Sports This Week - Rugby worthy of more Canadian exposure

Over the weeks of this column I have on occasion lamented that the two major cable sports networks in this country do a rather shoddy job of covering anything involving Canadian pro teams unless they are involved in one of the big four sports.

Then along comes TSN which has picked up Toronto Arrow games for the 2020 Major League Rugby season.

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When I read that I was thrilled, and the season opener went off without a hitch.

Then, week two, the Arrows are playing Houston in Las Vegas Sunday afternoon. I roll out of bed 10-minutes ahead of the 1:30 local time start, and find that while TSN has four channels on my cable package, the Arrows are not scheduled.

Two TSN channels are showing the same curling game, two others are offering the same coverage of Daytona, and one has a game on the all-American start-up football league – the XFL – scheduled.

It turns out the Arrows were relegated to TSN Go.

Now I appreciate access wherever I can find it when it comes to rugby, although launching an app and finding my way to the game was in no way as convenient as turning on my TV.

But, the real question is why TSN wouldn’t promote a Canadian team in a growing new league on broadcast TV over the line-up they did offer Sunday afternoon, which is often the case in being repetitive from channel to channel?

Of course TSN Go is at least free if you have TSN as part of your cable, which is a step up on SportsNet’s offering of the Toronto Wolfpack now in SuperLeague. The Wolfpack games they are carrying are for the most-part relegated to SportsNet World which means adding $20/month to the cable bill. I’m not averse to the $20, but again growing the sport, a team is expected in the lower league in Ottawa in 2021, would be better served with wider availability of coverage of a Canadian team.

On a more positive note, the Toronto Raptors, a team with every game on broadcast in Canada, headed into the NBA all-star break on a high. They had won 15 in-a-row up until the Brooklyn Net edged them by 10-points just as the break kicked in.

Depending on what leagues you chose to consider, the 15 wins was a record for a Canadian pro franchise – the Wolfpack won 23 in a row in 2019, but not in the top SuperLeague.

It did surprise me that 15 was the record, given the dominance of the Wayne Gretzky era Edmonton Oilers, and the Montreal Canadiens who ran through teams in the 1970s.  

That the Raptors did it in a season after Kawhi Leonard has left is also surprising.

This is a team sans a top level superstar. Pascal Siakim is close and Kyle Lowry too, but I can’t call either NBA elite. Given basketball more than other sports, tends to be dominated by elite players, the Raptors are doing great things with hard work on defence, and a surprisingly deep, and effective bench. This is a hardworking crew that is easy to cheer for.

As a final note pitchers and catchers have reported to camp in baseball. With the Toronto Blue Jays still having a questionable starting staff past off season addition Hyun-Jin Ryu, and the swirl of controversy over Houston cheating by stealing signs, it’s hard to get excited in a normal way about the return of baseball.

The Jays are in that maybe .500 if the cards fall right area, which isn’t exactly contending territory, and the rest of the game will be under the cloud of ‘are they cheating’, which could make for a summer of more field lacrosse and ultimate over the MLB.

© Copyright Yorkton This Week

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