Now that the NHL season is over, time for the 2nd version of the NHL TV Awards. We did our first last year and got attacked by readers when it was posted over at Puck Daddy on Yahoo, but you can’t please everybody. This not only includes the 2009-10 season, but also the Olympic hockey tournament. Both the American and Canadian national partners are eligible as well as various local regional sports networks. Without further delay, let’s get to the awards.
The Dan Kelly Award for Best Play by Play: Mike “Doc” Emrick – NBC/Versus. He won it last year and there’s no reason to give it to anyone else. Doc was tremendous during the Olympics. Got down the pronunciation of players from each country that participated in the tournament and also expertly called the women’s games. I went into my reasons why he won last year and they can apply again this year. Doc knows the game very well. Best hockey play-by-play man of his generation without a doubt.
A very close second is Chris Cuthbert of CTV/TSN. His call of Sidney Crosby’s winning score in the gold medal game at the Olympics was perfect, “It’s the golden goal!” Unceremoniously dropped by CBC in 2005, Cuthbert landed at TSN and quickly became one of the network’s best announcers doing the CFL Grey Cup and the NHL. He deservedly received the plum assignment of calling hockey at the Olympics and the gold medal game in Vancouver. CBC’s loss was TSN’s gain.
Conference Finals: Jim Hughson and Bob Cole, CBC
Honorable Mentions: Pat Foley, Comcast SportsNet Chicago and Sam Rosen, MSG Network
The John Davidson Award for Best Game Analyst: Eddie “Edzo” Olcyzk, NBC/Versus. I put Olcyzk in the Conference Finals category last year and I’m wondering why. He did a fantastic job during the Olympic hockey tournament. He’s always on top of trends. He also can predict how a review will go. Does a tremendous job on Blackhawks games for Comcast SportsNet Chicago as well. He’s not quite at J.D. level, but he’s getting there. His excellent work in the Olympics and during the Stanley Cup Final solidified this award.
Conference Finals: Daryl Reaugh, Fox Sports Southwest and Ray Ferraro, TSN
Honorable Mentions: Craig Simpson, CBC and Andy Brickley, NESN
Best Studio Show: NHL On The Fly, NHL Network. This has taken the concept of the old NHL2Night on ESPN2 and gone three steps better. It has the ability to do live cut ins to games. The one hour wrap up that’s seen throughout the mornings is so thorough, that there’s no need to read recaps on sports news websites. Brian Duff does a tremendous job in doing the highlights and introducing live action. Gary Green, Dennis Potvin, Kevin Weekes or whomever sits in the analyst chair does a bang up job. Just has MLB Tonight on MLB Network has become the destination for baseball news and highlights, the same can be said for NHL On The Fly.
Conference Finals: Scotiabank Hockey Tonight, CBC
Best Studio Host: Bill Patrick, NBC Olympics and Versus. Despite the fact that he’s stuck on the most boring studio show ever to be produced, Bill Patrick shines. He also did a bang up job for NBC during the Olympics as hockey intermission host. He does a very good nuts and bolts job at the Versus desk and he does so having to carry weak studio analysts Keith Jones and Brian Engblom. Versus has greatly improved its game presentation, the next thing is to improve the studio.
Conference Finals: Ron MacLean, CBC and Brian Duff, NHL Network
Honorable Mentions: Kathryn Tappen, NESN and James Duthie, TSN
Best Studio Analyst: Mike Milbury, NBC/CBC/NESN. Controversial pick. Yes, he’s said some head scratching things (i.e., pansification), but if you look beyond that, Milbury is not just a Don Cherry-wannabe, he actually makes sense. During the Olympics, he and Jeremy Roenick made for some very good TV. On CBC, he bullies Pierre LeBrun too much for my taste, but when you go beyond the head scratching, headline-making comments, he can be an actual analyst who can break down plays and look for upcoming trends. Does he go out of his way to make controversial comments? In my mind yes, but he’s also being genuine and not trying to be outrageous.
Conference Finals: Kelly Hrudey, CBC and Gary Green, NHL Network
Honorable Mentions: Gord Kluzak, NESN and Darren Pang, TSN
Best Rinkside Reporter: Elliote Friedman, CBC. The man is constantly working hard for scoops and uses Twitter to provide background information on stories. He’s a very good listen during games. Plus, he’s never intrusive.
Conference Finals: Charissa Thompson, Versus and Scott Oake, CBC
Honorable Mention: Bob Harwood, Versus
Best Game Coverage: TSN. I give this to TSN which has jumped over CBC this year. And while CBC usually gives you no-nonsense coverage without silly cutaways, the presentation looked old to me this season. TSN’s pictures were clearer, sharper and the production was usually spot on. Listening to Pierre McGuire aside, TSN’s games were done very well.
Conference Finals: NBC and Versus
Honorable Mentions: CBC and NESN
Most Improved Game Coverage: Giving this to Versus. Much better this year. Replays were crisper and from the right angle. Versus did a very good job improving the production of its games. And it leads us to:
Most Valuable Network: Versus. It started the season poorly getting into a dispute with DirecTV causing it to lose access to millions of potential viewers. But after six months of not having access, the two parties got together and finally, fans of the NHL were able to see the games. It also lead to higher ratings which continued throughout the playoffs and set records for both the network and the league. In addition, the NHL was happy with the treatment it was receiving from Versus. And with the momentum, Versus seems to finally have developed its signature show with The Daily Line.
Rookie of the Year: Jeremy Roenick, NBC. Started his work during the Olympics, JR has the potential to be an excellent analyst. After Game 6, JR broke down, getting emotional knowing what the Blackhawks win meant to the city of Chicago. He also loved saying, “VIKINGSTAD” during the Olympics despite mispronouncing it. My hope is that NBC makes Mike Milbury and Jeremy Roenick a regular occurrence during NHL games next season.
Conference Finals: Kevin Weekes, CBC and Charissa Thompson, Versus
Worst Play by Play: I’m giving Jack Edwards of NESN a break this year and giving this to Joe Beninati of Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic. I’m not doing this based on my opinion, this is based on the number of complaints from fans whenever he appears on Versus. Bruins fans don’t like him. Flyers fans don’t like him. Rangers fans don’t like him. The fans who like him are Capitals and Alex Ovechkin fans. I personally don’t have a problem with him, but I’ve received comments like, “I hate when Joe Buttafuoco is on Versus.” “I can’t stand him especially when he praises Ovechkin (he calls Ovechkin’s games, he’s going to praise him).” “Beninati is a screamer.” They really don’t hold up for me, I think Joe is fine, but based on the high number of fan complaints, I put him here this year.
Worst Host/Analyst/Rinkside Reporter: Pierre McGuire, NBC/TSN. This man is on too much for my tastes. He adds nothing. He says nothing. He does nothing. All McGuire does is take up space. Very rarely does he add insight from ice level. Instead, he’ll say something like, “No goal, Edzo” to which Olcyzk will reply, “We know, Pierre.” That’s stellar analysis. And when he does on-ice interviews, the subjects whether it be a coach or player will not give anything we don’t already know. McGuire needs to be removed from broadcasts next season. Maybe that elusive GM job will pop up and we the viewers will be spared from his claptrap.
Worst Studio Show: Hockey Central, Versus. Despite having an excellent host in Bill Patrick, the show is dragged down by the worst format and extremely boring analysts in Keith Jones and Brian Engblom. There have been times when Versus brings in guest analysts, but they fall victim to the same format that causes viewers to change the channel to soft core pornography to wake up. I give Versus credit for doing Hockey Central throughout the Stanley Cup Final, but the coverage has to improve. The show is killing viewers.
Most Bizarre Moment: Jack Edwards’ speech when the Boston Bruins clinched a playoff spot. This season, Jack did not cackle like a vampire or compare a Bruins win to the Revolutionary War, but there were times when Jack made you scratch your head like this moment when the Bruins finally solidified a postseason berth during a game against the Carolina Hurricanes. It was classic Jack.
Jack waxed poetic after a Bruins playoff win by quoting “The Wreck of The Edmund Fitzgerald“, but I don’t have video so I can’t post it. Needless to say, only Jack Edwards would attempt and actually get away with it.
And that concludes our 2nd Annual NHL TV Awards.