Anybody see Davis Jones lurking about the grounds during today's celebrations? Or was he perched gargoyle-like high atop some nearby church steeple pining for the chance to rid Raleigh of this vile Hurricane pestilence?
Late last summer the NHL and the NHLPA finally worked out a collective bargaining agreement bringing an end to the miserable lockout. Predictably and soon afterwards, former broadcast partner ESPN declined their opportunity to keep the NHL a part of their programming. To ESPN, hockey was a cult sport on the decline that didn't produce the viewership or revenues necessary for their business model. In essence, the network that begged us to watch when their programming consisted of Australian Rules Football decided to throw one of North America's premier sports under the bus now that they were global. They had no interest in investing in this great sport's rebirth. They had the NFL, NBA, MLB, extreme sports and figure skating for the gals on college football or NFL game days.
With one less program preparation challenge in the mix, ESPN's on air personalities were able to largely ingore hockey and focus on crafting slicker catch phrases and hanging with sexier sports personalities - the exceptions being the instantly under-employed Barry Melrose, Eugene Levy (...and I'm Earl Cannonbear) and John Buccigross.
In January I sat and watched Stewart Scott butcher some fairly well known NHL names during a SportsCenter highlight sequence. From the mouth of Mr. Boo Yah, we got...
- Marek Zah-litsky
- Ilya Koval-chick
- Kar-a-lee Let-oh-nen
In the middle of last week, morning radio host Colon Cowpile made a point of bragging about his disinterest in hockey. He basically said that he'd pay attention to hockey if and only if the California Golden Seals played the Hartford (or Plymouth?) Whalers in the SCF. He then went back to slobbing on the knob of the NBA and NFL. His Improv club routine used to be fresh on sports talk radio. He's dead to me. I'm now listening to hemp farming stories and poetry readings on NPR in the morning.
On Monday night I watched game seven from the lobby of Tucson Ice, our only ice house. You see, I had a C league game scheduled, and as the new guy and one of only four who are willing to play defense, I felt obliged to show up. I watched the first period from the lobby. I dressed out between the first and second periods and ventured to the back rink five minutes before game time. The rink was dark so I asked somebody in management what was going on. They said all games were cancelled Monday night because of game seven. I didn't get the memo. I should have guessed as much; I should have noticed nobody else showing up and making their way thru the lobby. I guess I was kind of spun up and tunnel visioned. So anyway, I watched a good chunk of the second period in the lobby and in full gear. I know - kind of like dressing up as a Borg and going to a Star Trek convention.
On the drive home after NBC yanked the plug early on the celebrations, I tuned into ESPN radio for some post-game banter on Game Night. Either John Seibel or Gilbert Gottlieb (me thinks ASU Sun Dirtball Seibel) is a total tool. I wish I could say which, but I can't tell the difference in their voices. One or the other took great joy in belittling hockey, flaunting their ignorace of professional hockey at every level, calling the Hurricanes the Panthers repeatedly, and rehashing the old Hartford rant. He played it straight for a brief Mark Recchi interview and then went right back into his schtick.
Piss on ESPN. They are firmly convinced that they are bigger than the sports they cover.
Episode Two: Predictions Sure to Go Wrong
Anyhoo, I took a quick look back at the preseason predictions of ESPN hockey guys and some US sports media pundits. Back then it looked like it was gonna be good to be fan of the predictible favs (thanks to Jamie Fitzpatrick for the archive):
Hradek -'Ning and Sharks with the 'Ning winning the Cup
Melrose - Flyers and Flames with the Flames winning the Cup
Buccigross - Flyers and Sharks with the Flyers winning the Cup
Burnside - 'Ning and Canucks with the Canucks winning the Cup
SI - Stephen Cannella-Sens and Flames with the Flames winning the Cup
USA Today - Ted Montgomery-Ottawa and the Sharks, but no predicted winner