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article imageOp-Ed: Maybe Rogers should fire Don Cherry

By Rocco Pendola     Dec 8, 2013 in Sports
Hockey Night in Canada (HNIC) needs to change or Rogers Communications will make changes.
I'm not a television producer. But I think like one. And whoever calls the shots at HNIC must start doing the same.
I'm a writer, most often for the American financial media Website known as I'll be contributing hockey columns to Digital Journal on a regular basis. (Thanks for the opportunity).
As a writer, I understand that, for better or worse, if I want to be read, I need to cover what's hot. As such, if you look at my article history on TheStreet, you'll find plenty of Apple, Netflix, Google, Pandora, Intel, Facebook and Twitter. The types of companies investors care about.
Sports fans are no different than investors.
We're human. And, while we don't necessarily want it rammed down our throats, we want to hear the personalities, pundits and reporters on HNIC talk about what's hot. And, without doubt, what happened Saturday night between the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins was the hot story.
But, where was HNIC?
From the beginning of the third period of the Leafs-Senators game through the 2nd period of game two of the doubleheader between Calgary and Edmonton, they were nowhere to be found. While the Bruins-Pens dustup trended on Twitter, HNIC largely ignored what was easily the biggest story in hockey that night. It was as if they were blissfully unaware of what was happening around them on a social media they, themselves, are an active part of.
For goodness sake, when something hockey-related trends in the States, you know it's a big deal. And, of course, on Saturday night (Twitter screen capture was taken around 11:15 p.m. Eastern Time), four of the 10 trending terms in Canada dealt directly with Boston-Pittsburgh.
During "Coaches Corner" Don Cherry didn't want to talk about what happened. He was too emotional. Ron MacLean apparently made him. The discussion lasted roughly a minute. The rest of the crew (particularly P. J. Stock) did a great job covering what went down in Boston. But that all happened during Leafs-Sens.
When the Battle of Ontario ended, HNIC had to go straight to the already-in-progress Battle of Alberta. Fine. That's understandable.
When the first period of that less-than-inspiring tilt finished, HNIC went straight to Cherry and MacLean, who made absolutely no mention of anything that happened between the Bruins and Penguins. Not James Neal's knee. Not Shawn Thornton's attack on Brooks Orpik. They didn't even update Orpik's condition. Nor did they make mention of or show Thornton's genuine apology.
After Cherry's quick hit and a commercial break, HNIC went to its 1st intermission roundtable. The only mention of the biggest story -- by a mile -- of the night ... of the story that had Canadian and American hockey fans sparring on Twitter came during a brief, maybe 30-second Chevrolet i-Report. And all it contained was the text of a Tweet quoting Thornton's apology.
The 1st intermission came and went. Not until the 2nd intermission of game two of HNIC's Saturday night doubleheader did we hear anything else about the Boston-Pittsburgh incident. And, let's face it, by that time viewership had likely dwindled considerably.
HNIC failed.
It didn't strike while the iron was hot. And I can't understand why.
Do the folks who produce the telecast not have the instinct that makes covering the story everybody is talking about priority number one?
If they don't, they better obtain it. Because Rogers will not hesitate to make huge changes -- quite possibly wholesale changes -- to Hockey Night in Canada next season.
Did Don Cherry set the tone of HNIC's (non)coverage Saturday night? Does HNIC really think we need to hear -- for the hundredth time -- that Grapes likes the Sedins or kids shouldn't worry about looking funny when they take a shot on net? That's the type of stuff Cherry was talking about Saturday while the rest of us were engaged in a whole 'nother bit of (actually interesting) dialogue.
What makes the whole situation worse is that the Boston-Pittsburgh thing is right in Cherry's wheelhouse. It's his bread and butter. His take on these types of events has helped make him a Canadian hockey institution.
On the Coaches Corner after the Rogers deal with the NHL was announced, Don Cherry suggested Rogers should leave him and MacLean alone because they're doing a great job. Why mess with a winner was Cherry's mantra. As much as I love Grapes, that was a lame attempt at keeping your gig.
And he didn't do himself any favors coming on Coaches Corner early in the night, indicating that he didn't want to talk about the, admittedly, unsettling events in Boston. He and MacLean miscued completely by not even touching on the subject later that evening. And, for whatever reason, HNIC's producers took a cue from Cherry -- whether it was a conscious decision or not doesn't really matter -- by not taking the hot story, running with it and owning it.
If programmers at Rogers were watching what I was watching Saturday night, they absolutely had to have the same reaction I did. They were dumbfounded. And they should send everybody from Ron and Don to the HNIC producers a message:
Learn how to do television beyond well-crafted and emotionally-charged pre-game montages or somebody else will end up running the broadcast Rogers, somewhat charitably, allowed the CBC to keep.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about Hockey, National hockey league, Hockey night in Canada, cbc hockey night in canada, Rogers communications
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