When the country’s two sports television networks tear into each other on Monday in the ultimate bit of Canadiana – all-day live coverage of deadline day in the NHL for making trades – the goal of each of them, aside from ratings, is beating the other guy by a few seconds to announce a trade first.
But no matter who wins the intense battle for scoops between TSN and Sportsnet, there is one fact neither network can argue: TSN’s Bob McKenzie is the most trusted source of hockey information on any media platform. He may not always be first with the trade announcements or other news, although he is not often beaten, but he is always right.
There is nothing stylish about McKenzie, 59, who was part of the great migration of print reporters to broadcast outlets that began in earnest in the 1990s. But unlike many of his colleagues, particularly in the United States where current and former print types make up the casts of dozens of sports-talk screamfests, McKenzie stuck with what worked for him from the start, a solid work ethic that developed the widest variety of sources in the sport, from junior scouts to NHL owners.
That means any information he provides, whether to his 1.22 million Twitter followers, on a TSN television panel, a radio appearance or in a written report on TSN.ca, is solid.
The 2015 trade deadline was the first year TSN did not have any national NHL broadcast rights, having lost the package to Rogers Media, which agreed in 2014 to pay $5.2-billion over 12 years for the NHL’s Canadian national broadcast rights. But TSN trounced Rogers’s Sportsnet network on deadline day, drawing an average of 206,000 viewers to its 10 hours of coverage compared with 76,000 for Sportsnet. TSN drew more than double the total viewers to its show, 2.3 million, than Sportsnet (1.1 million).
While this cannot all be attributed to McKenzie, a major share of it can, given that he dominates the hockey discussion on Twitter, where viewership starts. And he is the one looked to by most for confirmation of a trade.
McKenzie, though, will not tell you he is driving the ratings.
“I just get up and do my job every day and make sure I don’t feel like I have to back up to the pay window at the end of the week,” McKenzie said.
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