Sunday, November 19, 2006

Term limits

Like many other things, the media loves to prognosticate about political term limits but would never seriously discuss the concept about itself. A few weeks back Bob Cole was joined in the Hockey Night in Canada Leaf game commentary box not by Harry Neale but by Cassie Campbell, who stood in when Neale was snowed in.

As this was the first time a woman had acted as colour commentator on Hockey Night, much talk followed, not least that Campbell wasn't ready to fill in in the role, that she hadn't served her time, that presumably someone like the recently departed to the CFL anchor role Elliotte Friedman would have been a better choice if available.

Now, having watched that game I thought she made a fair go of it. That the CBC decided to go with her when someone with more on-air experience was surely to be found a few streets away at CBC headquarters is the CBC's fault not Campbell's. However my reaction at the time was more - what the hell is the CBC, the state funded broadcaster, using an analyst for the "national icon" Hockey Night that doesn't reside in Canada but in Buffalo, New York?

I was in a bit of a blogging lull at the time and didn't get into it, but watching Cole and Neale fawn over Johnny Bower, cackling that he wasn't very old (Cole is 73, Neale 69, Bower just turned 82) makes one feel that the CBC losing the NHL contract, unlikely though that is, could be the best thing that happened to hockey on television for a long time.

The best case scenario would be the kind of renewal that Sky and ITV produced when they challenged the BBC for control of English soccer broadcasting. The BBC did not fade away, they improved their coverage and took back much of what they lost.

Cole has been doing HNIC since 1969 and Neale since 1985. Even a relative hockey neophyte as I am can see that "the garden has been getting a bit much for them lately". One wonders how many broadcasters like Chris Cuthbert hit the "glass ceiling" in that time. If TSN hadn't poached Brian Williams for CFL and Olympics coverage, what future would Friedman have had - cut during the next labour dispute as Cuthbert was last time.

The CBC should not wait for CTV-TSN to lure younger, fresher, Canadian resident talent to back a bid for the NHL contract, and it should not look to Ottawa to block any such bid.
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