Sports

Oilers stand among the big winners in the business of sport this week

Opinion: The 28-15-1 Oilers have surpassed the all-time Canadian record of 12 straight wins and now approach the NHL record of 17 consecutive victories.

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Bulls of the week

The Edmonton Oilers were the talk of the NHL for their brutally bad start over the first quarter of the season. Now, they have tongues wagging about their 15-game win streak going into the weekend.

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With the 28-15-1 Oilers — 23-6 under new head coach Chris Knoblauch — already surpassing the all-time Canadian record of 12 straight wins last week and now approaching the NHL record of 17 consecutive victories held by the Pittsburgh Penguins, they stand among the big winners in the business of sport this week.

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The NFL hasn’t only sustained the bullish TV numbers it has generated throughout the season and into the playoffs, it has also established new benchmarks for ratings and market share. The four NFL divisional playoff games averaged a record viewership of 40 million, with the Kansas City Chiefs’ win over the Buffalo Bills drawing 50.4 million Americans and another four million Canadians (eclipsing recent Grey Cup audiences).

It’s the first time in NFL history that a divisional playoff game crossed the 50-million threshold. What makes that game’s TV performance even more remarkable is that it pit two of the smallest American media markets against one another (No. 33 K.C. against No. 53 Buffalo).

Bears of the week

Novak Djokovic of Serbia hasn’t had a good week, losing out in the semifinals of the Australian Open today to Yannik Sinner of Italy.

Yet it was an even worse fortnight for Tennis Canada. In arguably the worst collective Canadian Grand Slam performance in more than a decade, Felix Auger Aliassime of Montreal was knocked out in the third round, Leylah Annie Fernandez of Montreal in the second round, and Toronto’s Dennis Shapovalov and Milos Raonic in the first round.

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Bianca Andreescu of Mississauga, Ont., didn’t play because of her nagging back injury and even the remarkably consistent doubles of Gabriela Dabrowski of Ottawa was missing after her semifinal loss Thursday.

That poor start to the 2024 Grand Slam tennis calendar pales in comparison with the challenges facing some of the leading governing bodies and sport business entities in Canada.

Exhibit A is that it’s back to the drawing board for Canada Soccer, with Alyson Walker resigning as General Secretary (CEO) of the national governing body before she officially started due to personal reasons.

That’s a big setback given her highly touted credentials in media, Olympic and pro sport and how important it is for Canada Soccer to right its ship with the FIFA 2026 World Cup now just over two years away.

Exhibit B is Canadian Soccer Business, which finds itself in litigation with its European-based broadcast rights partner Mediapro. CSB, which not only markets the Canadian Premier League but represents Canada Soccer and its men’s and women’s national teams in the realm of commercial rights, will be under pressure to expedite replacement broadcast deals with the new CPL season just around the corner.

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Exhibit C is Hockey Canada, under intense scrutiny yet again for allegations of sexual assault made against members of its 2018 IIHF World Junior U-21 national team and the fears that a separate investigation may find similar circumstances involving members of the 2003 Canadian team.

It says here that it gets worse before it gets better and that is sure to cast a huge shadow over many key stakeholders in the country’s most popular game, above and beyond the bear market facing Hockey Canada itself.

Tom Mayenknecht is the host of The Sport Market on Sportsnet 650 on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The Vancouver-based sport business commentator and principal in Emblematica Brand Builders provides a behind-the-scenes look at the sport business stories that matter most to fans. Follow Mayenknecht at: twitter.com/TheSportMarket.

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