SUN Hockey Pool

It's all about the game

ROB BRODIE -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 7:35 AM ET

So let me get this straight.

We've got hockey's annual "celebration of the game" airing for six hours tomorrow on TSN (though the NHL isn't invited to this party).

Then we flip down the dial to the CBC, where we find opening draw coverage of Scott Tournament of Hearts women's curling from St. John's. An event which called TSN home for the past two decades.

A bit of irony, perhaps?

"That would be a good word to use," said Rick Chisholm, TSN's senior VP of programming and production.

So would necessary. As in, a much needed break from the labour doom and gloom that finally shut down the NHL season on Wednesday.

That's what Canada's Game: Hockey Lives Here -- TSN's version of Hockey Day in Canada -- aims to provide starting at noon tomorrow, as it criss-crosses the nation in search of stories and people that portray a true love of the game.

"This year, given the NHL's labour problems, more than ever there needs to be a day to celebrate the people who just love this game," said TSN president Phil King. "We just feel that every year, there should be a day to celebrate hockey.

'FABRIC'

"It's woven into the fabric of our country, from little kids, to 80 year olds still playing the game ... it crosses over all ethnic groups."

So that's why you'll find NHL on TSN host James Duthie and analyst Glenn Healy in Plaster Rock, N.B., home of the world pond hockey championships. Pierre McGuire and Bob McKenzie will be on site at the Quebec International Peewee Hockey Tournament. And Brian Burke is slated to talk junior hockey in Vancouver.

In other words, no more talk of salary caps and luxury taxes. None of which, it appears, has dampened the spirit for our game at the grassroots level.

"We've had many, many people calling us and asking us 'tell our story, come to our town.' It's been overwhelming," said King.

TSN originally planned to set up shop in Plaster Rock, Quebec City and Thunder Bay, where Dave Randorf and Gary Green are on hand for CIS hockey, where the Lakehead Thunderwolves reign supreme.

CANAL VISIT

But now at least 10 remotes are planned, including Brent Wallace's report on 115 mini-hockey games on the Rideau Canal, plus a celebrity hockey tourney in Kingston, where you'll find Off the Record's Michael Landsberg.

Other stops include Whitehorse, Calgary and Porcupine Plain, Sask., the home town of TSN's Darren Dutchyshen. But the fun might not even stop there.

"We've left things flexible so we can jump around to where the best stories are," said King.

Also part of the day: A recap of the world junior hockey championship, 12 home videos chosen from dozens sent in by TSN viewers, and the results of an online poll naming the favourite players by province.

TSN has been so pleased by the response to its grassroots celebration that it might consider continuing it, even if Hockey Day returns to CBC next year (along with an NHL season).

"We'll take it one year at a time," said King. "We're going to see how this goes. But it's not out of the question that we'll continue doing it."


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