Enter For a Chance to Win Puck the Media Summer Reading Book #1, Flip Flop Fly Ball by Craig Robinson

After reading this review of Craig Robinson’s Flip Flop Fly Ball yesterday, I’m sure some of you are interested in getting a copy yourself. Courtesy of Bloomsbury, you have that chance today. Here’s what you have to do, it is really very simple:

1. Enter your name and e-mail address in the comments, all folks who have never commented before will be approved.

2. Add, along with it, your favorite obscure hockey statistic.

The person with the most interesting, obscure hockey factoid (provided it is true) will win a free copy of the book. Deadline for submission 5 p.m. ET tonight, winner will be notified via e-mail. Good luck!


Dave Strader Makes It Official

Via the Coyotes Website:

As I’ve recently completed working my 25th season of TV play-by-play in the National Hockey League, I have some news. I have accepted a multi-year offer from NBC Sports Group to be a full-time play-by-play announcer for their NHL package that begins a 10-year run this fall. While there are many factors, both personal and professional, that went into my final decision, it’s not going to be easy to say goodbye to all the wonderful people I’ve worked with in Phoenix over the past four seasons.

Dave Strader

I want to thank the Coyotes (Doug Moss & Mike Nealy in particular) and Fox Sports Arizona (Mike Connelly) for the opportunity they gave me four years ago and continued support they provided throughout my years in the Valley. I certainly knew that I would enjoy working with my good friend Darren Pang, but I made many new friends and gained a tremendous appreciation for the passion and hard work that went into each Coyotes’ telecast from everyone on the crew. While there are too many people to thank individually in this space, I do want to acknowledge my on-air partners: Todd Walsh, Tyson Nash and Bob Heethuis.

REPORT: VERSUS Closing In On Deal For College Hockey, Juniors To Follow?

Via Skip Berry, who tweeted the info:

Major development in NCAA Hockey right now! Hearing from sources that Versus/NBC is close to a deal with College Hockey to air games soon.

Versus would air a game of the week on Friday night and each conference would be featured twice (minimum), which includes the AHA. Big News!

I’d expect that the WHL/OHL/QMJHL get more games on the NHL Network next season. Might see a similar deal in major junior w/ Versus/NBC

Puck the Media’s Summer Reading: Craig Robinson’s Flip Flop Fly Ball Is Long-Toss For Your Brain

Summer can be dull for a hockey writer, especially a hockey media writer. So, I’ve decided to take on a new project until hockey season returns. Every Monday (or at least most Mondays) will feature “Puck the Media’s Summer Reading/Watching Project.” It will contain various hockey/non-hockey books and DVDs and other goodies for the whole family (or just the nerds). Why should you care? Because the Tuesday after every review, you’ll have a chance to win the product reviewed. So check in with me every Monday and Tuesday.

When you think about it, there aren’t a lot of sports books that make you smarter. I mean, they can be an enjoyable experience that will let you know about a life different from your own, but you’re not going to be thought of as the genius at any dinner party for knowing what’s going on in, say, Phil Esposito’s autobiography, or even Moneyball or The Game, considered some of the genre’s finest titles. Most books are meant to throw actual knowledge into your brain, whereas most sports books will, at best, turn up in the first five questions of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

Well, I don’t know what it was about Craig Robinson’s excellent new book of infographics and essays on baseball, Flip Flop Fly Ball (based on his equally excellent website) but I feel like it was the rare sports book that accomplishes both. It is a book that can appeal to every level of sports fan, both baseball and non-baseball, and every level of intelligence. No matter who you are, reading this will teach you something you didn’t know beforehand, and a big key to that is the personal work Robinson puts into it.

Robinson could’ve easily taken his wildly popular website’s format of largely stand-alone infographics (with a tiny bit of context thrown in) and made himself an impressive tome, and one that I probably would’ve also given a good review to. His artwork is stunning, his information is mind-expanding, and the sheer coolness of getting something this smart, fun and with this much re-read value (there’s no way you won’t go back and check at least a few pages for Easter eggs) is an achievement in itself.

Where Flip Flop Fly Ball really wins, however, is when Robinson delves into his unique personal adventures with the game of baseball. Born in England, and having discovered the sport in Berlin in his mid-30’s, his tales of road trips throughout the United States as an Englishman learning the most distinctly American of sports proves fascinating, turning all the typical cliches about baseball and America on their sides, then rolling them back over again until they actually return to their initial truism. It is a story that’s never been told from this angle, and it comes from a voice you wouldn’t ever expect.

Overall, Flip Flop Fly Ball is probably the perfect book for rainy day summers with the baseball fans in your lives. Big enough for a group of kids to scour, yelling out how cool various graphics are, but small enough that you can enjoy reading the fantastic, often hilarious essays, it is the sort of book baseball – and sports in general – need at this very moment. I would love to see a hockey-centric version. Buy Flip Flop Fly Ball (or win it in tomorrow’s contest) and get on it, gang.

(Next Week: The 2010-11 Boston Bruins Stanley Cup Championship DVD) 

VERSUS May Land College Hockey

From Ken Schott of Parting Schotts:

There could be a national college hockey package coming to Versus this season.

Numerous sources have indicated that Versus is discussing the possibility of televising regular-season college hockey games, beginning in January. What conferences would be involved, or what night the games would be shown (either Friday or Saturday) is unclear right now. Versus, part of the NBC Sports Group, is the cable home of the NHL. A few months ago, the NBC Sports Group signed a 10-year deal to keep the NHL on NBC and Versus.

A Versus spokesman declined comment.


How My Hockey Fandom Wouldn’t Be the Same without Mike “Doc” Emrick

(Editor’s Note: Re-posting this piece from November 2008 felt appropriate today. Note that this was written as he was entering the Hockey Hall of Fame.) 

My hockey watching dates back to about 1995.  Just after the New Jersey Devils had won their first Stanley Cup, my father had purchased (do you still have to purchase MSG Plus separately, dad?) what was then called SportsChannel.  I’d like to say that my first remembered Devils game was against the Leafs, because that was definitely the first one I watched.  But the first one I actually have a pictured memory in my brain of?  It was a January 1996 game between New Jersey and the Islanders.  It was hockey, so it was good.  Oh, and this happened:

If you listen closely, you can slowly hear a 6-year old boy from North Jersey getting hooked on the sport.  Doc was there from the start.  He called every hockey game that existed to me.  I wasn’t a big ESPN-fan, except for SportsCenter and the weekend morning reruns of NHL 2Night, and Doc called the Devils and he called FOX, and that was about all I knew.

I’m pretty sure the first time I ever met Mike Emrick was when I was 12.  I say this because I was wearing my Little League team’s town championship jacket, which I had won over the Summer (Also, the days where I was any good at playing sports were close to their end) and I believe, in keeping with my team’s black and gold theme, it was a game against the Penguins.  We were sitting in the upper deck, and someone must’ve noticed that Doc and partner Glenn “Chico” Resch were easily accessible to fans from the seats, so we went over.

There was a crowd, as there always was anytime I ventured to the broadcast booth.  Not just folks looking to badger the Devils first local star, and television analyst who could regale you with stories for hours and not get tired.  They wanted to talk to the play-by-play man too.  I always thought if my career as a starting NHL goaltender in the winter, and Major League 3rd Baseman in the Summer didn’t work out, I would want to call hockey games.  I had done play-by-play whenever my friends played video games, or played street hockey, and used “Doc-isms” (pitchforked to center, feathers a little pass thru, etc.) throughout.

So I went up to Doc, and was likely scared out of my mind.  Of course, he was a gentleman, as he’s always been whenever I’ve met him.  He happened to take a look at my jacket, and spent a minute or two talking about it and talking baseball.  As friendly and engaged a man as you’ll ever meet.  I’ll have another story about Doc in a little bit, but let’s move on in your heroic writer’s hockey story.  For now, check out this awesome call of an OT game in Philly:

The clip really emphasizes the two things that make Emrick and Resch work.  Emrick’s mastery of the english language even in the tensest, craziest moments of a game, mixed with both his and Chico’s passion, love, and just plain amusement for how much fun this sport can be.

By the year 2002 or so, I started to keep track of when Doc was calling games and when I could see him.  As he was usually on the C-team for ABC, I always made it a point to watch his calls with Barry Melrose or Brian Engblom.  By the time the lockout rolled around, I had sort of reached a crossroads in my hockey fandom, that I bet some other young people had too.  Either follow the lockout and come back to the sport more diehard than ever, or just ignore it, and maybe never come back.

I chose the latter, and went about a year without hearing Doc, or any of my favorite announcers call a game.  His voice got me to watch the National Lacrosse League All-Star Game and Championships, and even the Summer Olympic Water Polo tournament in 2004.  By the time hockey returned, I had followed the lockout so deeply, that getting the sport back meant I had to have my full investment.  That it did, and it certainly helped that Doc would be calling games for both NBC and OLN, meaning about 25 extra Emrick games a year, plus the 2006 Torino Olympics.  Oh, and he was reunited with John Davidson, where they called one of the best Stanley Cup Finals of the decade.


Again, it shows off Emrick’s greatness.  His ability to work with the best analyst in hockey, his ability to follow the game, and at the end, he shows off that next gear that so few play-by-play men have.  Jim Hughson and Chris Cuthbert don’t quite have his passion level.  Gary Thorne doesn’t come close on a vocabulary test.  Joe Beninati is getting there, but can over-do at times.  There simply aren’t many with the man’s gift.  The fact that he hasn’t won the Foster Hewitt Award ’till now is baffling.

I last met Doc once more in February.  It was after a Devils-Ducks game in Newark.  Now, if you’ve been to the arena, you know that the announcers are much less accessible to the common fan.  They’re barred off by the barriers of the Fire Lounge at Prudential Center.  But anyway, a friend and I waited at those barriers for Doc and Chico to come over.  Chico came first, and he was his usual friendly, chatty self.  I embarrassingly asked him to get Doc to come over (which I apologized and thanked Chico for the next night, by the way!) and he obliged.

I’ve long since decided that I want to call hockey games for a living.  I’m studying in communication arts at college, and I know I’d take any job in sports, but hockey would be the realization of an amazing dream that’s lasted since age six.  I decided I’d take a risk and tell Doc all this, and maybe, if he had the time I could pick his brain.  I did, and he seemed genuinely interested as always.  Then, he put down his suitcase and took something out of it.

“The problem is” I recall him saying “was that when I was your age and wanting to do this, there weren’t too many people willing to talk about it”.  He saw his chance to pay it forward my way, and took out a copy of the sheet of notes he prepares for every game.  I wish I could scan it onto the computer so you all could see it.  In about 16 square boxes on double-sided paper, he keeps basic, read-able stats on both the two teams playing that night and the league, so they can fill two-and-a-half hours of airtime.  All that, plus a few basic storylines he and Chico could go over at some point during the game.  They don’t always get to everything, but it’s good to have the extra material.

Emrick is the greatest American hockey announcer ever.  There are more good ones than fans will give credit for, but his excitement and love for the game, which oozes out the screen and into your living room, combined with his almost strange, in-depth knowledge of the English language, make him someone any hockey fan would wanna’ learn from.  Thank goodness I live so close to his main employers.

So, if you ever get a chance to read this, congratulations Doc.  My hockey watching, loving, and eventual hope to be covering (if that makes sense grammatically, probably not) it are inspired and always affected by what you’ve done.  Congratulations on your award and induction to the Hockey Hall of Fame.  And for readers who will come to this blog throughout his existence, you no longer need to know what I think of him!  Here’s one last clip that, while before I became a fan, is definitely one I’ve heard more than others.

Jets to Air Games on TSN TV and Radio

From Ed Tait of the Winnipeg Free Press:

The Free Press has learned the Jets are expected to announce within the next few days that they have come to an agreement on a new broadcast agreement with The Sports Network and Bell Media that means the NHL’s return will be televised on TSN and broadcast on TSN radio.

That means that Sports Radio 1290 in Winnipeg – Bell Media also owns Fab 94.3 and Bob FM — will likely now broadcast Jets games, effectively ending a long association between True North Sports and Entertainment and CJOB, which has held the radio rights for the Manitoba Moose for the past 15 years and the Jets prior to that.

TSN’s package deal – the chance to have TV and radio games handled by the same partner – was said to be very attractive to Jets’ management. TSN and Bell Media landed the English-language radio rights for the Montreal Canadiens last month and also hold the rights in Vancouver and Ottawa.


Doc Emrick to Leave Devils for VERSUS/NBC, Turns Writer Into Emotional Wreck

Well, this is unexpected. Emrick announced his leaving the Devils in a letter to the teams fans.

I’ll say this for now: no human beings were better ambassadors for the team during their years together than Mike Emrick and Chico Resch. Good for NBC, VERSUS and National Hockey League fans that they’ll get him full time.

VERSUS Will Be Retired At the End of the Year, New Name Coming Soon

From Pete Dougherty of the Albany Times-Union:

In the course of an interview for this week’s Times Union sportsmedia column, NBC programming president Jon Miller said the new name for “Versus” should be revealed within the next couple of weeks, “but we’re not going to flip the switch until the start of the new year.”


“We’ll have regular NHL,” Miller said of NBC’s cable entity. “We’ll have some other stuff that we’re going to be announcing. We have some fun programming in the works that’s going to make it an exciting place for people to go look. We’re not going to be ESPN. We’ve never claimed to be ESPN, but I think we’ll be an attractive alternative.”


Versus will carry five of the eight “Summer at Saratoga” programs (NBC has the other three). The series will begin at 5 p.m. Saturday with the American Oaks on NBC.


Dave Strader to Work NBC/VERSUS Full-Time?

As per Jim Gintonio of the Arizona Republic:

Dave Strader, the television play-by-play voice of the Coyotes, is expected to leave his position and accept a job with NBC/Versus, according to an NHL source.

The Coyotes have posted an ad on NHL.com to fill Strader’s position.

Strader joined the Coyotes for the 2007-08 season, moving over from the Florida Panthers, for whom he held a similar position for two years.

E-mails to both Mr. Strader and VERSUS by Puck the Media have not been responded to at this time.