SUN Hockey Pool

Messier's sendoff pays off

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:31 AM ET

NEW YORK -- Mark Messier set a few records in his hockey career. Tonight he'll set another one.

"We're expecting the biggest pay-TV number ever," said the Edmonton Oilers' point man for the project, Allan Watt.

Most hockey fans are stunned that tonight's Edmonton-New York Ranger game isn't being shown on TSN or Sportsnet.

Instead, Sportsnet is showing the Calgary Flames-New York Islanders game in Long Island, which also starts at 5 p.m.

The Oilers didn't plan on tonight's event being shown on pay-per-view, said Watt.

They just plan to make the most of it.

"The selection process is pretty simple. First CBC's Hockey Night In Canada can select any game on a Saturday night. Then TSN gets to pick their games for their national package," he added of the five they chose.

"Then Sportsnet picks 48. We're left with that other 10 which we put on pay TV. The pay TV games are kind of our lost and found box of games. They're the whole reason for having pay-per-view games, first to make the games available and second to create some revenue which we wouldn't otherwise get from those games.

"TSN and Sportsnet couldn't work it into their schedule. It's as simple as that."

The selection of which games to telecast were made prior to the Rangers announcing that the Jan. 12 date against Edmonton would be Messier's banner raising night.

"For our pay-per-view project this is a terrific bonus," said Watt.

Pay-per-view isn't a gold mine in Edmonton. The Oilers have only had two games to top 10,000 in viewership and both of those just barely.

"That's the magic number," said Watt of where the production costs are covered and a big percentage profit margin kicks in. "This one, we're sure, will beat our previous high of just over 10,000."

The number includes all the $10.95 hits on television in the home, the $5 tickets at five Edmonton area Cineplex Odeon theatres and the $200 charge for bars such as Boston Pizza and Mo's.

Because of Messier night, the pay-per-view game will lengthen the broadcast that begins at 4:45 p.m. with a 15-minute pre-event show leading into what is expected to be about an hour of Messier on-ice celebrations prior to the start of the Oilers-Rangers game.

The MSG network in New York has been featuring "The 11 Days Of Messier" counting down to the celebration and the Oilers pay-per-view telecast has access to all of the highlights and features from MSG.

There will also be Edmonton-programmed Messier highlights and features.

"We never cut to a commercial so we'll be able to interview people like Jari Kurri and Glenn Anderson and other ex-Oilers involved during commercial breaks."


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