering the NHL since 2002. Their broadcasts were generally high in quality, with innovative features such as, covering the NHL trade deadline and free agent frenzy for an entire day, their stupendous coverage of the NHL draft, and their one up-one down approach with the play-by-play man in the press box, while the game analyst was between the benches. TSN was always trying to stay a step ahead of the competition. So where will the on-air talent go? Let’s look at the key figures and speculate where they could end up.

Bob McKenzie:

It was ironic that the man who broke the news of TSN losing the NHL rights, was TSN’s top insider. McKenzie has been with TSN since 1986, while he was editor in-chief of the Hockey News. McKenzie is generally regarded as the top insider in hockey, and his wealth of contacts are second to none. I see McKenzie staying at TSN though. He is somewhat of a lifer at the network and he will continue to be a major part of TSN’s World Junior Hockey coverage. TSN will continue to cover hockey in terms of news and updates so expect McKenzie to stay at TSN.

Pierre LeBrun:

It would not shock me one bit if LeBrun moves back to CBC. He does have a history with the corporation, as he was a mainstay on the Hot Stove segment from 2007 to 2011. LeBrun is the main insider for ESPN, who does have 20% ownership of TSN, so there is a chance he could stay on with TSN. But with CBC in desperate need of an overhaul of their panel, (PJ Stock and Glenn Healy are absolutely abysmal) LeBrun would bring an air of professionalism and knowledge that is needed at CBC.

Darren Dreger:

This is an interesting case. In 2006, Dreger shocked the hockey world, by leaving Sportsnet for TSN. It was  a major move for Dreger as he “crossed the parking lot” to join the bitter rivals of Rogers. (Sportsnet and TSN used to share the same broadcast complex in suburban Toronto) Dreger burned some bridges at Sportsnet so one wonders if they will let him return to a network, he once scorned. Dreger doesn’t bring much to the table when it comes to World Junior coverage so he is limited when it comes to knowledge outside the NHL. There’s a slim chance CBC might take him, but my gut feeling is Dreger bolts to NBC and becomes their main insider. Call it a hunch.

James Duthie:

The host of the NHL on TSN, Duthie has risen through the ranks and has become a star at TSN. He brings humour and an easy-going attitude to the job which is refreshing in the business. Duthie is a versatile broadcaster, as his splendid work at the London Olympics prove. He also has experience in working with the CFL so there is a good chance he will stay with TSN. However, if Rogers calls and shows him the money, Duthie could leave. Stay tuned.

Gord Miller:

Another longtime TSN loyalist, Miller has been with the all-sports network since 1990, and is one of the more valuable and seasoned broadcasters on the network. Miller started calling NHL games on TSN back in 1993, as well as hosting the broadcasts until 1998 when TSN lost the rights. When the NHL returned to TSN in 2002, Miller was named lead play-by-play announcer and quickly became one of the best in the business. Miller is also the main voice of the World Junior Championships which made him a household name in Canada. He also does occasional work for NBC, calling NHL and NCAA games. Miller has also covered CFL football, Toronto Blue Jays baseball, and was a featured reporter of the 1994 and 1998 World Cups of Soccer. Miller also called athletics at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. It is highly likely that Miller stays on at TSN due to his versatility but there is a chance that Rogers could make him an offer he won’t refuse.

Chris Cuthbert:

The veteran broadcaster has been with TSN since 2005, after a bitter and very public divorce from CBC. Cuthbert was the man who called the gold medal game at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, with his call of Sidney Crosby’s overtime goal still echoing in every Canadian’s mindset. However, the CFL is Cuthbert’s baby and with TSN maintaining CFL rights for the next few years, don’t expect Cuthbert to move anytime soon.

Ray Ferraro:

This one is interesting. Ferraro will be sought after by Rogers and CBC, as his stock is rising thanks to some solid work. Ferraro is currently the lead analyst on TSN, and will travel with Miller to Sweden for the World Junior Championships. Ferraro also has done work with NBC in the past as a studio host and game analyst. Rogers will make a push for the former Hartford Whaler, but I would like to see him at CBC, teaming up with rising star Rick Ball as CBC’s western team. Ferraro just might be the most attractive free agent in the broadcasting market.

Mike Johnson:

Currently the number 2 analyst on TSN, Johnson also does analyst work for the Winnipeg Jets, on TSN’s regional coverage of my favourite NHL team. Johnson is inconsistent at the best of times but is respected by TSN management. If Ferraro leaves, look for Johnson to become the analyst for future World Junior broadcasts. Adding to his work with TSN Jets, Johnson isn’t going anywhere.

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