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Butch Goring talks about his first season as color commentator

by Dyan LeBourdais / New York Islanders
Islanders legend Butch Goring is a jack-of-all-trades in the hockey world. After finishing his rookie season in the booth as the Islanders color commentator, he reflects on the challenge adjusting to his new role.

“I really did have what I would call a good first season as an analyst working with MSG,” Goring said. “Particularly, the people (I work with) have made my job much easier. The production crew is great and obviously, Howie Rose was fantastic – is and always will be.”

Goring continued, “And really, the Islanders team, although they started off a little slow, they really got to be a lot of fun. It was a much better hockey team as the season wore on. All-in-all I was really pleased with my first year.”

To say the job was a learning experience would be a major understatement.

“When people watch or listen to play-by-play guys and color analysts, it probably all seems relatively easy, but there’s just so many things going on,” Goring said. “The timing of when to say something was part of the learning process for me. You don’t want to step on your play-by-play guy’s toes. So knowing when to get in, when to get out (was huge).”

Goring also spent a lot more time at the rink than he anticipated. He spent many days sitting in the stands watching practice or morning skates and explaining the importance of drills to the surrounding media. At times, he’d even explain how the team tweaked specific plays that only the eye of a former player and coach would catch.

“The preparation involved is something that I really had no idea about,” Goring said. “I was surprised by the time I spend talking to players, talking to coaches before the games. The on-camera stuff (was also an adjustment). Getting relaxed, although I did have some experience on camera, but when you encompass the whole package, it’s just a lot of work. It’s the type of situation where the more you do, the more experience you get and the easier it becomes.”

Goring still possesses team and game-day mentality. He hasn’t been able to ignore the stark differences between getting pumped up to play in a game and preparing himself to talk about it.

“As a broadcaster, there’s still the morning skate and you’re there and preparing, so it’s somewhat similar,” Goring said. “But in the afternoon, generally speaking, I don’t sleep and I don’t eat as much. It’s also not quite as intense. There’s a lot going on as a player.”

These days, the success of the team doesn’t affect his employment status on MSG Network, rather the depth of the commentary he provides, but Goring’s approach to wins and losses hasn’t changed.

Butch Goring, the Islanders color commentator for MSG, talks during a live game broadcast during the 2010-11 season.
“Right now, there are no wins and losses for me, although I’m very biased when it comes to Islanders wins, but my job is not predicated on whether the Islanders win or lose,” Goring said. “That’s a different mentality. There are also some similarities. The season’s the same length of time and obviously everyone’s happier when the team wins, either as a player or an analyst, the same holds true.”

Being a retired player with a historic career, Goring does receive a few “bonuses” to his year. When it’s the offseason, it really is his off-season. Howie Rose takes over the New York Mets broadcasts and Deb Placey works on a variety of NHL Network shows, but Goring doesn’t have another job to go to. This leaves plenty of time to perfect his golf game.

“The beauty of golf is that it’s in the off-season,” Goring said. “I’ve played golf from when I was a young teenager. It just works, for the most part, so well. Obviously, the hockey season goes from October to April/May and you golf May to September. So, the two sports, they work hand-in-hand.”

These days, Goring plays golf six days a week and has a pretty amazing handicap of 1 stroke to show for it.

While Goring works on his golf swing, many of the Islanders will be doing the same, although, in between intense physical workouts preparing them for next season.

“A big reason why I think a lot of guys play golf is a) it can be relaxing and b) it’s not physically demanding,” Goring said. “You’re obviously outdoors and enjoying the weather, but it allows your body as a hockey player to heal, yet you’re still playing a sport that it’s you battling the golf course.”

He added, “It’s just you one-on-one. Maybe that’s another reason why people play golf. Hockey is a team sport and golf kind of allows you to be just yourself and challenge just yourself, as opposed to all of the team obstacles when you’re a hockey player.”

Now that Goring has stepped aside from his hockey playing days and has perfected his golf swing, it makes total sense that this on-ice legend has decided to tackle yet another area of the game.
Butch Goring, the Islanders color commentator for MSG, gives an interview during the 2010-11 season for Islanders TV.
“Wins and losses provide the most visual recognition for when the team is doing better, but when you’re in the broadcast business, there aren’t wins and losses,” Goring said. “It’s just how you feel about your performance and the feedback you receive.”

Goring added, “I absolutely enjoy that challenge. One of the things that keeps me going is my drive to be better. That’s probably how I got to the National Hockey League as a player, was never settling and being satisfied with who I was. I wanted to get better.”

In order for Goring to put his best foot forward and give his best performance, the Islanders legend goes back to one of the oldest learning techniques to perfect his craft: watching tape. This time, instead of watching himself skate, make a check or shoot a puck, Goring is watching his movements on screen, if he’s enunciating properly and his speed of conversation.

But the learning doesn’t stop there. He’s constantly asking questions and for feedback.

“I ask for a lot of feedback from the producer, Howie Rose, upper management at MSG, and people at the Islanders because I want to know things that I could do better from their perspective. I want their feedback.”

For Goring, the learning never stops. He’s constantly striving to be at the top of his game, whether that’s playing hockey, golf or providing television commentary on the sport he loves.
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