I fell in love with TSN’s “NHL on the Fly” when it was carried on Versus during the playoffs a couple years back. After all of the live action concluded, it provided a place to catch the entire story of each and every game throughout the league. All goals, hits, big saves, and otherwise important moments were wrapped into an easily digestible package– the NFL Primetime (R.I.P.) of hockey.
Currently, NHL Tonight on NHL Network does all of the above.
NHL Tonight, however, has one MAJOR flaw…
You know those worthless, breathless, three question player interviews that infiltrate every NHL game broadcast? Well, take that formula and add a talking head with a cursory knowledge of the player, team, and, most importantly, the game in question… via satellite.
It’s a recipe for disaster, even by modern sports broadcasting standards.
Here’s a transcript from Monday’s postgame chat with Sabres center Cody Hodgson. Credit goes to Hogdson for getting through this trainwreck without flinching. It seems that if you’ve got your answers pre-loaded with clichés and hockey-speak, the questions don’t really matter.
Kathryn Tappen: Cody Hodgson joining us now on the Cisco Arena Cam in Toronto and Cody, it must feel pretty good to go into someone else’s building especially the Toronto Maple Leafs. They had a lengthy pregame ceremony and you guys were able to stick to the gameplan. How did you compartmentalize that in this game?
How I’d answer: “Yes, Kathryn. It does feel good to go into someone else’s building. We get tired of hosting all the time what with all of the shopping and the cleaning. Oh, the cleaning! And that WAS a lengthy ceremony. What are you asking? How did we allow that to go on and then still play hockey afterward? It was tough but, as you said, compartmentalization was a huge part of our strategy.”
(Note: I caught some of last night’s episode and Tappen used “compartmentalize” again. She must be stopped.)
How Hogdson “answered”:
Cody Hodgson: Well, I don’t know if we, uh, I’m not sure if we played our best game but, uh, ya know, Millsie definitely stood in there, uh, yeah, stood on his head so, um, ya know, we’ll take it.
Unfazed and/or unaware, Tappen keeps plugging.
KT: Thomas Vanek has been tremendous for you guys for the first two games. What does a player like that do for the rest of the team when he’s playing with such high skill and obviously, ya know, willing to perform at a high level as well?
How I’d answer: “You nailed it, Kathryn. The big difference so far this year has been his WILLINGNESS to perform at a high level. We used to beg him to do it but he was always withholding that ‘high skill’ you just mentioned. He was all ‘nah, I’m just not into using my skills right now’ but he’s cooler about it now.”
How Hogdson answered:
CH: Yeah, he’s incredible. He does a lot of the things that don’t necessarily show up on the scoreboard but he’s a pleasure to play with. Makes the right play, makes the right reads, and then everybody knows about his finishing ability.
Kathryn flaunts her awareness of, if absolutely nothing else, Hogdson’s roots.
KT: Cody, you’ve had a first couple two games as well, good strong starts for you. How did it feel to go into a building also where you’re the hometown boy in this one?
Me: “Spot on again, KT. I HAVE had a first couple two games and hope to have many final forty-six more plus playoffs. It always feels good to go home and the people really embrace me. I mean, I try to be humble, but I basically put hockey on the map in this town. Everywhere you turn in Toronto it’s Cody Hogdson this and Cody Hogdson that. I don’t know what these people would do without me.”
CH: Yeah, it’s nice to play in front of family and friends. It’s always a pleasure and growing up watching games in this arena, it’s pretty special to score here.
Kathryn says goodbye to Cody. Now, back to the studio where we’ll get to the nuts and bolts of this game with former NHL goaltender Kevin Weekes.
KT: The Buffalo Sabres had a key penalty kill in the first period, Kevin, a five-on-three that they had to fight off. They then, once they killed it off, were able to score. How important was that sequence?
Get ‘em, Kevin.
Kevin Weekes: Let me tell you. You’re on the road. You’re under siege. The Leafs are snapping the puck around. You need some timely saves from your goaltender which they were able to get from Ryan Miller. And then a valiant effort from some of the guys in front of him trying to block shots, trying to battle for time and space the way Ehrhoff did there. It puts your team really on their way to securing a victory and being in a good position. Yes, it’s early, but if you can kill off a 5-on-3 on the road, I can’t talk about the amount of confidence that it really provides for your team. Guys are then able to say “OK guys, listen. We started on our heels. We’re not sharp. We’ve got Ryan Miller back there. He’s giving us a chance. Let’s get going. Let’s go the other way.” So, special teams playing a big part of their success cuz if you remember, they went 3-for-6 yesterday on the power play.
The “taking away his time and space” cliché has been around for awhile. It applies with varying degrees of accuracy to many situations. But mashing it up with the old hockey analyst standby “battle” evokes visions of Christian Ehrhoff, Doc Brown, and a DeLorean. Nitpicking? Maybe. But Kevin Weekes gave a 40 second answer full of nothingness including my favorite part: “I can’t talk about the amount of confidence that it really provides for your team.” Yes, we know… now.
KT: Thomas Vanek coming off a 5 point performance—not too shabby in his first 2 games.
That’s not a question, but OK.
KW: Not too shabby at all. Thomas Vanek looks outstanding. You know one of the most impressive things about Vanek is his speed. You say “take a hit to make a play?” How about give a hit and then make a play. That’s exactly what Thomas Vanek does right there- gives a hit and he didn’t blow the zone defensively. Watch him on the defensive zone assignment right here and then he takes the puck with speed. Good center lane drive by Cody Hodgson to open up ice. Vanek able to go cross-ice, change the point of attack onto the tape of the captain Pominville. He makes no mistake and goes wickets so, a great example of how a good offensive player shows some commitment on the defensive end, a little physicality, and that transcends into a goal. Good stuff.
No. Great stuff.