Friday, January 23, 2009

VERSUS AllStar Confab w/ Doc & Eddie

Woot woot! HLOG has scored a sweet ASG exclusive from VERSUS. As part of the Hockey Blogger Insider's participation group, the Ladies received the following transcript of a conference call w/ ASG telecasters Doc Emrick and Eddie Olczyk. Hope you enjoy...


Moderator: Katie Bradshaw, VERSUS
January 21, 2009
12:00 pm CT

Operator: Good afternoon my name is (Marlisha) and I will be your conference operator today. At this time I would like to welcome everyone to the NHL All-Star Game conference call. All lines have been placed on mute to prevent any background noise.

After the speakers remarks there will be a question and answer session. If you would like to ask a question during this time simply press star and the number one on your telephone keypad. If you would like to withdrawal your question press the pound key. Thank you Miss Bradshaw you may begin your call now.

Katie Bradshaw: Thank you. Hello everyone I’m Katie Bradshaw from the Versus PR department. I’d like to welcome everyone to the call. On Saturday January 24th at 7 pm Versus will televise the Honda NHL Super Skills Competition and on Sunday January 25th at 6 pm Easter Standard Time the network will air the 57th annual NHL All-Star Game.

Following the All-Star game on Sunday Versus will air a brand new episode of Sports Soup at 9 and our first live World Extreme Cage Fighting event of the year at 9:30.

On today’s call we have our on-air announce team for the All-Star weekend telecast, Doc Emrick the lead play by play announcer for Versus and Eddie Olczyk a former NHL player and coach who is also Versus lead analyst. We also have Marc Fein the Executive Vice President of Programming Production and Business Operations for Versus.

Marc, Doc, and Eddie will start off by giving a brief introduction and then we’ll open up to Q and A. Marc do you want to start?

Marc Fein: Sure thanks (Katie). You know we’re excited to be covering our third consecutive All-Star weekend coming up this weekend. We think it’s going to be a lot of fun up in Montreal with the history of their hundredth year anniversary, great place to hold it this year and really it’s come at a great time momentum wise for Versus and the NHL.

The NHL coming off a hugely successful winter classic we think is just terrific and with Versus our ratings are up in viewership almost 20% and overall last year Versus garnered the largest viewership gain overall among all cable sports networks in terms of households, viewers and key male demographics.

So with Hockey and everything else in the network really on the upswing with the winter classic and NHL it’s just a good time for the All-Star game to hit and as Katie mentioned we’re going to make a huge night on Sunday night out of it. In addition to the All-Star game showcasing one of our new shows Sport Soup which launched a few months ago and then a big WEC fight that night.

So just an overall great weekend for NHL All-Star and Versus and with that I’ll turn it over to Doc and Eddie.

Doc Emrick: I think the exciting thing about this and I think the one thing that will draw attention from around hockey is the fact that this is in Montreal and as Marc mentioned it’s the one-hundredth anniversary.

But it’s the notion of how Montreal does everything. They do it with class and appreciation for the history of the game and I can’t wait to see what they’re going to do just before the game starts. I don’t know what the presentation of the anthem will be like I’m sure it will be dramatic. But I know one thing there will be 21,273 there, which will set a record for attendance for an All-Star game.

In the past we’ve had some games that have been really high scoring. But as recently as Minnesota there were 10 goals, in Florida there were 11 and I’m not so sure that the score is ever that big a thing with us because we recognize that the game itself is highly offensive and is there to showcase the skills of the players.

I think the other thing that we enjoy about it so much is that every year we see these players in a role in which it’s different from the regular season and that the intensity is down to where they can converse without pressure, their families come in, they have a wonderful time spending the weekend on this and the show that they put on is a pretty entertaining one.

I’m looking forward to Scoop Super Skills in particular the slap shooting competition because we may actually have the record broken which was established in Montreal by Al Iafrate and probably my favorite quote from an All-Star weekend was Al Iafrate who came to Montreal.

That weekend he broke the record and he only brought three sticks with him and when asked why he would only bring three sticks to a whole weekend when you’re competing in the slap shot competition he said, “The sticks get jealous sometimes so you should only take three.” I hear Eddie Olczyk on the line I’m sure you have some thought too.

Eddie Olczyk: Thanks Doc. For me it’s a great thrill again to work with the Hall of Famer Doc Emrick and to be in center stage in Montreal and our staff and our leadership at Versus is really put in a 120% effort over the last couple of years and with Marc’s leadership and of course our coordinating producer Mike Baker at the helm of the people the men that work behind the camera and down on the truck really make this event go.

And Doc and I are lucky enough to work together and do these games and they really put everything over the air and I think they deserve a lot of credit and I know this year will be high expectations after last year and being in a place like Montreal you know one of the few hockey meccas there are in all the world and document how the (Montreal-cadians) have a way of putting on a show. And it’s an event and we have some of the greatest players in our game and some of the greatest players that have played in this sport for a long, long time will be at center ice in Montreal.

So it’s a great weekend, a great event and I know that the people at Versus are very proud to have this opportunity and for me it’s a great thrill to be able to work with Doc on these great events and as a player I was never lucky enough to play in an All-Star game I guess that’s probably for debate on players that should be there, could be there, might be there because of injuries but I’m really looking forward to being a very small part of a great night and a great weekend in Montreal.

Katie Bradshaw: Thanks so much. Operator we can open it up to Q and A now.

Operator: At this time I would like to remind everyone if you would like to ask a question please press star and the number one on your telephone keypad. We will pause for a moment to compile the Q and A roster.

Your first question comes from (Bill Dole) from - your line is now open.

(Bill Dole): Yes I wanted to ask you if you guys - what your take was on the Boston Bruins. Why they were so successful in the first half of the season and you think how tough will it be for them to keep it up in the second half with all their injuries.

Eddie Olczyk: (Bill) this is Eddie Olczyk. You know the Bruins you know for the longest time you know just playing a stingy defense, getting contributions from a lot of different players, the depth, the young players stepping in. You know you hear about the Savards and the Kessels you know but the way that Blake Wheeler has played, David Krejci has played.

You know the back end support that they have had back there you know even though with the injuries they’ve had for a long period of time with Andy Ference and Aaron Ward.

You know they‘ve had players step in there and do the job. I’m mean you have Chara and Wideman have played really well, the goal-tending tandem. You know as of late now you know they’ve hit a little bit of a stretch here where they’ve had some injuries and it’s tough to replace guys that are important guys in specialty teams.

And you know when you start getting out of line rotations I think (Quad) has done a tremendous job with staff there to get them to you know be at the very top for the majority of this season.

And consistency is such a thing that it is tough to - consistency you find a comfort zone and when you start playing within your system and you have contributions from a lot of different people, I don’t want to say it becomes easy but you become confident and consistent at the same time.

And I think the Boston Bruins have - to me is not a surprise because just to see how well they played last year but I think just to me the thing is the depth all season long and when they get healthy they are going to be a very tough team.

So I think yes they will be a team that will continue tough to go at a torrid pace that they’ve gone for such a long time especially in Boston but somewhere along the line you know that kind of stuff catches up with you with the schedule, with injuries but the Bruins are a dangerous team and I would expect them to continue to be where they have been all season long and that’s at the top of the eastern conference.

Doc Emrick: And I don’t sense despite their shoot out loss to St. Louis I really don’t sense their goal tending weakening at all and that I think has been the main feature in addition to what Eddie was saying about the guys that have just come out of Providence or elsewhere and have played a couple of years of professional hockey now and are really taking to this team in a big way.

I’m glad that we get to see Milan Lucic. He’s going to be in the rookie sophomore game as a sophomore. He was a first year player last year but one of the great character guys that I think I have met in the sport and he’s only a young guy and is you know just getting his second chance to really be under the spotlights at an All-Star game and both times it’s been as one of these guys.

But in the future we’ll expect to see him in the highlight game on Sunday night rather than in the prelude to it.

(Bill Dole): What’s your five on Tim Thomas not being on the All-Star ballot?

Doc Emrick: There’s only room for so many and Tim Thomas I thought would belong there and I was sort of surprised that he was not and he certainly lived up to - he certainly lived up to the pressure that might have been placed on the selection committee by the way that he’s played this year.

I think another reason that I would miss him you know being on the ballot was that gosh almighty are we going to have an All-Star game without somebody like this that we can chat with the day before because there isn’t anyone that comes away from speaking with Tim Thomas that thinks gee I had a dull time there. Goaltenders are that way I think.

Eddie Olczyk: Yeah. Hey (Bill) this is Eddie Olczyk again. You know it’s interesting what you know what Doc had said you know just about the answer to you know Tim Thomas not being on the ballot per se and obviously he’s earned his opportunity of being there with his - you know with his performance.

And you know to me this game is an event, it is for the fans and you know there are always going to be players that are going to be left off the ballots, that are going to be left off. I mean you know you can start with the guy like Phil Kessel or maybe Duncan Keith in Chicago.

I mean Markov was finally added after the injuries that happened in Detroit and to me you know is there a perfect remedy for this, no I don’t believe that there is. It is for the fans and I would like to see the league consider to expand the rosters going into a 25 man roster.

And when it comes to the voting aspect of it as I would like to see the fans be able to vote for one forward, one D and one goal tender and then you have your committee and you have your people involved with making these decisions and then you know you will get the guys there that you know maybe there is a team that has five or six guys because they deserve with how they performed this year.

It is about this year. It isn’t about what has happened in the past and I know in certain situations teams have struggled and it’s a decision that is very difficult but I really believe - I mean there is no perfect way but it is for the fans, it is about selling the greatest athletes and the greatest players in the world.

And if you can open it up I think a little more and get more of the great players in the league to the All-Star games I think it would be an even greater event even though the intensity isn’t to where we all see it to be in a regular season game or most importantly in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

(Bill Dole): Thank you.

Operator: Thank you your next question comes from John McGorty your line is now open.

John McGorty: Ed and Doc I was wondering about this aspect of broadcasting an All-Star game when fans are watching and they see the shooting and skating skills of an Alexander Ovechkin or the passing skills of Marc Savard, Chara carrying someone away from the opposing goal.

Those kind of things they can see, you guys can interpret but how do you make the case for somebody being an All-Star goalie when he’s given up three or four goals a period because he’s got matador defense going in front of him and it’s not the same as a regular NHL game.

Eddie Olczyk: John this is Eddie. I feel bad for the goalies. I feel bad, I do. You know I don’t know what other way we can help them out I guess so to speak because there is that you know guys making four and five passes and defenseman jumping into the play and I’m sure that you know the league has kicked it around and Doc has seen many an All-Star games and it’s - I feel personally I feel sorry.

I feel great shame for our goal tenders when they have to be in this game and you know in the events where they’re really not properly warmed up and get enough shots and guys are coming in there and making moves.

John McGorty: Thanks Ed.

Doc Emrick: I remember Marty Broder saying a couple of years ago because we usually have a goal tender mic'ed or sometimes two of them Marty was saying that he had the earpiece on and eventually it actually came out of his helmet but he was able to listen for part of the period.

I’m not sure how much he cared to listen to me but he said, "At one point I heard you say oh here’s (Bill Gerrin) up the right wing" and he said, “ I didn’t know where the puck was and that help me find him.” But of course he let go with on of his patented scorching shots so I’m not sure how much I - could really be helped by that.

But the goal tenders I think have had a sense of humor about this and the ones that haven’t had are the ones that usually don’t wind up here. They realize that this is it.

Now there was one occasion I know where the late Pelle Lindbergh got lit up in the third period of a game at Long Island and it was a bit of a mental stress for him within the month that followed there. He did rebound and help the Philadelphia Flyers a lot but there was that one time in January and Wayne Gretsky had a lot to do with that as he did with a lot of goaltenders.

There are those occasions where a guy that’s very sensitive could probably be brought down by an experience in an All-Star game but by and large they go in with a pretty good sense of humor because they realize yeah they are sort of left out there.

John McGorty: Thanks Doc, thanks Ed.

Operator: Thank you your next question comes from John Shipley your line is now open.

John Shipley: Hey guys. I was wondering if I think you’ve had a good opportunity to see the Wild play this year and I was wondering what you guys could tell me about your thoughts on Nicholas Backstrom his first appearance this year and what kind of year he’s having.

Eddie Olczyk: John this is Eddie I just got a chance to see him the other night in Chicago where you know he played very well. I think he had 40 plus shots. I would say that was - I wouldn’t say that was - if you were to look at the box score the next day and you would think that there was domination there.

I mean a lot of those shots were from the outside but he made an unbelievable save - one of the better saves all season long on Patrick Cain in the second period. You know Nicholas Backstrom’s an aggressive goal tender from just watching him and the great, great opportunity that Doc and I get on a daily basis is when we are doing these games and I always enjoy going up to St. Paul and seeing the Wild play and the great facility that they have there.

We’re able to see these guys in practice and see how they you know how they do you know they practice and how they you know communicate with you know their goal tending coach there Bobby Mason and just see how they just kind of practice and how they go under their goal crease or whoever it might be but he is just a super quick goal tender. He is a very aggressive goal tender and that to me is very impressive because he doesn’t you know vary.

If he has the opportunity to get out on top of that crease he’s going to be really aggressive and he has that ability that if he does over commit that he has the ability because he is so quick and agile he can move side to side and you know he played very well in a game that I was in there earlier in the year I think it was Chicago and the Wild on Versus and he is a very good goal tender and a great feather in his cap.

And to me you know you talk about guys I mean Miko Koivu was another guy that should be there on Sunday night representing the Wild as well but he - you know you have one of the top goal tenders in the league. He’s got three of his five shut outs I believe are on the road this year so you know what you’re going to get from Nicholas Backstrom but he is a real pleasure to watch play on a nightly basis.

John Shipley: Can you imagine you know he’s going - he’s due to be a free agent. Can you imagine if he gets that far that he wouldn’t be - I mean I can think of five teams off the top of my head that would probably really love a guy like that. I mean he’s got to be really one of those...


Eddie Olczyk: You could probably multiply that. As far as I’m concerned you know there is no doubt in my head and you know again it’s that you know you look at players and how they play you know with goal tenders it numbers and shots and save percentage and you know everything that goes into it and the type of team you know that he plays in back of so to speak in system.

But the one thing about him is he is durable. I mean he plays and plays a lot and gets the job done so to me if it gets to that point you know I would imagine there would be a bunch of hands going up and many of hockey cities about the possibility because as Doc knows when you have goal tending it camouflages a lot of issues and it disguises a lot of problems and when you have a good one it breeds confidence and players play on their toes instead of their heels.

Nicholas Backstrom is certainly one of those guys that you know that players have a lot of confidence in and when that happens his players can - they can - you know they don’t have to think twice about what is going on on the ice and you know hey if I pinch up or if I’m aggressive here and I get burned well there’s a good chance that the guy in the goal is going to stop the puck.

Doc Emrick: Eddie was just pointing out the rarity I guess of opportunities. I know the very first part of your statement you were talking about a game in which you know he didn’t have that many tough ones to face the style of Wild plays really helps in that regard but he is going to have five to ten that he is going to have to make in with a 2.14 goals against average he’s doing pretty well with those.

John Shipley: Thanks guys.

Eddie Olczyk: You’re welcome.

Operator: Thank you. Again if you would like to ask a question please press star and the number one on your telephone keypad. Your next question comes from (Bill Getts).

(Bill Getts): Doc how painful was it for you to miss that winter classic as - and are you kind of that much more jazzed up for special events like this because you missed that one?

Doc Emrick: Yeah I - missing any game is hard but when you wind up - I’m not sure if you have caught what a lot of people have and what I did this winter it was just one of those that seemed to settle in my vocal cords and I went through two cards of antibiotics five days a piece before I finally got rid of it. It just held on.

But it was difficult. I did get to Chicago on the 30th and had a nice room looking out on Lake Michigan and I knew about six blocks west of Lake Michigan was Wrigley Field and Eddie Olczyk was there almost ready to recreate his singing the 7th inning stretch song from this past August and all of those things but the morning of the 31st I realized I just wasn’t going to be strong enough and they don’t hire in closers in our line of work.

So Lou Piniella and Sam Flood do not share the notion of coming to the mound and pointing to someone else to come in and help you. I was just not strong enough to do it and I regretted that but Dave Strader came in and did a magnificent job. With one days notice he was outstanding and hopefully I’ll be healthy enough should they have one of these next year.

(Bill Getts): That doesn’t make you that much more looking forward to something like this weekend.

Doc Emrick: Oh yeah I think any league wide event is very important and I love being a part of the day to day schedule in the league and also events when the league just pauses and celebrates hockey and if I can be around that and as I always tell journalism classes, “you get in free and you get a really good seat for the game, there’s nothing wrong with it.”

(Bill Getts): Thank you.

Operator: Thank you. You have a follow up question from John McGorty. Your line is now open.

John McGorty: Eddie and Doc I was wondering one of the elected forwards Alex Kovalev when you look back at the record Kovalev has been in this game for so long including his Russian play. He’s won the Olympics, he’s won world championships. I was wondering if you’re going to be doing anything special focusing on Kovalev?

Doc Emrick: He was a part of one of the greatest teams I have ever seen and that was the 92 Unified Team that Victor Tikhonov coached. It was after the Soviet Union was gone but they pieced these guys together and boy did they ever piece a team together.

I mean 15 of them came across later and played in the NHL but it was (Casper Ritis) and (Malakov) and you know the collection of guys - Nikolai Khabibulin was the third goal tender and he never got to pay and for a while he never got a medal until (Salva Vasitoff) took over the Russian Athletic System and made sure that he got a medal because Victor took it.

Coaches aren’t supposed to have medals but anyway that was one of the finest team I ever saw and whenever I get a chance to ask Alex why he always remembers his line mates and he always remembers specific games from it.

So there’s a great career there and he’s a part of a wonderful team right now. They’ve won what six of their last eight games I think so there coming in as not only the home team but they’ve gotten four starters which means that I guess the Montreal fans have pretty quick thumbs.

John McGorty: Thanks Doc.

Operator: Thank you there are no further questions at this time.

Katie Bradshaw: Great I then guess we can conclude the call. I just want to thank everybody for calling in and thank you to Marc, Doc and Eddie and look forward to a great weekend of hockey this weekend.

Doc Emrick: Thank you very much.

Marc Fein: Thanks everybody.

Eddie Olczyk: Thank you.

Operator: This concludes today’s conference you may now disconnect.

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