CBC plans blitz for CFL finale

ROB BRODIE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:49 AM ET

Sure, they might be lame ducks.

But dead ducks?

You'll hear nothing of the sort from CBC Sports as it prepares to embark on its final CFL voyage, ending a proud tradition that spans more than half a century.

Starting in 2008, all of the league's game coverage moves over to TSN, including the venerable Grey Cup -- one of the longest-running programs in the public broadcaster's lineup.

But if you're thinking CBC will spend this farewell season wallowing in self-pity, guess again.

"We're not looking at it as the end of the line," said Joe Scarcelli, the CFL on CBC's head producer. "We could slink away with our tail between our legs, or we can hold our heads up high.

"We're going out guns a-blazing and we're not holding anything back."

Elliotte Friedman, the host of the network's CFL pre-game show, admits "a lot of people (at CBC) are really disappointed" about losing the CFL.

But he echoes Scarcelli's damn the torpedoes sentiment.

"A lot of us who work on it really love the CFL," he said. "But what are you going to do? It's like if you're dating someone, and then she says she doesn't want to date you anymore. You move on.

"The No. 1 thing, to me, is that we make sure we do a great job. We don't want to go out having the attitude 'Let's mail it in.' "

So it is that the network will have pre-game shows for the majority of its games. More CFL games than ever on CBC are being broadcast in high-definition format, including all the playoffs and the Grey Cup. A new animation package is being introduced.

Scarcelli said plans are also in the works to add bonus online pre-game and post-game coverage, much like CBC used -- with great success -- during the Stanley Cup playoffs.

"It'll give us a chance to complete the story, which we haven't had the chance to do," he said.

Any of this suggest they're running up the white flag?

"We don't want anyone to walk away and say 'We're lame ducks and we treated the product that way,' " said Friedman. "We want people to say CBC went out on a high and did a great job. And we intend to do that."

Wait until '08

Don't expect TSN to make great hay out of the fact that it'll soon be the CFL's exclusive broadcaster. At least not this season.

"Closer to the end (of the season), we might (promote it)," said TSN president Phil King. "But it's not going to be a big focus. That would be disrespectful toward a network that's being doing it for 50 years."

King admits it might also be confusing for viewers.

"Those deals get done two years out," he said. "Some people think we do have it all this year, but it doesn't lock in until (2008)."

A closer view

Taking a page out of its NHL coverage, TSN will have new game analyst Danny McManus work from a sideline position on 12 occasions this season. CBC will try the same thing with Khari Jones as part of a three-man team.

"When you're a first-string quarterback and you get pulled out and watch from the bench, you see a different perspective," Scarcelli said in explaining the field-level view. "(Jones) is not a sideline reporter, he's going to analyze the game."

End zone

TSN is bumping its complement of high-definition telecasts up to 35 this season. "Every year, we'll try to add another five games until we get them all (in HD)," said King. "It won't be much longer." The network is offering all 50 games on TSN Broadband this season, and will improve its virtual first-down line to HD quality ... In a CBC first, the network has a tripleheader slated on Sept. 29 -- Montreal-Saskatchewan in the afternoon, with two more games at night ... Family commitments have caused Darren Flutie to leave CBC's studio panel. Jones and Daved Benefield will share that chair this season.


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