Hating Night In Canada

By HOWARD BERGER

TORONTO (Feb. 5) – As I watched the Maple Leafs-Bruins game Saturday night on CBC, I began to imagine the smoldering rage.

Predictably, the visitors were dominating every inch of ice at the Air Canada Centre and the prime crew of Hockey Night In Canada – Jim Hughson, Craig Simpson and Glenn Healy – committed one heinous act after another. I just knew it would not go over well.

Waiting until morning, I powered up my lap-top and checked a couple of the zany Internet chat-rooms devoted to the Leafs. In no time at all, there it was – a HUGHSON, SIMPSON, HEALY thread in the very first row of HF-Boards. Some person with the pseudonym Black Charger began the conversation:

These guys are obviously Leaf haters. How can CBC not see that these three clowns are going to drive viewers from their bread and butter Leafs broadcast? Could it be intentional, since there are a lot of Leaf haters nationwide that like laughing along with these three? Watching the Calgary game afterward was refreshing.The announcers were biased toward Calgary, of course, but at least they weren’t derogatory toward the Hawks. Sooner or later I will either stop watching or send CBC a very nasty email. I hope others will be doing the same thing.

“Oh oh, we must have been telling the truth again,” Healy deadpanned when I talked with him Monday night. “It’s the worst thing you can do while calling a Leafs game. I stand between the benches at ice level and actually tell viewers what is happening – and, often, what will happen. When it does, Twitter goes wild and the hate-mail starts poring in. It’s funny as hell. Of course, it should be mandatory for most people on Twitter to get a license and a breathalyzer. In fact, I would gladly hand them out – any time.”

Such is life for Healy, the former Toronto goaltender now in his second term with Hockey Night In Canada. Renowned for his wit; sharp delivery and uncanny knowledge of the game, Healy is a perfect compliment to the informed, not-quite-so-acerbic tandem of Hughson and Simpson. Given that a vast majority of nationwide telecasts involve the Maple Leafs, Healy has become the anti-Christ among hockey voices in this region.

THE “FRIENDLY” FACE OF HOCKEY NIGHT IN CANADA GURU GLENN HEALY.

Hughson is not so bad, Simpson a bit worse, but every word that comes out of Healy’s mouth is full of hate and malice. Perhaps a petition to CBC is due… He sucked as a goalie, he sucked when he was with TSN, he sucks now with CBC… Healy just has “little man” syndrome and eventually he will leave. He and Pierre McGuire should be teamed together. Both are a pair of basket cases.

“It’s all white noise,” Healy laughed. “I pay no attention to it whatsoever. Fans of the Maple Leafs aren’t mad at me; they’re ticked off at their favorite team. I’m just the messenger. All fans watch a hockey game with rose-colored glasses. In Toronto, the people are rooting for the only team that hasn’t made the playoffs over the span of two lock-outs. That isn’t my fault. I’m sure it’s hard to accept that an organization with such an immense following; one that can spend to the [salary]-cap ceiling every year, is unable to get it right. Not even once – in nearly a decade. Heck, I’d be pissed off, too.

“And, yes, I did play for the Leafs [from 1997 to 2001, primarily as back-up to Curtis Joseph]. But, I’m not being paid now to stand between the benches wearing my old Toronto jersey and waving a blue-and-white pom-pom. Leaf fans know that. They just don’t like hearing the truth about their team.”

The “truth”, of course, is subjective. But, that’s where Healy earns his keep. “I’ll give you an example,” he said. “We did the Leafs-Rangers game in New York two weekends ago. Early on, it became apparent to me that the Toronto defense pairing of Dion Phaneuf and [rookie] Mike Kostka would not be able to handle the Rangers’ big line. Rick Nash, Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik got stronger as the game progressed. Phaneuf was okay, but Kostka wasn’t quick enough or experienced enough to anticipate what the Nash line would do. [Leafs coach] Randy Carlyle should have had a guy like Carl Gunnarsson out there with Phaneuf, but he insisted on using Kostka.

“As the Rangers’ top line pored it on in the third period, I kept showing isolated replays of Phaneuf and Kostka getting beaten. I’m not sure what Randy was thinking but he didn’t make a change. Both guys played more than 30 minutes and both were minus-4 on the night. The Nash line had five points in the third-period comeback [Rangers scored four unanswered goals to win, 5-2]. The next day, even Carlyle admitted he played them too much. Still, I heard fans were angry that I kept showing the defensive miscues on TV.

“Gee, I’m terribly sorry.”

[The Hockey Night] guys were so bad yesterday, I ended up watching the Boston home feed at the start of the second period. Jack Edwards was his usual homer-self, as expected, but I still heard him compliment the Leafs a couple times, especially Reimer. More than you can say for Healy… I already stopped watching HNIC. It wasn’t easy but it was worth it based on the reaction here. Boycott CBC. Hughson and Simpson will be gone fast once their ratings take a nosedive… Healy tries to stay impartial but he comes off as such a Leaf hater.

“It just makes my point,” Healy chuckled when apprised of Toronto zealots apparently switching to the Bruins’ TV feed on Saturday. “If the Leafs are lousy – which is most of the time – I’m going to say it during the broadcast. I’m going to show you why during the broadcast. Not because I’m anti-Leaf or anti-anything. It’s simply my job to point out what is happening on the ice from my vantage-point between the benches. I do it without sugar-coating. If Leaf fans are switching to another broadcast – and I doubt it – it’s because of what I said earlier: they want to avoid hearing the truth.”

I particularly enjoy Healy’s little useless segments about Bruins players being so talented by tying their skate-laces with gloves on, and Healy calling [Boston defenseman Dougie] Hamilton a future Norris Trophy candidate, even though he didn’t do anything the entire game and hasn’t done anything in his entire career to justify such praise… I seriously hate the [Hockey Night] trio with a passion and if someone starts a petition to get rid of these ****ers, I will gladly sign. Hell, I’ll go door-to-door around my neighborhood and get others to sign… I sent them an email during the third period. I have never seen such a display of hatred toward a team during a game. Every whistle; every chance Healy got, he was ripping on the [Leafs]. Said a couple nice things about Reimer, but the rest was hard to watch.

Any hockey writer, or broadcaster, understands there is no bigger “sin” right now in Leaf land than drawing attention to Tyler Seguin and/or Dougie Hamilton – the young phenoms Boston selected with the first-round draft choices obtained for Phil Kessel. As it pertains to Healy – who cannot escape the national spot-light each week – the Bruins have already won a Stanley Cup with Seguin, while Hamilton has provided early flashes of becoming one of the NHL’s top, young defensemen (as per his scouting reviews). That Boston has embarrassed the Leafs by winning seven consecutive head-to-head meetings – including 7-0 and 8-0 last season – adds fuel to the fire.

“Oh, it’s a touchy subject for Leaf fans,” Healy agreed. “But, I didn’t make the trade, nor did any of my colleagues at the CBC. Fact is, the Leafs haven’t come close to making the playoffs in three years with Kessel while the Bruins have won the Stanley Cup. That said, I don’t know anyone on the broadcasting side who’s been more pro-Kessel than me early in the season. I keep saying, ‘it’s a matter of time… it’s a matter of time’, but no one mentions that.”

Kessel, though generating shots, remains score-less through nine games. As of Tuesday afternoon, 325 NHL players had recorded at least one goal.

The gushing over [Dougie] Hamilton was predictable given he was drafted with a pick from the Kessel trade. I called it well before the broadcast. Healy, of course, was going to do his best to glorify him. I think it’s a shame how Glenn goes out of his way to embarrass himself. I’m in agreement with everything being said in this topic… It seemed like Healy was trying to be positive toward the Leafs earlier in the [Boston] game. I started thinking maybe all those emails to CBC and comments on H-F Boards actually got a message to him. He did throw out a few positive comments. Then, as the game wore on, it seemed to bring out the old Healy again.

“Uh, yes, I pause in the middle of every telecast to read CBC emails and see how I’m doing on Leaf Internet boards,” Healy chaffed. “That’s how I know if it’s okay for me to continue. Look, I understand how fans react. I was in the NHL for 15 seasons and I played in two passionate hockey markets [New York and Toronto]. Fans are the same everywhere – they look at all comments through the prism of their own team. If that team – like the Leafs – is terrible, year-after-year, someone in my position becomes the enemy.

“But, I don’t get accused of making things up very often,” Healy said. “My crime is telling it like it is… and showing people why. In Toronto, that’s a no-no. If the Leafs ever get their act together, it may not be so bad.”

Still not seeing much bias out of Hughson and Simpson. I don’t mind their calls. Healy is just absurd, though. I can’t believe they let that go on… Healy is just a bitter, decrepit ex-employee who was given the pink slip by the Leafs… He interviewed for the GM’s job before John Ferguson was hired. With his ego, I guess he is still harboring a grudge.

“Ha ha ha! Oh, my goodness!” Healy roared when told of that one. “Yes, it’s been devastating. Haven’t had a thing to do since that time.”

For the record, Healy and Leafs part-owner – Larry Tanenbaum – have long maintained a cordial relationship and they spoke casually about the GM’s position in 2003. At no point was Healy formally interviewed by Richard Peddie, then the CEO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment.

JIM HUGHSON (LEFT) AND CRAIG SIMPSON – PRIME TELECAST CREW OF HOCKEY NIGHT IN CANADA – FROM THE FOSTER HEWITT GONDOLA AT AIR CANADA CENTRE.

I can handle Healy, even though he obviously hates the Leafs. But, Hughson and Simpson… my God, the last game against the Bruins, I just couldn’t believe the negativity and attitude they had. Please, you ****ing homers, go back to Vancouver! For some reason I’m just used to Healy and he doesn’t bother me… I hate Healy for no reason other than he’s completely misinformed and passes on info like he’s an expert. You can tell the guy doesn’t prepare for his time on air. That’s probably why he has to resort to throwing out opinions and dissecting the play of a guy like Kessel… [Healy] is among the very few that has played in the NHL. It’s annoying when the Leafs aren’t getting their tires pumped by everyone, but it’s not as if Healy isn’t an expert. He played when the league was less diluted than today. I think he knows more than everyone on this board about being a goaltender (though I do hate his face; his voice, and his demeanor).

“You know, it’s not just Toronto,” Healy said. “The fact each of our games involves at least one Canadian team makes it impossible to keep viewers happy. We did the Ottawa at Montreal game on Sunday afternoon and I isolated [Senators defenseman] Erik Karlsson a couple of times. Later, I heard that people in Montreal were mad, wondering why I would show Karlsson during a game the Canadiens were winning. Uh, maybe because he won the fu–ing Norris Trophy last season?

“Same thing happens in Vancouver. God forbid you should mention the city of Toronto – or the Maple Leafs – during a Canucks game. Even in passing.” 

It’ so bad, I’ve resorted to watching the Punjabi Leaf broadcasts on CBC… and I’m not  even Punjabi.

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