Reviewing Hockey Central on VERSUS, Part 2: How We’d Do it Better

This is Part 2 of our morning column, “Reviewing Hockey Central on VERSUS”, in which we delve into what we’d like to see happen to the show for future broadcasts.  To check out Part 1, a review of the show in general, click here.

This is pretty straightforward.  We’re going to go at this in three sections: Format, Personnel and Segments.  What’s currently there to work with, and what we would do to change it (which might be a tad unrealistic), and hopefully a simple guide to making “Hockey Central” on VERSUS a must-watch half-hour of TV for hockey fans.  The kind of thing Canadian fans will watch illegally over the internet, or the NHL Network would be proud to re-run after “On the Fly”.  Here goes nothing.

Format

Current: 30 minutes, after every game VERSUS airs.  Currently, the play-by-play man will throw the broadcast into the show’s hand within about 15 seconds of that night’s game airing.  

Changes We’d Make: Supersize, and add nights.  Let the broadcast run from 7-9:45 at the actual rink.  Give the announcers time to close things up, analyze the game, go deeper, and interview some players.  Then, Hockey Central airs 9:45 – 10:30, with the first 15 minutes being devoted to talking about the game that just aired.  Then, develop at least two more nights, where the program would air for 30 minutes.  We vote Wednesday and Thursday, just for the sake of continuity, but nights like Thursday and Saturday are busy in the NHL, and could use a nice wrap-up.

Personnel 

Current: Host Bill Patrick, analysts Keith Jones and Brian Engblom, with occasional guest Eddie Olczyk.

Changes We’d Make: Patrick and Olczyk can stay, but we’re moving Olczyk from the booth to make him the lead analyst on “Hockey Central”.  We’ve always liked him better in the studio, because he’s perfect for it, and frankly, he’s been talking over the game a bit too much lately, with his laughing fit during last nights Wings-Avs game taking the cake.

Patrick can stay, if only because there are no other empty suits to replace him.  Get rid of Jonesy and Engblom.  Maybe keep Jonesy, since this is a four-nights-a-week production.  We’ll need at least four semi-regular analysts to work this, along with Olczyk.  Our short list:

  • Pierre McGuire
  • Ray Ferraro 
  • Daryl Reaugh 
  • Jim Dowd

We like all four of these guys, but obviously their schedules aren’t conducive to doing four nights a week, except perhaps Dowd, who only does NHL Live.  Have all of them rotate in and out with Olczyk, or even make all five of them and Jonesy just semi-regulars.  Works for shows like “Baseball Tonight” and “NFL Live”.  Fans really aren’t attached to either Engblom or Jonesy, who’ve been in their TV’s for years.  This is a chance to get some variety, and to add some guys who might actually make a connection with their audience.  Heck, Razor-isms haven’t tired me out yet.

Segments

Currently: Something called “Parting Shots”, “Odd Man Rush” with Keith Jones, “Reality Check” with Brian Engblom, a seemingly never-ending set of interviews with Wayne Gretzky.

Changes We’d Make: Becoming a four night show, we’d need some new stuff, especially if we’re replacing the studio team.  What we would do is have a weekly writers’ roundtable one night a week.  VERSUS.com columists Adrian Dater, Mike Heika and Chuck Gormley take 10 minutes of the show each week via satellite, and debate big NHL topics in a panel format, moderated by Patrick.

Other stuff we’d like to see:

  • A revival of Eh’ or Neigh’, a silly little ESPN NHL2Nite segment where panelists answered “Yes or No” in a tribute to Canadian colloquialisms and horse colloquialisms.  This is a much more fun way to do the “Quiz the experts” thing that VERSUS occasionally does.
  • Bring back the demonstration rink, instead this time, make it a real mini-rink that the analysts can skate on.  Have Ferraro and Olczyk demonstrate how a 2-on-1 works with Razor in goal, etc.
  • A regular commentary-style, “Coach’s Corner”-esque segment would be perfect for Dowd, who would know better than any other person in that studio the life of today’s NHL-er.  I’m pretty sure he was today’s NHL-er about a month ago.  He also has that simple, Jersey-bred way of communicating that’s easy to understand for hockey fans.  They love our simple, Jersey talk.
  • Fine, more catchphrases.  This is where Razor would be perfect.  Let him be the Terry Bradshaw-style co-host, and have him narrate highlights.  The results would be hilarious.

Look, all I’m saying with much of this is that “Hockey Central” is easily fix-able, and capable of becoming a regular, nightly NHL show that the fans desperately crave.  Like I mentioned in part one, however, right now the show is not something I wanna see for more than 10 minutes a week.  That needs to change, and fast.

One Response to Reviewing Hockey Central on VERSUS, Part 2: How We’d Do it Better

  1. I support this, if only to give me more time to react to the hockey game ending before sports soup comes on.

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