Puck the Media’s Interview with Jack Edwards, Part 1: On Growing Up Loving Hockey, and ESPN Past and Present
April 6, 2009 7 Comments
Jack Edwards is a pretty much what-you-hear-is-what-you get type guy. He’s funny, he’s a good guy, and he loves hockey. He also happens to have had a career mostly (until the turn of the century) doing things that are as far from hockey as it gets. When we asked him what the strangest thing he’d ever called was, he without hesitation responded “Chick boxing in Rockford, Illinois. In the seminal days of ESPN”. We forgot to ask him if it was better than that Lucic-Komisarek bout earlier in the year.
Anyway, here it is folks. Split into two parts, today and tomorrow at 10AM. Everything you’d wanna know about Jack Edwards. During our 20-minute phone interview on Friday, we discussed ESPN, HDNet, the personality of Boston players and fans, and yes, that Lucic hit on Jones that tickled his funny bone. I think you’ll find it an interesting read, and come out with a new, more positive perspective of the man. And if you don’t? As Jack told me, “Go be a lawyer.”
Here’s the first part of our conversation, after the jump…
PTM: Just in general, when did you start loving hockey? I know you grew up in the Northeast…
Jack Edwards: I was listening to the Boston Bruins before Bobby Orr, so I was probably 7 or 8 years old. I was listening to the Bruins on radio and got into it, and then when they had Orr and Esposito and Cashman and Hodge, and when the Bruins ruled, that was all fun and great when I was a kid.
PTM: Transitioning, why did you want to become a broadcaster?
JE: I enjoyed it. I’ve always been a guy to follow my heart. For me, it’s really easy, you know. I started calling play-by-play at the University of New Hampshire in 1977 and I was working on the student radio station there and just worked my way up through the industry. That’s how I did it, just following my heart.
PTM: Well how was it going through ESPN through their emergence to the powerhouse they are now?
JE: It changed a lot. It was a lot more fun before Disney bought the company. It was really a lot of fun through ’91 to ’95, because the company was building and we had a lot of free reign, and there was a lot of enterprise journalism that was actually really good stuff. But I found that the longer I went in “SportsCenter”, the more formulaic it got and, you know I haven’t worked there for a long time, I haven’t worked at “SportsCenter” since 1999, but I watch it, and it looks to me like it’s just cookie-cutter. It’s just right out of a template, not a whole lot of creativity there.
PTM: Following up, because of that, are you kind of glad that ESPN doesn’t cover hockey anymore?
JE: Well, I think that all you need to know is – for those who wish that hockey was back on ESPN – last Saturday, which was probably the single most amazing night of the NHL season. Just in terms of teams switching places, dramatic things happening, crazy games, that kind of thing.
We went from Toronto to Philadelphia, we were in (Bruins radio play-by-play man) Dave Goucher’s room, having a couple cold ones. Now, the Sweet 16 is going on in college basketball at the same time, the only hockey we saw in the entire sportscast of “SportsCenter” was about 45 seconds of the UNH-North Dakota game, which was the one UNH tied with one-tenth of a second to go, that went into Overtime. That was 56 minutes into the telecast. There was nothing on the NHL in the entire show.
So, for those of you that hope that hockey gets back on ESPN, that’s what you’re gonna’ get. That’s where it belongs in ESPN’s hierarchy, because there are some bozos sitting in the accounting department in a bunker in Burbank, California running Disney, who look at the numbers and completely ignore the passion of hockey fans. They say “Poker gets better ratings because we can attract more compulsive gamblers to the screen than we can passionate hockey fans, so just for the sake of that number, we’re gonna’ run poker instead of hockey. We’re gonna run women’s basketball instead of hockey.”
We saw highlights of the Division II NCAA basketball championship, we didn’t see a single NHL highlight in that entire “SportsCenter”. Case closed.
PTM: Well Jack, you’re gonna’ be a big hero to a lot of hockey fans when this goes up…
JE: I’m not a hero, I’m just telling you the facts. I mean, that’s what it is and you know, this whole idea that hockey will do better if you put it back on ESPN is a delusion. It is completely delusionary. It’s more convenient, certainly. But it’s not going to be better for the sport, because it’s going to be behind golf, it’s going to be behind women’s basketball and, you know, I’m not dissing those sports.
But what I am saying is, if it were my place, if it were my call, I know where the passion is, and I’d rather have 1% of the audience is totally nuts about the sport, than I’m just gonna’ watch it because it’s on. But the people who make the decisions in the accounting department, who see the ratings numbers, are going to go purely on the number. The context of what it means to people has nothing to do with their judgment, and their actions speak much more loudly than their lip service on that.
… and that’s part one. Come back tomorrow at 10:00 AM ET for the rest of the story, including his thoughts on his tenure with HDNet, getting the Bruins gig, working with Andy Brickley, and… you know, the Jones thing.