Celebrating the worst in NHL television for 2008-09

This is the unofficial week for seasonal reflection and nostalgia in the NHL, what with the championship parades and Top 10 plays and saying goodbye to the dearly departed. It's also the week to hand out awards, be they official NHL hardware in Vegas tonight (Reminder D.C.: Party) or the slightly more caustic awards handed out by League critics.

Ken Fang, a cool dude we finally met at Blogs With Balls, runs a killer sports media Web site called Fang's Bites. He's done postseason TV awards for college football and the NFL before, and now it's the NHL's turn to have its brightest and dullest stars on the boob tube highlighted.

Among his favorites: Mike "Doc" Emrick, NBC/Versus, named the best play-by-play guy in the NHL this season; Craig Simpson, CBC, named best color commentator; Ron MacLean, CBC, named best studio host; Elliotte Friedman, CBC, named best rinkside reporter; and CBC Sports, given the honor of best game coverage.

Yeah, we know: Yawn. CBC does no wrong, Emrick calls a great game. You want to know who stinks, right?

Based on Fang's awards, his name is Jack Edwards.

Some of the Boston Bruins announcer's greatest hits, and a few gripes with Fang's list, coming up.

Here's Fang on Edwards, the NESN play by play man who inspired his own bingo game and countless entries on hockey blogs this season:

Worst Play-by-Play: If you know this blog, you'll know how much I get on Jack Edwards' case. I've had to watch him as a Bruins fan for the last few years. For the last two seasons, he's been the lone voice of the Boston Bruins on NESN. For some strange reason, this past season, Jack has decided to go over the top. The most notorious call, his cackling like a vampire when Milan Lucic hit the Flyers' Randy Jones in Philadelphia.

That's probably his most notorious call, but we're more partial to his premeditated Patriots Day oral essay after the Bruins knocked off the Montreal Canadiens:

Fang claims that "no one else comes close in this category" to Edwards for the worst, and we couldn't disagree more.

Edwards isn't everyone's mug of Sammy, but he's an original whose passion for hockey shines through. Being a homer on NESN isn't a sin; being boring is a sin, and in that regard Edwards is a saint. No one calls a better hockey fight. And while his prose may be a random collection of hack jokes, SportsCenter clichés and Bruins jargon, he's eminently listenable.

So we disagree on Edwards. But we probably agree on Pierre McGuire, NBC/TSN, as the "Most Overrated Studio Host/Rinkside Reporter." Here are two other "worst of" awards from Fang:

Worst Studio Analyst: Brian Engblom, Versus. The man constantly says things that make no sense. How he has work over some of the better analysts like Darren Pang is a mystery to me. Versus could use Neil Smith or someone of Barry Melrose's caliber, but unfortunately, Versus still has a ways to go on its studio show. Conference Finals: P.J. Stock, CBC

Worst Game Coverage: Versus. This network has improved over its time with the NHL. However, replays are often the wrong angle. Sometimes replays are fuzzy and not clear. There's no consistent announcer teams. Mike Emrick works only a limited schedule for Versus until the playoffs. The network mixes and matches its teams. Then during the Stanley Cup Finals, it actually delayed its postgame coverage so it could hype other programming. This is not how you treat your signature programming. Versus has a long ways to go to gain the trust of NHL fans. The ratings for the NHL on Versus are going up, but the trust has to be there and right now, fans don't trust Versus yet.

Our feelings on the Versus studio haven't wavered. But if Versus has the worst game coverage, it's by default; they've majorly improved the product during the years of coverage, both in on-air talent and in understanding how to follow the action. It's not perfect -- not by a long shot -- but it's also never as bad as many fans (and bloggers) make it out to be.

Overall, a good list from Fang, with one major quibble: The Winter Classic.

If we were to add an award to the mix, it would be Best Promotion of a Major Hockey Event, and NBC would win it going away for its commercials and hype for the game between the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings at Wrigley. The production of the actual game had its hiccups -- a painfully long pregame, the term "wind-aided" -- but NBC found a way to get eyes on the thing for the second straight season.

Oh, hell -- a few more Puck Daddy amendments to the list:

Best New National Voice: Daryl Reaugh, Versus. We're completely in the tank for Razor, who manages to combine goofball announcer routines with some of the best insight on the national hockey airwaves.

Commentator Who Inspires The Most Derision, Confusion: Mike Milbury on NBC. As we said before: Boredom is a sin. Milbury may be a gas bag whose analysis could be successfully mimicked by a chimp with a box of Upper Deck cards, but you know you watch him between periods just to see what he'll say.

However, there's also this from Steve Lepore of Puck The Media:

Which brings us to NBC.  Let's get one thing straight: That segment where Milbury and McGuire play coach is the most insipid, putrid, meaningless, idiotic thing to hit hockey on TV since Joe Micheletti began working as an analyst.  I was embarrassed for Milbury and McGuire and everyone watching during Game 7 when they actually had them go all "Hoosiers" and do a speech for no one in the locker room.

Exactly. Which is why we can't figure out how we feel about Mike Milbury. Finally ...

The Single Greatest Hockey Fight Call Of All-Time Ever: Travis Huntington, Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs vs. Corpus Christi IceRays in the Central Hockey League.

Look, it's technically a radio call that was added to a video clip and placed on YouTube. But if you're a hockey fan and you don't love this, then there's no love in you.

God bless this man and this brawl. "THAT'LL TEACH YA TO RUN KEN CARROLL! THAT'LL TEACH YOU!"

This post was not just an excuse to run that clip again. Eh, maybe.

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