Put your NHL general manager’s hat on for a moment and ponder the following question. Would you sign the last player taken in the draft to a five year $21.25 million deal?
No? What if I told you that that player scored 30, 21 and 27 goals consecutively in the three full seasons he’s played in the NHL? What if I told you that player has 163 points in just 287 career games? What if I told you that player is just 26 years of age and may not have played his best hockey yet?
You get the picture and, by now, you know the player. It’s Patric Hornqvist. On Draft day in 2005, nobody is projecting that the 230th pick will be a 30 goal-scorer in this League. But they would have projected the kind of game he would play, if given the opportunity – hard, straight ahead and relentless.
According to David Poile, “We are not in the playoffs today because of Patric Hornqvist. We absolutely missed his play with the injuries that he had.” Without a doubt, there is a great deal of truth in that statement. A healthy Hornqvist (not to mention Wilson, Bourque, Fisher, Gaustad and Yip) would have led to a different outcome. So by locking down Hornqvist, you secure on your roster a player that, when healthy, is sure to be a difference maker.
Mike Fisher may have said it best, “We have to get back to our identity of being a real hard team to play against, outworking teams, finding ways to win and being a playoff team.”
I believe that inking Hornqvist starts you down that path.
See you around the rink.
The Fleming family recently lost a loving husband, father and a man who cared deeply. At the same time, the game of hockey lost a career coach who impacted countless careers, including mine. On March 25, 2013, Wayne Fleming lost his battle with brain cancer.
From 1985-87, "Flem" was my coach at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada. Turns out the U of M was a stepping stone for us both. Wayne went on to coach professionally in Europe before returning to coach the Lightning, the Islanders, the Coyotes, the Flyers and the Flames of the NHL. I signed with the Calgary Flames prior to my college graduation after spending two critical years under Wayne.
Playing for Wayne came at a pivotal time for me. Calgary had drafted me in 1985, but I left Calgary's camp that year because I was unsure if I wanted to play pro; I was really struggling with the whole idea of playing the enforcer role. So as I left the Flames, I reached out to an old junior buddy, Bobby (the Slob) Lowes, who was playing for Flem at the time. Long story short, I was a Bison by the spring semester of 1985.
It was obvious to me early on that Flem was a student of the game and a skilled teacher at the same time. He broke down our games and used NHL footage to show us things I hadn’t seen before; aspects of the game that weren't obvious to most players. Flem focused on the obscure details that, if applied, could significantly impact your game.
I have been asked the question many times and I always answer the same way. With all due respect to Bowman, Sutter, Keenan, Trotz and even Crisp, I learned more from Wayne Fleming than any other coach. The mark of a good coach comes when you can hear him in your head as you play. There were countless situations in a game where I’d recall what he expected me to do “right in that area in there.” He made a world of difference to my game, and Flem gave us "structure" as a group.
The punch line to this story comes after my two years under Wayne. Calgary had been keeping tabs on me and in 1987 they asked me back. I signed that summer and by 1990 I was an everyday NHLer. I am forever grateful to Wayne Fleming for providing the environment, the training and for being the kind of mentor that allowed me to succeed. More importantly, I am grateful that I was given an opportunity to tell him so before he passed.
May you rest in peace, Coach. You left our game much better than you found it. Perhaps by now you understand how many lives and careers you impacted for the better. You are missed.
The NHL Board of Governors recently voted to approve the widely circulated League proposal for realignment. Starting in 2013-14, a realigned NHL will feature an Eastern Conference with 16 teams and a Western Conference that contains just 14 teams. Each conference will contain just 2 divisions rather than the current format of three divisions per conference.
Below, I outline some of the pros and cons for Nashville under the new conference structure. Please note that, for the sake of illustration, I give the new divisions geographic names. At the time of this writing, no decision has been made in terms of formal names for the NHL’s new expanded divisions.
As approved, realignment would look like the following:
Pacific Division: Anaheim, Calgary, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose and Vancouver.
Mid-West Division: Chicago, Colorado, Dallas, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis and Winnipeg.
Central Division: Boston, Buffalo, Detroit, Florida, Montreal, Ottawa, Tampa Bay, Toronto.
Atlantic Division: Carolina, Columbus, New Jersey, N.Y. Islanders, N.Y. Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington.
The top three teams in each division would make the playoffs. As would four wild-card teams which would be the best two non-division winners in each conference.
The net effect for Nashville means losing Detroit and Columbus while gaining Winnipeg, Dallas, Minnesota and Colorado as divisional rivals.
Strength of Division Rivals. Doesn’t it benefit the Predators, from a competitive viewpoint, if Detroit is no longer part of the division? i.e. Detroit is a perennial playoff team. Based on last year’s standings, many pundits argued that the Central Division was the strongest in the NHL. It would follow then that losing one of the stronger clubs in the division– Detroit – improves Nashville’s competitive advantage.
Maybe so, but don’t forget Columbus goes too and Nashville has had their way with the Blue Jackets franchise since its inception. Entering 2012-13, Nashville boasts a 49-14-6 record versus Columbus. That’s an average of just under 10 points earned in a single season against just one team. That’s a lot of points to let skate away.
At the end of the day, it’s important to keep in mind that this argument will lose or gain strength depending on the ebb and flow of divisional rivals.
Playoff Prospects. The East would be comprised of 16 teams while the West would house 14. I’m no mathematician but I would much rather be one of 14 teams trying to earn a top eight spot than one of 16 attempting to do the same. Two additional teams vying for the same number of spots means an Eastern Conference team is at a competitive disadvantage when compared to any Western counterpart.
Travel. According to the NHLPA, based on last year’s schedule, the Predators’ travel would increase by approximately 4%. At the end of the day, an increase of this size would probably be inconsequential. Especially when you consider that all intra-divisional travel, with the exception of Colorado, would occur in the Central time zone. Players will tell you one of the more difficult travel issues they deal with is having to continually adjust their body clocks to accommodate a new time zone.
Under the new structure, the Preds will lose two Eastern Time zone opponents while picking up one Mountain time team in Colorado. At the end of the day, the teams that Nashville will play most may be further away than Detroit and Columbus (Winnipeg, Colorado and Minnesota) but at least they’re on Central time. I see this as a wash or a minor disadvantage for Nashville.
Rivalries. Any Preds fan knows, Detroit vs. Nashville at the Bridgestone is an automatic sellout – even if the teams faced off at midnight … on a Monday. And there is no team a Preds fan would rather send home empty-handed than those pesky Red Wings. Beating Detroit in a playoff series ranks among the most notable achievements in Predators history. So for a team that is just now beginning to form some strong rivalries, losing Detroit is a setback to some degree.
Having said that, rivalries grow out of the contempt teams gain for each other during the playoffs. Despite losing Detroit, there will be other playoff matchups with new divisional opponents; you can rest assured that new rivalries will be formed. And yes Vince, we’ll identify some new sissies too!
See you around the rink.
I played in Anaheim during the first part of the lockout-shortened season of 1994-95. The similarities between that season and 2012-13 are such that 94-95 has become the blueprint for this year’s edition of the NHL. The NHL played a 48 game schedule that year as well.
It’s one of the more memorable seasons of my career for a number of reasons. And the interesting thing about that year is that I saw the best of it and I saw the worst of it. I’ll explain.
Thinking back to the 94-95 season, two adjectives stick with me even today. Exciting and unforgiving.
Exciting in terms of the pace and the structure of the shortened schedule. You were playing every other day so the games came fast. And every game counted as though you were playing two. Because you were always up against a conference opponent; always against the backdrop of a half season. Every game meant a lot.
Unforgiving, as my Anaheim teammates and I would come to learn, in this way. If you couldn’t keep up with the pack you might be on the outside looking in very early on.
I remember the anticipation of starting up that year. For us, an upstart expansion team that had shown relatively well the prior year – we tied a league record for wins for an expansion team – we felt as though the short season worked in our favor. We Ducks, mighty as we were, thought we might be able to ride a hot start to a playoff berth if we caught some teams off guard in the early going.
Well it wasn’t long before a different reality set in. We struggled out of the gate and it soon became clear that we’d finish out of the post season. The team ended up 16-27-5 on the year but not before this 4th line winger could eject out of the downturn. Anaheim moved me to Detroit at the trade deadline; and I went from Baltic Avenue to Park Place in the process!
Talk about a shift in cultures. The Red Wings had a pretty good thing going by the time I arrived. Their 94-95 experience was very different from that of my former Ducks team. Detroit started strong and stayed that way. We finished with a robust record of 33-11-4 that year. We beat Dallas, San Jose and Chicago respectively to advance out of the West before a trapping Devils team beat us in the Finals. Not the result we were looking for but it sure was a great run nonetheless.
I am confident Dickens wasn’t referring to the 2012-13 NHL Season when he wrote …. “[i]t was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” But that may be a fairly apt way to describe it depending on where you end up when this one is all over.
See you around the rink; this is gonna’ be a lot of fun! Hockey is back!
This is part three of a three part series where I focus on some of the ‘charismatic’ old buildings on the NHL circuit that no longer host teams.
The Boston Garden; Boston MA
The Garden (or Gahden) was a gem. Located in the heart of downtown Boston, this NHL/NBA facility was a real throwback. Dark, small and chock full of banners. The rink itself was undersized at 191 ft. long by 83 ft. wide. As a result, Bruins teams were built big and physical; you generally left Boston feeling like you had just played two.
In the day, the Bruins organization had a reputation for, how shall I say …. finding an edge. I swear Bruins manager Harry Sinden used to lock the thermostat in the visitors room at 85 degrees. You had a full lather on before you headed out for the warm up skate.
To say that certain seats in the Garden had poor sight lines was a gross understatement. Early in my career on a Calgary Flames trip through Boston, I was a healthy scratch (shocker I know). I am the lone Flame sitting out on this night and I have no idea how to get to the press box. So I end up taking a seat in the upper deck in one end zone. Seemed like a great idea at the time but after I park it in a seat near the back of the upper deck, I learn that you can’t see the rink beyond center ice. True story. The overhang above the one upper deck prevented you from seeing the far side of the playing surface.
So Boston breaks out of its own end and heads toward the Flames’ net. All of a sudden, the guys disappear. I am no longer watching the game so much as listening to the fans that can actually see the game to get a sense of what’s happening at the other end. Bizarre.
The Winnipeg Arena; Winnipeg Manitoba
That the Winnipeg Arena was dated was not THE reason the Jets left Winnipeg in 1996 but this ‘ole barn was certainly no reason to stay in ‘Winterpeg‘ either. Renovations in 1979 grew capacity to 15,565, and created some obstructed views in the process. Additionally, the stands in one end zone were a straight run from the rink side seats all the way to the top of the building. There was nothing but a single run of concrete steps from the top of that end zone all the way down to ice for about 100 ft. Not a handrail, not a landing, nothing. I often thought to myself (in those long stretches between shifts) “if some poor, unsuspecting fan ever lost his footing at the top of that stadium, there was nothing to stop his fall until he face-planted into the glass at ice level.”
One of the great hockey traditions to come out of Winnipeg and the Arena was the White Out. Jets fans would wear nothing but white during the playoffs and they would nearly lift the lid off the building. To this day the tradition lives on in most NHL rinks. Nearly every NHL city has adopted its own version of the White Out.
The Arena had one other distinct characteristic. Where else do you see a 21’ x 15’ painting of the Queen hanging from the rafters? To be clear, this was a beautiful portrait. But, as a player, it was very daunting to have the monarch supervising your every move out there. During those quiet, lonely moments in the box I often wondered “if her Highness approved of me and Jim McKenzie trading hands at center ice just now?”
The photo gives you a pretty good look at the three highlights described above. The White Out, Queen Elizabeth and the “Widow-maker” at the far end.
See you around the rink.
This is part two of a three part series where I focus on some of the ‘charming’ old buildings on the NHL circuit that no longer host teams.
Buffalo Memorial Auditorium; Buffalo NY
The Aud, as it’s affectionately known, opened in 1940. So by the time the Sabres were awarded a franchise in 1970, this barn was already a little long in the tooth to host a NHL franchise. Think dark, grey and dank.
In spite of its aesthetic (and functional) shortcomings, the Aud has sentimental significance for me. I played my first NHL game there. I recall suiting up for the Calgary Flames in 1988 as we took on the Sabres in Buffalo. All the while I’m thinking “this is not as glamorous as I thought it’d be.”
In the visitor’s locker room there wasn’t room enough for the entire team to suit up in the same area. The forwards dressed in one section of the room and the D dressed in a separate space where trainer Bearcat Murray set up to treat players. I don’t recall being that crowded in most of the rinks I played in as a peewee.
I took a regular turn that night in a losing cause. I thought I showed pretty well. Got into my first NHL scrape with Kevin Maguire. But apparently that wasn’t enough to keep one Terrance Arthur Crisp from sending me back to the minors. Worry not, I’m over it coach!
As for the Aud, there is nothing like the character of an old dark rink to bring out the best in fans. Buffalonians loved their Sabres and the Aud was always rocking!
The Chicago Stadium; Chicago, IL
This is as close as North America ever got to constructing anything like the Colosseum in Rome. Playing in The Stadium was one of the great honors of my career. Players throughout the league spoke of this building in reverent tones. I doubt there will ever be another like it.
The Stadium was dark, the concourses were narrow and the upper balconies seemed to hover directly over the ice. The fire marshall would never let you build one like that today.
The rafters housed the 3,663 separate sections of pipe that comprised the Barton organ – the world's largest pipe organ. When Frank Pellico took his seat in front of the keys he became chief organist in the cathedral of sport.
Wayne Messmer singing the Star Spangled Banner was one of the great traditions of the Stadium. The fans made a practice of roaring through the entire anthem. It was rock show loud on even an average night; you could holler in the ear of the person beside you and they wouldn’t hear a word.
The Stadium was no run of the mill hockey rink; this was the Madhouse on Madison.
One memorable moment (though my Mom would just as soon forget) came in the form of a line brawl with the Leafs on Stadium ice one night. The clip (see link below) tells the story better than I can, with one side note.
Although it looks like insanity and chaos; I was trying to come to the aid of a teammate. Bryan Marchment was playing with a broken cheekbone in this game and Bob Halkidis of the Leafs was getting the better of him in a scrap. See if this makes any sense now.
See you around the rink.
Tom’s recent blog series (Tour of the NHL Cities) got me thinking about some of the ‘charming’ old buildings on the NHL circuit that no longer host teams. I thought you might be interested in hearing a nugget or two about some of these old barns. I plan to do at least a three part series within which I will focus on two rinks at a time. So, in no particular order, here goes:
La Colisée de Québec (in English: the Quebec Coliseum); Quebec City, QC
I played in this rink a handful of times before the Quebec Nordiques left Canada for Colorado in 1995. There was nothing out of the ordinary about this building from an architectural point of view. With capacity of just under 16,000 people, it actually remains a fairly up to date venue even today. The one quirky thing about the building was the visitors’ dressing room. Low ceilings (8 footers) and dark wood paneling … imagine your parents’ basement, circa 1976.
What I remember most about La Colisée had less to do with the structure itself and more to do with a particular French Canadian delicacy served inside. Chien chaud!! Or … le hot dog. But this was no regular weenie. Quebecers had come up with this unique bun that looked a little like thick sliced bread formed into the shape of a traditional hot dog bun. The novel shape and texture allowed you to grill the bun on the outside to a golden brown before sliding the dog inside. And to be clear; it took a generous amount of butter to get that bun to a golden brown. Tasty little devils!
So teammate Doug Wilson and I are sitting one out in the press box at La Colisée one night. On a dare, Willy pledges to pay for my meal if I can scarf down 10 of these beauties before the concession closes at the end of the third.
I ate 14 and nearly swallowed the index finger on my right hand in the process.
The Hartford Civic Center; Hartford CT
This building was an oddity. In the day, we called it the Mall because, in addition to the arena and the attached convention center, this downtown complex also contained retail space. That’s right, you could buy a record, try on a pair of shoes and see a Whalers game all under the same roof.
I was a member of the Whalers the last year they played in Hartford - 1996-97. The arena itself was a unique set up. Unlike most NHL rinks that had at least two distinct tiers of stands; the Mall was one continuous run of seats right up to the rafters.
One of my favorite Mall memories comes out of a morning skate when the St. Louis Blues were visiting. I was first on the ice this particular morning. I am skating around all alone just to loosen up before the rest of the squad shows up for practice. From out of nowhere, comes the sound of someone singing the Star Spangled Banner live, loud, unaccompanied and way off-key.
I looked around for the longest time before I was able to locate Blues coach Jimmie Roberts. Coach Roberts had found himself a perch in the uppermost part of the arena and he was belting out the national anthem to beat the band. To this day, I have no explanation for this underwhelming display of patriotism. I didn’t know whether to shake my head or laugh. I suspect I did both.
Lastly, any tribute to the Mall has to include a reference to the Brass Bonanza. Every night you took to home ice for the once Mighty Whale, you did so to this infamous musical arrangement you’ll spend the rest of the day trying to get out of your head. Here’s a link to background on and a download of the tune now renowned as the Hartford Whalers Victory March.
In Part II, I will feature a venue I believe to be the best of all time … the Chicago Stadium.
See you around the rink.
Several former Predators (Greg Johnson, JP Dumont, Jason York and Jamie Heward) were back in Nashville recently for the Nashville Predators Brent Peterson Celebrity Golf Classic. As is the custom, when the fellas get together for refreshments, the stories start to fly. During this installation, the group got around to discussing coaches they’d played for over the years. And remember, this is a group of guys that played a lot of years for a lot of different coaches. The following is a review of a very informal survey about the qualities of a good coach and, by extension, the reasons why Barry Trotz is a two-time nominee for NHL coach of the year.
First off, the one thing all would agree on is that a coach needs to be a good communicator. As you’ll see, that quality is a common thread in all the other attributes I discuss below.
Structure. In hockey jargon, we say a good coach implemented structure where it may have been lacking before. But that’s a fairly vague term. I’d explain it this way. A coach has to establish a standard for the way his players are going to play and conduct themselves on and off the ice. And then, just as importantly, he has to ensure that the standard is met. Structure says as much about a team’s culture as it does about the way it plays the game.
A team can get side-tracked if players feel that a teammate fell short of the standard and there are no consequences for it. A good example of this occurred close to home recently. The Predators coaching staff was challenged in this way when two now former Predators “left the reservation” during the Phoenix series in the 2011-12 NHL Playoffs. However, in my opinion Coach Trotz made a tough call and side-lined the offending players in spite of the fact that they were both potential game breakers. In doing so, there is no question that the organization as a whole gained the respect of the remaining players. Why? Because players respond best to fair and consistent treatment. When players sense that things are unfair or inconsistent; the resentment they feel can act as a distraction from the more important things.
The System. You can’t build a house without a blueprint. A new company won’t succeed without a sound business plan. And you can’t ice a respectable hockey team without first adopting a system that will allow your team to be competitive. It may seem a little confusing out there during the heat of the action but the truth is there is very little room for freestyle in NHL hockey. Any coach worth his salt will ensure that his players know exactly what’s expected of them in every area of the ice.
Scotty Bowman is one of the best I played for in terms of continually analysing the way the game is played. For example, while a member of the Red Wings in the late 90’s, I learned a system known as the left wing lock. The left wing lock was a cousin to the neutral zone trap. If Scotty didn’t create this system, he at least refined it and adopted it with a good measure of success.
The Coach as a Motivator. The NHL season is a long and grinding affair. It is taxing physically and mentally. No player is capable of bringing his “A-game” on all 82 nights. But a coach that can motivate successfully is far more likely to ensure that his team is flat on as few nights as possible.
I played for Ron Wilson in 1993-94; Anaheim’s inaugural season. Like any expansion team, we were by no means overstocked in high-end talent. Expectations are rather low when you build your roster out of an expansion draft consisting of third and fourth line players from around the League. However, the 93-94 Mighty Ducks finished with 33 wins that year which tied a league record that stands today. Most wins for a modern day expansion franchise. By contrast, Columbus and Nashville had 28 wins each in their opening seasons.
I credit Ron Wilson’s approach for some of the success that team enjoyed in that year. Ron employed a lot of techniques that are used widely by teams today. He used video in a very positive way to emphasize the highlights of our play rather than focus on every mistake. I remember walking out of countless pregame meetings thinking the opposition was in for far more than they could handle …. and occasionally they were.
Lastly, don’t over coach. There is no question coaching is important. A coach that can employ the above principles effectively will, no doubt, see the results in his team’s play. However, a good coach recognizes that coaching only gets you part of the way there. At some point, a coach needs to stand aside and let his players do what they do.
The participants in my informal survey generally agreed that this is a strong suit for coach Trotz. Barry is a good communicator; and year after year he successfully gets the group to “buy in.” But he also knows when to let the players take over. I suppose that’s part of the Predator way. Draft well, develop patiently, trade wisely when you need to, and once the group gets it, open the gate and let ‘em go.
See you around the rink.
The debate over fighting in hockey takes on a new wrinkle with the advent of a recent rule change in the Ontario Hockey League (“OHL”). The OHL, starting this season, will assess a two game suspension for any player that receives a fighting major over and above his 10th. By implementing this rule, the OHL is taking deliberate steps to curb fighting and perhaps, to phase out the role of enforcer altogether. I thought it would be worthwhile discussing some of the competing arguments in this area for the following reason. NHL officials are on record saying that they will be closely monitoring the impact this rule has on the game at the junior level. Translation: “the NHL will consider implementing such a rule if we like what we see.”
As most of you know, fighting was a prominent part of my game throughout my junior, minor pro and NHL career – a period of time that spanned three decades. It’s also worth repeating that I left the game due to a concussion sustained in a fight. So below is one view, it is my view and I offer it in so far as it might inform the discussion on this issue. At the end of the day, I favor leaving fighting in the game. Let me explain why.
It should be noted on the front end that there are reasonable arguments on both sides of this issue. First, those that favor eliminating fighting from the game would cite player safety as the reason. No argument here. Ban fighting and you abolish one area where concussions occur on a fairly frequent basis. After all, reducing blows to the head is the primary justification for implementing a rule change in this area. The studies show, however, that concussions occur more frequently during the normal course of play rather than during a fight.
Second, there are those who would say that by allowing fighting in hockey you actually drive away interest in the game. It’s a fair point that fighting in the hockey context is fairly brutal. Remember, these are big men who go at it bare knuckles – and often times without helmets. By contrast, boxers and the mixed martial arts crowd wear gloves that provide some protection for the athlete.
Even so, I am not so sure this argument stands up. For one, it’s not a position I have ever seen supported with real data. And anecdotally, I don’t come across a lot of folks that avoid the sport for this reason. I suggest that anybody who’s philosophically opposed to hockey because it allows fighting may not be much of a sports fan to begin with. The point being; hockey isn’t going to draw that person into the arena anyways.
On the other hand, there are valid reasons to leave this aspect of the game as is. First, the presence of an enforcer keeps the other team honest. The opposition doesn’t take liberties with your team when you have an enforcer in the lineup. And if the ultimate goal is to reduce trauma to the head, this is one tool in a basket of tools that the NHL has at its disposal. The enforcer acts as a deterrent.
My experience has taught me that if you don’t have an enforcer in your lineup the other team will play you differently. And by “differently” I mean they may try to run you out of the building.
Second, the fighter drops his gloves with his eyes wide open. Today, more than ever, players understand the risks involved when they engage another player in a fight. In the law, players are said to have assumed the risk. And let’s face it; we live in a society where we are free to make our own choices – even when those choices pose a risk to our health. If we eliminate fighting for that reason, we are starting down a path to abolish any sport/activity where a risk of injury exists. Think about it. If we take fighting out of hockey because we’re concerned for the athlete involved; what prevents us from eliminating other similar sports/activities? Not far down the slippery slope sits boxing and mixed martial arts and other sports we love to follow.
Again, I am for leaving fighting in the game. I believe it deters other acts that cause injury and the enforcer/fighter appreciates the risks involved. Furthermore, there was a day in this game when fighting was far more widespread and completely random. Today, fighting is very much a tactical part of the game. When two players engage, there is usually a strategic purpose behind the altercation.
Having said all that, I also believe in keeping an open mind to proposed changes. Let’s watch to see what impact the OHL rule change has on the game at that level, if any. Who’s to say it won’t be for the better?
See you around the rink.
"Once a player always a player" .... so goes the motto of all NHL players past and present. There's a lot of truth to that adage. When you share the same set of experiences with a group of athletes over the course of a very taxing NHL season, you tend to develop a strong bond. It’s a brotherhood. You watch out for one another; you face the same set of challenges day in and day out. In hockey, you literally fight for one another. For every team, even the great ones, there is always adversity and slogging through the adversity together draws you closer as a group.
But when a player leaves the game and he enters the broadcast booth, a different dynamic arises. I would not go so far as to say that the former player's allegiances are torn. But in his new profession, the ex-player has to adopt a more objective perspective. It was something I've gone through the last few years as I joined Tom Callahan in the Preds broadcast booth. Specifically, it comes up in the following type of situation.
A former teammate of mine coughs up the puck in his own zone, the opposition scores and, as a broadcaster, I now need to analyze what I just saw.
There are just two options to choose from in the above scenario. One is to ignore the miscue, focus on the goal scorer's accomplishment, and shield the offending ex-teammate from any criticism in the process. The other option is to call a spade a spade and describe the giveaway that caused the goal. In spite of the fact that it puts a friend in the spotlight for reasons he'd rather not be. In my view, option two is the only option available to a broadcaster if he intends to do his job with integrity. Here's why I feel that way.
First, fans want to know what caused that goal. A fan wants a former player’s perspective on all the elements that directly led to that specific goal being scored. Former broadcaster, turned team president, John Davidson once offered me some great advice. “Focus on the notable stuff, and always try to tell them why that just happened.”
That’s the part that might escape the eye of even a seasoned hockey fan. What a fan doesn’t want, on the other hand, is for the color analyst to simply repackage the comments that his play-by-play man made as the goal was scored. There’s nothing very insightful or interesting about that.
Second, hockey fans are a sophisticated bunch. They appreciate the finer points in the game. For that reason, if a broadcaster consistently avoids calling out the hometown player when the player “boots it”, you tend to lose credibility with your audience. I cannot tell you how often Tom and I hear from our listeners on this very point. They appreciate that we call the good and the bad in spite of the fact that we work closely with the players.
Lastly, let me make two simple points. No one is perfect and it’s almost always possible to deliver criticism in an even-handed way. Players and fans realize that it’s a long and demanding season and every player is going to have the occasional ‘lowlight’ to go along with the many bright spots. When the unfortunate does happen, a broadcaster, by way of the tone in his voice and the words he chooses, can still break down the play and tell the fans what they need to hear without hanging a player out to dry. Makes sense, no?
See you around the rink.