The New York Islanders broadcast booth filled up this week with the hiring of Brendan Burke. But we should treat the announcing team, like a hockey team. It should be built for greatness.
The New York Islanders have really only had two TV play by play guys in the past thirty some odd years. And not many more color guys. This has been the one stable part of the constantly in-flux maelstrom that has been the New York Islanders.
Jiggs MacDonald was the unquestioned voice of the Islander dynasty. (Even though he didn’t arrive in time for Nystrom’s 1980 cup winner). He was already a well-respected play by play guy who had worked in L.A and Atlanta by the time he sat down next to Ed Westfall. They were warm toward each other and the fans. They knew the game and had veteran perspective. And they seemed to strike the right balance, at least to my ears, between folksy homerism, and objective analysis.
What I loved most about Eddie and Jiggs was that I always believed they loved being in that job.
I have been in the minority, the overwhelming minority, of Islander fans the past few decades. I never really warmed up to Howie Rose in the booth. I don’t think he and Eddie formed the necessary professional rapport, perhaps because Westfall was, as the kids say today, “over it”.
Howie and Joe Micheletti? This felt, to me, like visiting carpet baggers. It felt like neither of them were at home, and this was a temporary stop in their careers.
Billy Jaffee showed up out of nowhere after Joe took his carpet bag into the city. This is where Howie started to feel like an Islander. After working with Westfall, who became disappointed with the state of the franchise, and Micheletti who had no connection to it, Jaffee’s enthusiasm seemed to rub off on Rose.
Jaffee didn’t have the NHL career, or the NHL residual bank account to fall back on. He was passionate about the sport, the team, and the fact he had this job. He was appreciative of the position, and grateful to the fans who accepted him. Howie did his best work during this time, even if the hockey team didn’t.
But Jaffee had to go because…. yeah, why DID Jaffee have to go?
And then, just like he did with the Hockey team in 1980, in comes Butch Goring to elevate the team to elite, and then legendary, status. That worked out better on the ice. Butch Goring is in the great New York tradition of All Star players, with no announcing talent but a world of expertise. Westfall was a good example. But so are Ralph Kiner and Phil Rizzuto and Walt Frazier and Bill Chadwick. These guys come to the booth knowing more than you could ever hope to learn about their sport. And if you listen between the lines, skip over the non-sequiturs, and excuse the uncompleted thoughts and sentences, you’ll learn something.
Butch Goring is lovable. Butch Goring has expert insight. Butch Goring lives to be in that Islander booth. What Butch Goring is not, is a world class NHL color man.
The Future Of Islanders Broadcasts
Now is the time. Brendan Burke is just over 30 and represents the future face of New York Hockey booths. Let’s move beyond the war weary, craggly faces of Sam Rosen and Howie Rose. Let’s embrace a new feeling on Islander broadcasts. I suggest the Islanders build the booth around him, like they built a team around Tavares. Our favorite team should be the one with the youthful energy.
I would give Burke a year to adjust, with Butch next to him, and then look for the color guy who will define watching a game for the next generation of Islander fans.
Let Butch go back to that stupid Hockey Night Live with Duguay and Trautwig so the Islanders have a voice there. Let Stan Fischler continue as long as he wants because — he earned it.
And in your heart of hearts, wouldn’t you be excited about watching games with Burke, Rick Dipietro, and Shannon Hogan? That is a world class broadcast team, as good as any the NHL has to offer. Fun, energetic, insightful, fun, objective. Did I mention fun? They look and sound like they could be doing games on CBC… if CBC still had games.
I would be proud of these Islander broadcasts.