The Sports Cave

The Toronto Raptors: Who’s team is it?

If the Toronto Blue Jays proved anything, it’s that they’re 2015 postseason run captivated an entire nation. With the Raptors in the NBA’s 2016 playoff’s, it’s their turn to shine. But there’s a massive debate raging about who fans think they’re playing for. Is it Canada or Toronto? Our own Lance Phillips takes to the streets of Toronto to find out.

Canada’s lost its love for the NHL playoffs

Lance Phillips – The Sports Cave
It was ground-breaking, innovative, a massive shift in sports broadcasting power and it was developed to benefit Canadians. On November 26, 2013 Rogers and the National Hockey League jointly announced a 12-year, $5.232 billion media rights deal. The largest in NHL history and the largest sports-media rights deal in Canadian history. It was the perfect plot to satisfy the most passionate hockey fans in the world. But are Canadians actually passionate about the game?

Two seasons into the pact and Rogers is quickly realizing it isn’t anywhere close to the viewership numbers originally forecasted. It equals a 16% viewership drop from last season and that’s not a good thing. Many different theories have come forward, drawing conclusions about the ratings drop of Canada’s game and some, like the list provided below, justify further discussion.

 

No Canadian content = No viewers

rogers-ceo-nadir-mohamed-left-shares-a-joke-with-nhl-commi

Short-lived smiles: Former Rogers CEO Nadir Mohamed, left, and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman during a 2013 news conference when they announced a record $5.2 billion, 12-year deal to broadcast National Hockey League games.

This could very well be the number one ratings-drop culprit, and it’s a troubling development. It’s a well-known fact Canadians love hockey, but it appears they love the teams they cheer for more than the game itself. For the first time in 46 years, not one Canadian team made the NHL playoffs and fans north of the border have tuned out because their favourite team isn’t hosting games. If anything, it’s proven Canada’s affection for the game isn’t as strong as everyone believes.

 

Competition doesn’t breed success

Unlike hockey, Canada only has one team in both Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association and they’re competing with the NHL for viewers across the country. The Blue Jays improbable run to the ALCS still has fans captivated from coast to coast while the Raptors just capped off a franchise best, 56-win season. Despite their last two postseason failures, the Raps are favourites to contend for the Eastern Conference crown and have fans clinging to their televisions in hopes of seeing the team’s first playoff series win since 2001. Further proof Canadians prefer to follow and cheer for Canadian teams, especially when they win.

 

Personality conflict

As part of the landmark deal, Hockey Night in Canada continued its 61-year run on CBC. However, CBC no longer controls on-air talent associated with the HNIC brand. What that meant was Ron MacLean’s tenure as anchor—which began in 1986—came to an end. His replacement was George Stroumboulopoulos, an award-winning Canadian talk show host employed to target a younger demographic. But that wasn’t the only change. Rogers recycled some of CBC’s talent, also adding a plethora of new faces totaling 39 hosts, play-by-play announcers, reporters and analysts. But Canadians are a traditional bunch and having that many faces not only causes confusion, it also creates hostility with viewers who were more than satisfied with the familiar talent CBC was supplying. A perfect segue into the next element.

 

It was Mr. Stroumboulopoulos, on the desk, with the microphone

Clue was a board game involving precision in making the right moves to win. Most people guess instead of making the right moves, and to many it seems Rogers took that approach when dictating roles for its on-air talent. Stroumboulopoulos has struggled to resonate with hockey fans and to many he’s come off as someone who knows little about the sport, an area of MacLean’s expertise nobody questions. Rogers would have been better suited to keep the long-standing MacLean as anchor and move Stroumboulopoulos to a role where he’s unrivaled, interviewing. He’s a natural at unlocking excellent quotes and unlike MacLean, brings ease to the people sitting across from him.

Earlier this month Rogers Sportsnet senior vice-president in charge of NHL production, Gord Cutler, was relieved of his duties. A victim of steadily decreasing viewership numbers and he won’t be the only one. Once playoff hockey is finished, Rogers will have to take a good, hard look at its entire NHL operation, surely showing others the door. It’s either that or figure out how to re-ignite Canada’s romance with the game.

The Toronto Argonauts give hometown kid, Kevin Bradfield a second chance in the CFL

Lance Phillips – The Sports Cave

In the seventh round of the 2015 CFL draft the Toronto Argonauts made Kevin Bradfield’s football dreams come true when they selected him 55th overall. But as quickly as the University of Toronto football product’s name was called came the sobering reminder of just how difficult it is to play professional sports.

In 2014, Bradfield was a CIS first-team All-Canadian and OUA all-star. He concluded his university career as the Varsity Blues’ all-time leader in punt returns (120) and punt return yards (1,287). Unfortunately his success at U of T didn’t translate to the CFL game when he found his name on the list of final cuts at the team’s 2015 training camp. Fortunately for Bradfield, his time without a team didn’t last long as the boatmen re-signed the 23-year old in July after Andre Durie suffered a season-ending knee injury. This off-season he’s worked hard to be in top form and intends to stick with the club. “I think I’m in the best shape that I’ve been in, ever. I’m training every day, obviously lifting every day and otherwise just on the field as much as possible,” says Bradfield.

Bradfield

Kevin Bradfield gets a second chance to make his mark on the CFL

Coming into training camp a year ago Bradfield wasn’t sure what to expect, but sure found out quickly, as most rookies do. “If I’m honest, in CIS ball I didn’t feel there was anyone that could really cover me at receiver, but these American guys…the first day I came into camp I got kind of locked up and I thought, ‘Oh wow, you guys are kind of sticky. This is a little different.’ ” Even though he didn’t make the team out of last year’s camp, what he took away from the experience will help him going forward. “The speed of the game’s a little faster and everyone’s a little bigger so it just made me develop in super speed, which was great. In camp I felt like every day I was getting light years better because I was around all these guys who were ex-NFL guys and such high quality players,” he said.

Most football players dream of eventually making it to the NFL, but for Bradfield, there’s one aspect he loves about the Canadian game. “The fact that it’s three downs makes passing happen a lot of the time. So it’s nice that you pretty much have to pass most of the time to get yards. If you have a good running game it’s amazing, but it’s more of an air show to me.” Being a part of that air show isn’t new for Bradfield, but after returning to the Argonauts in July he was used primarily on the defensive side of special teams, a new position he enjoyed immensely saying, “I just returned at U of T. I was strictly a kick returner, punt returner and receiver so I never got the chance to play all these other special teams positions. So this year was pretty much my first time playing without the ball in my hands on special teams and I had a lot of fun and I really enjoyed it.”

One of the things he enjoyed the most about his small sample size on the field was an opportunity that most athletes never get. “I’ve watched these guys since I was a kid and to be able to play in the Rogers Centre this year is still beyond me, it still feels like a dream. I was born in Toronto, I got to go to school here and then to be able to stay here and play professional sports for my city is just amazing.”

Of course, to be able to say those words again means he needs to make the 2016 roster. Not an easy task considering the team has extensive depth at wide receiver and special teams positions. There’s no doubt Bradfield has the talent to compete. Along with that, he carries an intangible you can’t attach a stat to. His inspiration. “Absolutely my dad. He’s pushed me every day and has taught me pretty much everything I know from when I was young. That’s definitely my guy, my rock. Also my grandfather. I used to wear a towel in university that said “pops” on it and I always used to wear that towel. Now I’ll get fined if I wear it, but I might wear it one game.”

In June, Bradfield gets the opportunity to use those talents and inspirations as he tries to realize his new dream. “I want to get a starting spot this year at receiver. That’s my main goal coming in.”

Sometimes life can be about second chances. In Kevin Bradfield’s case, it’s less about getting that chance and more about what he does with it.

The Weekly Wrap: Mar 28 – Apr 3

The Weekly Wrap is back and we’re all-in with some wacky stories from the world of sports. We’re talking about the wild ride that is the LA Lakers, Guinness world records and more NHL suspension calamity.

We finish with a story touching everyone around the NBA. #sagerstrong

Thanks for watching!

Taking Flight: Toronto Blue Jays 2016 season preview

What a season the Blue Jays had in 2015. From being destined to finish with a .500 record to winning the American League East with an improbable run to the postseason. Now, expectations are high as the team soars into 2016 and the College of Sports Media provides you with the skinny on all things Jays. From starting pitching to Rogers Centre improvements, our 2016 Jays preview show provides you with the top stories and what to watch for in 2016.

Enjoy!

The Weekly Wrap – Feb 22-28

Another week in sports has passed us by, which means another weekly wrap is available for your eye sockets. This week we’ve got some Steph Curry magic, Jose Bautista demands and some NHL atrocities. Check it out!

The Weekly Wrap – Feb 16-21

Another week, another wrap here at The Sports Cave. This week we’re loaded up with NHL stories. We’ve even got a three-ring circus courtesy of the OHL, and Kimbo Slice the backyard brawler’s in the mix. Check it out!

The Weekly Wrap – Feb 7-15

Hey there Cave Dwellers. It’s our next instalment of the Weekly Wrap. This time around we’ve got our top 5 moments from NBA All-Star weekend, more shinanigans from Sheridan High School and a golfing robot. The wrap will hit your internets on Tuesdays moving forward.

Four easy steps to a Panthers Super Bowl loss

Lance Phillips – The Sports Cave

If you watched Sunday’s Super Bowl—heck even if you didn’t—the outcome probably shocked you considering the Carolina Panthers were clear favourites to win. The surprising thing is that it shouldn’t come as a shock given some of the factors at play in the 50th edition of the NFL’s championship game. Everyone knows the Denver defence crippled Carolina’s potent offence, but there are four key areas that deserve more attention. Mainly because they’re contradictory to everything the Panthers did before the league’s final game.

Run Cam run—or don’t.
Over the course of the season, Cam Newton carried the ball 132 times, averaging 8.2 carries per game. He’s an incredible talent when he runs with the pigskin, but in Super Bowl 50, Newton only used his feet six times. Yeah he gained 45 yards, but just think of what he could have done if he decided to run more. Especially considering Jonathan Steward tallied 29 total yards on the ground.

Cam can dance.
At a critical part of the game Cam Newton did dance, away from the ball. The Panthers QB fumbled with four minutes left, and with the ball on the ground, Newton jumped away instead of jumping in. It was almost as if he thought it wasn’t worth the effort to try and recover his own fumble. Denver ended up with the ball and scored on the following possession making the score 24-10.

Carolina really dropped the ball.
Carolina’s receiver corps had trouble handling passes all day. Of course a lot of Newton’s passes weren’t on the mark, (he was 18-41 for 265 yards) but if you can get a hand on it, you’ve got to catch it. Jerricho Cotchery dropped three critical passes while Ted Ginn Jr. had a pass go right through his hands that ended up an interception for Bronco’s safety T.J. Ward.

That hasn’t happened since Super Bowl 45.
The Panther’s Graham Gano shares a dubious distinction with Shaun Suisham: They’ve both missed field goals in the Super Bowl. Suisham did it in 2010 against the Packers, and on Sunday with the score 16-10, Gano pounded a 44-yard attempt off the upright early in the third quarter. It may not seem like a big deal, but this kick needed to go through. It would have given Carolina a much-needed boost of confidence straight out of half time. Instead, it was a clear turning point considering the Panthers didn’t score a point for the rest of the game.

The Weekly Wrap – Jan 25-31

It’s Monday, February 1 and that means another week in sports has passed us by. It also means The Sports Cave has you covered with the goods in sports over said week. We’ve got some NHL, NBA, NFL and BELL content this time.

Thanks for checking it out!

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