VERSUS All-Star Broadcast: Keep it Simple, Stupid

There’s the shootout portion of last night’s All-Star Game on VERSUS.  Overall, it was the best of the three since the lockout and likely as good as the 2004 game in Minnesota, which isn’t saying too much since it went to a shootout too.  VERSUS did an okay of getting the game to the people, and a better job of keeping an eye on the action than they did during the Superskills last night.  But there were some pet peeves that we need to talk about.

For a review of some of what was talked about on the CBC, here’s the awesome William Houston.  But now, let’s break down the All-Star coverage:

Announcers:

Once again, we had Doc Emrick and Brian Engblom.  Eddie Olczyk was apparently sick and unable to work the game, which was fine.  Emrick and Engblom work well together.  The problem is that Emrick was clearly more enthused about the game at the moments it really picked up than Engblom.  There was a definite gap, especially when Ovechkin scored the shootout winner.  Engblom acted as if Ovechkin had just picked up his dry cleaning.

While we don’t always love the himboistic guys like Darren Pang, we’d like to be able to tell you’re having fun.  Otherwise, good job.  Those two ran the telecast well.

Bob Harwood and Chris Simpson did a fine job during the 57 in-game interviews they did (more on that in a moment).  We’d prefer some more Lindsay Soto, that pairing is professional and always asks semi-interesting questions.

In what might be a controversial move, there was no studio team for the first time in an All-Star Game since 1994 on NBC.  Now, some might say it’s VERSUS going on the cheap.  In our opinion, good riddance.  If they didn’t plan on sending Bill Patrick and Keith Jones to the game, don’t bother having them give insights into 3-second sound-bytes from a studio in Connecticut.  As we said, Doc and Brian were fine introducing some harmless featurettes.

GRADE: A-

Production:

Like we said, much much better.  But can we please not have every goal covered up by an interview with a player?  We know these games are dull, but can you at least pretend that they aren’t, especially during the third period?  If you watch the highlights, almost every goal was done during an interview with Simpson or Harwood.

The HD feed from the Bell Centre was georgeous.  The sound and pictures were terrific.  Everything went pretty smoothly overall.

GRADE: B

Innovations:

Once again, players such as Marc Savard and Martin St. Louis were mic’d up.  Savard was a much better participant than St. Louis, as Marty refused to talk to Doc and Brian while he was out on the ice.  But Savard was fun and informative, and seemed to be hinting at a career in TV after hockey.  We can’t say we’d have a problem with that.

Otherwise, a good job by VERSUS of going low on the bells and whistles.

GRADE: A

Miscellaneous: 

Read my lips: NO.  MORE.  MATT.  ISEMAN.  We do not need awkwardly filmed clips of him chatting with Harwood or Engblom in the intermission.  We’d rather hear Keith Jones read a chapter from his book or watch Engblom get a haircut.

That is all.  There was just too much of that guy on the telecast.  Certainly didn’t get me to watch the show.

GRADE: F

Overall:

In the end, Iseman aside, this was a great triumph of a broadcast for VERSUS, as they put on a solid product.  They can only hope they see the ratings increases they deserve.  Three cheers for the production team and the announcers for most of the weekend, bringing out the stars and getting to know them a little.  The NHL should be proud of it’s cable TV partner for how it serviced the fans who have the channel (Sorry, cheap shot).

GRADE: B+ (Without Iseman: A-)

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