All eyes on world juniors

ROB BRODIE

, Last Updated: 8:18 AM ET

This isn't your grandfather's world junior hockey championship.

Maybe not even your dad's, for that matter.

Canadians have embraced TSN's world junior coverage over the years, to the point it's become much more than just a holiday tradition. It has grown into a ratings behemoth for the network, one which has produced seven of the top 10 audiences in TSN's 22-year history.

The 2003 final in Halifax, which attracted 3.453 million sets of eyeballs, remains the all-time king, followed closely by the 2005 (3.227 million) and 2006 (3.007 million) gold-medal games.

Even when it's in Europe, the tournament's a hit: The 2004 final in Finland (Canada-U.S.) earned an audience of 1.31 million for a mid-day game. "We look at the world juniors as our No. 1 flagship event of the year," said Rick Chisholm, TSN's VP of programming and production.

All of the above is reason enough, TSN figures, to dip into its bank account to bring WJC coverage into the multimedia age. Viewers can look forward to a pair of new enhancements when the puck drops at the 2007 WJC on Boxing Day in Sweden.

WHAT OFF-SEASON? Don't know about you, but I've long ago lost track of how many times I've heard the phrase 'last golf tournament of the year.' Yet here's another bogus event, something called the Three-Tour Challenge, snaring some airtime this weekend. The PGA Tour has the right idea with its new FedEx Challenge, which is designed to, among other things, bring some order to the chaos. But the bigger challenge might be finding a way to stop the TV networks from inventing golf programming that is nothing more than needless filler.

'TIS THE SEASON: In the category of 'not your average Christmas Day,' reporter Michele Tafoya has a unique - and full - holiday dance card. She'll be the sideline reporter for ABC's Lakers-Heat NBA telecast at 2:30 p.m. in Miami. After that game ends, she'll be driven across town to handle her regular Monday Night Football sideline gig at Dolphins Stadium, when Miami plays host to the New York Jets.

AROUND THE DIAL: Initiative Worldwide reports that the World Cup soccer final between Italy and France was the most viewed TV sports event on the planet in 2006, attracting an average global audience of 260 million. The Super Bowl rated No. 2 (98 million), according to the advertising company's figures, followed by the opening ceremony of the Turin Winter Olympics (87 million) ... Trend we like: All of ESPN's college bowl games (seen on The Score or TSN) are being produced in HD format. ABC's Rose Bowl and the BCS games on Fox will follow s


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