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Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Mike Milbury to fill in for Eddie Olczyk for NHL on NBC Broadcasting - A Disaster in the Making

     As many of you probably already know, Eddie Olczyk was diagnosed with colon cancer in early August of this year. Most recently, Olczyk has been working, alongside Mike Emerick, as the television color commentator for NHL on NBC. Prior to that, he was, of course, a well-known forward in the NHL. Olczyk played in 1,031 games with six different teams in his career scoring 342 goals and making 452 assists. He played for the Blackhawks from 1984-88, then for the Maple Leafs from 1988-91, the Jets from 1991-93 and again from 1995-96, the Rangers from 1993-94, the Kings in 1996, the Penguins in 1997-98, then finally back to Chicago for his last two seasons 1999-2000. In 2012 Eddie Olczyk was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Ed Olczyk 2010-04-08
Ed Olczyk, former player, head coach
and color commentator for the
Pittsburgh Penguins, returned to
Pittsburgh to participate in the pregame
ceremony honoring the final regular
season game to be played at
Civic Arena (Mellon Arena).
April 8, 2010. By Michael Miller (Own work)
[CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
     After retiring from the NHL, Olczyk returned to Pittsburgh as the color analyst for the Penguins on FSN Pittsburgh with Mike Lange. He next moved on to be the head coach for the Penguins from June 2003- December 2005. In 2006 he joined the NBC Sports team where, for 11 years, he has entertained and informed us about all things hockey.  Unfortunately in August of this year his fight with cancer has forced him to take a sabbatical, which we all hope is only temporary.

   Earlier today it was announced that while Olczyk is out recovering from surgery and treatment for his cancer, Mike Milbury will be filling his role with the NHL on NBC broadcasting team. Milbury spent 12 season in the NHL playing for the Boston Bruins. He is described as having an over aggressive style of play, which made him a good fit for the 1970's and 80's Bruins. In his 12 years on the ice for the NHL he accumulated over 200 minutes of penalty time in 2 different seasons and over 100 penalty minutes in 6 other seasons. He had a career total of 1552 penalty minutes! Milbury also made 49 goals and 189 assists in his time with the NHL. He had the talent and the ability to play in the NHL especially with the more aggressive style of play common during his time there, but there is no question that Milbury was an enforcer. Finesse, subtlety, and people skills were never talents he possessed on the ice, and from the evidence of his post play career he still has not developed any of those skills.

     After retirement  Milbury was hired as head coach by the Boston Bruins in the 1989-90 season, but despite leading the team to the Stanley Cup Finals and winning the President's Trophy that season he did not return to the Bruins Bench the following year. His next coaching job  was for Boston College in March of 1994, he was hired as their new head coach. Milbury never actually coached a single game there however, he quit suddenly in June of the same year stating that there were philosophical differences between himself and Boston College. Then in 1995 he was hired as the head coach of the New York Islanders and withing just a few months also became their General Manager. In 1997 Milbury handed the Islanders head coaching job off to Rick Bowness, but continued to serve as the Islanders GM until 2006. During his 11 seasons as Gm Milbury made 10 coaching changes, including taking the job twice himself, but that never lasted for long. During his tenure with the Islanders Milbury became known as Mad Mike, his lack of charisma and people skills became even more apparent during these years. He never had a head coach last more than 1 season, and he became known for being on the wrong end of blockbuster trades. He traded away such notable players as Zdeno Charra, Darius Kasparaitis, Robert Luongo, Ollie Jokinen, and Todd Bertuzzi. He struck out repeatedly in draft decisions as well, such as choosing Rick DiPietro rather than Dany Heatley or Mariaon Gaborik in 2000. After being fired by the Islanders Milbury stated that he would be open to a hockey operations job with another organization. Such an opportunity was never offered, which is hardly a surprise as he clearly did not have the necessary skill set to succeed in that job.

     Milbury then turned to broadcasting in 2007-08 where he became known once again for controversial decisions and statements. Insulting or possibly slandering such notable players as Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and P.K. Subban in recent years. In addition to his penchant for inappropriate comments Milbury does not have nearly the experience broadcasting as does Olczyk. In fact, he has been quoted as saying, "I'm a little nervous about it, it's not something I've done a lot of", and "I guess my approach will be to shut up until I have something to say. Being patient and waiting for the right moment will be an interesting challenge." These are not exactly reassuring comments from a man who is supposed to be an analyst and spokesperson for the NHL on NBC broadcasts. This is supposed to be the voice of an expert who is there to inform and educate fans on the current news and events going on in the hockey world. He is also expected to be able to deliver this information in an entertaining and interesting fashion.

     These are not talents that Milbury has thus far demonstrated. Hearing the news that Milbury was the indefinite fill-in for Eddie Olczyk has caused many NHL fans to shudder and ask, "what were they thinking?" While Milbury is also a retired NHL player and has experience working on the broadcasting side of the business, he only has eight or 10 games experience being in the booth full time. Also, his reputation and style are nearly a polar opposite of Olczyk. In fact, for quite some time, many avid NHL fans have been asking for Milbury to be fired. He is well-known for taking a very vocal stand on controversial issues in the Hockey world. As such, we have to ask, "isn’t there someone better that NBC could have come up with to fill in?" Almost anyone would be better.

     As of right now, this position is only temporary for Milbury. He admits that he does not know how long he will be filling in. Right now, NBC has provided Milbury a schedule that goes through January 1st of 2018. Our thoughts are with Eddie Olczyk and his family and friends as he undergoes treatment for his colon cancer. Since we heard the news in August, most of us in the hockey community have been hoping for a swift and smooth treatment process. The choice of Milbury as replacement have simply made us pray that this process is even faster and that Olczyk will be back in the NBC broadcast booth again very soon!

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