The next time you hear me complaining about the Minnesota Wild broadcasters (either radio or television), please gently but firmly remind me to "Remember the Avalanche." I spent three days out in Colorado last week and was able to catch a couple of the first round playoff games between the Avs and the Sharks on local radio and TV outlets (San Jose won the series 4-2 on Saturday night). Whatever qualms I have had with various Wild announcers in the past seem petty compared to what I heard from the Avalanche crew.
It started when I listened to Game Four on the radio as I drove my rental SUV from the Denver Airport. I never caught the guy's name doing the game, but he was an amazing puker. Seriously amazingly. Usually pukers are DJ's or talk radio hosts and I don't think I've ever heard one doing hockey play-by-play, certainly not in the league of this chap. Perhaps even worse than his puking though was his tendency to try to make every play the most exciting thing ever! Routine dump-ins would be hysterically described as if he was channelling the spirit of Sam Kennison. Lyles with the puck! Oh! He avoids the hit! Oh! Throws it into the Shark's zone! Oh! Nabokov comes out to play it...Oh!...as he's pressured by Stasny! Oh!!!
At first, I thought the game actually was that exciting, until I realized that was the way the guy talked all the time. He also employed cutesy little nicknames for the all the Av players which he used all too often. It took me a while to figure out who the hell he was talking about. To his credit, he was doing the game solo and calling an entire hockey game by yourself is not an easy task. Few have the verbal mastery to pull it off like the legendary North Star announcer Al Shaver. I listened to Al Shaver and this guy in Colorado is no Al Shaver.
The Avs television crew wasn't as pukey or cutesy, but I still found their performance sub-par. It's difficult to describe it exactly. The best explanation is that it sounded like they were calling the game for an audience of non-hockey fans. Everything was dumbed down. Way dumbed down. I mean even more dumbed than the hockey telecasts that NBC does. We're talking Fox's glowing puck level of dumbness. And rather than focus on the intricacies of the game (line combos, forechecking strategies, match-ups, etc.) they focused on the hits and any hint of a scrum. Yes, hits and mixing it up are part of the game. A part of the game that I happen to relish. But there's so much more to it than that yet that's about the only thing that these announcers seemed to want to talk about. I would expect something like that in non-hockey areas like Nashville of Columbus, but not in Colorado.