Field lacrosse banks on televised showcase

RYAN PYETTE -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 7:20 AM ET

Field lacrosse isn't as popular as the box variety in Canada, but organizers of the 2006 world championships in London couldn't ask for a bigger promotional stage this month.

Back-to-back Saturday afternoon appearances on the main CBC network -- with a Canada-Iroquois game Saturday and the final, expected to be between Canada and the U.S., on July 22 -- are the tournament's best bets to reach a wide viewing audience.

A memorable TV moment could boost the field set immeasurably in this country.

But how do you cover it?

"Television sports production is all about patterns and the patterns in field lacrosse are not unlike those in hockey and football, which we feel we do pretty well," said CBC Sports producer Chris Irwin, a Dorchester native.

"There's TV timeouts in each quarter, but the play is pretty much continuous. There's a lot happening out there. There will be time for storytelling but mostly in between the game action."

Longtime broadcaster Steve Armitage will call the on-field activities while Chris Hall, head coach of the National Lacrosse League's Calgary Roughnecks, provides colour commentary and Brian Shanahan acts as roving reporter.

CBC Country Canada will air the two network games on tape delay and show the rest of the host country's games -- plus a couple of playoff tilts -- live to flesh out the tournament coverage. For the most part, Country Canada is a channel that can be purchased singularly on a digital cable or in a satellite package.

"At the last Winter Games, Country Canada showed all of the nordic skiing and at the last (summer) Olympics, they focused on the equestrian," Irwin said. "They've had success picking up an event with a core group of fans and showing it all. Viewers know what they're going to get in this format."

Because NCAA field la-crosse has a large following and many of the players in this month's tournament are former U.S. college stars, College Sports Television will cover three games, including the Canada-U.S. tilt on July 16. The channel is available on U.S. satellite.

Hall, who has played in past world championships, says the first thing spectators and viewers will notice is that ball possession is the key to victory in the field game.

"Winning faceoffs is huge because it gives you instant possession," Hall said. "Faceoffs are at the start of each quarter and after every goal, so if you don't win them, you're back on defence and it's hard to get momentum going. There's no shot clock like in box, so a team can hold the ball as long as it wants to set up a scoring chance."

With 21 international teams of varying skills, there could be some TV nightmares -- such as a big-time blowout that has channels changing after the first quarter -- but the hope is some early exciting action will fill the seats and attract more viewers.

"I think if people see a game early in the tournament, they'll see it's exciting and keep coming back to it," Irwin said. "TD Waterhouse sets up well because it's not a 50,000-seat stadium. If the organizers get the kind of attendance they expect, there won't be a lot of empty seats, which doesn't look good on TV.

"The way the festival part of it is set up, there is time for those players (at North London) to go over to (TD Waterhouse) to watch the games. We're going to have a camera at (North London). That's part of the storytelling. We want to show that this tournament is more than just the international competitive teams playing in the Blue Division."

But success does hinge on the best two teams playing in the gold medal final. If it's not Canada or the U.S. in the big game, CBC could have a mess.

WORLD FIELD LACROSSE CHAMPIONSHIPS

TV Schedule

- CBC Country Canada available from Rogers, Ch. 277; Cogeco, Ch. 166; ExpressVu, Ch. 641; Star Choice, Ch. 512

Friday: Canada vs. Japan, 7:30 p.m. on CBC Country Canada

Saturday: Canada vs. Team Iroquois, 1:30 p.m. on CBC, College Sports Television, tape-delayed on Country Canada at 7:30 p.m.

Sunday: Canada vs. United States, 4 p.m. on CBC, College Sports Television, tape-delayed on Country Canada at 7:30 p.m.

July 17: Canada vs. Australia, 7:30 p.m. on CBC Country Canada

July 18: Canada vs. England, 7:30 p.m., CBC Country Canada

July 19: Play-in game, 7:30 p.m., CBC Country Canada

July 20: Semifinal, 7:30 p.m., CBC Country Canada

July 22: Final, 3:30 p.m. on CBC, College Sports Television, tape-delayed on Country Canada at 7:30 p.m.


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