NHL on TNT is already more fun than NBC has ever been, growing pains and all
A new hockey season is fast approaching, and with it comes a change that many have been hoping for.
Since 2005, hockey fans have only known about exclusive coverage of the NHL by NBC. All of that changes for the 2021-2022 season and beyond, as ESPN and TNT now share media rights to NHL broadcasts for the next seven years. Hockey fans won’t have to suffer from NBC’s inability to cover and market the sport of hockey – or hear from people like Mike Milbury – ever again.
We haven’t officially seen the ESPN side of the show yet, but on Thursday hockey fans got their first glimpse of what TNT is bringing to the table with a Philadelphia Flyers pre-season game against the Boston Bruins. The result? A refreshing but incredibly glitchy – and weirdly pleasant – mess!
Things started off pretty well for TNT, with the debut of their minimalist scorebug and graphics package, which caught the attention of many hockey fans.
Here’s your take on the NHL scorebug on TNT, which looks pretty clean and understated. pic.twitter.com/nFx5kfEHN6
– Horrible ad (@awfulannouncing) September 30, 2021
Here’s a thread that shows what the on-screen graphics look like as the NHL debuts on TNT tonight. pic.twitter.com/7p1Xc3Mk7A
– Joe Gucciardo (@joegucciardo) September 30, 2021
After the intermission was over, hockey fans saw more changes in store for their TNT viewing experience, as well as some of the growing pains. TNT’s intermission analysts – Liam McHugh, Anson Carter and Rick Tocchet – were sitting off-center in the office. For the majority of the first intermission segment, Tocchet’s microphone was off and audio levels were out of sync.
And yet, it all came together for a brief, brilliant moment as Tocchet demonstrated exactly what NHL players should do to stop being cross-checked in a hilarious out-of-office skit.
We start with Rick Tocchet suggesting players relax with their skates in the nuts to stop the cross-control epidemic pic.twitter.com/hkcw3dwMix
– Internet #BlackLivesMatter (@cjzero) October 1, 2021
Dude, I wonder what hockey will be like on TNT.
Hockey on TNT: pic.twitter.com/rzybawYi4E
– Justin Emerson (@ J15Emerson) October 1, 2021
Have watched 5 minutes of the TNT intermission program and have experienced:
-The wild audio problems
-Rick Tocchet kick @liam_mchugh in nuts
-Liam potentially makes an adult joke
Already off the rails. Big fan
– Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) October 1, 2021
TNT even a rules analyst – former NHL referee Dan Koharski – on air as well, much like the NFL did with their shows.
After the first intermission, however, that’s where the real problems started.
For much of the second half, TNT’s show was terribly disturbing – at times distinctly resembling a VHS tape from the 1990s – or ceased to function altogether.
TNT throwing it in the 90s, I see pic.twitter.com/1i7lrVdrbv
– Mary Clarke (@marycclarke) October 1, 2021
you watch the NHL on TNT pic.twitter.com/qWGanCwHB1
– Spoked Z (@SpokedZ) October 1, 2021
I don’t even know how it goes. this is an analog tv era problem and i can’t even explain how it is pic.twitter.com/1GRbnQiPi8
– Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) October 1, 2021
Things seemed to be largely resolved at the start of the third period, but it’s certainly a poor performance for TNT from a technical standpoint.
And yet, working, the TNT show felt like a breath of fresh air after years of stagnant NBC airing. Yes the TNT issues weren’t a good first step forward, but I’m willing to give them a little leniency here because it’s preseason and everyone is working the rust.
I already love the chaotic energy that McHugh, Carter, and Tocchet bring to intermission shows, although it would be nice to see more women on the desk besides being contributors. Sure it’s early, but so far I haven’t wanted to mute the intermission show and listen to something more entertaining.
Honestly, right now my biggest problem with TNT shows is that the current team of Kenny Albert and Eddie Olczyk with Keith Jones between the benches are all voices we’ve heard on NBC shows before. They’re great at their jobs, yes, but it would have really freshened the action up any moment with new or rising vocals.
Despite all the problems, mishaps, and small objections, I’m already having more fun with TNT shows than I’ve ever had with NBC. Of course, it’s still early days and things can easily fall apart from here, but I see a lot of potential for the NHL group on TNT to become the kind of broadcast that hockey fans have sought for years.
Over the years, NBA on TNT has set the bar high for fun and informative broadcasts. Although hockey still has a long way to go to get to that point, TNT’s first Thursday broadcast was a fresh start for a sport that needed it most.