The Milbury Column

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By Dave Cunning

The longer Mike Milbury’s broadcasting career continues, the harder it gets to distinguish him from a Top 40 radio station. The hits just keep comin’ from this guy.


BetOnHockey_Milbury_Dipietro.jpgThe mind that brought you “Trading Luongo and signing DiPietro for 15 years is a good idea”, and “Let’s pay Alexi Yashin $17 million to NOT play for us for eight years”, while working as GM of the New York Islanders, also instructs Milbury’s lips spew out irrational amounts of verbal garbage – most recently, he decided to comment on the eroded relationship between former Islander Pat Lafontaine and current Islanders owner Charles Wang. Long story short, Lafontaine and Wang has a disagreement in 2006 while LaFontaine was on the Islanders staff, and Wang has since tried to erase him from the team’s history as best he can – Wang even denied him access to an Islanders game once (for the long story long, read this Wall Street Journal article:  and this one by Justin Bourne of The Score: ) Milbury chimed in, saying, “"Pat ran for the hills. Pat ran for cover. It was cowardly, and it was terrible.” If you read the links above, it’s pretty obvious that these remarks are anything but accurate.

Milbury’s second recent set of gems were shots aimed at members of the Pittsburgh Penguins. First, at head coach Dan Bylsma – after a line brawl between the Penguins and Flyers ( ), both teams’ coaches both got into the action, shouting at each other from the bench. It never came to blows between Peter Laviolette and Dan Bylsma, but Milbury commented later on that "…Dan Bylsma should have [taken] off his skirt and gone over there," and that he “thought it was pathetic." Second, in the same interview, he also muttered that Sidney Crosby is a “goody-two shoes”, a “little punk”, mocks his concussion history and calls him a whiner (his comments can be heard here: ). These chirps from the brain that brought you “threatening and assaulting a 12 year old boy sounds rational in my head”, and “there’s no other more logical solution than jumping in the stands while I’m in full gear and beating that fan with his own shoe”. (that incident here: )

BetOnHockey_Milbury_Shoe.jpgThis is the element of pro hockey that I love and hate. I love it because it’s entertainment, and I enjoy being entertained --- to borrow a few pro wrestling terms (fitting as Milbury is as sports-entertainment as they come these days), Milbury’s heat has got him over as a heel in the hockey world. That is, he’s a bad guy. He says inflammatory things, and people get mad. And talk about him. And complain. And (now here’s the kicker that network executives get advertisers to bite on) they most importantly tune in next time to see what else he’s going to say. And to see if anyone’s going to stand up to him and shut him up. You know you’d like to hear Sidney Crosby or Dan Bylsma get mad and respond to Milbury by actually say something outside of the professional hockey player’s script of standard question responses. You know you want to hear the Coaches Corner theme song to suddenly hit and cut off Milbury mid-rant, and see Don Cherry come through the curtain and smack him right in the face. So would I. Okay, maybe that last one’s just me. But you could substitute Mike Milbury for Glen Healy or Pierre McGuire in that last scenario too, and I’d still be happy to see some smack laid down on any/all of them. It’d be extremely entertaining. And this is exactly why none of these “bad guy” announcers will ever get fired – they’re entertaining, and interesting. At most, they’re going to be asked to make a public apology, and maybe fined a dispensable amount of money for a millionaire. Guys like John Tortorella, Chris Pronger, Sean Avery, Jeremy Roenick, Patrick Roy – people hate them, but they get people talking, and they get people watching. In other words, they make money for their employers. They keep hockey on the air. No press is bad press for these guys. Some people think that Milbury is gunning for Cherry’s spot on Coaches Corner --- not sure why he’d even be interested, considering the multiple major American networks (NBC, NESN, etc) that keep giving him a microphone and TV time. I’m sure he’s just fine where he is. 

While I do enjoy having monkeys dance for my viewing pleasure (metaphorically speaking, that is), I do hate this stuff at the same time. As a former player, the thing I have always enjoyed about hockey the most is playing the game itself. It’s challenging. There are amazingly skilled players that make it difficult to be successful against, and make you proud of yourself and your team when you are. When the same talents are on your team, they make you humble and jealous at the same time. Hockey engages your passion and evokes your emotion like nothing else. The game is quick, fast. Thrilling. The game is fun. Sometimes I think only those who have played the game will ever see it that way.

For all these reasons, I could live without the sideshow of people trying to make hockey into entertainment – a product used to sell tickets, merchandise, advertising, broadcasting rights, et al. --- I never thought hockey needed any help in that department, but as a business, unfortunately, the NHL does. Decade-long deals with major American TV networks don’t just appear for no reason, and it took the league until now to ink one with NBC. I want to believe it was achieved solely on the merit of the game itself, but I know that these characters had their role in it too. To a small degree, we have Mike Milbury to thank for hockey going main-stream. As infuriating as that sounds – big picture people, big picture. The NHL’s trying to tear
American viewers away from NASCAR, remember. Milbury is directly pandering to this crowd while he
makes comments on how he thinks coaches should fight on the bench during a game. That’s one of the
most hillbilly ideas anyone’s supported in a long time.

BetOnHockey_Milbury.jpgIt’s not so obvious to hockey fans fortunate enough to live in Canadian puck markets why this is necessary, or the odd thriving American one, because their fan base of the game doesn’t require any extra motivation -- but when teams like Phoenix struggle to give away game tickets at local convenience stores, it becomes blaringly apparent that guys like Milbury are, unfortunately, necessary. Their protagonist nature may be a requirement from a business standpoint, but it doesn’t mean I have to like professional hockey becoming more of a TV show than a sport. And it doesn’t mean I have to like Mike Milbury, or respect what he says, either. I don’t. That guy’s an idiot. Twitter: @davecunning Twitter: @CunningAthletix



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