Anyone who has played the Bruins this season and has been forced to watch a NESN (New England Sports Network) broadcast knows Jack Edwards. The ESPN analyst/Bruins play-by-play is well known in the sporting community for things such as ABC’s Wide World of Sports and ESPN’s hockey coverage up until 2003 when the league switched to Versus. Unfortunately for Jack Edwards, who has a resume as a broadcaster that would rival the President’s, many people last night were calling for his job.
Paul Bevin, TheHockeyWriters’ staff writer covering the Detroit Red Wings, said it best when he called Edwards out for being completely unprofessional and in fact, scary, when he guffawed on Sunday during a Flyers Bruins game on NESN at the Wachovia Center. Edwards’ maniacal laughter after a hit from behind was enough to enrage Philadelphians watching the broadcast on the NHL’s Center Ice since they are forced to watch all broadcasts except the Comcast Sports Network ones that broadcast the Flyers games in the Philadelphia region. And Flyers’ fans have a legitimate right to be upset. The laugh was directed at the fans in the Wachovia Center after they booed the officials for a non-call hit from behind on defenseman Randy Jones.
The sequence started with a hooking penalty to Boston’s rookie forward Blake Wheeler. The Flyers were down 3-1 in the second period and the call sheet against Boston seemed very low. In fact it was Boston’s first infraction according to the stat sheet, but with the penalty came a dull, sarcastic roar from the Philadelphia crowd which had already seen non-calls lead to fast breaks and pucks going past netminder Antero Niittymaki. A few seconds later a Flyer was pulled down from behind against the far boards behind Tim Thomas’ net by Dennis Wideman. The fans booed and when Boston retrieved the puck Wideman found himself going to the box and giving the Flyers, who had been outplaying the Bruins for relatively the entire game, a chance to eat away at the 3-1 deficit. Jack Edwards, in all his professionalism, decided to comment that the penalty was brought on after the fact by the crowd booing, but in reality he hadn’t noticed that the officials hand had been up the entire time signaling a delayed penalty.
During the Flyers long 5-3 powerplay another Flyer was dragged down in front of the net without a call. It seemed that the officials didn’t want to give Boston another penalty and so the boos rained down from the heights of the Wachovia Center. Jack Edwards made another comment about the Philadelphia crowd wanting a penalty. The Flyers played the powerplay well, but unfortunately could not find the twine behind Tim Thomas who made numerous incredible saves during the span of the 5-3 and the entire game.
A bit after Philadelphia failed to convert on the long 5-3 the most unprofessional thing many have ever seen occurred:
The line from the commentary reads something like this. “Jones on the endboard, LUCIC HAMMERS HIM. Down goes Jones, and how’s this for irony? The crowd wants a call for a hit from behind. AH-HA-HA-HA-HA!”
Ignoring Edwards’ maniacal laughter for a second, just what is it about this hit that is ironic? The reference seems to be directed at a hit by that same Flyers’ blueliner Randy Jones on young Bruins center Patrice Bergeron last season where Jones received a lengthy suspension. The hit at that time was a classic hit from behind against the boards which looked oddly similar to the one Jones received from Lucic. While Jones, when he was hit, was further away from the boards it is the head going into the boards in an odd way that can lead to severe injury, concussions, and even paralysis.
While neither hit seems to scream “intent to injure” both are very dangerous and should be penalized. The lack of suspensions just shows that the NHL is still handing out suspensions by aftermath rather than action which is a recipe for disaster and doesn’t do much at all for the safety of its players. That though is another issue for another day.
Jack Edwards is referencing a hit from last season that Randy Jones still gets booed for in Boston. Unfortunately Bergeron was severely injured but admitted it was his fault for not getting in a safe position when he knew the hit was coming. That doesn’t mean Randy Jones should be off the hook of course. The league cannot have dangerous hits causing players harm. Lucic’s hit on Jones is no exception. The fact that there was no call seems to show that the refs had decided that in the 4 minute or so span they had felt enough had been called against Boston to warrant a non-call in this situation. In the meantime on the air in millions of households Jack Edwards gave a new definition to the words “classless” and “unprofessional”.
The game would be tarnished yet again when a missed high sticking call which sent a stick to the face of the Flyers’ Dan Carcillo would lead to the Bruins’ 4th goal of the night. The Bruins won 4-3 with 3 of their goals being made when the Flyers should have been on the powerplay.
It is only a matter of time before officiating problems, safety problems, and broadcasting problems come back to haunt the league. It is a hard pill to swallow for those who watch this game unconditionally even though it wrestles with all of these issues constantly. Disillusionment with the league, the officials, and Gary Bettman has reached all time highs. Eventually if the league doesn’t step in and do something to keep the fans happy it will end up hurting the sport that we all love. Nothing but professionalism and class should be demonstrated from every member of the league from the interns to Bettman himself.