TSN Hockey (formerly the NHL on TSN and The NHL Tonight on TSN) is the blanket title used by TSN's broadcasts of the National Hockey League.
After holding the Canadian national cable rights to the NHL from 1985 to 1998 and again from 2002 to 2014, it was announced in November 2013 that TSN and Bell Media had lost these rights to Rogers Communications and Sportsnet as part of an exclusive, 12-year media rights deal that took effect in the 2014-15 NHL season. In August 2014, following its loss of national NHL rights, TSN split its singular national feed into four regional channels (itself an imitation of the structure of Sportsnet), allowing the network to air its regional NHL games on the main TSN feeds, still subject to blackout, rather than on part-time channels. With these changes, TSN will only broadcast regional NHL games for the foreseeable future; however, its regional coverage expanded in the 2014 season—while losing the Montreal Canadiens to Sportsnet, TSN added regional coverage of the Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs, alongside its existing rights to Winnipeg Jets games.
The TSN Hockey name is used primarily as a blanket title for TSN's regional NHL coverage, and national segments featuring its analysts, and not used as the on-air title of the broadcasts themselves, which are branded as Leafs on TSN, Sens on TSN, Jets on TSN, and Habs on TSN respectively.
TSN owned the national cable rights to the NHL in Canada from 1987–88 through 1997–98, after which CTV Sportsnet purchased the national cable rights to NHL games. Prior to this, TSN's NHL coverage was sparse as they only acquired games a la carte. From 1987–88 to 1997–98, they usually showed games twice per week through the regular season and in the first round of the playoffs they provided extensive coverage of series not involving Canadian-based teams. TSN was the first ever holder of cable rights to the NHL in Canada, although the task of acquiring these rights were complicated by contradicting statements by CBC that it did own the cable rights to the NHL, along with the involvement of competing beer company Molson in Canadian NHL rights at the time (TSN was founded by its competitor, Labatt). With the help of a Molson employee who was a friend of TSN's founder Gordon Craig, a deal was reached between TSN, Molson, and the NHL.
TSN's most recent period as national rights-holder lasted from 2002, through 2014. During this period, TSN usually televised 3 or 4 games per week during the regular season, with its flagship broadcast, Wednesday Night Hockey, airing on Wednesdays. During the playoffs, TSN had third, fifth, seventh, and eighth choices of first-round series, second and fourth in the second round, and second in the Conference Finals, with CBC had first, second, fourth, and sixth choices of first-round series, first and third in the 2nd round, and first in the Conference Finals. These changes allowed TSN to broadcast playoff games involving Canadian teams in the playoffs, such as at the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs, as TSN televised the Calgary Flames' first-round series against Chicago Blackhawks; which they lost in 6 games, the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs when Montreal Canadiens defeated Washington Capitals in 7 games, and the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs when Vancouver Canucks lost in 4 straight games to San Jose Sharks.
In January 2015, after it was announced that the NHL-organized World Cup of Hockey would be revived in 2016, Bell Media attempted to make a bid of nearly $32 million for its Canadian broadcast rights during a blind auction. However, broadcast rights to the tournament were instead awarded to Rogers; although Bell Media representatives refused to elaborate, the company believed that Rogers' national rights to the NHL had contained provisions allowing the company to match outside offers for such events.
The 1986 Canadian coverage of the NHL All-Star Game was to be provided by CTV. However, CTV had a prior commitment to carry a U.S. miniseries. As a result, TSN took over coverage of the game in Hartford.
Toronto Maple Leafs
TSN began airing Toronto Maple Leafs games regionally, presented by Molson as Molson Canadian Leafs Hockey, in the 1998–99 season, when they first lost the national contract. The package was originally for 30 games, but reduced to 17 once TSN re-acquired the national rights in 2002. Ten of those games were ones that TSN acquired from the NHL to air nationally. The other 7, TSN acquired from the Maple Leafs as regional games. However, TSN eventually came to an agreement with the other 5 Canadian clubs to air these games nationally. Originally, Joe Bowen and Harry Neale called the regional Leafs telecasts in the booth, with Glenn Healy serving as "Inside the Glass" reporter. The deal expired at the conclusion of the 2006–07 season and from the 2007–08 season through 2013–14, every Maple Leafs game on TSN was broadcast as a national NHL on TSN game.
Beginning in the 2014–15 season, owing to Bell Canada's ownership stake in the Leafs' owner, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment and the loss of TSN's national cable rights, TSN began to air 26 regional games per season, split with Sportsnet Ontario, and aired by TSN4.
On January 29, 2014, Ottawa Senators announced a new, 12 year regional broadcasting deal with Bell Media that took effect in the 2014–15 season; TSN5 began to air regional Ottawa Senators games beginning in the 2014–15 season. The deal also included an extension of Bell's radio rights with CFGO, and French-language regional television rights for Réseau des sports.
Montreal Canadiens on TSN
TSN has occasionally held regional, English-language rights to the Canadiens. Its most recent deal ran from 2010–2014. They were broadcast on a part-time TSN feed available to digital television services in the Canadiens home market, with Dave Randorf on play-by-play, alongside Dave Reid as color commentator. Bell Media declined to renew its English-language rights through the 2013-14 season, although TSN Radio station CKGM still owns English radio rights, and Réseau des sports replaced its national French-language rights with regional rights for the 2014–15 season. English-language television rights to the Canadiens were acquired by Sportsnet East under a 3 year contract.
Prior to the 2017–18 season, TSN announced that they have reacquired the English-language rights to broadcast Canadiens games from Sportsnet.
Winnipeg Jets on TSN
Upon their return to the city, TSN began broadcasting regional Winnipeg Jets games beginning in 2011, under a 10-year media rights deal with Bell Media that also included radio rights for co-owned CFRW. Winnipeg Jets games not televised nationally by the NHL's national broadcast partners are broadcast by TSN3, and are available in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Nunavut, the Northwest Territories, and parts of Northwestern Ontario.
Regional Jets games were previously carried by TSN Jets, a part-time multiplex channel of TSN exclusive to the Jets' market. The TSN Jets channel was a subscription-based premium service, costing $9.95 CDN per-month during the NHL season, but was available on a free preview basis for the start of the inaugural season. Despite the fee, representatives from both MTS and Shaw Cable stated that "thousands" of their customers had subscribed to the Jets channel. On August 18, 2014, TSN officially confirmed that the TSN Jets feed would be discontinued, and that regional Jets games would be moved to the new TSN3 channel for the 2014-15 season
James Duthie serves as the lead studio host with analysts including Bob McKenzie, Darren Dreger, Pierre LeBrun, and Jamie McLennan. Tessa Bonhomme is a secondary studio host, primarily working Canadiens games. Craig Button, Dave Poulin, Mike Johnson, Glenn Schiiler, and Aaron Ward also contribute periodically in the studio. Mark Masters (Maple Leafs), Sara Orlesky (Jets) and John Lu (Canadiens) serve as in-arena hosts. If Pierre McGuire or Ray Ferraro are not doing colour commentary they may appear as well.
When TSN re-acquired the Canadian national cable rights to NHL hockey in 2002, Pierre McGuire was hired as its lead color commentator.
Gord Miller, Chris Cuthbert, and Dave Randorf do play-by-play for the live games, while Pierre McGuire, Ray Ferraro, and Dave Reid serve as colour commentators. On Winnipeg Jets broadcasts Dennis Beyak does play-by-play and Kevin Sawyer provide colour commentary. For Montreal Canadiens regional games, Bryan Mudryk work play-by-play duties while colour commentary is rotated between Craig Button, Mike Johnson, and Dave Poulin.
Darren Dutchyshen or Jennifer Hedger provide updates of other games in progress.
The studio hosts were Jim Van Horne (1987–1990) and later John Wells (1989–1998), with Bob McKenzie providing studio analysis. Lead play-by-play announcer was Jim Hughson (1987–1998). Color commentators were Roger Neilson (1987–1989) and Gary Green (1987–1998). Howie Meeker was also often part of the game-night crew, providing highlights and analysis with the telestrator.
When TSN re-acquired the Canadian national cable rights to NHL hockey in 2002, Pierre McGuire was hired as its lead color commentator. Other broadcasters used by TSN include play-by-play announcer Dennis Beyak (2011–present) and Vic Rauter (2002-–2003) and color commentators Ryan Walter (1993–1998) and Glenn Healy (2003–2008).
Staff changes after losing national rights to Rogers
After the NHL announced that it had accepted Rogers' bid over TSN's to take over national cable rights, news sources such as the Toronto Star and the National Post speculated on where TSN's hockey personalities (such as James Duthie, Bob McKenzie, Darren Dreger, Chris Cuthbert, and Gord Miller) would end up. Rogers eventually was only able to lure Dave Randorf and Mike Johnson among TSN's major personalities. Despite getting offers from Rogers, Duthie instead signed a long term contract with TSN. In addition, not only did Bob McKenzie, Darren Dreger, Gord Miller, and Chris Cuthbert also decide to stay with TSN, but all 4 started to appear on a regular basis south of the border on NBC's hockey coverage (Bob McKenzie, Darren Dreger, and Chris Cuthbert officially joined NBC, while Gord Miller, who did occasional play-by-play work for NBC since 2011, saw an increased role). Cuthbert and Miller still end up being broadcast to a national audience whenever Rogers simulcasts NBC's feed of regular season and first round playoff games that they are working.
In June of 2008, TSN's parent, CTV Inc. acquired the rights to "The Hockey Theme" after the CBC failed to renew its rights to the theme song. A re-orchestrated version of the tune (which has been the theme song of "Hockey Night in Canada" for 40 years) will be used for hockey broadcasts on TSN and RDS beginning in the fall of 2008.
TSN announced on the September 24, 2008 edition of "SportsCenter" the debut date for the song. It began on October 14, 2008 when the Colorado Avalanche visited the Calgary Flames.