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(LUCY NICHOLSON)
(LUCY NICHOLSON)

The Usual Suspects

No penalty goes unnoticed by TSN pundits Add to ...

Does the NHL head office have TSN on speed dial? Fans of the Anaheim Ducks apparently think so.

While Anaheim forward Bobby Ryan got away without a penalty for stomping the foot of Nashville Predators defenceman Jon Blum last Friday in Game 2 of their playoff series, TSN's College of Cardinals back in Toronto did not miss the cheap shot. Repeatedly replaying the incident, the TV boys drew unwanted attention to a suspension-worthy act that might otherwise have been allowed to pass - as it was by the refs. Bingo, the NHL subsequently suspended Ryan two games for his lead-footed foul.

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Would they have suspended Ryan without TSN's scrutiny? Probably. But it never hurts to be take the initiative when your Canadian broadcast partner is making it a federal case, so Ryan sits. The incident illustrates the symbiotic relationship between the NHL's discipline department and the opinion makers on the TV panels at TSN and CBC who see all and have opinions on the same. In a wired age, resistance is futile.

TWITTER QUACKS

Naturally, Anaheim's tweets went goofy, blaming TSN for creating a mountain from a molehill. TSN's Darren Dreger caught a lot of the flak. A sample tweet from a fan who says he is the webmaster for his church: "DarrenDreger led a successful smear campaign against @b_ryan9. Now please go back to being a respectable journalist ..." This was followed by some garden-variety profanity. Replied Dreger, who blocked several other profane tweeters, "You work for a church?"

"Threatened, vilified and deemed responsible for any and all future Ducks disappointment," joked Dreger to Usual Suspects in an e-mail. While the missives were personal, Dreger says he doesn't feel like his safety is at risk. He even made light by tweeting, "Please send all complaints to aaronward_nhl"- a jab at TSN panelist Aaron Ward. Doubtless Duck fans saw the humour.

SATIRE DIED SATURDAY NIGHT

Please tell us Don Cherry and Ron MacLean were not making fun of the facial injuries suffered by Detroit Red Wings forward Johan Franzen during Coach's Corner last Saturday. In what they considered witty repartee about the NHL's "quiet room" for evaluating concussions, the CBC pair showed distorted pictures of actor Steve McQueen (???) while slurring their speech and making fun of Franzen being concussed. This gem, we were told, was the chef d'oeuvre of MacLean, who seemed quite pleased with his work.

As The Don himself pronounced earlier in the segment, "It's a lot different being injured than being sick." He should know.

MISSED FREE THROWS

The NBA was boasting record TV audiences as it began the playoffs this past weekend. The 2010-11 regular season was the highest rated, most-viewed NBA campaign on ABC since the network reacquired rights to the league in 2002. But there's a palpable sense that, on the verge of an almost certain lockout of its players this fall, the NBA has lost its way.

The bruited Miami Heat merger of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh was something less than the artistic and promotional success it was hoped to be. The tarnishing of James's star, the aging of Kobe Bryant and the tacky Carmelo Anthony auction in midseason took much lustre off a league driven by its star names. The atrophying of the Boston Celtics and the ugly move of the Sacramento Kings to Anaheim - it made the NHL's Phoenix Coyotes follies look civil by comparison - also dimmed the glow in the wake of a nasty lockout.

Not even Blake Griffin and John Wall could make up the difference. The league is hoping Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls send the NBA off on a high into their labour mess. Good luck, Mr. Stern.

We could be here for a while.

Kevin Na's 16 in the first round of the Valero Texas Open last Thursday has achieved YouTube immortality. Na spent more time in the woods than The Blair Witch Project. "How we going to count all the shots?" a bewildered Na asked. "You got nothing, let's go back to the tee," his forlorn caddy said.

More amazing, perhaps, than Na's misery was the fortuitous decision by Golf Channel to choose him as their player to wear a microphone that day. Some inspired producer guaranteed that we'd capture the intimate musings during Na's record par-four implosion. "Seven … you whiffed at eight … nine … 10 you were out … 11, 12, 13 ... somewhere between 10 and 15." Classic Tin Cup.

CANUCKS RULE

Is there anyone in Vancouver not producing a music video sampling the latest Cee Lo or Wiz Khalifa riff in honour of the Canucks? Forget Vancouver, is there any playoff team not beset by some Jack Layton backbeat fail on YouTube? We're besieged by Foot Locker mannequins in their team colours trying to rap. Best we can say is that there are more people out there who think they're gifted than actually have the muse.

UNWELCOME MATT

There is a god for Detroit Lions fans who were infuriated/perplexed by the decision to use their former general manager Matt Millen (31-97) on the Thursday night NFL telecasts. Millen's TV work was like his talent appraisal in Detroit: bizarre. Now, according to Sports Illustrated, Millen is out after one year, along with Joe Theismann. No replacements are known but it looks like the impressive Gus Johnson, who always seems to get CBS' most impressive game, is the new play-by-play guy on Thursdays.

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