Friday, May 30, 2014

Pool Report: He Is Risen

Welcome To The Henrik Lundqvist Show

For all that may be written and/or whined about in Montreal and elsewhere across the country today, one thing beat the Montreal Canadiens. Henrik Lundqvist.

Let’s face it. The guy’s a God.

And now he has risen to the top of the heap in the East and the New York Rangers are in the Stanley Cup Final.

Whether it’s Chicago or LA that comes out of the West this weekend, (And after that last awesome overtime tilt, who do you choose?) it’s gonna be tough to keep this guy from rising all the way to Hockey Heaven.

After last night’s unbelievable soccer move, It wouldn’t surprise me if he wins the Cup and jets right off to Rio to tend goal in the World Cup.

And what a huge difference last night’s NY win makes in the Infamous Writers Hockey Pool.

Some players have lost up to half of their rosters. Others depending on a Montreal win that might see Carey Price return to their rosters have been mortally wounded.

Others are suddenly poised to make a move.

Ah, the Hockey Gods are fickle. But for the moment it seems Henrik Lundquist has been elevated to their ranks.

Will the same be true for former Pool God, “Evil” Will Pascoe who currently sits in first? Or does Jon Brooks have the horses to make up the small distance between them? For the moment, Maurey Loeffler seems well back in third. But there are others closing on him fast.

It’s going to be an interesting weekend.

See you Monday.

risen pool

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Halt And Catch Fire

A few days ago, a guy at the Globe and Mail who thinks “Republic of Doyle” is an example of exceptional Canadian television pissed all over the way another television success, “Corner Gas” just financed its next incarnation as a feature film.

But this “critique” was less about how films and TV shows are funded in Canada and more about launching another campaign to throw more money at another local producing entity -- the CBC.

Sadly –- or Happily –- depending on how you look at it, the vast majority of Canadians, and certainly those who control our National purse-strings, appear tired of tossing money at an organization that doesn’t feel like it returns much value for the money anymore.

Oh, I know we all have a fave CBC TV show or rely on CBC Radio to encapsulate our world view. But overall, we only spend about 5% of our viewing time on CBC fare with most of that being taken up by news or hockey.

Therefore, something is necessary to re-invent, re-ignite and re-vitalize the National network when it comes to drama and comedy. And a lot of people are doubtful such a thing is possible.

But it could happen.

And perhaps CBC needs to look no further for an example of how to do that than the new AMC series “Halt And Catch Fire”.


AMC itself is a model of reinvention, moving as it has from its initial incarnation as a classic movie channel to creating a whole bunch of shows comprising what’s been called a new “Golden Age” of American television.

“Mad Men”

“Breaking Bad”

“The Walking Dead”

But rather than suggesting CBC follow the content lead of AMC, I think their survival and reinvention hinges on acquiring the qualities exhibited in “Halt And Catch Fire”.

“HACF” is set in 1983, following a group of “digital cowboys” working in the wild west “Silicone Prairie” of Texas as they try to reinvent the personal computer.

It’s a tale of taking risks and being passionate about what you do. It’s about understanding that to do something that truly matters in life you’ve got to put everything you have on the line.

The pilot episode is (as it also exemplifies) a treasure map to creating success.

In many ways, it’s the map AMC has followed to get where it is. Maybe CBC just needs to do the same.

“Halt And Catch Fire” debuts Sunday on AMC. But the pilot is now available free online.

Here’s a taste…

Monday, May 26, 2014


After surviving the worst winter in about 40 years, a lot of people in my original home province of Saskatchewan have been wondering what’s taking Global warming so long to show up.

Today, their Premier, Brad Wall, decided to do something about that which will likely make him “Premier for Life” if he can pull it off. He offered the Caribbean islands of Turks and Caicos the opportunity to become part of Saskatchewan.

Now, the idea of connecting the landlocked, frozen for at least half the year Canadian prairies with unending sunshine and surf is not as far-fetched as it sounds.

Prime Minister Robert Borden wanted to annex Turks and Caicos way back in 1917 and the islands themselves have (more than once) applied to become Canada’s 11th Province, suggesting the marriage wouldn’t find much opposition in either place.

And I couldn’t agree more. In fact, this just might be the kind of thing Bono of U2 was talking about a few years back when he cozied up to all of us insisting that “What the world needs is more Canada”.

And he’s right. Prince Edward Island’s Premier immediately offered to partner with Saskatchewan on bringing a little sunshine to our shores.


But I’m thinking PEI and the other provinces need to find their own partners in order to really get more Canada into the world.

Given the size of the Haitian diaspora in Montreal, it only makes sense that Quebec take in Haiti. It wouldn’t interfere with the corruption in either place and moving the eternal construction gridlock from La Belle Provence to Port au Prince might finally get that town rebuilt from the last earthquake.

How about Ontario pitches in and takes over the other half of Hispaniola to make sure the Blue Jays get first crack at all the great ballplayers from the Dominican Republic.

Alberta already has one of the largest concentrations of Ukrainians outside of Ukraine, so maybe they should take them over. Not only would it piss off Putin to have somebody nicer wanting what he wants; but suddenly there’s a place for all that Oil Sands oil to go (further pissing off Putin) since who’d be able to stop Alberta from building a pipeline to itself.

Obviously Nova Scotia would jump at the chance to annex their namesake, both solving the Scottish problem of surviving if they separate from the UK and getting rid of the import duties on Scotch.

And BC taking over Hong Kong would probably make condo prices in Vancouver a whole lot more affordable.

I’m just spit-ballin’ here. But I think it’s obvious that we’re doing fairly well while a lot of the planet is struggling. We’ve got room for a bunch of their people (if they like the cold or have a tax fetish) and they’ve got all kinds of cultures while we haven’t been able to come up with so much as one in 150 years.

Brad Wall, you’re a genius! I might even move back to Saskatchewan if this happens -– to the warm, most Southerly part, of course.

Pool Report: Stormy Monday

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If anybody’s looking for Will Pascoe this morning, he’s likely down at Randy’s Donuts basking in the glory of finally reaching the pinnacle of the Infamous Writers Hockey Pool while explaining to the upset locals the reason their iconic donut no longer has a hole.

We’ve reached the point in the Stanley Cup finals where everybody is getting a little testy and out of sorts. Best friend coaches in New York and Montreal aren’t talking to each other. Players in Chicago and LA are hatin’. And Don Cherry is pissed at everybody.

Although that last seems par for the course, last night I sensed a glimmer of just how much Ron McLean wants to finally haul off and deck his ill-tempered side kick.

And if Montreal exits this week, a little “Coach’s Corner” dust up might be just the thing to ramp up ratings as we move into the final round.

So Mr. Pascoe should enjoy his moment in the sun while he can. Because my Rangers seem to have suddenly become a team of destiny.

Over in the West, one more home game like Saturday’s and the Kings will have last year’s champs on the precipice as well. And much as a NY/LA Final was unexpected, you can’t argue with how beneficial it will be for the game in building a larger audience.

Between DeNiro on the glass at the Gardens and Slash doing the National Anthem, even TMZ might show some interest.

We may know for sure by Friday’s report.

Meanwhile in the pool, Will Pascoe has edged ahead on Jon Brooks with Michael Foster and Maurey Loeffler tangled together at third. But this is far, far from over as other players move up and the Hockey Gods might send some of the leaders for a tumble.

No wonder everybody’s a little tense…


Sunday, May 25, 2014

Lazy Sunday # 326: Nothing To See Here

I went to see a couple of comic book movies this week. Not because I really wanted to. But because it’s Summer and there’s not much else playing.

And I really enjoyed one of them. Not because the film was any good. But because I was in the company of someone who couldn’t see it.

I have a friend who is blind and every now and then asks me to take her to a movie. I joke that it’s easier go with me than clean the sticky floor residue off her guide dog afterward. But the truth is, seeing a movie with someone who is blind gives me an insight into it that I wouldn’t be able to find on my own.

Sit-com icon Gary Marshall once told me that the best way to learn to write sitcoms was not to watch a lot of them but to listen to them instead.

Whatever visual humor you might miss by keeping your eyes off the screen is more than compensated by what you learn about timing and joke construction.

Sometimes I think the same exercise in sensory limitation can teach you a lot about what makes a movie.

Screenwriters are repeatedly told, to their great dissatisfaction, that audiences only retain about 5% of the story information delivered via dialogue. Instead, audiences follow the story by way of the visuals, the musical cues and soundscape.

That should imply that anyone unable to see the visuals would lean more on what’s said and be more connected to the script, right?


My friend has her film experience enhanced by using a set of headphones connected to what’s called an audio description service. This provides a description of what’s going on embedded between dialogue and significant sound effects.

Yet even with this minimal intrusion, the blind seem able to follow even the most complicated action sequences.

Something theatres might think of providing for all of us at the next Michael Bay film.

But what I was also reminded of at this week’s screening was how much of a film’s soundscape reaches us subliminally while we’re being overwhelmed with CGI visuals and how much story telling is conveyed or enhanced by almost unheard moments of music.

But there was something else too. An awareness of how communal the movie experience is, how much we are influenced in our appreciation by the reactions of those around us.

I know that’s all basic stuff for those of us in the industry. But given how much our personal and social interactions are being replaced by the solitary experience that comes from using a smart phone, tablet or computer for so many things we do –- it’s good to be reminded that film and television are collaborative arts. A collaboration that includes the involvement of every member of the audience whatever their personal limitations.

Enjoy Your Sunday.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Pool Report: Never Surrender

If there’s been a theme to this week’s games, it has been a simple one. Adhere to the first rule of the game –- never quit –- never surrender.

Just when you thought New York had broken Montreal and Chicago owned LA, somebody stepped up to say, “Not so fast”.

It gets brutal from here. In a physical sense to be sure. But mostly on a whole other level. Moments that try the soul and force those who would succeed to dig deeper than they ever thought they would have to go.

It’s life and death now. Life and death and so much more.

And in the Pool…

Jon Brooks hangs on to first with Will Pascoe right behind. Maurey Loeffler joins Michael Foster in third. But top to bottom the distances between players are closing.

It’s gonna be a tough weekend for some of us.

friday 23

Monday, May 19, 2014

Pool Report: The Rollercoaster

Oh boy.

Just when you think you’re on a roll –- it turns into a rollercoaster…

Carey Price is out in Montreal.

It’s a conspiracy of course. Another way Gary “Heart of Darkness” Bettman has connived to keep a Canadian team from winning the Stanley Cup. More proof that the US networks want a major market final. You know the drill.


It was just one of those things that happens in a game as wild, chaotic and out on the very edge as hockey…

One of those things that you can’t predict –- especially when you were hoping to get your own edge with your pool picks.

Oh boy…

The week begins with Jon Brooks in first place, Will Pascoe popping up to 2nd and Michael Foster hanging in at third.

And you’ll notice somebody making their move from the rear of the pack…

Yeah, no more basement dwelling for this guy. I’m back on the rollercoaster.


Sunday, May 18, 2014

Lazy Sunday # 325: Scorch A Binder!

I’m constantly amazed at how hard humans work at complicating the simple things in life, in the process creating a “sub-culture” or hip new trend wherein we discuss ad infinitum the pros and cons of various elements of that subculture/trend as if they were as important as life itself.

Last night, driving across town to have a beer with friends, I had a profound insight into how Canadians have changed over my lifetime.

Used to be, you’d drive down any Canadian street on a Saturday night and see guys walking home or waiting for the bus with a box of 12 or 24 beers under their arm. Last night I noted nobody with such packaging, but several carrying little hemp or paper sacks  sagging under the weight of a quart or two of craft beer.

I don’t know a lot about craft beer, perhaps owning a pallet too damaged by decades of Molson Canadian, Budweiser, or Watney’s Red Barrel. 

But I overhear the debates about who uses too many hops or too little honey and wonder where this need to so thoroughly parse and categorize something as simple and enjoyable as “just having a beer” comes from.

We’ve been doing it with wine for centuries and now there are weed aficionados publishing reviews of various bud varieties. And maybe there’s a form of unique nirvana some reach by carefully coordinating what’s combined with what. It just isn’t me.

Which brings me to the grilled cheese sandwich.

When I was a kid, I loved nothing better for lunch (or dinner) than a grilled cheese sandwich.

Later in life, it was something no truck stop or diner could get wrong. I even loved the way waitresses would call them in to the short order cook in the back. “Scorch a binder!” said it all.

But not anymore…

Now, I’m sure there’s something to be said for pickled pumpkin and truffle butter. But seriously, other than doubling the price and giving the fromagiere who used to be a barrista or the guy who knew every Noir title at Blockbuster a new way to pull informational rank on you, what’s the point?

A grilled cheese is bread and cheese. Hold the turnip greens.

And Enjoy Your Sunday…

Friday, May 16, 2014

Pool Report: We Live In Interesting Times

sidney cosmo

Sidney –- once again the Bridesmaid…

Boston –– stayin’ classy… 

Pascal, May 16, 2014

And CBC -- Seriously, your reigning hockey “expert” insists a 3-1 game was lost in “overtime”..?

Yes, we live in interesting times…

And pool-wise it’s about to get very interesting for a lot of us. Because so much is turning out far, far different from what was expected.

But we’re still in Round Two and there’s yet another round before the finals, so despite the seismic shift in the standings that’s about to occur, let’s not be suggesting anybody’s got this wrapped up just yet.

But some serious plummeting down the standings is in store in the days to come. Unless –- unless your picks racked up enough points to stave off those still standing.

So bask in your moment in the sun, or await (like me) release from the ignominy of the bottom end of the pile. For, despite all the unexpected outcomes, the unpredictability is what makes the Stanley Cup Playoffs so damn much fun in the first place.

And mostly –- be happy you’re not Jarome Iginla’s agent who, after blowing sure fire trades to Pittsburgh and then Boston has to figure out where his guy needs to play to win a cup next year…

This week’s pool standings:

Jon Brooks on top by one over Michael Foster with Todd Gordon and Peter Wildman both hugging third.

The picture on Monday will be very different.

week 3 end

Monday, May 12, 2014

Pool Report: The Hockey Mom

The Weekend's Best Sports Photography

There was not a more powerful hockey story from this weekend than that of New York Ranger Martin St. Louis and his mom.

Virtually to a man, players who make it to the NHL credit their parents for the achievement. They are the ones who offer the necessary encouragement and inspiration. They cart still sleeping kids into early morning dressing rooms and help peel off sweaty uniforms after the 2:00 AM Minor league games.

Wayne Gretzky’s father is famous for explaining the facts of a non-hockey career to his barely old enough to skate son: “You can either get up at five in the morning now –- or do it every morning for the rest of your life.”

For Martin St. Louis, that drive came from his mom.

France St. Louis died suddenly last week with her son’s NY Rangers down 3-1 in their series with the Penguins. At home with his family, Martin’s dad made it clear that whatever family responsibilities his son might feel, Mom would have wanted him to continue the dream.

St. Louis returned to the rink and led the Rangers to two stunning back to back victories over Pittsburgh.

It was a reminder that no matter the skill and talent the game of hockey requires, both take a backseat to heart.

The standings in the pool as of this morning:

Michael Foster and Todd Gordon tied for first. Peter Wildman hanging onto third.


Sunday, May 11, 2014

Lazy Sunday # 324: Hashtag Activism

If you tweeted or facebooked something like the above this week, I hope you feel good about yourself.

Because what you mostly revealed to the world is what a self-absorbed, uninformed and ineffectual little douche you are.

Oh, I know you’re upset that a bunch of Nigerian thugs abducted a bunch of schoolgirls and threatened to sell them into slavery.

I am too.

I just don’t get why you weren’t upset a couple of months ago when these same guys locked dozens of boys inside their school and set it on fire, burning alive those who hadn’t already had their throats slit or were shot while they slept.

Would a picture of you with a hashtag back then have stopped them from committing their latest atrocity?

Then why do you think it’ll make a difference now?

Do you honestly believe that the members of Boko Haram sit around their jungle hideouts, where the high speed wi-fi is fricken awesome, and catch up on their twitter feeds after a hard day of burning churches and hospitals?

And you looking pissed holding a sign is just the sort of thing that will make them have a change of heart. Right?

Because both the problem and the solutions are a little more complex than even Siri can handle. Hard as that may be for you to fathom.

I’ll bet most of you don’t even know that Hillary Clinton had a chance to stop Boko Haram from getting the money and guns that have made them what they are several years ago. But didn’t.

Or that, one of the groups now pushing the above hashtag, as well as so many of those “progressive” petitions you sign and send around, lobbied her not to declare them a terrorist organization.

But that lack of knowledge hasn’t prevented you from being a dependable mobile totin’, thumb-typin’ little Lemming whenever the latest cause celebre comes along. Has it?

Do you already have your sign ready for when this starts happening to school girls in Afghanistan again? Or maybe since the ideological brothers of Boko Haram are only scarring them with acid or cutting off their noses but haven’t stepped over the human slavery line, you’re kinda okay with that?

Or perhaps you can’t because of all those hashtags you posted demanding we get out of that country –- and you don’t want to look like you’re flip-flopping or lose your Cyber-cred.

Do you not understand you’re just being played because your leaders don’t want to tackle the real problem, but know that as long as you can feel good about yourself that’s all that matters?

View image on Twitter

Look, I’m not expecting you to hop on the #bringbackourballs bandwagon started by Mark Steyn. Or otherwise trash anything you truly believe in your hearts.

I’m just asking you to take the time to learn what’s really going on before immediately knee-jerking to what “somebody” expects of you to further their own agenda.

And then – Enjoy Your Sunday…

Friday, May 09, 2014

Pool Report: The Real Coach’s Corner


When I was a kid in small town Saskatchewan, we always had farmer coaches for hockey. That’s because the rest of the dads worked all winter while farmers had to wait for the snow to melt so they either curled or coached hockey to pass the time.

Most of these guys spent most of their days alone on a tractor or milking cows, so their communication skills were either non-existent or honed to a minimalist edge, depending on how you wanted to look at it.

I don’t think I ever had a coach who said more than 10 words at practise. “Stick in both hands.” “Hit somebody.” “Pass, pass, shoot, okay?”.

To them the game wasn’t complicated. And it was too cold on outside rinks to stand around and bullshit about strategy and theory anyway.

These days, there’s so much bullshit analysis on television, you forget that the game really isn’t that complicated. But you soon realize that the blowhard coaches, the never won a cup coaches, the never even got to be coaches and the so full of it nobody’s got a clue what they’re talking about coaches have come to dominate the landscape.

While the farmer coaches just get the job done and keep playing.

The best example of these guys is Daryl Sutter of the LA Kings. A team that wasn’t supposed to get this far (except in the demented handicapping system of evil Will Pascoe) and now seems poised to maybe go all the way.

If they do, Jonathan Quick, Drew Doughty and others will get all the glory. And the guy most responsible will quietly go back to Alberta and catch up with the cows.

Here’s a lovely little clip of how one of the smarter LA sports guys looks at their farmer coach. It’s also yet another glaring example of the difference between real show biz and real hockey and what passes for both on “Coach’s Corner” on CBC.

Meanwhile in the Infamous Writers Hockey Pool, there has been similar minimal movement.

Michael Foster now leads, followed awfully closely by Peter Wildman and Todd Gordon. All of them followed by a lot of guys still “avoiding elimination”.

Sadly, that might not be the case for a couple of teams by the time we reconvene on Monday.


Thursday, May 08, 2014


May you rest in peace, gentle man.
Farley Mowat (1921 - 2014)

Farley Mowat, 1921-2014 “So long and thanks for all the mice…”

Monday, May 05, 2014

Pool Report: Round Two Number Two

Kings Win In OT; Jonas Hiller Looks Crushed

Round Two of the Stanley Cup Playoffs always feels like it starts in slow motion.

The chaotic two plus games a night and more highlights than any array of multiple screens can handle -- does this funny shift into teams we didn’t pay attention to because they didn’t have a hope of surviving Round One up against units with star power who suddenly look tired and unprepared.

This is where the war of attrition that is the Finals begins (or begins to show). We move from an “anything’s possible” excitement to a realization we’re into the long haul. It’s like starting that first rewrite or pulling out of Wawa for the West and accepting that it’ll be a couple of days before you see anything but trees.

But Round two is where the dependable regulars, the guys who make up a team’s backbone, come to the fore. This is where being a team player matters most.

This is where you pray the TV guys will STFU about Sydney Crosby not scoring and start talking about the guys who are.

That same sense of slow motion movement is reflected in today’s pool standings.

Todd Gordon slides barely ahead of Peter Wildman and Maurey Loeffler now shares 3rd place with Michael Foster, while about half the players are starting to bunch at the top.

But don’t let the slo-mo fool you. It lulls some into thinking there’s time for a nap or taking a one-game break to rest and that’s when goals come from unexpected quarters –- and the whole mood of the playoffs changes again.

Those assuming the pace has slowed might be playing golf by the next time we meet on Friday.

Cheer louder.


Sunday, May 04, 2014

Lazy Sunday # 323: The Green Room

Every legit theatre, nightclub, live venue and television studio has a “Green Room”. It’s this kind of neutral space between the dressing rooms and the stage. The last place where you are “yourself” before you become the character or performance that the audience has come to experience.

There are a lot of theories on why it’s called a Green Room. Some say they were originally painted green. Or it once referred to a room filled with plants and shrubbery whose moisture was said to help warm up actors’ voices. Another says it was named for nervous actors looking green around the gills.

Whatever the genesis, few, if any, are actually green anymore. And in addition to being a place of transition, they have become the place where artists most often intimately discuss their craft and culture.

They might be gauging why the performance might be going better or worse than expected. Audiences are assessed. Aspects of individual moments dissected.

A lot of younger performers gain greater insight into their chosen career from their working counterparts here than they ever did in whatever place they learned their craft.

For the Green Room is the edge of the abyss, you exit it to slay the audience or die trying. Any last minute skill you gain there could make all the difference.

For a couple of years now, Showtime and Comedian Paul Provenza have recreated the Green Room of a comedy club on television, bringing both a live and broadcast audience into this secret enclave to learn the inner realities of comedy.

The result is nothing short of stunning. Yeah, there are jokes and far from PC discussions. But the major revelation is how incredibly smart most of these people are, how vast their understanding of what makes audiences tick and just how hard you have to work to communicate.

The first two seasons of “The Green Room” are now posted on Youtube. In my opinion, not only essential viewing for anybody writing or performing Comedy, but anyone trying to reach an audience of any kind with their work.

These are brilliant half-hours of insider information and hard truths, as the sample below illustrates. Try to see them all.

And Enjoy Your Sunday…

Friday, May 02, 2014

Pool Report: Round Two Begins

Racist idiots try to spoil game-winning goal by Montreal Canadiens P.K. Subban

During one of my travels, I convinced a Black friend in LA to come to a hockey game. He agreed mostly because the Canadiens were in town, and he knew I was a little homesick despite the daily Snowbird sightings at Nate and Al’s.

My buddy was basketball obsessed and had never been to a hockey game, so I spent the night bringing him up to speed on what was happening on the ice.

At one point, he noticed Habs star Donald Brashear and tugged my sleeve. “Is that a brother out there?” I acknowledged that it was, to which he replied, “There’s brothers that skate?” and “That’ll never catch on.”.

Apparently, it has. And as PK Subban revealed last night, sometimes brothers are almost winning games by themselves.

Unfortunately, it was also revealed that while you can ban team owners for being ignorant troglodytes, we still have a way to go when it comes to the fans.

But then –- this is the town that gave us Ben Affleck…

Can’t wait for them to realize which sweater PK’s brother Malcolm will soon be wearing on a regular basis.

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Although it must have Jarome Iginla wondering if he shoulda stayed in Pittsburgh –- or better still –- Calgary.

But it’s almost as intolerant for me to be painting a whole town with the same brush on account of a few idiots. Because the guy sitting number two in the Infamous Writers Hockey Pool (Todd Gordon) is from Boston and PK’s a big reason he’s where he is in the standings.

Of course, at the moment, it’s right behind a guy from Toronto (Peter Wildman) with a lot of guys from Boston on his Roster. But no PK –- since that’s mostly an absolutely unforgivable Toronto/Montreal thing that has nothing to do with race or ethnicity –- anymore at least –- I hope…

Sharing third place are Maurey Loeffler and Michael Foster, two guys just happy to be anywhere with anybody.

Round two in the Playoffs has officially commenced. Hopefully, last night’s ugliness is not a signal of what’s to come. Because I’m loving all these overtime games and all the players who are making them so exciting.

pool r1-1

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Definitive Proof

Rogers11As sure of myself as I may appear around here, I harbor a constant concern that I might not be correct in my assessments.

I often wonder why I seem to be such a singular voice on some issues. There are many much smarter people in the world and in my industry of Canadian film and television in particular.

Thus I constantly ask myself why they don’t see the same things I see. I can’t be the only one who, like William Goldman’s Butch Cassidy, has “vision” while the rest of the world wears bifocals.

Whenever I discuss CBC TV, it’s with the same opinion I’ve held my entire career, that they uncontrollably stumble from crisis to crisis, always appearing neither certain of their creative direction nor their mandated priorities while repeatedly “re-imagining” some nebulous brighter future.

But there’s always somebody (often entire movements of somebodies) insisting this is our single most important cultural institution, an essential we must trust to knit the country together. And that has always given me pause.

But now, I know I’ve been right. This week I came across a document that proves beyond any doubt that the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation is managed by Buffoons.


By now we’re all had a chance to come to grips with the stunning revelation last November that Rogers Communications had secured 12 years of NHL broadcast rights on all Canadian platforms for the impossibly rich price of $5.2 Billion.

It was a number no other broadcaster could match. And therefore, after 60 years with “Hockey Night in Canada” as its flagship, audience share crown jewel and in-house mint to finance other programming, the CBC was without Canada’s game.

As internal CBC documents reveal, they had made a pitch, but one it appears based more on winning sympathy than arguing from strength on what it could contribute to the NHL Brand and the nation.


It appears CBC was hoping to land what hockey insiders call “the hometown deal”, one of those contracts that teams offer a star athlete, based not on money or perks, but hoping they can pull on some heartstrings or his childhood dream of playing for the guys he grew up watching.

Really? That felt possible to somebody, anybody at CBC?

What hard-headed sports league made up of Billionaire owners, Millionaire players and all sorts of profit seeking stakeholders could anyone possibly think would be willing to short-change itself for what works best for the poor old, eternally cash-strapped CBC?

But that appears to be the single significant argument CBC negotiators made. Why? Did they seriously think it was a sentiment that would sway the cash starved Phoenix Coyotes or Tampa Bay Lightning?

Or was it because after years of inaction and indecision in its own head offices, it was aware that a plea for mercy was its only option?

Clearly it was the latter, because the key terms of the negotiated agreement between “Hockey Night in Canada” and Rogers make it obvious that the Mother-Corp had nothing in the Plan “B” category. And giving in to rape and pillage was the inescapable result.


Under the negotiated terms between CBC and Rogers to save “HNIC”, any semblance of forethought, let alone respect for the money granted by you and me as taxpayers, not to mention saving what little might remain of its decades of hockey history and self-respect had been set aside.


No risk –- and no reward.

No guts –- no glory.

“Essential promotional capability” and “substantially higher” market share where the real world returns are dubiously beneficial at best.

320 hours of Prime time programming that won’t earn a dime will be annexed from the CBC schedule to fill the pockets of a major competitor while simultaneously handing over audiences Rogers does not currently reach on its own.

Rogers licensed CBC to continue to broadcast games on Saturday nights (and only Saturday nights) for a term of four years. But even those are not “exclusive” rights.

That means Rogers can place competing games on as many platforms as it damn well pleases on those same Saturday nights.

Meaning, on the positive side, an end to the cross-country belly-aching from markets who don’t see their home team with any regularity because the dog-ass Toronto Maple Leafs or more culturally significant Montreal Canadiens have a Saturday night game (which they almost always do) in a larger TV market.

Because Rogers will serve those smaller markets on other channels, in the process significantly depleting the audience which used to belong to the CBC alone.

Or Rogers will pick up the Leafs or Habs or Canucks if those games have more appeal and CBC will get smaller market games.

Either way, kiss those once massive “HNIC” numbers good-bye as the overall audience fragments over several channels and platforms all offering hockey at the same time.

And once the Playoffs arrive, CBC still only retains Saturday games (if one is scheduled) and if we’re in a situation like this year with only one Canadian team in contention, take a guess at which corporation will get first dibs on that.

CBC Executives effectively gave away their signal (which we pay for) to a company that, while constantly crying poor when it comes to producing Canadian content, had the wherewithal to come up with $5.2 Billion.

They handed over 320 hours of Prime Time to that self same competitor. Prime Time that will earn them nothing, reducing even further the possibility of financing the rest of the CBC schedule to industry standard levels.

All of which combine to make the logic behind the essential benefits CBC was after for itself even more difficult to understand.

For a start, how valuable does “HNIC” remain as a marketing tool for other CBC content in such a shrunken market?

And since CBC retains no editorial control, are we to believe Rogers will not be promoting its own programming on “HNIC” as well? Could we see ads for directly competing content airing during the same game?

Might we see one ad for “Dragon’s Den” on CBC versus ten for a Rogers series?  If you were Rogers, whose interests would you look after first, the competition or your own shows and your own advertisers? IE: Where you earn and spend your money.

How else do you earn back $5.2 Billion?

And how does a cash flush company keep more of it’s cash? By getting the CBC to agree to “providing a production subsidy” and “production resources”.

Yeah, that’s right. In addition to relinquishing airtime to Rogers, you and me will continue to pay for the production of the show. With nobody in management at CBC (who we’re also continuing to pay) having any say over the content or receiving one dime from Rogers to cover the costs of production.

And if those realities seem tragically ill-considered, wait until you see what comes next…


Reducing the staffing impact?

Meaning it’s better to use diminished resources to retain staff who are not earning you any money than divert that smaller money pool to producing alternative programming?

Who beyond a life-long government bureaucrat with no respect for the easy money that comes from taxpayers thinks that’s a viable business plan?

The last point reinforces the perception that this whole deal is about buying four years so CBC Brass can plan a “structured exit from hockey” something they were well aware they already faced the last time NHL rights were negotiated.

Only this time, they’ll plan for it. Right?



I don’t know if the above pages were redacted or simply reveal that nobody had considered the potential impact or considered other options.

What they did plan for was a “soft landing”.


In other words, CBC executives did not plan for a hockey-less future. But they’ll start now.

And they’ll have an idea by 2018 at the latest.

Or at least they’ll have a “programming strategy”.

And a job that includes lots of International travel, 5 star hotels, 4 star restaurants and limos as they “re-imagine” what the television landscape will be in 2018.

The way they knew what was coming down the pipe for 2014 and were completely on top of that.

And for those of you already brain-storming the type of show the CBC will need for the coming world of tight budgets and smaller audiences. There’s this…


Yeah. Don’t bother. And don’t bother for 2015, 2016, 2017 and maybe even 2018. Because they won’t know what they want until then.

Not that much different from seasons past to be sure. At least you know the familiar lack of commitment to a direction and creative uncertainty will remain the same.

But the “Cover Your Ass” priorities remain top of mind. Who needs planning or programming when you have a PR campaign!


Yeah, it all came down to not losing the promotional platform hockey provides in order to promote programming they don’t have and can quite possibly no longer afford to produce…


This is what some are already calling “CBCmegedon”.

It’s over. CBC TV is done. It’s not coming back from this. It simply can’t.

You don’t give up 320 hours of Prime Time and the revenue it earns and stay in the game. Not with the slim profit margins that exist in television these days.

If there were real sanity in government instead of a desire to appear fair-minded or thoughtful and get re-elected, “Evil” Stephen Harper would put a bullet in the CBC’s airless head right now, saving all of us the coming misery.

Or at the very least the coming recriminations for not dumping more money into the hands of people no bank or venture capitalist would have any confidence in funding.

Why can’t we just take the $4 Billion that will be spent on the CBC over the four year exit strategy these incompetent nincompoops have structured for themselves in lieu of doing their job for the last four years -– and spend it on something actually beneficial to the country.

I don’t know if that’s buying enough MRI machines so that the wait times for Canadian Cancer patients are cut in half…

Maybe it’s making sure every aboriginal community finally has clean water, affordable food and reliable housing…

Could be we finally get high speed internet service to far flung communities and rural schools, so those people can watch all the CanCon on Netflix too and otherwise catch up to the rest of us.

Perhaps we consider the creative community about to be flat-lined by reduced CBC production and spend it on actual television production instead of indecisive executives, so Canadians can see their own stories on the platform of their choosing by the time Hockey season rolls around this Fall and not sometime in 2018.

The document above is definitive proof (available in full here) that anyone purporting to be managing the CBC is a Buffoon and needs to be shown the door as quickly as possible.