When the Lightning finally ran out the clock on the Montreal Canadiens Wednesday night — having strangled them lifeless all game, and making it clear just how much of a mismatch this really was (22 shots in an elimination game and just eight in the third) — pretty much everyone other than those clad in blue was just glad it was over. Hockey in July will never work or feel right, though the necessity of it was understood this time. It was a season where at least the first half was spent wondering if anyone should even be doing this, or concluding that they most definitely shouldn’t. “Protocols” and “isolation” became far too big of a part of our vocabulary. It was weird and uncomfortable a lot of the time, and let’s never do it again.
But as the Bolts spilled out onto the ice and shared gross beard hugs (if you’ve done it you know), every hockey fan in the U.S. breathed some sigh of relief: We are done with Pierre McGuire.
We did it. Salvation is ours.
No more calling every player a monster. “Unbelievable” and “awesome” will no longer be the only adjectives we hear. Seriously, how do you spend that long working with Doc Emerick and know just three words?
No more telling us what an eight-year veteran who has never played above a third line with any NHL team did a decade-and-a-half ago in Saskatoon against Riley and Jonesy from Letterkenny. No more trying to prove just how much hockey he watches in his free time that he thought was some sort of weird flex, but just made us wonder if he wasn’t actually a serial killer.
No more shitting on analytics and trying to cite “character” and “heart” as defining characteristics for any player or team, ignoring how a younger generation might watch and analyze the game. We’re done with the lionizing of players who will be cut next month.
We won’t have to sit through the uncomfortable interviews where he’s standing at least a foot and a half too close to every player, and watching that player squirm in front of the camera as they eagerly anticipate getting the fuck out of there. No more telling players “go have some fun” after every goddamn one of those as if he was still a coach. We can leave behind the constant wondering where NBC was getting its information or focus groups that said they liked this guy, and realizing with slumped shoulders that there were no such things. They were just happy to keep anyone who wanted to keep showing up.
We won’t have to hear the constant harping to Eddie Olczyk in desperation to get Olczyk to agree with him, and Olczyk just barking out one of his catchphrases as if he was selling t-shirts. It was Chester and Spike on our TVs again, except there was no Sylvester to lighten the mood. We’re through with the only pointed criticisms being aimed at Russian players, which certainly was just a coincidence, wasn’t it?
Fifteen fucking years we lived with this piercing horseshit, making every nationally televised game a chore. It’s over. Raise a glass.
As for NBC losing the coverage, I didn’t hate it as much as some. Emerick was always a treasure, and they seemed to try to pivot in later years to younger analysts who had played today’s game, not the game that hockey can’t stop romanticizing, but actually was ass. I doubt ESPN will put much more effort into it than NBC did, and TNT is a wild-card. But it’ll at least be new, and with new comes hope that it could be better. Let’s live there for now.