Vancouver hockey fans are good, kind, decent people. They’re not all tin-foil hat wearing weirdos like one of their most prominent columnists, who once again served up his particular brand of whimsy on the NHL this week: CONSPIRACY!
Tony Gallagher of The Province, who previously accused the NHL of fixing a series against the Vancouver Canucks for the Chicago Blackhawks, brings a smoldering hot take on Friday in which he accuses Rogers of manipulating the NHL schedule to help the team they own and hurt the Canucks.
It is, without much debate, one of the largest dung piles of faux outrage ever identified by modern science.
You see, the Toronto Maple Leafs are visiting the Canucks on Saturday, March 14, 2015. (Obviously Tony’s getting ahead of the curve on this one.) The game starts at 4 p.m. local time and 7 p.m. back in Toronto, which is what happens when it’s Saturday night and it’s Canada and the Leafs are playing.
As Gallagher notes, this start time has been in place basically forever. The difference for Gallagher is that those games were broadcast by “an independent party to the game” in CBC, while this one will be on Sportsnet, which has a multi-billion-dollar 12-year contract with the NHL.
But now Rogers owns those rights, and for those who may not have noticed, Rogers is also part-owner of the Leafs. If the game were allowed to go ahead at 4 p.m., which always takes the home-team Canucks out of their usual routine and is certainly an advantage for the visiting team, it would mean that the owners of the Leafs were able to demand that Vancouver change the start time to the advantage of their team. It gives them an unfair competitive advantage.
Full stop: The Leafs didn't ask the Canucks to change the start time. That IS the start time. As it's been since 2008, as we'll get to in a moment.
This is a clear conflict of interest which the league should not let stand. As we said, it’s a small but important point. Further, the same situation will exist with respect to the Oilers and the Flames, and to a slightly lesser degree, perhaps even the Jets, the Leafs gaining a competitive advantage by virtue of their corporate ownership.
Once more, with feeling: The outrage is that the same thing that’s happened for at least the last six years is happening again. And that the same thing that's happened since the dawn of national sports television coverage -- popular teams getting a friendly schedule, west coast teams getting boned -- is happening again, too.
A look at the last five visits for the Leafs to Vancouver:
Nov. 2, 2013: Vancouver 4, Toronto 0 (4 p.m.)
Feb. 18, 2012: Vancouver 6, Toronto 2 (4 p.m.)
Dec. 18, 2010: Vancouver 4, Toronto 1 (4 p.m.)
Oct. 24, 2009: Vancouver 3, Toronto 1 (4 p.m.)
Nov. 15, 2008: Vancouver 4, Toronto 2, (4 p.m.)
As you can see, the start time has given the Leafs an incredible competitive advantage, with an average margin of defeat of just three goals per game. (Quite hilariously, the last time the Canucks played the Leafs at 7 p.m. local time on Jan. 2006, they margin of victory was only two goals.)
Gallagher addresses this, as only Gallagher can:
Lately, because the Canucks have been considerably better than the Leafs over the last few years, the Canucks have overcome this traditional start time and won even though they haven’t played particularly well other than in last year’s game. But imagine losing a playoff spot because you drop a home tilt to the Leafs when your team was playing when they are usually just waking up from their afternoon nap.
At this point we’d like to note that this devastating variation in the Canucks’ schedule comes in the third game of a five-game homestand for Vancouver, which will have last played on Thursday night at 7 p.m. PT against the Kings.
This would seem like a less egregious interruption than what happens on Sunday, Nov. 30, when the Canucks face the Detroit Red Wings at 11 a.m. PT in Detroit, less than 48 hours after facing the Blue Jackets in Columbus at 4 p.m. PT on Thursday. So that’s a game starting at an odd early time, after traveling from another city, less than 48 hours later.
But hey, save that stuff for another column about scheduling inequities! This one’s dedicated to shaking one’s ink-drenched fist at Rogers and the NHL!
Our favorite part:
So here you have a company which is your friend on one stage, dictating to you on a national stage that you have to put your team at a competitive disadvantage when you play the team which we own.
1. Did this guy ever hear of Comcast? Like, ever?
Surely the Canucks and the league have to see the impropriety here even though it’s a small point.
A SMALL POINT THAT JUST EARNED A 760 WORD COLUMN IN SEPTEMBER!?!