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.