The NHL On NBC, Week 1: The Milbury and McGuire Divorce Hearings Begin Year Two


NBC Hockey Analysts Pierre McGuire and Mike Milbury

NBC Hockey Analysts Pierre McGuire and Mike Milbury

Every Monday, we recap The NHL On NBC from the day before, complete with linkage to videos produced exclusively for the web by The NHL On NBC team.

Indoor hockey returned to NBC on Sunday (see you in three more weeks!) and it’s doubtful the ratings will rise above a 1.0 for reasons other than the Penguins play a better trap than the Rangers.  It’s hard to be positive about the telecast when the play on the ice was so dull, listless and boringly defensive.  

What was hilarious to us was Mike Emrick recounting the history of the trap, dating back 40 years to Toronto.  Maybe it wasn’t as hilarious as it was a shock to the system, to hear the word “trap” and not here the name “Devils” pop up in the same following three seconds!  

Speaking of Doc and his partner, Eddie O., they were neutered from giving the excellent call both are able to give by this NBC mandate that we must talk about nothing but the game.  Both men are very talented, one is a Hall of Famer.  Shouldn’t we let them decide how the telecast goes?  I think that if they aren’t allowed to do so, why not just throw Eddie down to the studio with Milbury and let Doc call it from upstairs and leave Pierre down at the bench.

On the note of the studio team, can’t Mike Milbury and Pierre McGuire just get along?  Yeesh, those two guys just can’t agree when it comes to fighting, and we have no problem with it!  Let them argue, let them come to blows for all we care.  That was five minutes of supremely entertaining television, and when was the last time you could say that about an American-produced NHL telecast’s intermission report?

To watch the entire segment, click here.  It’s high time there was a conversation on fighting hockey that didn’t get cut off by pictures of deceased Canadian soldiers without any opposition.  Not to get mean about it, but there needs to be someone arguing this from both sides if you’re going to center your telecast around it.  Pierre McGuire was a more than willing participant in this, and the NBC telecast was better for it.

One other complaint I have about the telecast was the slightly overblown focus on football, from Milbury talking about it in the intermission, to McGuire’s interview with Matt Cooke asking him about the game.  Yes, NBC is televising the Super Bowl.  We’re kind of aware that it’s on, since it’s a tradition that has been going for a little while.  Hopefully, one day an NHL game will get that much promotion.

Overall, even during a boring game, the visual and audio quality of the NBC telecasts will keep you hooked to the screen.  Never has hockey ever looked better on TV, save for perhaps HDNet, and never has it sounded better.  While some other things can still be done to improve the telecast, the ol’ “we’ll get ’em with the pictures” motto can still work for NBC.  Just no more Tiny Tim music, please.

The Media’s Take: A couple folks decided to pick up on the McGuire and Milbury tussle.  First off, we have William Houston of The Globe and Mail, who pointed out that the fighting debate is nothing new north of the border:

The battle in this case, however, wasn’t on the ice.

It was in the studio where commentators Pierre McGuire and Mike Milbury traded verbal blows over the pros and cons of fisticuffs, with Milbury ending it by giving McGuire a sharp slap to the chest.

“Keep your head up,” he said.

“I always keep my head up,” replied McGuire.

It was heated, but for the Canadian audience, there wasn’t much new presented in the debate, which occurred during the first period of Sunday’s New York Rangers-Pittsburgh Penguins game.

Still, it made for good theatre and helped apprise the U.S. audience on the latest round of commentary in the wake of amateur player Don Sanderson’s death after he hit his head on the ice during a fight.

Meanwhile, his American counterpart, Michael McCarthy of USA Today, picked up on Milbury’s shot at Philadelphia Eagles QB Donovan McNabb:

During NBC’s telecast Sunday of the New York Rangers-Pittsburgh Penguins game, analyst Mike Milbury ripped McNabb for his feigned phone call from the bench of the rival New York Giants last week.

Hockey players would not put up with that kind of disrespect from an opponent, Milbury said.

“You don’t taunt us. That’s what separates us from the NFL,” said the ex-Boston Bruins player and coach who famously went over the boards during a brawl at New York’s Madison Square Garden to beat one of the spectators with a shoe. “Donovan McNabb, if he was playing hockey, he never would have made it back to the sidelines.”

Who’d have thought NBC would be able to make headlines from this crazy, indoor hockey?  We’ll see if it moved the needle at all with a ratings update in between 12 and 1 today. 

The NHL On NBC returns February 8th at 12:30 PM when the Penguins host the Stanley Cup Champion Red Wings in a game that will be nowhere near as entertaining as their last game was.

2 Responses to The NHL On NBC, Week 1: The Milbury and McGuire Divorce Hearings Begin Year Two

  1. Could just be me, but I hated this segment. I’m not opposed to having this argument, but to just let McGuire and Milbury (who is, quite frankly, an inarticulate idiot) shout over eachother for 5 minutes was not a good use of the NHL’s extremely limited access to a nationwide audience.

    A clip sequence of the week’s top ten goals would have been much more enjoyable than Milbury’s playground level taunting. Instead, we got the same clip of Kessel and Valabik sticking eachother (was Kessel supposed to look innocent in that clip?) of indisputable evidence that fighting has to stay.

    And then to let the argument continue as play resumed in the second period? I was baffled. Maybe NBC thinks the average hockey fan needs to be drawn in with fights about fights, but I’d rather see some beautiful plays in HD.

  2. alice says:

    I agree with the previous comment. As a long-time hockey fan who, as a child, used to watch Rangers games in grainy black-and-white, hoping for a fight, I can see both sides of the argument. But, honestly? If Milbury can’t come up with a better argument than insulting the masculinity of people who oppose fighting, he should just STFU. Beyond that, I find it mind-boggling that NBC allowed Milbury to use the word “pansification” on the air, repeatedly. It can’t have been a surprise to them, as he used the same word (and the same schtick) on Hotstove Saturday night on HNIC and, previously, on NESN.

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