I can’t believe that I have not done an NHL TV Awards since I started this blog. I’ve done this for the NFL and College Football. An NHL TV Awards is long overdue. I’ll do this in the same format as the previous awards. This season, thanks to NHL Network, I was able to see CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada as well as TSN’s Wednesday Night NHL as well as NBC’s and Versus’ coverage so this will include the networks both in the US and in Canada. Let’s get started.
The Dan Kelly Award for Best Play-by-Play: Mike “Doc” Emrick, NBC/Versus. This award is named after one of the greatest all-time voices to call an NHL game. Google Dan Kelly to find out more. Doc is the best play-by-play man in the NHL, bar none. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame this season and for good reason. Does he get overly excited at times? Yes, but that shows his enthusiasm for hockey. On off days, Doc will go see a minor league hockey game, he’s that dedicated to the sport. He’s right in his element calling the Stanley Cup Finals. It was a travesty during the ESPN/ABC years when Gary Thorne called the finals. While Thorne is good, he’s not in Doc’s league.
Conference Finals: Jim Hughson, CBC and Gord Miller, TSN
Honorable Mentions: Chris Cuthbert, TSN; Joe Beninati, Versus/Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic; Mark Lee, CBC
The John Davidson Award for Best Game Analyst: Craig Simpson, CBC. The award named after J.D. for the great work for MSG Network, Fox, CBS and NBC. Simpson was on the main team with Jim Hughson this season for good reason. A former coach and player, Simpson was able to note trends before they happened a sign of any good analyst. He and Jim Hughson jelled this season quite well and CBC’s decision to put them on the Stanley Cup Finals this season replacing the legendary Bob Cole was totally justified.
Conference Finals: Marc Crawford, CBC and Ed Olcyzk, NBC/Versus
Honorable Mentions: Daryl Reaugh, Versus/Fox Sports Southwest; Ray Ferraro, TSN; Andy Brickley, Versus/NESN
Best Studio Show: Scotiabank Hockey Tonight, CBC. Hosted by Ron MacLean, this show is one of the better pregame shows in sports. There are features, interviews and plenty of debate. This is done quite well. I missed watching this show during the playoffs until I found a backdoor way to see the Stanley Cup Finals and was able to watch this throughout the series.
Best Studio Host: Ron MacLean, CBC. Ron has been the host of CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada since 1987 and is a very comfortable fit on hockey games. He has won numerous Gemini Awards in Canada, the equivalent to our Emmy Awards. Plus, he deserves hazard pay for standing next to Don Cherry for Coach’s Corner throughout his tenure on CBC. Ron is smooth and certainly knows his hockey. In addition to hosting the NHL for CBC, he’s also been a studio host for the network’s Olympic coverage. One of the better hosts in North America, period.
Conference Finals: James Duthie, TSN and Bill Patrick, Versus
Best Studio Analyst: Kelly Hrudey, CBC. When he does the analysis on the West Coast games for Hockey Night in Canada or does Behind the Mask when Coach’s Corner is off, Kelly provides excellent analysis. He also provides a different perspective than many other analysts. He can provide humor and be serious when necessary.
Conference Finals: Mike Milbury, NBC/CBC/NESN and Darren Pang, TSN/NBC
Honorable Mentions: Bill Clement, Rogers Sportsnet/NHL Network; Keith Jones, Versus
Best Rinkside Reporter: Elliotte Friedman, CBC. Has shown in just a few short years he can cull information with the best of them. Works hard to get his stories and has made some good connections.
Conference Finals: Lindsay Soto, Versus/Fox Sports West; Scott Oake, CBC
Honorable Mention: Chris Simpson, Versus
Best Game Coverage: CBC. It’s done this for years. Its game presentation is very good. It’s a no-nonsense approach that works. The production is well done. Replays are right on time and show the correct angle practically all of the time.
Conference Finals: TSN
Best Debuts (tie): The I-Desk, CBC/CBC and TSN game coverage picked up in the US by the NHL Network.
First the I-Desk. This was a very nice addition to CBC’s coverage. During the Conference Finals and Stanley Cup Finals, co-hosts Jeff Marek and Scott Morrison manned an online postgame show at CBC.ca giving us highlights, analysis, postgame interviews and live chats. And it was made available in the US which was extra nice.
The NHL Network increased its live game coverage by picking up the Hockey Night in Canada doubleheaders every Saturday as well as TSN’s Wednesday Night Hockey games. This was a joy to watch and allowed me to dump the NHL Center Ice package in favor of just watching games off NHL Network. Great pickups and I hope NHL Network continues this next season.
Worst Play-by-Play: If you know this blog, you’ll know how much I get on Jack Edwards’ case. I’ve had to watch him as a Bruins fan for the last few years. For the last two seasons, he’s been the lone voice of the Boston Bruins on NESN. For some strange reason, this past season, Jack has decided to go over the top. The most notorious call, his cackling like a vampire when Milan Lucic hit the Flyers’ Randy Jones in Philadelphia.
Yes, Jack bleeds black and gold, but there’s no need to cackle like a vampire. And two more, Jack criticizing the Montreal Canadiens jerseys during the Shawn Thornton-Alex Henry fight.
And he goes off on the jerseys at the end of the game. I just shake my head.
Jack was a very good reporter when he was at WJAR in Providence and for two channels in Boston as well as ESPN. What happened to him? No one else comes close in this category
Worst Studio Analyst: Brian Engblom, Versus. The man constantly says things that make no sense. How he has work over some of the better analysts like Darren Pang is a mystery to me. Versus could use Neil Smith or someone of Barry Melrose’s caliber, but unfortunately, Versus still has a ways to go on its studio show.
Conference Finals: P.J. Stock, CBC
Most Overrated Studio Host/Rinkside Reporter: Pierre McGuire, NBC/TSN. The Inside the Glass feature is actually pretty good. But Pierre seems to be on too much for my tastes. He is on to the point of overexposure. He’s a main analyst for TSN. I see him at the World Junior Hockey Championships for TSN. He’s at the NHL Winter Classic for NBC. He’s the intermission host for NBC during its Game of the Week coverage. He’s rinkside for both NBC and TSN. I need to get away from Pierre McGuire. Why do you think I went out of my way to find a backdoor site to watch CBC’s coverage of the Stanley Cup Finals? I had to avoid listening to Pierre. He’ll also be on for both NBC and CTV for the Olympic hockey tournament. This is not a good thing for hockey fans. I was rooting very hard for Pierre to get the Minnesota Wild GM job so I would no longer have him on my TV. Oh well.
Worst Game Coverage: Versus. This network has improved over its time with the NHL. However, replays are often the wrong angle. Sometimes replays are fuzzy and not clear. There’s no consistent announcer teams. Mike Emrick works only a limited schedule for Versus until the playoffs. The network mixes and matches its teams. Then during the Stanley Cup Finals, it actually delayed its postgame coverage so it could hype other programming. This is not how you treat your signature programming. Versus has a long ways to go to gain the trust of NHL fans. The ratings for the NHL on Versus are going up, but the trust has to be there and right now, fans don’t trust Versus yet.
Worst Move: CBC allowing its Hockey Night in Canada theme to be purchased by CTV. For 40 years, CBC used its great hockey theme, lovingly known up north as Canada’s second national anthem for Hockey Night in Canada. However, the network licensed the fee from its original owner, Dolores Claman. The parties got into a dispute over money and when CBC decided not to pay her asking price, CTV swooped in and reportedly paid over an estimated $1,000,000 for the rights in perpetuity, ensuring that CBC would never use it again. The theme was then incorporated into TSN’s coverage and CBC went ahead with a contest to develop a new theme for Hockey Night in Canada. Hockey fans across Canada were shocked to hear the news.
And those are your NHL TV Awards for the 2008-09 season.