Being a broadcaster in any sport is always a challenge, and the NHL is no different. Imagine if you went to a hockey game, had a camera and microphone shoved in front of your face, and were told to describe everything that happened in the game for three-plus hours.
It’s not as easy as it seems. It’s not about yelling “Score!” at the top of your lungs after a goal, or “Great Save!” after a goalie stops a shot. It’s about the little things that nobody seems to notice: subtle line changes, where and how a player got injured, changes in a team’s power-play strategy, whether or not a play was offsides, who touched the puck first on an icing call, background information on a new player, and most importantly, the ability to track a small round puck for an entire game.
We seem to take all of this for granted, but the reality is, broadcasting a hockey game is a very difficult job to fulfill.
Although there are plenty of excellent broadcasters in the NHL, a few of them stand out from the crowd. So without further ado, I present to you the ten best TV broadcasters in the NHL today.
10. Jim Hughson – CBC
Hughson has perhaps the most soothing broadcaster’s voice in the NHL. His diction and enunciation is impeccable, and every single word he says has a distinct sharpness to it.
He is the lead broadcaster for CBC, and has called every Stanley Cup Final since 2008. Oddly enough, the first time that I ever heard of him was when he was the voice of EA Sport’s NHL 07, which is still my favorite hockey video game.
My personal favorite call is “Great Save Luongo!”, which he says every time Robeto Luongo makes a unspectacular save.
9. Chris Cuthbert – TSN
Chris Cuthbert is Canada’s other announcing great, and it seems fitting that they work for rival networks.
Cuthbert’s broadcasting career began on accident. According to rtbot.net
On April 18, he was positioned as a reporter in Washington, providing brief and periodic reports of the Washington Capitals-New Jersey Devils game to the national CBC viewing audience watching the Canadian network’s game broadcast from Montreal (the Canadiens against the Boston Bruins). A power outage struck the Montreal area, which postponed the game in that city, and CBC was forced to turn to Cuthbert in Washington to provide the full broadcast – play-by-play, analyst, host and everything else. The broadcast was totally done off the cuff as besides no regular analysts, there were no graphics or replay capabilities. His stellar solo effort caught the network’s attention, was nominated for a Gemini Award, and launched what has been a very successful broadcasting career.
And he has been broadcasting games on a regular basis ever since. Cuthbert has a very high voice, and it’s always amusing to hear his voice crack when he calls a goal:
8. Dave Strader – NBC
Strader is on this list because he is perhaps the most unbiased commentator in the NHL. Of course, he can’t be biased because he now works for NBC, but when he was broadcasting for the Phoenix Coyotes, you could hardly tell that he was their home announcer.
He isn’t an announcer that stands out. He’s never over dramatic and doesn’t have a go-to phrase such as “Great save Luongo!”. But that’s perhaps what I enjoy most about the way he broadcasts games; always steady, consistent, and most importantly, unbiased (cough, Jack Edwards, cough cough).
One of his finest games was Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals between the L.A. Kings and the Coyotes, where the Kings eliminated Phoenix and moved on to the Stanley Cup Finals. You might have expected him to lean a bit on the Coyotes’ side, considering he was their broadcaster for four years, but he showed absolutely no hint of homerism at all.
7. Joe Bowen – Toronto Maple Leafs
As the “Voice of the Maple Leafs”, Bowen has called over 1,000 Leafs games since 1982, and I bet he’s showed the same passion and enthusiasm for the past thirty years.
His catchphrase is “Holy Mackinaw”, which he exclaims after a spectacular play on the ice (ex. Jonas Gustavsson robbing the Ducks on this play).
Bowen’s emotional attachment to the Maple Leafs is unmatched by any other announcer. I have never seen a broadcaster cry on air after a goal, but Bowen did after Mats Sundin scored to keep the Leafs’ 2002 Stanley Cup hopes alive:
Listen to him yell, “Don’t tell me about heart and dedication and resilience, this is unbelievable!”, as he fails to keep his emotions in check. Never gets old.
4. Joe Beninati – Washington Capitals
2. Bob Miller – Los Angeles Kings
Because of his Los Angeles connection, I’m going to dub Miller the “Vin Scully of hockey”.
Thirty-seven years as the “Voice of the Los Angeles Kings,” Southern California Sports Broadcasters Hall of Fame inductee, Wisconsin Hockey Hall of Fame inductee, Kings Hall of Fame inductee, Hockey Hall of Fame inductee, a star on the famous Hollywood Boulevard Walk of Fame, California Sportscaster of the Year in 1997 and 2002, and, to top all of that, he was honored by having the Staples Center press box named after him and was presented with a “lifetime contract” by the club in 1997.
That should be enough.
The only thing missing from his resume was to call a Stanley Cup victory, and he got that wish this past season when the Kings miraculously came out of nowhere to capture hockey’s holy grail.
Like Scully, Miller doesn’t necessarily have a “go-to call”, but his consistency and durability in the broadcast booth is what sets him apart.
He has called numerous Kings’ comebacks over the years, which include the “Miracle at Manchester” in 1982, and a more recent comeback against the Dallas Stars, which is below: