Sports

Tom Mayenknecht: Great week for Canadian-based NHL teams

Opinion: Canadian NHL teams, notably the Oilers, Jets and the Canucks, are making fans bullish on the chances of a Canadian Stanley Cup win.

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Bulls of the week

It’s been one of the best regular-season weeks for Canadian-based franchises in the NHL. In fact, the week was so good that it only amplified the bull market this season for teams north of the 49th parallel.

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Among the hottest teams in North American pro sports are the Vancouver Canucks — winners of four straight road games including a three-game Big Apple sweep against the New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers and the New York Islanders — the Winnipeg Jets, winners of eight straight games going into the weekend, and the red-hot Edmonton Oilers.

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For those Canadian fans scoreboard watching, it hasn’t been a very common sight in recent years to see the top two teams in the entire NHL hail from Canada. Yet that’s where we are just past the halfway mark in this regular season, with the Jets No. 1 overall at 28-9-4 and 60 points, and the Canucks second and just one point behind them at 28-11-3. Add in the Oilers, who had a horrific start but are now in the top wild-card spot after their coaching change in November and courtesy of a nine-game heater going into the weekend.

If the playoffs began today, four of seven Canadian-based teams — Winnipeg, Vancouver, Toronto and Edmonton — would qualify. And if it holds, that would give NHL broadcast rights-holders and Canadian sponsors plenty to work with come April.

Bears of the week

The NFL has had a rough ride — at least in terms of media and fan backlash this week — for limiting broadcast access to one of its wild-card games this weekend to Peacock, NBC’s video streaming platform that regularly carries a monthly subscription of US$6 per month or $60 per year.

The issue isn’t the three wild-card games on Peacock, it’s the one — Saturday’s Miami Dolphins-Kansas City Chiefs matchup — that has been carved out of the broadcast and cable TV offerings. That’s the one that Peacock has exclusivity over.

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On the one hand, you can’t fault the league’s front office for striving to reach commissioner Roger Goodell’s goal of US$25 billion per year in annual revenue. Peacock is also offering 50 per cent off on annual packages, a pretty fair and smart audience-building deal.

On the other hand, perhaps the better, more fan-friendly approach may have been one more year in which they would heavily cross-promote Peacock but make it available on NBC as well, as they’re doing with two other wild-card games they’re covering this weekend.

Either way, take note and get used to it: Streaming is the way of the future.

Yet the biggest loser this week in the business of sport is officiating in the NBA and the NHL. It’s been so inconsistent and poor this year that we seem to be getting numb about it as a glaringly weak spot across the board in the biggest of North American pro sports leagues, including the king of the industry, the NFL.

But make no mistake, the rant on NBA refereeing Tuesday by Toronto Raptors head coach Darko Rajakovic — upset that officials gave the Los Angeles Lakers 23 fourth-quarter free throws to Toronto’s two — was certainly entertaining and went viral to become an instant classic among rants by coaches in post-game media conferences in pro sport.

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It also cost Rajakovic a US$250,000 NBA fine.

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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