Rogers wired for sports

ROB BRODIE -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 7:04 AM ET

On a cold winter's night, it was the hottest basketball ticket in town.

Carleton Ravens vs. Ottawa Gee-Gees, with an OUA East men's basketball crown -- not the mention city bragging rights -- at stake.

But just because you weren't among the lucky ones shoehorned into the new Ravens' Nest didn't mean you were shut out.

Rogers Television had live coverage of the big hoops tilt, just as it did for more than 40 other OUA events this season. Further evidence the sports television universe is expanding quite nicely right at home, thank you.

"We've had our best year in sports in a long time," said Rogers senior producer Gavin Lumsden, admitting the thought is rather ironic considering it's been a winter without the Ottawa Senators, thanks to the NHL lockout.

While discussions about the explosion of sports on television generally centre around TSN, Rogers Sportsnet, The Score and a host of digital networks, the grassroots stations are helping the cause, too.

Consider some of the following events you wouldn't have been able to see without the efforts of the hard-working folks at Rogers:

- Coverage of every draw at the Kia Cup Ontario men's curling championship (Brier viewers wish they had it so good) held in Whitby. Extensive airtime also was provided for the provincial Scott Tournament of Hearts (won by Ottawa's Jenn Hanna), plus finals from the provincial seniors.

- Some 42 OUA sports events, counting tomorrow's final between Carleton and the Brock Badgers in St. Catharines. If next weekend's men's hockey final in London is added, as planned, make it 43.

- Wall-to-wall coverage of Ottawa 67's games and beyond on OHL Primetime.

- A 22-game slate of Ottawa Lynx Triple-A baseball games, soon to be announced.

- Hometown Hockey week over the Christmas break, which included a whopping 113 games.

While Rogers has always done well by hockey, it's curling that has opened plenty of eyes across the province. Like, about 250,000 sets of them during the Kia Cup. It's making the three-year deal Rogers signed with the Ontario Curling Association seem like a stroke of genius.

"We've had unbelievable viewer response to the curling," said Lumsden.

The "two-year strategy" with the OUA, which involves the province-wide network, is also working well.

"Every Saturday night in every Rogers market, you get an OUA game," said Lumsden. "We may cover 3-4 games at the same time, and you get the game that is relevant to your market."

Best of all, it's quality stuff, something Lumsden said the Rogers crew takes pride in presenting.

"We've really raised the quality and standard of production," he said. "The part I love the best is that it's all volunteer driven."

What's next for the station? Lumsden said he'd like to add more high school programming and expand on coverage of the NWHL's Ottawa Raiders. With "live" being the operative word.

"Sports is fun because it has drama," said Lumsden. "But the drama is gone, in a lot of ways, when you already know the result.

"If there's a way to do it live, we always will."


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