Trade deadline rush started out as dead air

ROB BRODIE -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:16 AM ET

They promised to hit the ground running with the morning rush hour.

Too bad the subjects of all the lavish attention took so long to come along for the ride.

After sorting through the reams of NHL trade deadline coverage yesterday on TSN, Rogers Sportsnet and The Score, one question lingered more inevitably than the rest. Is that all there is?

On a day that produced a record 25 transactions, drama was at a definite premium. Perhaps it was an ominous sign when TSN hockey host James Duthie remarked early in the proceedings "if the Ryan Malone sweepstakes is our headliner today, we have serious issues."

Turns out the Penguins centre wasn't dealt at all. Neither was just about any other name of consequence. And details of more than half the trades were revealed after the 3 p.m. deadline -- seven hours after the coverage began.

Even Senators GM John Muckler couldn't stifle a grin when he observed "the TV studios" had an excess of dead airtime to fill.

Not that they didn't work hard to make it entertaining. We liked features produced by Sportsnet's Erin Paul (on Sam Pollock, the architect of the Canadiens' 1970s powerhouses) and Christine Simpson (on the much-traded Mike Sillinger).

TSN had enough bodies in the house -- we'll believe Duthie's count of 15 -- to offer 100 hours of analysis and speculation, and deftly played musical panels for most of the day. The Score kept the chatter going, too, and was strong at hitting the Canadian team's post-deadline press conferences.

But still, there wasn't nearly enough action to match the talk. It got so slow at times, players were being interviewed about not being traded. Now, if this is the way of the new salary cap era -- and while we're at it, say hello to the new-style analyst known as the "capologist" -- one has to wonder if the networks might consider cutting back on the intense level of coverage next time.

But then they'll see the impressive ratings numbers. And the figures detailing the mammoth level of website page views.

All of it will assure the powers-that-be in TV Land that, yet again, one inalienable fact remains ever true.

We're Canadians and we're nuts about hockey. And if someone invented an NHL Trade TV channel, we'd all snap it up in a heartbeat.

ON THE ROAD AGAIN?: Much has been made about the CBC's decision to have two of its anchors (Brian Williams and Terry Leibel) work the Turin Olympics from its broadcast centre in Toronto instead of being on-site in Italy. And already, the debate has started about whether the Mother Corp. can go that route again two years from now in Beijing. But consider this comment by Williams before Turin. "This (method) will not work in Beijing," he told the Sun. "We'll be live in prime time, and we've got 28 sports to cover."

ROCK SOLID: The old way seems A-OK with curling fans. Both TSN and CBC enjoyed, ahem, rock-solid ratings for last week's Scott Tournament of Hearts in London. Sunday's final averaged 908,000 viewers for CBC, almost a wash when stacked up against last year's Jennifer Jones-Jenn Hanna thriller (911,000). CBC's semi-final number (675,000) was up 9% over last year. On TSN, the overall round-robin average was 315,000, including 339,000 viewers per prime-time draw.

AS THE DOMINOES FALL: Just when you think you've heard it all -- ESPN Deportes, the network's Hispanic channel, has added all the playoff matches from the 2005 world domino tournament to its March 21 lineup (ESPN2 plans to air it in June). "Our goal is to make dominoes the next mainstream sport on television," a Deportes executive said in a release. No, we're not making any of this up.

AROUND THE DIAL: Last Saturday's North Carolina-Duke game pulled in an average audience of 3.78 million -- the largest college hoops number in ESPN's 26-year history ... Speaking of the hardwood, March Madness takes over the airwaves on CBS and Rogers Sportsnet starting Thursday ... Sirius Satellite Radio will offer broadcasts of every NCAA tourney game ... Beginning tomorrow, CBC plans daily five-minute updates (4:55 p.m. and following The National) from the Turin Paralympics, as well as three Games specials on April 1, 8 and 15. Front and centre in all of this: CBC Olympic snowboard analyst Tara Teigen and reporter Karin Larsen ... Rogers Television profiles Carleton Ravens coach Dave Smart in Smart Basketball, a documentary airing tomorrow at 7:30 p.m.


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