They billed it as the HockeyCentral Deadline Bash.
And on that count, Rogers Sportsnet surely delivered.
Bubble hockey games, pizza being served up to one and all and a bevy of Deal Or No Deal babes adding some sexy eye candy ... the 'Net studio certainly looked like it was home to the coolest trade day party of them all.
Wish you were here, the scene all but screamed out.
Meanwhile, across the parking lot they share in Scarborough, TSN was delivering what hockey fans really craved -- all the breaking news of the day. With an business-like attitude that matched their cast of thousands' button-downed look.
Different strokes for different folks, I suppose.
First off, an admission of sorts: I've thought for a few years now that Canadian sports TV networks' coverage of the NHL trade deadline has bordered on excess. Not Oscars-type excess, mind you -- nothing these folks dish out could possibly be that over the top.
But really. Eight hours of blather on a day which, in the past, had usually packed most of its excitement into about an hour or two around the mid-afternoon deadline?
Good luck, guys. Hope you've got lots of filler.
It's why Sportsnet's rather bold and unconventional plan of attack -- the anti-Senators approach, so to speak -- didn't strike me as too off the wall. Why not throw a little fun and frivolity into the mix instead of droning on endlessly about some minor deal or two involving fourth liners?
Given the trade deadline's recent history, it seemed as good a way to kill the time as any (and reason enough to think The Score was wise to hold off starting until noon).
But a funny thing happened on the way to this year's trade deadline: All the big names started coming off the board early. First Martin Biron, then Bill Guerin soon after. And suddenly, TSN's pucks or bust line of thinking began to make much more sense.
Not that Sportsnet wasn't well armed to talk hockey -- we got some strong commentary from the likes of Nick Kypreos and Gord Stellick throughout the afternoon. It's just that it seemed, most of the time, that the party mattered more than the reason it was thrown in the first place.
At the end of the day, it came down to this: Given the choice between getting the inside scoop on the deals or watching Sportsnet staffers in hockey jerseys mug for the camera or scarf down pizza, we're betting viewers went for the good old hockey game.
With perhaps this idle thought buried somewhere inside: Damn, I missed one helluva party at Sportsnet.
We're allowed one guilty pleasure every now and then, after all.
THUMBS UP: TSN's "trade breakers" (Bob McKenzie, Darren Dreger and Gord Miller) were on top of their game all day long ... TSN commentary we liked best, however, came out of Pierre McGuire and Glenn Healy on the main panel, with an assist from Mike Keenan and that clever host, James Duthie ... It was only a phoner, but The Score did land the first interview of the day with big mover Bill Guerin ... Just-retired Keith Primeau proved to be a nice add for Sportsnet with some enlightened takes ... The Sportsnet Lounge seems made for talking hockey, doesn't it? ... Did I mention I like the 'thumbs up, thumbs down' thing TSN does?
THUMBS DOWN: Given the way its production was framed, Sportsnet needed to make extra strong use of its ticker to keep viewers up to date -- especially those just dropping in for a minute or two. Instead, way too often, it was filled with less than insightful text messages from viewers. News flash: Go Leafs Go (or any message of that sort) doesn't exactly add to your broadcast ... The 'Net seemed to hang most of its trade breaking on the shoulders of Eklund, the Internet blogger and a much-ballyhooed 'insider' addition. Though he gets credit for breaking the huge Ryan Smyth deal, many of those 'Eklund alerts' appeared to be a step behind TSN ... Only noticed one yesterday, but TSN, it must be said, seems absolutely incapable of doing anything without a top 10 list. When David Letterman first broke one out, it was unique. But thanks to TSN, overkill in that area isn't far off ("top 10 gum chewing moments" on Monday? Please).
QUOTABLE: "I wasn't thinking about the trade deadline (on Thursday night). I was thinking about surviving a fight with Ray Emery." -- Sabres goalie Martin Biron, to TSN's Duthie; "Gary Roberts can play better hurt than (Oleg) Saprykin can play healthy." -- Sportsnet's Bill Watters, in dumping on the Sens' lone trade of the day.