Mike Milbury, an in-studio analyst for NBC and their newly formed network NBC Sports, has long been a critic of the New York Rangers. For years, his slanted, biased pre-game, intermission, and post-game anti-Ranger tirades have polluted the airwaves and have come with such regularity, that normally, they do not even upset or surprise me. Coming out of the lockout, Milbury never ceased to amaze, as he tore into then-Rangers superstar winger Jaromir Jagr all season long for being soft or not having what it takes to be a leader, even in the midst of his franchise record-setting 54-goal, 123-point season. One would think that the bias shown in those years bordered on xenophobia, but thankfully, we have Don Cherry up in Canada for that. More recently, before last night, that is, during the pre-game show of the Winter Classic, when describing the Rangers and using their nickname “Blueshirts”, he just so happened to leave the “r” out of the word, causing him to call the team an expletive. Accidental? Probably. But a Freudian Slip? Most definitely.
Then came last night, one of the all-around worst television hockey broadcasts I have ever seen in my life, and believe me, I have seen a good amount. Between play-by-play announcer Dave Strader (who I normally admire and respect), Brian Engblom who was in between the glass, and Milbury who was in the studio, the night proved to be a dizzying array of stupidity and nonsense. As the Montreal Canadiens took a monumental 1-0 lead in the first period, Strader and Engblom were quick to jump on the chance to say that the 17-20-8 squad from Quebec looked like the Canadiens of old, and might be on their way to a renaissance. When the Rangers tied it 1-1 later in the period, that kind of talk stopped, until the Canadiens retook the lead, of course. From then on, it was a bash-John Tortorella, praise-the-heck-out-of-Randy Cunneyworth type of evening. For what its worth, I have nothing against Cunneyworth, and do not know enough about the job he has done to critique him, but I do take exception to the non-stop Tortorella attack that was underway for what seemed like the entire night. The man who is a major part of why the Rangers have the best record in the NHL at 28-11-4, even with their top players struggling, was repeatedly jabbed at, until the icing on the cake came after the Canadiens took a 2-1 lead.
During the second period, a brief clip was shown of Tortorella yelling at defenseman Stu Bickel on the bench because the play he made led to a Canadiens’ goal. While Engblom and Strader had some fun with it, which I actually did not mind, Milbury took it to another level during the intermission. There was also the item of Engblom’s interview with Tortorella, during the middle of the game, which is something I absolutely detest. As most coaches are concentrated on the play and bench, with no time to answer questions asked by someone who has not changed his hairstyle since the 1970’s, Tortorella did not take his eye off the play, and was very brief and emotionless with his answers, as a coach should be. Just like the video previously mentioned, Milbury had something to say about both in-between periods.
First, he mentioned how Tortorella was wrong for yelling at Bickel, because his play did not even result in the goal, and that yelling was not going to accomplish anything. This happening after a replay clearly showed Bickel’s clearing attempt being blocked, and him deflecting the puck past Lundqvist as well. Okay, we’ll let that one slide, but what cannot be overlooked is the statement he made regarding the interview. Milbury said, “Maybe next interview, Brian should wave his three Stanley Cup rings in front of the coach’s face to teach him some respect.” Excuse me? Did you really just go down that road? Respect? This coming from a man, who, as a player in the 1970’s, got involved in the infamous player-fan brawl at Madison Square Garden while a member of the Boston Bruins, and proceeded to jump into the stands, rip off a fan’s shoe, and beat him over the head with it?
The almighty hockey expert himself, breathes and speaks with the arrogance and ego of a 10-time Stanley Cup Champion, even though he failed miserably at both coaching and being a General Manager, when, while at the helm of the New York Islanders in the late 1990’s, traded away Roberto Luongo, Zdeno Chara, Olli Jokinen, Todd Bertuzzi, Bryan McCabe, and Tommy Salo. As if that was not bad enough, this was a man who drafted Rick Dipietro while Dany Heatley and Marian Gaborik were still available, and then traded the second overall pick in the 2001 NHL draft, who turned out to be Jason Spezza, for Alexei Yashin, a player whose contract was so egregious, that the Islanders are still paying him money, and will be until 2015, even though he has not played in the league since 2007. Is this a man qualified to talk about hockey, much less take shots at a coach who has actually won a Stanley Cup? I think not.
The NBC broadcasting corporation will be a joke as long as this man is allowed to work for them. This blowhard adds absolutely nothing but negativity and insults to their broadcasts to make for an unbearable viewing experience. It has gotten so bad that I will now have to mute the TV every time he is talking, and I do not do that often. When is enough going to be enough? When can the NHL finally say Aur Revoir to Mike Milbury?