Fang’s Bites has been doing this for a while. While I really like Fangs Bites, I feel that Canadian commentators and productions got left out a bit compared to NBC/Versus. So, here are my awards for NHL broadcasting this year. I have pretty much the same awards as Fang’s Bites, but with Canadian names.
Danny Gallivan Award for best play-by-play: CBC’s Jim Hughson. As I mentioned last year, Hughson solidified himself as a top NHL announcer calling the Canucks Stanley Cup run on CBC. He showed that he could be Canadian biased, without being too Vancouver biased. He lets the game speak for itself, which is what all good commentators do. Hughson was also excellent throughout the regular season, even when CBC gave him week after week of Maple Leafs assignments.
Honourable mentions: Pierre Houde (RDS), Chris Cuthbert (TSN), Ken Daniels (FS Detroit), Bob Cole (CBC)
Dick Irvin, Jr. Award for best game analysis: NBC’s Ed Olczyk. He thrives on being able to explain how a play happened and why it happened, even as play is continuing. That is a quality that many analysts don’t have. As good as his work for NBC is, it is worth checking him out on Blackhawks broadcasts on WGN because he doesn’t have to lower the level of his analysis a bit for the casual viewers that tune into NBC. There are rumours that he may take a front office position with the Hawks, which would really be a hit to NBC’s broadcasts.
Honourable mentions: Daryl Reaugh (Versus), Pierre McGuire (TSN), Craig Simpson (CBC), Garry Galley (CBC)
Dave Hodge Award for best studio host: I don’t know how I could give this award to anyone other than James Duthie of TSN. He is simply one of the best studio hosts in any sport anywhere in North America right now. He has humour, but not too much (and its usually funny, unlike Ron MacLean) and he also knows his hockey. On top of being a great host for NHL on TSN game broadcasts, he does a spectacular job with TradeCentre, TSN’s coverage of the NHL Entry Draft and Free Agent Frenzy.
Honourable mentions: Ron MacLean (CBC), Bill Patrick (Versus)
Best studio analyst: Keith Jones, Versus. “Jonsey” as he is known by many in the hockey world has become widely regarded as the top NHL studio analyst due to his appearances on Versus and TSN. He was also part of NBC’s Stanley Cup Final coverage this year. I don’t know how to explain why I like him so much, I just do.
Honourable mentions: Kelly Hrudey (CBC), Craig MacTavish (TSN), Mike Milbury (CBC/NBC)
Best “Inside the Glass” analyst: Darren Pang, Versus. While I didn’t get to hear him a lot here in Canada, I heard he was spectacular doing the Stanley Cup Playoffs almost every night for Versus during the first round. He also worked a bit for NBC doing games when Pierre McGuire was working for TSN. There are rumours that NBC may be trying to get exclusivity with Pierre; personally I’d just make Panger the number 1 guy. He works a lot better with Doc and Edzo. He only contributes information that is viable to the game going on, which is Pierre’s weakness in a 3-man booth.
Honourable mentions: Glenn Healy (CBC), Pierre McGuire (NBC), Darren Eliot (Versus)
Best rinkside reporter: Scott Oake, CBC. Like Hughson, Oake also covered most of the Canucks run to the Stanley Cup Final. Him and Elliotte Friedman should almost be the co-winners of this award every year for their work during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The noticeable difference between CBC and NBC during the pre-games of the Stanley Cup Final was that NBC would have someone from the studio or the broadcast booth deliver lineup news (sometimes NBC wouldn’t mention this at all), while Oake and Friedman delivered the news from ice level by the locker-rooms.
Honourable mentions: Ryan Rishaug (TSN), Elliotte Friedman (CBC)
Best studio show: CBC’s Hockey Tonight wins this no contest. Inside Hockey continues to be the best segments on sports television. The studio panel of Ron MacLean, Kelly Hrudey and Mike Milbury is great. During the Stanley Cup Final they went commercial free for the first 20+ minutes, which was awesome too.
Honourable mentions: That’s Hockey (TSN), HockeyCentral (Sportsnet)
And, as usual, CBC’s Stanley Cup tribute was one of the highlights of the season.