Once upon a time, Stanley Cup playoff television went something like this.
Hockey Night in Canada would offer up a single national telecast, and we might catch a highlight or two of the other games during the intermission.
Until TSN came along, that is, and made instant updates during the games de rigueur for the puck-loving folks watching at home.
We were in complete hockey heaven. Or so it seemed.
But today, more than ever, the big clicker is in your hands now. Why wait for the highlights when you can choose which playoff matchup you want to watch -- and reserve that God-given right (well if it isn't, it should be) to flip back and forth between games.
Choice is the name of the game these days, and never have hockey fans had it so good when it comes to what's available in TV Land.
And no, you don't need to pony up the big bucks it takes to join the Centre Ice world to enjoy it all.
- Twice already in this round, TSN has aired games in the Devils-Rangers series exclusively on its high-definition channel. It's a byproduct of a licensing clause which allows TSN HD to air 5% content that's different from what you'll find on TSN's main channel. "On the rare occasions when we have rights to two things, we'll give viewers an opportunity to watch both," said TSN president Phil King, who also knows the bonus playoff games produce extra eyeballs for its HD channel. "The most important thing is to give people the HD telecasts. We will do it when it's available."
- TSN has also thrown a pair of games the NHL Network's way -- the first live playoff games ever aired on the digital channel. Again, they're games you wouldn't have a chance to see without access to that channel. "Say there are two games on NBC on a Saturday afternoon," said King. "If one is not available up here, we'll give that one to the NHL Network."
- Some nights, you've even got your choice of announcers. That's because, for logistical reasons, TSN sometimes has to use OLN's feed for an HD telecast. Meaning, for example, that you could hear Gord Miller and Pierre McGuire calling the game on TSN, while HD viewers get OLN's announcers for the same match.
- Digital TV's time-shifting capabilities have allowed CBC viewers to keep tabs on both the Oilers and Flames series when times conflict. Last night, for example, Star Choice (through CBC Edmonton) and ExpressVu (on CBC North) satellite viewers could tune into the Oilers while conventional TV viewers here watched the Flames and Ducks.
Sure, there's extra costs involved with the digital and HDTV world -- and that's beyond the wad of cash you'd shell out for one of those slick widescreen beauties. But the scope of playoff TV has never been wider and, in the 500-channel universe, it is only as it should be.
PUCK DROPPINGS: CBC's first-round audiences are, not surprisingly, down in a big way with its two biggest draws -- the Leafs and Canucks -- both on the sidelines for the first time in years. But all is not lost. All four Canadian teams lead their series going into last night, and two all-Canadian matchups (Ottawa-Montreal and Calgary-Edmonton) remain a possibility in the second round. In other words, the best is yet to come. "To think we could have all four (Canadian) teams advance to the next round ... that would really be amazing," said Joel Darling, Hockey Night in Canada's executive producer.
THE WORLD'S GAME: Rogers Communications unveiled yesterday an ambitious multi-platform coverage plan for the World Cup of soccer in Germany. Live coverage is being offered in Mandarin, Cantonese, Portuguese, Spanish and Italian on Rogers' Omni channels. Video on demand replays are also part of the coverage plans, as are highlight packages on Rogers wireless phones. Rogers Sportsnet, TSN and CTV are teaming up for television coverage of the June 9-July 9 event, with every match being broadcast in HD format.
AROUND THE DIAL: NFL draftniks don't have to settle for the three hours of ESPN coverage TSN will air tomorrow starting at noon. The NFL Network goes "gavel-to-gavel" from noon-10 p.m. with every pick on Day 1, then adds three more hours Sunday from 1-4 p.m. ... Top-notch NFL reporter Andrea Kremer has moved from ESPN to NBC's new Sunday night telecasts. Sports Illustrated insider Peter King joins the pre-game show lineup.