NHL Trade Deadline Day: T-minus 245,000 speculative words from Pierre McGuire

A few thoughts on the eve of the 2009 deadline

Thanks largely to the efforts of our country’s cable sports networks, NHL Trade Deadline Day has become, well, if not quite a national holiday then certainly a reliable annual event on par with Groundhog Day or Stephen Harper Pretends to Care About Climate Change Day.

On the eve of the 2009 deadline, which I may possibly be writing about tomorrow for lacking-a-life-based reasons, I find myself reminded of one of the most inadvertently hilarious broadcasts in recent Canadian sports history – Sportsnet’s coverage of the 2007 trade deadline.

Did you see it? If so, you will always carry it with you in your memory. I believe the technical term is “scarred.”

Over on TSN that day, it was the usual array of hockey experts attired in suit and tie, sitting behind desks, discussing rumours, typing away on their BlackBerries.

But on Sportsnet, the atmosphere was decidedly – one might even say forcibly – informal. Blue jeans. Shaky, mobile cameras. They were doing things differently, baby. Shifting that paradigm. Thinking outside that box. Is there a necktie on that box? Get that tie off that box, dammit! No ties on Sportsnet!

At the Sportsnet Trade Deadline Bash! (the exclamation mark means it’s fun!), guys were sitting around in a casually casual manner. Rock music was blaring. There were balloons in the background, and the telltale sounds of what might just be… air hockey? I might have been mistaken but for a while there it looked as though Nick Kypreos had a hair out of place. It was anarchy!

By 11 a.m. or so, it had become official – Sportsnet was trying waaaaaay too hard. “The bash is underway!” it was declared, a little too enthusiastically and far too frequently. Two not-unattractive women served Boston Pizza to a couple of the hosts. Another woman, who identified herself as “Case No. 24 on Deal or No Deal Canada” popped up to a) declare her allegiance to the Columbus Blue Jackets, and b) wear a Sportsnet T-shirt that would be undersized on a Cabbage Patch doll. All that was missing was a tasteful Sportsnet banner in the background that reads, “Young people: Please, for the love of God, watch us because we are trying so hard to talk down to you!”

I remember that host Daren Millard kept saying, “We’re having some fun now!” – this of course always being the telltale sign that no one is having any fun at all. Later, the Deal or No Deal Canada hotties returned en masse holding hockey sticks with numbers on one side and, hidden from view on the other, the name of a current NHL player. The casually dressed panelists were casually obliged to casually pick a number – say, number seven. The girl holding the No. 7 stick would saunter forth and ever-so seductively flip the stick around to reveal the player’s name – Jeremy Roenick, for instance. The panelists would then debate: Roenick – Trade or No Trade? Meanwhile viewers at home were left to debate: Person Who Came Up With the Idea for The Sportsnet Trade Deadline Bash – Criminally Insane or Stroke Victim?

I’ve heard that Sportsnet’s coverage of the 2009 deadline is going to be far less “edgy” and much more “traditional.” Please, don’t let this be true. How else am I going to be kept up to date on which undersized T-shirts have been traded to which ample bosoms?

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