The Senators' most important marketing tool is about to receive a rather helpful assist.
With a particular eye toward helping its teams build their local broadcasts, the NHL has opened up more airtime for television networks to paint the stories of the games they show.
Among the adjustments that will be part of every NHL game on this season:
- Intermission times are set at 17 minutes across the board. The biggest change there will be felt on local and regional telecasts, which get an extra two minutes between periods.
- Nine commercial timeouts per game have been boosted to two minutes, but the additional 30 seconds per spot must be used on game coverage.
- A maximum 40-second delay is being introduced after goals are scored.
While you'll notice all of the above on CBC and TSN games, John Shannon, the NHL's senior VP of broadcasting, said the biggest beneficiaries will be the local broadcasters -- in the Sens' case, Rogers Sportsnet and A-Channel, which team up to air 40 games this season.
"We've tried to make it a level playing field for everybody," said Shannon, the former production boss at CBC's Hockey Night in Canada. "We have to realize that, with all due respect to the networks, a thousand of our games (are local broadcasts).
"Our entry point to the games for many viewers is through the local shows. We have to start giving our local shows an opportunity to grow the players and tell better stories."
That's the point of the 30-second addition to the commercial breaks.
"It's nine opportunities per game to tell stories," said Shannon.
The time additions should combine to extend an A-Channel or Sportsnet Sens telecast by about 10 minutes which, at first glance, seems to fly in the face of the league's attempt a year ago to shorten up games with rule changes such as hurry- up faceoffs.
But Shannon believes there's a bigger picture here, and that every opportunity to sell the game to fans -- both new and old -- is worth exploring.
He points out the time being allowed after goals is only a miniscule jump from the 33-38 seconds that was the norm during the 2005-06 regular season.
"You want to allow (TV analysts) to explain why a goal was scored," he said. "We're not hedging too much (in going to 40 seconds). If it allows us to get in a third replay or a better close-up that allows the viewers to understand the game a bit better, it's well worth it."
TSN'S NEW TIE: A quick take on former NHL enforcer Tie Domi's first steps in his new career as a TSN hockey analyst -- loud, sometimes funny, sometimes biting, and a little rough around the edges. In other words, some might suggest, a lot like his days on the ice. But expect TSN to invest in Domi for the long haul, much like Sportsnet did with Nick Kypreos, who's gone from project status to one of the network's sharpest, well-connected analysts. Not that any of it happened overnight. "For sure, (Domi) will have growing pains," Kypreos, who had plenty of his own, told Sun Media earlier this week. "It's going to be eye-opening for him. It's going to be like being a rookie in the league all over again ... it's terribly difficult to make the jump (into broadcasting)." Added TSN's Glenn Healy: "He doesn't know what he's in for. He'll have to learn from the seat of his pants like the rest of us." The key test for Domi: What he'll say if the Leafs flounder again this year. Can he be critical of his former teammates? "The viewer doesn't care who you played for, who your friends are," said Kypreos. "They just want to know they can trust what you're saying and that you have no hidden agendas ... Your friendships cannot cloud your take on things."
PUCK DROPPINGS: The NHL Network has expanded its live game coverage to 34 games this season, starting with Islanders-Ducks on Wednesday at 10 p.m. All matchups feature U.S.-based teams ... Wednesday's Sens-Leafs season opener pulled in an audience of 1.334 million, the second-highest NHL number ever for TSN.
TURNER OVERDRIVE: Baseball's post-season picture is headed for a change next season south of the border. TBS becomes the new player in the game, taking over division series coverage from Fox and ESPN. Fox retains its hold on the World Series, along with one League Championship Series. The other LCS is still up for grabs, with ESPN, TBS and Versus (formerly OLN) all in the hunt for it.
AROUND THE DIAL: CBC has named Trevor Pilling its executive producer for 2008 Beijing Olympics coverage. Pilling, who heads up CBC's CFL production, begins the assignment after the Grey Cup ... Fox is bringing football broadcast legend Pat Summerall back to call play-by-play of the Cotton Bowl on New Year's Day.