I’m not sure I have anything original to contribute today when it comes to the Leafs, other than a bit of my same-old, same-old. So instead, my thoughts are leaning toward a discussion as to "mainstream media" people I enjoy the most when they are talking hockey—either on television or the radio.
I guess I’m referring to those times when we hear/see these individuals on one of those seemingly never-ending panel discussions, or listen to them being interviewed on the various sports talk radio outlets.
I’ll start by simply saying I can’t usually tell the difference between, for example, Darren Millard and Darren Dreger. For me they’re pretty much the same guy. (Didn’t they used to be at the same network?) I think Dreger is the one we hear being interviewed a lot on one of the radio networks and also often sits on one of the aforementioned panels.
In any event, the names kind of run together, but some of the individuals that pop up that I seem to hear, at least (and in no particular order), include John Shannon, Nick Kypreos, Bill Watters (now only on radio), Gord Stellick, Glenn Healy, Bob McKenzie, Brian Duff, Pierre McGuire, Elliot Friedman, Ray Ferraro, Damien Cox, Doug MacLean, Kevin Weekes and Aaron Ward (is it Ward? He’s the former NHL defenseman…?) etc. I’m sure I’m missing some of the guys who do this work, but you can remind me in your comments. In any event, I’m mostly thinking about those who are on the nightly panels on Sportsnet, TSN or the NHL Network and on The Fan 590 or TSN Radio, along with AM 640 in the Toronto market.
Let’s be clear: all of the above “know” sports and, more particularly, know their hockey. (Anyone who has played or coached at the NHL level knows a hell of a lot more than I do about what is required to make it and stay at that level.) Now, when it comes to the others, the non-hockey players and various current talking heads, well, they are “knowledgeable”, too, but I’m less included to pay much attention to what they say.
To be clear, I don’t much care about guys who are considered “insiders” or who their contacts are or, for that matter, whether they “break” a story five seconds before the other network. That kind of thing makes absolutely zero difference to me. I’m far more interested in what someone has to say (regardless of whether they are mainstream/well-known or not) that is genuinely insightful and whether they are someone I enjoy listening to and perhaps make me consider an issue from another angle.
For the purposes of this discussion today, I’m mostly interested in your thoughts, but if I had to “rank them” in order of personal enjoyment—based on their being articulate, engaging and giving me something I don’t already know/see myself (and, I guess, just not annoying me)—I’d consider the following as mini personal guideline:
- Ray Ferraro. Long-time NHL’er (who has a son, if I’m not mistaken, playing junior hockey—has he already been drafted?) is a natural on the radio. Ferraro just seems like one of those former players who doesn’t always have to talk about when he played, yet you know he speaks from that unique perspective. He won’t go out of his way to trash guys but he tends to be less political than some others in his comments, so you get actual opinions, favourable or critical of players and/or organizations. Unlike some, he doesn’t seem to have an axe to grind.
- Darren Dreger (if I have the right guy). He speaks with some authority. At least he sounds like he knows what he’s talking about. I mean, I would never tune in anywhere just to listen to the guy, but I generally won’t turn him off, let’s put it that way.
- Don Cherry. I admit I listen to Don these days whenever I can. Perhaps it’s because he’s near the end of the line, and you just never quite know what’s coming next. In truth, I went through a number of years where I mostly avoided “Coach’s Corner”. I needed a long break. And I wish, when I heard him simply being interviewed on say, the radio, that he could on occasion (like an old time WWF/WWE wrestler) step out of “character” and just talk hockey and not play "Don Cherry".
- I find Bob McKenzie hard to listen to simply because he takes himself so seriously—or at least he seems to. Unlike most long-time sports writers, though, he has always focused on hockey so that’s his passion, presumably, and his area of expertise. I rank him up there just because the guy stays on top of things and seems to be able to explain the sometimes arcane realities of the business side of hockey to us mere laymen reasonably clearly. But there are times he is awfully dry. It's like someone told him years ago that to be "professional", you had to be so serious. It's hockey, not a discussion on the serious issues facing the Middle East.
- I used to enjoy Brian Duff when he was at Leafs TV and AM 640 briefly when he was there, but I only see him sporadically now at the NHL Network. He is more in a host role and I’d probably prefer him as an “analyst”.
- Gord Stellick is a guy I enjoyed many year sago when he was a mid-day host on The Fan 590. (I liked him much less on the old morning show.) He has evidently found a nice new home in the afternoons on CBC satellite radio, is it? I have seen him a lot over the years on TV on one of the panels. He often seemed to be trying too hard, rather than just being himself. (Might be the format of these shows I don’t like…you’d think in 2012 they’d find something more natural and less stiff-seeming. I'd rather they speak directly to each other than pretend they're talking with us by looking at the camera. Personally, I’ve always enjoyed more of a true back and forth “round-table or “hot stove” type of hockey discussion, rather than....this guy talks, then the next guy, then the next guy, etc. Oh well…)
- I’ll give Nick Kypreos this. He has worked hard to become a broadcaster. Otherwise, I don’t have much of an opinion. He’s arrogant-sounding. I wish he wouldn’t have to always play games with the host, or the ex-Columbus GM or whoever and could just talk hockey. I’d like him a lot better if we didn't have to hear about the fact that he played a modest (if that) role on a Cup team 20 years ago. I was watching, I remember, I get it. He won a Cup…
- Pierre McGuire is an analyst I posted about in this space a while back regarding his role as a “in-game” ice-level analyst. (Click here…). I just feel that (and maybe he’s gotten better, I just could not listen to him any more…) from the first play of pre-season to his last breath, everything was so big, so important. I couldn’t take it any more, all the hyperbole and yelling. I wanted to yell, relax, I’m watching the game, too….I see what’s going on. He had to fill every silence with something. But that aside, he knows his stuff, obviously and is well connected. From the little I hear of him he has toned things down on his radio appearances, which is really what we’re talking about today. I still tend to turn him off, just because of earlier bad associations.
Beyond that, well, you tell me— who do you like and why? Who drives you around the bend?