Funny what a little late-season Senators hockey can do for a sports radio station.
Especially one which gambled -- though it wasn't exactly a major stretch -- that its listeners just couldn't get enough of the home-town NHL team.
When BBM Canada released its spring ratings book earlier this week, it was filled with good news for the Team 1200. The station saw its overall market share grow from 3.6 to 3.9 during the eight-week ratings period, which ran Jan. 9-March 5.
In its key target demographic (men 25-54), the Team rose from an 8.3 overall number to 10.0.
The best news of all: More On Sports, the station's afternoon drive show, posted a huge 15.3 rating among men 25-54. That put the show, which is fronted by John Rodenburg and ex-NHL defenceman Garry Galley, at No. 2 in the city in its timeslot behind only CHEZ-FM.
"That's pretty impressive," said Chris Gordon, CHUM Radio Ottawa's VP/general manager. "It's as high (a rating) as it's ever been for us. It might be higher than any other sports station in Canada.
"It's triple the number you shoot for at any sports station."
On the surface, it's easy to point toward the return of the NHL from a year-long lockout for the big gains. There's also the Team's decision -- a wise one, as it turned out -- to seamlessly blend the afternoon drive with its Senators pre-game show on game nights.
Gordon prefers to credit the guys behind the microphones.
"As much as possible, I think (the return of the Sens) had an impact," he said. "But take nothing away from the fact that these guys are good.
"They're informed, they're entertaining and they know their stuff ... J.R. and Garry have been able to really tap into what people want to hear and what they want to talk about"
That being said, the Team surely hopes to ride a long Senators playoff run to some even bigger numbers in the next eight-week ratings period, which begins Monday.
"I'll predict right now that the next (ratings book) will be the best we've ever had," he said.
WHITHER THE RENEGADES? Will TV miss the dearly departed Ottawa Renegades? In terms of game numbers, a little. TSN loses four dates on its CFL schedule (down to 50) and the Touchdown Atlantic pre-season game in Halifax. CBC is out five CFL dates and its slate now sits at 22. Truth be told, though, games featuring the 'Gades were among the lowest rated for both networks last season. That they'll gladly do without. But don't think for a minute the networks don't want an Ottawa franchise in the league. "It's the fourth-biggest TV market in the country. Of course, we want to see a team there," said TSN president Phil King. The big question in 2006: Will capital viewers tune out the CFL completely? "That remains to be seen," said King. "We'll find out whether they're Ottawa CFL fans or Renegades fans only." ... Gordon says the Team 1200 won't take much of a financial hit without Renegades broadcasts. "It's disappointing from a content point of view," he said. "That's what we'll miss the most."
PUCK DROPPINGS: Hockey Night in Canada has added Andy Murray to its stable of analysts. The former Kings coach makes his debut during tomorrow's Sabres-Canadiens game, which is being aired regionally only in Quebec. Murray is also in CBC's first-round playoff plans ... A rarity on Hockey Night last Saturday: Its late-night game (Calgary-Vancouver) earned the biggest audience of the doubleheader, which hasn't happened in years. At 7 p.m., Toronto-Philadelphia and Buffalo-Ottawa combined for 1.121 million viewers. The Flames and Canucks attracted 1.386 million ... NBC wants to show playoff games on both Saturday and Sunday afternoons, a thought that must just thrill Canadian hockey fans. Count on any series involving the Detroit Red Wings being part of that daytime plan. And right now, the Wings are lined up with the Edmonton Oilers. Bet CBC loves that.
AROUND THE DIAL: CBC's audience for the world men's curling final last Sunday from Lowell, Mass., was 614,000, a decline of 31% from 2005 (896,000). Worth noting: Unlike a year ago in Victoria, there was no TV coverage of round-robin draws to build interest during the week. Traditionally, it's been the weekend playoffs and nothing else when the event leaves Canada ... One last fix for curling fans this season: The Players' Championship in Calgary. Rogers Sportsnet has the TV coverage tomorrow and Sunday.