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A general view during the playing of the national anthem before the 2012 Winter Classic between the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers at Citizens Bank Park. (Jerry Lai-US PRESSWIRE/Associated Press)
A general view during the playing of the national anthem before the 2012 Winter Classic between the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers at Citizens Bank Park. (Jerry Lai-US PRESSWIRE/Associated Press)

Usual Suspects

Send the NHL all-stars outdoors Add to ...

Far be it from us to tell Gary Bettman how to run his all-star game, where interest peaks with the prospect that the celeb singer will forget the words to a national anthem.

Still, for the second (third?) consecutive year, let us suggest a solution to the All-Star Analgesic: Merge it with the Winter Classic. Have the all-stars frolic in the great outdoors before 50,000. And make Jan. 1 a real showcase game on real ice.

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Hear us out. One of the growing concerns about the Winter Classic (at least among Hockey Night in Canada host Ron MacLean’s book club) is the substandard condition of the ice. The reasoning goes that, if bona fide points in the NHL standings are at stake, it behooves the league to present a modicum of acceptable ice upon which the teams can perform when playing outdoors.

So far in the history of the WC, there have been rain storms, deep freezes, postponements and other acts of God that created a patchy skating surface. How patchy? Players say it reminds them of the ice at the Bank Atlantic Center in Sunrise, Fla. Or a snow cone. Same thing.

But the all-star game is heaven-sent for patchy ice. Played at half-speed by players who saw last call the night before, fast ice conditions are not an imperative. Best of all, no one this side of Lady Byng cares who wins, so you remove the MacLean Integrity Factor caused by bad bounces.

The Winter Classic has become a huge corporate promotion – just like the all-star game. And let’s face it, the glassy-eyed suits are not even paying attention to the action. It could be in Kansas, as long as there’s a hospitality suite. New technologies are making games in warm climes like Los Angeles and Florida practical, so you can spread it among all teams.

Ah, but what to do about that lucrative Jan. 1 date NBC cherishes?

Why not make it a rematch of the previous year’s Stanley Cup final? You’re telling us watching Jaromir Jagr in a tuque is a better draw than the Boston/Vancouver grudge match was earlier this month?

Sure, NBC sportscaster Bob Costas would be forced to pay attention, but wouldn’t that sell the game more than swagged-out all-stars in a scrimmage?

Makes sense. Now, stand at ease.

BRUSH OFF

CBC has broken its silence over the cancellation of its Grand Slam of Curling broadcasts.

The CBC had aired the Grand Slam for the past four years, but on Jan. 18, it told iSport Media and Management, the circuit’s organizer, it was ending coverage immediately. That left the final two events this season with no TV broadcaster. Thus far, no replacement network has been announced.

At the time, iSport chief executive officer Kevin Albrecht told The Globe and Mail issues over quality of the broadcasts was a factor.

Not so, says Jeffrey Orridge, executive director of sports properties for CBC Sports.

“This is about ISport not fulfilling the terms of the contract,” Orridge told Usual Suspects. “We could not go on any further financially under the circumstances. It had nothing to do with quality of production.”

CBC carried the series past the point where it made financial sense, Orridge says. “Our concern was for the curlers and the fans who support the sport. We tried to give it every chance to succeed. This wasn’t a capricious decision. CBC has had some form of curling since 1962, and we didn’t take this lightly. But the time comes when, as a public broadcaster, we have to be prudent. There was no chance of recouping our costs, and we reluctantly made the decision.”

Orridge says there is no chance of a reconciliation with ISport, but that the network would seek to get curling back onto its airwaves.

One way would be to have the Olympic curling competition from Sochi in 2014. But talks between the CBC and partner BCE Inc. with the International Olympic Committee over TV rights have stalled.

“The good news is we’re still talking to the IOC,” Orridge says. “Negotiations have not collapsed. But I can’t say anything more than that.”

We contacted Mr. Albrecht but had not received a reply by publication.

BROWNS MAN DOWN

How much fun is Twitter? Just ask Cleveland Plain Dealer sportswriter Tony Grossi, who became the latest in our tribe to fall afoul of the social media site.

Grossi, the Browns beat guy for the CPD, inadvertently published a tweet about team owner Randy Lerner that was meant to be private. No big whoop, right?

“He’s a pathetic figure, the most irrelevant billionaire in the world.” Oh.

Grossi deleted the tweet and profusely apologized for having an opinion about the owner of the sad-sack Browns. But the newspaper felt he was tainted and replaced him on the prestigious beat with someone who’ll keep his/her opinions to themselves.

Because journalism is all about playing kissy-face with the big sports owner in town. Everyone knows that.

DRIPPING HONEY

You might say there aren’t many wordsmiths working TV these days. So let’s all bow down to GolTV’s Ray Hudson: “Well cut apart from the genius of Messi again, he draws the defence to him like a magnet. And once more, Casillas’s men are playing poker with a witch. They’re gonna lose. Messi magisterial. Pedro, that man I told ya about people, he’s a goal scorer and he’s a real talent. Holds up beautifully and what a dispatch. Fabulous by Messi, magic feet dripping honey on it with every touch and then he’s got the awareness, the dexterity, and that x-ray vision like Superman through steel to put it on an absolute scalding altar. Again from this angle, again, the gazelle running around cheetahs, but look at that pass people. It’s absolutely monumentally perfect.”

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