Quickie review: Rogers Sportsnet and TVA Sports on the NHL season opener

Like much of the city, I spent Wednesday evening sitting in front of the TV welcoming the official return of NHL hockey, curious how it would look in the new TV environment. Unlike much of the city, I constantly switched between Rogers Sportsnet and TVA Sports to try to evaluate both networks at the same time. Here are some thoughts on how it went.

Note that I’m not a hockey expert, or an expert on hockey broadcasting. I can’t tell you which panelist’s comments were more insightful, or which play-by-play guy described the game better. I look at this with the eyes of the casual fan, and that’s how I’m evaluating this.


Both networks are just starting off 12-year deals that are costing them a nine-figure number. So naturally the season opener pregame started months ago. I only tuned in for the last 45 minutes or so, and both networks took advantage of this time to sell themselves and their plans for the coming season. Sportsnet was a mix of old faces from Hockey Night in Canada, new faces from Sportsnet that were less familiar to Canadiens fans, and faces from elsewhere like Darren Pang. There was Elliotte Friedman with his sit-down interview. And the $4.5-million studio and its bells and whistles saw some use, though not as much as we might have expected.

On TVA Sports, a new set that actually looked quite professional, and a panel of experts that when it comes down to it doesn’t strike me as much different from the panels you’ll find on Sportsnet or RDS.


At 7pm on Saturday nights was when CBC would give us a hockey montage to set the mood. Sportsnet didn’t go that way on this night, instead going with a monologue from Marc Messier about how great hockey is. It fell a little short to me, lacking emotion.

TVA Sports picked up the torch, though, and presented a musical montage of recent and ancient hockey footage set to Imagine Dragons’s Radioactive. It didn’t have the emotional punch of HNIC’s best Habs-Leafs montages, but it was still nicely done.

TVA Sports also had the better computer-generated graphics that followed, though everything repeatedly exploding and coming back together may have been a bit too much.


Rogers’s big new studio in the CBC building in Toronto didn’t get much use after the pregame show, and seemed to be limited to a desk with four chairs behind it. Maybe that will change on Saturday, but I felt they weren’t using it to its fullest potential.

TVA Sports’s studio looked quite nice. Not spectacular, but nice enough that it looks like they know what they’re doing and they’re doing it professionally.


Sportsnet viewers were treated to the recognizable voices of Jim Hughson and Craig Simpson, who have done this countless times before and just picked up where they left off.

On TVA Sports, it was the first big night for Félix Séguin and his partner Patrick Lalime. Though Habs fans have gotten used to hearing Pierre Houde calling their team, I don’t think it’ll take that much getting used to the new voice.

Or at least I thought that until the first time Séguin said “lance … et COOOOOMPTE!” That’ll take some getting used to after years of Houde’s “et le but!” (Even Séguin needs to get used to it apparently. He let out an “et le but” when the Canadiens scored a surprise goal in the last minute of play.)

Sportsnet graphics tvagraphics


Sportsnet and TVA Sports clearly based their scoreboard graphics off the same software, with just the logo and the language different between them.

The graphics are block-ish, but they present the necessary information.

I should note that neither channel uses its own graphics for less important games. The late game on TVA Sports 2 just used the same Sportsnet feed with the same English graphics. Sportsnet One showed a late U.S. matchup that just piped in NBC Sports Network. It goes without saying that they don’t supply their own broadcast team either.


The giant Sportsnet hockey studio seemed pretty small during the intermission report, which mainly focused on a few talking heads around a table. Maybe it’ll be more impressive on Saturday nights, but I felt as though a first impression was wasted here.

Michel Bergeron

TVA Sports didn’t wow me with its Coach’s Corner-style first-intermission starring Michel Bergeron. But it was better for the second, featuring Paul Houde talking about how many points the Canadiens should need at key points of the season if they expect to make the playoffs, and Joel Bouchard with a brief on-ice segment about goalie strategy. This is the kind of stuff I’d like to see more of.


Sportsnet didn’t have much of a postgame. Five minutes after the end it had to tee up the late Canucks-Flames game. But the panel took a few minutes to discuss what happened and what it means for both teams.

At TVA Sports, the late game was moved to TVA Sports 2, allowing it to run Dave Morissette en direct, the postgame analysis show. It was fine, but talking heads who are experts on the NHL don’t wow me, especially when the same thing was happening on RDS and TSN.

But there were some odd moments. Like Sébastien Benoit in a bar in Boucherville passing the microphone around asking people what they thought of the game and getting two-word answers of approval. By all means show us reaction shots from Montreal bars, but no need to shove a microphone in their faces if they have nothing intelligent to say.

Overall, I’m hoping Sportsnet shows more pizzazz on Saturday and Sunday, but if not I think we can live with its broadcasts. TVA Sports clearly showed it put in the effort, and had some strong points that Sportsnet didn’t have, even though it has a smaller audience and budget.

But I’m just some guy on the Internet with an opinion. What did you think of the broadcasts?

See also: A review from Bill Brioux for Canadian Press

18 thoughts on “Quickie review: Rogers Sportsnet and TVA Sports on the NHL season opener

  1. Lorne

    The broadcast was fine, but I got tired of listening all the time to the announcers promoting Rogers Game Centre Live and its different cameras.

    1. Martin ProposMontreal

      here is my take on TVA’s broadcast. I’ll open upby stating right up front that i’m an anti-Quebecor type of guy and i have srong feeling about it. but I,m willing to give a chance after only one game.

      That being said, TVA was what you expected… TVA. Promoting themselves more than the actual game. After Max Pach first goal, Seguin just puked out this sentence that almost made me change channel “Pacioretty scores the first goal in the history of TVA Sports” At this moment, my witter feed filled up with WTFs about this. The rest his history, “this first [fill in the blank] in TVA Sports history” was all over the place. bergeron was useless at RDS and kept that going on the new channel.

      As for the play-by-play, Séguin was actually good, he will find his mojo and will be decent in my own opinion. As for the Analyst, ex-goalie Patrick Lalime, he really needs some practice, behind the play most of the time, was just describing what was shown on the replay with analyzing the actual gameplay, it’s a hard job and will ee with time. Benoit Brunet at RDS got the boot ater a few years only when they realized that he would never get it and it,s been great ever since with Marc Denis.

      That being said, at mid point in the game, I threw it on mute, found the 98,5 feed o my computer with Martin McGuyre and Dany Dubé which are as good as the RDS guys, synced image and sound and had fun from there and that’s what I’ll do for the rest of the season when I have to watch the game on TVA Sports.

      Why am I not giving them the chance? You don’t get a second chance to make a good first impression. the pre-game was full of that usual TVA bullshit with. I would not be surprised if when the Canadiens play home games that this channel “remove” the Bell ads on the board and try to say the least amount of time the name of the actual arena where they play. the BELL center, where they train, the BELL Sports Complex and soon, where our farm team will play, the place BELL.

      Sorry didn’t watch sportsnet but reading comment all over the place, sounded like the same thing than their french counterpart.

  2. mario

    Daren Millard and Doug Maclean are hard to digest on the panel.

    I’m still scratching my head trying to go figure out how is Rogers going to recoup this $5.2B investment. This cost does not include production costs and announcers / talking heads working for them.

  3. Mario D.

    I find it hard to criticize after one game. Luckilly Sportsnet is a copy/paste job of HNIC. I hope that John Bartlett does a more MTL friendly job than the usual Taranna centered blind men when he anchores the local boadcasts..

    As for the french broadcast, one has to give them a chance because clearly they were nervous as hell yesterday in front and off cameras. I still have to judge them negatively though because those guys are all rejects from other networks that have experience and should do better. Highlights, Bergy time to retire,Brisebois stop yelling !Lalime needs a lot more time and i mean a lot…

    Unfortunately what was to be expected from the Quebecor empire happened, cheesy sucky sucky promotions and comments. We can expect the worst cross promotions with le Banquier ,la voix, and occupation double for sure…le huge sigh…

    Day 1 of a 12 year deal so let`s no too be harsh . As it could have been predicted ,in the french medias comments were…unanimous in a way that we tend to be fast to pull the trigger. One must be fair and not compare a new team with another that has done that for decades.

  4. alessandro

    It’s going to be a long 12 years, thank God there were some familiar faces from CBC (excluding Healy) they are not TSN

  5. Dilbert

    “even though it has a smaller audience and budget.”

    Well, in percentage, they have the larger share of an audience and a bigger budget per viewer, I suspect.

    Overall, you have to remember that they need to balance the new with the old, trying not to shock viewers who are not into change, while moving forward. It’s a difficult balance, but that may be why you didn’t see all the bells and whistles in the first night.

    1. Fagstein Post author

      they have the larger share of an audience and a bigger budget per viewer, I suspect.

      Which is a pointless metric, since all their costs are fixed and all their revenue is proportional to viewership.

  6. Christopher van Dyke

    With the exception of Strombo’s segment and the game play-by-play, it was the most amateurish, cheesie, and grating pre-game and between periods that I have experienced it 50 years.

    The pre-game partially the fault of the Maple Leafs pre-game crassness. But Sportsnet added it’s own crassness.

    Kypreos, McLean and Darren Millard appropriate maybe to Ontario ears, but unbearable to those used to Habs broadcasting standards. They will drive many to find other broadcast alternatives.

  7. Mauricio

    I really can’t stand TVA, they’re super bright, flashy displays and graphics, their sub-par hockey analysts (there’s a reason why so many of them were not permanent employees at RDS) and the fact that Félix Séguin has the audacity to say compte and not but.

    I watched the first broadcast on Sportsnet and let me tell you, I am going to miss watching all the games on RDS. I don’t want to watch TVA (Québecor is Québecor) and I dislike my other options. Habs can only be watched in French, it simply loses its magic in English.

    Sportsnet, pass, TVA, pass, CBC I guess if I have no other option available.

    I might just start listening to the games on the radio and playing them with the TV on mute.

    1. Fagstein Post author

      Sportsnet, pass, TVA, pass, CBC I guess if I have no other option available.

      You realize that for the purposes of NHL broadcasts, Sportsnet and CBC is the same thing, right?

      1. Mauricio

        I do realize it’s the same thing but I still have a preference. I simply do not like CBC (never really got into them) and since I’m still using regular cable, the feed is clearer on Sportsnet on my TV for some reason.

        Funny enough, I listened to the game on the radio the other day with my friends. A group of guys in our late 20’s and we all enjoyed it much more than watching anything but RDS. I think given enough time, they’ll (TVA et al) tweak their program but RDS remains a cut above the rest when it comes to reporting on the Habs and watching live games.

  8. Jim

    Pre game and 2nd intermission boring Strombo is not the guy to do hockey give me back McLean he knows hockey! Miss hot stove!

  9. Tandem chick

    Really disappointed with Sportsnet coverage. How much Kyprios do we have to endure? Strombo may be a fan, but is clearly not well enough informed on hockey to host a conversation. Tiresome….
    Elliott Friedman is a rare bright spot.
    I want intelligent critical conversation not just opinions.
    You can do better!


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