I Love NHL Network, But Maybe Don’t Cut Away From Hockey Night So Fast?

I don’t know what it is about Hockey Night in Canada. Even as the talent surrounding the game in the studio turns almost vaudevillian - Hotstove is frequently a mess aside from the intelligent and finite Elliotte Friedman; I’m convinced Grapes has no remembrance of any of those clips the crew calls up to prove his opinions correct, and did we really need to lose Jeff Marek and Scott Morrison, who made the iDesk as much a must-watch as anything? – you throw Bob Cole or Jim Hughson on the air for two hours with anyone and I’m there. Literally, those two or so good that I’d listen to them call a game with a brick wall, or that robot from the Craig Ferguson show. All of Hockey Night’s best play-by-play men just know how to evoke a moment and make it seem like, in a season with 1,200 games that can often run together, this one right now is the most important you’ll ever see. The one where, to quote Bob Cole, “everything is happening”.

So here’s my problem: the Penguins-Canadiens broadcast from Saturday night, as simulcast on NHL Network, was one of those games. It had everything: breakneck pace, hard hitting, controversy at both ends, and an increasingly rare, on-his-game Bob Cole at the mic with the fine Gary Galley and the unwelcome at Jeremy Roenick and Anson Carter’s house Glenn Healy. It had Pittsburgh’s Kris Letang suffering a broken nose from a hit to the head by Max Pacioretty of all people (half of Twitter immediately sang out “Call the police!”) and then showed Letang scoring the game-winning goal in overtime on a controversial play in which Montreal goaltender Carey Price felt he’d covered the puck but had it dislodged and sent to Letang for the winner. There was so much for Cole and the rest of the HNIC crew to break down that it seemed like it’d take minutes for them to sort everything out.

Yet, for viewers in the United States, that was not the case. Within less than 60 seconds of the game’s end, we were abruptly sent to NHL On the Fly, which gave hardly any recap from Brian Duff and Mike Johnson and moved on with the typical show they had been doing for NHL Network viewers in Canada, no doubt more likely tuning into, you know… Freaking Hockey Night in Canada! It was confusing, disappointing, and flat-out unacceptable, and here’s why:

  • The NHL Network Crew Barely Broke the Game Down Themselves. Brian Duff and Mike Johnson are good at what they do, and On the Fly is a great show, but it was a show that stuck remarkably to format. After a cursory, brief recap of what had happened in the controversial finish, they moved on to highlights from the Devils-Islanders game from 1 p.m. this afternoon. We would need to wait nearly half an hour for any cogent analysis of the thing, while I’m sure Hockey Night in Canada did nothing but talk about what had just happened in the post-game up until the start of game two of the doubleheader, San Jose vs. Vancouver.
  • They Didn’t Even Let the Game Announcers Finish. Bob Cole is a legendary hockey broadcaster. I don’t care if he’s 6,000 years old and watched Newsy Lalonde play as a young boy, I want to hear everything that man has to say. Instead, they cut into the wrap-up from the game’s broadcasters. I can understand not wanting to hear Ron MacLean and Don Cherry schmooze about the three stars and whatever else is rattling through Don’s brain (Kyle Wellwood = good, Montreal = bad?) but to not let them show enough replays of the controversial game winner and get Healy and Galley’s take on what happened for the brief take of two broadcasters whom, mind you, finished their shift five minutes later and gave way to Kathryn Tappen and Jamie McLennan? Not good. Also, missing out on Carey Price’s full breakdown and, what I assume, was Kris Letang getting tired of high fiving literally everyone on the planet? Also not good.
  • Actually, to be Honest, I Do Want to Hear What Ron and Don Thought of That. I lied. That ending was so compelling, violent and exciting, I want to hear the opinions of the often fiery Hockey Night studio folk. I want to hear Elliotte Friedman cheekily mention what the fans are saying on Twitter, and have Don say that was a dirty hit by Pacioretty and he should know better and also get off his lawn. Give me Kelly Hrudey and Mike Milbury, and even poor, poor PJ Stock and his delusions arguing about that final goal and whether Pacioretty would get suspended. Give me Eric Francis’ poor wardrobe choices. Just don’t give me two guys who are off the clock in a stone’s throw moving on after a minute.

Look, I’m sure there are games when it’s perfectly fine to cut away from Hockey Night immediately, like after last week’s awful Toronto blowout of Washington. But when you’ve got something good, you don’t take your viewers off of it to send them to something different. I know the NHL and NHL Network love On the Fly as their flagship program, but honestly, most fans would prefer the network just show the second game of the doubleheader live anyway. It isn’t that important that you need to cut the HNIC folks before they even get there say, especially when it might be worth something. It isn’t that important, period.

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About stevelepore
Steve Lepore is the Managing Editor of Puck the Media. His work has been featured in The Hockey News. Feel free to contact him at stevemlepore@gmail.com

13 Responses to I Love NHL Network, But Maybe Don’t Cut Away From Hockey Night So Fast?

  1. Chris S says:

    You didn’t miss anything. CBC didn’t have enough time for Ron and Don, they moved on to Canucks/Sharks. It wasn’t until the 2nd intermission of VAN/SJ (Scoreboard Saturday segment) where MacLean, Mike Milbury, PJ Stock and Kelly Hrudey talked about it.

  2. paranoidpuck says:

    Kris Letang was interviewed but as Chris S mentioned, the game ran so long, there was no time to discuss anything about it until later segments.

    If anything, my larger beef is NHLN showing Hockey Tonight. The HNIC pre-game show is largely to promote the 7 PM games. If you aren’t showing an early CBC game, then they might as well pass on the pre-game show and let Center Ice show it as they did in the old days. If I were someone casually flipping through the stations, and started watching the pre-game only to see HNIC go off at 7 for On the Fly or a different game, I would wonder what the heck is going on. Its a lead in that does not make much sense.

    • Leafsfan1967 says:

      Your point about not showing the pre-game when they aren’t showing an HNIC game is well taken. I seem to remember that we were told that the NHL had hired some high powered executive to make the NHL Network better. Well based on what we’ve seen this year, I’m unimpressed.

      Please DROP the crawl during live games….

  3. Leafsfan1967 says:

    I totally agree with this blog. The NHL Network does their best to mess up HNIC. The way they cut away from Saturday’s game was a joke. Then there’s the wretched crawl that blocks the screen and is very distracting.

  4. TiLoBrown says:

    The network has been going down hill since they hired someone last year to make the network a little more ESPN like. Moving NHL Live was the first step I hated, the next and last step was talking over the highlights for OTF.

  5. Contrariastic says:

    Having watched for over 40 years from up above your other border I can honestly say I can not watch more than just a few minutes of any Bob Cole game … his complete and utter inability to remember any names of the guys playing the game drives me nuts. He will then compound it by missing subsequent action waiting for an individual player to turn around so he can see his number to finally identify who it was who made that great play 15 seconds ago.

    Cole should have gracefully left the scene years ago … his best-before-date is long gone from my seat.

    • Eddie says:

      I love Cole. The guy has flat out passion. I can’t stand most the new play by play guys today their so robotic. I’d rather watch paint dry. When I hear Cole it gets me fired up for the game.

    • leafsfan1967 says:

      I feel a bit sad when I hear Bob Cole now. I have a tape of a radio game he did in 1972 and he was awesome then! He hasn’t loss the passion or the sense of occasion but his inability to call names and to just get things wrong is embarrassing.

      The problem is, which producer is going to look him in the eye and tell him it’s time to stop? I suspect that the CBC has done all they can in removing him from most national TV games and only doing regional ones now. My guess is, Bob will hang in there until the end of the CBC’s contract in 2014 and then hang it up. After that either Sportsnet or TSN will probably grab the national rights and it truly will be the end of an era.

      Until then, I can put up with Bob and enjoy the rest of the best hockey television production in the world. When CBC is out of hockey it really will be a sad day….

  6. Bob Nichols says:

    “I know the NHL and NHL Network love On the Fly as their flagship program, but honestly, most fans would prefer the network just show the second game of the doubleheader live anyway.”

    How the heck the NHL thinks viewers would prefer highlights to a real live game is beyond me. Bettman said as much once on his call in show. Viewers in the west would like to see a game that doesn’t end before twilight.

  7. Tony says:

    Totally agree with the article and all the comments. I was so revved right after that game (not a Pens fan but so loved that Letang scored the winner, regardless of the iffy call on the ice), and to have them pull the plug IN MID-SENTENCE to go to OTF was the worst tease of all time.

    As a Buffalo native who used to watch HNIC from start to finish every Sat night via antenna, seeing HNIC on NHL Net here in Charlotte is a Godsend. If only American coverage were as passionate and thorough. I can’t wait for Coach’s Corner and moreso Hotstove. That kind of intelligent hockey talk does not exist in the US.

    I was so captivated by what was said about the Pens-Habs game during the late game that I DVR’d the relay of the late game on NHL Net that aired Sunday afternoon, as well as AfterHours, and fast forwarded through the game action just to get to the intermissions to hear the dialogue. Yes, I would love if they showed the 2nd doubleheader game live, but that will never happen for fear of losing Center Ice subscribers.

    As for the crawl during live games, it distracts me from the actual game, too, so I take some DVDs and block the crawl from view entirely, lest I feel the need to constantly check the crawl for my fantasy team stats.

    Thanks again for this article. Totally validates my frustration when the plug was so abruptly yanked on the HNIC feed.

  8. Sean says:

    NHL network has made several poor choices. The cut away from hnic like they had a more pressing story to cover that the controversy / ending to pens / habs. The talking over game highlights vs letting the story be told through the clips and announcers. Sometimes the storied highlights (mostly missed) w a stupid comment or narrative that missed the point. Very few to zero access end of game post game comments from the sports network who did the interview. Last night they threw in a few clips w 1 statement interviews t aired from the interview w a quick break and no follow up. These arena cams haven’t been used in proper fashion mostly for pregame only. Having the analyst go long winded that force Katherine to cut them off to move on. Why have both analyst share points when they both agree and make no difference in statements. Rotate feedback or make sure they have something to offer before speaking. Or force the arguments or differences. The show is getting very vanilla. I like duff and tappen as host. Amber is solid at interviews more than hosting. Jaffe is great. Weeks seems over worked or tired w nothing interesting to add and always walking the straight. Turco seems ackward on cam and forgets his thoughts. Jamie is good like weeks when he started. Pidto is solid…ej is on my nerves. He thinks hes larry David and adds no real insight. States the obvious and always says…hey listen to start and the annoying you know….

    Button and green put me to sleep…the OTF just feels different and not in a good way. There is no story telling or player profiles like what CBC does before games. I just dunno….

  9. Jared says:

    Crawl during game is to be expected as it’s done on every sports network just not on CBC. My issue is I think the graphics and crawl are still lame. I hate the score box that pops up above the crawl and the promotional popups that come up above crawl and the logo popup ads in the crawl like versus and geico. Who is the robotic guy who host the week in the review? No personality. Bob harwood would have been perfect for a show like that. They just use their talent in too many roles or in wrong roles. Pidto and duff should be ur host. Tappen as host interviewer. Ej as an insider not as analyst. Deb is not a host ….use as reporter or interviewer. Amber as reporter. Maybe they are just experimenting but I hear thee

  10. Another voice who has been frustrated with the NHL Network, and giving you props for bringing up the story.

    http://balanceoffood.typepad.com/canadian_crossing/2011/12/nhl-network-is-avoiding-all-canadian-live-games-outside-leafs-habs.html

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