NBC gets to the point

IAN BUSBY -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 11:28 AM ET

The opening featured a long tracking shot of the Saddledome, downtown Calgary and a typically grey Alberta sky. The last shot was of hometown hero Tracey Kelusky accepting the MVP award.

In between, American TV viewers witnessed an extremely entertaining lacrosse game.

Even though there was little Calgary culture involved in yesterday's National Lacrosse League all-star game on NBC network television, it didn't matter.

Having the contest go live coast-to-coast is a huge boon for a loop trying to sell its product.

The last time Calgary showcased itself to all of North America, women were doffing their clothes on the Red Mile amongst a throng of wild voyeurs.

Who knows what viewers in the far reaches of the U.S. were thinking then?

The city was much more sane yesterday on TV. The only skin to be seen was of three young boys spinning their shirts over their heads -- a lacrosse fan tradition.

The centrepiece of the tight-for-time broadcast was the hard-hitting, fast-paced lacrosse action.

And the merchandise in this case is the players themselves -- hard-working, down-to-earth folk ... mostly Canadians.

The broadcast team of Mike Emrick and Canuck Brian Shanahan espoused the virtues of these 'weekend' warriors.

Emrick, who would normally be busy voicing New Jersey Devils games, certainly sounded excited about the contest, which the East won 11-10 in overtime.

Every time a player took a shot, Emrick raised his voice with genuine interest.

At every other opportunity, he and Shanahan talked about the players' day jobs outside of clear definitions of the rules.

They mentioned how Kelusky works the phones in the Roughnecks office.

They showcased the dedication from Toronto's Jim Veltman, one of nine teachers or education students in the game.

Emrick told a story of Buffalo's Mark Steenhuis and his love for his lacrosse stick. Apparently the flamboyant Bandit takes it everywhere, even keeping it between he and his girlfriend in the car.

There were numerous hockey references, especially since that's the sport with which Emrick is most familiar.

He brought up the fact East defenceman Thomas Hajek used to be captain of the University of Vermont hockey team.

When Philadelphia goalie Dallas Eliuk made a save for the East, Emrick howled "nice save, Bernie Parent."

But to prove NBC really did its homework, the network pulled a clip from years ago of Eliuk making an appearance on The Price is Right.

The $3,000 Eliuk pocketed from the game show was almost equal to a year's salary from the league at the time.

If anything is gained from this broadcast, maybe league revenues will increase and salaries will go up.

Aside from the action, there really wasn't time for whole lot else. With nearly every second already accounted for, the production crew must have panicked when the game went to overtime.

Luckily for NBC and gymnastics fans everywhere, John Tavares saved them, scoring just 45 seconds into the extra frame. NBC only set aside a two-hour window for the game and the league bent over backwards to make it fit. Most of the action was played in straight time and the quarters were cut from 15 minutes to 12.

As if on cue, Tavares ended the game at 1:56 local time, the MVP trophy was handed out at 1:59 and the network signed off exactly at 2, heading straight to gymnastics action.

But the way the day all worked out, the Roughnecks should be the ones jumping for joy.


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