It Is Time to End Coach Interviews During the Game
January 24, 2012 18 Comments
Twice in the past month, NBC Sports Network (formerly known as VERSUS) aired a game at the Joe Louis Arena featuring the St. Louis Blues and Detroit Red Wings. During the network’s broadcast. Inside the Glass reporters are granted a two-to-three question interview with each coach, one per period. During each of the last two games, the conversation between inquisitor Pierre McGuire and his subject, Red Wings coach Mike Babcock, has been terse, tense and awkward.
The first such occasion came on December 27th. The Red Wings were down a couple of goals during the first period when McGuire came over to Babcock. I can’t remember the exact question that was asked, but I remember it having to do with the pace of St. Louis and how Babcock could change that. His response began: “Well, I don’t know what that means, but…” and continued on with a rambling answer about how his team could get better. It was a slightly uncomfortable moment, but one that could be ignored if you weren’t really paying attention.
Tonight, Babcock’s team was struggling in the first period again, and the exchange was much more noticeable. Babcock, clearly annoyed and giving a long-winded non-answer to McGuire’s question about the forecheck of St. Louis, ended his strategy for getting back into the game with “so if I could finish talking to you and do my job, we could get to that.” Eep. McGuire, for his part, acted like a total pro, cheerfully telling Babcock to “get to it” in that jovial, odd way that he tells all of his interviews to “go have fun out there” before the game. Still, it became a bit of a controversy on Twitter, and there’s a reason why.
Now, this isn’t some beleaguered bench boss hanging on by a thread to his job and letting the pressure get to him. This is Mike Babcock, the head coach of the NHL’s most iconic American franchise. He’s won a Stanley Cups and has continued the modern Red Wing legacy of regular season success. He and his team also haven’t lost a home game since the dawn of the dinosaurs, so it isn’t as if he’s got much to worry about beyond a sluggish first period. This was a clear display of frustration with a network television policy that likely affects him (the Red Wings appear more on national television than almost any team) more than anyone else in the league.
It isn’t merely Mike Babcock, however. On Sunday in Montreal, we had another incident involving a coach in an Original Six market getting frustrated with an interviewer during a poor performance. The Rangers’ John Tortorella, who also has to do this quite a bit – and whom allowed television cameras and documentarians into his team’s lives during HBO’s 24/7 - let the frustration get to him by giving short, pointed, almost bile-voiced responses to Brian Engblom in the midst of his club’s loss to Montreal. Again, while Tortorella, like Babcock, is known as sort of an intense guy, he is also a coach with a team at the top of the standings. This is another example of a coach being frustrated by having to do these things, especially when losing. Don Cherry – the NHL’s conscience were the NHL 500 years old and unable to get those damned kids off their lawn – lamented this practice during Coach’s Corner on Saturday.
So, to get to my original point of the title for this article, perhaps it is time NBC does away with these, or finds a different way to do them. How about we keep coaches interviews to the intermissions before they leave the ice, or on the bench before the period starts? What about getting a player? It isn’t like were gaining anything special from the coaches during these interviews. If the best we’re going to see is emotions getting the better of these guys, then there really isn’t much of a reward. We’d be better off getting a breakdown of the play, or perhaps a studio game break (they don’t really do these anymore, do they?) in the time initially set aside for those coach interviews.
This is by no means an indictment of the inside the glass position, which has developed from an entertaining gimmick to a vital part of any national television broadcast. At this point, however, I think the novelty of the access to the coach on the bench, combined with the lack of actual material procured from the interview, makes this a wholly pointless exercise. That the coaches themselves hate doing it is no good for viewers of the sport is just another reason to get rid of these and find something else to fill broadcast time.