Archive for the ‘Hockey broadcasting’ Category

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Dose of Reality #73

September 28, 2007

Hockey fans lost a great treasure this week when Jim Lorentz, the color man on Sabres broadcasts, decided to retire. Lorentz was teamed with Rick Jeanneret and the two of them were fun to listen to, even if they were somewhat biased. Lorentz was a former center in the NHL who ended his career as a Sabre. He was always well prepared for games and never got lost during his broadcasts. Enjoy your retirement, Jim.

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When will the NHL crack down on hits to the head? This week, Dean McAmmond of Ottawa received a vicious hit from Steve Downie of Philadelphia. Every hockey league in the world has a penalty for head contact, no matter how clean or incidental the contact is, except for the NHL. For example, take a look at Rule 616 in the USA Hockey Official Rules. (You’ll have to download the PDF)

A minor penalty, major penalty, or major penalty plus game misconduct … shall be assessed to any player who intentionally or recklessly contacts a player in the head …

The NFL does not allow hits to the head, so why does the NHL? And I am tired of hearing the argument that a hit to the head is acceptable as long as it is delivered cleanly, such as with the shoulder. Anyone out there who has ever played the game knows what it feels like when you get a forearm, shoulder, or stick to the head. I never cared how it was delivered, I just hated it, once my head cleared.

***UPDATE***

Downie was given a 20 game suspension today.  Details are here.

-Truth Serum

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Dose of Reality #54

June 13, 2007

“MacLean ‘not bitter’ over Jackets firing him”

That’s nice, but just the same, I wish you would go away.  I knew that you would end up back in TV and the NHL Draft is an event that somebody might want to hear your thoughts on.  TSN saved a bundle of money by offering you this particular job, because you live within walking distance of Nationwide Arena and they won’t have to pay your travel expenses.

“I’ve had two offers to get back into coaching (at the NHL level)…”

Really?  Who is that stupid?  What have you shown in the last eight years that would make anyone want to consider you for an NHL coaching position?  The NHL changed, Doug, not that you ever noticed.  Your Old Boys Network pass with coaching privileges has expired, Doug.  You’ll have to pursue other opportunities or consider the exciting field of PEI real estate sales.

“A lot of people have written and said that we rushed our young guys to the NHL. That, to me, is just way out of left field.

“There’s a great opportunity to move ahead because we gave our young guys a chance to play early in their careers. Did it hurt me? Did it help bring me down? Probably. But it’ll help the franchise down the road, for sure.”

Doug, you may have had no choice but to rush the young guys because you never put together an NHL roster while you were GM.  You filled the roster with players who belonged in Syracuse or Dayton.  So you cheated the fans and the young players.  You threw the guys into the fire and told the fans that it was only going to get better.  But that was not true.  Dave King (and many others) told you that they were “getting overwhelmed in the NHL and losing confidence in [their] abilities.”  You set the franchise back several years with those kinds of moves and your poor scouting.

Don’t shout Rick Nash at me, Doug!  That was a no-brainer and you traded up for him anyway.

“In hindsight, the one thing that jumps out is the goaltending. It bothers me to this day. I thought Marc Denis was the guy, but he gave us five pretty good years, not five great years.”

So you sat by for FIVE years without doing anything?  If you respond with Pascal Leclaire, I’ll have to ask if he is in on a five year plan, too.

I’m stuck with a PSL for a team that is not going to be much better next season.  The organization is so messed up that they can’t get a new GM hired. Being an NHL General Manager is a coveted job, given to a select group of guys that have shown their intelligence, diligence, and work ethic.  There are many well-qualified guys out there who won’t even answer the phone when the Blue Jackets call because the team is a mess.  Thank God you’re covering the draft on TSN, which my satellite company does not offer.

-Truth Serum

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Dose of Reality #48

May 19, 2007

It has been some time since my last post, so I am overdue for a few issues that have been on my mind.

First off, it looks like Ottawa is going to be in the Cup Finals this year, unless they completely collapse and lose four straight. I predicted that it would be a Buffalo-Anaheim series, but the Sabres forgot to play their style of hockey and became passive. But if Ottawa does move on and draws Anaheim, I can’t wait to see Daniel Alfredsson try and run somebody from behind. The rink guys will be cleaning up his body parts for a couple of days if tries to run a Duck over the way he ran Henrik Tallinder last week. It was a cheap shot, worse than any Jody Shelley hit. It’s not the first time Alfredsson has done this in the playoffs. A couple of season ago he boarded Darcy Tucker of the Leafs, stealing the puck from him while most of the players stood around waiting for the penalty call that never came. I remember that incident well, but at the time I didn’t care much because, afterall, it was against Tucker and the Leafs.

Another thing I want to see and hear is Don Cherry of Hockey Night in Canada cheering on the Ottawa Senators and their captain, the same Mr. Alfredsson. For those of you who believe in conspiracies, once again the NHL is greasing the skids so that a Canadian team is in the finals. But over the years Don Cherry has made fun of Europeans and Alfredsson in particular, but with Ottawa receiving this year’s Canadian ticket to the Cup Finals, he will have to get in line. I’m sure it will be easier for Cherry if the Ducks make it to the finals, a team from a place that has no hockey heritage.

Does anyone else out there think that Michael Arace is doing a great job with his blog? It is nice to have an almost daily post from him with more irreverence than he writes for the print edition of The Dispatch, now that he does not have to cover the Blue Jackets on a daily basis. His one post, Bring Back Kinger, was terrific. I hope he can continue with this quality and quantity once the CBJ are back in focus.

It is a little disconcerting to not read or hear much about the search for a new General Manager in Columbus. Mike Priest is a quiet guy, but it would be nice to have more information or gossip to get through this period. I have a bad dream that it will be September and the team decides to re-hire Doug MacLean because he has completed his therapy and the owners are confident that he can handle the job again. As evidence of this change in personality, John McConnell cites the fact that MacLean has started buying his clothes at Kohl’s, drives a used Ford pickup, and is not planning any new minor hockey teams in the Columbus area.

-Truth Serum

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When will I learn?

January 4, 2007

The Columbus Blue Jackets are in the middle of their sixth season in the National Hockey League.  Without checking to get the exact number, I’d say that the Blue Jackets have played somewhere between 50 and 60 games in the Pacific Time Zone and almost all of those with a 10:00 or 10:30 PM local start time. 

Despite the team being only marginally competitive (at best) in any given season, I’ve stayed up late to watch more often than not.  If they’re not on television (these are the games most often left out of the TV lineup), I’ll listen on the radio or internet.  I’m not sure exactly what my compulsion is (since I don’t like watching the boys lose, which they usually do out west), but I’ve done this for years.  And not just with the Blue Jackets.

I’ll watch any game that’s on late.  It must be my mythical inner-child that is gleefully staying up past it’s bedtime.  Since I’ve been in high school, I’ve stayed up to watch West Coast baseball, hockey, college basketball, anything!  I don’t even have to (and usually don’t) care about the teams involved.  When it gets to around 10:00 or so, I often flip to the sports channels I get and see who’s playing.  As long as it’s not the NBA, I’ll usually camp out and watch for a while.  And Lord help me if it actually is the Blue Jackets, because then I’m stuck.

Like last night.  Stuck watching a team that is obviously out of the game from the first minute.  Los Angeles didn’t look great last night, mind you.  But Columbus looked absolutely pitiful. 

The passing and flow of the offense was awfully pre-Hitchcockian.  There was the painful inability of the D-men to hit the sticks of the forwards leaving the zone.  Receiving a pass in the skates is not an impossible thing to do, but after a while it disrupts the breakout and the visibly affects the confidence of one’s teammates.  Taking a pass on the skates requires a look down for a fraction of a second longer than is needed for a pass on the tape, and in the NHL that extra fraction can result in some huge hits or at least the threat of a bell-ringer.

The offense was incapable of generating much flow in the scoring zones.  A bunch of time was spent with the puck either behind the net or along the boards.  It seemed like a lot of shots were taken from afar and the Jackets never generated much pressure on Garon, the LA goaltender.

The defense looked stuck in mud while skating backwards into their defensive zone.  I think this stems from a few things:

  • First, it’s obvious to anyone who’s strapped on a pair of blades that you can skate faster going forwards than backwards.  But things don’t always look so bad as they did last night, so what else?
  • As long as you’re in good position going backwards, you can use angles and natural obstacles (side boards) to slow your opponents legally.  Hmm… this didn’t happen last night on quite a few occassions.  Could it be that…
  • Turnovers caused in their offensive zone were quickly turned up-ice by the Kings and caught the CBJ blueliners either off-guard, out-manned, or both.  The defensemen got caught pinching in too far a few times, and a few of the forwards were less than helpful on the backcheck.  Nikolai Zherdev, we’re thinking of you.

As noted in yesterday’s Columbus Dispatch, coach Ken Hitchcock says about Zherdev, “It’s all connected with competitiveness.”  It was painfully obvious last night that Nik was interested in something other than hockey.  More often than not, #13 doesn’t play defense with passion (or at all).  Last night, he wasn’t even pulling his toe drag move with gusto.  He has been a bit cold as of late, regarding points; and Nikolai has been known to look a little ‘depressed’ out on the ice when things aren’t going his way. 

If I’m Hitch, I’d scratch Zherdev at my first opportunity and let him think about things.  Tough love is what this kid needs right now.  He’s shown that he can play a defensive game (Mrs. EOB and I went to the game right before Thanksgiving where he was an absolute beast!), but he needs to bring it on a consistent basis.  Like coach says, “We need Nikolai to compete better, and when he does that, the scoring will take care of itself.”

On a final note, for much of the second period the FSN guys had actor Chad Lowe in the booth with them.  I usually detest celebrity cameo’s in the booth, because they’re often used to promote whatever that person is currently working on (movie, TV show, book, etc.).  Jeff Rimer gave Lowe the obligatory lead-in to talk about his projects, and Chad gave a quick one or two sentence answer and brushed off the topic like a case of dandruff.  Chad Lowe wanted to talk hockey.  He was discussing the similarities between the Jackets and Kings, how they are both teams with a mix of young talent and veteran leadership that are playing with pride (except the CBJ last night, but I digress) and looking to improve.  After some key saves by both Freddy Norrena and Mathieu Garon, Lowe jumped in with some pointed commentary on the game.

Jeff Rimer:  You sound like you’ve done this before

Chad Lowe:  Are you kidding, this is my dream job!

The way he was going, I would have traded him for Danny Gare right then.  He was making some valid points (especially for a non-hockey insider), and asking good questions of the FSN team.  You could tell that Danny got a little jealous because he started talking a little bit more than usual until he felt that he had reestablished who the “real” color-guy was.  All in all, it was probably the most entertaining bit of the game.

Oooh!  I almost forgot how Jeff Rimer couldn’t stop mentioning how Chad was from Ohio (Dayton).  “If you’re just joining us we’re here with Ohio native, Chad Lowe.  So Chad, what’s it like being from Ohio and working in LA?  Do you get back to Ohio much?  Ohio ohio ohio ohio ohio…”  It’s extremely comical to me how every time Jeff Rimer brings up something Ohio, he gets that tone in his voice that he knows that everybody listening just fell in love with whatever he’s talking about just because it has to do with Ohio.

Remember, of course:

  • The greatest Blue Jacket of all-time is a tie between Danny Fritsche and Michael Rupp, both from the Cleveland area.  Honorable mention, Kevyn Adams (Miami University).
  • Our favorite opponents to play against are Philly’s RJ Umberger and Vancouver’s Ryan Kesler, former Buckeyes.
  • The Buckeyes are from Ohio.
  • Did I mention that the Buckeyes will be playing on FOX next Monday?!?!?!?!?
  • Mario Lemieux played his home games 35 miles from the state of Ohio!!!
  • Wayne Gretzky once ate a chicken sandwich, and the chicken was from Ohio!!!!
  • So was the mayonnaise!!!!!!

Okay, I’m done.  Did I mention the Jackets lost 3-0?  Did I mention Ohio?  Seriously, I’m done.

Ohio!!!!!!!!

Thanks for stopping by the End of the Bench.  Come back soon.

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Dose of Reality #21

January 2, 2007

Dose of Reality

Since Drew has opened up the floor to discussion, I would like to join him.  He has touched upon an important subject that is timely and important to all Jacket fans.  So lets go.

First off, I have the Center Ice package and see a lot of games.  The “homers” that seem to stand out for me is the Avalanche team.  In my opinion, they put a Colorado spin on every call, every play, and every other piece of action.  They were even worse when John Rooney did their games, but he is no longer broadcasting, although I’m sure that someone out there will correct me.

The next broadcaster that drives me nuts is Terry Crisp of Nashville.  He’s bothered me since before Nashville was designated a “rival” by the local hockey gods.  My problem with Crisp is that he often ignores the transgressions of the Predators.  Now I know that he is paid to ignore them, but he is very good about praising an opponent.  It looks like has the honesty to give praise when it is deserved, but holds back any criticism when it should be given.

I liked Jeff Rimer when he was with the Florida Panthers.  He was more honest, less whining, and paid more attention to the game when he was under their employ.  So Jeff must know how to do his job better, but that must not be what the local hockey gods want.  His complaining and failure to pay attention to the game bugs me.  How long has Trevor Letowski been gone, Jeff? So memorize the fact that Duvie Westcott now wears number ten!

Danny Gare used to work for the Buffalo team, a better broadcasting group.  Those guys can make the game so exciting you hate to hit the pause button on your TiVo.  Gare did not stand out when he was in Buffalo, much like his playing days.  It is tough for Danny to replace Brian Engblom, a first-rate talent that Columbus was lucky to have for one season, but I get the impression that Danny is just parking here until something better comes along.

Harry Neale, the ex-OSU, Red Wing, and Bruin coach, is a great color man.  He works for both TSN and Leafs TV and he is funny, smooth, and knowledgeable.  All of the TSN and CBC broadcasters are good, but at times they do cheer their Canadian teams over U.S. teams.

In regards to the recent replay controversies, I have mixed feelings.  In the Minnesota game, Tom Kowal made the right call: He called a penalty and did not call (or see) a goal.  Then he was completely overturned by the Real Hockey Gods.  This decision by the RHG’s is hard to understand because awarding Minnesota a power play would have been a safe and non-controversial path to take.  Minnesota would have been happy to take their chances with a man-advantage and would have been very confident going into a shoot-out with their successful shoot-out record, so why overturn Kowal’s call and award a goal that was not seen going into the net?

I also think that a mistake was made on overturning the Malhotra goal against Chicago.  Manny was pushed into the net/goalie by a Chicago defender, in which case NHL policy is to ignore the interference.  But Columbus won, so no harm.

I agree with Drew about our local broadcasters being a little sensitive about the calls.  Here is a hockey generalization to discuss: Teams get penalties when they get behind.  When they are behind, they tend to chase the other team around, and when a defender chases or needs to make up for being out of position, he will hold, hook, or interfere.  Since Columbus does not have a winning record and the word around the NHL is that our defense is soft, we get into trouble and make those mistakes.  If Jeff, Danny, George, or Bill do not want to broadcast these failures, that is their business, but they should not be blaming the officials for penalty calls that are made against the Jackets.  Are they directed to whine when the calls do not go our way?

When Columbus gets better and the GAA starts to drop, watch as the number of penalties also goes down.  Columbus could get better and win more games, but when the defense starts to cut down the number of scoring opportunities, the PIM’s will decrease.  We could still win by just out-scoring the opposition, but winning is easier with a strong defense.

I recommend this: Turn the radio off, turn the sound off on your TV, and enjoy the games.  That is what I do.

– Truth Serum

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Video replay, journalistic responsibilty, and Wes Walz’s pants score the game winner

January 2, 2007

I didn’t see the game in question, and I haven’t viewed the replay on YouTube, etc.  The end result is that the goal was counted and I guess I have to live with it.  For the game recap and a more detailed description, view this article.

I’m tired of hearing from FSN TV voices Jeff Rimer and Danny Gare about disallowed goals.  It does seem that the Blue Jackets have had more than their fair share of goals called back, but as there are no official statistics on this (that I’m aware of) I have to assume that every team in the NHL has roughly the same number.  Last season alone, it seemed like Jackets winger Jason Chimera had ten goals disallowed.  I’ve been watching hockey full-time for a few years now, and I have to say (as objectively as possible) that only on very few occassions have I completely disagreed with the eventual outcome.  Whether it’s a stick raised above the crossbar, the puck not fully crossing the line, or a skate that changes angle enough to look like a kick, it seems that the refs (in house or in the Toronto ‘war room’) get things right.  As long as you’re sure to apply the term “definitive evidence necessary to overturn”, it’s tough to argue with many of the calls made. 

The Jacket voices named above would have you believe that every puck directed legally or otherwise into the net of the opposition should be counted.  I understand that they are selected (and presumably paid) by the team and thus present the action from CBJ-colored glasses.  But it would be nice if they could be responsible commentators once in a while and note why the offending (to them) calls are correct.  Unless they have received complimentary lobotomies prior to going on the air, I find it hard to believe that they truly believe in the comments they make.  Most of what they say seems to exist solely to raise the hackles of Jacket fans.

“Gee Edna, it sure looked to me like Svitov kicked that puck in the net.  But Jeff Rimer (long time Doug MacLean employee) and Danny Gare (former Red Wings captain) say that it’s a travesty that they’re disallowing the goal.  Now, I’m pissed off too!”

In no other major sport is the act of scoring points so subjective.  Football in the professional and collegiate game comes closest with their use of replay to validate questionable scoring events.  And more often than not (please ignore last year’s AFC Championship game, Super Bowl, Oklahoma vs. Oregon, and this past weekend’s SF/DEN game, well… never mind), the video review gets it right.  Baseball is generally clear cut, and you can’t really dispute if a ball went through the net in basketball.

I don’t have the Center Ice package so I don’t get to see other local feeds.  As such, I don’t know if other areas have the same problem we have here in Columbus with the broadcasters spoonfeeding the audience a misleading lunch.  I have a hunch it’s the same everywhere, as this seems to be a necessary evil of regional broadcasting.  Having “impartial” broadcasters is one of the nice things about watching the NFL.  Football television broadcasters may disagree with a call made on the field, but it’s generally based on the perceived correctness of the call and not on how it affects one team or another.

Watching the New Years Eve game featuring the Blue Jackets and Blackhawks, we again had to suffer through Rimer and Gare crying about the two disallowed goals (a Fritsche goal disallowed due to goaltender interference and a Nash goal called back due to directing the puck into the net with his glove).  Fans could have a legitimate beef with both calls, in my opinion.  But following a win that caps off the most successful month in CBJ history, you’d think the broadcasters would have something else to talk about besides the questionable no-goals.

I try, in this forum, to not dwell on questionable items.  It probably happens from time to time, but I realize that most of the time the proper call is made.  I’ll get my swearing done while the game is on and try to be objective after it’s over.  Bad calls are made on a daily basis.  That doesn’t make them right, it just is.  If the Jackets’ TV tandem could be a bit more objective, perhaps the relatively new hockey fan base that’s growing in Columbus could grow up some and move on to being more rounded and knowledgeable hockey fans.

Jeff… Danny… do your part to help your audience.  They could use some.