TSN Jets Scores With NHL-Starved Winnipeg Fans

The NHL is back in Winnipeg.

Jets fans have waited 15 years for their team to return to Manitoba’s capital city, and, this season, they will be rewarded not only with a franchise but with TSN Jets, a regional sports network dedicated to delivering live coverage of more than 60 preseason and regular-season Jets contests.  Winnipeg is more than ready.

“There’s an incredible vibe in the city,” says Paul Graham, VP/executive producer, live events, for TSN. “You feel it in the airport, you feel it in the taxi driving downtown, you see it everywhere. They are pumped up and excited for their Jets.”

True North Sports & Entertainment (which purchased the Jets earlier this year), in conjunction with Bell Media, awarded the regional-television broadcast rights to TSN, Canada’s leading sports channel, for a 10-year term. TSN Jets will operate as a part-time television service, broadcasting to fans in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Nunavut, Northwest Territories, and Northwestern Ontario via Bell TV, Shaw, Shaw Direct, and MTS TV.

An AHL Arena With the NHL in Mind
On Sept. 20, the Jets christened the MTS Centre, their new home, with a 6-1 preseason victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets. However, before the Jets could take the ice, True North, the team, and the NHL had to ensure that the former home of the American Hockey League’s Manitoba Moose was NHL-ready.

For the most part, the 15,000-seat venue was prepared to house an NHL team. With camera positions added and large portions of the building rewired, the one-time AHL arena is now a permanent NHL arena.

“Even though [the MTS Centre] was an American Hockey League building, it was built with hope of the NHL returning one day,” explains Graham. “We were in there for our first preseason game and had no problems whatsoever. The arena is a first-rate television building.”

Jets Get TSN Treatment
TSN Jets will deploy a seven-camera complement to cover the action: game camera, tight follow camera, tight isolation camera, reverse isolation camera, handhelds at each end of the ice, and robotic camera positioned over the glass and behind the net at one end. Dome Productions will supply the mobile units for the broadcast.

The graphics package for TSN Jets broadcasts will be largely the same as that used on TSN’s national broadcasts, with a few differences in animation to reflect the TSN Jets brand.

“TSN has a tremendous sports brand here in Canada, a tremendous hockey brand,” says Graham. “One of the strong points for the Jets and True North in opting to go with TSN is, they can utilize our brand.  We are proud of it.”

NHL on TSN Delivers Canada’s Favorite Pastime
The Jets will play five nationally televised games on TSN, in addition to appearances on CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada, French-language RIS and RDS, and U.S.-based NHL Network and Versus (NBC Sports Network as of Jan. 2).

The NHL on TSN national package will roll out an eight-camera complement for telecasts, supplemented by netcams behind each goaltender. The network focuses on additional isolation cameras to help tell the story of the game.

“Our basic philosophy is, tell the story of the game as thoroughly as you can,” explains Graham. “With isolation replays, you can advance the story. We put extra cameras on individual players so we can see what they do — with or without the puck. Some of the best storytelling doesn’t always involve a goal.”

The network plans to incorporate the Libero graphics telestrator system into pregame and intermission coverage, equipping analysts with an advanced draw function to highlight and break down plays.

This season, TSN and TSN2 will combine to broadcast 151 games, an all-time high for TSN platforms.

Part-time Channel, Full-time Passion
TSN Jets operates as a part-time channel, opening channels specifically for Jets games to Bell TV, Shaw, Shaw Direct, and MTS TV customers. The network will air a 30-minute pregame show before each contest and follow with a postgame show leading into head coach Claude Noel’s press conference. Fans tuning into channels early will hear Sports Radio 1290, accompanied by a graphic promoting the upcoming game.

Winnipeg not only is finding the part-time channel but is tuning in at an overwhelming rate. Nearly half a million Jets fans watched their team defeat the Blue Jackets. Although that number would be impressive for any preseason contest, it is especially so considering that TSN Jets is currently available in approximately half a million homes.

The fervor for the Jets on TV is equaled only by the energy at MTS Centre. With a capacity of 15,000, tickets for regular-season games will be a hot commodity in Winnipeg.  And if the sellout crowd at the Jets’ first preseason game is any indication, the city is more than ready for its first NHL season in more than a decade.

“I can honestly say I’ve been to thousands of hockey games,” says Graham, “but I’ve never been to a preseason hockey game with a split squad that was sold out with at least 10 standing ovations during the course of the game. And it was in September. That gives you a good idea of the excitement level in Winnipeg.”

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