Our divisional television broadcast reviews continue. This time, I’ll be covering the Northeast Division. The Northeast is home to some of the most controversial broadcasters but it’s also the home to some of the most watched teams in the league.
BOSTON BRUINS NESN Jack Edwards & Andy Brickley
Everyone knows Jack Edwards. His bizarre commentaries are legendary. He’s beyond weird but he can call a good game. I certainly give him style points for passion and enthusiasm although I’m not sure that he always deserves it. He’s over the top and proud of it. When he’s not being ridiculous, Edwards is solid. I’ve grown to like his call. He’s certainly improved from his days of calling hockey on ESPN. It’s a shame that most people only hear his more absurd moments. Brickley is great and is one of the few announcers that’s not afraid to admit when he’s wrong. I’ve heard him correct himself on many occasions. When he’s on, you know you’re going to hear a game that’s called fair even if his partner goes overboard. The NESN team shines with it’s studio team of Kathryn Tappen, Mike Milbury, Naoko Funayama, Barry Pederson and Gord Kluzak. That team is maybe the best in the business and also does some great original programming. GRADE: B+
BUFFALO SABRES MSG Buffalo Rick Jeanneret, Harry Neale & Rob Ray
The Sabres have a legendary team but that shine is fading. While RJ is still passionate, he’s lost some of his luster. He’s no longer as accurate and he’s clearly suffering from some wear and tear. When he’s on though, he’s still among the best there is. Neale and RJ got to fulfill a dream of working together but their chemistry is a little off. Neale always sounds ready for a nap and can’t match RJ’s excitement level. They just don’t work well together even if they are good friends. With RJ and Harry moving to part-time schedules, it will be interesting to see who has to fill these legends’ shoes. Rob Ray is good as the third man. He knows when to adds things and I can see him adding to his duties. Mike Robitaille, Kevin Sylvester, and occasional analyst Danny Gare all do a fine job doing studio and intermission work. It’s one of the better intermissions in the league. GRADE: B-
MONTREAL CANADIENS RDS Pierre Houde & Benoit Brunet
Ok, so I’m not fluent in French. I only speak a little bit. I can follow a game on RDS but it doesn’t mean that I always know what they are saying. I watched a handful of RDS telecasts and they always impress me with their graphics and their coverage. Sadly, I don’t understand most of it! Everyone knows Houde’s epic goal call though judging by ratings, most fans are happy with RDS. Brunet will not return next season as Marc Denis will be replacing him in the booth. It’s unfair to grade them when I’m largely just visualizing the action. GRADE: INC.
OTTAWA SENATORS Sportsnet East Dean Brown & Denis Potvin
Dean Brown is one of my favorite play by play men and he’s largely wasted on CBC. He deserves a better gig, say Mark Lee’s, but for now, the Sens have a good guy in the booth. He’s been around awhile but is no less accurate than when he started. He’s had numerous partners but has always seemed to do well. Potvin joined the Sens after Garry Galley moved to CBC full time. Potvin was fired from Florida, and he’s not very good in Ottawa either. Potvin might be a legend, but the Sens fans deserve someone who is a much stronger analyst. I’d love to see Shaun Van Allen get a shot as I’ve always enjoyed his radio work. He deserves the promotion and I strongly believe that it would make Sens television much better. GRADE : C+
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS Sportsnet Ontario/Leafs TV Joe Bowen & Greg Millen
“Holy Mackinaw!” What hockey fan hasn’t heard that phrase uttered? It’s Bowen’s tagline but he uses it too much. I’m not sure how unique it is when he says it at least five times a game. It kinda loses it’s panache. Forgetting that, Bowen is pretty good. I think the Leafs deserve better but Bowen’s been there forever so I doubt he’s going anyplace soon. When you’re the most watched NHL team, you should have the best announcers and Bowen and Millen aren’t that pair. Millen has soured as he’s moved up the ladder. When he first joined the Sens and CBC, he was a rising star and great to listen to. Once he made it to the pinnacle, he fell apart. Millen seems to get worse each season. He’s another analyst who doesn’t seem to be having any fun. Paul Hendrick adds nothing to most broadcasts while the Sportsnet intermissions are usually the best of any of their sister channels. GRADE: C+