Just when you thought the NHL's deal with NBC couldn't get any worse, it did. Forgive me for being so naive, it's just that I thought there was probably a clause in the league's contract with NBC that said the league could only get screwed over three times during one calendar year. I guess after the Preakness fiasco, an NBC affiliate in Tampa Bay refusing to cover the finals, and a network whose sports telecasts resemble PBS' Antiques Roadshow more than actual sports telecasts, actually covering the NHL in the first place, things couldn't get any worse.
Today, the Vancouver Sun is reporting that the little bit of personality that NBC's telecasts did have, has been removed. According to the Sun, NBC analyst Ray Ferraro has told the radio station Team 1040 in Vancouver that Brett Hull has been let go by NBC.
Whether you liked listening to Brett Hull or not, you certainly can't argue with the fact that he brought some life to NBC's telecasts. Many times, Hull was an outspoken character, but that's just what the NHL in America needs -- personality. With all due respect to Bill Clement and Ferraro, watching sports on NBC is always a chore, and the NHL is no exception. Having a boisterous, controversial character in Hull on the set is what makes people watch; both those who love him and those who love to hate him. It's just flat out entertaining television, as everyone wants to see what he will say next.
When NBC brought in Don Cherry during the Stanley Cup Finals, it brought a glimpse of the personality that the NHL so desperately needs in the US. Aside from Barry Melrose, who gets released from whatever closet ESPN stores him in twice a week for a short segment on SportsCenter, the NHL doesn't have personality in America. Yes, we have Sean Avery and Jeremy Roenick, but when is the last time those guys had any serious MSM exposure? Hull was all that you could find, and best of all, he was on broadcast television. This kept all those hockey haters out there from using the excuse that they couldn't find the channel. Hopefully, we'll see some other network pick him up, as I seriously doubt that NBC will bring in anyone who will bring any more life to their set than Hull did (attention Jeremy Roenick: please call NBC now).
Well, at least we'll always have the memories.
"Bill Clement: What two things do you want to talk about?
Brett Hull: Huh?
Bill Clement: (Incredulous) You just watched a whole freaking game!"