It took seven hours plus for TSN and Sportsnet to get their Trade Deadline moment. But Roberto Luongo delivered. "My contract sucks," an emotional Luongo told a press conference in a burst of candour after failing to be traded from Vancouver. "I'd scrap it if I could right now."
That would be the 12-year $64-million contract he signed in 2009. After long hours of televised ennui, the networks' biggest story line got traction with barely three minutes till the deadline Wednesday. Luongo was pulled from the practice by Canucks official. Immediately Twitter went ballistic. Finally, some news... " @ SNHockeyCentral Roberto Luongo pulled off ice early at practice."
Some smelled a rat, however. " @ Proteautype Roberto Luongo pulled off the ice. This is what's known among expert Twitter pranksters as being Stromboned." The networks picked up the theme. Vancouver took a collective gulp.
Then, the deadline passed with a sigh, not a scream. The Canucks stood pat and Luongo remained in Vancouver to face the press. "It's been an emotional ride the last year," Luongo said. "I'm human and sometimes it gets to you... I'm going to gather myself the rest of the day make sure when I come to work tomorrow I'm 100 per cent dedicated."
Luongo suggested he'd never been asked to drop his no-trade clause, and if he had he'd have said okay. That was contradicted by GM Mike Gillis who suggested Luongo was a tad emotional and that his goalie had been presented with trade offers with him. (Cue the ominous music: Dum-de-dum-dum….) To be discussed, said Gillis, when Roberto has time to calm down.
It was great TV, even if the audience had to wait seemingly forever.
Filling the hours
If you wanted to know about George Stroumboulopoulos' T-shirt collection, Jay Onrait's man cave or who spilled the coffee on the anchor desk, Wednesday was your day. The NHL trade deadline day was all that and less on Canada's two sports specialty networks.
"We've become a parody of ourselves," admitted a dazed TSN anchor James Duthie. The assembled hosts, experts and talking heads looked like people waiting for an offer on their house that never comes, With just 17 deals, all in the final three hours, it was hard sledding. This anonymous fan in the back of a TSN standup expressed the feelings of everyone who got up for the 8 A.M. start of broadcasting.
CBA rears its ugly head
But what else should we have expected in this labour-truncated contraption of a season? The combination of tight playoff races, an asphyxiating salary cap and a MASH unit full of injured NHL stars strangled the TDD wiggle room in 2013. So now we have the first real casualty of the NHL's new CBA, a frugality belt cinched on a successful TV property in favour of propping up the shopping mall in Glendale, Arizona.
Before we declare it a wasted day, remember that the headliner a year ago was the Cody Hodgson for Zack Kassian deal. Kassian was just recently recalled from the the AHL by Vancouver and Hodgson has spent time on Buffalo's fourth line. In other words, GMs are learning that a trade made in haste can be repented at leisure. Great leisure.
The other lesson is that two birds in the bush leagues are worth more than the one in the hand. With futures cheaper than players under contract, no one wanted to give up on potential Wednesday. Prices on younger players were prohibitive, sources tell Daily Grind.
Line of the day
Duthie: Calgary owner Murray Edwards told GM Jay Feaster he wants the Flames in the playoffs next year. That's his marching orders.
Ray Ferraro: I'd hate to be on that march.
Same time, same channel next year
Some will ask why the TV sports networks set themselves up for this anticlimax by starting so early and throwing so much creative spaghetti at the wall. The simple answer is that when they can no longer sell Tim Hortons or the other sponsors on the concept of an eight-hour talk fest then you'll see it change.
Till then, the ratings and the online traffic will justify all the Waiting For Godot episodes TSN and Sportsnet can conjure.
Best of the talking heads
Three Stars of Someday Never Comes (in no particular order) : Ferraro, TSN; He's come into his own as one of the best panel people in hockey; Damien Cox, Sportsnet, This format is his wheelhouse. Prepared, provocative; Craig Button, TSN: The network's personnel guru, the former Calgary GM has stepped up his game.
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