Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Versus hosts the Young Stars and Super Skills Competition

The All-Star break is upon us, and tonight hockey fans with 70 tv channels and up were privileged to watch the Young Stars game and the Super Skills Competition.

The Young Stars game consisted of 3 ten minute periods of entirely 4 on 4 play. The players were selected unevenly from the NHL, and not every team was represented. In fact, a significant number of them weren't. So be it- we can keep our Brules and Fritches to ourselves. The game was high scoring, netting near 20 goals. Play was quite friendly, only one penalty and extensive cherry picking. Like so often in professional all-star games, the players didn't seem to be competing so much as they were just having fun. I can appreciate that, but I tune in to the All-Star events to admire the skills and tenacity of players whom I don't get to see on a regular basis.

The skills competition is always entertaining, and is a unique experience. I always look forward to this event the most because it truly breaks down different aspects of the game that fans never get to see by themselves. The Skills competition consisted of a puck relay that including stick handling, a shootout, a three on none goalie competition, a fastest skater contest a slap shot speed contest, and a shooting accuracy contest.

Our own Rick Nash was the winner of the solo puck relay contest- he blew away Jay Bowmeester of the Panthers with his long strides and smooth skating. Nice job Rick- too bad you couldn't come through in the shootout as well. Nash also participated in the three on none goalie competition, though he was pretty ineffective. Nash was placed on the face-off circle to the goalie's right... too bad Nasher shoots lefty. Oops.

I have a couple quick rants about the event besides the misplacement of Nash. First, the Dodge Nitro timer for the speed competition didn't work, so the timing was done by hand, virtually eliminating the thousandth of a second accuracy that had been custom in the past. Second, I was disappointed that the event aired on Versus. Nothing against the channel -they do alright for being a bottom tier cable channel- but you're telling me that no broadcast station (even NBC, which has some level of NHL contract) would pick this thing up? Not even ESPN2? Fox sports? What the heck? The NHL needs to bring its product to the masses, not just those with digital cable. Out of curiosity, I wonder who aired it in Canada? (CBC Sports as it turns out.) I understand Versus is fairly low budget, so they can't afford the premier sportscasters, but they have to do better than these knuckleheads. A major network could have brought in someone a little classier for the week. The guys in the booth were obnoxious, and everything happening on ice was secondary to their random banter with co-hosts Mark Messier and Bill Clement. I'm fine with Messier and Clement, in fact I think Messier is a helluva guy, but you need to put real broadcasters in the booth with them who can keep the talk interesting and focused.

On a sidenote, Versus also debuted their 'rail cam' which is a camera on a sliding rig that moves along a (you guessed it) rail mounted on the side boards. It follows the play with decent speed, but hockey mandates a wider view for seeing the development of plays that are active from the goal line to the blue line simultaneously. I'll give them substantial effort points though. It's not often you see any network trying to enhance the way we watch the game.

Tomorrow is the actual All-Star game. Even though so much of the sporting public has a distaste for the NHL's lack of competition in the game, I still enjoy watching the league's (and arguably, world's) best come together. Sure, a new format of some kind might make it more interesting to a wider demographic, but hey, I'm gonna watch it anyway. Even if I have to tune into channel 70.


Drew said...

One man's reaction to a few of your rants:

- Due to the logistics of the date, the Young Stars game and Skills Comp wouldn't have been shown on network television last night due to the State of the Union address. It's pretty much standard that these types of exhibitions will be aired by the stations that carry the regular season games, so it shouldn't have been too huge a surprise.

- I don't get the opportunity to watch many broadcasts on Canadian networks, but in my opinion Mike Emrick is one of the better play-by-play guys there is. That said, last night's festivities were an exhibition, as will tonight's. The broadcast of any all-star event in pro sports will be filled with guys telling jokes, inane banter, with little attention to the action on the ice. Come June, the team of Emrick, Olczyk (sp?), and Clement will do a fine job in the Finals.

- I agree with you on the rail cam. It's a nice idea, but it doesn't quite work with hockey. The sky cam in football games is one of the best things about watching primetime football, and if they can find something that does for hockey what that does for football, we'll be in good shape.

- The one thing I was disappointed in with the shootout competition last night was that none of the shooters tried any super-crazy moves. I'm sure it boils down to not wanting to show up the goaltenders, but that would sure ramp up the entertainment value if we saw more goals like they showed from Robbie Schrempf in the clips.

Glad to know that somebody else in Columbus was watching. I think that made three or four of us.

I'm sure I'll be there again tonight.

Truth Serum said...

Mike Emrick is from Ft. Wayne, IN.

Drew said...

I wasn't implying that Emrick is a Canadian broadcaster, I'm pretty sure he does work for the Devils/Vs./NBC.

I didn't make that very clear. Oops.


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