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Shooting from the lip: NBC coverage of U.S.-Russia hockey top-notch

Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones looks back at the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.

Best coverage

How fun was Saturday morning?

Most Saturdays, sports fans get up and have nothing to watch until noon. But we got a treat more appetizing than a Western omelette.

The United States and Russia gave us a thrilling Olympic hockey game, which the United States won 3-2 in a lengthy shootout.

As great as the game was, the broadcast was just as good. Check that. It was better.

NBC's Doc Emrick, Ed Olczyk and Pierre McGuire were outstanding, especially Emrick.

I can't imagine the day when there's a big hockey game and Emrick isn't on the call. He already gets my vote for the best hockey announcer ever and is now starting to make a case for being the best play-by-play man of any sport. Ever.

Go back and watch his work during the eight-round shootout. It was masterful, particularly when he got out of the way to let Olczyk and McGuire do their jobs.

Today, we're still buzzing about how great the actual game was, and that always happens right after an event. We tend to make it out to be better than it really was, and after some time passes, we'll realize that.

But I don't care how much time passes. The call of Emrick, Olczyk and McGuire remains gold-medal worthy.

Best hustle

NBC was all over the controversy late in the U.S.-Russia hockey game on Saturday morning. • The Russians appeared to have scored the go-ahead goal with a little more than four minutes left in the third period, but the goal was waived off. But because no announcement was made in the building, no one was sure why. • NBC went through the replays. Did the puck hit the crossbar and not go in the net? No. Was the puck deflected by a high stick? No. • So, what? • Finally, someone sharp in the NBC production truck noticed the goal had become dislodged from its moorings. That is why the goal was disallowed. That's top-notch hustle.

Best interview

Sunday afternoon's Olympic coverage on NBC featured a terrific interview with Russian legend Vladislav Tretiak.

Many believe Tretiak, who backstopped the Russians to three gold medals, is among the greatest goalies in the history of hockey. He played the first period of the "Miracle on Ice" game against the United States in the 1980 Olympics but was shockingly pulled during intermission.

Vladimir Myshkin replaced Tretiak and allowed Mike Eruzione's winning goal.

Tretiak said Sunday that Russian coach Viktor Tikhonov admitted years later that taking him out of that game was the "worst mistake" of his life.

Oh, by the way, the Tretiak interview was conducted by Al Michaels, who called that game and famously yelled, "Do you believe in miracles? Yes!"

Runnerup to best interview: Tom Brokaw's with American skier Bode Miller, who became emotional when talking about the birth of his child and the death of his brother.

Best film

Hard to believe it has been almost 10 years to the day since Alex Rodriguez was traded from the Rangers to the Yankees. And just about forgotten is A-Rod nearly was traded to the Red Sox.

ESPN's latest "30 for 30" documentary, The Deal: Alex Rodriguez to the Boston Red Sox, debuted Sunday night and is an interesting retrospective. The film details the four-month period after the Yankees won Game 7 of the 2003 American League Championship Series against the Red Sox on Aaron Boone's homer. Funny. Since then, the Red Sox have won three World Series. The Yankees have won one.

Best luxury

NBC is sure taking care of its employees in Sochi. The Wall Street Journal reports that NBC has set up a private Starbucks that offers free coffee 24 hours a day to the roughly 2,500 people it has in Russia. Those running the top-secret coffee shop (it's tucked away in NBC's compound and off-limits to most outsiders) are from Starbucks throughout Russia. NBC flew in the baristas and took care of their accommodations.

Bad timing

ESPN's Dick Vitale said Saturday night during the Florida-Kentucky basketball game to watch out for Michigan State come March Madness. Then the No. 9 Spartans were upset Sunday at home by unranked Nebraska.

Still, Vitale's right. Michigan State will be dangerous come March along with about 20 other teams.

Even with Syracuse and Wichita State still undefeated, it's hard to remember the last time so many teams seemed capable of winning a national championship at this point of the season.

As far as Florida?

"Yeah, absolutely," Vitale said about the Gators during their victory at Kentucky. "I can see this team winning it all."

Best idea

Part of what made Saturday's overtime shootout between the United States and Russia so fun was the United States kept sending out T.J. Oshie to take the team's breakaway shots while the Russians kept sending out Ilya Kovalchuk and Pavel Datsyuk. In international hockey, shooters can be repeated after the initial three rounds.

In the NHL, players can shoot a second time only after everyone else on the team has shot. That has never happened.

The NHL should consider adopting the international rule. Sure was fun to watch Saturday.

Three things that popped into my head

1. Time for the NBA to scrap the dunk contest. Want to see spectacular dunks? Just watch a regular NBA game.

2. ESPN's Sage Steele pointed out that when NBA All-Stars were practicing their introductions Sunday, rivals Roy Hibbert (far left) of the Pacers and Chris Bosh of the Heat did not exchange handshakes or smiles. I cannot wait for the Pacers-Heat showdown in the playoffs.

3. Glad that Lightning goalie Ben Bishop did not make the U.S. Olympic team. The rest back here is going to suit him better than practicing and not even playing over in Sochi.

tom jones' two cents

Shooting from the lip: NBC coverage of U.S.-Russia hockey top-notch 02/16/14 [Last modified: Sunday, February 16, 2014 10:39pm]

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