Puck the Media Interview: TSN’s Gord Miller on World Juniors, Message Boards, and Working with Pierre McGuire

TSNs Gord Miller

TSN's Gord Miller

It seems like Gemini-Award winner Gord Miller of TSN has been around forever.  He’s been with TSN since the early 90’s, covering every hockey tournament known to man.  He may be known as one of the main voices of the NHL with TSN, but where Miller (and partner Pierre McGuire) made their names as sportscasting icons in Canada is for their immortal calls of the World Junior Championships.  We talked to Miller about a myriad of topics, including blogs, HFBoards, and some of his favorite broadcasting moments.  We hope you find it interesting and entertaining.  Thanks again to Gord and Chiobi Lang from TSN PR for letting us conduct this interview

PTM: You recently worked the World Junior Championships for TSN.  Americans have only recently sort of become connected with the tournament through broadcasts on the NHL Network.  How did it go from being sort of an under-the-radar tournament in Canada to becoming the biggest non-Stanley Cup event of each year?

GM: I think the real watershed moment for the tournament was in 1991, the first year TSN broadcast the event.  All the Canadian games were televised for the first time and Canada won on home ice with Eric Lindros as the centrepiece attraction.  For years, the final game between Canada and the Soviets–featuring a 19 year old Pavel Bure–was the highest rated event in TSN’s history.  Today, WJC games hold down nine of the top ten spots all time.

The key to TSN’s coverage is story telling: taking kids that most people don’t know and telling their stories to make people feel connected to them.  There’s also the chance to see the top players from around the world for the first time, before they arrive in the NHL.

That, combined with the holiday season, Canada’s love of international hockey and the enthusiasm of the players has made it the “perfect storm”.

PTM: What impressed you most from this year’s tournament?  What made it unique from every other one you’ve covered?

GM: I think what was amazing this year was the dramatic build-up over the final few days.  There was Canada’s final round robin game against the Americans, which I thought was the best WJC game I’d ever seen until a few nights later when Canada played the Russians in that classic semi-final with Jordan Eberle’s goal tying the game with 5.4 seconds left.  And then you had the rematch of the last year’s gold medal game between the star-studded Canadian and Swedish teams.  It was an amazing few days.

PTM: After working that tournament, especially in Canada where it’s a huge deal, is it hard to go back to what are sometimes referred to as “the dog days” of the hockey season?

GM: It’s never hard to go back to doing the NHL.  It’s where I do the bulk of my work, and I always look forward to doing a game.  And as for the “dog days”, there’s no such thing for the people taking part in those games…the stakes are too high.

PTM: You, and your TSN co-hort Bob McKenzie, have occasionally posted on Hockey’s Future boards.  Does that ever get you in trouble?  Or do you believe that broadcasters should have more of a connection with the people who are watching them?

GM: I did used to post occasionally on HF Boards, which I found to be a reasonably informative site.  TSN had no problem with it, but moderation of the comments seemed to slip and the general tone of a lot of the discussions turned nasty, so I have stayed away.  There are some good posters on there who pay attention to what’s going on in Europe, so before international events you can get links or translations from European publications.  Aside from that, I don’t go there much anymore.

PTM: More on that subject, do you read many hockey blogs, and are more men in your line of work starting to use them on some level to take the temperature of a fanbase, or even just for laughs?  Is there something that can be learned from a blog that you can use on television broadcast?

GM: I look at blogs from time to time, but not on a regular basis.  I do find some of them entertaining and well written, but I don’t use them as a first-hand source of information, unless they contain a direct link to a credible source.

PTM: I know many play-by-play men work very long hours on a daily basis, but you only work one or two games a week, so could you tell us how your average week goes, and how much work you do to prepare for each telecast?

GM: If I’m not on the road, an average day would start with watching Sportscentre and NHL on the Fly on my PVR, followed by reading a collection of articles from each NHL city that gets gathered and e-mailed to us each morning.  That’s usually between 150-200 pages, so it takes some time.  I spend a lot of the day on the phone with GM’s and coaches, although I find myself doing more and more by e-mail these days.  In the weeks leading up to the WJC, I call the junior coaches, agents and NHL teams of all the Canadian and many of the American and European players, which is very time-consuming.

Because we don’t cover one team, I don’t get the luxury of many home games, so I spend 3-4 days a week on the road.  Besides that, I’m a husband and father, so that keeps me pretty busy.  And of course, I spend most nights watching games.

PTM: Now, you work with Pierre McGuire, and most of the time, he’s between the benches.  How are you able to balance the broadcast between the two of you, and does it change much about how you call the game, since Pierre at this point, likely has a better view of the game than you do.

GM: I really think the “one up, one down” approach is ideal.  Pierre has a great view from ice level, but sometimes gets blocked out, especially when the puck is in the crease, where I might have a better view from up top.  I have a good overall view up high, but he picks up a lot of things down low that I might not be able to see.  His training as a coach makes him perfectly suited to picking up trends from the ice, so I think it’s a great mix.  We’ve done so many games over the years that being physically apart really has no effect on how we do the game.

PTM: What’s your favorite game you’ve ever called?

GM: There have been so many, it’s hard to pick just one.  I’d have to say the Canada/Russia semi final game at this year’s World Junior is right up there at the moment.  I seem to be a magnet for long overtimes in the NHL playoffs, and some of those are very memorable as well.

PTM: On the other side, can you name a worst game?

GM: Easy…the gold medal game of the 2000 WJC in Sweden.  The Czechs and Russians played through three periods of regulation and a full overtime with no scoring and almost no chances.  Even when  the game went to a shootout, I thought the two teams would keep dumping it in and playing the trap.  Anyone who thinks the NHL should go to the international sized ice surface should be forced to watch a DVD of that game until their eyes bleed.

PTM: Finally, any desire to become a major international broadcasting star, such as Pierre McGuire?

GM: No, I am quite happy being Steve Williams to his Tiger Woods 🙂  I love my life just the way it is, both at work and at home.  Who could want more than that?

2 Responses to Puck the Media Interview: TSN’s Gord Miller on World Juniors, Message Boards, and Working with Pierre McGuire

  1. Pete Klaassen says:

    I was just wondering if Miller & McGuire could be any more derogatory towards theLeafs, that iswhen they take the time to even mention them while they are lifting the opposing team and its’ players to Godhood????

  2. Pingback: We Have An Interesting Weekend of Transcribing Folks « Puck The Media

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