Woe, Canada, what a sorry situation this could be for the CBC. As the NHL season races toward the finish line, the possibility grows that -- for the first time in nearly three decades -- only two Canadian-based teams will make the playoffs.
That can't exactly be palatable to the folks at Hockey Night in Canada, who would face a serious ratings hit if that scenario plays out.
Only the Ottawa Senators and Vancouver Canucks are post-season locks. The Edmonton Oilers have officially run up the white flag. The Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens are currently on the outside looking in. The Calgary Flames, who hold down the final Western Conference playoff spot, have seen their edge over the Colorado Avalanche shrink to a mere four points. That said, it remains possible that the Habs, Leafs and Flames could all still make the cut. It has made for a daily dose of nervous scoreboard watching for Joel Darling, HNIC's executive producer.
"We could have two series, but we could have five," he said before last night's action. "Certainly, I was a little nervous when I saw Calgary lose the other night and I saw Colorado get within four points. Let's hope we have at least three series (with Canadian teams). The last couple of playoffs, we've had at least that much."
The previous year it was as low as two? That would be 1978, when the Flames were in Atlanta and the Oilers still in the WHA.
THE WORLD'S GAME: CBC released its schedule for the Under-20 World Cup yesterday. It includes live coverage of 41 matches -- 20 on CBC, 21 on digital CBC Country Canada. Every match will be offered live online at cbc.ca. CBC Sports executive producer Scott Moore said it will be the widest exposure the event has received in a host country. It's the first of 32 FIFA events CBC will present over the next four years. "Soccer is a huge pillar for the future of CBC Sports," Moore said." TV details are available at blog.canoe.ca/remotecontrol.
AROUND THE DIAL: Look for TSN/CTV and Skate Canada to announce a new contract soon for coverage of domestic events, including the Canadian championships and HomeSense Skate Canada. "We very much expect to renew (the contract)," TSN president Phil King said ... CBC has just launched a second high-definition production mobile, and Moore said it should mean more NHL games in HD in the playoffs.
OKAY, BLUE JAYS: Rogers Sportsnet and TSN announced they've extended TV deals with the Toronto Blue Jays through 2010. Sportsnet's slate numbers 116 games this season; TSN will air 20. CBC is also expected to show a small package of Jays games, but nothing has been finalized.