Friday, April 6, 2012

A Defense Of Hockey Night In Canada

The Backhand Shelf* wonders if Don Cherry is on his way out as a result of the inevitable re-tooling of Hockey Night In Canada that is about to happen at the CBC.  The article describes HNIC as "equal parts live broadcasting and unintentional comedy" and derides the analysts as not bringing much to either the evening's game or the state of the league in general.

Personally I like HNIC as it is**.  You have to look at it from the view of someone who doesn't eat, breath, sleep, live hockey the way the sports media does.  For most of the week they're stuck in something we call "real life" where you can't follow the instant-by-instant goings on in their favorite team, let alone the league as a whole.

For some of those fans, the opportunity to curl up with Don Cherry is exactly what they want.  He tells them what they want to hear and they generally go away happy with his delivery, if not always his message.

For me, my favorite part of the show's fixtures is the Hotstove where the issues of the week are stripped down to a 15 second sound bite and maybe 45 seconds of give and take on the part of the commentators.  It is here that we get an actual view into the minds of both the league and the NHLPA.  And while I'm sure the fact that I place such importance on this forum means I'm just not following the right twitter feeds or am not on the right people's speed dial, I'm sure I'm not the only one.

Every circus has its clown, and while Don Cherry is a one-clown act, Mike Milsbury runs a close second.  However of all the people involved, Milsbury has been involved at the highest levels and while he is may be an idiot, that gives him a perspective the rest of us can only dream of.

Besides, I read somewhere else that the CBC should be doing more stories on the players -- please.

Years ago I was a devoted follower of Formula 1 magazines.  I bought a non-trivial percentage of them*** and kept them for years.  Still have some of them, too.  What got me to stop following them was the fact that the stuff I really wanted to read -- the technical information about the cars -- was vanishing.  But worse, all the stories about people were inevitably in one of these categories:

  • New rookie promises to become the next F1 god
  • Mid-career driver seeking a way to step up his career
  • Senior driver reflecting that it just isn't going to happen for him
  • Retired F1 driver reflecting on his past glories
  • Head-to-head comparison of the current two title protagonists (note the annual fete celebrating that year's winner falls into this category, for the winner is nothing without those he beat)
Substitute the names as appropriate.  Oh sure, throw in some randomized factoids to make it uniqe -- Salo's family owns a milk company.  Wurtz was an inline skater.  Montoya answered prepared questions from randomly pre-seeded red balls.  But the bottom line is the same.  Boring.

And frankly it would be the same for hockey.  Rookies on the way up, veterans on the way down, inbetweeners trying to become elite, celebrations of those who do become elite, hometown hero makes good... plus your weekly Sidney Crosby.  It would be always the same.


Meanwhile the parts which count -- who's zooming who (ie Don Cherry) and the business of the game (ie Hotstove), the only parts of the game which are new and changing -- they'd get cut out.

And the intermission shows would become even less interesting... and less watched.

I'm probably not even close to the desired target market for HNIC.  And sooner or later Cherry will get bored or run over by a bus or something -- and god help us if the CBC turns to Kelly Hrudy to fill in.  But changes will come, because that's the way of life.

I just don't think the state of today is so bad.

* =  which, amusingly to me, still shows up in my RSS reader as its previous title, Houses Of The Hockey.

** = ...well except from the excessive bias which puts the Toronto games on the national feed, but that's both A) my Ottawa bias showing and B) not that big a deal since I've sought the Ottawa game when I've been out of market exactly once in the last three years.

*** = this was in the days before the Internet.