Making Peace with the Painstakingly Dull Charm of NHL On the Fly

NHL COO John Collins has vowed to turn the NHL Network into something better. There’s certainly a lot of looking up the league-sanctioned station needs to do to put itself on par with the sublime MLB Network, the dull but well-produced NFL Network, and the I-don’t-watch-but-when-I-flip-past-it-looks-better NBA TV. You’d think that would start by remaking the league’s flagship show, NHL On the Fly, the nightly highlights whip around the league, eventually ending in the 1AM On the Fly: Final, which recaps the day’s action.

Well, for those of you wondering if they did that in time for this season … they haven’t. The show is still ridiculously boring. The exception, of course is the game highlights, which remain terrific because they show the broadcast highlights with the play-by-play and color commentator without talking heads spouting catchphrases over. It’s the beauty of the game in highlight form. We can talk about this all night, but for now, let’s show you the game with some peace. How every other league-specific network doesn’t have a show like this is beyond me.

Aside from that, though, I’ve yet to see a big enough change in On the Fly’s banter portion of the show, which needs to get more in-depth, more x’s and o’s, more entertaining … just more something. Dan Pollard, a network original, was let go over the summer for former ESPNews anchor David Amber, who might as well be a carbon copy of both Pollard and fellow On the Fly host Brian Duff. They’re all polite, unfunny hockey fans who should probably be hosting a newscast instead of a hockey show. I know John Buccigross is a polarizing name in some hockey circles, but the man can carry an entire hockey show on his back. Why will no one allow him to do it in exchange for these boring dudes?

To be fair, it’s Amber, Duff and Bill Patrick on Hockey Central’s job to be the set-up man for his analysts. Again, NHL Network hasn’t improved. Other than Mike Johnson, there seems little analysis worth listening to. I sure hope I get to hear Bobby Holik, Brad May and Kevin Weekes (all scheduled to appear regularly on the show at some point) soon, because guys like Gary Green just do not cut it any more. They overstate the obvious, pound home things you’ve heard a million times before, and just restate what they’re trying to say over and over again, like I did just within the context of that sentence. There needs to be some fresh blood, and I hope to evaluate it soon.

It’s okay, however, if On the Fly isn’t great as a studio show. It remains a fantastic highlight showcase for the league. It gets out of it’s own way and let’s the players show you, almost like a little child walking up to you with his art project and quietly waiting for your approval. That’s what makes the show worthwhile. However, it’d be nice if I could stick with the show for the portion after the game highlights have ended, which can total more than 30 minutes some nights. Regardless, I’ll still watch On the Fly, because there’s nothing like it on TV, for better and worse.


One Response to Making Peace with the Painstakingly Dull Charm of NHL On the Fly

  1. Mike in Idaho says:

    You should give them props for finally upgrading to HD.

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