It Is Time to End Coach Interviews During the Game

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.

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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

18 Responses to It Is Time to End Coach Interviews During the Game

  1. Babcock has only won the Stanley Cup once, in 2008. His teams lost in the finals in 2003 (Ducks) and 2009 (Red Wings).

  2. Babcock has won one Stanley Cup. #corrections

  3. Also, Pierre’s a close talker.

  4. Agree with your point. But why do you emphasize that it has happened to ‘original six’ coaches? Does that make it more significant?

  5. Pierre is hilarious the way he tries to ask his question like he knows all this coaching brilliance and is espousing it on the coach like its advice.

    One day some coach is going to punch him in the face and break those goofy 15-year-old glasses of his.

  6. Ryan says:

    The OHL must have a policy about this, because every broadcast I’ve seen this year has featured two on-bench interviews, one with an assistant coach of each team. Adds absolutely nothing to the telecast and while I haven’t seen it used much in the NHL, I can’t imagine it being much better.

  7. JDM says:

    “You can’t beat (their forecheck) when you stay on the ice as long as we are; they get four shifts for every one of ours. Their tempo is way higher … we’re spending way too much time getting out and that’s why we’re milking our shifts and staying on. The plan we got going doesn’t work, so we have to fix it right now.”

    This is actually pretty insightful.

  8. kevin says:

    It just shows that Torts and Babs are doochbags. I like this stuff. Its real!! You can tell the classy coaches when they interview them. Don’t change anything.

  9. As a *viewer*, I find these mid-game interviews incredibly distracting, so 1. I can’t imagine what’s going through a coach’s head as they see the interview guy heading over; and 2. I’ve never understood the NEED to do these things to begin with.

    I also don’t find much value added from the player interviews during intermissions, with inane questions like “Can you walk us through your goal?’ or “What does your team need to do better in the 2nd(3rd)?” Isn’t that what they pay the play-by-play and color commenter guys to do – analyze this stuff?

    They can do away w/ both player and coach interviews during the game, and I’d totally be ok with it!

  10. brian goode says:

    and after,let them do thear job.maybe set up one a week interview

  11. egreene930 says:

    I think it’s complete nonsense that these interviews take place. The most you’re going to get is filler response that wouldn’t entertain or educate a real hockey fan anyway. Let the coaches coach and cut the gimmicks.

  12. Shirts and Bags says:

    This isnt football or baseball where you can fit a side conservation between the action, the problem is A: we want to hear the play by play B: Peirre Sucks and C: the conversation is boardline pointless small talk *Hockey Broad explained that best

  13. Whistler says:

    Pierre McGuire is an added irritant to any game broadcast by NBC/VS and always has been. Approaching a coach during a game is the height of rudeness for the sake of entertainment, no matter how little of that it provides. How many NFL coaches are interviewed during a game? NBA? Soccer? Baseball? This is not necessary and it is time that the role of McGuire is relegated to the studio between periods, not between the benches during a game. In the Detroit market (Fox Sports Detroit), Larry Murphy is between the benches, but limits his intrusion to comments of the action on the ice, and sometimes between players on the benches. He does not interrupt the coach or assistant coaches to ask inane questions. Shows you the difference between a Hall Of Fame Defenseman and an announcer…professionalism.

  14. Whistler says:

    Nice that you included a picture of the late Brad McCrimmon, BTW.

  15. Joshua says:

    That might be less because coaches can’t talk during the game and more because Pierre MacGuire is a terrible journalist

  16. Arthur says:

    Steve, you couldn’t be more wrong with this post.
    First off, that was a sponsored item so it is getting done whether you like it or not.
    Secondly, those who really know realize that Mike Babcock is one of the best interviews in the game. He shoots it straight and tells you what is on his mind. Are you trying to tell me he didn’t deliver with that interview on Monday?
    As for Tortorella, those who really know realize that he is a complete douchebag with the media, especially after losses. But as with the Howard Stern theory, you just have to listen in to see what he is gonna say next.
    Inside access is what this is about. Anytime the fan can be taken inside the mind of an NHL head coach is a good thing.
    And for those of you who don’t know, those interviews are not live. They are taped at the commercial break and replayed.

  17. Stephen says:

    Imaging if its Red Wings-Rangers in the Stanley Cup Finals. It’ll be a long night for Pierre in between the benches with two fierce coaches like Torts who yells at his players while Babcock has his death glare face.

    It would be pretty awesome if that happens.

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