Hard Hits: Why NBC has driven me away


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Normally, I watch the entire NHL playoffs including the Stanley Cup Finals. But tonight, I’m taking a stand. I won’t watch Game 6.

There are many reasons for it. The first being I can’t stand NBC. The way they cover these games is appalling. They’ve become redundant over silly fake storylines that have nothing to do with hockey.

The whole P.K. Subban/Sidney Crosby story about “bad breath” was made up by Subban. The media ran with it treating it as if it were bigger than the two teams competing for the Cup. How many times can we listen to NBC trolls Ed Olczyk, Pierre McGuire and Mike Milbury reference Listerine? It’s sickening.

Then there’s the whole total ignorance when it comes to how Crosby is officiated. The double standard has been well documented. He’s the game’s best player. The marquee superstar who can do no wrong. No disrespect to Crosby the player who competes as hard as anyone. But how much can unbiased fans take of the missed calls on the Pens captain?

He got away with interference back in Game 1 leading to Evgeni Malkin’s power play goal which opened the scoring. The same star player can repeatedly rabbit punch a fallen Subban into the ice before he retaliates and the two get matching minors. Even non entity ESPN was all over that on SportsCenter.

The See No Evil Hear No Evil lazy approach by NBC’s analysts is pathetic. They intentionally avoid criticizing the refs unless it’s when Nashville gets away with rough stuff. Or what Milbury calls “mugging.” It works both ways. But when it comes to Crosby, he is untouchable.

Now mind you I rooted for Mark Messier on the Rangers. He was dirty frequently getting away with cheap shots like the uncalled cross check to Doug Gilmour during the ’97 Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Devils. Back then, you could get away with almost anything. They let a lot of stuff go. At least Messier was candid about it. Crosby never admits to anything apologizing even though we know better.

The way the game is called now is much worse. There are too many inconsistencies. The two ref system with two linesmen are programmed to detect any holding or hooking/obstruction even if it’s the phantom variety. They don’t always get the more blatant stick fouls such as errant high-sticks, slashes or cross checks. This has led to dissatisfaction from diehard fans who know the game.

It’s a total insult. When you have inconsistent officiating, it leads to chaos. Nobody knows what’s a penalty on a nightly basis. The refs have a tough job keeping up with a much faster and talented product. They’re gonna miss stuff. You just hope they do a better job in regards to being consistent. The standard has dropped. There’s way too many examples to cite.

Between NBC’s irritating coverage which unfortunately has become slanted despite Doc Emrick’s best effort and the continued fascination with non-hockey stories, it’s become a sideshow.

Hockey is a great sport. Most observers just want the game. Instead, there’s McGuire talking over the broadcast frequently due to being between the benches. Some of the info he passes along is fun. But he definitely should tone it down during the action.

The other issue is the audience the NHL is catering to. Hint: it’s not us. They do this with one thing in mind. The casual fan who can bring RATINGS. In many aspects with the NHL opting to spread out Games 5, 6 and 7 if necessary by giving the teams two days off, it’s no longer hockey. The game has become like the NBA. That is a indictment on everyone involved including Gary Bettman and awful TV partner NBC.

The last thing we want as fans is for the Stanley Cup to become similar to the NBA Finals. It’s fine the way it is. I’ve always said hockey should end earlier. Even if the two leagues don’t schedule their marquee event on the same days, hockey and basketball are too close together. Especially when you consider that the NHL starts in October about three weeks before the NBA.

It doesn’t make any sense. Both sports play 82 games followed by a best-of-seven format in all four rounds. The NBA used to be best three-of-five in the first round before changing it. The NHL is the more entertaining sport due to unpredictable runs by eight seeds such as the Kings and now the Predators. That never happens with the NBA anymore. The lone exception being the ’99 Knicks in a abbreviated season.

Playoff hockey still gives us great theatre like overtime where heroes are made along with Game 7. The question is will Nashville hold serve like the first five games and provide that seventh game in Pittsburgh on Wednesday. I don’t know.

A final point on why my passion has wavered. I’ve been a lot more distracted by the Yankees and the Aaron Judge show. With the Rangers bowing out in excruciating fashion to the Senators, it’s not the same. I refuse to watch the Pens celebrate another Cup. They’ve been spoon fed two of the game’s all-time greats.

Let’s face facts. Tanks are rewarded. The Rangers are the polar opposite. They never tanked hard enough to get a transcendent superstar who could support Henrik Lundqvist- stolen in the seventh round in 2000. What they accomplished should be appreciated more by our spoiled fan base with half measuring everything on a chart.

For those reasons, I will not watch any of Game 6 or Game 7 if there is one. There’s no need.

 

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About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included two stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil games. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has scored Berkeley Carroll basketball games since 2006 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. From players, coaches to administrators, it's a first class program. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree.
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