On the morning of Nov. 26, in a skyscraper near downtown Toronto, a quick stroke of the pen changed Canadian sports television. Rogers and the NHL shook hands as a 12-year deal worth $5.2 billion turned broadcasting in Canada on its head.
The deal, which comes into effect next season, gives Rogers and some of its affiliates — including the ever-growing Sportsnet — the national rights to all NHL regular season, playoff and Stanley Cup Final games.
As a Carolina fan, this deal doesn’t really affect my life.
But as a Canadian hockey fan and future sports journalist, boy, am I worried.
I can accept that Rogers’ tight fist on hockey broadcasting probably won’t affect the average viewer. But loyal fans of TSN and CBC will have to start looking elsewhere. Many reporters, analysts and on-air personalities are already concerned about their futures at these organizations. If you don’t like Don Cherry, you may be in luck.
One morsel of good news in this deal is Rogers’s plan to “sub-lease” Hockey Night in Canada to CBC for the next four years. But they won’t be getting any ad revenue, and decisions about the on-air product or personalities aren’t in their control. And Rogers isn’t opening up about its future plans with the show.
Don Cherry, whose contract expires at the end of this season, has already spoken to media about the announcement. His response? “I’m gonna ask you guys. Do I have a job?”
Whether or not we accept it, this is going to change hockey in our country.
Most people will probably forget about this deal by next season. But, when you think about it, not only does it further monopolize sports in Canada and take away Rogers’ need to keep rates competitive, but it affects how the country enjoys our national pastime.
Generations of Canadians grew up watching Hockey Night in Canada with their families and tuning in to see what sort of frock Don Cherry was wearing during Coach’s Corner. But with dozens of games available at any time on any platform in all languages, hockey fans aren’t sharing their experiences. How will we, as one, mock Cherry now?
Gary Bettman described this deal as beneficial for the fans. Considering it’s a rite of passage for NHL fans to hate Gary Bettman, I’m not confident he’s in touch with many fans. Whenever Bettman likes something, I run in the opposite direction.
I’ve heard some people discussing it on campus this past week, but I’m honestly surprised more people aren’t outraged. Sure, it will give fans more chances to see their teams play, since there are more channels on which games will be broadcast. Yet no one acknowledges the cost to our sports channels, our journalists and our experiences.
I’ll admit this thing isn’t all bad. It gives channels a chance to freshen up their talent and really give people a reason to tune in. But the talent on Sportsnet right now isn’t at a high standard either. The deal runs out at the end of the 2025-26 season. God, I hope it doesn’t feel that long.
Then again, Canada doesn’t broadcast Carolina games anyway. You’re on your own, guys.
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