Puck the Media’s Hockey Network of the Decade… NBC

(Today, Puck the Media features my picks for various decade-ending awards. I hope you enjoy them.)

Ready to go knockdown drag-out on this one? Here’s my thesis: Despite a lack of game coverage, despite turning down Doc Emrick’s mic to the point of almost inaudibility, despite having essentially a three-man booth, despite cutting from the OT of a Stanley Cup Playoff game to show horses walking around… NBC has saved hockey on network broadcast television in the states, has done an outright better job of televising it than any other network in the United States, competes neck-and-neck with CBC during the Stanley Cup Final as far as better coverage goes, and has – all things considered – done more to advance the way the sport of hockey is televised than TSN, VERSUS, CBC and others combined. For those reasons, NBC is the hockey network of the decade.

Think about it. Winter Classic? NBC. Inside the Glass? NBC. New camera angles to show different views of power plays? NBC. Best Stanley Cup Final ratings since the 70’s? NBC. Those theatrical debates between Pierre McGuire and Mike Milbury, before Milbury turned into the boogieman of hockey coverage? NBC. These are all things that have gotten hockey into the mainstream. Every single one of these ideas is a positive effort to make the sport more telegenic, more fan friendly, and closer to the players.

CBC’s HD work is fantastic, and TSN has a good studio show. VERSUS has been solid on the game telecasts. The point is, however, that all of them are merely pushing the status quo. NBC doesn’t broadcast enough games, we know that. They should not miss a week between January and the Stanley Cup Final, particularly after the Super Bowl. However, NBC tries new things. They break ground, at times without even trying. They’re willing to take chances on the sport that other networks simply haven’t. They are relevant to today’s hockey viewer without annoying the old guard. That is why they mattered more than any other hockey network this decade. Sue me.

Honorable Mention: You know who broadcast hockey this decade, they’re all in there.


Puck the Media’s NHL Studio Analyst of the Decade… Don Cherry

These awards are not about talent, they’re about relevance.  The strange thing, though, is that through all the years, Don Cherry has never been more popular than he is today.  His comments on Alexander Ovechkin sparked a debate across countries and across the web.  He made cameos on NBC and ESPN during postseasons, and I’m sure there is still interest in bringing him back to the states somewhere.  The fact is, like McGuire, when he speaks, you listen.  He’s still as popular as ever, and though his message is no longer timely, it’s still heard by more people than any other hockey commentator in the world.  That is enough to give him the award.

Let’s also use the bully pulpit to challenge the NHL for not coming anywhere near finding an American counterpart for Grapes, or even another decent Canadian one.  The fact that you’d still rather hear Don Cherry talk for 8 minutes than anyone else in North America is both a failing of hockey as well as the networks that cover it.  That said, lets not use it do denigrate some of the work Don does.  For every anti-Euro sentiment, there is legitimate, solid advice for youth hockey players, commentary in support of homosexuals in hockey, and the spotlighting of simple hockey plays that often go unnoticed by others.  He is everything to everyone, and he is something to anyone.  Simple as that.

Honorable Mention: Pierre McGuire (NBC/TSN/OLN), Barry Melrose (ESPN), Mike Milbury (NBC/CBC/NESN)

Your Announcers and Open Thread for Hawks-Stars and WJCs

Latvia vs. Team USA, 4PM, NHL Network
Play by Play:
JP Dellacamera
Color: Dave Starman
Reporter: Fred Pletsch

Russia vs. Sweden, 6PM, TSN2/NHL Network
Play by Play:
Dave Randorf
Color: Dave Reid

Chicago vs. Dallas, 8PM, VERSUS
Play by Play:
John Forslund
Color: Daryl Reaugh
Reporter: Lindsay Soto

Canada vs. Slovakia, 8PM, TSN/NHL Network
Play by Play: Gord Miller
Pierre McGuire
Ryan Rishaug

Puck the Media’s NHL Studio Host of the Decade… James Duthie

(Today, Puck the Media features my picks for various decade-ending awards. I hope you enjoy them.)

There came a point during the 2000’s where Ron MacLean stopped being the probing, newsmaking, challenging reporter he started out as (You know, like every interview with Gary Bettman?) and began resigning to being just a foil to Don Cherry or Mike Milbury or… gasp, PJ Stock.  That’s when the most entertaining thing that you’d hear from MacLean each week became the puns at the end of Coach’s Corner, and it’s when we began to get bored of him and the HNIC broadcast as a whole.

Let’s instead use this as a chance to reward the TSN studio gang for it’s great work this decade, and no one deserves kudos more than James Duthie.  He’s funny, intelligent, hockey-savvy and controls the sometimes outsized personalities that come through the revolving doors of TSN quite well.  “The Quiz” is often more entertaining than Hotstove, and the show is as close as Canada gets to TNT’s NBA studio show.

Duthie does fantastic work, and does what’s asked of his job description.  Buccigross didn’t host enough hockey this decade to deserve it, nor did Clement.  MacLean became merely ordinary.  That’s why this one went the way it did.

Honorable Mention: Ron MacLean (CBC), John Buccigross (ESPN), Bill Clement (VERSUS/OLN/NBC)

Puck the Media’s NHL Color Commentator of the Decade… Pierre McGuire

(Today, Puck the Media features my picks for various decade-ending awards. I hope you enjoy them.)

I’m going to get killed for this one.  The long and short of it is that a lot of people really loathe NBC/TSN color man Pierre McGuire.  They find him annoying, unnecessarily in-your-face, loudmouthed, as well as other words I can’t put here.  That may be true, but you can’t argue his impact on hockey, the same way you can’t argue Cherry’s, but to a much larger extent.  The point is, much like Grapes, when Pierre McGuire says something, it’s news.  Not only that, it’s relevant to the sport now unlike Cherry, who is relevant to the sport perhaps 20 years ago.  For that reason, this is Pierre McGuire’s decade.

McGuire rose to prominence becoming TSN’s lead hockey analyst a little before the lockout.  It made news in 2005 when OLN had hired him as a studio commentator.  Even in the original “garage” studio, McGuire made interesting banter with Engblom, Jones and Clement.  Read that sentence again and tell me he doesn’t deserve this award.

However, the real reason you know his name is because of his work as Inside the Glass analyst on NBC.  He essentially invented the position.  He was made for it.  He knows the game from all angles (coach, player, media) and can talk about the game from any perspective with gusto.  I’ve yet to see anyone who’s better at the job.  I’ve yet to see an American color commentator be better than he is.  He may be loud and obnoxious at times, but he’s better than the Brian Haywards of the world, for sure.  You as a hockey fan would rather be angry than feel nothing all.  That’s why he’s my choice.

Honorable Mentions: Daryl Reaugh (VERSUS/ESPN/FS Southwest), Craig Simpson (CBC/CTV Sportsnet), Glenn Healy (CBC/TSN), Eddie Olczyk (VERSUS/NBC/CSN Chicago/ESPN/FS Pittsburgh)

Puck the Media’s NHL Play-by-Play Man of the Decade… Jim Hughson

(Today, Puck the Media features my picks for various decade-ending awards.  I hope you enjoy them.)

There came a certain time during this decade, and I can’t be sure of when it happened, but Jim Hughson simply became the best hockey announcer alive.  Maybe it was Bob Cole’s descent into geriatric mediocrity.  Perhaps it was Mike Emrick losing a step or to on his immaculate pipes.  Or it could’ve been the lack of a real hotshot successor in either the U.S. or Canada to try and take the crown.  Regardless, at some point, the hockey world decided Hughson was it, and there couldn’t be a better choice than Hockey Night in Canada’s lead play-by-play man.

Hughson, who called his first Stanley Cup Final on TV last season, has the immaculate vocal talents of ESPN baseball announcer Jon Miller, but with a style all his own, that is both different from Miller and any other hockey play-by-play man we’ve ever heard.  It is difficult to explain.  It’s smooth and calm, but also tense and excited.  It’s careful and deliberate without being boring or tedious.

Hughson’s rise has been an interesting one.  He started the decade as CTV Sportsnet’s (The Canadian VERSUS, I think would be a good description) lead play-by-play man, as well as calling Canucks games or Sportsnet Pacific.  He eventually got the job as CBC’s #2 guy (The “West Coast” guy essecntially) and waited until the network was ready to reduce Bob Cole’s schedule enough to make Hughson Hockey Night’s first new lead voice since 1980.  It’s something fans of the sport and the broadcast have long called for, and I’ve yet to see anyone disappointed with Hughson as the replacement.

Honorable Mentions: Mike Emrick (VERSUS/NBC/ABC/FSN New York/MSG Plus), John Forslund (VERSUS/FS Carolinas), Chris Cuthbert (TSN/CBC), Jack Edwards (NESN/VERSUS/ESPN/HDNet)