NBC Sports analyst Mike Milbury is stepping away from broadcasting the rest of the playoffs after being widely criticized for his on-air comment that there were no women in the league’s bubble setup to disrupt players’ concentration.
The former NHL player, coach and general manager released a statement through NBC Sports on Saturday saying: “I do not want my presence to interfere with the athletes as they try to win the greatest trophy in sports.”
An NBC Sports spokesman said it was Milbury’s decision to leave and he remains employed by the network.
The comment was made during Thursday’s game between the Islanders and Capitals in Toronto during a discussion about the environment in the bubble. The postseason is being staged entirely in access-limited arenas and hotels in Toronto and Edmonton.
“If you think about it, it’s a terrific environment with regard to — if you enjoy playing and enjoy being with your teammates for long periods of time, it’s a perfect place,” play-by-play announcer John Forslund said.
Milbury responded, “Not even any woman here to disrupt your concentration.”
NBC Sports said it was disappointed and addressed the situation with Milbury, 68. The league said it condemned the “insensitive and insulting” comment that “did not reflect the NHL’s values and commitment to making our game inclusive and welcoming to all.”
Milbury apologized in a statement: “It was not my intention to disrespect anyone. I was trying to be irreverent and took it a step too far. It was a regrettable mistake that I take seriously.”
Milbury was not part of the broadcast crew for Friday night’s Flyers-Canadiens game.
Also in the playoffs, Milbury seemed to compare no fans at the games to women’s college hockey. He also drew criticism for his remarks about Boston goaltender Tuukka Rask opting out and leaving the bubble to return to his family.