Toronto Maple Leafs: Hockey Broadcasts Are Unwatchable Garbage

VANCOUVER, BC - APRIL 18: Auston Matthews #34 of the Toronto Maple Leafs is stopped by goalie Braden Holtby #49 of the Vancouver Canucks in close during the first period of NHL hockey action at Rogers Arena on April 17, 2021 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
VANCOUVER, BC - APRIL 18: Auston Matthews #34 of the Toronto Maple Leafs is stopped by goalie Braden Holtby #49 of the Vancouver Canucks in close during the first period of NHL hockey action at Rogers Arena on April 17, 2021 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Maple Leafs broadcasts leave a lot to be desired.  In fact, almost all hockey games are a terrible viewing experience.

It is great that every Toronto Maple Leafs game is on TV nowadays, but  the quality of the broadcasts is terrible.  Not the games themselves, which are fine.  But the broadcast as a whole – specifically the intros, pre-game, intermission and post-game segments are terrible.

We’ve all got our personal favorite broadcasters and analysts, but they aren’t the problem. The probelm is the format: It sucks.

And it doesn’t just suck.  It is tired, ancient, and painful to watch.  Your basic hockey broadcast is as follows: Intro, then some guys at a desk discussing clichés like the Keys to the Game, then the game starts, then you’ve got two intermissions, which are usually just more people talking. There is usually not a post-game because TSN and Sportsnet (for reasons unknown) need to throw directly to their flagship highlights show, which are repeated constantly, and also include a tired, dead format no one in 2021 wants to see.

How to Fix NHL Broadcasts

The first problem with NHL Broadcasts is that despite TV being a visual medium, almost all the non-game portions of the two-and-a-half hour broadcast just features visually unappealing people talking.  This is boring, and serves no purpose because the internet renders whatever insight we might gleam from the TV professionals all but irrelevant.

The second problem is that the entire broadcast is boring.  The NHL has no problem selling gambling and alcohol in it’s intermissions, but the broadcasts themselves make Old Navy commercials appear edgy.  There is no sex, violence or comedy on an NHL broadcast.  The game itself is extremely violent, but they usually try to downplay this on broadcasts, which is ridiculous. Hockey is a game featuring a ton of violent activity: fighting, bodychecks, hitting people with sticks etc.  and it is disingenuous to act like this doesn’t exist.

I don’t think you need to turn TSN Hockey Tonight into a Tarantino film, but let’s see some Rock ‘Em Sock ‘E’ type clip packages that excite us.  Show me some hits and fights.  Producers of hockey games always fail to show us the one thing we came here to see:  HOCKEY HIGHLIGHTS.   Free tip to any producers reading this: Show more fights and hits and goals, and not just ones from the game that’s on that night.

Show us the best fights, hits and goals that have happened since last game, but most of all, stop showing us old people arguing over nonsense.  I don’t ever want to see another “round table” discussion ever again.   I don’t want Dave Poulin to share a single thought he has with me, ever. Have one expert – Preferably Mike Johnson  – break down the game for me in three minutes or less, and then shut up.

As for the TSN Quiz  I just want to say that it is a new lowest point in Canadian TV history every time it comes on.  I can’t believe they’re still doing this crap. Scrap every single stupid segment you plan on using, because they are all boring, unimaginative, outdated and not the least bit entertaining.

I don’t want to watch Ron McLean on the road, or outside at a table, or, frankly, at all.  I don’t want to watch sappy, ‘hey we’re outside with the kids’ nonsense.  Just have someone breakdown the game, then have someone else show highlights, then cut to a live musical performance or a comedy sketch.

Maybe have a trade rumour guy, or some pre-taped segments about trades,  hockey strategy, hockey history, or whatever. Don’t be afraid to try to teach us things.  Show me cool things about the NHL that I don’t have access to.  Don’t be afraid to try new things.

But most of all, don’t be afraid to scrap old things.  No one needs to see an interview with a player between periods, they are cliched  and add zero value to the viewing experience.  No one wants an episode of the Quiz.  And if anyone wantsto hear see Jeff O’Neil talk, they’ll tune into his radio show.

More Fixes

Can’t we make the broadcasts sexier?  Sexy doesn’t mean sexist.  Let’s get some hot people of both sexes on our screens, because what we’re getting right now is 90%  50 year old, out of shape white guys, and it’s a drag.

When I tune into hockey, I am treated to an array of mostly unattractive people talking.  Show me  hot people. Show me trade rumours, and glorious plays.  Have segments where you teach me something.  Make me laugh.  Make me think.  Today’s broadcast doesn’t do any of these things.

The only emotion I ever feel watchin a hockey broadcast – besides extreme boredom – is frustration that Dave Poulin or Pierre McGuire are  echoing the worst of a bad comments section.

No less an authority than Percy Blythe Shelley said that poetry’s job is to “teach and entertain” and that anything that did that was a form of poetry.  This should be the mantra of every TV Producer, but it’s not apparent that anybody producing a hockey game has ever considered this.

It’s pretty hard to entertain people without sex, comedy, music or violence, and that is why NHL Broadcasts are so terrible – they feature almost none of that. These are the foundations of entertainment, and they are all mostly absent from hockey broadcasts.   To top it all off, instead of trying to teach you something, they appeal to the lowest common denominator.

Give me musical guests, comedians, celebrities, controversy. Give me strategy, and ideas, and history and knowledge.  Don’t play it so safe.  Don’t worry about being politically correct, and work to make the broadcast more intelligent, inclusive, and fun.

Let’s limit the number of ex-players to either zero or one.  But most of all, let’s focus on making the broadcast entertaining.  Ditch the segments that weren’t fresh when Gretzky was still in Edmonton.

I will never tune into one more Quiz, I never want to hear two or more people argue with each other, and I don’t have any interest in the opinions of ex-players.  I want way more highlights and pre-taped packages. I want to learn. I want to be provoked and entertained.

Here is what is good about hockey broadcasts: The actual game.

Here is what is bad: All of the other content.

An executive producer who isn’t beholden to the classic format is the first thing these networks need.  Hockey broadcasts are really bad, but they don’t have to be. The game of hockey is so exciting that it can’t be impossible to surround it with other entertaining elements in order to create a positive viewing experience.  The problem is that they’re using a format that was invented before the last time the Toronto Maple Leafs won the Cup.

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NHL broadcasters have got to give me a reason not to tape the game and fast-forward everything that isn’t hockey.  Right now, I can’t think of a single one.