Dogged by the schedule

Jason Gregor
July 16 2009 09:15AM

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I remember when Bruce Buchanan used to call Oiler games on TV, and it was a privilege as a kid to get to see a game because not even half of them were televised.

The game has changed.

Every game is televised now, and if the odd one isn’t, fans stare at their clock radio wondering how to use this archaic thing called a radio to listen in. Fans expect games to be televised now, and some will even moan over which station a game is on.

The Oilers released their schedule yesterday, and the first question amongst many was which games will be on television and where?

VP of communications and broadcasts for the Oilers, Allan Watt, was on my show yesterday explaining how the schedule gets set.

The Oilers home schedule breaks down like this:

  • Monday: six games
  • Tuesday: eight games
  • Wednesday: six games
  • Thursday: eight games
  • Friday: six games
  • Saturday: four games
  • Sunday: three games

I wouldn’t blame the fans, and even the Oilers, if they feel they were the lady and the dog was the schedule maker.

Every team except Chicago, Anaheim, Washington and the Rangers has twice as many Saturday night home games as the Oilers. The Oilers have averaged eight Saturday home games since the lockout. Last year the Oilers had eight home games, in 2008 they had six, in 2007 they had ten, and in 2006 they had eight. But remember that TV has lots of pull over which teams play on Saturday nights, and the Oilers haven’t made the playoffs in three years. Do you think it was a coincidence that after their Cinderella run in 2006 the Oilers had ten Saturday home games in 2007? This year the Flames have seven Saturday home games, the Canucks ten, the Leafs 15, the Habs 14 and the Sens 13. Whether we like it or not, eastern-based teams will always have more games on Saturday due to a larger audience. There are 26 Saturdays during the season, and it is a bit strange that the Canucks, Flames and Oilers combined only have 21 Saturday home games. You’d think it would at least be 26 due to the double-header on CBC, but there must be some road games of those three on the schedule. Here are a few other things I learned yesterday regarding what station will broadcast Oiler games this year:

  • The contract with Sportsnet is for 40 games right now. Sportsnet has done 48 games in the past. They could add some before the official TV schedule is released, but for now it is 40.
  • CBC has to pick up 12 Oiler games, and TSN has to take ten. Right now they are both committed to those numbers.

Add it up and that is only 62 out of 82 games. Don’t fret, the other 20 will find a home on TV. The Oilers will have between 12-15 games on PPV, and I’m guessing TSN will pick up the rest on TSN or on TSN2.

TSN has exclusive rights on Wednesdays, and CBC has exclusivity on Saturdays starting at 4pm MT. That is why the Oilers play a road game in Boston at 11am this year. That game will be broadcast on Sportsnet or PPV.

The other factor in scheduling is building availability. Many think the Oilers get first priority at Northlands, and that isn’t the case. Certain events and concerts are planned a year ahead of time, so they actually get first priority.

The Rodeo always has an eight-day window in November. While the rodeo doesn’t start until Wednesday Nov 11th this year, they start on Monday the 9th trucking in dirt and then have to get out by Monday the 16th.

This year the Olympic curling trials take over Rexall from Dec 5th until the 14th, when you consider set up and take down. Then there are big concerts, trade shows and monster truck events that are secured a year ahead of time.

If the Oilers are more competitive this year and make the playoffs you can expect more Saturday night home games next year, if not, they’ll be around four to six, I suspect. Here’s a breakdown of Saturday night home games for the rest of the NHL:

  • Teams with four: Chicago
  • Teams with six: Anaheim, NYR, Washington
  • Teams with eight: Minnesota, New Jersey
  • Teams with nine: Buffalo, Colorado, Dallas, Detroit
  • Teams with ten: Atlanta, Carolina, Florida
  • Teams with eleven: Philadelphia, Pittsburgh
  • Teams with twelve: Boston, Columbus, Tampa Bay
  • Teams with thirteen: San Jose, St. Louis
  • Teams with fifteen: Nashville, NYI
  • Teams with sixteen: Los Angeles
  • Teams with seventeen: Phoenix

Last year the Predators, Coyotes and Islanders were three of the bottom four teams in home attendance, and I wonder if all the home Saturday games actually hurt their attendance. Saturday night hockey is not a great draw in many Amercian markets.

The season is still months away, but the one thing that has to change in order for the Oilers to make the playoffs is their home record on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Last year the Oilers were a horrendous 3-12-1 combined on those days.

QUALIFYING OFFER

Ladislav Smid, Gilbert Brule and Denis Grebeshkov haven’t accepted the Oilers’ qualifying offers to date either. Grebeshkov is going to arbitration while the others are still trying to negotiate.

Liam Reddox didn’t accept the offer, and it sounds like he is looking at Europe as an option. Reddox doesn’t want a two-way deal, because if he’s sent down he’d make around $75,000. If he goes to Europe, he’ll make significantly more than that, and it will be guaranteed money.

I’m sure he looks at the odds of him making this team, or any NHL team, and realizes that Europe could be a much better fit, especially financially.

I don’t blame him one bit. He is only 23 and if he goes to Europe and plays well he might get a one-way deal when he returns, and in the mean time he’ll make a lot more money.

THEY SAY GUYS ARE BAD

Was I the only one who found it funny that the women never stepped in to help their friend when Dobry the Dog got excited? They just laughed. Classic.

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One of Canada's most versatile sports personalities. Jason hosts The Jason Gregor Show, weekdays from 2 to 6 p.m., on TSN 1260, and he writes a column every Monday in the Edmonton Journal. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/JasonGregor
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#1 Souby
July 16 2009, 09:29AM
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Phoenix with 17 Saturday home games? I understand that the Oil haven't been that good for a few years now, but they only get 4 Saturday home dates? WTF? This is ridiculous.

While I acknowledge that the Eastern teams have larger audiences, you can't tell me that Edmonton's audience is small compared to the Coyotes?

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#2 Harlie
July 16 2009, 09:37AM
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at least Dobry the Dog had the common courtesy to give the Lady he was violating the "good ole' reach around".

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#3 jeff
July 16 2009, 09:40AM
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All I hope is we don't get screwed with having a 7:30 game and being apart of a double header. Move the games to 8:00 if TSN or Sportsnet wants to make us the second half of a doubleheader.

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#4 jeff
July 16 2009, 09:43AM
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Any word what Smid and Brule are looking for? Just curious to why those guys are taking so long to lock up.

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#5 Librarian Mike
July 16 2009, 09:46AM
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Souby wrote:

Phoenix with 17 Saturday home games? I understand that the Oil haven’t been that good for a few years now, but they only get 4 Saturday home dates? WTF? This is ridiculous.

I wonder if the F.O.G. rule applies here (Friend of Gretzky)...

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#6 Souby
July 16 2009, 09:50AM
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@ Librarian Mike: Never thought of that. Damn you Gretzky!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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#7 mbam99
July 16 2009, 09:50AM
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Souby wrote:

Phoenix with 17 Saturday home games? I understand that the Oil haven’t been that good for a few years now, but they only get 4 Saturday home dates? WTF? This is ridiculous. While I acknowledge that the Eastern teams have larger audiences, you can’t tell me that Edmonton’s audience is small compared to the Coyotes?

When I was down in Phoenix last year to watch some games, I was talking with some of the staff of the Coyotes. We talked about how empty the arena was. They explained to me that the games people decide to wach are based on the day, not on the team. They went on to say that Pittsburgh came in on a Thursday night and the building was half empty. However, when the Kings come in on a Saturday, the place was full(er). We saw games on Thursday (Canucks), Saturday (Flames) and Monday (Oilers). The Saturday night was by far the fullest night. I think this is the way of the NHL trying to help out the Coyotes.

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#8 roger
July 16 2009, 09:50AM
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that video is pure gold.

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#9 smiliegirl15
July 16 2009, 09:53AM
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So the Leafs have 15 Saturday night games? They haven't been a playoff team in dog years! They do have a ton of fans across the country but that's ridiculous. I think the western teams only have 21 combined Saturday games rather than 26 because the Leafs have to be picked up on the second game of the double header when they play teams like Phoenix and in California. Sheesh! Another reason to hate the Leafs.

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#10 Jodes
July 16 2009, 09:56AM
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Is anyone else a bit nervous that Brule hasn't accepted the offer yet? We know about Grebs, but what about Smid? Is he still waiting to see if he's gone to Ottawa?

How long to Brule and Smid have to decide if they aren't going to arbitration?

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#11 toprightcorner
July 16 2009, 09:57AM
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I heard Allan Watt yesterday mentioned that they did a lot of surveys and that they showed positive numbers for liking the announcers, including Debrusk?!? I have not heard one positive comment about Debrusk from my friends, and any of the blogs. How on earth can they get an overall "positive" reaction to him? I was shocked to hear that as IMO he is one of the worts colour guys I have heard in Edmonton for a very long time!! How did they conduct this survey. I would guess that many of these surveys went to season ticket holders. How in the heck can these guys comment on the TV announcers when they are in the seats??

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#12 Souby
July 16 2009, 10:02AM
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@ mbam99: I hear you. My point is, why keep helping a team like Phoenix, where hockey will never have a serious chance at long term survival? Why not help a team like Edmonton where hockey is and always will be #1?

Does anyone else find it funny to hear from Bettman how well the league is doing despite the state of the U.S. and Canadian economies? mbam99 just described a half full building in Phoenix, which is similar to the attendance situation in other warm weather NHL cities. It's either a case of Bettman having rose coloured glasses, or he is scrambling to keep his job! My guess is the latter.

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#13 jeff
July 16 2009, 10:02AM
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@ mbam99: Kinda sad that the league is just completly bending over to help Phoneix out.

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#14 Hemi
July 16 2009, 10:05AM
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As always with the Maple Laughs and the Montreal Knobs, they rule the HNIC. CBC has always and will always catered to these two clubs. It has been a sore point with me for years.

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#15 thashiznit
July 16 2009, 10:15AM
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Souby wrote:

Why not help a team like Edmonton where hockey is and always will be #1?

Because Edmonton sells out every game regardless of what night it plays... The NHL knows that so they give the dates to teams that struggle for attendance... People in Phoenix are more interested in going to the game to be seen and for the social aspect... where as here in Edmonton you don't see that to the same degree where we have more "Hockey" fans here.

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#16 Jason Gregor
July 16 2009, 10:16AM
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jeff wrote:

Any word what Smid and Brule are looking for? Just curious to why those guys are taking so long to lock up.

Brule will try to avoid the two way deal. It's not so much the NHL money, but his agent would rather him get out of the two way deal at this point. He'll sign at some point, because he won't go to Europe and he really doesn't have any other options. Unless some team offers him an offer sheet with a one-way deal. That is doubtful, but that's his only out that I see.Jodes wrote:

How long to Brule and Smid have to decide if they aren’t going to arbitration?

They aren't going. They would have had to file during the file period a few weeks back.

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#17 jeff
July 16 2009, 10:17AM
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@ Hemi: I hate CBC, I wish all games were on sportsnet. At least with Sportsnet they talk about the game that is being played during intermissions, not what Brian Burke is doing in Toronto.

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#18 Souby
July 16 2009, 10:32AM
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@ thashiznit: That's exactly my point. Edmonton sells out every night and those people paid a premium to go to the game. Plus concession prices are high, merchandise prices are high, advertising prices are high etc. They make money hand-over-fist. Why not give the Oilers these premium dates and stop trying to save a franchise that is not worth saving?

While they are at it, why not look at relocating or retracting a number of these crappy franchises that continually fall below the bar in attendance and revenue? This is easier said than done, but when is enough actually enough?

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#19 myteammytown
July 16 2009, 10:37AM
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Souby wrote:

@ thashiznit: That’s exactly my point. Edmonton sells out every night and those people paid a premium to go to the game. Plus concession prices are high, merchandise prices are high, advertising prices are high etc. They make money hand-over-fist. Why not give the Oilers these premium dates and stop trying to save a franchise that is not worth saving? While they are at it, why not look at relocating or retracting a number of these crappy franchises that continually fall below the bar in attendance and revenue? This is easier said than done, but when is enough actually enough?

it wasnt that long ago that the Oilers were below the bar in attendance and revenue and had to be helped by the league to survive

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#20 scorecoff hemmercules
July 16 2009, 10:41AM
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@ jeff:

I wish Ferraro was still on sportsnet, always liked that guy. CBC does kinda suck but at least the Crow isn't there anymore, now if they could just get Cherry to retire.

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#21 Ender the Dragon
July 16 2009, 10:45AM
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Librarian Mike wrote:

I wonder if the F.O.G. rule applies here (Friend of Gretzky)…

This has nothing to do with Gretzky. It has everything to do with the fact that until the court finishes ruling on a sale to a new owner, the League is in control of the Coyotes. If you were making a schedule and wanted to save a tanking team you controlled, what would you do?

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#22 Souby
July 16 2009, 10:46AM
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@ myteammytown: True, but that was a situation of the fall-out from the mismanaged funds and bad debts by Peter Puck. The EIG came in and was able to turn things around because the NHL as a product was viable in Edmonton because it is a hockey town. People here love hockey and are willing to spend their money on it.

If there was a chance that hockey could be saved in a place like Phoenix then it would worth it. The problem is that Phoenix is not a hockey market and never will be!

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#23 Ender the Dragon
July 16 2009, 10:47AM
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As I read that, I realize it is a leading question, and in the wrong direction. The correct answer is that you'd be fair about things across the board with all 30 teams. The League's answer, however . . .

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#24 jeff
July 16 2009, 10:53AM
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@ scorecoff hemmercules: Ferraro at least makes TSN watchable. I like there play by play guys, but there intermissions go straight to other crap.

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#25 ScubaSteve
July 16 2009, 11:00AM
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@ jeff:

Yeah. I like Ferraro too, does anyone know why they switch out Debrusk for Rob "Hairplugs" Brown for the PPv's? Debrusk isn't the best, but he's better than Brown, or anything that CBC offers.

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#26 David S
July 16 2009, 11:01AM
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Jodes wrote:

Is anyone else a bit nervous that Brule hasn’t accepted the offer yet?

~Yeah. Because if we lose him, we're screwed.~

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#27 myteammytown
July 16 2009, 11:02AM
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@ Souby:

i agree the coyotes probably are not in the best of markets but, it is tough to know for sure because, as a franchise, they have been awful, both on the ice and within management.

i agree 110% you can only wait so long before the plug has to be pulled.

but, the only way the game, and the league, grows is if some of these "non-traditional" markets start to grow.

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#28 Souby
July 16 2009, 11:14AM
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myteammytown wrote:

but, the only way the game, and the league, grows is if some of these “non-traditional” markets start to grow.

Looking back, I wish the NHL never expanded to these places, but the reality is that the teams are there so let's keep the fingers crossed and hope that one or two of them start to grow.

I only hope that the wait is not too long!

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#29 West Coast Oil
July 16 2009, 11:19AM
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I personally dont mind weekday games. I find most Saturdays I tend to have plans made for me by the wife but during the week I can park my butt on the couch after dinner and relax.

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#30 Jonathan Willis
July 16 2009, 11:21AM
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I wouldn’t blame the fans, and even the Oilers, if they feel they were the lady and the dog was the schedule maker.

Maybe from a broadcast standpoint, but from a hockey operations standpoint this schedule is a god-send (as I mention in the post below). Fewer B2B games than anyone else in the league, fewer miles covered, and a more even distribution of home and away games.

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#31 Mike Krushelnyski
July 16 2009, 11:43AM
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Jason Gregor wrote:

Was I the only one who found it funny that the women never stepped in to help their friend when Dobry the Dog got excited? They just laughed. Classic.

Haha I was thinking the exact same thing.

The worst part was it looked like the dog just decided to get off on his own. I really hope it wasn't because he was "finished". Hopefully her friends were at least good enough to give her a change of clothes...

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#32 OvenChicken8
July 16 2009, 12:20PM
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Mike Krushelnyski wrote:

Jason Gregor wrote: Was I the only one who found it funny that the women never stepped in to help their friend when Dobry the Dog got excited? They just laughed. Classic. Haha I was thinking the exact same thing. The worst part was it looked like the dog just decided to get off on his own. I really hope it wasn’t because he was “finished”. Hopefully her friends were at least good enough to give her a change of clothes…

I'm still shocked that she let herself get on all 4 because as soon as she did BAM! That dog was all over it. LOL!

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#33 hamburgler42
July 16 2009, 01:10PM
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I guess every dog does have his day.

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#34 Hemi
July 16 2009, 01:24PM
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As horrible as this sounds, it may have brought back a memory or two for her. (God help me, I am going straight to the hot place for that remark)

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#35 Victoria
July 16 2009, 01:45PM
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I love how everyone just stands there and laughs.

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#36 Jonathan Willis
July 16 2009, 01:47PM
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Further on the schedule, I think it's pretty clear that the NHL wants the Oilers to win home games.

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#37 Jason Gregor
July 16 2009, 01:47PM
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In case your wondering the big reason why the Oilers signed Toni Rajala today was so he could go to Brandon in the WHL. Rajala had a contract in Finland this year, and the only out was to sign an NHL deal.

The Oilers clearly have faith in him, because he got more than a $250,000 signing bonus spread out over the next three years.

The Wheat Kings are hosting the Memorial Cup so Rajala will get lots of exposure to North American playoff hockey. Rajala has sick offensive skills, and if he grows a bit he could make the jump in a few years.

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#38 jeanshorts
July 16 2009, 01:50PM
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Souby wrote:

Phoenix with 17 Saturday home games? I understand that the Oil haven’t been that good for a few years now, but they only get 4 Saturday home dates? WTF? This is ridiculous. While I acknowledge that the Eastern teams have larger audiences, you can’t tell me that Edmonton’s audience is small compared to the Coyotes?

The thing is though, it's not like any of those Phoenix games are going to be on HNIC, unless they are playing one of the Canadian teams.

The only way Edmonton can play on Saturday night is if they are the second half of the HNIC double header, otherwise it wouldn't be on TV.

So, as you said, this has everything to do with the Eastern teams having a larger audience, and nothing to do with some kind of Phoenix Vs. Edmonton popularity battle.

Actually it probably has a little to do with Bettman trying everything in his power to convince people in Phoenix that they like hockey, but still.

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#39 Dallas
July 16 2009, 01:59PM
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Hey gregor straight off topic but how do we get rid of bettman that guy is a knob we need more Canadian teams and less American and it seems like he is against that. And I think that other gentelman was asking how long brule and smid have to accept their offers since they are not going to arbitration keep up the good work gregor I listen to you guys everyday all winter : )

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#40 jeff
July 16 2009, 02:12PM
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Not to be an ass, but 3 blogs on the schedule and none on the player movement the last two days.

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#41 jeanshorts
July 16 2009, 02:15PM
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@ jeff:

1. most of the signings have been to guys that we already know, who have been in the system for a few years

and 2. How much do you really need to know about Chris Minard that hasn't already been said?

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#42 myteammytown
July 16 2009, 02:21PM
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Dallas wrote:

Hey gregor straight off topic but how do we get rid of bettman that guy is a knob we need more Canadian teams and less American and it seems like he is against that. And I think that other gentelman was asking how long brule and smid have to accept their offers since they are not going to arbitration keep up the good work gregor I listen to you guys everyday all winter : )

of course bettman is against more canadian teams. short term, it makes sense, but for the long term growth of the game in the states, it doesnt make sense.

the slim chances of getting a decent TV deal in states gets even slimmer if the NHL starts moving teams from the states north

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#43 Hemi
July 16 2009, 02:32PM
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I must admit that no true news on player movement does have me wondering just what the Oil's management is up to?

Patience is a virtue so I am told but when one sees the many other teams applying their due diligence and adjusting their rosters to either rebuild or tweak (depending on needs), I get a wee bit worrisome as to what the heck is going on with the Oil.

It's quiet I tell you, too damn quiet!

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#44 Hemmertime
July 16 2009, 02:42PM
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@ Jason Gregor:

Since there is no all star game this year due to Olympics do you know if they will still be announcing the All Star roster?

Just curious

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#45 Soup
July 16 2009, 02:51PM
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Dallas wrote:

Hey gregor straight off topic but how do we get rid of bettman that guy is a knob we need more Canadian teams and less American and it seems like he is against that.

As much as Bettman comes across as a stuffed shirt lawyer, everyone should remember how much he supported the Oilers staying in Edmonton during the Pocklington nightmare. It would have been way easier for him to support a single owner who invariably would have taken the team to a more southern locale than it was for him to get behind the 30 or so individuals from the EOG. In the 90's, both Edmonton and Calgary were so close to bankruptcy it wasn't funny - not unlike Phoenix now. He set up the equalization payments.

Say what you want (and there is a lot not to like), but Bettman has been a good friend to small markets like Edmonton, Calgary, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Nashville, Ottawa. Without his direct support, there is a very good chance the only pro team Edm would have to cheer for is the Eskimos.

Last thing - does anyone think that one of the reasons that the Oilers were shifted away from the high profile HNIC telecasts is because their style of play over the last couple years has been something similar to watching paint dry?

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#46 Jason Gregor
July 16 2009, 02:52PM
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jeff wrote:

Not to be an ass, but 3 blogs on the schedule and none on the player movement the last two days.

I wrote fairly in depth about the Minard, Arsene and Nickerson...they just DD today...no surprise...and Rajala I had wrote about before as well...He is going to Brandon...

FYI..Dubnyk will be on my show today at 5:05...

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#47 Jason Gregor
July 16 2009, 02:55PM
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Hemmertime wrote:

Since there is no all star game this year due to Olympics do you know if they will still be announcing the All Star roster? Just curious

I don't recall them doing that in 2006. No point to announce a roster that won't be playing. But at the end of the year they will announce who is on the first and second team all stars.

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#48 jeff
July 16 2009, 03:00PM
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@ Jason Gregor: 5:05 eh, I guess I should stay at work a little later to hear him on the drive home.

Which gets me to thinking. Do you have anywhere that you have a list of who is going to be on your show for the week or even day?

Nothing about Reddox though on here and I thought there would be. I did however listen last night and get the news on him.

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#49 OvenChicken8
July 16 2009, 03:29PM
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@ Jason Gregor: Do you think he has a shot at bumping JDD if he has a decent showcase during the preseason? Or is it inevitable that he will be in Springfield?

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#50 Wainwright Dan
July 16 2009, 03:31PM
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Great preview of the upcoming season from a Leafs blog, which contains some good Heatley shots ... hxxp://www.downgoesbrown.com/2009/07/toronto-maple-leafs-season-preview.html

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