Ratings disaster

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:40 AM ET

The Edmonton Eskimos have dodged one bullet, but could be hit with another from the National Hockey League.

Fortunately for the Green and Gold, the NHL scheduled Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final for Saturday, June 10 at Rexall Place, meaning the Eskimos' preseason game on June 9 at Commonwealth Stadium will not be affected.

However, if the Edmonton Oilers are stretched to six games in the Stanley Cup final, that tilt could fall directly on top of the Eskimos' 2006 regular-season opener in Calgary.

The Oilers would hit the ice at Rexall at 6 p.m. on June 17 on CBC, while the Eskimos game against the Stampeders is scheduled to start at 6 p.m. on TSN.

VIEWERSHIP COULD PLUMMET

Without a doubt, viewership for the Eskimo game in this market would plummet.

Nationally, the conflict could cut TSN's average audience at least in half to less than 195,000 people. But the CFL - at this point - is not willing to move the Eskimos game to the afternoon or to a late-evening start time.

"There will be no change in the broadcast time," said CFL spokesperson Jamie Dykstra. "The schedule has already been set."

But the Eskimos are hoping the issue isn't dead yet.

"We've spoken to the Calgary Stampeders and asked them to consider the idea of moving the start time," said Eskimos director of marketing Dave Jamieson. "But how it will play out, I don't know."

It's not looking to play out in the Eskimos' favour. Stampeders president Ted Hellard told Sun Media yesterday the issue of moving the game time is being considered, but it would all come down to money.

"If it is to our benefit, we'll consider it. If it's not to our benefit, it won't move," Hellard said. "The only reason we would move it is if we thought we would get a better gate.

"We're not going to move the game so that people in Edmonton can watch us play on TV," he added.

Even if the Stamps were to agree to move the game to the afternoon, the CFL head office would have to change their mind and TSN would have to juggle its schedule. But CBC is already televising the Toronto-Hamilton opener at 1 p.m. and putting two CFL games against each other on TV is bound to be a non-starter.

"In a perfect situation, we would love both games (the Stanley Cup and our season opener) to be seen in their entirety," continued Jamieson. "For us, there is no advertisement like seeing the game on TV. You can't pay for that type of advertising."

THAT ADVERTISING IS IMPORTANT

And with the Eskimos playing their regular-season home opener the following weekend, that advertising is important.

But at least the Eskimos won't be hit hard at the turnstiles for their only exhibition game.

"We are very pleased," said Eskimos COO Rick LeLacheur of avoiding that financial pitfall.

"I don't think anybody with any type of event wants to go up against a Stanley Cup final."


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