What if they threw a hockey game and the Green Men didn't show? We discovered the answer Wednesday as technicians at Rogers Arena in Vancouver appeared to move the camera angle for the penalty box for Game 2 of the Western Conference final to eliminate the unitards from ruining an otherwise decent family program. But the annoying Green Men took a pass on the game, reportedly so that daddy could use the seats. (Or maybe they were stinging from the rebuke delivered by their hero, Don Cherry, back in the Vancouver Canucks-Nashville Predators series.)
CBC got something even more controversial than the Green Men, however: an eye full from a female fan who flashed her breasts live on camera as San Jose Sharks winger Ben Eager made yet another trip to the sin bin in the third period. (Which might explain why the hapless Sharks forward kept getting himself sent to the penalty box so often.) Needless to say Twitter, YouTube and Facebook instantly captured the moment for a waiting world that might have missed the passing shot, replete with allusions to the twins (not Sedin) being good on the glass, and so on.
So now the NHL and the Canucks have two problems as exultant Left Coasters turn the visitors' penalty box into a frat party. CBC had no comment on the intrusion on Thursday beyond this from spokesman Jeff Keay: "We appreciate the enthusiasm of hockey fans and trust they'll use their best judgment with regard to proper decorum at games." At least it'll spare us Don Cherry saying, "Now for all you kids out there and everything …"
TROUBLE AT NBC
The resignation of NBC Sports president Dick Ebersol raises serious questions about the network's commitment to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia - and, by extension, the attendance of NHL players in those Games. Industry rumours said Ebersol was having trouble convincing the new owners of NBC and Comcast to shell out the significant money needed for Sochi after losing a considerable amount on the Vancouver Games in 2010. Matters reportedly came to a head Thursday morning, with Ebersol telling staffers he was gone.
It's hard to see the NHL doing business on ABC or ESPN after signing its recent 10-year deal with the NBC and Comcast. The negotiations for the U.S. Olympic TV rights will be determined in June.
Why Hockey Night in Canada still moves the needle: great technical abilities. Its work on the Kevin Bieksa goal, which put the Canucks up for good in Game 2 of their series with San Jose, showed why Hockey Night still matters. Hockey Night had a camera trained on the Canucks' bench to show us how Chris Higgins sat perched on the edge of the boards, playing possum against the Sharks. Think of the old lonesome end play in football.
As analyst Glenn Healy (who was positioned right beside that bench) described it, Higgins chose the perfect moment to pop onto the ice, take a pass, and find a streaking Bieksa all alone on the breakaway. We got to see Higgins' follow-up on an isolated camera as Bieksa beat Antti Niemi off camera for the goal that broke the back of the Sharks. Succinct, unembellished visual storytelling. Kudos.
Meanwhile, CBC says it won't offer any 3-D telecasts of the Stanley Cup final. Citing cost problems and slow rollout of the technology with consumers, the network says it is now not as bullish on the technology as it was this time last year. CBC did two 3-D games this season with the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens last December and the Heritage Classic between the Calgary Flames and the Canadiens on Feb. 20.
CHARLES IN CHARGE
If only hockey had a TV announcer or athlete as honest as the NBA's Charles Barkley. With the news of Phoenix Suns executive Rick Welts coming out of the closet, Barkely addressed the situation of gay athletes in team sports. "First of all, every player has played with gay guys," Barkley told 106.7 The Fan in Washington, adding that any player who says he hasn't is "a stone-freakin' idiot."
"It bothers me when I hear these reporters and jocks get on TV and say: 'Oh, no guy can come out in a team sport. These guys would go crazy.' First of all, quit telling me what I think. I'd rather have a gay guy who can play than a straight guy who can't play," Barkley said.
When will hockey find a voice as courageous as Barkley to break the ice about gay players and executives in this sport? Don't hold your breath.