SUN Hockey Pool

Hockey versus election at CBC

Maple Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf tries to get past Canadiens defenceman P.K. Subban at the Air...

Maple Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf tries to get past Canadiens defenceman P.K. Subban at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ont., April 9, 2011. (MIKE CASSESE/Reuters)

JOE WARMINGTON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:15 PM ET

TORONTO - So is Oct. 6 election night for the CBC or opening night for the NHL’s new season?

Yes the Montreal Canadiens are slated to meet their arch rivals, the Maple Leafs, at the Air Canada Centre to open up the 2011-12 season on the same night as the Ontario election.

We may find out Tuesday how the public broadcaster is going to officially handle this pickle.

But, sources Monday night said the decision has been made and Don Cherry and Ron MacLean — and the Hockey Night in Canada team — will be on the CBC airwaves that Thursday night.

And they won’t be reading out vote tallies.

Drop the puck!

Sorry Premier Dalton McGuinty, Tim Hudak and Andrea Horwath, but it looks like you will be replaced by Phil Kessel, PK Subban and Gary Bettman.

That is, in show business, what they call a scheduling conflict. I know a lot of you are not conflicted at all. For those who are, you think you have a dilemma? The CBC has a doozy.

On one hand, they have the classic original-six rivalry they have paid the rights for teed up to kick off a season so many are looking forward to. On the other they have a mandate of what they are to broadcast in Canada and nowhere in it, does it say anything about professional sports.

On their own CBC website, it states that mandate is to “safeguard, enrich and strengthen the cultural, political, social and economic fabric of Canada” and “encourage the development of Canadian expression by providing a wide range of programming that reflects Canadian attitudes, opinions, ideas, values and artistic creativity, by displaying Canadian talent in programming and by offering information and analysis concerning Canada and other countries from a Canadian point view.”

So does that describe a Montreal-Toronto hockey game?

You could make that argument.

Or does a provincial election fit more in with what a public broadcaster should be doing — leaving professional sports to the private sector?

It’s a fair point.

This is a regular debate faced by those at the CBC, but this time it has hit them right in the face. However if sources are correct, it appears they have made their decision on what they think will draw in more viewers and revenue.

Can you say Coach’s Corner?

But whatever the CBC is doing, they were not confirming any of it Monday night.

“Probably won’t have an answer for you tonight,” said CBC spokesman Jeff Keay.

I have never known a TV media person to ever complain about anybody talking about their network and Jeff is as good as they come. But it doesn’t mean he has to tip his hand. However, many of my Maple Leafs sources all say they have been told the game is to be played and broadcast at its regular time and there will be no adjustments to any part of it.

If it were a Senator’s game, even Premier McGuinty would probably tune out the election.

It’s an interesting dilemma for the CBC, which does have the option of putting some of the election coverage on their NewsWorld channel. It’s not the first time they have been faced with this. Just last spring, they postponed a federal leaders’ French language debate to ensure coverage did not interrupt a Canadiens playoff game. It was the one thing those leaders seemed to agree on.

It was the right decision then and if the CBC do go with the game, it’s the right one this time. But I did ask Jeff Keay to assure one thing, you know, to help make sure they stay semi-close to their mandate.

Have Grapes read out the Mississauga poll results and maybe the ones from Kingston, too. It might be the only part of the election coverage that will have that kind of huge viewership numbers.


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