It can be fun to be a hater. Making yourself feel like you could do better than what others do but putting down there work, it’s the mantra of the internet. And with Gary Bettman at the helm, he makes it seem like you’d be right.
But sometimes, you got to give credit where it is due. Now is one of those times.
NBC’s handling of these playoffs has simply been excellent. Far better than it was when they were Versus/OLN and far better than anything ESPN could ever cook up.
Hit the jump for more and my reasons why.
First, kudos goes to their decision to cover every game. While I’ve had NHL Center Ice for a few years, most people don’t, even if they are a big hockey fan. $180 bucks is a hell of a lot of money these days for not a great product (but this is for another post…). So the ability to see every game in the first round really gets people excited and into the series. Sure, they’ve had to resort to the C league crew for the CNBC games, but it was certainly better than nothing.
Secondly, they’ve done a great job making every game feel exciting, even when the Rangers play. I’d love to have Gary Thorne back, but Doc Emerick is a stellar announcer. Dave Strader isn’t terrible either.
The nightly news show and hockey recap show are greatly improved as well. I don’t know what they did, but they seemed to have shoved a bit of actual personality into “Enzo.” I mean, I still think he’s a total douche, but he’s had some interesting commentaries this playoff. Same can be said of Jeremy Roenick . Milbury is still worthless though and painful to watch.
The weekends have been filled with hockey on NBC. I’m going into bars in Columbus, a place where hockey is an also-ran, and the games are on. That’s huge. Plus, I’m seeing NHL commercials during NBC prime-time stuff. That’s how you get casual fans into the game when you don’t have ESPN to shove it down their throats. And it’s working, numbers are going up, and people are talking about it.
Finally, the name change. I know it is merely cosmetic, but there is a level of legitimacy going to a bar and asking for NBC Sports rather than Versus. I always got people looking at me funny when I asked for Versus.
Yet the most amazing thing is that watching a game with Pierre McGuire doesn’t completely make me want to stab myself in the eye as often as it used to. I don’t know if they did a lobotomy or simply don’t turn his mike on as often, but he’s been slightly less painful to deal with. Sure he still can’t say a player’s name without telling you his hometown and entire family hockey history from mites to juniors, but he’s stopped with the total knob slobbering throughout the entire game like he’s always been known for.
So here’s to you NBC Sports and the NHL. Sure there’s things I’d do differently, but that’s not the point. Good job. And don’t you f’ing dare screw this up this summer.