FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, January 23rd, 2014
“NHL STADIUM SERIES” AND 2014 OLYMPIC ICE HOCKEY CONFERENCE CALL TRANSCRIPT
Jan. 22, 2013
2:30 p.m. ET
Chris McCloskey: Thank you very much everyone for joining us today for our conference call to discuss the upcoming NHL Stadium Series and the 2014 Olympic Ice Hockey Tournament. Today we’re going to be joined by Executive Producer Sam Flood, former Olympians Eddie Olczyk, and Jeremy Roenick, and Emmy Award-winners Mike “Doc” Emrick, and Pierre McGuire. This is a big year for hockey here on NBC and the momentum of the sport and our telecast continues to grow. Coming off the most watched Stanley Cup final on record last season, there’ve already been numerous viewership milestones for the NHL on both NBC and NBCSN.
We had the most watched fourth quarter ever for the NHL on NBCSN at the end of 2013. The Winter Classic on NBC tied for the highest rated in the history of the event. And just this past Sunday we launched NHL’s game of the week on NBC featuring a rematch of the Bruins and the Blackhawks with a 1.4 overnight — ties for the third best regular season game excluding Winter Classics on NBC.
However, the best is yet to come and that’s why we put this call together today as we were on the cusp of presenting two tent pole events — the NHL Stadium Series for the first time and, of course, the upcoming 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. As a reminder, there will be a replay and transcript of this call a few hours after the conclusion. The transcript can be found at nbcsportsgrouppressbox.com. We’re going to begin with opening statements first. And then we will go to a Q&A with the press. But we can begin now with opening statements. First is Executive Producer of NBC Sports and NBCSN, Sam Flood.
Sam Flood: Well, we’re thrilled with the start of the NHL season — having a lot of fun with the team being as a gang all together in Michigan for the Winter Classic is just a reminder of how special it is to take the game of hockey outdoors.
A little unique setting on Saturday night in Los Angeles outdoors with palm trees and a beach volleyball court — which is just another example of the NHL doing some new and creative ways to expose the audience to a bigger and broader audience — which we think is exciting. Then we get to Yankee Stadium and it’s good to see the field being put to great use in the off season.
Focus on those games will be really exciting and the gang is ready for that. Jeremy actually has an exciting travel schedule. We’re trying to keep them busy and keep them off the streets and out of the pubs. So he’s traveling directly from Los Angeles to New York to be part of both games in a back to back. We think Jeremy used to play pretty well on back to backs as long as the coaches kept him under curfew, and we’re going to do that again. So that’s the, kind of, care we have at NBC, feeding and caring of our great Jeremy Roenick.
As for the rest of the gang, can’t thank them enough for all the hard going out and doing all the games tonight. The trio on the phone are in Detroit getting ready for Wednesday Night Rivalry — which should be a heck of a game. We extended upon with Wednesday Night Rivalry with NHL Rivals, which has been 30-minute shows documenting why the two teams might not get along and might enjoy to see a little bit of physicality on the ice later in the evening.
We also have our NHL Top 10 series, which has looked at a number of categories within a game including Top Ten Winter Olympic moments — which, again, is a fun thing to have. And tonight, as well, we launch NHL Revealed — which is the NHL produced series looking behind the scenes of all these stadium series games.
And I saw a good chunk of the first show and think there’s some really cool elements in there that are worth watching and people really enjoy to get a different perspective in what’s going on in all of the teams that are engaging in a stadium series. I pass it off deftly in the low slot to Doc Emrick.
Doc Emrick: Thank you Sam. Good pass. The intriguing thing to me about this weekend is to talk to some of the Red Wings this morning who participated in the Winter Classic. And even though they lost the game in a shootout, every time you bring up the Winter Classic, a big smile comes on their face and they have their memories of it.
And one of them – this morning, Brendan Smith, said that he is going to be watching the game in Los Angeles even if it has to be Tivo’d, because he wants to see the same ice plant that they skated on in Ann Arbor, and how it might be affected one way or the other by the uncertainties of the weather out there.
To a man, the all enjoyed the experience — even though they would have liked to have won the shootout instead of lost it. But you can tell it was special to them. Yankee Stadium will be great fun. I’ve not seen a game myself in the new one. I got to see games in the old 1923 Yankee Stadium. We’ve got loads of history that comes back over the last 91 years, but in particular in the new place, over the last five. The Olympics will be a magnificent tournament. Players were sort of whispering to one another before 2010 in Vancouver saying they thought it would be the best tournament in the history of hockey. And considering the playing level of all of the players that went to Vancouver, you can understand why they’d say that. And I think it was. This one could surpass it certainly because of the caliber of players who will be there. It will be a fun time over that just to watch the daily participation of the women and the men and my surprise medalist for the men’s tournament in Switzerland. Eddie Olczyk. You’re on.
Eddie Olczyk: Thank you Doc. Nice to be with everybody. Short and sweet. Looking forward to the stadium series. Very envious. Disappointed – got the short straw of not being able to get out to Dodger Stadium, get a Dodger Dog in me. Maybe sneak over to the racetrack on the day before.
But selfishly, disappointed not be able to see that setting. Look forward to watching Strades (Dave Strader) and Brian Engblom do that game from Dodger Stadium and looking forward to watching that. Contrary to what some other people might say, our game is the greatest game in the world — to have this opportunity to be part of the Stadium Series and be a part of the Olympics is something that I take great pride in, and we think we have the best game in the world.
And hopefully we’ll be able to hold up our end of the bargain as we try to do each and every night. I’ll pass it over to Pierre.
Pierre McGuire: Thanks a lot Edzo, appreciate it. Doc, well said. Sam, way to go. Good pass. Doc, one-timed it. I’ll just talk about Yankee Stadium and what a great venue. An iconic venue for iconic players like Marty Brodeur, like Jaromir Jagr — the last two players standing from the 1990 draft. Can’t wait to celebrate their excellence on Sunday afternoon.
The New York Rangers are back in the race. They’re playing at Yankee Stadium. Unbelievable environment. They’re back in the playoff race because of the greatness of the team. They’re a fun team to watch. They’re a fast team to watch.
Talked to Mike Babcock, the coach of the Detroit Red Wings today, and he said I can’t wait to watch you guys and especially the way the Rangers play on Sunday afternoon. So there’s just a ton of great stuff going on around the game right now.
Couldn’t agree with Eddie more. What a privilege it is to have the change to do the Stadium Series, to have been at the Winter Classic, and to get to celebrate the greatness of hockey at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi. Can’t wait. It’s a great time for hockey.
Jeremy Roenick: All right. I’ll take it from you, Pierre. You forgot to pass it. But I’ll come get it anyway. That’s what I did best when I played. I came and got the puck. So first of all, I want to think Sam for giving me the opportunity to be at every single outdoor game this year and especially the Stadium Series because a few of the Stadium Series have special meaning to me.
I was a part of the Los Angeles-Anaheim, you know, I guess rivalry that is now – since I think — amped up considerably in the last seven years. Both teams winning cups. Both teams probably considered two of the best teams in international hockey. Anaheim on top of the league right now — one of the most exciting teams, I believe, the most exciting team to watch in the National Hockey League.
Being at Dodger Stadium, I think, is epic for the National Hockey League and I think it’s epic for NBC. It’s going to be interesting — the elements, playing in those elements — I think people are going to be really energized and excited to see that kind of game and our kind of broadcast put over the airwaves — which is going to be totally different than we saw over in Detroit with the Winter Classic.
Moving on to Yankee Stadium — it’s going to be a long flight. But again, I think Doc put it perfectly. Such a perfect place to have a game like this in such, I think, a historic — not so much building, but just the overall – the history behind the Yankees and being in New York.
The New York Rangers are playing great. I totally agree with you, Pierre. But we can’t forget how well that the New York Islanders are playing right now on the absolute hot streak. Beating the Rangers last night to amp up, I think, what’s going to be a great game next Wednesday. But I’m very excited to be a part of those.
And then going into Chicago and a possible Stanley Cup matchup between Chicago and Pittsburgh. I have a hatred for this rivalry. Lost to the Penguins in ’92. Thanks Pierre. So there’s a little bit of love and hate to this rivalry. So I’m going to be really excited to get out to Soldier field to watch this one.
But I think even more so going to the Olympics for myself – I’ve played in the Olympics. Once was not so pretty. The second one won the Silver Medal. And even though it was second place, it was one of the greatest experiences I ever had. But even going further, being on the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver — I’ve never been in a more exciting better event in my life.
And I feel like going over to Sochi and what you said, Doc, and Pierre, and Ed… I think it’s going to be the best tournament I’ve ever seen. And I think everybody is worried about all this – the situation over there. But I think once we get over there and the sports – start playing the game, start playing the excitement of what’s going to happen on the ice and as well as NBC and all the guys on this phone – on this call — how they work the games, how they call the games, and bring it to the fans.
I think this is going to be an unbelievable and unprecedented Olympics and I’m just really proud to be a part of it.
Question for Jeremy. I’m just wondering about the – what’s your itinerary is going to be like Saturday night into Sunday and is there any nervousness about the trying to pull this doubleheader off?
Jeremy Roenick: Well, it’s a great question. My schedule has been pretty crazy over the last couple weeks which, Sam, I think really – I think he pieced it together perfectly — like he said — to keep me busy and to keep me in the air and on the airwaves. So I get to LA. I start doing all my prep stuff on Saturday.
I get out to the game, work the game, I’m going to enjoy being out there watching the rivalry, jump on the charter — the NHL charter that’s going to zip back to New York, hopefully get a couple hours sleep, check into the hotel and zip right out to Yankee Stadium to – I’m sure they’re going to have me running around doing interviews, and getting on the ice with my skates. Sam likes to have me skate even though I don’t like to skate anymore. But he keeps my knees fresh. And then I have a day off and back in the studio and back out to the Yankee Stadium again on Wednesday. It’s going to be a lot of running around, a lot of talking, and not too much sleep. But then again, it’s pretty tough to sleep with all this fun stuff going on.
That’s two different wardrobes, right?
Jeremy Roenick: It depends on how wrinkled it is when I sleep on the plane. I might just pull out another one. So it’s okay…different tie, just a different tie.
This is for Sam. Obviously, you’re a veteran of these outdoor games. And now is there anything about Yankee Stadium’s set up that’s unique or different, better, more challenging? And also, I assume you’re a Red Sox fan. You do not have to recuse yourself from doing that game?
Sam Flood: I have to recuse myself since I’m going to be on a flight to Sochi on Saturday. So that’s how far away I am from Yankee Stadium. What’s neat about Yankee Stadium is the modern ball park gives you all the connectivity to make it a lot easier to produce television. Very different than doing FenwayPark or Wrigley Field.
This place was built once television was created. So it makes it a better place to work with – as great as Fenway Park is, it’s still a little more challenging to find camera plots and move things around. This is fully connected and we’ve got some great plans for it. And it should be quite a spectacle.
The only concern now is how bright the sun will be on Sunday because it’s going to be a beautiful, cold, sunny day and we just got to make sure that the eye black under the players eyes so that they can see the puck and look as mean as the NFL players.
Do you find it interesting now with the – everybody in the NFL worried about being too cold next week, you guys are, you know, love that kind of weather?
Sam Flood: I think it’s a perfect set up for the week. What a way to start Super Bowl Week with the NHL playing on the stage in New York City. It’s a lot of fun.
I had a question for Sam and then I wanted to follow up with JR as well on. Sam, about the logistics for Dodger Stadium, how does that map out when you went to do a site survey and feel like the rink was in the right place and the cameras can capture what’s going on best.
Sam Flood: Well, I did not go on the survey. Our director and coordinating producer, John McGuinness, went out. They were thrilled with what they were able to play with in there and I’ve seen all the map drawings and the designs. And the NHL’s got a really cool design for it. I’m excited for the creativity and how they’re going to make it seem different, have the California flair to it, the musical act alone screams LA and screams it’s going to be fun.
So I think they’ve got it well plotted and the coverage plan will showcase that with aerial views and everything that makes that ballpark and that area of the country so special.
And JR, having been in LA and playing in LA, do you worry that the hockey gets overlooked a little bit with all the things that are going on or will that sort of blend in well with the volleyball and everything else with the music acts?
Jeremy Roenick: I think one thing that people don’t really appreciate about the California area, the LA area, is they have ridiculously loyal fans. People don’t understand what it’s like to be in Staples Center on a day-to-day basis playing hockey in there. It is a full building, it is a loud building, it is an energetic building, and a lot of times it’s a raucous building.
Those fans, they can get at you. When their teamed together with Anaheim fans, I’ve seen the relationship between the two. They do not appreciate each other, they don’t like each other, and it’s that battle of the 100-mile radius of Southern California. I really think that it’s going to be a really cool venue having all these fans in one building in such a unique game.
But, you know, they’re used to having a lot of stuff going around out there. Like you said, it’s Tinseltown, and they will react and respond extremely positive to a game like this and I just – I hope that the weather really helps the ice and it’s a good game, because I know the players and the fans are going to put on a heck of a show.
So if you’re not going to put on your skates you figure you’ll put on your trunks and go out to the volleyball court?
Jeremy Roenick: Well I’m hoping that there’s, like, a little pool over and Sam will let me put my swim trunks on. I’ll wear the t-shirt, though. He’ll tell me to wear a t-shirt, though, but that’s okay. I’ll go with it.
Hi, this question is for Sam. You touched on this a little bit earlier but I was hoping you could take me through how does your team work with Dodgers Stadium, Yankee Stadium to prepare for your broadcasts.
Sam Flood: Well, the group goes out and does surveys at each venue that we’re doing any event at to plot cameras, the legal, show where they want the ring to be, and then they’ll give us their entertainment plan in terms of what ancillary content there will be. You know, for example, if you go back to Michigan and Michigan Stadium, there was the kids’ rink, there was the stage where we introduced the women’s Olympic team.
There are all those elements are discussed meeting after meeting to make sure when gameday comes everything’s in the right place. And clearly, depending on the stadium, you’re worried about connectivity, where your truck’s going to be, how you’re going to keep people warm in particularly in Michigan, keeping Doc and Eddie and Pierre.
We’re less worried about Pierre because he had his skates on so we knew he would be frostbitten. But Doc and Pierre, we want to make sure they had warmth because they’re right at the glass. At the same time we want them to feel like they were part of the scene so they understood what the players were experiencing and I think for the most part, Doc, it was a good experience?
Mike Emrick: Oh, yes. And as I said earlier, you talk to anybody that’s been in it, it was outstanding and for us we were a little cold but we sure couldn’t see 2/3 of the rink well and thanks to an isolated camera we can see the rest of the rink really well.
And do you guys have any special production enhancements? Cameras, graphics, that you’re planning to use?
Sam Flood: The production enhancement is being at a baseball stadium in the elements with an open sky and an airplane overhead to show you the cool angles. And so one of my favorite things to do in an outdoor game is show a replay from an airplane. Can’t do that indoors.
I have a question for the analysts first and then kind of a related question for Sam after. But just wanted to know what you guys thought of the aforementioned Ducks who I think maybe a little bit surprisingly have the most victories, the most points in the league.
Eddie Olczyk: Sure. You know, when you look at how they came, them being the Ducks, how they came into the year with the injuries on the back end and be able to stabilize their back end, get great play from everyone of, you know, three or four goaltenders that have played for Bob Murray and Bruce Boudreau and the Anaheim Ducks, how they’ve been able to just find ways… you know, they’re right with Getzlaf and Perry, two of the better all-around players in the entire National Hockey League.
The one thing that’s been very noticeable is they’ve got secondary scoring in Anaheim so they’ve gotten contributions from a lot of different guys besides the Big Two. Dustin Penner had a terrific year. They can play any way you want. You want to try to win a 6-5 game, they can do that.
It’s been an amazing run and, you know, I think Bruce Boudreau and his staff and Bob Murray in particular did a lot over the course of the last couple of years for the Ducks to be at the top of the point total in the entire National Hockey League. So it’s been really fun to watch and I echo it with the JR about Anaheim of watching them and how entertaining that they are because they still make some mistakes and that allows for exciting hockey…they’re one of the great stories in the League this year.
Pierre McGuire: I think Anaheim outside of Chicago is the most entertaining team to watch in the League right now. I think they’re the fastest team in the League right now from top end of the roster to the bottom end and we talked about their supplemental offense. You couldn’t be more right. Guys like Andrew Cogliano and Nick Bonino have had phenomenal years for them.
Look at Matt Beleskey and the way he’s sit in there. They’ve got great veteran leadership and iconic player like Teemu Selanne and another guy like Saku Koivu. There are very few holes in that lineup and a lot of people are talking about who’s going to be the rookie of the year. Is it going to be Nathan MacKinnon in Colorado? Is it going to be Chris Kreider with the New York Rangers?
Nobody’s talking about Hampus Lindholm, arguably one of the best young defensemen to come into the NHL in a very long time. He’s just been so stable and so secure. And Eddie talked about Cam Fowler. Cam Fowler and Ben Lovejoy have quietly become one of the best tandems in the National Hockey League.
The Anaheim Ducks have built their team properly, they’re a very difficult team to play against, and they should have a prolonged run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Given how successful they’ve been and how entertaining they are, as you guys have said, Sam I’m wondering if there are any sort of schedule components or opportunities to get the Ducks on NBCSN a little bit more than they are currently scheduled?
Sam Flood: We have three wildcard games for later in the season that we can move around so that’s one of the considerations. We are always looking to improve schedule and showcase teams that are playing as well as the Ducks are. So it is a possibility.
Sam, just a quick question on – two questions for you, actually. What are the broadcast positions for Saturday and Sunday and Wednesday’s games and is there any consideration into maybe having Doc and Eddie do one rinkside at any point in the future after New Year’s Day?
Sam Flood: Well, Doc, the last I got was you guys are upstairs in Yankee Stadium and the same plan is in place for LA.
Doc Emrick: Yes. Yankee Stadium I know we’re behind home plate and Soldier Field right now the plan is to use the NFL Booth, which is at midfield.
Could the Saturday night game in LA be perhaps a chance to prove that there is a larger audience out there for West Coast teams that could impact future scheduling? Could impact maybe seeing more marquis games out on the West Coast?
Sam Flood: Well, we’re always trying to put the West Coast teams on the air and we’ve done I think a good job over the years, particularly coming off the cup we were trying, when the Kings were East, able to try and manage and maneuver them into the schedule. We’re constantly looking at ways to do that because we want to grow the audience everywhere and clearly there are some talented players and wonderful teams in the Pacific time zone.
So we’ve got to keep growing those and we’re, again, our scheduling process for the League is very detailed and we’re looking day by day on how to grow that rating and grow the audience in these different markets. The hard thing, as you’re well aware, is time difference. When you’ve got a game at 8:00 p.m. on a Wednesday night in the East Coast, that’s 5:00 o’clock on the West Coast.
So a Kings/Blackhawks game is going to homes in the LA at 5:00 at night and that’s going to impact your rating because people are commuting and someone once told me there was traffic in Los Angeles so it can take a while to get home. So because of that, it impacts your overall number. So there are a lot of factors in these decisions and weekends are obviously advantageous and some double headers that we’re beginning to do now.
Good afternoon. I’d like to jump in with an Olympics question. There’s a lot of talk, it seems, that Jonathan Quick has the inside track on being the starting goaltender for Team USA in Sochi and I wanted to ask if that’s the way you see it or do you think there’s a case to be made for Ryan Miller as the starter?
Eddie Olczyk: I don’t think that there’s any doubt that Danny [Bylsma] was in a pretty salty position. Either way he goes. He’s going to give his team the best opportunity to win. There’s no doubt about that. I’m not sure who he’s going to start, I really am not. I’m not privy to that information but we’ve seen it in prior Olympics and particularly with Team Canada back in 2010, maybe you start with a certain person, things can change and you put somebody else in there and you end up winning the gold medal.
At the end of the day I think that either way he goes to start it [Jonathan Quick or Ryan Miller], may not be how it ends up, and Jimmy Howard as well, who’s a little banged up right now and isn’t, for the record, for the Detroit Red Wings unfortunately come Sochi. It’ll be interesting to see which direction he goes to in game one.
Jeremy Roenick: I think the next couple of weeks are really going to dictate a lot with Jonathan Quick, being out as long as he was due to injury, it’s going to be a really important process to watch him and how he’s moving and how he’s feeling over the next couple of weeks. I just don’t feel that Jonathan Quick is the guy to start. It’s his job to lose.
You have to give Ryan Miller a bunch of credit for the way that he’s come out and played this year. He’s played on a horrible team, which would probably be a lot worse if it wasn’t for Ryan Miller and the way that he has played. He’s ready for the challenge. I’m sure he’s proven that he can do it. I think this is Jonathan Quick’s job to lose and if I was a betting guy, which I am, I would expect him to be right there.
This is for Doc. Doc, are you doing both games at Yankees Stadium?
Doc Emrick: Yes.
My question is so much of the way you guys present these games is to kind of embrace the uniqueness and the history of each of the places that the outdoor games have been. Do you think that doing two games at Yankees Stadium will take anything away from the second game in that you’ll kind of cover the coolness of being at Yankees Stadium Sunday and then suddenly three days later there’s another game at Yankees Stadium?
Doc Emrick: No. I was going through old articles last night and it’s pathetic. I’m an analog guy still in terms of some of my stuff back through history and there was discussion about the Islanders and Rangers actually closing old Yankees Stadium with a game. That never materialized. But there are elements like that that are unique to Rangers/Islanders that I think we can still implement. The panoramic view will be of the same, the façade and the decoration of all of that and what they’re doing on the ice.
I think both games are going to hold enough that we will be able to use whatever items we didn’t use in the Sunday game on Wednesday evening. There are a few references to plays made in Yankee Stadium in the five years that this new one, or four seasons, has been used that we may not get to use in the first time. If we wind up with enough history hopefully they’ll be a few things like that. There are some other things that have happened in Ranger games, some of the side bar things that haven’t really pertained to the playing of the game that I think are kind of interesting and I’m saving those so that we’ll get a chance to get those in on Wednesday as well.
When those two teams [the Ranger and the Islanders] get together, or when the Devils and Rangers do, that’s part of the fascination of it. Selfishly I wish we were still in the old stadium because there would be a lot more history that I wouldn’t have to qualify by saying over in the other parking lot where the old place was. But those are just phrases that are easy to rule out.
I wanted to ask Doc, you know that Eddie had joked about drawing the short straw in this game, I wanted to know if you had any regrets about having to sit out in the cold in New York and not being in LA this weekend?
Doc Emrick: No, not at all. Yeah, this was my first trip other than the site survey in Yankee Stadium so to sit there behind home plate is going to be fascinating. They did offer a first base camera position that is used for baseball cameras on first base and also one on third. Walking around I discovered that we were just about as far away [from the rink] as staying behind home and having that 50-yard line view of the rink as we were to take an end zone division. So that’s the reason we decided on upstairs behind home plate.
The other thing too is that it’s out of the elements that way and even though we got snowed on during New Year’s Day, and that was just fine, that was one other element that led to it. But when you’re calling these games the distance from the rink sometimes makes a difference in the call that you make and the same thing happened in the site survey for one of the future games on March 1 at Soldier Field. At that arena, the ice rink was close enough to where the normal broadcast position was that you weren’t in another county trying to do the game. Both of those decisions were made largely because we were able to be so close with the existing places rather than moving around on a scaffold as we did in Buffalo, Philadelphia and Boston.
Sam, I wanted to ask you, why is Jeremy Roenick the best person to do this doubleheader Saturday/Sunday? Why him? What does he bring to the table that allows him to do the west coast/east coast doubleheader?
Sam Flood: It’s really just about keeping him out of the pubs at night and it’s the safest way to do that. [LAUGHTER]
No, in all seriousness… Jeremy Roenick, his personality fits well in doing fun things like this. His life is an adventure, I mean, he’s Walter Mitty, he’s just this bigger than life cosmic character that is fun to do different things with. He’s a different character so let’s do a different thing with him.
In terms of that, you touch on the differences, how has it been in terms of planning these games because they are so greatly different, the one Saturday night compared to the one Sunday and the one again on Wednesday.
Sam Flood: Well, it’s certainly two different production teams so that will give a little bit of a different velocity but most of all it’s the NHL that’s kind of dictating the feel of the games because of what they’re doing surrounding the games and the way they’re building out the infield and the outfield of these stadiums. That will create the tone and feel for what’s going on there and obviously LA is very different from New York in terms of culture and in terms of weather so that combination certainly dictates how we handle it.
Doc, you’ve called a number of Olympics, can you just tell us, what is the special feel that you have for calling a tournament with such talent playing?
Doc Emrick: I think that’s the thing that makes them so exciting and it gets in your blood. After the first one in Albertville in ’92, I realized I wasn’t sleeping very much and it wasn’t out of fatigue that I was staying awake. I mean, it wasn’t out of fear it was more out of the thrill of what you pointed to and that’s seeing the best guys ever available from Finland and the best guys from Czech Republic coming off the ice and, on come the best guys possible from the United States and the best guys possible from Slovakia.
You go back to the hotel and you’re still sort of charged up and so you sleep fast if you can and look forward to what you’re going to see the next day. It’s the best from other countries. That’s what happened in ’92 and it’s happened in every Olympics that I’ve been fortunate to do since. It’s the excitement of it that gets in your blood and nothing changes that, fortunately, through the years. It’s just fun to be there and just thank your lucky stars you get to do Olympic Hockey because there’s something special about it and you can see it in the eyes of every player in October or November who are looking ahead to maybe being picked for their national team.
I think when you’ve seen the performances we have this year from somebody like Rick Nash for example who was chosen, my goodness, he’s impressive and you’ve been looking for that to happen and sure enough it has.
There are some other players too who have put on special performances this year. I think the fact that Ryan Miller is tied for eighth in save percentage in the NHL with the team that has the fewest points out of 30 is a phenomenal statement about how much his play means to him for his team in the NHL and the team that he’s going to be a part of over in Sochi.
Eddie and Pierre would you mind handicapping the tournament and where you think US and Canada might finish?
Eddie Olczyk: Go ahead Pierre.
Pierre McGuire: Well I think both teams have a legitimate chance to win metals. It’s going to be really exciting. The biggest question I have going into the tournament, will the Russians be able to handle the pressure, because that was critically important for Canada in 2010 when they defended home ice and won the gold medal. It’s not an easy thing to do especially in an amped up hockey environment like you’re going to see in Sochi.
But I’d like to think that basically you’re going to see Canada, Russia, the United States, Sweden and Finland be very, very competitive for those three metals; gold, silver and bronze but, again, it’s going to be amazingly intense.
Doc talked about the passion levels the skill levels and the speed levels. The one thing that will change a little bit for all the countries involved, especially the North American countries will be the big ice.
International ice is 200×100 where as an NHL ice surface is 200×85 so there’s that extra 15 feet that makes it a little bit more difficult to defend. It’s a different way of manufacturing offense and for the American’s don’t have a lot of great depth down the middle but they have tremendous size and speed down the wings and creativity so it’s a little bit different way of building your team but I really think the American’s have a legitimate chance to play for one of the three metals and potentially the gold metal.
Eddie Olczyk: Yeah, I think with the ice surface Pierre touched on, there seems to be this thought process that we’re going to see 5/4, 6/5, 4/3 three games when it comes to the Olympics because of the ice surface. I don’t believe that’s going to be the case. I think we will have games that are like that just because somebody gets behind by two or three goals and then you have to start taking chances and trying to get back in the game and when you do that you play against the best in the world, the pucks going to end up in the back of your net so you have – there’s going to be those games where somebody is falling behind. You’re going to have to take some chances.
The reality is, is that you’ve got to protect the middle of the ice. You’ve got to be able to defend inside the dots and that, to me, will be the difference for whichever country can do that. All these teams, I should say, the majority of the teams Pierre touched on them, have the ability to be able to generate and finish off opportunities but I believe it may come down to who can defend and it’s not necessarily the goal tending because we all know, and Doc will finish this phrase, but if you don’t have a goal tending you’ve…
Doc Emrick: …got no shot!
Eddie Olczyk: That’s right, Doc, way to play along! Nice receiving of that pass. But take the goal tenders out of it. You’ve got to be able to defend when you don’t have the puck and that, to me, will be one thing that I will be watching from my perch in Sochi is that (we seem) to protecting the middle of the ice because that’s the pucks eventually trying to get there and players have eventually got to get there in order to put the puck in the back of the net and give yourself a chance to win a metal.
Sweden’s the one team. I think if we were talking about the teams and the individuals if we were having this conference say eight weeks ago, ten weeks ago, I think we all would agree that when you talk about suits who should be up there in the top four, five like Pierre mentioned but the question mark was what was happening with the goal tending? Was Henrik Lundqvist going to be able to stabilize or get back his game because for the majority of the season, and I did not see the game last night against the Islander’s, so taking that aside he’s been barely above average and we’re not used to seeing Henrik Lundquist do that. He’s a champion, an Olympic champion, going into this year’s Olympics.
His season has been just that, it’s been above average. I mean, it’s been spotty at best. He had a nice run here over the course of, what, last eight, ten games where it seems like he’s found his game so to me that’s one story that I’m looking at for Sweden and I didn’t – I would have never said that a year ago. This year I think rightfully with the way that he has been inconsistent for the most part so how will he play for his native country come the drop of the (buck) in Sochi?
Is there a concern about having a glut of too many outdoor games year after year and when it comes to the Olympics I see that you guys are going to be doing a lot of replays in the afternoons on NBCSN. Will that be based on replaying the American game or are you really going to choose the best game of the day?
Sam Flood: I think inevitably the American game will take priority in those afternoon slots but we’ll have to – if there’s a great game we’re going to do that. And in terms of the number of games we’ve got to see how this plays out this year. The NHL obviously is going to study it and see how it plays and we’ll look at the ratings and we’ll look at where we all are and I think we’ll all have a good sense of it.
But until you try something you don’t know how it’s going to be so it’s not worth guessing whether it’s the greatest thing ever or maybe we’ve gone too far, we’ll see and hopefully it’s the greatest thing ever and we continue to have some fun like this but we’ll get to the right place.
How do you feel about it right now Sam?
Sam Flood: I feel excited. I love the fact that we’re doing these and we’re having a good time.