I watched the Canadiens 4-3 defeat of the Maple Leafs last night on RDS, which is the French equivalent of the national broadcaster TSN, but in actuality handles the local broadcast of the Montréal Canadiens. Still with the miracle of satellite technology, Canadians from coast to coast to coast can receive their signal and watch every single Canadiens game with great production values and impeccable play-by-play and analysis by Pierre Houde and Marc Denis. The pre-game show and intermissions sometimes suffer from the presence of Benoit Brunet and Mario Tremblay, but overall they put out a good product.
Their coverage is tilted toward the Canadiens and/or Québec or francophone natives playing or coaching in the NHL, which is understandable given the demographics of their audience, but there is still a real effort to be somewhat objective. There are no 'Homer' Joe Bowen moments during a telecast, the announcers display probity while working the game. They focus on the Canadiens, but endeavour to give the whole story, and give context as to who the adversaries are.
During the telecast last night, they heaped praise on the young Leaf defenders Morgan Rielly and Jake Gardiner, told viewers of the great season Phil Kessel and his linemates are having, using graphics and video, and covered the recent controversies involving coach Randy Carlyle and James Reimer.
Conversely, the CBC coverage of the game was strictly focused on the Maple Leafs. I didn't stopwatch it, but my wager would be that the discussion on the Leafs-Habs game was around 90% Toronto-focused during the pre-game Hockey Tonight. A couple of mentions of Tomas Vanek and Carey Price, but aside from that it was the Phil and Randy show, with James Reimer as the tragic hero.
Further, while watching the 'HNIC Replay' of the game, I again got the distinct feeling that Jim Hughson was calling a local broadcast of the Leafs, instead of their ballyhooed 'national' game. Mr. Hughson is a great play-by-play caller, I have a good opinion of him from his days calling Canucks game before his move to the CBC, but the only excuse I could make for him is that, since he is almost exclusively assigned to broadcast Leafs games by the HNIC brass, since the latter are unfailingly the national game covered by the #1 broadcast team, is that he doesn't know the stories, the players on other teams. By necessity, by dint of the toxic exposure, each play is a Leaf play. A David Desharnais near-miss is actually a great defensive play by Nazem Kadri, according to Mr. Hughson, whereas both aspects were highlighted by Pierre Houde.
Last season, I would watch Canadiens games on RDS, but catch them when available on CBC or TSN, just to change it up, and get a different perspective on the game and the team. The fact that I didn't get RDS in HD helped that decision along. This year though, now that I've changed providers to one which carries RDS in HD, I've stopped this practice. The precious few nuggets I get from Elliotte Friedman or Kevin Weeks, the enjoyment I derive from the broadcast's nonpareil opening video montages, do nothing to counteract the incompetence or boorishness of Bob Cole, Don Cherry, P.J. Stock and Ron McLean, and the resultant frustration I experience.
So the inexcusable abdication of the CBC's responsibilities as a national broadcaster have driven this viewer and taxpayer away. And as I used to miss "La Soirée du Hockey" on Radio-Canada, but eventually grew to appreciate the work that RDS was doing, so can I hope that the handover of HNIC to a private broadcaster eventually works itself out. The CBC has done little to drive me to resist the change.