Monday tradition bidding farewell

ROB BRODIE -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 12:00 PM ET

Are you ready for some football?

For 36 years, it's been the catchphrase for a continent's worth of Monday night sports viewers. But the show closes for good this weekend, when ABC's Monday Night Football kicks off for the final time. The property moves over to ESPN starting next season (you'll see it on TSN in Canada).

While MNF remains a consistent top-10 program on U.S. television, its cachet -- and ratings -- have diminished greatly in recent years. Matchups like Monday's finale (New England-New York Jets), the latest in a season-ending run of duds, certainly haven't helped.

But ABC is aiming for a memorable finale, no matter what happens on the field.

Frank Gifford and Dandy Don Meredith, MNF stars during its 1970s and '80s heyday (alongside Howard Cosell), were brought back for a taped opening segment with current MNF play-by-play voice Al Michaels (who'll carry on with ESPN next season).

Clips of MNF's greatest games will air throughout the night, as well as a look back of some of the most famous celebrity visitors (John Lennon and ex-president Ronald Reagan, to name two).

They'll even have Meredith close out the show with Turn Out The Lights, a song he often broke out to signal a game was moving into blowout territory.

Something tells me it just might turn out to be appropriate for MNF's final curtain call.

THE ROAD TO TURIN: The CBC unveiled its preliminary schedule for the Turin Olympics this week, with 245 hours of coverage planned from Feb. 10-26. On a typical day, live events will air from 8 a.m.-5 p.m., with an evening wrapup show running from 6-11 p.m. Evening host Brian Williams will work from the CBC's Toronto studios, with morning and afternoon hosts Terry Leibel and Ron MacLean on site in Italy. TSN's complementary coverage will span 125 hours, with the CBC supplying all on-air commentators for both networks. About half the event coverage is expected to be available in high-definition format. Event time worth noting: The men's gold-medal hockey game, 8 a.m. on Feb. 26.

BRINGING IT HOME: Another holiday tradition that continues to grow -- Hometown Hockey on Rogers Television. Starting Tuesday, Rogers stations across Ontario will be chock full of minor hockey programming. Locally, the highlight comes Jan. 2, with extensive coverage of Bell Capital Cup championship games at the Corel Centre. Tuesday's slate includes A Cup of Their Own, a documentary exploring the growth of women's hockey. It debuts at 7 a.m., with three repeats later in the week. At 6:30 p.m. each day during the week, Rogers at the Rink Tonight provides a wealth of minor hockey news. For more details about Hometown Hockey, log on to www.rogerstelevision.com.

AROUND THE DIAL: All 14 TSN games at the world junior hockey championship are being made available in HD format ... A tournament preview airs tonight at 7 ... CurlTV.com has cut a deal with CBC to offer live webcasts of about 70 games from Season of Champions events in 2005-06, including morning draws at the Scott Tournament of Hearts and Brier ... Last Saturday's Senators-Leafs game on CBC drew an audience of 1.393 million, slightly lower than Hockey Night in Canada's season average of 1.533 million for its early game.


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