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The NHL Can’t Get NBC To Care, And It Shows

It’s always good right on the eve of the season to have something happen that makes you want to watch the NHL’s marquee games less than you already do. Having Mike Milbury replace Eddie Olczyk in the booth is certainly one way to do that.

We don’t need to go deeply into all the way Milbury sucks. He’s a neanderthal, he’s not even funny, and the next time he says anything correct about a game he’s watching will be the first, if he even watches before he belches out something between periods. He doesn’t even have in-game experience, which is a different job than studio analyst. Needless to day, this is going to be awful.

But let’s go into just how terrible this is, because it’s quite astounding.

Ok… so on the surface, let’s compare NBC’s choice for the NHL to other national broadcasts. First off, two years ago ESPN Sunday Night baseball brought on Jessica Mendoza. She’s good, maybe even really good, if not great. Just this week, ESPN announced that Doris Burke, who is great at her job, will be the first woman to regularly analyze national basketball broadcasts. As well she should, because I can’t think of one better.

So the NHL has missed the boat on this. Because you can’t honestly tell me there isn’t one former American or Canadian Olympic women’s hockey player who’s charismatic, analytic, and determined to do the job. I’m sure there’s one. As far as hockey coverage anywhere, only Cassie Campbell-Pascall has had any sort of voice. She did game stuff for the CBC, then they busted her down to feature presenter, and now Sportsnet at least has her between the glass on HNIC’s late game, usually. And she’s really good too. So the NHL and NBC missed the boat on this.

But hey, it doesn’t have to be a woman, however lovely that would be. Let’s take a look around. Here are TNT’s NBA in-game analysts:

Brent Barry, Mike Fratello, Grant Hill, Kevin McHale, Reggie Miller, Steve Smith, Chris Webber.

Now, not all of them are great. Miller is an idiot, but the rest are more than passable and all of them have at least coached or played in the league in the past 10 years. Aside from Fratello, who’s so good at his job that he’s made that not matter.

Here are ESPN’s:

Jon Barry, Hubie Brown, Burke, Marc Jackson, Steve Javie, Jeff Van Gundy.

Aside from Brown and Burke, all of these guys were in the league somehow in the past decade. And Hubie is simply one of the most awesome people ever, so no one cares. Jackson is a moron, that I give you.

We don’t have to stop with the NHL’s most direct competitor. I’m not a huge fan of ESPN’s baseball coverage, but:

Mendoza, Aaron Boone, Dallas Braden, Eduardo Perez, Rick Sutcliffe.

Sutcliffe isn’t very good, but you see the point. Fox:

John Smotlz, A.J. Pierzynski, Tom Verducci, Eric Karros.

Smoltz gets a little crotchety but is usually very good. Verducci is a writer, but hey, at least that’s a creative place to grab an analyst from and both Karros and A.J. are pretty good. And they both have been in the league not that long ago.

Even Fox’s NFL coverage, which is usually given a lot of shit, has actually been pretty good of late. Aikman has staked out his place, and I really like him. Charles Davis is probably the best analyst they have. They were going to hire Jay Cutler, which would have been awesome. Not all are winners, but they have been dedicated to getting players that haven’t been out of the league long and know the game RIGHT NOW into the booth.

And while I’m at it, while MLS hasn’t caught the NHL in ratings yet, it’s gaining. ESPN’s lead analyst there? Taylor Twellman. Fox’s? Well, sometimes it’s Alexei Lalas which sucks but sometimes it’s Stuart Holden. Again, analysts that are not that far removed from the game.

Now… .hockey:

Olczyk – he’s actually better on national broadcasts then he is locally, but that doesn’t make him good. He got fired from his last job in the NHL in 2006. He hasn’t played in the league since 2000.

Joe Micheletti: He’s woefully bad, and hasn’t played in the league since 1982.

Milbury: Human embodiment of CTE, been out of the league since 1999 after single-handedly nearly making the Islanders go belly-up.

Keith Jones – hasn’t played in the league since 2001, and is just barely passable in-studio or during games with the Flyers.

Brian Engblom – Stopped playing in 1987.

Pierre McGuire – don’t even get me started.

Ray Ferraro – he’s the one they have who really isn’t bad, though a little dopey at times, but retired in 2002.

Bret Hedican – not awful, and of all these people listed is the only one who played in the league in the past decade!!!!!

Do we see the problem here? Of course we do. But the NHL doesn’t, and even if it does it can’t enforce NBC to do anything because they’re just so desperate to have their games on anywhere they have to take what they’re fed.

And don’t tell me a sleek game-production wouldn’t make a difference. It absolutely would. The NHL and NBC should be trying ANYTHING and EVERYTHING to get ANYONE to watch. Instead we’re going to get the stale beer fart analysis that Mike Milbury is.

Fuck this league.