You know, living out of town, I haven't had the opportunity to see Rick Peckham and Bobby Taylor's broadcasts of the Penguins series. Now, as anyone who has read my game posts knows, I do enjoy the occasional meta-critique of the other team's announcers any time I get their feed on Center Ice. In particular, folks know how I feel about Atlanta color man Darren Eliot, the Carolina crew of Forslund and Tracy, and some of the members of the Buffalo Sabre's broadcast team (not Rick Jeanneret, but on-ice reporter Rob Ray and studio personality Mike Robitaille). But, as this is the playoffs, I didn't want to detract from what was going on by chastising the media. As John Tortorella said in the Flyers series in 2004 when Ken Hitchcock tried to goad him into a media spat by making an off-color remark about Tortorella's heritage, it's not about anyone off the ice. It's about the athletes.
However, now that the series is over, I can stop biting my tongue about Penguins color-man Bob Errey. I would've never thought that anyone could supplant the uber-pompous Darren Eliot on the Mount Olympus of NHL broadcasters I can't stand, but after having to watch the Pittsburgh Root Sports broadcasts for 6 of the games in this series, I can now say Bob Errey is now the uncontested champ. I have never in my life heard a broadcaster who was so thoroughly unobjective, so thoroughly disrespectful to the opposing team, and so thoroughly nonsensical about it. I made the decision as the series progressed that play-by-play man Paul Steigerwald probably isn't that bad. He has a level of bias, but I suspect with a normal color man beside him he wouldn't be any worse than the average NHL broadcaster. But Errey? How can Root Sports pay a man this unprofessional?
In general, there was the unqualified praise of Penguins players, the constant whining about officiating going against the Penguins (tell that to Marty St. Louis' front teeth), and the portrayal of Lightning players as heartless, talentless, brainless clods. That was bad enough. When a Penguins player would put his arm down on a Lightning player's stick to induce a hooking call, that would be "savvy." When a Lightning player would do the exact same thing 5 minutes later, suddenly it would be a gross miscarriage of justice perpetrated by those devious, dirty, shifty Lightning players (who 10 minutes later would be reclassified as heartless morons). Fine. That's annoying, but that's not any worse than Eliot, Forslund, or Tracy. Heck, at least the Pens have won something. One of the central parts of my critique of Eliot has been the undeserved sense of entitlement he and the Thrashers organization operates with given the fact they have a whopping 0 playoff wins in their franchise's entire history. The one solace I had after Game 4 of this series was that even if the Lightning lost Game 5, they still would've had more playoff wins in ignominious defeat than the Trashers have had... ever. But, I digress.
No, what elevated Errey to his perch atop the landfill of NHL broadcasters can be summarized by three instances from this series:
1.) With the Lightning needing a goal to tie Game 3 in the 3rd Period, the Penguins took a minor penalty to put Tampa Bay on the power play. Bear in mind, this was the same Lightning power play that had scorched the Penguins in Game 2. Any normal broadcaster with half a brain would've pointed out the danger or at least said that it was a big kill. Not Bob Errey. Oh no, no, no. To Bob Errey the Penguins taking the power play was not a bad thing. It was, "an opportunity for both teams." I kid you not, that's what the man said. Incidentally, folks, if a man steals your property, it's not a negative. No, it's "an opportunity for you to purchase replacement stuff." If the doctor tells you it's a terminal disease, have no worries. "It's an opportunity for you to tighten up your will." Get my drift?
2.) With the Penguins being bludgeoned to death 5-0 in the 2nd period of Game 5, Errey did not praise the Lightning, nor did he criticize the Penguins. No, he proceeded to complain about the inherent unfairness of the Penguins having to play Game 5 at home because they, "had to eat dinner with their families last night." The horror. He then further elaborated by misspeaking and saying the Lightning had the advantage of, "sleeping in their own beds," the night before the game. I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt and try to translate his clearly false statement into what he actually meant. I believe what he meant by "own beds" was that the Lightning didn't have to sleep with their significant others the night before the game. I think? It's kind of creepy and weird, but I really think that's what he meant, but doesn't make the whole thing any less preposterous, though.
3.) Honestly, #1 was the point when I decided Errey was the worst broadcaster in the NHL. It truly was the most idiotic thing I'd ever heard a broadcaster say. Lewis Black did a stand up routine once where he talked about "The End" being a corner in Austin, Texas where there were two exact same Starbucks coffee houses occupying opposite corners of the same intersection where you could walk out of one and be confused because you'd be walking toward the exact clone of the place you just left. Well, for me, Errey calling the Penguins taking a penalty against a hot Lightning power play while trying to protect a 1 goal lead in the 3rd period of a playoff game was, "The End," when it comes to NHL commentating. I think the lunacy of that statement actually formed a rip in time-space and I'm just glad the St. Pete Times Forum wasn't sucked in.
But, it wasn't until Game 7 when Errey really made it personal. Sure, he and Steigerwald had tried to play the card of making fun of Lightning fans during the Game 5 blowout. We've all heard that and it's stupid Northern hockey media boilerplate that doesn't even register anymore. Haters are going to hate, and the Lightning are going to eventually win. I've got a picture of Dave Andreychuk triumphantly hoisting a nice sterling silver trophy in 2004 if you don't believe it. The Lightning are a very resilient franchise (which is how you climb out of 1-3 series holes to advance to the 2nd round), and the fan base isn't too shabby either.
And, I didn't even care when Steigerwald and Errey played the built-in excuse card of immediately playing up Crosby and Malkin's absence the second the two teams lined up at the end of tonight's Game 7. You knew that was going to happen with the full buy-in of a compliant national media that never seems to want to give the Lightning any credit and have whole-heartedly bought into the simplistic Madison Avenue strategy of putting all of hockey's eggs in the Sidney Crosby basket. I don't like it, but I get it. It's cool.
No, what ticked me off was when Errey said, "You hate to shake the Lightning's hands because you know you should have won." Really? A team that was outscored 22-14 in total, scoring 1 power play goal in an entire 7 game playoff series, and with a goaltender that posted a sub-.900 save percentage for the series "knows it should have won." No class. None. If I were Root Sports or the Pittsburgh Penguins, I'd be absolutely embarrassed to have that man representing me. I don't know what the politics of that situation is. Maybe he's tight with Mario and that's how he keeps his job. But, wow, I wouldn't want my name affiliated with him in any way, shape, or form. And, nearest as I can tell, a lot of Penguins fans can't even stand him. I'm certainly not the only person who feels this way. Go ahead and Google "Bob Errey" and "homer." Just don't do it at work, because the verbiage other people have used is far less kind than mine. The man even has a Facebook page dedicated to how awful he is. Now there's something for Root Sports and the Penguins to really be proud about.
I suppose the upside is that I will never, ever take Rick Peckham and Bobby Taylor for granted again. This whole awful ordeal of having to watch Errey has validated the quality of the Lightning's broadcasters. They should be proud of the product they put on the air. And the Pens and Root Sports? They ought to be ashamed.
There's one other silver lining too: the fact that Bob Errey will have a 10 am tee time tomorrow. Fore, champ!