The Vancouver Canucks are back and all-sports talk radio is embracing their return.
Vancouver has two stations battling for the fans' ears -- TEAM 1040 and MOJO 730 -- and each has a different spin on what the lack of NHL action did for their product.
At the TEAM, which has been on the air since 2001, the lockout did no harm to its listening audience and bottom line, according to program director Rob Gray.
"We focused our style to personality-based and that, in combination with having the B.C. Lions' rights, enabled us to achieve our highest ratings ever, even without NHL hockey," said Gray. "The lockout itself was such a soap opera, too, with 'Are they coming back? Are they not coming back?' and people would tune in to get their dose of information."
The TEAM intends to continue its pre-lockout programming, which included a one-hour pre-game show for all Canuck contests, home and away, as well as a minimum one-hour post-game show.
It was a different story at MOJO, which opened for business a year and a half ago and badly missed the Canucks' presence. MOJO's sister station, CKNW, holds the Canucks' radio rights and there is a large crossover of information and announcers between the two.
Rick Dhaliwal, who formerly worked for the TEAM, is now sports director at NW/MOJO and he's convinced having the Canucks back will mean a big boost to MOJO, which trails the TEAM in ratings. MOJO also owns the radio rights to the major junior Vancouver Giants.
"We realize hockey is king in this market and we've done our research," said Dhaliwal. "We definitely will be talking a lot of hockey from here until the end of the Canucks season. We're billing ourselves as the hockey station and we have a lot of things planned for the upcoming season."
Although Dhaliwal was at TEAM until he switched stations July 1, his views of sports talk radio without the Canucks and the NHL differ quite dramatically from those of Gray. Dhaliwal thinks it was pretty much a disaster.
"Hockey affected everybody," he said. "There were some slow days without hockey in this market. We got through it, but I don't think we want to ever go through it again. All sports radio is about opinion and entertainment and when the Canucks are on a roll, or have lost three or four in a row, all-sports is there for the host to vent and for the listeners to vent. It's a great, great platform for people to talk."
The TEAM will continue its regular lineup of shows with Rick Ball and Barry Macdonald in the morning, Brook Ward at noon and Don Taylor and David Pratt on the drive-home show.
MOJO has John McKeachie in the morning, former Canucks owner Arthur Griffiths at 10 a.m., Blake Price with the Canuck Lunch at noon, Bob Marjanovich driving home and Dan Russell's Sportstalk at 9 p.m. Russell's show is simulcast on NW and MOJO.
The TEAM can boast of so-called "hockey insiders" Ray Ferraro, Pierre Maguire and Kelly Hrudey, plus various newspapermen, while MOJO counters with John Davidson and Bob Mackenzie and its own group of knowledgeable scribes.