One of the best things about an East-West matchup in the National Hockey League is that it allows each conference’s followers a glimpse into how the other half lives. That’s especially true of Easterners who because of the time-difference rarely get a chance to see an entire game of clubs based in the Mountain or Pacific zones.
It was very interesting then to hear the Montreal Canadiens’ RDS television broadcast crew talk about the Calgary Flames on Tuesday night. For the record, the group includes colour analyst and former NHL forward Benoit Brunet, rinkside reporter and former Flames defenceman Joel Bouchard and between-periods analyst and long-time NHL coach Jacques Demers.
What should also be noted is that because any comments made by the RDS commentators usually safely remain within the Quebec borders, the talking heads tend to be a little more free and loose with their opinions. Unlike Jim Hughson or Chris Cuthbert, for instance, they don’t have to worry that so-and-so’s parents in Flying Dust, Sask., are listening in and will complain if the big, bad TV men say nasty things about sonny boy.
Anyhoo, some of the interesting comments and observations from the crew included:
- Bouchard noted that after a bit if a melee on the ice, Iginla expressed his willingness to the Canadiens bench to fight any Montreal team member any time they wished. Bouchard quickly noted that he was a former teammate of Iginla’s and recalled with awe how a teenaged Iginla once willingly dropped the gloves with veteran tough cookie Brendan Shanahan.
- Several broadcast-team members marvelled at Miikka Kiprusoff’s effortless, no-frills style of play. Now you can argue that not much effort was needed to thwart the Habs’ struggling offence but in any event, the RDS chaps were clearly impressed.
- The fan-poll question of the night asked viewers to cast their ballot for Team Canada’s Olympic captain – Iginla, Sidney Crosby or Scott Niedermayer. Once the results were revealed (ex-QMJHLer Crosby got the nod in a fairly close vote) play-by-play man Pierre Houde confessed that he thought El Sid was the slam-dunk choice at the start of the season because of Pittsburgh’s Cup win in the spring but that he has since realized that Iginla would be as good if not a better choice.
- Both men in the booth absolved Dion Phaneuf of any blame on the hit that saw the Flames rearguard spectacularly launch Tomas Plekanec into the endboards. The old Scott Stevens comparison was trotted out and Brunet noted that despite all the highlight-reel hits Phaneuf delivers, he rarely if ever crossed the line into dirty territory.
- The crew openly wondered if there was any tension between Phaneuf and Michael Cammalleri in the Calgary room last year after watching the former Flames teammates engage in a prolonged loveless embrace and staring match.
- After a period-and-half of seeing Jay Bouwmeester, a long-time Eastern Conference player, at work with his new club, Demers raved about how easy the lanky blue-liner makes the game look and declared that the former Panther should be a sure thing when it comes to the Canadian Olympic team.
- On the francophone network, it’s customary for the rink-side reporter to ask an anglophone player a few questions in English and then at interview’s end make a translated summary of the player’s comments to the television audience. That’s exactly what Bouchard did after interviewing Bouwmeester, adding that the defenceman was incredibly shy and that his answers were relatively short and very inoffensive. After throwing things back up the men upstairs, Houde cracked: "Bouwmeester may be shy, but at least his personality is more animated than Phaneuf’s." A little later, Bouchard noted that the perpetually scowling Phaneuf was "a different bird."
- Demers suggested the Flames were, top to bottom, one of the toughest teams in the NHL. He also said that despite some Olympic and World Cup experience, Robyn Regehr was still too much of a secret outside of Western Canada.
Oh, and not once did Houde, Brunet, Demers or Bouchard mention that Adam Pardy was from Bonavista, Nfld.