Neal Mchale The Hockey Writers
Love Him or Hate Him, Pierre McGuire is a Staple of the NHL Soundtrack
You know him. The bald-headed, always-opinionated, frequently-shouting NBC Sports analyst. He’s spent nearly two decades in broadcasting, working on TSN in Canada before becoming a staple to the American broadcast team. Never one to shy away from voicing what’s on his mind, McGuire is not unlike his NBC-counterparts Mike Milbury and Jeremy Roenick. He, like them, has garnered critical reception from disapproving fans. That all comes with the territory.
But Pierre, more often than not, has been designated his own category. One where words like “awkward” and “odd” are regularly associated with the broadcaster. Fans have even labeled him as “creepy” and there’s more than a handful of YouTube clips using those exact words. Still, the 54-year-old, who has dedicated over 30 years of his life to the sport, including stints in professional coaching and scouting, has remained a constant part of the NHL soundtrack.
Today, he is usually paired with the broadcast duo of Mike ‘Doc’ Emrick and Ed Olczyk. There, he is placed between the benches, privy to the on-ice and on-bench conversations of coaches and players. It’s there where McGuire has created such moments that have become straight-to-YouTube favorites. He calls games throughout the season, but as the playoffs intensify, so too does his workload. Calling a majority of the playoffs and all of the Stanley Cup finals, he reaches a great majority of hockey fans. His reach has even expanded to international, serving in the same capacity for multiple NBC coverages of the Olympics (summer and winter). This has, in turn, exposed McGuire’s often-marred mannerisms to a much wider audience, one that frequently takes to Twitter to share their feelings.
Most recent to the conversation is McGuire’s post-game interview with Pittsburgh Penguins forward Phil Kessel, following the team’s 4-2 win in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Wednesday. A somewhat awkward figure himself, Kessel has never exactly been the best interview subject. Subdued and jejune, he’s an enigma to hockey fans. His speed and scoring abilities are well-documented, but his personality is rarely put into the spotlight, even after a six-year tenure in hockey’s Mecca, Toronto.
Perhaps that’s what made Wednesday’s exchange all the more enjoyable, if not a little, well…awkward.
In fairness, the question wasn’t that preposterous, and Kessel certainly responded better to it than his last real memorable exchange with the media. Kessel, who is Pittsburgh’s leading playoff scorer with 16 points (7g-9a), has long caught criticism for his conditioning habits. For now, he looks just fine and could be the leading candidate for the Conn Smythe Trophy if the Pens can find six more wins this playoff year.
Wednesday’s interview, which has already surpassed 31 thousand views, wasn’t nearly among the same class as other interviews that have become favorites from critical hockey fans. But is it that fair?
Full disclosure: I’ve never been all that bothered by McGuire. Or any of the league’s broadcasters for that matter. I’ve long-respected the skill of calling a game at high-speed, professional-level action. The trio on NBC Sports are among the finest in the game. I’ve gained even further admiration since working in the media world, where I have co-existed with television media. Especially in this role, the travel is often relentless (something that led to McGuire leaving TSN, ultimately). Still, the soundtrack that comes with hockey’s omniscient broadcast guru includes a tireless energy and a library of information. He knows junior teams, family members, player-to-player connections, as far-fetched as it may come. Most impressively, he does so on the fly.
And for all the “too-close-for-comfort” and “thinking-out-loud” moments, there’s a certain grace to the guy behind the mic, the one that might compel some to hit the mute button, but it won’t one of the most recognized TV personalities from doing what he loves.
Pierre loves hockey, that much is obvious. After all, who else would have all that knowledge if they didn’t? And, not to mention one of the few burdens to the sport, travel. And for a national broadcaster–even greater travel. Unlike the regular broadcast teams, McGuire has no home affiliation. He goes where he is needed, attending practices, morning skates and preparing countless notes before fixating himself prominently in perhaps the most envied location in the rink. After years of doing such a role, even his critics will admit there’s something to be said about the constant nature of the gig.
And maybe there’s something to it. He did manage to get the usually-unflappable Phil Kessel to break his often-stale attitude with the media, which is a pretty tough thing to do.
That’s not all to the job description, either. There’s also regular appearances on television and radio, his regular spot on the Mike Richards Show on TSN 1050 is among his more prominent duties, but mostly because of a somewhat catchy, homemade intro song.
So, there’s something to be said about the upbeat approach to the job that McGuire brings to the broadcast, something Sports Illustrated writer, Alex Prewitt found out earlier this month, while going behind-the-scenes with the broadcaster.
As many will undoubtedly add Wednesday’s exchange to the archives of “Pierre McGuire” and “Awkward Announcer,” there’s plenty to be noted about the career of one of the game’s most recognized voices to the league soundtrack, and it doesn’t appear like he’s going anywhere.
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