Back in the early 1960s, Hockey Night in
’s voice for Maple Leaf games was, hockey fans of that generation well remember, Bill Hewitt. As the son of the legendary Foster Hewitt, Bill’s was the voice we heard every Saturday night from October until April, calling the Leaf action in his no-nonsense manner. Canada
Now, in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, HNIC experimented with the idea of the ‘extra’ man in the booth as a sort of commentator. Not quite the modern-day analyst, the second banana back then had a limited speaking role, but you would hear them on occasion. (In
, that job first belonged, if I remember correctly, to Frank Selke Jr., who partnered with the great Danny Gallivan.) In Montreal , we would hear different voices. Often someone from the Globe & Mail would be up in the booth, or “Red” Burnett, a sportswriter from the Toronto Star. I remember that Bob Hesketh, who was a popular radio voice in Toronto as well, did it on occasion. (Foster had played the “commentator” role for Bill starting in the late ‘50s, but then focused exclusively on the radio broadcasts.) Toronto
In any event, the
broadcasts of the games never, as I recall, had a regular sidekick for Bill Hewitt until Brian McFarlane came along in the mid 1960s. In more recent years McFarlane has been known as a hockey historian and the author of a number of hockey books. (He was also the originator of Peter Puck, but that’s a story for another day.) Toronto
For me, as a fan and game viewer, McFarlane in the early days added some personality and a little color to the generally bland broadcasts. Hewitt was the son of a legend, and a familiar voice, and he called a good game and all that. But it was pretty dull stuff, compared with Gallivan in
, who we would get to hear only on occasion during the regular season, or in the playoffs. Montreal
But together, Hewitt and McFarlane were OK, with Brian (a former college player, if I'm not mistaken) providing the occasional touch of humor, an anecdote or something of a statistical nature that he had researched prior to the game.
Now, over the years, I found McFarlane less and less appealing. No knock on him personally. It just seemed like he was always there, and we were hearing the same thing every week. (The old Maple Leaf team owner, Harold Ballard, grew to dislike McFarlane and essentially had him kicked off the Toronto CBC broadcasts. But his reasons were different from mine. I guess he figured McFarlane was too critical of his team.)
McFarlane was a good pro, but I just felt as though he stayed too long in his first go-round on HNIC in
. (He returned some years later, I believe.) Toronto
In more recent times, a guy who has become one of the best-known analysts is TSN’s Pierre McGuire. McGuire coached for a time in the NHL, and has become an integral part of the TSN and NBC hockey broadcasts. Among the innovations he has been a part of is providing analysis from in between the team benches, at ice level.
Now, I’m sure McGuire has a legion of fans who like his commentary. In his early days, years ago, I found him mildly entertaining because he brought energy to the broadcasts.
I can’t deny that he, on occasion, provides insight (if we can call hockey commentary insight) that the viewer simply would not have without his experience in the league and what he also sees at ice level.
But for me, it just feels like he never stops talking. There is this constant loudness. Every play has to generate a comment, right in the middle of the play. With
, there’s no waiting for the whistle. It feels like it’s always the last game of the Stanley Cup. In the very first exhibition game broadcast that I heard this fall, he was doing the Leaf game and he started in on Komisarek seconds into the game. I couldn’t believe it. It was the first minute of a meaningless exhibition game. Pierre
I would be interested to know if it’s just me, or are there other viewers who would appreciate a different kind of analyst voice in the booth or at ice level. It’s a tough job, I realize, one that requires in-depth game knowledge, for sure, and an ability to interact well with players and say interesting things— at the right time.
There is no shortage of good play-by-play guys around the league. Frankly, I used to know the home town radio voices way better back in the ‘60s and ‘70s. I was a radio dial flipper, constantly listening to different NHL games. Today, I mostly hear the national/regional broadcasts. But there are all kinds of capable guys…Cuthbert and Hughson have both been good for years. Lots of people still love Bob Cole.
fans have known Joe Bowen for almost thirty years. I’ve always enjoyed Gord Miller, who can handle different sports well, like Cuthbert and Hughson. Toronto
I guess I would simply prefer less loudness, less hype, less talk from the “analysts”. I know this is an era of personality and glib talk, but not every single play has to be dissected. In an 82 game season, I expect mistakes. Hell, it’s a game of mistakes so I assume players will make tons of them. I can see for myself what’s going on. I don’t want a breakdown of every give-away. I can see it myself.
I also don’t always need to be told that this tough guy is on against the other tough guy, or that so and so isn’t getting much ice time. I can see that, too. (Radio is different, I realize.)
Now, if the analyst has something useful that, as a home-based viewer, I can’t know (injury updates, for example), great.
In any event, has anyone else heard too much