There was an obvious visual in Game 3 and Game 4 in Toronto: a huge crowd of screaming fans in Maple Leaf Square. The NBA coverage in the States understands that with Jurassic Park, physically the same space. But like most pageantry, NBC Universal (NBCU) doesn't appreciate what hockey has to offer off the ice.
Most anthems are blown off in coverage of the Eastern games. Most anthems weren't even streamed for the Western games. NBCU couldn't even figure out that the pageantry can stream without a single extra penny of cost, yet still refused to do so.
The shot above isn't from the NBCSN feed of Game 4. This shot came from the CBC feed used by the NHL Network for highlights. Joe Micheletti was very good at pointing out how loud the Air Canada Centre was on the inside. The CBC (Rogers) knew showing the crowd after a goal would add to the TV experience. NBC still does not get that. Chris Cuthbert and Micheletti did a great job calling the game. NBC loved showing all the awkward local Washington promos thanks to this Frankenstein productions but struggles with showing relevant beautiful imagery germane to the coverage such as anthems and excited fans.
Dave Strader has been calling the Toronto games in Washington as the pattern fits so far. Chris Cuthbert called the games in Toronto, an amusing notion since one of his day jobs is calling Maple Leafs games on TSN4. Cuthbert doesn't call that many Toronto games since TSN4 carries a portion of the schedule and Gord Miller draws first in assignments since Miller is the senior hockey play-by-play announcer.
If Montréal and Ottawa advance to the "Adams" division final, Chris Cuthbert will almost certainly be calling that series, hopefully with Mike Johnson. Cuthbert's other day job is calling Ottawa Senators games on TSN5.
If Chicago had won Game 4, NBC was ready to split the audience Saturday night with NBC carrying the Habs in most Eastern time zone stations and NBCSN for the rest of the country. What a clusterbleep that would have been. The reasoning would have been to eliminate local telecasts from New York and Chicago. The 8 pm start is also an accommodation for NBC. The network #1 crew will be at Madison Square Garden.
NBC also forced the Maple Leafs Game 6 to the evening on Sunday. If Ottawa needs a Game 6, NBC will carry that game or nothing at all. Toronto will be on Rogers Sportsnet Sunday night because of the CBC directive to run special Sunday night programming.
NBCU switched out Gord Miller and Ray Ferraro away from Canada to help out with the Chicago series. Yes, Cuthbert and McGuire called the Habs in Game 5 but Miller and Ferraro are missed in this series.
Kenny Albert has been following the Ottawa Senators for NBCU. Since the NHL Network ran Bob Cole and Greg Millen for Game 1, Albert has called the rest of the series for NBCU along with calling New York Rangers radio on the Montréal series. Micheletti helped out on Game 2 with Pierre McGuire (more on this later in the notebook) on Game 3. Albert has been saddled with Brian Boucher on Game 4 and Game 5.
When covering Toronto, Brian Boucher referred to Morgan Reilly as Reilly Morgan. You could chalk that up as a simple switch if you corrected it right away. Boucher did not.
Brian Engblom, Mickey Redmond, Daryl Reaugh, Drew Remenda, Shane Hnidy, Jamie McLennan, Kevin Weekes: this is a limited list of available colour analysts that are way better than Boucher. NBCU can literally do better.
In an year with 5 separate series for Canadian teams, this would have been in years past a lot of nontelevised games in the United States or a little more recently, tons of Canadian simulcasts. This year, we got 5 Canadian simulcasts: Ottawa Game 1 with Bob Cole and all 4 Calgary games. Columbus fans were not happy with being on the NHL Network, but when Canadian teams are on the NHL Network, we get Canadian feeds. On nights with Toronto and Ottawa playing at the same time, the NHL Network should have been used more.
We got NBC productions in spots where Canadian simulcasts had aired. The 2015 "logic," if you can call it that, was that USA couldn't air Canadian simulcasts. No reason just made-up theories that led to less-than-stellar coverage. Game 4 of the Calgary 2017 series was a CBC simulcast that aired on USA in the States. Chris Cuthbert and Joe Micheletti struggled with the local feed graphics. The analogy in my head is like trying to broadcast a Stanley Cup playoff game, already hectic, with people throwing dinner plates at you. An ovation for all the national announcers who called games with San Jose, Washington, and Chicago, but especially Washington, the worst.
So why did Calgary get the CBC treatment with promos for Anne and other CBC shows on NBCSN? They were in the West not playing a team (San Jose) with Comcast-owned rights but playing a team (Anaheim) with Fox-owned local rights. So the U.S. audience got no Jim Hughson and Craig Simpson and only a single Bob Cole telecast. Not like the recent good ol' days.
Rick Ball and John Garrett are Rogers #5 crew. They haven't together too much since the 2015 playoffs. Yet they are stronger and better than most of the non-TSN influenced crews on NBCU. They have decent chemistry. They entertain and inform. They have called the drudgery that was the Calgary offence and had as much fun as one can.
Speaking of the Calgary crew, an expletive-laden rant against Calgary's Dougie Hamilton that didn't air was the subject of scrutiny. An unidentified person is talking to Rick Ball and John Garrett about Hamilton taking penalties. Garrett refers to this person as "Mr. Flames" in the conversation.
With 5 series, keeping track of everything on the air on both sides of the border is hard enough. When you walk into a broadcast booth, you should know that the room has a "hot mic" meaning someone can listen to what you are saying and possibly recording what is said.
John Garrett pointed out that Game 3 of the Ottawa series was Bob Cole's 149th overtime playoff game. For most of Cole's career, overtime games only came in the playoffs. Calling 149 playoff games on a national level is rather impressive. Calling 149 overtime playoff games means you are a legend.
"That's got to be matching minors. I mean, honestly, if you're going to set the standard, you got to call it the right way. I have no skin in this game at all. But if you're going to set a standard, you got to call that both ways. That's a hit to the head. That's got to be called. Then if you're going to call the next one, call it. That's not well done at all. That's a big break for Ottawa."
Pierre McGuire was in yelling mode as if more people would hear him on TV if he was louder. This was Game 3 when Riley Nash hit Bobby Ryan after Ryan elbowed Nash in the head.
When someone says the phrase "I don't have any skin in this game" or "To tell you the truth" or "I swear to you" — chances are what they are denying is true.
McGuire is only upset because the disadvantage goes to Boston. If that had happened to Ottawa, he wouldn't have been as loud or as poignant. Boston gets away with more non-called penalties than just almost (if not every) every NHL team. Often, referees would see the initial shot but call the retaliation. As we see every spring, some teams and players don't get called as often.
As for that skin, McGuire works for NBCU. In the NBCU world, the New York Rangers and Boston make for potentially better ratings than the Habs and Sens. So McGuire does have a little skin. What McGuire said was pretty straight on, but let him say that for a Canadian team against a non-Canadian team. McGuire is a different analyst with NBCU than with TSN. This is a louder than normal example of the transition.
We haven't mentioned the NHL Network matinee playoff rebroadcasts because a) we can't get a reading from the cable info or NHLNetwork.com as to which games are shown; b) the readings we get are for the same game rebroadcast over and over; and c) unlike in recent years, all of the feeds we've seen are U.S. feeds. There was a joy to hearing Jim Hughson or Bob Cole or Paul Romanuk the day after when you couldn't hear them live.
The end of the Calgary series almost certainly the end of the CBC promos for the season. We only had a single period where we got a single promo instead of 2 promos. CBC could have ran that promo when USA was obsessed about updates from other playoff games. Or Rogers made a mistake.
The CBC (and now Rogers) set up the promos around the city where they are. For the Anaheim games, the promos were surrounded by beaches. These shots on the page show off what Calgary looks like.
Though Dragons' Den isn't airing until next fall, Arlene is back on Dragons' Den. That might be exciting or not. The oddest promo invited fans to keep track of Canada athletes through CBCSports.ca. In a non-Olympics year, that felt even more unusual.
Still Standing and the Baroness Von Sketch Show will be summer shows on the CBC.
Calgary Game 3: Dragons' Den; What's Your Story (1st); CBCSports.ca; Baroness Von Sketch Show (2nd); What's Your Story; Anne (3rd)
Calgary Game 4: Anne (1st); Still Standing; Baroness Von Sketch Show (2nd); What's Your Story; We Are Canada (3rd)
photos credit: all through NHL photo 1: CBC via NHL Network; all other photos: CBC via NBCSN and USA