The NHL Bubble continued, with two more teams biting the dust in the form of the Washington Capitals and Calgary Flames. But that’s not the main story emerging from it, because this is hockey with hockey people and if you keep hockey people on TV long enough, they’ll vomit up some kind of vile, furry thing that slithers away as soon as it hits the linoleum.
Milbury offering up something gross, stupid, and sexist is on the news-level of tomorrow being Saturday, but it’s the NHL’s insistence on having someone like Milbury around that’s truly galling. Sports’ insistence make that, as this has been a banner week in advertising why it’s time to move away from older, white guys being the only group most stations choose their broadcasters from (we see you as the backup dancers there, Mark Grace and Thom Brennaman).
Milbury’s comments make it clear that he doesn’t think women belong in hockey, and are just scenery in life essentially. “Boy, good thing girls aren’t here with their cycles and icky parts and cooties that these fine young men wouldn’t be able to control themselves around!” It also ignores that a good portion of players in these bubbles probably miss their wives/girlfriends/children terribly, and being away from them is probably much harder on them personally than being at home. Certainly Tuukka Rask thought so, as he was the only one man enough to declare that being away from them for months for the right to play-act the playoffs wasn’t worth it.
Or that women don’t make up a large portion of hockey’s fanbase, a true miracle considering how much the NHL has done, or not done, to drive them away.
None of this comes as a surprise, as Milbury has never been anything but groundwater runoff his entire career. He was a dickhead player, who once beat up a fan in the stands with a shoe (really: click the link if you’ve never heard that one), and literally one of the worst GMs in all of sports history — so bad it took the Islanders over a decade to crawl out from under his mess, and a broadcaster about as engaging as earwax. The belief among TV execs must be that he’ll say something outlandish, but this is what you get. He hasn’t offered anything, ever, that would counterbalance the hours of inanity he provides every goddamn season.
Hockey broadcasters must think they have to have their own Charles Barkley, while not taking any time to consider what Barkley actually is. Yes, Barkley might say something outlandish from time to time, but Barkley is A) actually funny, B) once one of the greatest players of all time which means that C) on the rare occasions he actually pays attention to the game being broadcast, he’s still capable of being quite insightful. At least he was. There was a time, I assure you.
Milbury has never provided any of that, and neither did Jeremy Roenick before he barked and woofed his way off TV forever in another attempt by NBC to drive women away from the game by objectifying its host, Kathryn Tappen. Milbury has merely been a cro-magnon in every sense, as the game passed him by at least 15 years ago. Probably more, and he proved that when he was a GM. No one under the age of 50 would have any memory of him as a player (other than the shoe game), and whatever memory anyone would have of him as an executive would make them think he was 50-50 to be able to feed himself much less know anything about hockey.
The NHL occasionally asks why it isn’t more popular than it is, or how it can reach a new audience, though it’s never clear how much sincerity is ever behind it. This is why. Clearly NBC has some sense that it needs to move beyond this kind of thing in their analysts, as Patrick Sharp, Anson Carter, Cory Schneider, Brian Boucher and others are younger looks for them. A.J. Mleczko and Kendall Coyne-Schofield have provided a female voice at times as well. NBC can at least see the right direction it needs to go in, if it hasn’t bothered to actually walk toward it. Now is the time to at least crawl, in the hopes that it might one day walk.
Anyway, we should try and balance the morning mourning with something about sports that can generate a smile, so here are the Padres becoming the first team to hit a grand slam in four games in a row, and doing it off the same damn team every time.
2020 might be the shittiest shit that ever shit, and the gods may have surrendered their responsibility of us or to us, but it can’t be said they don’t show their sense of humor in tiny ways despite all that.
Updated on August 21, 2020 at 3:30 p.m.:
NBCSN is “disappointed,” Milbury was trying to be “irreverent,” and the NHL “condemns” his “insensitivity.” So we’ll probably see Milbury back in the booth before the Stanley Cup Finals. Ogres will be ogres.