I'm excited ESPN landed the broadcast rights for the World Cup of Hockey in 2016. I grew up watching and listening to Gary Thorne and Bill Clement kill it in the broadcast booth, so the notion that could return in two years has me feeling all kinds of fuzzy and happy and tingly inside.
Has ESPN burned some bridges with the hockey community over the years? Oh, absolutely. They abandoned the sport after the 2004-2005 lockout, and left us, with OLN, or the "Outdoor Life Network", as the NHL's (sports!!!!!) national broadcasting partner in the United States. Before they acquired the NHL, I had no idea OLN existed - and I feel confident in saying that neither did the majority of human beings who didn't work, or know somebody who worked, at the network.
"Please tune in after Edwin shoots a moose for some quality ice-puck. It's Los Angeles versus 'fuck is an Edmonton?' - versus Edmonton. Then after the game stay tuned for a two hour special edition of Ted Nugent Yelling In Sheds!"
But enough about OLN.
I'm going to pick 2 broadcasting teams below. There's going to be the primary unit, used for the primetime games and final, and a secondary unit that covers games who people care about but not enough to paint their faces - if that makes sense.
Primary: Gary Thorne
The Bangor, Maine native and current Baltimore Orioles play-by-play man has the voice of a God. If there was ever a person born to call hockey games, Thorne's your guy.
From Keith Primeau's late game heroics:
To Kyle Schmidt reminding us that other colleges play hockey besides the Minnesota Golden Gophers:
Thorne has called pretty much every level with enough fervor and electricity to excite a corpse.
Secondary: Rick Jeanneret
Jeanneret serves as the television and radio play-by-play broadcaster for the Sabres. He slightly resembles Rodney Dangerfield, and he missed the first part of the 2014-2015 season to treat stage-3 throat cancer; which he beat and was cleared of in November.
He's one of the bigger cult heroes that broadcasting can provide, and combine that with his eccentric voice and I'm suddenly a lot more interested in watching Finland play the Czech Republic.
Plus, why shouldn't ESPN show a little love for the guy who turned Steve Shields from a backup goaltender into a legend of Buffalo folklore?
Primary: Bill Clement
If it ain't broken, don't fix it.
Clement and Thorne were attached at the hip for the better part of 10 seasons, and the duo excelled for ESPN. No need to change things up. Remember, KISS: Keep It Simple Stupid.
Here's a video of Clement being a motivational speaker. So, it's not like he'd turn down an employment opportunity in 2 years. He probably needs the money.
Secondary: Paul Bissonnette
The former Coyotes enforcer would be a pleasant addition to Jeanneret's booth. He could talk about toilet paper, or the homeless problem in Arizona's capital while we all nod along and wonder if Jack Eichel and a bunch of other 20-year-olds are dangling by Team Japan or the Czech Republic. Personally, I'd take Bissonnette's humorous banter over that of, say, Ed Olczyk's, who seems to get frustrated by everything.
@NoUsernameNed no offense to myself. But if u bought my hockey card for 139 dollars ur prolly on drugs.— Paul Bissonnette (@BizNasty2point0) December 20, 2010
Between The Glass
Primary: Larry King
Adding King to the Clement-Thorne combo would add that perfect amount of spectrum to liven things up.
Seriously, who wouldn't want an 81-year-old from Brooklyn chiming in every 10 minutes with an observation or opinion that offers little to no understanding of what's occurring on your television screen? I mean, I'd enjoy it - and let's be honest, that's all that matters here anyway.
Thorne: "Larry, what's going on down at ice level?"
Larry: "I dunno, I've been thinking about extraterrestrials...do you think they'd appreciate Matt Damon?"
Secondary: Anyone But Pierre
It'd be really cool, if for a tournament - you know what, no, even just a single god damn game - we didn't have to listen as the worst coach in Hartford Whalers history blabbed on about who grew up and played major-junior in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. It's one thing to spew this kind of information every now and then, but Pierre does it frequently enough for people to question whether he has some kind of bizarre Canadian-cities-that-house-junior-teams fetish.
Put a traffic cone with a fake mustache between the glass, or hand Betty White a microphone and a pack of fig newtowns and see what happens. Anyone, or anything, that's not Pierre.
Dear God, please.
Primary Unit: Gary Thorne - Bill Clement - Larry King
Seconday Unit: Rick Jeanneret - Paul Bissonnette - Traffic Cone With A Mustache
So, there you have it, my choices for ESPN's broadcasting crew during the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. As you can tell, I took this very seriously - because I'd never, ever mock an international tournament that includes two gimmick teams...