Bulls of the Week
Whenever the CFL kicks into Grey Cup tournament mode, it’s a bullish time for three-down football — and the CFL on TSN.
That will be particularly true of the West Division semifinal Sunday between the Saskatchewan Roughriders and the visiting Winnipeg Blue Bombers. The Riders are the most popular brand in the CFL. They are kings in Saskatchewan and have the largest national following of any team in the league.
Given the strong “Banjo Bowl” rivalry that exists between Saskatchewan and Winnipeg — and the fact the two teams were the CFL’s best in the second half of the regular season — it should be a television magnet, especially in Western Canada.
Expect the West semifinal to get north of the one million mark in average national audience, particularly if it’s a typically crazy CFL finish.
The East Division semifinal (Sunday at 10 a.m. on TSN, TSN 1040 AM) will be softer in terms of TV ratings but should benefit from the storylines around outgoing B.C. Lions’ head coach Wally Buono, arguably the best bench boss in CFL history after strong stints in both Calgary and Vancouver.
He has seven Grey Cups to his name and needs to get past the Hamilton Tiger-Cats for a shot at No. 8 later in the month.
Meanwhile, it’s been a bull market for Canadian teams as the NHL approaches the quarter-season pole. Toronto and Winnipeg have been as advertised and will almost certainly finish as Canada’s two best teams for the second consecutive year.
Yet the biggest surprises have been in Montreal and Vancouver, where the Canucks are an unexpected 10-6-1 heading into the weekend. Who would have projected the Canucks to be at the top of the Pacific Division — and the league’s highest-scoring team — five weeks into the regular season?
They’re where they are because of the biggest bull in the business of sport in Canada this week: Elias Pettersson. The Canucks’ rookie centre has transcended the buzz of his own fan base in B.C. He has become a league property on the strength of 10 goals and seven assists in his first 11 games.
Good new young talent — particularly of the entertaining variety — drive bull markets for media and fan interest and that’s what Pettersson is doing in spades. He turns 20 on Monday.
Bears of the Week
The Achilles heel for the CFL continues to be its underperformance in Canada’s three largest media markets.
It’s a bearish proposition for the nine-team league to be shut out of Toronto and Montreal — the two biggest Canadian TV markets — with both the Argonauts and Alouettes not only failing to make the playoffs, but failing in spectacular fashion with respective records of 4-14 and 5-13.
The B.C. Lions have the chance to leverage what would be a storybook run to the Grey Cup, but to do so they’d have to win back-to-back road games. At 9-9 overall, the Leos won only two of nine regular-season games away from B.C. Place Stadium, so that trend needs a major reversal Sunday.
The major urban markets are what keep commissioner Randy Ambrosie awake at night. That’s why he’s championing a CFL 2.0 based on an international marketing strategy and personally involved in taking the Atlantic franchise bid for Halifax over the goal-line.
A 10th franchise would bring symmetry to the CFL schedule, something badly needed in eastern markets.
The Sport Market on TSN 1040 AM rates and debates the bulls and bears of sport business. Join Tom Mayenknecht Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. for a behind-the-scenes look at the sport business stories that matter most to fans.
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