Commentary

Kudos To The NHL For Doing It Right

I am not a big hockey fan because 1) I grew up in the South, where when it got cold you went inside and drank bourbon until it warmed up again in March; and 2) one of my kids played travel hockey, which was a hellish life of weekend tournaments 300 miles away and 5 a.m. ice time. Nevertheless, I always watch the Stanley Cup finals, because it is simply the best sporting event on TV (with the exception of all college football games  — oh, and maybe March Madness).

Unlike the NFL, which treats its championship game like the second coming of Christ, there is a minimal amount of promotional hype and pre-game BS. There is no theatrical claim on the American Way of Life (probably because most of the best players and coaches are from Canada and Eastern Europe), nor protracted celebration of its past and place in history.  Just a fast intro, and then they drop the puck.

Michael Emrick, the play-by-play announcer, is magical. Names without vowels roll off his tongue just as quickly and easily as Smith or Jones, and he manages to keep up with action that changes by the millisecond. Even when he says stuff that makes no sense — like "played it back, on ahead" — he sounds astute. Moreover, he doesn't take himself or the game too seriously. Even when there is an egregious foul that doesn't get called, Emrick and Pierre-in-the-Box don't launch some sort of on-air Deflategate inquisition of what is wrong with the officials. They just shrug it off with something like "Yeah, that one was way out of the rule books,” and move on.  

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Emrick's voice rises to a frantic pitch with nearly every shot on goal, but the rest of the time he has the demeanor of a Midwest traffic court judge with nowhere to go after work. Unlike every other televised sport, there is a minimal amount of "expert analysis,” and every once in a while the commentators throw in a joke about the crowd or the teams that is so understated you have to smile at the subtlety.

There was a time when hockey games were broadcast pretty much without commercial interruption during each period. But like all sports, there are now media timeouts to sell some cars and hot wings and beer. But at least for now they are kept to a minimum — unlike football, which manages to take about 10 minutes of true playing time and stretch it into nearly four hours of commercial and promotional agony.

There is a lot going on in a hockey game no matter the score. It is nonstop action, and the entire complexion of the game can change in 10 or 20 seconds. Although the same might be said of the NBA finals, there is so much more team play and interaction between hockey players moving at 20 or 30 MPH, while the NBA has devolved into "Give it to LeBron and stand back."

There is something kind of vulgar about hockey that is refreshing in our PC world. It is pretty common to see a player in the penalty box f-bombing the refs, lots of spitting and bleeding — and although the league has cracked down on it, still plenty of fisticuffs and sneaky hits from behind. But they don't stop play to have a debate about sportsmanship or ask if players are presenting as appropriate role models for future generations. They just put stitches on the cuts and get back out onto the ice.

There's no prolonged discussion (or any, I recall)  about if "Blackhawks" was as offensive to native Americans as, say, the Redskins, and no urgent appeals for kids to get involved in youth hockey because it somehow builds character.

So kudos to NBC for showing some restraint that made the finals fun to watch. And thanks to Michael and Pierre-in-the-Box for a great time.

3 comments about "Kudos To The NHL For Doing It Right".
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  1. Jonathan Hutter from EMHS (Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems), June 19, 2015 at 9:33 a.m.

    If you're watching is because you're a fan of some stripe, not because of the promise of overdone commercials that you'll soon forget.

  2. Randy Novak from NSA Media, June 19, 2015 at 10:04 a.m.

    The NHL playoffs are the best, especially when the Blackhawks are in it, but no mention of former Blackhawk aand Chicago native Eddie Olczyk, the best color analyst in sports? You missed that one. Doc, Pierre and Eddie are simply the best.


  3. Paul Silverman from Ennly- Mar, June 19, 2015 at 6:34 p.m.

    Playoff hockey is the best.  And the coverage was terrific.
    "Doc" Emmerick has always been great and Pierre and Eddie together all make me actually enjoy listening to the commentary.

    Well done article.

    Hey Randy - long time.   Real long................

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