SPORTS

Grey Cup anniversary in spotlight as CFL returns to TSN for the 2012 season

06/26/2012 01:25 EDT | Updated 08/26/2012 05:12 EDT
Grey Cup, Grey Cup and more Grey Cup.

CTV and TSN will be pulling out all the stops this CFL season to mark the 100th anniversary of Canada's three-down football championship.

The historic season kicks off Friday with Saskatchewan at Hamilton and Winnipeg at B.C.

TSN will carry all 2012 regular-season games while the French-language service RDS will air all games featuring the Montreal Alouettes, with a few other selected contests airing on RDS2.

Whether it's the Grey Cup or la Coupe Grey, the anniversary will be front and centre.

"You'll see a consistent kind of Grey Cup messaging throughout the season," said Mark Milliere, senior vice-president of production at TSN. "We'll have the docs coming out in the fall, we'll have an enormous presence Grey Cup week . . . with all the activities going on in Toronto."

Last month, the network announced eight hour-long documentaries featuring Grey Cup stories called "Engraved on a Nation: Stories of the Grey Cup, the CFL and Canada."

"These are probably unlike anything done in sports television in terms of quality and scope," said Milliere.

They'll air on TSN, CTV and RDS as the Nov. 25 game approaches but the exact schedule hasn't been finalized.

The first Grey Cup was also awarded in Toronto in 1909, when the University of Toronto Varsity Blues defeated the Parkdale Canoe Club at Rosedale Field. This is the 100th anniversary because the cup wasn't awarded for three years during the First World War.

Also celebrating its 15th anniversary this year is TSN's "Friday Night Football," which is getting a new theme song and some new animation this season.

"I'd call it a high-energy, good time, rocking party anthem," Milliere said of the song written by California musician Doyle Bramhall II, who has toured with Pink Floyd.

The network is also enhancing its halftime studio show and adding a social media segment.

Milliere says it will feature Kate McKenna, the daughter of Sue Prestedge, one of the pioneers among female sports broadcasters at CBC.

"Kate will be featured once a week throughout the season on one of the shows and kind of bring us up to speed on the buzz and chatter on Twitter and Facebook about the league," he said.

The main panel remains the same with host Dave Randorf and former CFL players Chris Schultz, Jock Climie and Matt Dunigan, plus guest appearances by former Blue Bombers star Milt Stegall.

This year, Stegall's former teammate Doug Brown will also be making guest appearances and Climie will take over the host chair when Randorf is at the London Olympics.

Milliere says they also plan on introducing a feature much like the Wednesday Night Hockey Quiz segment put on by their NHL panel. The working title is "Three Downs."

TSN is entering the second-last year of its deal to carry all CFL games and the network is anxious to keep the franchise for the future, said Milliere.

"We've had talks already ongoing and are looking forward to pursuing this and getting a deal done," he said. "It's a very important property. It's one of the pillars of our schedule."

TSN won the exclusive rights in late 2006 for the season starting in 2008, leaving the CBC on the sidelines. The dollar figure has never been confirmed but it has been estimated the deal is worth around $15 million each season to the CFL.

MORE:cpSports