Outside Hockey Never Gets Old

It seems that no matter how many times the NHL takes a hockey game and puts it outside in a baseball or football stadium, it never gets old. While seeing a game at McMahon Stadium is nowhere near as cool as it is to see one at Wrigley Field or Fenway Park, it still makes for excellent television. CBC deserves a lot of credit for doing an unbiased broadcast last night. It became well known as the game went on that the ice conditions weren’t as good as they could have been. CBC could have easily got caught up in the hype and swept this under the rug, like NBC did at the Winter Classic, but they didn’t. First Glenn Healy reported on The Hotstove on Saturday night that it was even possible that the game could be delayed until Monday if the ice conditions weren’t good enough. Then when CBC came on the air on Sunday they made it clear again that the NHLPA and the NHL itself would have to approve the ice before every period. This is the kind of thing that we should expect from a broadcaster; however, after NBC’s love fest at the Winter Classic when the playing conditions weren’t great, to say the least, it was appreciated.

CBC milked the Heritage Classic for all it was worth. They started with a one hour broadcast that seemed to be mostly fluff (I didn’t watch it) on Saturday afternoon. Then on Sunday they had another full 60 minute pregame show, which was followed by almost 30 more minutes of pregame festivities. The actual in-game broadcast was great. Jim Hughson, Craig Simpson and Glenn Healy proved why they are among the best in the business, even if Healy did look a little cold at ice level. I’m always a fan of placing a commentator between the benches, but it seems that it helps a lot more at an outside game than it does at regular games. Healy was able to tell how the wind was affecting the game, how cold it was at ice level and he was able to see how the ice conditions were. It would be hard for anyone in the broadcast booth to be able to comment on any of this.

Even Don Cherry was better than usual on Heritage Classic weekend. Sure he had his usual spiel about a “good Canadian boy” who can score, fight and hit (on Sunday that was Flames defenseman Tim Jackman), but he also raised some excellent points. He was bang on with his point that it isn’t because the fired Daryl Sutter that the Flames are playing better. Could it be a factor, quite likely, but there is no way that Jay Feaster turned this team around by simply sitting in the press box. Winning is infectious and now that the Flames got it going (with their talent I think we all knew they would), they just seem to be able to relax and have fun. They were feeling a lot of pressure from the media early in the season and now, even though they are far from securing a playoff spot in the tight west, it seems that all that pressure is off.

Other News & Notes

  • NBC’s broadcast of Hockey Day in America was very well done in my opinion. Hockey Day in Canada is great and all, but we all hear stories about hockey in Canada all the time. How often do you hear a good story about minor hockey in the United States? Especially in a poor community in Washington, DC? NBC did a great job balancing the NHL (which included a few great games) and grassroots stories from likely hockey towns in Wisconsin to the most unlikely places in DC and Los Angeles.
  • Speaking of Hockey Day, I also really liked the broadcast team of Pat Foley (who Canadians may know as the guy who calls Blackhawks games on WGN) and Darren Pang (from NHL on TSN), who called the early regional game between the Red Wings and Wild. They seemed to have great chemistry. I would really like to see Versus use Foley on national broadcasts in the United States more often. As a side note, what is better on Hockey Day in America than a battle between Hockeytown USA and the State of Hockey?
  • Rogers Sportsnet broadcast that other outside game from McMahon, between the Calgary Hitmen and Regina Pats, this afternoon. The game received little fanfare and surprisingly it was on in high definition. I believe this is a first for a regular season CHL game on Sportsnet. The only downside was that Peter Loubardias called it, but I guess that is to be expected since he lives in Calgary and is Sportsnet’s main hockey play-by-play commentator.
  • I really like the idea of CBC putting Greg Millen between the benches. Some guys just work better down there, or in Millen’s case work better when they can’t talk as much. Or as someone on Twitter told me ” Best part of Millen between the benches is that he might take a puck in his big yap.” I think that CBC should start putting Millen between the benches more often and I get the feeling we will see it after the first round of the playoffs.
  • I can’t believe I’m doing this, but I actually have to give props to Don Cherry for calling out Mario Lemieux on Saturday night. Yes that’s right, I’m complimenting something Don Cherry said twice in the same post for the first, and probably only time. The world is ending, 2012 is coming 20 months early. While Lemieux was one of my favourite hockey players growing up, he did come across as a hypocrite after he said the NHL didn’t come down hard enough on the Islanders after that embarrassing brawl (or whatever you want to call it) on Friday. Cherry followed it up with evidence of Penguins players making hits that weren’t exactly legal and noting that we never heard a peep from Lemieux after those hits. It takes a lot of guts to call out the second best hockey player of this generation and Cherry proved that he has them. Many commentators wouldn’t, so he deserves a lot of credit for that. The Penguins take on the Capitals for the first time since Sidney Crosby suffered his concussion in the Winter Classic tonight (7:30pm TSN2, Versus). It will be interesting to see how Mario’s team responds. We hope they don’t respond like the Islanders did the other week or Mario will look really bad.

17 thoughts on “Outside Hockey Never Gets Old

  1. Cherry’s Cold-FX hat really turned me off. I don’t expect better from him, but I do expect the public broadcaster to prevent its on-air talent from becoming walking billboards.

    He can do what he want on his own time, but when he’s doing the job that the taxpayers pay him for (I just threw up a little bit), he really should not have any corporate logos anywhere on his clothes, other than those of the CBC and *maybe* of any clothes manufacturers that are relevant.

    Next we’ll see Rex Murphy in a System Saver Pellets ascot delivering commentaries on The National.

    • MacLean doesn’t help by trying to make a pun that includes Cold-FX either. I agree that CBC personal shouldn’t be wearing sponsors on their clothes. Hell, I don’t even see that happening at other networks really.

  2. Be thankful that you all could watch the game on CBC. Those in the States were stuck watching Versus. Their theme was that Canada was cold.

    Dave Strader and the gang called a good game, but had very little color and charm on the significance of playing outdoors in Canada. The NHL Network still hasn’t shown us the CBC feed, something it did for the Winter Classic.


    And I have to agree with you agreeing with Don Cherry on Mario Lemieux. I actually turned to myself and said, “I can’t believe I agree with Don Cherry this willingly.”

    • Trust me when I say, CBC mentioned that it was cold more than a few times. I didn’t watch the Versus broadcast so I don’t know how many times they said it was cold, but it was a point worth making since it was the coldest outside game since 2003 (I think).

  3. WhitehorseJosh
    While i can understand where your comming from however if we start banning players and staff from promoting companys etc that there paid for it could be going down a slippery slope.

    • Slippery slope how? That’s a basic tenet of broadcasting on most networks: When you’re working for the network, you’re not allowed to promote anything else. Do it on your own time.

      It’s a little like any of us using our own employer’s resources to work a second job. When I’m at work, I’m not allowed to work for someone else as well during those hours!

  4. this is actually the second time the caps/pens have played since the winter classic ! They played on Super Bowl Sunday !

  5. I love Don Cherry. I loved him even more for his calling out Lemieux–and I’m a Penguins fan!

    I couldn’t believe how poor the coverage of the Winter Classic was by NBC, and while us Americans were forced to watch the Heritage Classic on Versus, it was a tad better than being subjected to NBC’s coverage. I’m convinced that NBC and Versus are out to ruin hockey in America. The camerawork is terrible and the commenting is lame. What’s wrong with just simple play-by-play?

    Having recently become a hockey fan, I have yet another reminder of how much better sports coverage is in Canada than in the States, since we get Canadian coverage on Saturday nights (aka Hockey Night in Canada). I’m still lamenting over NBC’s poor coverage of the 2010 Winter Olympics.

    • I generally find NBC and Versus’s coverage fine. It offers a little variety when I’m used to watching TSN or CBC most nights. My biggest problem with NBC was that during the Winter Classic they insisted that conditions were great, when they weren’t. CBC was reporting that the playing conditions weren’t good and the Canadian print media was too, but not NBC. I think NBC and Versus want to grow hockey in the US, and things like the Winter Classic and Hockey Day in America are a great way to do it. Now sure how new of a hockey fan you are, but it wasn’t that long ago that when ESPN and ESPN2 wouldn’t air NHL playoff games on a night because they had an NBA game on one channel and an MLB game on the other, or something like that. At least Versus considers the NHL a priority.

      Agree on NBC’s Olympic coverage though. The one thing that I liked about it living in Canada is that I was able to catch alpine skiing races at night because I wasn’t home when they were run most of the time. But only having NBC would really suck, especially for those on the west coast.

  6. Not too much to do in Calgary? 40 000 lunatics sit in -21C to watch a boring hockey game.

    I thought the Pied Piper died long time ago?

  7. WhitehorseJosh
    From time to time players wear shirts etc that are a sponcer not so much of tsn or cbc but there team or in soem cases a player.

    • That’s different though, because the players aren’t CBC or TSN employees. Don Cherry is paid by the CBC and he really shouldn’t be wearing someone else’s logo when he’s on their network.

  8. This sums up the difference between Canada & the USA. Canada’s rock act for the Heritage Classic was, wait for it, remember they even said ROCK in the intro, was Metric. Flip the channel at the same time to the NBA Allstar game pre-intro & USA’s rock act: Lenny Kravitz.

    Duh? Lenny strumming power chords to Are you Gonna Go My Way to Metric soft pussy chords to their pussy pop.

    • “Pussy Pop”, really? Lenny Kravitz is great, but Metric are good too. The genre is called indie rock and if you don’t know enough to appreciate it, then don’t comment.

    • Oh please. There’s no comparison to be made between two random events that happened to be on US and Canadian TV at the same time. I mean really, you could look at a number of former Super Bowl half-time performers if you wanted to make the comparison unfavourable to the US:
      -Janet Jackson
      -Phil Collins
      …and so on.

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