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The usual suspects

West suffers from East's hockey whims Add to ...

Thoughtful of Hockey Night In Canada and the NHL to deliver Saturday's Toronto Maple Leafs-Vancouver Canucks game at the traditional 7 p.m. (all times EDT) slot rather than the Canucks' usual 10 p.m. starting time. Minding the tender bedtime sensibilities of Toronto fans necessitated a 4 p.m. start time in Vancouver.

That, however, negated one of the few advantages a Western team like Vancouver has in the long schedule - that is, having an Eastern team such as the Maple Leafs playing at midnight body time in Vancouver. (Against that small perk is measured the endless road trips endured by teams from the Pacific and Mountain time zones.)

Not like there weren't early games in both Montreal and Ottawa already being broadcast regionally by Hockey Night. It's still Maple Leafs uber alles. The Toronto-Vancouver ratings will no doubt be huge for CBC, stifling most complaints. Still, maybe Hockey Nightand the league can compensate B.C. viewers by starting the Canucks' next visit to the Air Canada Centre on Jan. 30 at 10 p.m. - traditional starting time for Canucks fans. No? Pity.

Alas, the earlier start was insufficient to rouse Brian Burke's Leafs crew from its season-opening losing torpor - now at a record eight games without a win. In case there was any doubt about the Toronto-centric focus of the game, the TV audience was showered with the usual cameos of His Burkiness fulminating in the executive lodges of GM Place, his former haunt. His bitter adversary, Canucks general manager Mike Gillis, was apparently in the washroom most of the game, hence the relative paucity of Gillis sightings by Hockey Night's cameras vis-à-vis Burke.

Inside Pitch

Greg Zaun is a career .251 hitter, but as Rogers Sportsnet's analyst for the major-league baseball postseason, the veteran catcher is hitting like Ted Williams. While the network voices at TBS, Fox and ESPN Radio flounder (Joe Morgan of ESPN said that Babe Ruth started as an outfielder?), Zaun's clinics on inside baseball delivered between innings and before games have been cogent and absorbing.

Zaun has the advantage of still being an active player this season; unlike so many of his peers who venture over to the dark side of media, however, he is willing to tell you about what happens inside the dugout and clubhouse.

A recent segment broke down the war between sign stealers and catcher's signs - the baffling digit stew that precedes every pitch. Knockdown, throw over, sinker, slider -Zaun showed the gamut of signs and explained to those of us wearied by four-hour games how the complexity of baseball's Enigma Code is stretching games' length. In one segment, he showed how pitcher Ronaldo Belasario missed a sign, nearly causing a passed ball. Zaun's also willing to dissect pitching strategies for hitters. To choose just one example, he showed how they'd always start Torii Hunter of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim with a breaking pitch whenever he caught former Blue Jays pitcher A.J. Burnett (now a Yankee). Video was summoned, and voilà, Hunter flailing at the breaking pitch was shown.

In one smaller nugget, Zaun described how catchers use white-out on their finger nails so pitchers can see then against the grey of a team's road uniforms. The segments are TV at its best, and all networks would be advised to watch Zaun's work as inspiration for less light and more heat.

Web pushback

An abiding concern with new media is accountability for defamation. As opposed to major media organizations, many bloggers and websites have few or no assets to be seized if found to have slandered someone.

Critics say this has led to websites such as Deadspin knowingly trading in office gossip and rumour.

This past week, Deadspin released a series of stories alleging sexual improprieties at ESPN by on-air and senior staff. Deadspin's justification for the action was that ESPN had earlier denied the story that its major-league baseball analyst Steve Phillips had had an affair with a young staffer at ESPN - a story broken last week by the New York Post.

In response to being stonewalled by ESPN, Deadspin published all its collected rumours about ESPN personnel. While not specifically denying the stories, ESPN angrily denounced the journalistic practices of Deadspin.

While there is no legal action yet from ESPN, a former ESPN NFL analyst - and former CFL quarterback - Sean Salisbury is suing Deadspin over stories about Salisbury that he claims have "cost him several jobs, ruined his reputation and made it difficult to find gainful employment."

According to Salisbury's lawyer Todd Harlow, the former player wants to make Deadspin accountable. "The difference between other news outlets and Deadspin is at least the other news outlets try to get it right.

We hope to make a statement that if sites are going to behave like this, there are consequences and they are long overdue for that."

Outside The Lines

The Score's Canadian Interuniversity Sport football announcer Tim Micallef noted Guelph's struggles against McMaster on Saturday. "[Guelph]feel like the hydrant at a dog show," Micallef quipped.

Uh … no.

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