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TSN scores with more Maple Leafs games Add to ...

One team stood out as critical to TSN and the NHL in negotiating a successful contract extension. The six-year agreement, which was announced yesterday and will begin next season, will significantly increase Canadian NHL content on TSN.

The cable network will air a total of 70 games in the regular season, all of which for the first time will involve Canadian teams. In the playoffs, TSN for the first time will get a Canadian matchup in the first round if more than two series involve Canadian teams.

The CBC, the NHL's broadcast rights holder in Canada, will get the first two picks and TSN the third.

TSN could receive a Canadian series in the second round, as well, if three Canadian teams in three separate series advanced. TSN gets the third pick after the CBC takes the first two. And, in the third round, TSN will receive the first three games of one series.

But TSN's coup was in acquiring a much larger schedule of games involving the Toronto Maple Leafs, the leading audience producer on English-language television among the Canadian teams.

In negotiations involving TSN, the league and the six Canadian clubs, it was agreed that TSN will air 17 Leafs games nationally each season, just six fewer than the 23 Leafs games the CBC's Hockey Night in Canada will air in each of the next six seasons.

Seven of those TSN Leafs games are the property of the NHL, but the remaining 10 are regional games owned by the Leafs. TSN will purchase the 10 from regional rights holder Rogers Sportsnet. The NHL and the five Canadian teams outside Toronto agreed to allow TSN to take those 10 games nationally.

"That was a big part of the negotiation because it went beyond dealing with the league," said Rick Brace, the president of revenue, business planning and sports for CTV, the company that owns TSN.

"It also meant the league had to negotiate on our behalf with the Toronto Maple Leafs, and we were very pleased with that."

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the league is confident the Leafs' telecasts will not infringe on the regional games of other Canadian teams.

"Ultimately, we're comfortable that we can schedule in a way not to materially impact the local deals of the other clubs," he said.

TSN also will air 15 Montreal Canadiens telecasts and 10 from each of the four other Canadian teams. Brace described the deal as TSN's best since it started airing NHL games in 1987.

"Until now, it's been kind of a mix of U.S-U.S. matchups and some Canadian games," he said. "The benefit here is every game in the regular season will feature a Canadian team."

TSN will continue to designate Wednesday as its leading NHL viewing night.

TSN also acquired digital rights for wireless, video on demand and live streaming. It continues to own exclusive rights to the NHL draft and draft lottery.

Neither TSN nor the league would comment on the money involved in the new deal, but sources estimate TSN will pay the league between $35-million and $40-million a year, bringing the total to more than $200-million, by far the most TSN has ever paid for NHL rights.

The CBC's six-year extension, announced last year, will kick in next season and cost the network about $100-million a year. The schedule will involve the Saturday night doubleheader, most of the Canadian content in the playoffs and exclusivity to the Stanley Cup final.

Cup numbers

The CBC drew its largest audience of the NHL playoffs, 2.708 million viewers, for Monday's triple-overtime fifth game of the Stanley Cup final (Pittsburgh Penguins-Detroit Red Wings).

NBC earned a 4.3 overnight rating (percentage of potential U.S. households tuned in), the best overnight in six years for a Cup final fifth game (4.5, Detroit-Carolina Hurricanes, 2002, ABC).

NBC had a 2.3 national rating for the fourth game, up 21 per cent from 2007 (Anaheim Ducks-Ottawa Senators), and tops among all networks in the demographics 18-34 and 18-49. CBS earned a strong 3.0 national rating for its Saturday night telecast of mixed martial arts.

Sid and Grapes

Don Cherry of Hockey Night insists he isn't feuding with Penguins star Sidney Crosby.

We called it a grudge in a column last week. During their commentary after the third game, Cherry and Hockey Night host Ron MacLean ignored Crosby's two goals in Pittsburgh's 3-2 win, merely the best performance of the Stanley Cup final to that point.

Vancouver Canucks radio voice John Shorthouse replaces Jim Hughson as play-by-play announcer for Canucks telecasts on Sportsnet Pacific.

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