Sports

Tom Mayenknecht: Football wins the week

Bulls and Bears of the sports market and the business of sport.

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Bulls Of The Week

Football has won the week — by a large margin. And that’s true on both sides of the border. From the drama of a last-minute Grey Cup victory by the underdog Montreal Alouettes over the favoured Winnipeg Blue Bombers to one of the busiest — and most-watched — weeks of NFL football in the league’s regular season history.

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In the business of three-down football, the CFL basked in the limelight of an average national audience of 3.57 million viewers in Canada (2.8 million in English on TSN and 751,000 in French on RDS). Pumped up by a terrific halftime show by Green Day, the 110th Grey Cup not only drew a cumulative audience of 8.9 million Canadians, it also set records in digital and social media, with 1.6 million video views and seven million media impressions.

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In the NFL, American Thanksgiving took both linear television and streaming video to the next level. It all began with the most-watched Monday Night Football game in 27 years, with an average U.S. national audience of 28.96 million watching the Philadelphia Eagles go to 9-1 by defeating the Kansas City Chiefs across ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN Deportes, and NFL+. Not since 1996, when 31.5 million viewers watched the Green Bay Packers play the Dallas Cowboys, had MNF drawn numbers north of this week’s 29 million. That spans more than 450 games and the entire ESPN era.

The fan frenzy continued with the traditional Thanksgiving Day triple-header on Thursday and the first-ever Black Friday game on Amazon Prime. That opened up even more new territory for the NFL, giving the Shield a record six standalone games in seven days (Sunday Night Football, MNF, the Thursday trifecta and Friday’s post-Turkey stuffing featuring the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets).

Bears Of The Week

It was a big step backward this week for The Golf League, the indoor golf initiative led by Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy. A deflation of the bubble at its headquarters in Jupiter, Fla. resulted in TGL postponing its launch by a full year. Instead of making its debut with six franchises in January of 2024, it won’t do so now until the same time in 2025.

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It was also a tough week for the Chicago Blackhawks of the NHL. Despite a terrific career start for much-heralded rookie Connor Bedard (10 goals and six assists in 17 games), the Blackhawks dropped five straight games. Same for the Minnesota Wild.

Yet no one has had a rougher week — on the ice, on social media and in fan forums — than the 5-12-1 Edmonton Oilers. The coaching change from the fired Jay Woodcroft to rookie head coach Kris Knoblauch — former junior coach to Connor McDavid — hasn’t remedied the poor goaltending that has seen the Oilers lose three straight and seven of their last 10 going into the weekend. In fact, that move has only crystallized concern around who is in charge in Edmonton.

The question of where the buck stops is not a new one for the Oilers. It’s been an active discussion since Jeff Jackson, the former agent for McDavid, was hired as CEO of Hockey Operations in August. That parachuted him into a spot between owner Daryl Katz and veteran general manager Ken Holland. Add in Vice-Chair Bob Nicholson — who hired Holland — and it has also caused the impression that the Oilers may have too many chefs in the crowded kitchen of hockey operations.

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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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