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The Usual Suspects

Friedman underused on Hockey Night in Canada Add to ...

Why is Elliotte Friedman so underused on Hockey Night In Canada ? While the program promotes former brawler P.J. Stock doing highlights and treatises on The Code, Friedman is typically reduced - outside of a feature on the Saturday pre-game show - to the cherished "What will it take to get back into this game?" interviews between periods and after games.

While understated on-camera, Friedman is capable of an open-ended question in under 10 seconds - without the parenthetical wandering of more famous names. He is still more comfortable in front of the lens than several of the Hot Stove 's stock players and commands respect from players and peers. Plus, Friedman - who was recruited from The Score - would deliver a smidgen of balance to the editorial slant of the show that leans toward … shall we say "traditional" values.

Here's Friedman on his CBC blog: "Let's see: Blindside the other team's best offensive player - no suspension. Try to rip off the leg of the other team's franchise cornerstone - no suspension. Hit someone hard from behind into the boards - game misconduct's enough, until we find out the guy's seriously hurt. Okay, suspension."

Or maybe that's Friedman's problem. Too smart for the room. Weekes Of Effort The advantage of using a former player or coach as a TV game analyst is that, when you get it right - Cris Collinsworth, Charles Barkley - it adds a dimension you can't get from a journalist who's never played the sport. The disadvantage? It can take several years of painful on-camera experience before you know if you've got the next Craig Simpson or the next Rance Mulliniks.

Former players and coaches have two challenges. They must abandon the friendships and camaraderie of their past life to speak honestly. And they must cram the technical training of 10 years into one year.

Which is a way of assessing HNIC 's decision to give former NHL goalie Kevin Weekes the coveted analyst position on the doubleheader game each week. A former player and a visible minority, Weekes could be a home run for the show. Having retired just last summer, Weekes is trying to play catch-up on one of the largest stages there is in hockey broadcasting.

Watching Weekes's work on Saturday's Detroit-Vancouver game, it's clear the veteran of seven teams in 11 seasons is still in the middle of a transition. Having lost the initial nerves that come with being parachuted into this plum assignment, he's still struggling to find his critical voice - and to get away from his monotone delivery. On Saturday, he demonstrated reasons for hope and reasons for concern.

When Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo let in three goals in rapid succession, Weekes dwelt on the technical reasons for the goals instead of concentrating on the real story - is Luongo enough of a clutch goalie for Vancouver to win a Stanley Cup? Sidekick Mark Lee picked up the Luongo thread, but Weekes remained in coach-speak about angles, deflections and such - missing the big picture. And both Weekes and Lee referred to Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard as the "young rookie" even though Howard will be 26 next week.

When at a loss for insight, Weekes reverts to the hockey-platitude bank: "He was hungry, he wanted that puck … try to focus on the positives … good desperation for Roberto Luongo … the Canucks stepping on the gas pedal, going for the jugular."

The Nuke LaLoosh bromides are what often happens when you're playing hockey games for 11 years instead of watching them on TV.

Weekes did have his moments. He ripped Detroit backup goalie Chris Osgood for not sitting on team bench with his teammates, and he suggested Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault call a timeout when Detroit had tied the game in the second period, because the Canucks are a younger team (they also have the NHL's best record for comebacks).

Weekes displays a more animated personality on The NHL Network so we know it's there. But with capable replacements available, Weekes will need to seize the opportunity. Thin Ice Other than the fact that Red Bull was a paying sponsor, why was the Crushed Ice feature from Quebec City a part of Saturday's HNIC telecast? Skating? Then why not short track? Barrel jumping? Figure skating? The embarrassed look on host Scott Oake's face said it all about this paid infomercial's place in a hockey broadcast.

 

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