Thanks to the Canucks futility last year and that whole lockout thing the year before, it's been a long time since I've had no other choice but to watch the "official" TV outlet of the NHL. ESPN pissed me off for years because it seemingly didn't broadcast any games without the words "Detroit", "Rangers" or "Avalanche" in them. ESPN2 was better, but marginally…all of their Canuck offerings were always LA/VAN and that’s rarely an entertaining game I don’t care what the year is.
So I've been able to ignore Versus for the most part because they suffer from the same disease ESPN had: in an attempt to pimp the lovey dovey American teams, they exclude the Canadian ones (you see Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton or the Senators in there?). Sure, I know…I’m clearly not their target audience. I can live with that, that’s why Center Ice will always yank $150 out of me year to year.
However, with Game 1 being under the iron rule of the Versus Politburo, Center Ice was blacked out and I have no choice. I should have known I was in for a world of shit when they introduced Dave Strader and John Vanbiesbrouck as the voices I’m going to have to listen to (at this point some others, although perhaps for different reasons, smartly and immediately turned the TV off).
What’s my problem with Dave Strader? Nothing. And the Beezer? Again nothing. But in my head, I feared exactly what I hated about ESPN broadcasts: awful analysis and a terribly one-sidedness to the broadcast. And I wasn’t disappointed. ANY Vancouver fan watching Versus and paying attention would have been treated to the following:
" Zero reference to the opening ceremony (‘82 Canucks) and no coverage of the anthems or starting lineups.
" They had a seemingly odd love affair with talking about Dave Tippett’s resilience. What that means? I have no idea. Vigneault - you know, the Jack Adams worthy guy who broke a franchise record for wins by a coach - got mentioned once or twice, the first of which Versus had a graphic up with record spelled "recrod".
" For every Canuck goal, Vanbiesbrouck was quick to not fault Marty Turco. For Naslund’s goal, he mentioned "those are the kind you stop in practice all the time" insinuating he just misplayed it and it wasn’t a good shot by Markus at all. By that logic, every goal scored ever is the goalie misplaying it. After Smoke’s goal in the third, BEFORE he even bothered to announce the goal scorer, Beezer jumped in with an "Aww, bad bounce for Turco again". Yes it was. Now how about analyzing the good play by the guy who scored the goal?!
" Ohlund’s goal? Vanbiesbrouck: "Turco was screened, never saw it". Daley’s similar goal on Luongo? Vanbiesbrouck: "I think Luongo was screened, by that Daley is such a strong player". Ohlund, you’re no Daley. Sorry.
" Every time Luongo make a save or gave up a rebound, either Strader or Beezer was quick with the "Luongo’s nerves are getting to him" phrase. They used that in every period. Forget that Lui stopped 72 shots when it was all said in done; for Versus, he was a nervous wretch of a human being who soiled himself repeatedly.
" For 5 minutes of the second period, they decided it was time to upsell the Tampa Bay/NJ and Atlanta/NY series respectively. It doesn’t take 5 minutes to upsell your other programming. For those of us watching the actual game (during which Dallas was pressing badly) we got to see the action while listening to Strader verbally jerk off Lecavalier for four minutes too long. All he needed was a stoppage in play to do this, but no. Let’s multitask on air!
" Both Vanbiesbrouck and Strader spent much of the second and third periods describing how resilient (that must have been their word for the day) the Stars are. As for that other team? Well, "The Canucks tend to give up a lot of third period leads". I guess these mouth breathers are allergic to stats or were just too fixated on Dallas to follow it up with a "but hey, Vancouver’s 32-8-2 since Christmas so they must be doing something right".
" I had no idea Matt Cooke was injured. Why didn’t I? Because Strader or Beezer couldn’t get off their Dallas love-in long enough to mention that he was gone since the middle of the second.
" I had no idea Kesler was starting. Once again, not a word from the mouths about it. It wasn’t until the second during a face off that Kesler popped on the screen and I think Beezer had the same reaction I did, "Oh, Kesler’s in?"
" The only Canucks spotlighted on a regular basis was Luongo, the Sedins and Morrison who had a mic on. Forget that the Canucks had 9 guys with points last night, two injuries and a player off the IR. Nope, no good. And when they played Morrison’s clips, they sucked. One of them, sponsored by Bud Light so maybe they are contractually obligated to suck, just showed Morrison screaming "heads up" as a puck gets fired into the bench. All it showed me is that Morrison doesn’t curse enou
" Beezer needs to be told what the slap pass is. The Sedins have being doing it for awhile. It’s not a secret. So being marveled that Daniel stopped and quickly shot the puck his brother just passed to him is simply proof he can’t read media notes or didn’t watch a one minute highlight reel of how the Sedins play.
" Versus employed someone, I swear to God, who was named "Bob Beers" doing commentary at rink side. My favorite Beerism? He was behind the Vancouver goal in the third and added this valuable nugget: "I don’t see the puck going in and the red light going on a lot". Hey, BOB…are you watching the game? The Stars scored twice in a row! Shit, if all you need to do to get your paycheck is watch to see if a red light turns on and you fuck it up, just do the human gene pool a favor and go wander in traffic.
At the end of the third, I had no other choice but to hit mute and turn on The TEAM 1040 to take me the rest of the way. So I have no idea if 4 OT’s gave Strader or Vanbiesbrouck a chance to tighten up their broadcast. But my head may explode if I have to rely on Versus again.
Maybe I am just spoiled for having listened to Canadian broadcasts for so many years which, for the most part, call shit when it’s shit. If the Canucks suck, I know guys like Hughson, Larscheid and Shorthouse have no problem calling them out on it. Nor do they have a problem when the other team plays better then the Canucks. I guess Versus feels those rules are old fashioned.
Look, if it’s the regular season and you want to play the cheerleader for the American teams, fine, go for it. I get that. And have anyone you want for "analysis", fine.
But the playoffs are different. There’s a good bet you have actual fans who know a thing or two having to watch your program. Just as the players have to play differently in the post season, just as fans have to pay more to go see a playoff game, you should be expected to elevate your programming quality. At the very least, it wouldn’t kill you to add a micron of objectivity into your product.
Or maybe I got it all wrong. Maybe you don’t mind pissing fans off or, worse yet, you’re trying to make your NHL product as pathetic as your other program offerings. If that’s your intention, then you’re doing a hell of a job.