Craig MacTavish on TSN. Does that sentence get you all excited? As the season began, were you ready to absorb Craig’s pearls of wisdom? Sure hope you didn’t wait around, holding your breath. Those pearls are not coming. You know why? Because Craig still wants to coach in the NHL. Hey, TSN, grab a brain and stop hiring guys who still want to be involved in the nuts-and-bolts of the league. They’ve got nothing to add to anything! Ever!
Oh, they have NHL bench experience. Very recent NHL bench experience. But, as long as they are current NHL coaches, we’re never going to hear about it. They are “current” coaches because, even though they are not employed behind a team’s bench right now, they want to be again. This means one thing – they don’t want to piss anyone off with their comments. They don’t want to upset potential general managers. They don’t want to call out players that they may soon have to tap on the shoulder. And they sure don’t want to upset anyone in the league office. TSN’s previous experiment, John Tortorella (now the Rangers’ head coach), acted this way…and now MacTavish has picked up the mantle.
What I’m talking about has been brought into focus by the glut of MacTavish work in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. A few days ago, James Duthie’s TSN panel was discussing the disputed non-goal that Canucks’ forward Daniel Sedin did not score in Game Three. When it came time for MacTavish to weigh in, he said something like, “You know how Torts hated The Quiz? Well, I hate discussing disputed goals.”
What? Did I hear that right? You are paid to give your opinion and you choose not to! Are you kidding me? What the hell kind of broadcasting is that? Not any kind I want to watch. The only, and I mean only, ex-coach I ever enjoyed watching on television is John Madden. But when Madden began his broadcasting career, he had retired. Never wanted to coach again. These guys do not fall into this category, and that’s the problem.
Personal experience here. As the 1999-2000 NHL regular season approached, my boss at Rogers Sportsnet was inappropriately all bouncy and giddy. “I’ve got a surprise!” he said. “We’ve hired Mike Keenan for you!” This was supposed to make me feel great. It did not.
Keenan had just been piped by Brian Burke and the Vancouver Canucks. The very first time we sat down and talked, I asked Mike, “Do you want to coach again?” He replied, “Lansky, I have coached 995 career NHL games. What do you think?” I think he wanted to get to 1,000, so yes. Make no mistake, Mike Keenan is one of the nicest individuals I have ever worked with. Off the ice, he is the absolute opposite of his NHL coaching persona. But getting Mike to say something, anything, on the air that showed his opinion was impossible. It would have been easier to impart monogamy on Tiger Woods.
During the 2000 Stanley Cup Playoffs, our TV production crew had several parking-lot BBQs on sunny, game-day afternoons. Keenan was always at the grill (had to be in charge). Flipping the burgers and steaks. If HD had been around then, we would have had to stock several shirt/tie changes for Mike, because the grill-grease spots would have registered on air. We had a blast. But Mike should not have been on our panel.
Neither should MacTavish or Tortorella or whomever is next in line. They want to coach. I don’t want a person in a broadcasting job who wants to be somewhere else. They cannot possibly give the viewer what they are paid to give.
And, don’t forget, MacTavish was the last active NHLer not to wear a helmet. Enough said.