Controversial Commentators

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One Big Thing: Controversial Commentators

What’s Happening: Who will be commenting on this truncated NHL season? Not Mike Milbury, that’s for sure.  

What’s Missing: You might have noticed a familiar voice missing from commentary yesterday during the 2020-21 opening tripleheader. Mike Milbury, a longtime announcer and analyst with NBC Sports, won’t be heard on the airwaves this year. Millbury covered hockey on NBC for the last 14 years, but a network spokesperson told USA Today Sports “he will not be returning to our NHL announcer team.” 

Rewind: This August, Milbury stepped away from announcing after he made a misogynistic joke on air. During a first-round playoff game, fellow analyst Brian Boucher said about the NHL bubble, “If you enjoy playing and enjoy being with your teammates for long periods of time, it’s the perfect place.” Milbury responded that there were “not even any women here to disrupt … your concentration.” 

Digging Deeper: The NHL condemned Milbury’s remark and Milbury stepped down so as not to “interfere with the athletes as they try to win the greatest trophy in sports.” But it wasn’t the first time Milbury had made insensitive remarks on the air. In 2018, at the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, Milbury minimized Los Angeles Kings defenseman Slava Voynov’s domestic violence conviction, calling it “an unfortunate incident.” 

That was just one of several insensitive comments Milbury made on-air over the course of his career, as he repeatedly suggested that a lack of physical strength or toughness should be associated negatively with women and gay people. 

Who to Watch: NBC sports announced nearly 15 play-by-play commentators and analysts in a press release on Monday. Kenny Albert, Brendan Burke and John Forslund will lead the play-by-play commentary. Eddie Olczyk, Brian Boucher, Pierre McGuire and AJ Mleczko are the leading analysts this season. 

Courting Controversy: Among other analysts, former Leafs and Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock will also join NBC Sports’ studio commentary team. Babcock has been accused of verbal and mental abuse by multiple former players, and he was fired by the Toronto Maple Leafs in November 2019. Asked about the decision to hire Babcock in light of these issues, NBC Sports executive producer Sam Flood said, “We looked at everything. We’ve had a full process of conversations, as we do with anyone we bring in onto the team.”

Replacing a Legend: Kenny Albert, son of legendary basketball announcer Marv Albert, will replace Mike “Doc” Emrick, who retired a few months ago, in the top play-by-play spot on NBC Sports. Before this season, Albert has been the radio voice of the New York Rangers and a national television broadcaster on NBC. He also works for FOX as an MLB announcer. Over the course of his career, Albert has called boxing, basketball, football, baseball, hockey, and Olympic sports.

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A Question for the Peanut Gallery

What do you think of NBC’s decision to hire Mike Babcock?

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