A sweet deal? Rogers Sportsnet sure hopes so.
The network plans to air 12 games from the Swedish Elite League -- now chock full of NHLers -- starting with a Linkoping-Frolunda matchup on Dec. 28.
Games will be shown on same-day tape delay at various times on Sportsnet's four regional feeds, with Rob Faulds and Greg Millen providing the commentary off a monitor from their Toronto studios (Kevin Quinn handles the play-by-play for the first two).
Sportsnet arranged the deal during the summer, when NHLers began to trickle overseas to find work during the lockout. Three of six Canadian team captains are now employed in Sweden.
"It could be some of the best hockey going on at that time," said David Akande, Sportsnet's senior VP of programming, adding he's "optimistic and confident the (ratings) numbers are going to be strong."
NORTHERN REFLECTIONS: The Score's Lisa Hillary thought she was heading to the Great White North to cover a hockey story. Her visit to Kuujjuak, Nunavut, with the NHL Players' Association's Goals and Dreams program proved to be much more than that. When Hillary returned home to Ottawa, she brought back enough material for a tender two-part story -- and memories to last a lifetime. "I couldn't just do a story about hockey," said Hillary, whose report aired Wednesday and yesterday (Part 2, more of a cultural tale, repeats on The Score today). "We ended up with six hours of tape. I just couldn't get enough of it." Ex-NHLer Steve Larmer, Cory Cross and Bryan Marchment delivered dozens of sets of new equipment to the youngsters, then spent hours on the ice working with them each day. Their northern hosts never stopped smiling and being hospitable. "You're treated like a movie star," said Hillary. "It was the most amazing experience."
A GOOD KNIGHT: Funny what a little history making will do for a television audience. Rogers Sportsnet pulled in the largest junior audience in the network's six-year history last Friday, when 287,000 watched the London Knights break a Canadian Hockey League record by running its unbeaten streak to 30 games with a scoreless draw against the Guelph Storm. "(The record) was definitely part of it," Akande said of the large rating. The NHL lockout surely played a role, too. Viewers are spending more time sampling junior and AHL games on the 'Net, he said -- ratings for both are up about 70% over last year. And the streak got extra attention from media with the NHL on ice. "The storyline went from the sports page to the front page," said Akande. "It was a matter of (more) awareness."
HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS: Call it major coverage of minor hockey. That's Rogers Television annual Hometown Hockey presentation, which returns for another year. Most of the community station's programming schedule between Dec. 27-Jan. 3 is being turned over to the puck game. Two 67's games are part of the mix, but the highlight is 10 hours of live coverage from the Bell Capital Cup on Jan. 1-2. More details are available at www.-rogerstelevision.com.
AROUND THE DIAL: Brockville native Stacey Dales-Schuman's ESPN duties keep expanding beyond the women's college basketball studio. She's working as a men's game analyst next Tuesday (Texas Tech-Iowa), and handled some college football reporting earlier this fall ... Count The Score in on the holiday football fest. The network will air six U.S. college bowl games between Dec. 27-30 ... TSN analyst Brian Burke on the day when the NHL finally returns to the ice: "The only guys who will be ready are the ones who stole jobs in Europe." You've gotta love such candour.