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Sports Then and Now

Clowns, Dumps, and Mike Milbury

Posted on May 09, 2017 by Victor Uhlman

Joe-Louis-arenaI grew up in the Joe Louis Arena. Some of the best moments of my childhood were spent shuffling around clumsily on the ice of the Joe, strapped up in goalie pads that weighed twice as much as I did. Even at a young age, I felt honored to, in one way or another, share the ice with the Detroit Red Wings. As I grew up, I had the absolute honor of watching one of the greatest dynasties of hockey in their prime. I sat rinkside and watched Yzerman, Lidstrom, and the Russian five change the entire game right in front of my eyes. And when we couldn’t make it to the game, my entire extended family would crowd around our tiny television as if we were practicing some archaic religion, cheering and crying with every goal scored and every shot missed. The Joe hosted its last heartbreaking, yet cathartic game on April 9th, laying to rest one of the most legendary and charismatic ice hockey venues in the history of the sport. This is why I and many others were dumbfounded, yet not surprised, when NBC’s Mike Milbury called the Joe Louis Arena “a dump” in need of retiring.

Milbury is in the news again this week for referring to P.K. Subban, arguably one of the leagues most talented and lovable players, as “a clown” who needed to get a “rap on the head” from head coach Peter Laviolette. Ignoring just how asinine and problematic this statement is, it points to both a dangerous trend for Mike Milbury, and an even more dangerous one for NBC and the league itself.

The jab at Subban is just the most recent in a long line of moronic statements by Milbury. In 2013, Milbury compared Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, two of the strongest offensive forwards in the game, to crack cocaine users. He indirectly called Alex Ovechkin, arguably the best goal-scorer in the league, “Eurotrash.” Maybe the most troubling, Milbury called for players to target star players like Crosby and give them a serious injury. “If you’re going to slash him, break a bone,” Milbury said. “If you’re going to hit him from behind, give him a slight concussion.”

This is big talk coming from a man who is arguably most famous for jumping over the boards and beating a man with his own shoe, or for being charged with assault and battery on a child at a pee-wee hockey game. However, Milbury isn’t the disease plaguing the NHL; he’s only a symptom, and one that points to a much larger issue the league is facing. Milbury is, for many, one of the most prominent faces of hockey broadcasting, and NHL in general. He is an ambassador for the game we all know and love, yet is spreading messages of hate, violence, and immaturity. Yet, this isn’t what hockey stands for, at least not today. Hockey has become a sport of inclusion and fun; it’s no longer the most serious game on ice. And that’s a good thing – NHL attendance is looking stronger than ever. However, despite a growing audience, NBC’s ratings are down. Clearly, there is no more prominent an example of the division between NHL fans and the NHL itself than Mike Milbury.

I’ve never liked Mike Milbury. His broadcasting has never been relatively insightful or informative, and more often than not he has his foot in his mouth. But after his most recent comment, it’s clear Milbury is right about one thing. There are clowns in the league, and there are certainly dumps that need retiring. But instead of housing great memories, better players, and one of the most important dynasties in the history of hockey, the dump that needs to retire the most is the clown that sits behind the broadcaster’s desk at NBC.

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