Ok, time for this year’s NHL TV Awards. There’s a lot to get to. Starting this year, I will add Jack Edwards moments in this year’s Awards because there’s only one Jack Edwards and to be honest, he’s added a lot to the blogosphere this year.
Let’s get going on these. Not enough time to get to everything.
The Dan Kelly Award For Best Play-by-Play: Jim Hughson, CBC. Tough to give this to anyone than Mike Emrick, but Jim was very good this year. He’s in his element and in his third year as top man on CBC, he’s very comfortable in the role. I know Toronto Maple Leafs fans aren’t thrilled with him as they associate Hughson with his many years calling the Vancouver Canucks on Rogers Sportsnet, but he calls a very good game. As long as CBC has the main NHL contract (which may not be for much longer), Hughson will be the main voice of Hockey Night in Canada. If CBC ever gets the Olympics back, I’d love to hear him call the 2014 Games in Sochi. He would be so good.
Conference Finals: Mike “Doc” Emrick, NBC; Jim Jackson, Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia; Rick Jenneret, MSG Buffalo
Honorable Mentions: Chris Cuthbert, TSN; Pat Foley, Comcast SportsNet Chicago; John Shorthouse, Rogers Sportsnet Pacific
The John Davidson Award For Best Game Analyst: This goes to Ed Olcyzk of NBC/Versus for the second consecutive year. I thought Ed did very well during the Stanley Cup Final, although he stepped back from really criticizing some late hits like Aaron Rome’s on Nathan Horton. Still, Edzo was on top of trends and was very good in taking both the Bruins and Canucks to task for defensive holes. I feel Ed is very close to John Davidson’s level on analysis and it’s one of the reasons why NBC and Versus hired him to replace JD when he went to the St. Louis Blues.
Conference Finals: Daryl Reaugh, Fox Sports Southwest; Andy Brickley, NESN; Craig Simpson, CBC
Honorable Mentions: Ray Ferraro, TSN; Kevin Weekes, CBC
Best Studio Show: Yes, NHL on the Fly, NHL Network. Expanded this year for the Stanley Cup Playoffs to include pregame and postgame programming, NHL on the Fly has grown by leaps and bounds. It used to be just a highlight program, but now, the show has become more than that by offering real analysis of upcoming games and providing fans with features and interviews. Brian Duff and David Amber are very competent hosts. Gary Green, Kevin Weekes and Craig Button have added to the show. I also liked seeing the show hosted in Boston and Vancouver with Deb Placey hosting. Very good move.
Conference Finals: Hockey Central, Versus; Hockey Tonight, CBC
Best Studio Host: Bill Patrick, Versus. Bill has become a very good host for Versus and given a the role as main host, he shined this year. In addition, with NBC Sports taking over Versus, it punched up Hockey Central, allowed for more debate, gave it a new set and allowed Patrick to do show a little more personality this season. There’s really good potential for Versus and Hockey Central and as long as Bill Patrick remains, Hockey Central has a chance to become a signature program for the network.
Conference Finals: Liam McHugh, NBC/Versus; James Duthie, TSN; Kathryn Tappen, NESN
Honorable Mentions: Ron MacLean, CBC; Brian Duff, NHL Network
Best Studio Analyst: Keith Jones, NBC/Versus. His role was expanded under the new NBC Sports Group to main studio analyst and Keith has shined. He’s not afraid to give opinions and mix it up with Jeremy Roenick or Mike Milbury or whomever Versus partnered him with. In addition, NBC/Versus ended the silly three analysts in the studio on Hockey Central and whittled it to two making it easier for more debate and allowing Keith to bounce off opinions. Jones barely got a mention in the previous two NHL TV Awards, but he jumps to the Head of the Class this year.
Conference Finals: Kelly Hrudey, CBC; Craig Button, NHL Network
Honorable Mentions: Kevin Weekes, NHL Network; Mike Milbury, CBC/NBC/Versus
Best Inside The Glass Analyst: We’ll rename this award since NBC/Versus, CBC and TSN are all using an ice-level analysts on games. I’ll name Darren Pang as the best Inside the Glass analyst for this season. While he wasn’t used all season by NBC/Versus, when he was utilized like during the NHL Winter Classic and on selected postseason games, Panger shined. As a former goaltender, Darren was able to pick up on trends and see things that the overhead analyst could not. I wish he would be the main Inside the Glass analyst for NBC/Versus, but that appears to be out of the cards. I feel he has a better chemistry with Doc Emrick and Ed Olcyzk, but that’s me.
Conference Finals: Brian Engblom, NBC/Versus; Glenn Healy, CBC
Best Game Coverage: NBC/Versus over CBC by a hair. I acknowledge CBC set the standard for hockey coverage and its production is at gold medal level, but NBC has done a great job in stepping up its camera angles and replays. There were times when NBC failed to get one or two overhead replays during goal reviews, but other than that, it’s done a very good job on its productions. With NBC Sports Group producer Sam Flood now overseeing Versus’ NHL coverage, that network’s production has improved to the point where it can be considered close to CBC’s coverage as well. Altogether, I feel NBC/Versus has the potential to become the standard for hockey coverage as long as the present production team remains together.
Conference Finals: CBC; TSN
Best Debut: Liam McHugh, Versus. Who knew when he was hosting the mess called “The Daily Line” on Versus that McHugh could become such a competent studio host? Inserted on NBC as its main host during the Game of the Week and during most of its postseason coverage, McHugh actually showed me something. And as the secondary host for Versus, he meshed with Keith Jones and Jeremy Roenick. With NBC/Versus being the home of the NHL for the next ten seasons, here’s an opportunity for McHugh to be associated with sport for a very long time.
Best Move: NBC Sports Taking Over Versus and Cleaning Out Some Deadweight. When the Comcast takeover of NBC was made official in January, NBC had the opportunity to take over Versus and put its stamp on the network. Some good moves, taking out Joe Beninati from the play-by-play position and allowing him to focus on the Washington Capitals, moving Brian Engblom from the studio to an Inside the Glass analyst, bringing in Liam McHugh, making Keith Jones main studio analyst, expanding Hockey Central and giving more time for hockey highlights. One bad move was jettisoning reporters Bob Harwood and Charissa Thompson, but overall, the moves by NBC mostly positive.
Conference Finals: NBC/Versus Signing 10 Year Contract for NHL Rights; NHL and HBO bringing 24/7 to promote the NHL Winter Classic
Best Jack Edwards Moments: Jack Edwards of NESN is truly one of a kind. Yes, he’s a homer on Bruins broadcasts. Yes, he makes headscratching comments. Yes, he can stray from play-by-play to yell at opposing players. However, the main thing is that he’s quite entertaining. I’ve gone from calling him Worst Play-by-Play in the first NHL TV Awards to giving him Most Bizarre Moment in last year’s edition to giving him his own permanent category. So I give you some of his best (some of you can say his worst if you’re a hater) moments from this season. I count down from #3.
3. Jack taunts Chad LaRose of the Carolina Hurricanes. When LaRose elbowed Zdeno Chara, Jack mocked LaRose’s jawing at the officials for calling a penalty by saying he was “yapping, yapping, yapping all the way to the box.” And then Jack did a strange gargling noise going to break.
2. Jack yells “GET UP!” at Roman Hamrlik. During the Bruins-Montreal 1st round playoff series, Hamrlik went down on a hit that Jack felt was a blatant dive after a Michael Ryder hit. The rest is pure comedy.
1. Jack Edwards’ strange postgame commentary. When the B’s-Montreal series ended, NESN allowed Jack to do a commentary at the end of the broadcast where he compared the Canadiens to hockey royalty looking down on the Bruins and … and.. it was just bizarre.
With the B’s going into a Defending Championship season, expect Jack to crow a whole lot more next season and even more Jack Edwards moments.
Worst Play-by-Play: Joe Beninati, Versus. Before NBC took over Versus, Beninati called many games and for some reason, his style did not mesh nationally. He’s very good on Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic on Washington Capitals games, but he was very annoying on Versus games. Don’t know how that happened, but it did.
Worst Analyst of All-Time: Pierre McGuire, TSN/NBC/Versus. The man is everywhere, he’s overexposed, he’s just awful. He adds nothing, he says nothing, he comes off as a big, fat zero on TV. The man is a charlatan, pure and simple, yet NBC is about to give him a huge contract for what I’ve heard is the life of its NHL contract. That’s just horrible. I wish there was a way to prevent this pain and suffering on US hockey fans.
And that concludes the NHL TV Awards for this year.