Tuned up for Cup marathon

IAN BUSBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:30 AM ET

In 16 NHL cities, hockey fans are getting prepared for a possible run through the post-season -- some 60 days of excitement.

At two Canadian broadcast networks, two teams are ready for what is guaranteed to be an exhausting journey.

Both the CBC and TSN have hockey crews who will be going full bore every night for the next month, and only a full slate of sweeps will get them time off.

"We're the opposite of the San Jose Sharks -- we always get by the first round," said affable TSN host James Duthie, who will be working nightly with insiders Bob McKenzie and Darren Dreger and analysts Craig MacTavish and Darren Pang.

"The craziness is always during the first round and into the second. By the second round, we're down to one game per night.

"CBC will have the other game, and it's a little easier. At the same time, the first round is so much fun because there is so much going on. It's the same excitement for hockey fans."

CBC had the first two picks of series, while TSN then selected the next two.

The usual suspects will be moving on to the second season for each network.

On CBC, Jim Hughson will call games in the Eastern Conference, with Craig Simpson, Glenn Healy and Elliott Friedman also on the team.

The West Coast series will be led by Mark Lee, with Kevin Weekes and Scott Oake as support. A third team of Bob Cole, Greg Millen and Guy Carbonneau are ready to pick up a third series.

The studio will, of course, be hosted by Ron MacLean, with Don Cherry doing his thing every other night.

For the second year, the Hockey Night in Canada

i-Desk will be providing extra tidbits as they filter out from other cities.

The i-Desk is manned by Scott Morrison and Jeff Marek, who is an extremely busy man being he rushes from doing a three-hour HNIC radio show that ends just before puck drop every night.

It's a two-floor sprint for Marek that needs to be done in just a couple of minutes.

"It keeps me in shape," said Marek with a laugh. "The (post-season) is a matter of endurance. The weeks leading up to the playoffs, everyone is trying to get as much rest as possible, knowing the first month or six weeks is an endurance test.

"I still get pumped about it but I'm the new guy. This is my third playoffs with Hockey Night in Canada."

No one is feeling sorry for Marek or anyone else who covers games for a living.

What you see on TV is actually a work station for those on the i-Desk. Marek and Morrison watch the NHL action and conduct live chats with fans while also surfing the web for news and notes.

It might seem strange seeing two men sitting at computers as part of the show, but the i-Desk is unique and is a hit with tech-savvy viewers.

"The (producers) wanted to create a hook between the TV show and the online community," Marek said. "No one has been able to engage that audience.

"It comes from what a lot of people do now when they are watching games with your laptop open. You sit, surf, read and chat. This is a way for the TV show to engage that audience and let them have a voice on the TV show."

There are many voices on TSN, and Duthie is often the traffic cop, holding one off while another can go.

Duthie showed at the Olympics he can handle all sorts of real-time events smoothly.

Although he isn't a fan of triple-overtime West Coast games, Duthie finds no better time of year than spring when he can sit around with his crew watching TV.

"Sometimes I feel like I'm getting paid for nothing -- just asking knowledgeable people about hockey questions and watching games," Duthie said. "I suppose there is a skill in it to keep the show moving and keeping it on track, or getting it off track as the case may be.

"There are times when they are talking in your ear to fill for 45 seconds and you have no video. That's a challenge.

"Most of it is kid-in-a-candy-store stuff for me."

ian.busby@sunmedia.ca


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