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(Paul Beaty)
(Paul Beaty)

Usual Suspects

CBC hoping for a long Cup final Add to ...

When you turn on CBC of a May evening and get Just For Laughs, you know that an NHL playoff series has ended early. Or, in the case of the third round of the NHL's playoffs, two series have ended early. With Montreal/Chicago going just five games and San Jose/Chicago lasting only four, the Corp lost out on a potential five nights of prime hockey - and golden ratings.

The death of the Canadiens' glory train was costly in two ways. A typical midweek night games in the series on CBC had drawn 2.638 million viewers (a week ago Tuesday). Subsequent nights up to a seventh game could easily have attracted the 3.08 million viewers who watched the Habs and Pittsburgh on May 8. Instead, Philadelphia rained on the bleu/blanc/rouge. Adding insult, CBC had to swallow the Saturday afternoon game, which produced a lacklustre (by HNIC standards) 2.135 million this past weekend, as one of the series' choices.

(BTW: For haters of afternoon hockey, a reader reminded us that the Maple Leafs played afternoon games in both their series in the annus mirabilis, 1967.)

In the case of the Sharks and Blackhawks, CBC's numbers aren't staggering either: The final game of the Chicago sweep on Sunday afternoon drew a modest 1.257 million (TSN had the previous three contests so comparisons are difficult.) Still, an extended series would have been helpful - unless you missed that Russell Peters set at Juste Pour Rire last summer.

Finally, with no Canadian teams in the final, the absence of Sidney Crosby for the first time in three years and the Flyers promising to play a vanilla defensive style against Chicago's firepower, CBC will need a longer series to generate much interest and revenue - especially with outdoor temperatures in much of the country hitting mid-summer levels. Good news? The NHL moved up the start of the final, meaning any Game 7 could go no later than June 11.

Everything's Coming Up Roses: The NHL suits in Manhattan, however, couldn't be happier. NBC's 2.0 overnight rating for Sunday's Sharks/Blackhawks Game 4 is up 33 per cent from the 2009 Red Wings/Blackhawks Game 4. It's also the highest rating for any NHL telecast since 2004 outside a Winter Classic or Stanley Cup Final. Now, the NHL can take some time from applying the financial thumbscrew to the good folks of Glendale, Arizona, to watch the No. 3 (Chicago) and No. 4 (Philadelphia) media markets in the United States face off. Perhaps if Rocky Wirtz's Blackhawks win their first Cup since 1961, he'll stop nagging the commish about getting back on ESPN.

I'll Hang Up And Listen: The Maytag repairman has nothing on the lonely souls who answer the phones at sports radio. For all their trying, guys like Mike Wilner at the Fan 590's Blue Jays casts are stuck with a public that loves the same old stories. Example: Tuesday night, as the Jays succumbed to the L.A. Angels of Anaheim Hard by Escondido Hang a Left at Cucamonga, Wilner pleaded for some new conversational threads on his Miked Up segment. Stop with the Lyle Overbay. Cease with the Cito Gaston. A moratorium on John McDonald.

Let's till some new conversational ground tonight, said Wilner - doing his best to sound chipper. But by the seventh inning Wilner wearily reported that the same old obsessions were all Blue Jays phone callers or e-mailers wanted to talk about. Sigh.

Over on WGR 550 Sports Radio on Tuesday, Mike Schopp and the Bulldog were similarly occupied in changing the topic on the Buffalo Sabres. Schopp announced dramatically that he was clearing the lines - the "whiner lines" he called them. No more kvetching about Sabres management being cheap, no more lamenting the loss of Daniel Briere, no more obsessing about selecting Ales Kotalik when the Sabres could have had Pavel Datsyuk. Let's try new topics, implored Schopp. First call after the appeal? "I get the feeling the team is saying we should just be happy to be in the league..." Schopp shoulda' stood in bed.

Added thought: How come everyone's a first-time caller, long-time listener? Is it a rule for sports talk radio that you say this?

Just a question: How did we end up with Don Cherry and Barry Melrose as the respective oracles for hockey in Canada and the U.S.? ESPN thinks the sun sets on Melrose, but the former L.A. Kings coach has been warming up the same tired Cherry tribute act he's peddled for 20 years. Down to the zoot suits. It hasn't gone unnoticed. In a recent interview with Sports Media Watch, he was asked to compare himself to Cherry.

"Well, I'm a lot better looking and better dressed than Don Cherry. Gotta get that out there right away. But I would say so, yeah. If you look at the viewership for ESPN, non-hockey fans are watching SportsCenter. All of a sudden, this guy from Canada pops up, and they say, 'this is the hockey guy.' So I would definitely say that's true. It's something I take pride in, and something I work hard to cultivate, and something that I try to convey every night to people that aren't hockey fans. So I try and entertain a little more than guys that are on hockey networks, but I think definitely that's true that I'm the most watched hockey person in the United States. I don't think there's any doubt about that."

That's The Ticket: Finally, Yahoo is reporting that former Saturday Night Live comedian Jon Lovitz and others are being sued by the Los Angeles Dodgers for allegedly failing to pay nearly $100,000 for season tickets for the 2010 baseball season. The lawsuit claims Lovitz - star of The Critic TV show - and 100 others agreed in 2008 to buy three dugout club seats for all baseball games played at Dodger Stadium in 2008, 2009 and 2010. The lawsuit alleges the group refused to pay $95,400 for the 2010 season. Perhaps Lovitz knew that ManRam would only have two homers by Memorial Day?

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