Replay facing a long road

ROB BRODIE -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:29 AM ET

The Canadian Football League sails into somewhat uncharted waters tomorrow night. And it's taking television along for the ride.

Tomorrow's Touchdown Atlantic matchup in Halifax between the Toronto Argos and Hamilton Tiger-Cats marks a rarity -- a pre-season game getting national TV exposure (TSN has the game at 7 p.m.).

While it's clearly a test of the Halifax market for possible future CFL expansion, viewers will also notice a few new wrinkles in the telecast as well.

Perhaps the most intriguing one of the bunch: Instant replay.

TSN has its usual Friday Night Football complement of eight cameras available for the league's use in that area. A TSN staffer in the production truck will maintain contact with a replay official throughout the game.

Obviously, television is part of this process. Not that the network minds. Rick Chisholm, TSN's senior VP of programming and production, likes instant replay, but he's also smart enough to know it's very much an experiment at this point.

GETTING IT RIGHT

"Last year, there were a couple of glaring instances where calls were wrong. Instant replay showed that," he said. "But we've got a long way to go before it's in a (regular-season) game."

For starters, Chisholm said, the league needs to have 100% game coverage. While the addition of CBC's summer schedule has helped in that area, six games will go untelevised in 2005. What happens with instant replay in those games?

"You have to get to the point where you're broadcasting every game," said Chisholm. "Otherwise, it's not a level field."

All that being said, there's no question Halifax is rallying around the first CFL game ever in Nova Scotia. It's a complete sellout at Huskies Stadium at St. Mary's University. The buzz about it all is clearly audible in the city that would, in CFL commissioner Tom Wright's perfect world, eventually become home to the league's 10th team.

"I'm fairly astonished how much talk the exhibition game has (generated)," said Chisholm, adding he knows the absence of the Stanley Cup playoffs enters into that.

Portable lights are being trucked in for the telecast, and TSN is bringing its CFL Live panel -- Dave Randorf, former Rough Rider Jock Climie, Chris Schultz and returnee Matt Dunigan -- to town for the occasion.

It'll be a sneak peek of sorts at TSN's plans for the coming season. A few things to expect down the road:

- Though it won't be employed tomorrow night, the yellow first down-and-10 graphic is in for every TSN telecast. That didn't happen last season until September.

- All Friday Night Football games are being offered in high-definition format. Chisholm said TSN hopes to have 5.1 audio as part of that package, sooner rather than later.

- Cuthbert and Suitor will handle 35 of TSN's 54 telecasts. Rod Black and John Wells share the rest, both working with analyst Leif Petterson.

- An end zone camera has been added for each telecast, which will provide low-angle replays.


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