Reviewing NBC and VERSUS Coverage of the Stanley Cup Final

Before we hit the get go, the venerable Ken Fang has something similar to this on his site, we suggest you check it out.

Anyway, let’s break down the coverage into categories, right after the jump.

On Location: Both networks did their studio shows at the arena.  VERSUS was much more daring in their coverage, as they had a makeshift studio set up in a well perched corner from which the ice was very visible.  The NBC studio chose to set up in an empty luxury box in Detroit, and somewhere in the bowels of Mellon Arena in their one broadcast from Pittsburgh.  VERSUS’s strange roundtable even for once made them look more comfortable, an almost miraculous feat.

Advantage: VERSUS

Studio Host:

Wanna know how nondescript and boring VERSUS studio host Bill Patrick is?  We couldn’t find a usable image on Google to put here.  That, my friends, is pretty pathetic.  We honestly don’t understand what VERSUS sees in Patrick.  He manages to be automatically less knowledgeable than predecessor Bill Clement, which is a given since Clement, you know, played.  But the fact that the straight, boring Patrick manages to be less entertaining than the affable, dorky yet enthusiastic man with the hands of cement is truly remarkable.  We’re sure he’s a great guy.  Hell, Brass Bonanza is his ring tone, and you can’t buy that kind of hockey cred (We’re pretty sure you can illegally download it though).  But VERSUS should seriously think about livening up that studio show from the ground up next season, and it starts in the main anchor’s chair.

Now, we all know NBC likes to be experimental (Read: cheap) with it’s studio host during the season, so it’s always refreshing when they bring in a real life host for the final.  Bob Neumeier was the referee between Milbury and McGuire’s scripted banter for last year’s Pens-Wings battle, but for the rematch NBC chose to go a little straighter.  Occasional NBC contributor Darren Pang served as both a set-up and counterpoint man to Mike Milbury, and proved himself quite effective.  He should be brought on as a permanent member of the NBC team next year, considering he’ll be needed for the Olympics anyway, and it’s probably good not to get the viewers on a McGuire overload.

Advantage: NBC

Studio Analysts:

First of all, let’s make one thing clear: Keith Jones is not, as that video said, awesome.  Keith Jones is an adequate hockey analyst whom, when paired with someone much more interesting than he is (ahem, Mike Milbury), can make some very good points.  We call him a “Ray Ferraro” in the hockey broadcasting world.  However, when paired with the endlessly dull and nonsensical Brian Engblom, and the even more boring host Bill Patrick, he is very, very, very far from awesome.  That VERSUS has tried nothing to improve this mess, to even maybe liven up the show with a rotating cast of different analysts (Eddie O. doesn’t count) is a true testament to their interest in the actual presentation of the game.

The fact is, the studio show isn’t appointment TV for anyone.  I know nothing about basketball, but I know Inside the NBA is the show to watch.  Ditto MLB Tonight.  Ditto FOX NFL Sunday pregame.  I know I’m gonna A.  Be entertained, and B. Actually learn something about hockey.  With VERSUS’ nonsensical babble, they do neither.

Which brings us to NBC.  Let’s get one thing straight: That segment where Milbury and McGuire play coach is the most insipid, putrid, meaningless, idiotic thing to hit hockey on TV since Joe Micheletti began working as an analyst.  I was embarrassed for Milbury and McGuire and everyone watching during Game 7 when they actually had them go all “Hoosiers” and do a speech for no one in the locker room.

But at least it’s something different, and Pang and Milbury’s discussions about the actual game going on weren’t a trainwreck.  That’s more than VERSUS can say.  Now NBC, you got the win here, please never do that ever again.

Advantage: NBC

Play-by-Play

How are we going to compare here, you might ask.  Well, I consider myself a bit of a Mike Emrick expert by proxy.  It isn’t arrogance, it’s just what you’re able to claim when you watch the man call 75 Devil games a year, in addition to about 20-25 playoff games.  I’ll tell you this: Doc’s best national work ended a decade ago when FOX let go of the hockey contract, and it’s not his fault and it’s annoying to see.

NBC and VERSUS have turned the Hall of Famer into a punching bag for idiotic HFBoards and Liveblog commenters who think it’s his fault that these broadcasts suck.  Well, it isn’t.  It’s the fault of producers who beg Emrick to talk more “of the game” than actually “about the game”.  It’s the fault of Eddie Olczyk and Pierre McGuire who fill Emrick’s eardrums with some of the most inane chatter possible on a hockey broadcast.  It’s John Davidson’s fault, because he was awesome and the perfect partner for Doc on FOX (and for only one year, NBC) and he decided to leave.

But it isn’t Doc’s fault.  I often wish Doc would retire from national work and let some other poor announcer become the martyr for NBC and VERSUS’ work.  But we all know Doc’s too classy for that.  His call of Game 7 was still great.  Where (surprisingly) Dave Strader (NHL International) and Jim Hughson (CBC) had Stanley Cup ending speeches that seemed canned and scripted (“Up from the shadows of Lemieux and Jagr…” really Strades?) Emrick followed the amazing finish and the end reminded us that “The Penguins have won the Stanley Cup!”.  The man is first class, all the way.

Advantage: VERSUS, Because Doc has only one idiot talking in his ear there.

Color: Speak of the devil.  Eddie Olczyk happens to be that idiot.  In all seriousness, we like Eddie O.  It’s just that he seems like such a Number 2 kind of guy.  When John Davidson did the analyst work for FOX, ABC and NBC, you got the idea that this was the NHL’s John Madden (Well, you know what I mean!) and that this was the guy who had the gravitas to preach hockey to the masses.  I don’t get that from Edzo.  Also, we all need to stop calling him Edzo.  He is not in The Godfather.

Advantage: VERSUS, for the same reason as Doc.

Reporters: Chris Simpson needs a new wardrobe, ThereISaidIt.  Bob Harwood asks insightful questions.  Pierre McGuire looks over the glass and asks Bill Guerin if he’s okay.  We all okay?

Advantage: VERSUS

Overall

Look, both networks have things that they do well.  But both networks have some real awful stuff going on.  There can be so much easy improvement done on these telecasts. Let’s see if there are any changes over the Summer to make it happen, but the league is such a good ol’ boys network, even up to the booth, that it’ll take something drastic for that to happen.

Advantage: VERSUS, but really no one.

9 Responses to Reviewing NBC and VERSUS Coverage of the Stanley Cup Final

  1. Sean says:

    Heres the thing that I hate…Pierre McGuire jumping in during play with a random comment, that then allows Edzo (ugh) to make some random comment, they go back and forth and it’s annoying. I like the Inside the Glass stuff for between faceoffs and coming back from commerical, but they need to shut up Pierre during the action.

  2. Scotty says:

    I think this is a good overview of it. I think some chaanges should be made though. I don’t think NBC will change the lineup in the booth, unless one of them decides not to come back. And when I say both I sadly include Pierre’s tidbits too. (BTW as a Wild fan I appologise to everyone that we didn’t name him GM to get him away). I think Pierre does a good job I just don’t like the fact he interupts whenever, he’s more annoying then Lynn Swan was on the sidelines during college football. He makes good points but should wait for a stoppage. Versus as you said needs to change the studio, i’d say completely. I like Pang and Millburry on NBC but perhaps bring in an actual studio host to join them and get rid of the coaching segment it was cute at first now its just annoying.

  3. leafsfan1967 says:

    I agree with the view that Emrick and Olczyk are better on Versus when there are just two of them sharing the air time. I’m old fashioned in the sense that I prefer the colour guy to not talk too much during the play. This is where the Hockey Night in Canada broadcast pairings are usually much better.

    Having said all of this Emrick and Olczyk did a good job this year and we should be thankful that it is they who were calling the games. It could have been much much worse…..

  4. gowings says:

    Really? Not Emrick’s fault that he confuses “Crosby” and “Osgood” twice? When Crosby is no where near the play? Not his fault that he thinks that “saunter” is such a good verb to describe skating that he uses it every other time someone skates in on net? He’s a joke, a wisp of a shadow of whatever high-pitched, annoying-voiced god of announcer he used to be.

  5. Dave Sullivan says:

    Full disclosure: I am a dirty red. That’s right, I’m a Republican. Thus, I feel that I have the utmost credibility when I say this. With all deference to Her Honor, the Governor of Alaska, Chris Simpson is the ultimate hockey MILF. And nothing tops that black leather jacket. Va-va-va-voom. Make no mistake, she is THE BEST THING about the NHL on Versus.

  6. Danimal says:

    NBC is definitely using Pierre between the benches for the Olympics, so he’ll back. But I agree that the Emrick-Olczyk chemistry needs some improvement, and even more so for the Versus studio show.

  7. Pingback: Celebrating the worst in NHL television for 2008-09 | Lancilo USA

  8. Praveen says:

    Mike Emrick is the BEST part of the telecasts. He brings an enthusiasm to the telecast that is infectious. I am a Pens fan who enjoyed Pens’ Mike Lange in the days he used to do TV, but Emrick brings Lange’s enthusiasm without his quirkiness to a national audience.

    Milbury is a joke. Pierre is beyond a joke. Pierre seems to have small man syndrome and puts on that annoying voice affectation which sounds as annoying as Donald Trump’s.

    Pang is decent and I hope versus picks him up.

    That opening set of speeches in Game 7 by Pierre and Mike were two of the most cringeworthy moments I ever had to deal with on a national telecast. I felt embarrassed and fidgety to be in the room with my friends just staring at the TV. Soon , we just burst out laughing.

    Larry Murphy is always fun to listen to on the NHL Network. Maybe Versus can pick him up. He has that funny slightly drunk tone but he does not mince words without looking like a jackass.

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