I’m a little late to comment on this; I initially decided not to but after seeing the clip again over at MacLean’s I decided to weigh in on it.
First off, the caveats. I am employed by The Score, so it may very well be bad form to comment on Hockey Night In Canada. Secondly, I am a blogger, and thus to some degree may be associated with the people Don Cherry doesn’t think deserve a voice on HNIC.
I find myself in agreement with Cherry, Ron MacLean and Martin Patriquin over at MacLean’s; there is no need to dignify the folks who think Jaroslav Halak is comparable to Andre Racicot (let’s remember that Racicot played 31 minutes of NHL playoff hockey over the course of his entire career) or the guy who leaves the tags on his Canadiens’ jersey just in case they lose in Round Two. There is no need to give these sorts of thoughts wider distribution than they already get.
That said, there’s something that bothers me about Cherry’s comments. Perhaps it is just me, but it becomes more and more difficult to view HNIC in its current form as being all that venerable.
It starts with Cherry, the show’s most recognizable figure. Between his appearance and his manner it’s hard enough to take him seriously, but he can’t even be bothered to learn the players’ names. He’s entertaining and iconic but not especially relevant.
The show is also noticeably weak in actual NHL thinkers. Leaving aside the journalists and broadcast people (some of whom, like MacLean, are very good at their jobs), there are a slew of ex-goaltenders who range from insightful (Hrudey) to still ascending a steep learning curve (Weekes) to guys who tear up when the Senators score on the Penguins. For guys with NHL management experience, however, the show leans almost exclusively on Mike Milbury.
I don’t need to expound on Milbury’s failings as an NHL general manager; he’s certainly the worst NHL G.M. in recent memory, possibly the worst in league history – although that may just be because he had so many years to run his franchise into the ground. The man has proven time and again he has no ability to run an NHL franchise, but when the nation’s most watched hockey program needed an analyst they turned to Milbury.
Many of these flaws aren’t unique to HNIC, but they’re more noticeable there. Perhaps it’s just that HNIC as it is just can’t compete with my (rose-coloured) memories from growing up with it, but it isn’t a show anywhere near the leading edge of current NHL thinking, and it should be; it deserves to be. Instead, the closest the show gets to the edge is when Milbury or Cherry say something negative about Europeans.
Getting back to the opening clip, I still agree with Cherry and the rest that HNIC doesn’t need to read the most ludicrous lines they find on message boards. But they do need to try and catch up to the modern game, or failing that at least try and climb out of a 1980’s mentality.