NHL trade deadline coverage: TSN still edges Sportsnet on breaking news

The National Hockey League trade deadline. That magical moment when NHL fans stay glued to their TV screens with the hope that their team’s general manager will pull off the deal of the century that will get their team to the Stanley Cup.

For TSN, it’s an annual event, filled with analysts, insiders constantly on their phones, and gimmicks to fill time. For Sportsnet, which only really started treating this like TSN does after it got the NHL national rights, it’s a chance to compete with the traditional leader at this game. Both networks began their coverage at 8am, going through past the 3pm deadline.

I recorded both networks from 8am to 5pm so I could compare their coverage. It’s one of the few events you can do that, because unlike game broadcasts or events like the NHL draft, there are no exclusive rights here. The two had a lot of similarities — multiple desks of analysts inside a big studio, an insider guru (Bob McKenzie vs. Elliotte Friedman), on-screen graphics listing recent trades and players who could be up for grabs, and reporters in all seven Canadian NHL markets following their teams’ actions and getting comment from their general managers. They also had several differences. TSN tried to be funny, even getting actors Jay Baruchel and Jared Keeso to do sketches for them. Sportsnet had some fun but it was mostly talking heads.

But, really, who cares about that stuff? I wanted to compare them based on the thing that really mattered: Who breaks the news first.

I compared when the two networks announced trades during their broadcasts to see which one came out first. I also compared when they interviewed players who had just been traded. (There were other journalistic scoops, such as confirming that a player wouldn’t be traded, or a team was done trading, but I left those out of this assessment.)

Here’s how it went. All times are Eastern, and are based on my PVR. There’s an inherent imprecision when it comes to digital television, so the times could be off by 30 seconds or so. For the purposes of determining a winner, I’ve considered any announcement within 30 seconds apart on the two networks as a tie. (Only what’s broadcast on TV counts here. I’ve ignored Twitter, app or other non-TV alerts.)

Player trades

Player Teams TSN time Sportsnet time Winner
Thomas Vanek DET to FLA 11:54:30 11:47:54 Sportsnet
Joseph Cramarossa (claimed off waivers) VAN to ANA 12:07:25 12:08:07 TSN
Dwight King LAK to MTL 12:21:16 12:20:38 Sportsnet
Jarome Iginla COL to LAK 13:09:56 13:00:35 Sportsnet
Kyle Quincey NJ to CBJ 14:07:16 14:09:07 TSN
Andreas Martinsen/ Sven Andrighetto COL-MTL 14:07:56 14:07:46 Tie
Mark Streit PHI to TB 14:28:43 14:30:17 TSN
Valtteri Filppula (as part of Streit deal) TB to PHI 14:35:18 14:35:44 Tie
P.A. Parenteau NJ to NSH 14:51:57 14:51:31 Tie
Curtis Lazar OTT to CGY 14:53:16 14:56:10 TSN
Eric Fehr PIT to TOR 15:10:00 15:12:47 TSN
Frank Corrado and Steve Oleksy (as part of Fehr deal) TOR-PIT 15:21:29 15:29:02 TSN
Mark Streit TB to PIT 15:21:40 15:18:52 Sportsnet
Drew Stafford WPG to BOS 15:30:03 15:31:34 TSN
Lauri Korpikoski/ Dillon Heatherington CBJ-DAL 15:32:13 15:31:52 Tie

Most of these were very close to each other, and the difference is often as simple as how fast you can get the panel to stop talking so it can be announced on air. Sportsnet got a clear win on the Vanek trade, and TSN was first by quite a bit to peg that Frank Corrado was being returned as part of the Eric Fehr deal. For Iginla, TSN was first with the rumour of his trade to L.A., but Sportsnet was the first to confirm it (or at least be confident enough to go with it — some of these trades were hard to judge because they were reported with varying degrees of confidence.)

The other announcements were all within a couple of minutes of each other.

But by my judging criteria, TSN wins seven, Sportsnet wins four, and four are ties.

Player interviews

After a trade breaks, there’s a rush to get the players involved on the phone to discuss what happened. Here’s how that broke down.

Player TSN time Sportsnet time Winner
Thomas Vanek 12:08 12:18 TSN
Dwight King 12:24 None TSN
Jarome Iginla 13:20 14:07 TSN
Kyle Quincey 14:21 None TSN
Curtis Lazar 14:56 15:14 TSN

No real contest here. All three players who spoke to Sportsnet did so after talking to TSN. (There were also interviews with players who had been traded before 8am on trade deadline day, but those were not breaking trades so I did not include them here.)

Both networks carried GM press conferences from Canadian teams and did good jobs of analysis. Though TSN still takes the edge here, Sportsnet has made up a lot of ground in terms of what really counts — breaking news.

Maybe by the time their 12-year NHL deal is done, they’ll be the ones blanketing their late-February broadcasts with promo ads about this news-reporting event (which didn’t report a single thing for almost four hours).

5 thoughts on “NHL trade deadline coverage: TSN still edges Sportsnet on breaking news

    1. Fagstein Post author

      There are very few big trades made anymore on the trade deadline day.

      TSN acknowledged this repeatedly on the air during the broadcast. It’s a big reason why they’ve added so much other stuff. But there are still deals being had, and you don’t know for sure until after that deadline hits, which means people will still watch.

      Reply
    2. dilbert

      The whole trade deadline thing is another semi-meaningless distraction. It is the sort of thing enjoyed by the same sorts of people who get all excited about the number of curveballs thrown against left handed hitters with men on base in baseball. It’s really not meaningful to the rest of us anymore.

      That the two sports networks go into a weird overdrive on it shows mostly their desire to milk it for as many minutes as possible, and not for any real meaningful coverage. The whole thing could easily be covered with tweets and a summary at 6.

      Reply
      1. Fagstein Post author

        The whole trade deadline thing is another semi-meaningless distraction. … It’s really not meaningful to the rest of us anymore.

        Fortunately there’s no law obliging you to watch it.

        Reply
        1. dilbert

          Nor is there any law requiring you to write about it and review every minute of it in detail. It’s your choice. It’s what great reporting is all about, the sort of thing that isn’t meaningful to the rest of us anymore. :)

          Reply

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