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THN.com Playoff Blog: Lay off Hockey Night in Canada

Bob Cole, play-by-play commentator, and on-air personality and former Team Canada player Cassie Campbell of both get their share of criticism for their work on HNIC. (Photo by Jana Chytilova/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Bob Cole, play-by-play commentator, and on-air personality and former Team Canada player Cassie Campbell of both get their share of criticism for their work on HNIC. (Photo by Jana Chytilova/NHLI via Getty Images)

You know what really grinds my gears?

Here we are, at the very best time of the NHL season, surrounded with playoff hockey – a whole new level of the game – at every turn. Whether you like the free-flowing, out-in-the-open style of the Nashville-Detroit series, or the shutdown, hard-hitting style of the San Jose-Calgary matchup, there is something for every hockey fan.

And, yet, there are still complaints raining in about Hockey Night in Canada, the premiere hockey production.

Biased coverage.

Don Cherry is a hot-air-filled loud mouth.

Bob Cole can’t keep up with the play.

P.J. Stock, the bubble boy, is uninformed and irrelevant.

Give it a rest. Next thing you know people will be complaining how the Foster Hewitt voiceover welcomes the hockey fans from Canada and Newfoundland (which wasn't part of the country at that time), but not Quebec or any other province, in the opening sequence.

The fact of the matter is, HNIC is the best of the best, the cream of the crop, the hockey fan’s weekly spiritual gathering, if you will.

Cherry is the lightning rod of criticism on the show. However, those who gripe about Grapes can just as easily a) leave the room and re-stock refreshments, b) change the channel to another game, c) turn the television off, or even d) watch the first intermission every other night with a more toned-down Kelly Hrudey – who also does a fabulous job.

It’s not as if Cherry dominates the show folks.

I’ve never understood why you would sit through something that just irritates you and then complain about it to everyone else. This is why I steer clear of Big Brother and Fox News. I could watch it and complain, but I could also watch something I actually enjoy.

Then there’s the newest whipping boy on the block: P.J. Stock.

Stock looks like he really enjoys doing what he does. He updates us and even makes us laugh from time to time, albeit sometimes for the silly remarks he makes. And his toe-to-toe battle with Al Strachan on the Hotstove April 12 was hilarious (watch it HERE).

Would you rather have, oh I don’t know, a monotone, completely unbiased Dan Rather updating us instead? Can you imagine?

“Breaking news from Washington tonight. Joffrey Lupul scored in overtime to eliminate the Capitals. Crowds litter the ice with garbage in frustration. The full story after 40 minutes.”

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And who cares if Stock or Cherry say something to support one team over another. Cherry used to coach Boston, so of course his heart is still there. A lot of Canadiens fans don’t like him anyway, so when your team beats his, it just gives you more ammo to throw back at “the suit.”

These guys are former players/coaches, not career journalists. They add the pizzazz, insight and entertainment that makes HNIC so great. I want outspoken, off-the-wall guys like this and not an anchor reading a teleprompter from behind a desk.

Cole also draws the ire of viewers. Sure, he doesn’t always have the most intriguing commentary, but does anyone else tune into CBC to watch the game besides me? I know who has the puck by looking at the screen and following the game. The announcer is simply background sound that flows with the game.

And Cole most certainly does flow with the game. His old school sound resonates through the TV speakers much like Foster Hewitt’s distant voice crackled over the radio airwaves. He doesn’t sound like a video game or someone who is more apt to calling basketball. What ever happened to tradition? HNIC is tradition. Bob Cole is tradition.

If Don Cherry wearing a Bruins tie, P.J. Stock cracking a lame joke, or Bob Cole calling out a mispronounced name from high up in the gondola from time to time bothers you, please, stop all this blasphemy and turn the sound down or change the channel.

For every whiny Canadian who complains about the tiniest of things on the greatest hockey production to ever be welcomed into a living room, there are five American fans wishing they were not bound to NBC, Versus or FSN.

THN.com's Playoff Blogs, featuring analysis and opinion on the action from the night before, with insight on what happened and what it all means going forward, will appear daily throughout the NHL playoffs. Read more entries HERE.

Rory Boylen is THN.com's web content specialist. His blog appears Thursdays.

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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