Saturday, February 18, 2006

Shows what I know

So I thought I had a good little plan for today.

I figured this morning's Canada-Switzerland game would be bore. Canada would toy with them a little but ultimately beat the Swiss by five or six goals on route to the more interesting and challenging game tomorrow afternoon versus the Finns. I know the Swiss beat the highly regarded Czechs, and for that shouldn't be taken lightly, but the Belarusians beat the Swedes in Salt Lake as well. I assumed it was 11:59 for this Cinderella.

As a result, I planned to sleep in a little bit and roll out of the sack in time to catch the last half of the game.

I do so. Turned on the CBC, hoping to find out how many goals Dany Heatley scored, how Wade Redden had fared, and which line had combined for the most points.

Obviously, I was shocked with what I saw.

2-0 for Switzerland. Okay, I thought. Canada's sleepwalking. They'll turn it on and pull it out. No big deal.

It only took me five more minutes of watching to realize that wasn't going to happen.

Canada did not look like a Gold Medal team. At all. Yes, they peppered Martin Gerber with a ton of shots, and probably outplayed the Swiss (certainly did in the third period I saw), but even still, as a team, they looked to be on completely different pages. There was very little in the way of chemistry. They looked like what they are: an all-star team. Great talents, little teamwork.

In contrast, the Swiss were ridiculously less skilled, but played as a team. Could be because they pretty much are a team, with a few NHLers added to the mix.

It's way too early to start pointing fingers or panicking, because ultimately the game did not mean very much to anyone but the Swiss, who, for most of the team, this was the biggest game of their international career. Canada couldn't match their intensity or will.

But going into tomorrow's game against Finland, a team that has looked quite good so far, and outplayed the Czechs by a wide margin a few hours ago, Saturday's outing by the Canadians doesn't inspire a lot of confidence.

As let down as I was by what I saw of Canada's performance, I was equally as entertained by the two afternoon games. I thought both the Czechs-Finns and U.S.-Slovaks games were compelling hockey that restored by belief in the fact the NHLers should be in the Olympics. A Sens fan, after the Hasek debacle, I was having doubts.

The games were fast paced with few whistles/penalties to slow the game down. The officiating was far from perfect in either game, but I don't think the referees played a role in the results one way or the other.

I did have one major dilemma, however:

All of the broadcasts sucked.

On TSN, you had Jim Hughson and Greg Millen. Though I find him to a bit of a homer on the HNIC late game, in a neutral setting like this, Hughson's fine. Millen is not. I rid myself of the cancer known as Greg Millen this year when he did us all a favor and left the Sens broadcast team to go do LeafTV on digital cable for 75 people. The two were making contradictory points all game long and stepping all over each other. You'd think two guys who had been working together all season would have developed some chemistry. Nope.

Millen was up to his old tricks. At one point in the U.S.-Slovak game, the two were mentioning that Keith Tkachuk had not played a shift yet in that second period. They were wondering if he was hurt or even on the bench. Fair enough. A minute later, Keith's on the ice for a shift. Hughson makes this observation. Tkachuk stays out and even handles the puck a little bit. Then Millen says (and I'm paraphrasing) "Keith Tkachuk isn't on the bench Jim. [uncomfortable pause] Because he's on the ice."

Bravo, Greg.

Meanwhile, on the CBC, it was the Decrepit Duo: Bob Cole and Harry Neale. As a Sens fan, I'm legally obligated to dislike these two, for all the obvious reasons, but even with my own biases, I could not believe how dreadful Cole was on play-by-play. This guy doesn't sound like he should be allowed to drive a car, let alone broadcast an Olympic hockey game to millions of people.

There's an old Bob Cole drinking game that I'm sure you've all played: take a drink every time he incorrectly identifies a player. Usually, this will have you shitfaced by the middle of the second period. If that's not fast enough for you, take a drink every time he calls someone on the visiting team "the [team name] player." You'll be vomiting before Coach's Corner even begins.

He and Neale also sport incredibly laughable biases towards the Leafs. Nothing new. We've grown to accept it. Neale, I can sorta get. He is, after all, their color man on their local broadcasts.

In spite of all these deficiencies, Cole has usually been good for building drama and excitement. But even that seems to have fallen by the wayside. I was bored to tears listening to him broadcast this game. Was it because Canada wasn't involved that Cole couldn't at least pretend to be excited?

On the American side on NBC, you had Mike Emmerick and John Davidson, with Pierre Maguire in the foxhole. Emmerick's voice is very grating, but at least he seems like he wants to be there. Davidson, I've always enjoyed. By the way, have I mentioned how much I like this addition to the broadcasting universe? I realize it's a shameless rip off of what Fox does with their NFL telecasts, having lineman turned talking head Tony Siragusa on the sidelines, but nevertheless, I enjoy it.

I'm also in the minority in that I don't think Pierre Maguire is the devil reincarnated. In fact, I find him to be pretty good, even though he's sometimes too exciteable even for me. "ISN'T THIS NEW NHL GREAT!!!" Yes, it is. Oh, and who can forget "OH WOW THESE GAMES SURE DO STINK WITH NO RED LINE har har har". We get it, Pierre. You were right.

One problem with watching this broadcast: the NBC reception was terrible. The sound was staticy, the picture difficult on the eyes. It was unwatchable.

Hopefully, by the time the Gold Medal game comes around, someone, anyone, will have their house in order, because I really don't want to have to resort to turning the volume down all together.


At 12:42 AM, Blogger James Mirtle said...

Good stuff, Chris. I'd been thinking about talking about Millen from his comments in an earlier game, but there's no sense piling on.

At 1:16 AM, Anonymous David Johnson said...

Maybe you don't mind Pierre McGuire because you are a Sens fan. He is more pro-Sens than Harry Neale (or even Don Cherry) is pro-Leafs. I think he secretly wants to be a coach with the Sens again. I can only hope he gets the job because then I won't have to turn off TSN NHL game broadcasts because he keeps interrupting Gord Miller with his "Isn't this new NHL great" comments.

At 2:55 AM, Blogger CMcMurtry said...

If you say so David. I've never heard Pierre say "we" when talking about Ottawa the way Cherry does with the Leafs.

At 8:30 AM, Anonymous David Johnson said...

Saying 'we' doesn't mean you are any more biased, just that you are honest about your bias. That's integrity if you ask me. But Don Cherry tells it like it is and he even predicted the Senators to win the Stanley Cup so I am not sure how biased he really is. Cherry tends to tell it like he sees it and certainly isn't adverse to being critical of the Leafs.

At 6:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to say that one of my worst hockey experiences ever was having to sit through that 5 minute goal review with Millen in the backround crying like a little bitch. SHUT THE FUCK UP MILLEN!!


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