NHL Live Hits The Right Tone on Concussions

Last week, I gave a negative review to a VERSUS program (NHL 36: Patrick Kane) that was similar to a program airing on another network (HBO 24/7), partly because it suffered in comparison to the what the other program did better and because it had more interesting subjects. This week, I come to praise a VERSUS program of a different nature, but partly because it took a subject that had been somewhat unfairly skimmed over on 24/7 (concussion), and turned what is usually a fairly straightforward NHL studio show into an hour-long sports newsmagazine.

You can forgive me for rolling my eyes a bit when host Liam McHugh introduced NHL Live as a “very important” edition of the show. Sometimes these big issue discussion shows can turn into too much heated debate, or not have enough to carry an hour-long show. Part of what helped last night’s show succeed was that this was the only case of hyperbole on the show. The tone of the show worked, as McHugh and analysts Pierre McGuire and Keith Jones all kept it very calm, low-key and discussed the important points they needed to discuss. It’s a long way from the shouting and yelling we used to see on VERSUS’ corporate partner not long ago.

I thought a great choice in all this was to devote a full segment to how the changes made after the lockout really sped up the sport. We often hear that mentioned by hockey analysts as a reason why the game has sped up, but you’ve never really heard it thought out much more than that. McGuire and Jones recalled both having seen the game before the lockout, and then after the lockout and being amazed with how fast everything got. Kudos to both for, again, keeping everything very calm and low key. Though this is an important subject, the tone was kept very serious, and the viewers felt rewarded for having tuned in because of it.

The interviews with players, members of the medical community, and Brendan Shanahan were all really well-done – though I think they could have stood to ask if the changes he helped bring had led us down the road, especially after that segment on how, you know… that’s what actually happened. But I understand keeping things more towards the suspensions and player responsibility side of things. Even ol’ Jeremy Roenick – who’s been a bit inconsistent on the analyst side – offered his own compelling, often frightening tales of being concussed in a manner that didn’t go over the top.

The last segment of the show was devoted to trying to come up with solutions, which I think defines why this show was a success (and please, please do more of these in the future). A lot of the time, hockey studio shows can seem almost accusatory, angry at the subjects it’s discussing but not offering any sort of way to solve the problem. On Wednesday, however, NHL Live sought not to point fingers or yell at anyone, they tried to tell stories, define problems, and come up with solutions. For sports on TV, it doesn’t get much more concise, compelling and entertaining than that.

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