Grading NBC’s Coverage of the 2010 Olympic Hockey Tournament
March 1, 2010 3 Comments
This is going to be straightforward. Department, Grade, Explanation of Grade. Enjoy Ken Fang’s thoughts as well. Let’s do it.
Preparation – GRADE: D+
It became clear once the men and women started playing on concurrent days that NBC woefully unprepared itself talent-wise. Mike Emrick, Kenny Albert, AJ Mleczko and Eddie Olczyk were all made to do at least two games a day. Joe Micheletti seemingly never slept, working as a reporter on some games and as an analyst on others. While you credit them the yeoman’s work – and I will later – you have to ask yourself: Would it have been that much more to bring Dave Strader in? Could Darren Pang not have been chased from the CTV/TSN studios to call the occasional game? Hell, the fact that Jim Hughson was not working this tournament is a travesty to end all travesties.
That all gotten out, NBC did a pretty solid job with what they had, produced a killer feature on (yes, you know it) the Miracle on Ice, and getting Al Michaels to host some of the games added some extra gravitas. Still, you couldn’t help but feel that this was being done on the cheap for most of the fortnight.
Play by Play, Mike Emrick and Kenny Albert, Grade: A
Look, you know that I love Emrick as a play-by-play man. Probably has something to do with my Devils fandom, and probably takes away from my writing. But he was bang on for most of this tournament. The versatility he – and the entire NBC broadcast team – brought to this tournament was indisputable. He was entertaining, excited and funny throughout the tourney. A great line from the Gold Medal Game: after two posts for the Canadian team in the 3rd period, he asked “Do you believe in omens?”. Great stuff once again from American hockey’s premier play-by-play man.
The ultimate team player during this tournament was Kenny Albert. Giving the same workload as Emrick, but asked to call clearly lower-profile games, he brought the same level of enthusiasm, if not skill, as Doc did. He got the best he could out of the usually annoying Joe Micheletti, and his ability to come up with interesting statistics – as well as explain the various seeding scenarios at the end of the round robin – were very informative. It’s a shame Albert’s usually relegated to the radio as far as hockey goes. If FOX ever got the sport back, they might bypass Emrick and make him the #1 guy for their coverage. After the last two weeks, I can’t see that as being all that bad.
Color Commentators – Eddie Olczyk, Pierre McGuire, Joe Micheletti, Grade: B-
People are often a little bit too hard on Eddie Olczyk and Pierre McGuire during NBC’s coverage of the National Hockey League. During this tournament, Olczyk proved most of the criticisms wrong, while unfortunately, McGuire did exactly the opposite. Eddie O. had some of his finest work during this tournament and during the Gold Medal game. Excited without being overstated, Edzo found a perfect balance without once getting on my nerves during these two weeks. For any analyst in any sport, that’s good work in my book.
Pierre McGuire only showed up for a game each day, and he as usual cluttered up the NBC broadcast team. Look, I’m thankful that McGuire created the Inside the Glass position, but frankly, the gimmick was not needed during the NBC telecasts. He could’ve been utilized better giving Olczyk a rest and doing a two-man booth with Emrick during that game, or with Albert during the midnight broadcast. There’s not too much time to fill up with the Olympics, and it filled to the point of bursting when NBC went to three announcers.
Joe Micheletti has never really been an announcer I enjoy. He tends to overstate the obvious, apologize for the home team, in other words… be a typical NHL color commentator. But I’ll go easy on Joe during this tournament, as he proved himself versatile and a solid analyst. NBC really should go back to regional coverage and use Albert and Micheletti as a B-team.
Now, as for Mleczko, she is not in a position that I envy. Having to call the entire women’s tournament, she is prone to seeing some really, really, really awful hockey, and during that bad hockey, there is usually lots of time to talk. However, during the times where there was good action, she continued to err on the side of chatting a little bit too much. That said, she’s clearly intelligent and well-spoken, and I hope women’s hockey makes a more frequent appearance on TV the next four years so that I can see her work again.
Studio Hosts – Bill Patrick and Al Michaels, Grade: B+
If Emrick, Olczyk, Micheletti and Mleczko had thankless gigs, imagine having to be Bill Patrick. Work every single game of the men’s and women’s tournaments, have to have good knowledge of every single team in each, and have to deal with Milbury much of the time? God bless you, sir. I bet you never thought you’d miss the banal, boring quotings of Brian Engblom. Patrick was well-prepared, and simply very good at what he did. I hope he gets a more profile hosting gig during NBC’s Summer Games coverage in London 2012, because he certainly took one for the team this time around.
Now, the reason Patrick’s job got so thankless is because, during some of the biggest games of the tournament, Al Michaels was given hosting duties. To be fair, Michaels is synonymous with USA Hockey for his work during the Miracle on Ice. To be more than fair, Michaels was extremely good at transitioning the hockey neophyte as he was back then. That said, they could’ve found at least a reporter’s role for Patrick to reward him during the Gold Medal Game.
Studio Analysts – Jeremy Roenick, Mike Milbury and Cammi Granato, Grade: B
Roenick was the breakout star, commentator-wise of the Olympics. While Milbury managed to embarrass himself at times, Roenick maintained credibility even in hysterics during the OT intermission of the Gold Medal Game. He was funny, confident, and exactly what this tournament needed: a personality. Whether or not this will translate into the NHL TV ranks is yet to be seen, but after his work here, we all certainly deserve to find out.
A lot of what Milbury did was muddled by the fact that he used a sort-of slur for Europeans in describing a Russian game that was pretty terrible. But the real point here is that Mad Mike got outshined by JR throughout the games, and his absence in the midnight game was rarely noticeable. With JR in the house, Milbury might as well be Keith Jones.
Cammi Granato was her standard decent self as the studio analyst for the women’s tourney/de facto face of USA Hockey, women’s division. She was extremely honest in what is an uncertain time for her sport, as it is being called out by every commentator/writer in the world to get more competitive immediately or get out of the Olympics, while people forget how bad basketball used to be when they introduced the pros. She praised a lot of the work, but criticized when needed. I hope she too gets another chance to do some analysis, maybe even another shot at working men’s games.
Overall, Grade: B
Look, fact is that NBC took the lazy way out for some of these games. CTV simulcasts, using the same announcers to death, re-using Foo Fighters “My Hero” to the point where it almost loss it’s emotional potency. But the tournament managed to overshadow NBC. If that happens, then you’ve done yourself a good job at handling this tourney. Cheers.