Taking aim at more global glory

ROB BRODIE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:47 AM ET

They're Canada's team, and just two rounds away from claiming the big prize.

No, we don't speak of the Ottawa Senators, the lone Canadian team still alive in the Stanley Cup playoffs. But rather, the group of players -- many of them NHLers -- wearing the red Maple Leaf at the world hockey championship in Moscow.

With little in the way of fanfare, the Canadians have reeled off seven victories to reach the semi-final game tomorrow morning against Sweden. The game is on TSN and TSN Broadband. The gold-medal game is Sunday.

The tournament hasn't been drawing giant numbers -- the average audience is 125,000 through eight games. But most of them so far have been televised early in the morning in Eastern Canada (and even earlier than that in the West).

History suggests the interest level should heighten over the weekend.

"If Canada is playing in the gold game or the semi-final, then the country really starts to pay attention," said Rick Chisholm, TSN's senior VP of programming and production. "It's that red Maple Leaf going for gold."

The numbers back that up. Two years ago, 1.35 million watched Canada play the Czech Republic for gold. The Canada-Russia semi-final pulled in 831,000 viewers.

It'll be interesting to see if the audience numbers mushroom next year, when the tourney is held in Canada for the first time. Quebec City and Halifax are the co-hosts for the 100th anniversary worlds.

Chisholm believes viewership could rise from start to finish because the event is on home soil.

But "it still comes down to how well the Canadian team does."

MIXED EMOTIONS? The NHL's Eastern Conference final is a matchup that must be near and dear to the heart of Hockey Night in Canada executive producer Joel Darling. His father, Ted Darling, was an Ottawa broadcast legend before becoming the original play-by-play voice of the Buffalo Sabres. He called Sabres games for 22 seasons. The press box at HSBC Arena is named in honour of the Hockey Hall of Famer.

GETTING THEIR KICKS: Rogers Sportsnet has inked a three-year deal for Canadian Soccer Association-controlled matches within "Canadian territory." It kicks in with tonight's men's Under-20 friendly between Argentina and Canada at BMO Field in Toronto. It'll air live on Sportsnet Pacific, and tape delayed in all other regions. Coverage of Canada's games at the CONCACAF Gold Cup begins June 6.


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