The clock was ticking down, reality was setting in for an Anaheim team that was about to be the latest #2 seed to be upset by a 7 seed, and there I was, standing at the end of the demoralized Ducks bench trying to explain what went wrong and who didn't do what, with goalless goat Cory Perry sitting in front of me and coach Bruce Boudreau 6 feet to my right.
I broadcast four playoff games from that spot on the Ducks bench during first round work for NBCSN, and it wasn't easy.
Imagine the predicament; Me, trying to deliver the how and the why while standing in a hockey team's personal space. It was akin to sitting in on a high-level board meeting with headset/microphone on, and commenting on strategies, personalities and decisions throughout the meeting. That would be 'uncomfortable' for all involved, right? Right.
So how did I deal with the difficult accommodations? For one, I talked into my note card like an offensive co-ordinator. That wasn't for lipreader suppression, it was an attempt to muffle my opinions from the players seated in front of me (and I mean RIGHT in front). But more than that I just tried to find the positive. If the Ducks got scored on there had to be something Detroit did well, so I'd just try to go there. Unfortunately when your job is to talk, comment and analyze, the old mother's advice that states, 'If you can't find anything good to say, don't say anything at all' just doesn't really apply. You have to say something!
Another awkward thing was when a penalty wasn't called, or a call on a goal was debatable, the players would turn and crane their necks to get a look at a replay. Of course when the replay didn't come as expediently as they'd like they all look at me as if I'm Replay Zeus, their eyes a mix of wild engagement and disappointment.
At least I didn't get 'accidentally on purpose' nut-shotted back there...and I dodged all sticks and pucks, so...great success.
Staples Center was a lot more comfortable and a much easier space from which to speak your mind.
My other Inside The Glass job-hurdle had me literally - doing hurdles.
Midway through the first period and again in the second I had to navigate through one set of players, hop over that bench's boards, work my way over the other team's boards and through those players, and then conduct a pop interview with a coach that had this 'hard hitting interview' at the very bottom of his list of things he gives a rat's ass about or would like to do in the midst of a playoff hockey game.
Some of the coaches are more affable and accommodating than others. The Kings Darryl Sutter isn't one of them, but I hardly blame him.
The amazing thing to me was how polite, and willing to give me a path of access to the coach, the players were. Those benches are tight. The players are exhausted. Yet they 'have a cheek', open a gate, let me go first. No jerks, just guys trying to do their job, letting a guy (in makeup) do his job. That's the essence of hockey players for ya.
The Inside The Glass perspective is a unique one. It was a little like being back in my playing days. (Try the veal! You see, my NHL career was spent mostly peering at the game from that very location.) I'm not sure that I'm any good at it down there but I do know this: the game is much faster and the open space much more limited for the players than how it appears from way up high on press level. Everything seems easy from up there. But at the same time, I feel I get a grander '10,000 ft view' from up above. They both have their pros and cons, I guess.
Anyway, the two weeks with NBCSN gave me a chance to reconnect with my first NHL broadcast partner and friend John Forslund. The two of us did Hartford Whalers broadcasts back in 1995. He's a good man, and one of the very best play callers in the U.S. We had a ball. We called fantastic hockey games, watched games from 4 till bedtime on the off-days, and had relatively easy travel, going by car service between Los Angeles and the OC. Hockey Heaven.
Oh, and one more thing; Being around the Detroit Red Wings I came away with just how big a coup it was for the Stars to hire Jim Nill as General Manager. Every member of their management, coaching, scouting, and training staffs that I spoke with had the same thing to say - 'You got a very good man...and it leaves a massive hole in our organization.'
OK. Back to whatever you were doing. I'm having my mail forwarded to Royal Oaks CC where I plan to play and play and play until I make the diabolical 13th a constant birdie-yielder.