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What hockey TV play-by-play guys do you like most/least? What about the analysts and in-studio panelists?



The playoffs are obviously a time with a lot of emotion, and those emotions are running particularly high this spring.  One of the reasons, seemingly the most prominent factor, is the sometimes over-the-top (in the eyes of some observers, at least) physicality of many of these playoff series this spring.  Almost every night brings another thundering hit, and the debate begins:  Was it a clean hit?  Was it legal?  Will there be a suspension?  Should there be? (Sometimes this discussion seems to take on more importance than the games themselves…) Wherever you sit on broader issue of "violence" and player safety, it seems clear to me that one thing that has definitely changed is that the game is being officiated differently nowadays.  And because we also know more about concussions, for example, we are reacting differently today than when Scott Stevens was running over guys with regularity.  Back then, most of his "head shots" weren't even a penalty, much less up for suspension.

But another thing that raises the ire and the emotional fervour of many fans watching the games on television at this time of year is the "performance", if we can call it that, of the play-by-play (and other) voices on television. I realize that “homerism”, or at least fan perceptions of the phenomenon, has been around for generations- probably since games were first broadcast on radio decades and decades ago.

Hey, home team announcers are expected to have a certain bias, and emote a hometown joy when the good guys score—and win.  That's a given.  It has always been this way.  But when we’re talking about national broadcasts, here or in the United States, I guess we sometimes expect a higher standard of overall quality and yes, impartiality.

After I raised the issue on Twitter yesterday, one of the people I chat with there ("Toronto Peter" @torontopeter), suggested this might be a worthwhile post topic to gauge reader reaction.  So here we are.

I’ll make the judging criteria very simple:  for you, who are the best play-by-play voices in terms of simply doing that job well?  You know, they describe the play without giving us more than we need, they get excited at the right time, bring the game to the right pitch at the right moment, etc.

Conversely, who disappoints you?  Who maybe lacks the professionalism you’d like to see? Maybe they are indeed a “homer” in your eyes, even though they are doing national games.  Maybe they are over the top in some way.

At the same time, chime in with your thoughts about the "colour commentators", the radio and TV sidekicks who provide their insightful (?) views on the game as it happens.  While we're at it, we'll throw in those seemingly countless in-studio analysts that we see every night, for hours on end.  Who do you love?  Who can't you stand listening to for another minute?

While I've included only very basic criteria above, I realize that, sometimes, there are just commentators we like, and some we can't stand.  There doesn't have to be a ton of reasons.  We just do or don't like the way someone comes across.  And for the purposes of this discussion today, that's fair.

So in the different "categories" let’s include (and send along any names that I’m missing here, I know I’m not remembering everyone…):

Play-by-play

CBC

Bob Cole
Jim Hughson
Dean Brown
Mark Lee

TSN/NBC

Gord Miller
Chris Cuthbert
Mike Emrick

Color analysts (various)

Ray Ferraro
Pierre McGuire
Mike Johnson
Craig Simpson
Darren Pang
Glenn Healy
Greg Millen
Kevin Weekes
Gary Galley

Studio analysts

Sportsnet

Darren Dreger
John Shannon
Nick Kypreos
Denis Potvin
Doug MacLean
Pierre LeBrun
Brad May
Scott Morrison

CBC

Ron MaClean
Don Cherry
P.J. Stock
Eric Francis
Mike Milbury
Elliot Friedman
Kelly Hrudey

TSN/NHL Network

James Duthie
Aaron Ward
Marc Crawford
Bob McKenzie
Darren Millard

NBC

Jeremy Roenick
Eddie Olczyk
**Mike Milbury (see CBC above as well)



Send your thoughts along…"Write-in" ballots are acceptable!

I was thinking about setting this up as a poll where you can just click on names, but let's try it this way for now.  I’ll  tabulate any "results" we get here and report back if enough people comment.



34 comments:

  1. I admit my bias, but growing up listening to Bob Cole and Harry Neale calling Leafs games my whole life I cannot imagine another pair that complimented each other so well, Cole never came across so much as a Leaf homer but as someone who lent a sense of excitement to whatever game he may be calling that is unparallelled by anyone today. Neale's dry comments often seemed a perfect counterbalance to Cole, and even Neale's games with Joe Bowen on TSN and other networks had that same sense of balance somehow,even if Bowen could be accused of being more of a Leaf 'homer' than Cole.

    I do have to say though, living in Vancouver for 3 years and listening to Jim Hughson as the local voice of the Canucks before he became the national voice of the nationwide 7PM Saturday broadcast, it is a bit difficult to overcome the sense of...let's call it, perceived 'familiarity' that Hughson projects when dealing with the Canucks challenging for the Cup.(I am well aware of Hughson's years calling Leafs games for CHCH Hamilton, but for some reason he seems to identify with Vancouver as much as Joe Bowen does with the Leafs.)
    Listening to Hughson call Leafs games on CBC throughout recent years often had a sense of betrayal, however irrational, as if knowing that the man calling the game had no love for the team. Perhaps that made it all the more sweet listening to Hughson call the playoff games where his beloved Canucks were imploding...

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  2. You've expressed it well, Sean. (We're probably all biased in some fashion...). I'll put you down as a vote for Cole, and one "against" Hughson. (I recall Jim's days calling games on CH, etc. I liked him as a young broadcaster for both baseball and hockey back then....less so now...) Thanks.

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  3. This one's fairly easy for me, Michael. The quality of the play-by-play has seriously deteriorated in the last few years. Of all the ones listed, I only find Cuthbert tolerable. The rest are a combination of too talkative, annoying, or way past their primes.

    As far as studio analysts go, I like Friedman. Crawford and Ward are starting to grow on me. I have absolutely zero tolerance for the Sportsnet gang, and almost as little for the Cherry/Maclean tandem (who almost don't really talk hockey anymore). I enjoy Hrudey, but Maclean's presence clouds that enjoyment at times.

    In a previous posting of yours about commentators, I mentioned I really enjoy Cassie Campbell, but feel she's not given a prominent role on HNIC (silly 30 sec interviews, 10 sec off-camera observations, etc.). She's got great potential, tremendous hockey insight, is a decorated Canadian athlete, and of course, it doesn't hurt that she's an attractive presence on TV.

    Back to the negatives...again, no tolerance for the NBC crew, though I'll give them some leeway because they're catering to a very different audience.

    Cheers.

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  4. I recall your earlier post commenting on Campbell's potential as a broadcaster. I did not list her as she, at the moment, is not utilized by CBC in one of the three categories I focused on for today's purposes.

    I'll put you down as voting for Cuthbert and Friedman in their respective categories, as the others you endorse don't seem to quite get your whole-hearted support just yet!

    Thanks Caedmon.

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  5. Great post man.

    To be honest, I'm pretty harsh on most sports announcers and analysts. There are few that like and most I hate and I wish that somehow you could turn off just their voice and still listen to games (muting sucks because you lose all the other hockey noises like the crowd).

    The criteria I judge these guys are:
    -sense of humor--crack a smile once in a while and laugh, guys, come on.
    -impartiality
    -intelligence
    -positivity vs. negativity ratio...closely related to constructive criticism vs complaining
    -"stand up guy" quotient: overall sense of would you have a beer with this guy.

    Now that I think about it, these are the criteria I judge most of my friends and the friends I "watch the game with" are the ones that score the highest! :) So it makes sense because I'm "watching the game" with these announcers.

    #1 LIKED: James Duthie
    -this guy is hilarous, smart, doesn't complain, seems like a stand-up guy. There's a reason why he keeps winning awards.

    #2 Liked: Elliotte Friedmann
    -straight-shooter, cracks a joke once in a while, impartial to the max.

    Honourable mentions:
    Greg Millen, Kevin Weekes, Darren Dreger.


    #1 HATED: Glenn Healy
    -this guy runs away with this prize. He represents everything you don't want anyone in your life to be, whether they are a friend, a relative, a business colleague, heck, even your bank teller.

    -non-stop complains.
    -non-stop negative.
    -so anti-Leafs that he has no credibility to be an impartial observer for any team in my mind.
    -the worst part: he's a bully. His sense of humor centers on "if I show the world how much this guy sucks then they will laugh at him."
    On Twitter I've said "if all you do is make smart-ass remarks and never say anything else, you might be an asshole."

    #2 Hated: Ray Ferraro
    On Twitter I call him "Negative Nancy." He's a close #2 to Healy in negativity/complaining. Never cracks a joke at all.

    Dishonourable mentions:
    Jim Hughson, "the new" Pierre Mcguire (I liked the old one who used likes like "MONSTER" all the time, this new one is just bitter because he's clearly been muzzled), Bob McKenzie (smart guy but no sense of humor whatsoever).

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  6. For my money Chris Cuthbert is the best play-by-play man in the business today. I seem to have a higher tolerance for Gord Miller than most, and while I originally wasn't the biggest Bob Cole fan I've certainly come around to appreciate his work since I only get to hear him once in a blue moon.


    The Hughson-Simpson-Healy team grates on my nerves to no end, I sometimes mute the TV to watch games they call. I also find the team of Dean Brown and Denis Potvin on Sportsnet to be unbearable, but it's just par for the course when dealing with the Senators as the Ottawa media as a whole fawns over the team constantly.

    I like Bob Mackenzie, Elliotte Friedman and Ron Maclean during the intermission panels, but Eric Francis has no credibility in my eyes (to me, almost a modern-day Al Strachan, who I detested). I could also stand to never hear Doug Maclean again.

    Between the benches Ray Ferraro is by far the cream of the crop, while Healy is just generally full of crap, and McGuire, while knowledgable, is just too loud and in-your-face.

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  7. I have to echo sean's comments on Cole and Neale. Bob Cole just has the right tenor for calling big games. Even if he is missing names, he is still capturing the moment unlike any other pbp guy. Hughson I dislike not only for his seeming Nucks love, but because he seems to exude a cynicism that Cole lacks. The same can be said for most of the panels, with the exception of Friedman, sometimes Hrudey, and Bob McKenzie, who is ok, but often comes across as smug. Like he knows he is a big name.

    As far as in studio, I also like MacLean and Cherry. I suppose that's a bit inconsistent considering what I've said about the others, but Cherry is a unique case. Say what you will about him, he is usually right on the big things, though when he gets on a hobby horse, it can be distracting from anything good he might also have to say that day. Ron MacLean does the best job of wrangling medicore talent in his panels. Duthie is often too cynical about it.

    I suppose I like "old-time" sounding announcers. Considering hockey's place in nostalgia, it makes sense to want the present to sound like the past.

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  8. To me the role of the play by play announcer on a TV broadcast is to provide you the names of the players taking part in the action on the ice and to give you a sense of the atmosphere. Really, that is about it. The rest I can see with my own eyes. Growing up a Leaf fan, Bob Cole was the guy for me but I find he is getting too old and making too many mistakes.

    Dean Brown is just annoying at times with his poorly delivered 'sarcasm' especially on the Ottawa broadcasts where he is a homer beyond belief (but I suppose that is the nature of the gig to some extent). He is just irritating at times.

    Miller, Hughson and Cuthbert all do a good job for me.

    The role of the analysts are to be informative and not annoying. Very few are both. I despise McGuire because he just likes to hear himself talk too much and is constantly interrupting the play by play guy with some useless piece of information that nobody cares about delivered in an overly dramatic fashion. The only analysts that I like are the 'insiders' because they can tell me something I don't know or can't see with my own eyes. McKenzie, Dreger, Friedman, LeBrun.

    Most of the other analysts just make stuff up as they go along and only rarely do they say something that is really informative and interesting. Doug MacLean makes me cringe every time he opens his mouth and makes me wonder how he ever had a job in the NHL (though it does explain the state of the Blue Jackets).

    BTW, I think you have the Darren's mixed up. Millard should be on Sportsnet and Dreger on TSN.

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  9. I used to like Bob Cole but in recent years I have got the impression that we are watching different games. Put me down for "past his prime" but I still like the man.
    Of the other current National voices, I think Gord Miller is the best of the lot.
    Stock, Hrudey, Friedman and McKenzie always seem to have something interesting and/or knowledgeable to say. The Sportsnet bunch, except Morrison and LeBrun who don't seem to belong with them, are just annoying.
    The most enjoyable broadcaster for me is still Joe Bowen. He gives credit to the opponents when a good play is made and is quick to point out when the Leafs "got away with one" when a penalty wasn't called but was likely deserved. For this reason, I think he avoids the " homer" tag usually given to a team broadcaster.
    He surely gets excited at the right moments and definitely adds to the enjoyment of watching the game. He and Harry Neale together were the absolute best in my view!

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  10. Thanks Peter! Love the detail in your breakdown. (Only thing missing, if I read it correctly, were your choices for play-by-play guy...)

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  11. Bobby P...I'll put you down for Cuthbert, etc. Very good stuff. (We begin to see the trend that we all like/dislike the same guys sometimes i.e. Ferraro...some like him, some don't. Just individual responses that we all have. We all feel and see things differently at times...) Thanks Bobby.

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  12. Jtinmtl,,,it's all fair, re your comments on MacLean and Cherry. I understand. Your vote for Cole is captured as well. Thanks for chiming in today.

    Friedman seems well-liked.....

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  13. Thanks David J....well said. I'll tabulate your "votes"...

    I confuse the Darren's all the time, by the way!

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  14. Long suffering Leafs fanApril 20, 2012 at 10:07 AM

    Interesting topic Mike.

    CBC Jim Hughson

    TSN Chris Cuthbert very knowledgeable, but Mike "Doc" Emrick brings the game to life on NBC

    Color analysts Ray Ferraro, Greg Millen and Craig Simpson

    Studio analysts Nick Kypreos and Brad May.

    CBC I make no apologies here, still love Don Cherry, Elliot Friedman isn't bad either.

    TSN/NHL Network Marc Crawford and Bob McKenzie

    NBC both Jeremy Roenick and Ed Olczyk do a nice job.

    My all time hockey announcer is the late Dan Kelly. He made a dull game come to life and made it feel that it was the seventh game of the Stanley Cup!

    Color analysts A close tie between Dick Irvine and Howie Meeker. The analysts today could learn a few things from these vets.

    Studio analysts has to go to Dave Hodge and Bob Goldham, with his blackboard.

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  15. Thanks Ed...you've been watching a long time. I understand your thoughts on Cole, a fine, long-time play-by-play man. (Younger folks may not realize he was really the guy who "replaced" the legendary Bill Hewitt in the early '80s...)

    And you're not alone in fondly linking Bowen and Neale, as many do Cole and Neale.

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  16. Great post, Long Suffering. I'll tabulate your "votes" and thanks as well for your reference to one of the all-time greats, Dan Kelly. (I appreciated Irvin as well, and yes, the great former player turned analyst Goldham...) Thanks.

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  17. Being in my early 30's, I grew up with Cole and Neale, To me, they were the voices of hockey. There are many nights I will mute the TV and simply watch the game myself, I dont need every play dictated to me and I find a lot of broadcasters do that now, explain the obvious, I like someone who can give unbiased emotion during the play by play, and some insightful information during the colour portion, I found growing up that Neale and Cole did that for me and set a standard for me. I actually started doing a bit of colour for the Hamilton Bulldogs during their calder run for Mohawk college and used Harry Neale as my 'inspiration' if you will. As for current studio analysts, Scott Morrison, Pierre Lebrun, James Duthie and Elliot Freidman are my personal favourites to listen too these days.

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  18. LeafluvrCC...I sense that you represent a huge part of the hockey viewing community raised in that generation. Cole and Neale were simply "the team".

    By the way, I bet you had a tremendous experience doing the colour commentary for the Bulldogs. Must have been a neat gig.

    Thanks for that. I'll include your "votes" in my final results.

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  19. The worst feed I've ever had to watch this side of the pond was NESN on Boston. I can't remember who commentates but the commentary was a joke and "homer" doesn't even do it justice. Having had to listen to many Leaf games online in my time as a fan, I will always be a fan of Joe Bowen. His passion and love for the game, as well as the infamous Holy Mackinaw has enamoured him to me.

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  20. Hi Mark....funny you mention Boston...when I was a young man in the very early '70s I listened (in Bobby Orr's hey-day) to WBZ radio in Boston, I think it was and...Fred Cusick. Fine play-by-play man but, as you would expect, a classic hometown guy!

    Thanks for sharing today....

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  21. Well I don't really have favourites but I tend to have a bias. Being Canadian we mostly get exposure to TSN and CBC. LeafsTV is kind of boring so I don't really listen to anything besides just trying to follow the game.

    I can appreciate Bobby Mac and Pierre McGuire from TSN. Sure they may not be the best guys but they are knowledgable and thats good in my books. I like Don Maclean and often i feel Cherry needs to hang up the mic and retire but he gets ratings. I like seeing Ward, and his 3 Cup rings, on TSN. He seems like a fairly intelligent guy who can actually work that business if he chooses to continue that route. Dreger is also not bad and Duthie is entertaining.

    Kyperos tends to annoy me with his "matter of fact" arrogant attitude that surfaces. Its a love hate relationship. Although you didn't mentione him, TSN needs to stop letting Dan O'Toole fill in. Did anyone els want to smash the TV with his stupid "Elliot" the other night!

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  22. Great topic Michael. It really hits a raw nerve.

    I grew up listening to three great play by play announcers; Foster Hewitt, Bill Hewitt and Danny Gallivan. In my opinion they remain the best to have ever called a hockey game.

    Another fine announcer was Dan Kelly. KMOX in St.Louis was a clear channel station easily picked up in Toronto and I enjoyed listening to Kelly's calls of Blues games. I also enjoyed listening to the unabashed homerism of Rex Stimers on CKTB in St.Catherines. His passion for the Teepees was unmatched and his broadcasts were hugely entertaining. Another fine announcer who could be heard in Toronto was Ted Darling doing Buffalo Sabres games.

    I have always enjoyed Bob Cole, particularly when he was paired with Harry Neale. I also like the Buffalo team of Rick Jeanneret (play by play), Harry Neale (colour) and Mike Robitaille (studio) although their time is coming to an end.

    I also enjoy the work of Joe Bowen and especially the succinct and insightful analysis of Jim Ralph on the Leafs radio broadcasts.

    I find it very difficult to listen to the HNIC broadcasts of Leaf games unless Bob Cole is doing play by play. The appearance of Hughson, Simpson and Healey prompt a reach for the mute button. The anti Leaf bias of this group is particularly grating. The irresponsible comment by Healey that Reimer was embellishing the Gionta hit was the final straw.

    I find Mike Emrick and Pierre McGuire extremely irritating. They seem to feel that they must fill every iota of air time. Someone should tell them they are doing television not radio.

    Elliot Friedman provides good analysis. Ray Ferraro is irritating.

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  23. As an afterthought...thought you and your readers might enjoy this Bill Hewitt call of the end of the 1967 Stanley Cup Finals.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3OJEC9iIFD4

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  24. Hi Skill2Envy....Your "votes" are now officially "in". Thanks for your perspective on this one.....

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  25. Great breakdown, PeteCam. And I really enjoyed your reference to great old names like Kelly (mentioned above as well), Darling and Cole. (I didn't live in the area at the time, so I missed most of the Rex Stimers era in St. Kitt's...). I enjoy the Buffalo crew as well.

    I've tallied them all up. Thanks Pete Cam.

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  26. The '67 Hewitt call is a classic, a vivid memory for many of us....Thanks again PeteCam....

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  27. Joe Bowen
    Don Cherry
    P.J. Stock
    Elliot Friedman

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  28. Another afterthought: Public Address announcers have become blatant and increasingly obnoxious cheerleaders. I long for the days of Paul Morris.

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  29. PeteCam....I loved Paul Morris, too. (I think I posted a piece about him on this site earlier on....I don't think I put him in the categories section, but if anyone is interested in the story, they could likely locate it if they did a search of his name on the site...)

    Thanks Pete Cam. He was so good, very understated, just perfect. Not the hype we hear (it all sounds the same) in every building nowadays...

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  30. There is not a better commentator in the business that Bob Cole. Granted him and Bowen were the two guys I listened to most (I like Bowen on radio more than TV). Even though Cole misses more of the game than he used to, there is no one who can capture the essence of the big play and flow of the game. It is the closest I ever got to listening to Foster Hewitt or Danny Gallivan. Cole is the classic and definitive hockey voice to me. Jim Hughson to me is flat out boring and I feel the same about Chris Cuthberth. They may be more technically sound than Cole, however they lack the intangibles.

    Was also a big fan of Harry Neale - He was witty and didn't take himself too seriously. I find most colour guys to pretend to know too much or take away. Weekes is probably the only colour guy that I really appreciate on TV at the moment.

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  31. Thanks Tim...as a couple of others have mentioned, a lot of us probably have struggled to find a sound that could compare with Foster Hewitt (the best on the radio, for me) and Gallivan, the finest TV play-by-play ever in my mind.

    Good stuff Tim....

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  32. CBC


    Bob Cole - like
    Jim Hughson - like

    TSN/NBC


    Gord Miller - okay
    Chris Cuthbert - like
    Mike Emrick - okay


    Color analysts (various)

    Pierre McGuire - HATE
    Craig Simpson - like
    Glenn Healy - dislike
    Greg Millen - like


    Studio analysts


    Sportsnet

    Nick Kypreos - like
    Denis Potvin - like
    Doug MacLean - like

    CBC

    Ron MaClean - really like
    Don Cherry - really like, agree on hockey with most (not all) of what he says, but on political issues he is a naive old reactionary grandpa ... but I still love the guy !

    P.J. Stock - like
    Eric Francis - okay
    Mike Milbury - HATE
    Elliot Friedman - like
    Kelly Hrudey - like


    TSN/NHL Network


    James Duthie - okay
    Marc Crawford - okay
    Bob McKenzie - like
    Darren Millard - okay


    NBC


    Jeremy Roenick - okay
    Eddie Olczyk - like
    Mike Milbury - HATE

    I cannot stand McGuire and Milbury.

    I am 48 and grew-up on Foster Hewitt, Dick Irvin, Jr., Ward Cornell, Dave Hodge, Bob Goldham, Brian McFarlane, Howie Meeker, Tim Ryan, Ted Lindsay, Red Storey, Danny Gallivan, Bill Hewitt, Dan Kelly, Gary Dornhoefer, Mickey Redmond .... guys who knew the game !

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  33. Great breakdown Shaftesbury....I really do feel nostalgic (and with good reason, for those who also remember those wonderful sporting times) when I hear names like Cornell, Storey, Irvin, Goldham, Meeker and of course Foster and Danny.

    I've now included your "votes"- thanks!

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