NHL on ESPN and NHL on TNT Have Arrived: First Reactions
Entertainment and the world of hockey meshed on both Tuesday and Wednesday night, and it made for two greatly entertaining nights of hockey. However, there were hiccups along the way, and I’m sure with enough complaining, Disney (the parent company to both TNT and ESPN) will get right to it.
Tuesday night, ESPN televised their first NHL hockey games since the early 2000’s and it allowed for the return of one of the greatest sport theme songs ever created.
The night featured a doubleheader of the two-time defending Stanley Cup Champions Tampa Bay Lightning versus the Pittsburgh Penguins and the introduction of the newest expansion franchise the Seattle Kraken versus the Vegas Golden Knights who were introduced in 2017.
Wednesday night, the national coverage of hockey continued, this time on TNT for the broadcast of the Washington Capitals versus the New York Rangers and the Chicago Blackhawks versus the Colorado Avalanche.
With both broadcasts, there were clear improvements from the NBC broadcasts, but there were also a few errors that must be pointed out. That’s why I’m here.
Let’s break down each broadcast.
NHL on ESPN
1. The Score Bug
For a long time, the scorebug/scoreboard, whatever you want to call it has been a complaint for fans when games were nationally broadcasted on NBC. They were too flashy, took up too much space, and were just an overall distraction to the game.
With ESPN, they took it simple. You simply got the team abbreviations, their goal count, and the logo. Now, they may have gone too simple, as many fans noticed that there was no shot counter present, which is a typical main stay for many score bugs, but that is an easily fixable solution. They got it right with the simplicity.
2. Analyst team
Having Ray Ferraro back in the booth for NHL games is a beautiful sound, and really brings me joy as a player of the still awful EA NHL franchise, because no matter how bad that game is, his commentary makes it somewhat acceptable.
Brian Boucher is nice to hear from again near center ice as well.
3. The Pregame and Intermission Crew
For the longest time, fans watching nationally televised games have gotten used to watching and listening to Liam McHugh, Keith Jones, and whoever else they decide to fill in, doing the pregame and intermission shows for NBC.
Those three are still all present across the national NHL broadcast scene (TNT), but it is nice to see fresh new faces breaking down the action and previewing games. Barry Melrose can finally have more substance to his job than his very infrequent appearances on SportsCenter. Mark Messier can show off his personality on air, and Steve Levy can bring the flair he brings to Monday Night Football.
Along with the other analysts and former players, the new crew is great and will be a breath of fresh air.
1. Sean McDonagh
Sean McDonagh, former commentator of Monday Night Football is now slated as a main play-by-play man for NHL on ESPN, and I think this is possibly the worst fit there could be.
Yes, his voice is stellar for the sports scene, and he does bring certain insight into the game, however, he talks at a pace, and speaks at a level that is not fit for the game of hockey. His voice is too monotone for the excitement of scoring a goal, and if he continues to speak at the speed of a turtle, there will be times that he cannot keep up with the action.
2. Production Mix
While I’m sure this will be fixed as time goes along, and it was fixed after a brief period in the first game, the production was off, and the mix of sounds featured some difficulties on Tuesday night. For much of the first period, the sounds of the ice were much louder than the commentary, making it hard for viewers to hear the play-by-play.
It isn’t the biggest issue, but for most hockey fans, the announcers are there to inform and keep everyone up to date on the game’s latest action. If it is lacking, the games will be hard to watch.
NHL on TNT
1. The Pregame and Intermission Crew
Never did I think the day would come in which we saw “The Great One” commentating and breaking down hockey games on national television. Other than a short period of time in which he was the head coach of the Coyotes, Wayne Gretzky has kept a relatively low profile.
But now, with hockey on TNT, he has joined a crew of former NBC stars Liam McHugh and Anson Carter, as well as the great personality of Paul Bissonnette and Rick Tocchet. The crew was great last night, and they all brought new energy and insight into the game of hockey that we have not seen in a long time. This is going to be a fun inaugural season on TNT.
2. Commentary Teams
Wow, Kenny Albert is one busy man. In addition to all the work that he does in the NFL, Albert has now taken on a role as one of the play-by-play men with TNT, and he has been paired up with two other NBC analysts and former players in Eddie Olczyk beside him and Keith Jones in the glass. It is refreshing hearing new voices commentating the action on the ice, and despite the greatness of Doc Emrick, Albert is a great voice to have for the game of hockey.
It is also about time that Darren Pang got more national love. He has been one of the best regional commentators for the longest time, and him getting his chance in the latter game of the TNT double header made that game all the more special.
3. The Possibilities
NBA on TNT has won numerous Emmy’s and various other awards due to their great coverage of NBA basketball, and the realness that they bring their fans every week for the NBA’s marquee matchups.
One member of that show, and supposed hockey fan, Charles Barkley appeared on the show last night, and even got to participate in a shootout against the great Wayne Gretzky.
What this showed me is the countless opportunities and possibilities that this combination of the NHL and NBA on TNT could bring. Crossover between athletes, new partnerships, guest appearances, etc. With the combination of these two organizations and broadcasts, many fun possibilities can be created, and last night’s appearance by Charles Barkley was just the start.
I’ll do my best to keep this one brief. The only bad that I saw from TNT in their production of the hockey games and the overall night was the distractions during the game.
First off, there is the presence of virtual ads projected onto the ice as if they were painted on. However, this is just the way for TNT and the NHL to push more of its sponsors and partnerships, and I don’t think this is the place to do it. It is a distraction on the ice, and takes eyes away from the gameplay.
The ads weren’t the only thing that they projected onto the ice. When teams are on a powerplay, they also felt the need to project the amount of time left on the powerplay, despite it already being under the scorebug on the top left of the screen. While both can be distracting, having it on the ice is useless in my opinion.
Lastly, and I am positive this will be fixed. For god’s sake please cut off interviews when a goal is scored. Wayne Gretzky unknowingly talked over two Capitals goals last night, and while I would love to hear what the G.O.A.T has to say, I would also like to hear the commentary of the game, especially when a goal is scored.
NHL on ESPN and NHL on TNT is going to be one hell of a ride, so buckle up, and enjoy the fun, hockey is back.
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