Deadline Day Madness

Posted: March 2, 2011 in Hockey, Sports, Television
Tags: , , , ,

Well, I was planning on doing a big NHL trade deadline day recap, detailing the winners and losers on deadline day.  I was expecting to be breaking down how Brad Richards or Ales Hemsky would fit into their new teams or how the Toronto Maple Leafs traded away their next three first round draft picks for a career third-liner.

What I didn’t expect was Dustin Penner being the biggest name to move on deadline day.  I didn’t expect my own Atlanta Thrashers to be one of the biggest wheelers-and-dealers of the day.  And most of all, I didn’t expect Brian Burke to go the entire day without pulling the trigger on some move.

So there will be no big analysis of which teams dramatically improved their playoff chances and which teams positioned themselves well for the “get-better-quick” sweepstakes that the NHL draft has turned into.  However, I will say that I was shocked to see Dustin Penner net a return of a first-round draft pick (let alone an additional third-rounder and prospect Colton Teubert).

I am going to do a winners and losers analysis of another kind concerning deadline day: Canadian sports network TSN were the big winner and the general hockey fan the big loser.

Earlier today, TSN announced a record viewership for their deadline day program Tradecentre.  The multi-panel show, which featured detailed analysis of not only what deals went down, but also what each team’s needs and position was coming into the deadline, registered roughly 2.6 million unique viewers over its eight-hour airtime.  It peaked at 524,000 viewers at the 3pm deadline and averaged 268,000 viewers across the day.  TSN asserts that this represents a 42% growth over the previous year’s broadcast.  You can add on to this the roughly 80,000 people who contributed to Jay Onrait’s deadline day blog.

So, if we put those numbers into perspective, 268,000 people spent 8 hours of their Monday morning and afternoon watching TSN.  That’s 2,144,000 hours that viewers tuned in to TSN’s deadline day coverage.  That’s a really good sign for TSN, given the relative bore that was the trade deadline.

With a lot of moves happening in the week or so leading up to the deadline, only 16 deals were completed on deadline day.  These trades involved 35 players and 12 draft picks.  That averages out to a trade every 30 minutes.  Last year’s deadline produced 31 trades, meaning that a trade was completed approximately every 15 minutes.

Another item of note is that most of the trades that took place on Monday were not of the blockbuster variety.  That Dustin Penner was the high water line speaks volumes about the rest of the deals that happened.  There were no deals that involved big name players; the deals were mostly teams swapping depth players for either draft picks or other depth players.  None of these deals could be said to capture our imaginations quite like previous deadline day moves such as the Ilya Kovalchuk sweepstakes of last year, Olli Jokinen moving to Calgary in 2009, or the Marian Hossa deal of 2008.

As such, it all adds up to TSN winning while the rest of us hockey fans lost.  For our over 2 million hours of investment, we got very little return while TSN was able to show a dedicated viewership that will likely result in some lucrative contracts to air commercials and translate into more people watching other TSN programs.

I must add that this wasn’t TSN’s fault in the slightest, unless you count having knowledgeable analysts, insiders, and former NHL players counts as rigging the deck in your favour.  Unlike NHL General Managers who directly pull the strings on deadline day, TSN just sat back and let our desire for up-to-date information and detailed analysis take them to record highs in viewership.

On the other hand, our desire for information and analysis is exactly why hockey fans lost.  Our expectations going into deadline day were heightened by the action of previous years, last year in particular.  We expected fireworks, with teams blowing up rosters, shedding salaries, and playoff contenders stocking up for a run at Lord Stanley’s Cup.  Instead what we got was a damp squib (no offense Dustin).  Hockey fans invested time that we could have spent doing other things such as working, caring for our families, or – in my case – being a good university student.

I guess the moral of the story here is that trade deadline day in the current NHL isn’t what it used to be and we, as hockey fans, shouldn’t treat it as such.  While we tune in and give TSN record audiences, we should be prepared to spend the day listening to Bob McKenzie and Pierre McGuire speculate about deals that will never happen.  We should be prepared for days when Dustin Penner is the hot commodity and the Atlanta Thrashers are one of the most active teams.

Or we could just watch something else…

  1. Andrew Shaw says:

    I was just informed by one of my friends that Brian Burke did indeed make a trade on Monday (John Mitchell to the Rangers for a draft pick).

    I think the fact that I missed this trade is another point in favour of fans being the loser at this trade deadline. This was just another swap of a 4th-liner/minor-leaguer for a draft pick, and not the kind of draft pick that turns into a NHL superstar.

    As a side note, this deal probably got about 12 minutes of coverage on TSN…

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