Monday, July 26, 2004


Masters of the Mic

In a recent Article, Michael Farber (The one lackey they assign to hockey) outlines his picks for the best Play-By-Play and Colour Commentators in the sport past and present.

As Farber states: Compiling a list of the best hockey announcers -- like the age-old question: Ginger or Mary Anne? -- is a matter of personal taste. And taste is a question of experience and exposure

Thanks to the 3,000 channel universe and internet broadcasts, I have been able to pick up other team�s broadcasts over the years, and I am quite thankful that Canada is, overall, blessed with much better play calling and commentary than our friends in the USA.

Whether it�s personal style of a directive from the teams, US teams tend to have very homerific local broadcast teams. Evenhandedness and objective analysis are thrown right out the window, and it�s as if the play-by-play and commentary is being done by 2 or 3 long-time hardcore fans.

Of course, since at least 90% of the hockey I watch is on Canadian based networks, I�ll focus on the guys I�ve been exposed to many times over the years.


1. Jim Hughson - Sportsnet - Hughson is the top dog in the whole broadcast world today, and it isn�t even close. In addition to his local Vancouver Canucks broadcasts, Hughson also does the national broadcasts for Sportsnet, as well as the commentary for the games from EA�s NHL series. Jim also hosts an excellent once-a-week talk/interview show called �Snapshots�, where he has conducted some awesome interviews of current players, former players, and other executives.

Hughson, especially in the local broadcasts, delivers the action in a very clean manner, and when analyzing or critiquing a certain play or call, he�ll call it as he sees it, with little or no bias involved. He�s excellent in every aspect of play calling, and he gets along very well with any colour commentator that he is paired with, especially John Garrett (For Canucks broadcasts).

Hughson has a crisp voice, confident delivery, and even after playing 2,000 games of NHL 2003, I still haven�t grown tired of him�now that�s amazing.

Signature Call: �GREAT SAVE CLOUTIER!�

2. Chris Cuthbert � CBC - The heir apparent to Bob Cole at the CBC, Cuthbert may not have the best �voice� of the bunch (It�s a little high for my tastes), but he calls the action extremely well with a lack of bias and a lot of enthusiasm. Cuthbert is generally on top of the action, and sets up his colour commentators well.

Once Cole finally retires, or kicks the bucket, Cuthbert should get the lead role for Hockey Night in Canada. Unless the CBC decides to give that gig to Hughson, it�s just a matter of time until Cuthbert is �the man�.

Signature Call: ��and that didn�t miss by much��

3. Paul Romanuk (Romaniuk, to the Ukes) � Free Agent? - It�s really quite a shame that Romanuk no longer works at TSN, or seems to have a play-by-play job of any sorts, because he is still one of my favourites.

Most Canadian hockey fans will instantly recognize him from his calls of Canada�s entries in the World Championships and World Junior Championships from a few years back. He was a staple on those broadcasts, and is synonymous for his call of �IT IS OVER� when Canada won the 1994 World Championships, ending a very long drought.

Romanuk and partner Gary Green formed an excellent tandem that worked well together. I wonder what Romanuk did to piss off the Powers That Be, because in today�s 30 team NHL, there are a lot of inferior play-by-play guys holding onto their jobs.


In the past few years, ever since both Sportsnet and TSN started broadcasting games, there has been a disturbing trend: Converting sports news anchors to play-by-play callers.

Whether it�s a lame attempt to save money, or the Powers That Be actually think these guys have what it takes, these networks have put their reporters and anchors into the broadcast booth, often with poor results.

Now, I need play-by-play is a tough job to do (Try doing it sometime, and you�ll sound pathetic), but for the $$ that these networks pay to secure the broadcast rights, would it really hurt to spend a few extra dollars to hire a good play-by-play guy (like Romaniuk)?

1. Dave Randorf, TSN - �Randork� has long been a staple of the Vancouver sports scene. For many years, he was sports anchor with �Sports Page�, a popular local sports news broadcast. Then, he moved to TSN and was the West Coast voice of the 11PM Sportsdesk broadcasts. Randorf was at his element here, but TSN decided that they would stick him in the broadcast booth for their NHL games.

Bad idea.

I�d be willing to bet that TSN�s lowest rated NHL broadcasts have Randorf as the play-by-play guy, because he is really that bad. Rarely would I turn off a broadcast due to the PbP guy, but I make an exception for Randorf. I can�t even enjoy a Blues game with him calling the action, and I have had others tell me the same thing.

His voice�it�s like coarse sandpaper over my precious eardrums. His game descriptions, his verbage, his butchering of certain names, and his dorkiness�it just doesn�t work, TSN. Randorf seems to be unaware of certain events all too often, and I don�t think he�s going to get better. He�s been calling games for a while, and I�ve heard no marked improvement.

I have nothing personal against Randorf, but as good as a news reporter as he was, he�s been an equally awful PbP guy. Please, TSN, do the right thing, and replace Randorf with an epileptic-seizure dancing Elmo doll.

2. Joe Bowen � Leafs

It�s no surprise that the local Leafs guy is an obnoxious homer, just like many of their fans (as Jes ducks bullets and beer cups).

When he�s not giving verbal massages to Tie Domi and Mats Sundin, or blowing his wad over one of Belfour�s routine saves, he�s throwing out annoying catchphrases like �Holy Mackinaw� 300 times a game. I bet he makes out with Harry Neale during intermissions.

Bowen�s actual play calling isn�t too bad, but he�s just incredible annoying to Non-Leafers and people with the ability to hear audible sounds. The other local broadcasters in Canada have a distinctly Canadian lack of homerism, but the Leafs, like their city, have always had that �American� flavour to them.


Bob Cole - Bob Cole is a lot like Mark Messier.

When he was in his prime, Bob Cole was the �leader� in his industry, and he was probably the one guy you�d ever want to anchor your play-by-play coverage.

Cole has one of the best �voices�, clear and manly enough, combined with a good knowledge of the game, a good working relationship with colour-man (And former Canuck coach) Harry Neale, and a very fluid calling style. Cole was always on top of the action, and his voice has become synonymous with Hockey Night In Canada.

Of course, all good things must come to an end, and as many Canadian hockey fans know, Cole is well past his prime.

Just as Mark Messier was a detriment to his teams in his late career, Cole has been cringe-inducing to listen to on many occasions over the past few years.

I mean, the Colorado Rockies haven�t been in the NHL in over 20 years, but apparently Cole forget that during a couple of Avalanche playoff games over the past few seasons.

As old age creeps in, the reflexes and mind start to go. Cole has noticeable been behind the play in recent years, and has forgotten or either butchered some names completely, or just plain said the wrong name entirely. These are forgivable instances if they happen in rare spurts, but they seem to occur every game for Cole, and it�s painful to listen to. It�s like seeing your favourite player, who was one king of the hill, struggle to even make the simplest plays.

Bias � As Cole has been the anchor for HNIC, and the Leafs are on EVERY FRIGGIN WEEK, Cole has developed a very noticeable pro-Leafs bias to his play calling over the past few years. HNIC�s main PbP guy should always call the action evenly for all teams, but Cole has let this part of his game slip as well. I remember when the Czechs beat Canada at the Nagano Olympics, and how evenly Cole called that game all the way through. That kind of evenness is something a lead guy needs to have in every game.

I don�t think it�s any small coincidence that HNIC moved Cole and Neale from some late-season Leafs broadcasts and onto some West Coast broadcasts, as they probably were responding to public pressure to get some non-Leafers calling the #1 game each weekend.

This brings me to local broadcast legend Jim Robson who surprisingly retired as the Canucks main man a few years back. Robson was probably my all-time favourite broadcaster, but he started to slip just a little bit during his last couple of seasons (usually getting the wrong name on occasion).

To his credit, Robson retired when he was still nearly on top of his game, and he acknowledged that he just had a hard time keeping up with the increasing amount of new players entering the league. Robson could have kept going for a few years, but at least we haven�t had to witness any Bob Cole-like regression.


Farber gives a mention to TSN�s Gord Miller, another excellent studio man who was given Play-by-Play duties for TSN�s World Junior Hockey Championship broadcasts.

To his credit, Miller has improved over the years, and he is fairly easy to listen to nowadays. He works well with analyst Pierre McGuire, and I think Miller will continue to get better at this aspect of his job. Just as Miller developed into one of the better studio/host guys at TSN, he�s handled this transition with the same level of professionalism and dedication. If only Randorf could show as much improvement...

And to finish off� if there is one American-based broadcaster I like, it�s the Rangers� Sam Rosen, (From the Monosodium Glutamate [MSG] Network) who Farber mentions in his article. Rosen forms an excellent tandem with the chatty John Davidson, and Rosen does everything well without too many biases. It�s too bad, like Farber states, that Rosen is wasted on the Rangers.

"When he�s not giving verbal massages to Tie Domi and Mats Sundin, or blowing his wad over one of Belfour�s routine saves, he�s throwing out annoying catchphrases like �Holy Mackinaw� 300 times a game. I bet he makes out with Harry Neale during intermissions. "

This is possibly the greatest hockey-related paragraph ever written. I want to sit on a beach, on a perfectly still lake, and recite this like a mantra
Hockey (and most sports, excluding the NFL) is very regionalized in the US. It's horribly painful to listen to out-of-market broadcasts, but in some ways it kind of makes sense. They're never going to sell hockey as a whole, as a sport, to the American public, so they have to do the next best thing and sell a team to a city. It's kind of almost forgivable, sort of, except that the hockey fans from those cities start to act just like their broadcasters, and that is really a crime against all of humanity. :(
Hey! Where's my name in that article! I've broadcasted hockey games before!

okay.. maybe I must have come in #130
Excuse me. Jim Hughson is terrible. CBC blew it big time when they replace Cuthbert with him.
I agree. I hate Hughson's voice. Chris Cuthbert has the most energetic, pleasant voice out there for a commentator. It is disastrous that CBC doesnt have him anymore. I hate hockey night in canada now.
Yeah Hughson sucks. Why the hell they EVER got rid of Cuthbert is beyond me, him and bob cole are easily the best. Joe Bowen is good, and even though Im a leaf fan hes kinda insane. And how could anyone not like Harry Neale?
This article leads me to believe one of two things...that whoever wrote the thing is either gay or an Ottawa fan, but either way, the two go hand-in-hand. I mean who thinks of Joe Bowen like that isn't right in the head, and he doesn't say it "300" times a's just an over-compensated hyperbole to make up for this crappy article. Oh and if think that Bob Cole is pro leafs think again! That guy hasn't called a game in the leafs favor since t.v's developed coloured technology. Simple as that!
Jim Hughson? seriously, that guy is so dry and uninspired... Cuthbert is way better... he only gets top billing during the olympic hockey tourney, but when you think about olympic hockey, Cuthberts voice is almost synonomous, he's done his homework. As for Bob Cole, that man is about as anti-leaf as it gets... when the play is called for a penalty, he automatically assumes it's against the leafs... he gets it wrong so much... while we're at it, lets get rid of Harry Neale as well... he's a leaf fan we know, but he tries too hard to come of as neutral that seems he's anti-leaf... btw, Joe Bowen only calls leafs games, its natural to form a bias, considering that anoyone who's listening is probably a leaf fan, call it playing to the audience... hey jes? why dont you rip on that guy who calls Buffalo games? wayyyyyyy more bias and more annoying ways of calling the game( remember whne Stuuuuuuuuuuuuuu Barnes played for buffalo?)... nice one, Jes.
Leafs vs Sens tonight. I'm not a fan or hater of either team.

Bob Cole? Umm, yeah.. kind of clear who he's voting for. What a fricken joke people...

We need unbiased exciting play by play for HNIC and Hughson or Cuthbert can provide that. Cuthbert is good but Jim is better. Hughson was the correct choice.

Cole? Sorry but I won't miss him and most people outside of TO won't either. He needs to retire and get himself some Leafs box seats.
I have just about had it with Jim Hughson. He has the most annoying voice. I think he is monotone and boring to listen too. The worst part is how he hangs on certain words and ends them with a little "ah" at the end during his play calls. You really have to pay attention, but I hear it all the time. Example - "Oh and there's the shot, and Luongo makes the sAAAAAAAAAAAVVVVVe-AH".
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