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The folks at Sportsnet have generated some chatter coming out of the Memorial Cup about the possibility of the CHL taking centre stage during the season with a form of interleague play returning....
I am quoted in the article, and on the surface do indeed think that taking advantage of the NHL's quiet night could certainly benefit junior hockey. The American Hockey League normally does it by scheduling its All-Star festivities just after the NHL version. The NHL All-Star Game was Sunday, January 27th this year with the AHL game the following night.
For junior hockey to continue to grow, it needs to attract the eyes of people who do not normally follow it. It's not the season ticket holders of the local team you're trying to get to watch, it's those people who might check to see who is doing well in the league a couple times per month.
There are some issues I see with this interleague idea. For starters, where does it fit in the schedule? Do you scrap the OHL All-Star Game? You could argue we would be going back to something more like the old Hershey Cup, but at least it would feature club teams rather than obscure All-Star teams. Remember it was OHL East vs. WHL West, OHL West vs. QMJHL East, etc.
Travel would also be an issue. The OHL is primarily a weekend league. It may be tough for a team to play their weekend games, and then head to another part of the country for a game on the Monday night (currently the quiet night after the NHL All-Star Game). The same applies for the teams from the other leagues. Even the interleague play that was done a few years ago seemed to grow old. While Ottawa/Hull (now Gatineau) was interesting, the novelty of Oshawa vs. Shawinigan grew old pretty quickly. Mind you, in this format it's possible that a team may go more than a decade between interleague games, plenty of time to avoid a novelty. But, would the folks in Kitchener have been that excited to see the Spokane Chiefs, Tri-City Americans or Rouyn-Noranda Huskies come to town this past January?
What I'll throw out there is something more like Hockey Day in Canada, but CHL style. How about taking that day, and scheduling marquee games in each of the three leagues? For example for the 2008-09 season, let's start out in the Maritimes at 5:30pm local time (4:30 Eastern) with the Halifax Mooseheads hosting Rimouski. From there, we have a 7:30pm eastern start with the Windsor Spitfires taking on the Oshawa Generals. Then at 10pm eastern (7pm Pacific time) it's the Vancouver Giants and Calgary Hitmen at Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver. Three games, bringing in the entire country, all broadcast nationally. You have major markets involved in Vancouver and Calgary. I'm using Oshawa/Windsor for the John Tavares/Taylor Hall factor. Halifax is a major centre in the maritimes, it could easily be exchanged for Moncton or Saint John. Rimouski is the Memorial Cup host and should be a strong QMJHL team next season.
Yes, this method has its problems as well. For starters, it's a Monday night. Just like the players, junior hockey fans are more accustomed to attending games closer to weekends. But the primary goal of this would be to generate TV interest, and get the eyes of people looking for something to watch. It would have to generate its own sponsorship since there would be plenty of resources involved in running broadcasts in three different markets across the country. There is also the thought that junior hockey players do not need anymore 'extra events'. There is the summer U-18, world junior camps, NHL camps, world juniors, U-17, Prospects, All-Star Game. But at least for the players and teams, this would be scheduled just like a regular game, it just happens to fall on a Monday night.
When it comes to generating interest in junior hockey, I think the folks behind the scenes at Sportsnet could help themselves out by giving junior hockey more play throughout the season. They are the CHL rightsholder yet there doesn't seem to be much junior hockey coverage throughout the year on Sportsnet Connected. Sure, NHL is king, but with OHL games being televised just about everywhere there is no shortage of video. Depending on how heavy the NHL schedule is I don't see why there couldn't be a round-up of OHL highlights, or on a heavy NHL night, full highlights of one game and then a scoreboard wrap-up. That happens sometimes, but certainly not often enough in my opinion.
Just some food for thought as we head into the off-season. What do you think? You can leave a comment here or drop me an email: email@example.com
Inter_league might be interesting on some matches but others might be dismal. Owen Sound may have to play Val Dor or Drummondville on a weeknight and that's a lot of travel and coin for small market budgets.
Peter came up with a great idea and any of your guys that want to help grow our game onto the National stage I say great.
Hope something comes of it any exposure is nothing but good news.
Trade window opens tomorrow Terry, any major scoops for us.
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