If they were to hold a draft for hockey analysts and colour commentators, you’d see a goaltender go first. I know you’re thinking “Oh, yes. I could listen to Ilya Bryzgalov talk all day about “space danger” and bears in the forest. He’s just so strange and entertaining.” Let me tell you two things. First, Bryz has nothing on Gilles “Gratoony the Loony” Gratton and second, not while I’m here.
But what is it that makes goalies such standouts as the talkies behind the microphone? The analysts who break down the games for us after we’ve done nothing but curse at the television for two and a half hours? Darren Pang, whose NHL career saw 3 seasons with the Blackhawks (alright, his first season consisted of one game) and 5 seasons of goaltending experience in the IHL and AHL, sums it up nicely and rather simply. Goaltenders “have the ability to see a lot of things from [their playing] position.” [x]
“I think more than anything else, your goalies are pretty much individuals on team sports… We all have different thoughts and we all handle things differently. I don’t think you have to be the best goalie to be an analyst, just the ability to put it across the air and have people understand it better.” [x]
Oh, and he also adds this detail to the mix: “At the end of the day, a lot of us are yapping guys, a lot of us are talkative people and outgoing people.” [x]
Maybe that’s closer to the truth?
Since retiring from his last season of professional hockey in 1989-90, Panger spent time as a colour commentator for the Phoenix Coyotes, among other media outlets, and is currently the colour commentator for the St. Louis Blues. He’s not one to back down from the big guns (see his battle with Georges Laraque) and has even unintentionally stepped in it himself. His bobblehead is also an incredibly lifelike representation which is an fascinating feat. Follow Panger on Twitter: @Panger40
Kelly Hrudey was one of the stars of the Easter Epic, the longest game 7 in Stanley Cup history. He stopped 73 shots over 6 hours and 18 minutes (7 periods), the most saves in a game by an NHL goaltender in history, and helped the New York Islanders clinch the 1987 Patrick Division Semifinals. He stood strong between the pipes as the Los Angeles Kings took on the Montreal Canadiens in the 1993 Stanley Cup Finals, the Cup Wayne “Ice Man Cometh” Gretzky and the Kings lost after “The Trade“. Hrudey was also the goaltender who allowed P.J. Stock to score his first career NHL goal.
Why not turn all that into a successful broadcasting career? So as things slowed down for him in his final years with the San Jose Sharks, he started out part-time with HNIC and once retired, his decision paid off. He moved into a full-time position with a goalie-focused look at hockey, appearing on “Behind The Mask” during HNIC doubleheaders. In another segment, he provided another creative twist on game analysis and put himself at the mercy of his guests by showing footage of them scoring goals on him. Giving the audience a chance to experience the play from both sides was pretty great, as was the name of the segment: “How I Padded My Stats Against Kelly Hrudey.” He’s now in his 14th season with HNIC and has been in the best commentator bromance with P.J. Stock for some time now. I guess that’s what happens when you let someone score on you, eh? Follow Kelly on Twitter: @KellyHrudey. For the full experience, you should really follow P.J. Stock, too: @pjstockhnic.
Another HNIC favourite is Kevin Weekes. He was television’s first black hockey analyst when he joined Hockey Night in Canada in 2009 and he’s become a self-marketing machine. If you’re a hockey fan, you probably cross paths with Kevin often. Whether it’s on-air on HNIC, NBC or NHL Network, or with his fantastic No 5 Hole gear, he seems to be everywhere and if you follow him on Twitter, you’ll witness how hard he’s working to continue on his positive path. I emailed No 5 Hole about a tshirt once and was pleasantly surprised when it was Kevin who emailed me back. Talk about dedication. On-air, Weekes really reaches into explaining the human element of what it means to be a hockey player, and the experiences one has going through the day-to-day, as well as the challenges on the ice. He’s also a total badass.
See what I mean? Nothing stops him, not even two zambonis. Weekes was recently replaced as colour commentators for the Western Conference games on HNIC however he is still taking part as an analyst in other on-air segments like Hotstove Tonight. (Chances are he just didn’t have time for everything he’s involved in. I mean, c’mon. But this article was all I could find.)
Aside of riding the pine for the latter half of his career, one of the highlights of Glenn Healy‘s time as a Toronto Maple Leaf was when he cut his hand while cleaning his bagpipes. Luckily it was in the off-season as the gash required 40 stitches. Now as an ice-level commentator and in-studio analyst on HNIC, he regularly irks hockey fans, some to the point where they agree he’s not much better than Mike Milbury without the shoe. He’s so popular now *cough* that you can find a number of Twitter parody accounts dedicated to him, though he is also apparently so obnoxious at times that only 2 of the 5 are updated regularly. The other have remained stagnant for well over a year. If you’re stuck watching the Leafs on HNIC, witness the Healy magic for yourself at AnnoyingHealy. It makes it far more bearable.
To forget about the pain induced by Healy, bring in Daryl “Razor” Reaugh. He’s developed his own effusively rapturous and extravagantly delightful hockey discourse – he uses big words – and is funny as all hell. I often think of him and begin to daydream. With “Brass Bonanza” as the soundtrack and my heart fluttering, I think about his cactus… But seriously, he played some hockey and as his career was winding down he picked up a colour commentating gig on the AHL’s show Rinkside and, well, it’s easier for me to send you over to Razor With An Edge for more information then try to be creative here. And yes, he is reason I started watching the Dallas Stars games in the late 1990s and haven’t stopped. Do yourself a favour and follow @Razor5Hole on Twitter. If nothing else, you’ll increase your vocabulary.
This article wouldn’t be complete without mention of John Davidson. He had a stellar junior hockey career in Alberta and the Western Hockey League and was taken fifth overall in the 1973 NHL draft, but it was his “Oh baby!” that made him a legend. During his 23 years in hockey broadcasting with the New York Rangers, J.D. wasn’t only a fan favourite but was highly respected by his peers, so much so that he was made a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame Selection Committee. In 2009, the NHL Broadcasters’ Association selected him to be honoured by the Hockey Hall of Fame to receive the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award for all that he did to further the sport of hockey during his broadcasting career. He’s moved on and after spending six years as President of Hockey Operations for the St. Louis Blues, took on the President of Hockey Operations for the Columbus Blue Jackets last Fall.
I’m really curious to know if “Oh baby!” has been retired or if it slips out from time to time because wow, it was always fantastic. Take a listen from this 1994 Rangers Stanley Cup video. What a beauty!