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When the Hockey Night in Canada crew meets this week to plan for the coming NHL season, two decisions will have already been made.

Jim Hughson will replace Bob Cole as the play-by-play voice for the 7 p.m. Eastern game. And Mark Lee's workload will be increased.

Cole, who is 75, will yield to Hughson, who will become the lead Hockey Night announcer and, as such, will call the 2009 Stanley Cup final.

As well, a plan to hire a new announcer has been shelved because of Lee's development as a playcaller.

"Mark did a terrific job at the Olympics and I thought he improved as a play-by-play hockey guy last year," said Scott Moore, the head of CBC Sports.

"He got more ice time. And getting more ice time will make him even better. We've decided for now not to go outside."

Hughson, who lives in Vancouver, will travel east, usually to Toronto, to call the early game of the weekly NHL doubleheader along with analyst Craig Simpson, who lives in Edmonton.

Just to be sure the announcers top up their frequent flyer points, the 10 p.m. game in the West will be called by Lee, who lives near Toronto.

Lee's on-air partner will be Marc Crawford, the former NHL coach now residing in Vancouver, who signed during the off-season with Hockey Night as a game analyst.

The hiring of Crawford appears to relegate Greg Millen to third-string status among the analysts, although Millen and Cole will be in the booth when Hockey Night airs a third telecast on Saturdays.

And the number of regional telecasts will be increased, bringing the total to three, said Sherali Najak, the executive producer of Hockey Night.

Cherry's thumbs up

The competitiveness of the Toronto Maple Leafs, normally a big audience producer, is an important issue for national broadcasters.

And despite gloomy predictions, the Leafs will be a stronger team in 2008-09, Don Cherry of Hockey Night says.

"I think what Cliff Fletcher [the interim general manager]has done is gone out and gotten guys with character, because that's what the club needed," Cherry said.

Among the new acquisitions, Jamal Mayers, acquired from the St. Louis Blues, would be a good choice for captain, Cherry said, assuming free-agent centre Mats Sundin doesn't suddenly appear at training camp.

"I'd like to see him as captain," Cherry said. "He's a Toronto guy and he's a tough, gritty player."

Cherry isn't sure the Leafs' coaching has been improved by replacing Paul Maurice with Ron Wilson.

"But it will be different," he said. "He's sort of an arrogant guy, a pompous guy. But being arrogant and pompous is not too bad," he said. "I can guarantee you there won't be as many goals scored against them, because that's his style."

Hughson feels the same way.

"I think the Leafs will be competitive every night," he said. "I don't think they're going to be the doormat that everyone thinks. They'll be organized as a group and they will play a team game."

Hockey etiquette

A final note on Cherry: He attends hockey games often involving minor-midget players (14-year-olds) with his son, Tim Cherry, who's a birddog for the NHL's Central Scouting.

A week ago, the father and son were at a tournament in which the players on one team (Cherry wouldn't give the name) celebrated goals by sliding on their knees, soccer-style, and giving each other "low high-fives."

Cherry was incensed.

"I said to Tim: 'They're acting like a bunch of [expletives] They're playing like a bunch of Brazilian soccer players."

Cherry quickly explained he has nothing against soccer or Brazilians, but dislikes the showboating and diving that is seen in the sport.

"After the game, I happened to bump into the coach and I said: 'What are they? A bunch of [expletive]soccer players?' " Cherry said. "He said, 'Would you come in and tell the boys?' "

Cherry went into the dressing room and lectured the kids on the ills of hot-dogging.

"We just don't do that in hockey," Cherry said. "I know a lot of people think it's exciting, but you don't do it, just like you don't stand and admire a home run."

TSN2 pressure

TSN is continuing to turn up the heat on cable and satellite distributors to carry TSN2. Viewers were upset over not being able to see U.S. Open tennis on TSN2. On Sunday, TSN2 will carry the Edmonton Eskimos-Montreal Alouettes CFL game, while TSN airs golf's Ryder Cup.

Yesterday, TSN announced UEFA Champions League soccer programming on TSN2, starting today with Barcelona-Sporting at 2:30 p.m., followed by Chelsea-Bordeaux at 5:30 p.m.

Later this week, TSN2 will announce its NHL and NBA schedules.