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TSN stints helps get coaches back on the ice

by Dave Lozo /
It's not that Craig MacTavish looked uncomfortable in front of a camera while answering a barrage of questions about the upcoming season. But he wasn't exactly the picture of relaxation, either.

It's new territory and a welcomed challenge for the former Edmonton Oilers coach, who is the newest member of TSN's award-winning hockey coverage. He's still settling into the new role, so he's not exactly ready to opine on what it's like to be a member of the hockey media.

"I've got two days, so I really can't speak to that with any degree of experience," MacTavish told recently. "I just wanted to try something different, a little bit out of my normal comfort level. It keeps you current in the game. It keeps you talking about the game of hockey."

And that seems to be the major draw for former coaches and players who now make their living in front of a camera, offering their insights into a game they were a part of as recently as last season. By staying around the game in such a high-profile position, it gives unemployed coaches an added advantage when an opening becomes available. Look no further than John Tortorella, who was a member of the NHL on TSN panel when the New York Rangers came calling last season.

"A lot of these guys have never done media, but they've been the focus of a lot of media," said Mark Milliere, vice president of production for the NHL on TSN. "When they come to us, we kind of have a mutual interest going and we want them to come in very authentic. Just step from behind the bench or off the ice and bring us that closeness to the game, because their experiences are so fresh.

"And for them, they're often looking to get back into the game. And the NHL on TSN gives them tremendous exposure because it's the network that the League tends to watch. So they're going to go out there and do a good job and be very frank and have strong opinions. That's respected by people in the hockey community and when a job comes up, those guys are very front and center."

One of those ex-coaches who could benefit from the exposure is Peter Laviolette, who coincidentally replaced Tortorella on TSN last season about a month after the Hurricanes changed coaches. Laviolette's new co-workers had nothing but rave reviews for the TV newcomer, but he isn't exactly ready to accept any broadcasting awards just yet.

"I still don't know if I'm 100 percent comfortable," Laviolette said with a laugh, not quite ready to admit he's the guy to give advice to MacTavish when there are more experienced people on the set. "I'm not that good. I've got a long way to go. You're learning all the time. I really enjoy it. It's not as easy as you think. You watch it and you see it and when you actually have to come on that side of the camera, it's really different."

Does Laviolette see this as an opportunity that could lead to getting back behind the bench?

"I hope so. I'd love to," Laviolette said. "There's a lot of good coaches out there. You hope what you've done in the past is good enough for somebody to give you an interview and then you gotta hope they like what you're saying. You've gotta be patient and hope you're a fit somewhere."

"There's a lot of good coaches out there. You hope what you've done in the past is good enough for somebody to give you an interview and then you gotta hope they like what you're saying. You've gotta be patient and hope you're a fit somewhere."
-- Peter Laviolette

Pierre McGuire isn't looking to use his position to angle for a coaching job, but the broadcasting veteran was in the mix for the Minnesota Wild GM job during the offseason that went to Chuck Fletcher. But viewers can expect to see McGuire between the benches for the foreseeable future and not throwing his hat in the ring for every GM opening that should become available.

"(Minnesota) was a really great fit for me because of my family and it's about as close to a Canadian situation as you can get and I really liked the fit and the potential of the team," McGuire said. "But I'm pretty entrenched here. So for me to go back it has to be something really special."

While McGuire is happy where he is, TSN has helped to re-launch many a career. Brian Burke and Ron Wilson returned to the NHL after a brief stint with the network. Burke worked with TSN in between his time with the Vancouver Canucks and Anaheim Ducks, and Wilson did the same after he was let go by the Sharks and eventually landed the coaching job in Toronto.

Does that mean MacTavish and Laviolette are the next in line in this never-ending cycle of coaching to broadcasting to coaching?

"As I told Tortorella last year, I'll tell Craig the same thing – I think he'll be back by the end of the year," McGuire said.

But after only a few days on the job, MacTavish is showing his dedication to the craft – and a bit of his sense of humor – when asked about TSN's ability to help coaches get back into the game.

"I'm completely committed to broadcasting," MacTavish said with a laugh.

Maybe he's more comfortable than he knows.

Contact Dave Lozo at
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