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October 3, 2006

Pierre McGuire

Harry Neale

Ed Olczyk

Dave Reid

John Shannon

Judd Sirott

JAMEY HORAN: I want to welcome everyone to today's NHL broadcast conference call. My name is Jamey Horan. I'm joined by NHL Senior Vice President of Broadcasting, with John Shannon here in New York.
Also on the line we have our participants, Eddie Olczyk, representing NBC; Harry Neale, representing CBC; Pierre McGuire, representing TSN; Judd Sirott, representing HD Net; and Dave Reid, representing the NHL Network in Canada.
Before we open up for questions, I would just ask each of the individuals to give a brief rundown of their first game, a quick analysis before we open up for questions.
We'll start with Eddie Olczyk.
ED OLCZYK: Well, tomorrow night in Carolina, certainly is going to be exciting for the raising of the Stanley Cup banner in Carolina. I think first and foremost, that is the focal point of tomorrow night's game, and going back to last year against the Buffalo Sabres and the great series they had.
I think from that aspect of it, the excitement level to kick off the season is something real special. You look at the changes that have gone on because of the new NHL with contractual situations, players moving in and out, and both of these teams made a lot of changes from last year.
Whether it was the run to players from -- well, Mark Recchi and Doug Weight moving on or having to make moves, going to arbitration with Dumont, and walking away, losing McKee, Grier.
Both of these teams have made changes. You'll still see the foundation of both these teams tomorrow, and to see if Carolina can continue on and regain -- continue to start the season where they left off.
It's going to be a great night. We're looking forward to being a part of it. But I think the key factor is to be a part of the raising of the banner and enjoying that moment, because it was a great Eastern Conference final and also Stanley Cup final.
JAMEY HORAN: Thanks, Eddie.
Harry, how about your first game on CBC?
HARRY NEALE: We're doing the Toronto at Ottawa game. It will be the second game of the season for both those teams, as they play tomorrow night in Toronto.
Last year Ottawa dominated the eight-game series between the two teams. They played three times during the pre-season. Ottawa won two of them. Ottawa trying to get along without Chara and Havlat, although Havlat didn't play a lot last year. But they looked pretty strong to me in the three pre-season games I did. They've got good balance. They're going to score some goals. I think their defense is going to be fine.
I guess the question mark is -- although I don't know how big a question mark Gerber is after the season he had last year at Carolina.
For the Leafs, they have some injuries to start with. They didn't win any of their last three pre-season games. The last two against Detroit they played pretty close to the lineup they're going to use tomorrow night and Thursday in Ottawa.
It's always an interesting game when Toronto plays Ottawa because they played each other three times in the playoffs. Ottawa dominates the league games, Toronto wins the playoffs series. That's the way it's gone anyways.
I'm looking forward to a high-tempo game with some physical play. I know in Ottawa there's a reasonable number of Leaf fans that make it a noisy rink and always adds to the atmosphere.
JAMEY HORAN: Thanks, Harry.
Pierre, TSN's coverage?
PIERRE McGUIRE: TSN will open up tomorrow night with Ottawa at Toronto. Gordon Miller and I will be working that game. Our late game will be Dallas at Colorado. That's a rematch of last year's first round playoff series where Colorado won 4-1, mostly because of Jose Theodore standing on his head.
Colorado is a team that's in flux. In consecutive years now they've lost Peter Forsberg, Adam Foote, and Rob Blake. They need some of their younger players to step up like Wojtek Wolski, who last year in the Ontario Hockey League had 46 goals in 52 games. They also are going to need Marek Svatos, who had a phenomenal year before being injured: 32 goals in 61 games to really step up.
But the biggest question mark for the Colorado Avalanche, are they going to be able to get enough offense from players like Joe Sakic, and is Milan Hejduk going to be able to return to form? And can Joel Quenneville squeeze a lot out of a defense that has lost Rob Blake and Adam Foote in consecutive years.
As far as the Dallas Stars go, they quietly have two of the most under-appreciated players in the league in Sergei Zubov, Jere Lehtenin. And everybody knows how great offensively Mike Modano is. Again, a resurgent Mike Modano is critically important for Dallas.
The big thing that Doug Armstrong did is he brought a little bit of size in in the off-season with Eric Lindros. If he can stay healthy and pain-free, as Harry can attest to last year in Toronto, when he was pain-free and healthy, he was a very effective scorer.
They need Lindros to step up. They've just acquired Mike Ribeiro from Montréal. I believe that Ribeiro will be better in Dallas, especially surrounded by bigger physical players like Brenden Morrow and Eric Lindros than he was in Montréal. So this is going to be a tremendous showdown.
Harry, you'll appreciate this being a former coach of the Whalers, as I was, a showdown between former Whalers. You've got on the Colorado bench Joel Quenneville and Dave Tippett, former players in Hartford. It will be great.
JAMEY HORAN: Thanks a lot, Pierre.
Judd Sirott, HD Net. Do you want to talk about your first match-up?
JUDD SIROTT: We're going to be in Pittsburgh for an interstate rivalry. It's going to be the Flyers and the Penguins. Should be a great match-up. Peter Forsberg is back and healthy, and he makes all the difference when he's in the line for that team.
Philadelphia will sport a good top six in their forwards. On the back end, Derien Hatcher, Ken Hitchcock says, is back on his game. He's lost some weight and is looking for a resurgent season.
Antero Nittymaki is going to be out of the lineup, but they think a healthy Robert Esche can reestablish himself as the No. 1 goalie for Pittsburgh. Pardon me, for Philadelphia.
In Pittsburgh, Sidney Crosby is in even better shape than he was last year. He is determined not to let the sophomore slump affect him whatsoever. The one downside is that we were hoping to see Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in the lineup. But with Malkin out of the lineup due to the bad shoulder, they're not expecting to see him here for a couple more weeks, although they haven't put a time table on it. He is skating with the team, but not going through any contact.
Still, there's another outstanding center on the roster in Jordan Staal. This team will have a good set of forwards on defense. They feel like they've added a little bit more with Mark Eaton. I don't know if it's enough.
In goal, that will be the big question mark: Will Marc-Andre Fleury be the No. 1 guy. There's been all sorts of talk. He has not had a very good pre-season. It could be Jocelyn Thibault who starts on opening night.
JAMEY HORAN: Last and certainly not least, Dave Reid, NHL Network in Canada. You guys have the Islanders at Anaheim. Talk about that match-up.
DAVE REID: The NHL Network is broadcasting a minimum of 34 games this year. First time we've done that. This is going to be our first game, Anaheim at 10:00 start. Of course, everybody is anxious to see if Niedermayer or Chris Pronger are going to get off the ice for Anaheim. They're going to have fantastic defense goaltending, solid.
The time of the year, Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf have to set up as young players after an up-and-down first season, and of course see if Teemu Selanne and Andy McDonald can bring back the magic from last year. So Anaheim, high expectations, and we're quite happy to start with them on the network.
New York Islanders, this is an out-of-conference game, so it's not going to be the huge rivalry that you're going to see with the interdivisional games. But the Islanders have got lots to prove. Rick DiPietro has lots to prove with his new contract, as well as Ted Nolan back in the NHL to see if he can get the likes of Alexei Yashin to pull his weight. Guys like Viktor Kozlov come along also to see how Brendan Witt is going to fit in, and Tom Poti on defense to see if they can shore up the defense.
We're quite excited to be able to show 34 games. We're very excited to start with the Islanders and Anaheim.
JAMEY HORAN: Great. Thanks a lot, gentlemen. Those are great reviews.
We'll open it up for questions now.

Q. Pierre and Ed, could you take a look at the Central Division race this year, specifically if you think there's any chance that Nashville might topple Detroit in the race for first place there.
ED OLCZYK: I believe that this division this year, the central, has the opportunity to be determined from first to fifth probably in maybe a 12-point range. I think this division is going to be very, very close. I don't think there's going to be a runaway in this division.
I think that St. Louis, Chicago, and Columbus have all improved. I think Nashville has improved. The biggest fly in the ointment for me in Detroit is Dominik Hasek going back to Detroit. In my opinion, they've danced that song before. I don't know if that magic is going to be rekindled, and if Dominik Hasek can stay healthy for a long period of time.
There's no reason why the Nashville Predators can't overtake the Detroit Red Wings, but I really feel this division is going to be very close from start to finish.
PIERRE McGUIRE: I think this is probably the most improved division. That being said, I do think Nashville can catch Detroit. The major reason why, is Tomas Volkoun's health. If is as healthy as reports are, then he is going to be tremendous. I think he'll out goaltend Dominik Hasek or Chris Osgood or even Jimmy Howard, who is the third goaltender for Detroit who is playing in Grand Rapids in the American League right now.
But it's all about the defense for Nashville. A young player like Shea Weber made a huge impact. Getting Danny Hamhuis signed to a long-term deal is gigantic.
Kimmo Timonen and Marek Zidlicky are two of the better puck-moving defensemen in the league. They're not going to spend a lot of time in their own zone. They're developing young players like Kevin Klein and Ryan Suter. It's a tremendous story down there.
The addition of Jason Arnott should help their 10th rated power-play. It's got to be in the top five if they're going to be ahead of Detroit, because Detroit has the top power-play in the league and probably will be back there again.
So it's critical for their power-play to improve from 10 into the top five. Their penalty killing can't slip out of the top five. If they're able to do those two things and keep their key players healthy, like a lot of teams, I think they'll pass Detroit.
But Chicago has improved. Columbus is going to be a lot better, especially if Nash stays well. And Zherdev is as competitive as he was a year ago. The addition of Carter is huge. That is a very, very dangerous division.

Q. John, on the increased times. The commercial time-outs are going to be two minutes now?
JOHN SHANNON: Yeah. What we've tried to do -- and this probably affects the network people probably less than the regional people, because most of the network contracts have always called for that kind of time.
But what we're trying to do is with the hurry up game, games that are running 2 hours 10, 2 hours and 11 minutes, we have to start developing the opportunity to grow the profiles of the players.
What we've been able to put in place with the great cooperation of Hockey Operations, and as a request from our rights holders across the board, is two minutes of commercials, but only 90 seconds of actual commercial time which will allow for nine opportunities per game to tell stories.
And then in the intermissions, we've done across the board for the 1284 games, 17-minute intermissions, which again will allow the broadcasters at both the national and regional level to be able to produce features and better content to profile the players.

Q. The commercial intermissions were 15 minutes in the past?
JOHN SHANNON: It depended. Again, on the regional basis, whether it's Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, Ottawa, or Montréal, on a regional basis they were 15 minutes. On a Saturday night with CBC or TSN, they were 17.
So what we've done is we've tried to make it a level playing field for everybody so that -- we have to realize that over a thousand of our games, with all due respect to the networks, a thousand of our games and our entry point to the games for many viewers is through our local shows. We have to start giving our local shows an opportunity to grow the players and tell better stories.

Q. So the national broadcasters had a 17-minute intermission?
JOHN SHANNON: For the most part, yeah. They did even way back when the dinosaurs ruled the world and I was running Hockey Night.

Q. The 40-second delay after a goal is scored, what has the situation been?
JOHN SHANNON: It's funny. We actually did it as a trial run last year during the playoffs with the 40 seconds. Got little or no criticism or feedback from the teams or the people in the arena. Again, part of our process was to put it in place.
The whole concept, you want to be able to explain why. Allowing people like Eddie and Harry and Pierre and Dave to explain why a goal was scored after the goal went in the net, it really makes some sense without having to worry whether we're in too much of a hurry up situation to drop the puck.
This was a great compromise. Broadcasters have the right to drop the puck before 40 if they've done their replays. We created a maximum of 40 seconds again to allow the broadcasters to explain why and who scored the goal.

Q. I thought somebody earlier today said it was a minimum of 40 seconds.
JOHN SHANNON: Trust me, the negotiations were hard and heavy. The word is "maximum."

Q. Last year, approximately how many seconds was there between the goal being scored and the puck dropping?
JOHN SHANNON: You mean during the regular season?

Q. Yes.
JOHN SHANNON: It was probably between 33 and 38. We're not hedging too much. Again, if it allows us to get a third replay, a better close-up in, allows the viewers to understand the game a bit better, it's well worth it.

Q. Pierre, could you address the off-season moves made by the Blues, Martin Rucinsky, Bill Guerin, Manny Legace, and what's a realistic improvement for them this upcoming season?
PIERRE McGUIRE: They've improved tremendously. I'm not sure that's going to be good enough. They're a team that is going to have to hope that Keith Tkachuk can maintain that healthy attitude that he's had all camp long. I know John Davidson has been raving about his condition and also his commitment level.
You know, Legace is going to have to be as good or better than he was at different times in Detroit. But the problem is it's a different team. I love the addition of Jay McKee, but I'm a little concerned going into the season with his injury. But I think by and large, John has done a real nice job there, along with Larry, in adding people that will make their franchise better going forward.
What people don't really talk about are some of the young players, like Stempniak, who is going be to have a real good year again. I like the fact they have a kid, TJ Oshie who is coming along who is a tremendous player drafted by Teddy Hamson.
So St. Louis is still one of those teams searching for an identity. It's going to be a while before they bail themselves out, but they'll be far more competitive than they were a year ago.

Q. I talked to Dallas Drake yesterday. He said the fact that they brought players in who have been around the block, like Rucinsky and a Guerin, that maybe they'll be able to compete sooner.
PIERRE McGUIRE: Well, I would agree with Dallas on that. Martin was tremendous last year in New York, Martin Rucinsky. He was tremendous.
Obviously Doug Weight and Keith Tkachuk go a long way back. Drake would be familiar with Dougie, as well. Eddie was talking about him leaving Carolina. He's right about that. I mean, there's some voids in Carolina because of the departure of guys like Waite and Recchi, and maybe Doug can bring some of that Stanley Cup experience over there.
But it's going to come down to how healthy can they stay on defense. It's a huge issue with that team. Because, you know, some of their better guys, like Brewer and McKee have been hurt before. So they've got to stay healthy back there, and Legace is going to have to be, as I said, as good or better than he was in Detroit.
JAMEY HORAN: I want to thank everyone for participating.

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