- Mike Milbury is out at NBC after 14 years with the network.
- Milbury was pulled from the network’s 2020 Stanley Cup broadcasts following a silly aside about women being distracting.
- Mike Babcock, Ryan Callahan and Dominic Moore will serve in analyst roles.
It wasn’t that long ago that pro fighters were expected to abstain from sex–or for that matter socializing with women–in the run up to a fight. Today, even the insinuation that a professional athlete could possibly be distracted by the distaff is enough to rile up the perpetually offended. The latest victim of ‘cancel culture’ is Mike Milbury, former Bruins and Islanders coach and GM. He’s out of a job after 14 years after a silly comment that wasn’t particularly offensive.
You won’t even find a mention of Milbury on the NHL’s announcement of the NBC Sports broadcast teams for the upcoming season. The ‘big get’ is former Toronto Maple Leafs’ head coach Mike Babcock. Babcock is a smart, opinionated guy and should do a good job in his role. Also new to the party are former players Ryan Callahan and Dominic Moore who will join Keith Jones, Anson Carter and Patrick Sharp as analysts in studio. Longtime NBC lead NHL play-by-play broadcaster Mike ‘Doc’ Emrick retired at the end of last season so he won’t be returning. Kenny Albert, Brendan Burke and John Forslund headline the play-by-play commentators with analysts Eddie Olczyk, Brian Boucher, Pierre McGuire, AJ Mleczko and Kendall Coyne Schofield.
It appears that Milbury’s name has been stricken from the NBC vocabulary. NBC responded to an inquiry by ESPN about Milbury with this tepid statement:
“We are grateful to Mike for all of his contributions to our coverage for 14 years. But he will not be returning to our NHL announce team. We wish him well.”
Milbury was unceremoniously yanked from NBC’s playoff coverage for a comment that only someone with a hair trigger sensitivity could have been offended by. Analyst Brian Boucher made these comments about the lack of distractions in the league’s ‘bubble’ environment:
“If you think about it, it’s a terrific environment with regard to — if you enjoy playing and enjoy being with your teammates for long periods of time, it’s a perfect place.”
To which Milbury replied:
“Not even any woman here to disrupt your concentration.”
The NHL thought police immediately condemned it as “insensitive and insulting” and Milbury later apologized for what was a poor attempt at humor. What the comment wasn’t is overly offensive. Here’s the reality: women can be a distraction. Kids can be a distraction. Golf can be a distraction. Video games can be a distraction. Maybe Milbury’s attempt at humor was dated and better suited for the 1970’s The Dean Martin Show than a pro hockey broadcast. It’s chilling that a one liner that fell flat could cost an otherwise very capable broadcaster his gig.
Here’s Milbury’s apology:
“It was not my intention to disrespect anyone. I was trying to be irreverent and took it a step too far. It was a regrettable mistake that I take seriously.”
ESPN balefully notes that Milbury has a track record of other ‘offensive’ comments but they can’t really come up with more than one example:
Milbury had been flagged for insensitive comments several times during his tenure at NBC, including other instances last season. In a qualifying-round game between Pittsburgh and Montreal, Milbury said playing in an empty arena was like being at a college women’s hockey game.
Again, another poor attempt at humor that fell flat. So Milbury isn’t a stand up comic. For the sake of discussion, take a look at the attendance numbers for women’s college hockey. I went back to 2018-2019 to get a pre-COVID-19 perspective:
Yep, the Division 1 attendance leader averaged 2,332 fans per game. Milbury’s quip might not have been overly funny but it happens to be completely factual. For whatever reason, sports fans just haven’t warmed up to women’s sports. The causality of this is far beyond the purview of this website but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t have anything to do with retired hockey coaches making bad jokes about it.
Ultimately, NBC can run their network however they want and they’re well within their rights not to bring Milbury back. That being the case, they threw the guy under the bus for a seriously stupid reason. The moral of the story? If you want a career in broadcasting having a completely milquetoast personality is far more important than experience or knowledge of the sport.