SUN Hockey Pool

OLN's going down tube

ERIN NICKS -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 1:25 PM ET

What is the one phrase you have heard repeatedly since the NHL season began?

"History in the making?"

"Overrated?"

"That was a goal?"

How about, "Give it time?"

Granted, the pronoun has been changing to suit the subject -- the subject running the gamut from Sidney Crosby to concession attendants -- but if you're prepared to be critical about anything NHL-related in the past five days, that will be the inevitable blanket response.

Crosby, for the meantime, deserves a pass. As does newly minted coach Wayne Gretzky, albeit with a short expiration date.

An estimate might be the time that Danica Patrick has had to prove herself, combined with a dairy product's shelf life. (Canadians will use the metric version of this formula, which will naturally seem larger.)

But one group among all the branches of the league cannot be afforded this type of patience, and ironically they are only one game into their NHL experience.

That group is the OLN -- the NHL's newest cable partner in the U.S.

Several high-profile names, including Martin Brodeur and ESPN2's Jay Crawford, questioned the decision to show the Rangers-Flyers matchup on opening night as opposed to Sidney Crosby's debut against the Devils.

Hindsight might suggest that Brodeur was disappointed in his own impressive performance not being nationally broadcast, but that's highly doubtful. Everyone, including the goaltenders that will face the Penguins' new star is aware of the draw of Crosby. Networks should not hedge their bets when hype is involved.

In respect to the coverage itself, OLN believes that it has learned from ESPN's mistakes. Co-ordinating producer Mike Baker told USA Today that his network had reviewed TV hockey coverage on ESPN and was unhappy with the amount of seats that were being displayed, as opposed to the actual ice.

Baker added, "You'll see 37% more of the rink, so our games will be 37% better because the screen will be 37% bigger."

But after viewing their new format, it is obvious that this concept does not work.

Shots of the net from the main cameras are not visible until the play is beyond the top of the circle. The angle remains closely focused on the action in the immediate vicinity of the puck. But what about the play that is taking place away from the puck? Pardon the sarcasm, but it's slightly relevant in situations like these.

This zoomed-in effect also does not allow for television viewers to see the boards, which must thrill the advertisers. Throw in an ironic obstructing banner at the bottom of the screen, and you have a recipe for disaster.

If the masses were largely critical of ESPN's work involving the NHL, why would OLN review their coverage for crib notes? There is no sense in learning where the others failed if you are initially unaware of how to succeed. Give CBC a call. Ask TSN if you can borrow a tape. There is no such thing as perfect coverage -- it's the nature of the industry -- but certainly the Canadian networks could offer a tutorial.

"Give it time?" With a fickle American audience perpetually on the brink of changing the channel, the OLN doesn't have that luxury.

SINGING THE BLUES: If ever there was any doubt that trading away Patrick Lalime was the right decision for the Senators, it was negated by the fourth goal against the Blues on opening night. Detroit rookie Brett Lebda scored an exact duplicate of the Joe Nieuwendyk Game 7 soul-killer from the last Sens-Leafs playoff round. Lalime was unfortunately cursed with a six-hole -- a right arm that swings open wider than the passenger door on a Cadillac Escalade. And for all the positive things he did accomplish during his tenure with Ottawa, he has proven to be a greater gamble than the use of Dominik Hasek in net...at least for the meantime.

QUICK HITS: Toronto's Wade Belak was a scratch during Wednesday's game with a spider bite. Perhaps the friendly neighbourhood defenceman will feel his "Wade-y Sense" tingle the next time Brian McGrattan skates past ... Minnesota G Manny Fernandez hurt his back and neck after toweling off in the shower. This is a type of injury you incur when you're hungover in Vegas -- not that I would know ... Overheard on the PA during the Leafs' opening pre-game ceremony: "Toronto Maple Leafs hockey is a passion that unites strangers." Sounds like something that would require a round of antibiotics immediately afterward.

erinnicks@yahoo.ca


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