Well, I wouldn't have thought it possible, but the word has come down today, CBC will keep Hockey Night in Canada coming on Canadian TV sets Saturday nights for six more years. More coverage here.
To be honest, I was kinda in Bell Globemedia's corner (CTV, TSN) for the past couple years, ever since I found out the rights were up for renewal. I've grown exhausted of the overall quality (or lackluster) of CBC's production. Don't get me wrong, I love Bob Cole and Harry Neale, may they live to be 1000 years old. And Ron MacLean and Don Cherry are Canadian staples, although if I never have to watch Ron interview Colin Campbell again, I'd be alright. But, I'm talking about PRODUCTION...sound (mixing, levels, quality and creative use of), music beds, graphics, stats, interactivity, etc. On these fronts, CBC is about 15 years behind TSN, 30 years behind NBC. But that's just me.
On the other hand. CBC recently, maybe 6 weeks ago, updated all their graphics (except the GIANT in-game time clock, the most needed upgrade), some newer music here and there, and new voice overs for their production. Most of it is crap, but hey, it's newer. Here's hoping they have even newer stuff planned for next year, and keep it fresh for another 6 years. Basically, if you watch a game on NBC, and then watch CBC (or vice versa), you'll know what I'm talking about. NBC takes full advantage of the 'new NHL', including much better access to the players during games. There's an on-ice interview at the end of each period, generally you can hear the mics that the refs wear to announce penalties, and every period or so they do the "Verizon Sounds of the Game", where we get to hear what Sidney Crosby talks about on the bench. Full marks NBC!
Here's another highlight from the NHL.com article, from league commissioner Gary Bettman:
"...this coming Saturday, when Hockey Night in Canada will begin a new tradition which will only enhance the viewing pleasure for hockey fans in this country: Both games of the double-header will be provided in high definition."
Sweet, it's been low-def Oilers, Flames and Canucks for too long! Well done! Hopefully this doesn't mean they've stolen some HD cameras from the Leafs and will continue to offer 'fake HD', where the main camera is HD, but any side or opposite angles are decidedly standard definition. Anyways, you take what you can get in this country.
The article mentions that the CBC's beloved "Hockey Day in Canada" (the annual triple header featuring all six Canadian teams) will continue...hmmm, last I heard, the NHL was committed to its current ridiculous schedule, which doesn't even have each Canadian team meet next year!
But wait there's more. And this is the biggest news, if you ask me (from the CBC article):
"Also, a multimedia package including live and on-demand video streaming of all CBC's hockey broadcasts will be available online at CBC.ca in the near future. That means fans in Canada will be able to watch any Hockey Night in Canada broadcast on CBC.ca, regardless of what game is being broadcast in their area of the country."
Hallejujah!!!! I streamed a game off Comcast's site Friday night, and it was awesome. The game wasn't on anywhere locally, but since I was able to stream it, it DOESN'T MATTER WHERE I LIVE (unlike LEAFSTV)! I get the feeling I'm gonna be watching a lot more hockey now that I can just go to CBC.ca and click on the feed I want. Damn, I think I'm drooling. Here's hoping for a decent resolution, 30 fps, and Quicktime (Please Lord, don't let them fall into the Windows Media trap that NHL.com lives in). CBC currently uses Quicktime and Real Media (yikes...but I think that's just for the older Linux crowd).
Ok, well that's about all I have to say on this at the moment. Gotta let it sink in. I think I'm fine with CBC having the rights (not that I can do anything anyways), as long as they step up and prove that they deserve it, instead of winning it just cause they're the incumbent and "Canada's Network", despite what the numbers say. Richard Stursburg is the newly minted head of CBC Sports, so hopefully he's watched a few other broadcasts in his day (he used to run the show over at TSN, so there's hope!). Let's see some more HD cameras and much much better production. Truth be told, I didn't want to pony up to the extra tiers from my cable company just to get TSN HD (your area may vary). I'd rather cancel the cable outright, and live off the 'tubes, which as of today, has become a lot more realistic.
No, the main victory from today is the streaming games. Looking forward to it...I wonder when it takes effect, probably not until 2008? I was hoping this week, the most exciting playoff race (in the Eastern Conference) in years! Go Leafs Go!