Habs games to be pulled from airwaves

Montreal Canadiens

Montreal Canadiens

6/4/2004 10:26:12 AM

MONTREAL (CP) - Montreal Canadiens games will be eliminated from French-language network television in Quebec less than two years after winning a reprieve from a cable-only future.

La Soiree du hockey, the 52-year-old sister broadcast to Hockey Night in Canada, will be pulled from Radio-Canada's airwaves in Quebec for economic and strategic reasons, the CBC's French-language arm said in a statement.

Radio-Canada program director Mario Clement said the public broadcaster won't pick up its option on a three-year deal signed with Le Reseau des sports (RDS) cable network in 2002.

``We're disappointed that we couldn't renew the third year of the deal,'' Clement said in the statement on Wednesday, without explaining the reasons behind the decision.

``We're not thrilled that Radio-Canada is ending a close collaboration with the Canadiens that has lasted more than 50 years.''


La Soiree du hockey first appeared on Radio-Canada in 1952.

Future Canadiens games will be shown on the RDS in Quebec, while Radio-Canada will simulcast the RDS signal outside Quebec. RDS isn't available in every Canadian market.

Under terms of the deal, Radio-Canada has simulcast 20 to 25 regular-season games on Saturday nights over the past two seasons, plus Canadiens playoff games. 

Radio-Canada created an uproar among hockey fans in 2002 when it decided to kill La Soiree du hockey after it couldn't reach an agreement with the Canadiens over how the games would be broadcast.

The cancellation of La Soiree du hockey even created a political storm in which CBC brass had to explain their decision to the parliamentary committee on official languages in Ottawa.

Former heritage minister Sheila Copps threatened to take the matter to the federal broadcast regulator, saying Radio-Canada may have violated the provisions of its licence with the cancellation.

The Canadiens wanted a single broadcaster to show all next of its games instead of splitting the telecasts between three networks - Radio-Canada, RDS and private French-language network TQS - as has been done in the past. Radio-Canada said it couldn't devote that much of its schedule to hockey.

RDS picked up the rights to broadcast the Canadiens' 82 regular-season games, a minimum of 40 playoff games and the annual all-star game. Those rights were to extend to the 2006-2007 season.

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