I Love NHL Network, But Maybe Don’t Cut Away From Hockey Night So Fast?
November 28, 2011 13 Comments
I don’t know what it is about Hockey Night in Canada. Even as the talent surrounding the game in the studio turns almost vaudevillian – Hotstove is frequently a mess aside from the intelligent and finite Elliotte Friedman; I’m convinced Grapes has no remembrance of any of those clips the crew calls up to prove his opinions correct, and did we really need to lose Jeff Marek and Scott Morrison, who made the iDesk as much a must-watch as anything? – you throw Bob Cole or Jim Hughson on the air for two hours with anyone and I’m there. Literally, those two or so good that I’d listen to them call a game with a brick wall, or that robot from the Craig Ferguson show. All of Hockey Night’s best play-by-play men just know how to evoke a moment and make it seem like, in a season with 1,200 games that can often run together, this one right now is the most important you’ll ever see. The one where, to quote Bob Cole, “everything is happening”.
So here’s my problem: the Penguins-Canadiens broadcast from Saturday night, as simulcast on NHL Network, was one of those games. It had everything: breakneck pace, hard hitting, controversy at both ends, and an increasingly rare, on-his-game Bob Cole at the mic with the fine Gary Galley and the unwelcome at Jeremy Roenick and Anson Carter’s house Glenn Healy. It had Pittsburgh’s Kris Letang suffering a broken nose from a hit to the head by Max Pacioretty of all people (half of Twitter immediately sang out “Call the police!”) and then showed Letang scoring the game-winning goal in overtime on a controversial play in which Montreal goaltender Carey Price felt he’d covered the puck but had it dislodged and sent to Letang for the winner. There was so much for Cole and the rest of the HNIC crew to break down that it seemed like it’d take minutes for them to sort everything out.
Yet, for viewers in the United States, that was not the case. Within less than 60 seconds of the game’s end, we were abruptly sent to NHL On the Fly, which gave hardly any recap from Brian Duff and Mike Johnson and moved on with the typical show they had been doing for NHL Network viewers in Canada, no doubt more likely tuning into, you know… Freaking Hockey Night in Canada! It was confusing, disappointing, and flat-out unacceptable, and here’s why:
- The NHL Network Crew Barely Broke the Game Down Themselves. Brian Duff and Mike Johnson are good at what they do, and On the Fly is a great show, but it was a show that stuck remarkably to format. After a cursory, brief recap of what had happened in the controversial finish, they moved on to highlights from the Devils-Islanders game from 1 p.m. this afternoon. We would need to wait nearly half an hour for any cogent analysis of the thing, while I’m sure Hockey Night in Canada did nothing but talk about what had just happened in the post-game up until the start of game two of the doubleheader, San Jose vs. Vancouver.
- They Didn’t Even Let the Game Announcers Finish. Bob Cole is a legendary hockey broadcaster. I don’t care if he’s 6,000 years old and watched Newsy Lalonde play as a young boy, I want to hear everything that man has to say. Instead, they cut into the wrap-up from the game’s broadcasters. I can understand not wanting to hear Ron MacLean and Don Cherry schmooze about the three stars and whatever else is rattling through Don’s brain (Kyle Wellwood = good, Montreal = bad?) but to not let them show enough replays of the controversial game winner and get Healy and Galley’s take on what happened for the brief take of two broadcasters whom, mind you, finished their shift five minutes later and gave way to Kathryn Tappen and Jamie McLennan? Not good. Also, missing out on Carey Price’s full breakdown and, what I assume, was Kris Letang getting tired of high fiving literally everyone on the planet? Also not good.
- Actually, to be Honest, I Do Want to Hear What Ron and Don Thought of That. I lied. That ending was so compelling, violent and exciting, I want to hear the opinions of the often fiery Hockey Night studio folk. I want to hear Elliotte Friedman cheekily mention what the fans are saying on Twitter, and have Don say that was a dirty hit by Pacioretty and he should know better and also get off his lawn. Give me Kelly Hrudey and Mike Milbury, and even poor, poor PJ Stock and his delusions arguing about that final goal and whether Pacioretty would get suspended. Give me Eric Francis’ poor wardrobe choices. Just don’t give me two guys who are off the clock in a stone’s throw moving on after a minute.
Look, I’m sure there are games when it’s perfectly fine to cut away from Hockey Night immediately, like after last week’s awful Toronto blowout of Washington. But when you’ve got something good, you don’t take your viewers off of it to send them to something different. I know the NHL and NHL Network love On the Fly as their flagship program, but honestly, most fans would prefer the network just show the second game of the doubleheader live anyway. It isn’t that important that you need to cut the HNIC folks before they even get there say, especially when it might be worth something. It isn’t that important, period.