Broadcast sports: FSN North plans more coverage on 2008 Hockey Day

  • Article by: JUDD ZULGAD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 15, 2007 - 11:18 PM

Last season's ambitious coverage spanned 11 hours, but the success of the production prompted the network to up it to 16 hours.

Evidently the task of producing three games and 11 hours of coverage last winter as part of the inaugural "Hockey Day in Minnesota" wasn't enough for the folks at FSN North and the Wild. This season they have decided to up the ante to five games and 16 hours of wall-to-wall hockey.

In an announcement that will be made Wednesday during the Wild-Vancouver telecast on FSN North, the network and NHL club will unveil plans to air three high school hockey games, as well as the Wild and Gophers men's hockey contests on Feb. 9.

One difference in the second go-around: A much greater focus on Baudette Bay, which will go from being a bit player to a primary focus.

"The thought process going into this was that we were overwhelmed by the success we had last year, and the response that we received from viewers," said Mike Dimond, senior vice president and general manager of FSN North. "We couldn't have scripted it better with how successful the game on Baudette was and what we were able to get in showing what hockey means to local communities."

The first "Hockey Day in Minnesota" -- which landed FSN North two regional Emmy Awards -- was held last January and began with a game between St. Paul Johnson and Lake of the Woods on the Bay. In part because of perfect conditions, the game came off better than anyone could have expected.

"The day was very successful last year but what we looked at afterward was that the crowning jewel was really having that pond game," said Jeff Byle, executive producer at FSN North. "It really touched a lot of people being able to bring hockey back to its roots, so we decided we wanted to do more of that this year."

Added Wild vice president of communications and broadcasting Bill Robertson: "We thought we had such success last year we wanted to continue to grow the sport and talked about adding more elements."

Coverage this time will start at 9 a.m., with the first game featuring Eveleth and Lake of the Woods at 10 a.m. on Baudette Bay. Two new twists to the schedule will begin in the afternoon. St. Thomas Academy will play Hill-Murray at 1 p.m. at the Xcel Energy Center and shortly thereafter Blaine and Roseau will face off in Baudette. FSN plans to show St. Thomas and Hill-Murray, but also will have between periods cut-ins of Blaine-Roseau and then air the conclusion of that game.

This will be followed by the Wild and Islanders at 5 p.m. from Xcel Energy Center and the Gophers at Denver at 8 p.m. The entire Blaine-Roseau game will be replayed at 11 p.m.

When there isn't a game airing, FSN North will center its programming on hockey features from all levels throughout the state that have been produced by the network or the Wild.

FSN will have sets in Baudette and at the Xcel Energy Center, with Anthony LaPanta and Kevin Gorg up north and Marney Gellner and an analyst in St. Paul. Last winter, everything was anchored from the Xcel.

"We're going to be live [in Baudette] the entire day," Byle said. "We'll show the festivities and even during the Gophers and Wild games we will be there doing reports so we can keep the mystique and magic going."

Assuming the weather cooperates -- Dimond explains if it's too cold the ice can crack and if it gets too warm it can start to melt -- about the only downside is that FSN and the Wild could not find a date when the Gophers also were home.

"One of the biggest challenges in this was finding a date that would work," Dimond said. "We would have loved to have found a date where the Gophers were playing Mankato or Duluth or some other team in the state but it just didn't work out that way."

There's always 2009 to work on that.

Match expected

Indications are that KFAN (1130 AM) plans to match the six-year offer afternoon-drive host Dan Barreiro received last week from KSTP (1500 AM). KFAN had 15 days to make a decision. KSTP, by the way, is believed to want to put Barreiro on from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays.

Fine-tuning

The three high school hockey telecasts on FSN North on Feb. 9 will be part of a 16-game prep schedule this winter. The first game will be Eden Prairie vs. Eagan at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 27.

Judd Zulgad • jzulgad@startribune.com

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