With the news that John Shannon, Doug Maclean and Nick Kypreos are out at Sportsnet, comes a hope that the hockey broadcast will move into the 21st century.
As the owner of Hockey Night in Canada and the biggest hockey broadcaster in Canada, Sportsnet is the most important hockey broadcaster there is.
Unfortunately, they've been stuck for a while with a stale product and any attempts to improve it have come across as either pandering or lame (or both).
Hockey is a great game and this should be a slam dunk, but the fact it they've got a difficult task to navigate the varying tastes of various demographics.
Sportsnet is not alone. Their broadcast isn't very good, but neither is TSN's. Neither is NBC's and the 26 other local broadcasters that you might chance upon during any random Tuesday watching NHL Centre Ice are also all more or less terrible.
The games themselves are fine (depending on the announcer, but that's just a personal thing).
The problem comes from stale old hosts and panels. Bad analysis. Too much yelling. Too many old-school types. And of course, any attempt to do anything new usually seems like it was designed by Steve Buschemi for his fellow kids.
Because there's no point in saving these genius ideas until I get hired to produce the NHL for Sportsnet in 2022, here are some ideas free of charge for improving hockey broadcasts.
1. Do Away with Panels
No one likes Cable News, and no one wants to think about Cable News while watching hockey. If some old guys want to argue on the radio during the day, that's fine, but not during the intermissions.
No panels. No arguing. Definitely no yelling.
2. Out with the Old
Ron Maclean and Don Cherry are national icons, but they've had their day. Watching Ron in a hideous jacket, outside, at a makeshift desk discussing things with the ex-lead singer of Joydrop (underrated Canadian band, for what it's worth) is not something I ever want to see again.
Along with Ron and Don, get rid of Scott Oak, Brian Burke, and basically every person you currently employ. Elliotte Friedman is a great writer and a solid insider, but he's way way too uncomfortable on TV and he's got the sexual charisma of a young Jeffrey Deaver.
As for Pierre McGuire, Dave Poulin and others - please, no. Never again. (And that goes triple for Jeremy Roenick, Jeff O'Neil, Mike Milbury and Greg Millen).
These broadcasts should only use ex-players when absolutely necessary. They aren't good on camera and most are awful. For every P.K Subban (good) there are 199 P.J Stocks (So, so unbearably bad).
3. Hire a producer between 35 and 45 years old
Someone with some new ideas, who might have a taste for the classic and some idea about young people. My god, I can't possibly exaggerate how important this is, or how bad the broadcasts have been. And I say that as one of the biggest consumers of their content in the history of the world.
4. You Need Substance
I don't want to hear idiots screaming at each other, but I also don't want to hear anyone's embarrassing attempts to mock progress with jokes about the Corsi Cup.
The first five minutes of every intermission should feature a host and a strategy expert. They should discuss the current game, show some highlights and make a few points about strategy and tactics.
The rest of the intermissions should be filled with a series of pre-filmed segments. I'd come up with about 15 or 20 to keep it fresh and rotate them. You can film a bunch of extra ones, put them on Youtube and do some cross promotion.
There are so many easy topics and idea. You have a diverse cast, and you delve into things like rivalries, classic trades, trade rumours, stats explanations, comedy skits etc.
Each segment only needs to be about 2 or 3 minutes long. Above all they must be substantive.
5. The Addition of Musical Guests
Open and close the show with some local talent. Showcase some fun artists and make it more of an entertainment spectacle.
6. Revise all graphics, and focus on Details
Not going to get into this too much here, but the game needs to look better. Stop talking about faceoffs and plus/minus. Stop with the cliches.
If you've got one professional announcer, find a comedian or someone charismatic to do colour. Get rid of the guy between the benches, he's useless.
7. You Need Some Pros, Not All
Ex-coaches and players have some great insights. But rotate them. Keep your cast of regulars to people who are professional entertainers. One of the problems about a hockey broadcast is that it usually features ex-players who are only, at best, OK at being on TV. You can't oversell how important having people who are comfortable on camera is.
8. You Need a Positive, Fun Vibe
It's a hockey show, not a funeral.
9. Diversity is Key
It should go without saying that it's important in today's day and age to have a diverse group of people on your show. To do this without resorting to tokenism is difficult, but it must be done.
Bring in women hockey players is the obvious move, but like their male counterparts, they're athletes and not entertainers. Most of them are awful, but so is almost everyone on the broadcasts.
I am going to end this here, mostly because my breakfast is almost ready.Hockey is a great sport, but their broadcasts almost uniformly suck. They need to be rebuild from the ground up. Hopefully this article helps, but I am not holding my breath.
Their idea of a comedian is probably Gerry D, and their idea of a good musical guest is probably whatever the Canadian equivalent of the Jonas Brothers is, so I'm not holding out too much hope.
I swear though, if I have to see Ron MaClean interview someone in a goddamn bomber jacket ever again.......