Jim Fox and Bob Miller are able to appear on a Kings-Blues Game 3 post-game show for Prime Ticket on Thursday night. Game 4 is Sunday at Staples Center.
The puck drops, and Bob Miller and Jim Fox have nothing to say about it.
Their usual Staples Center mid-ice TV booth has been overtaken by a bunch of foreigners. A Canadian broadcast team, for cryin’ out loud.
So to view Game 3 of the Kings’ Western Conference semifinal series against St. Louis, Miller and Fox were kicked upstairs, wedged into the press box with the rest of the germ-carrying media types, those who sniffle to fight off another cold coming on, or dab their noses to keep it from bleeding because of the altitude change above the 300-level section.
Seated about 100 yards apart from each other, Miller and Fox might as well have strung up a couple of tin cans to keep in contact, and perhaps call the game for the rest of the die-hard fans up sitting up that high.
Is this any way to treat L.A. hockey broadcast royalty?
They fully acknowledge that this is all part of the deal, even if they’re getting the wrong end of it. NBC seizes control of all NHL playoff telecasts after the first round, supposedly for the good of everyone involved.
It doesn’t mean everyone’s doing double salchows about it.
Especially a Kings fan, already knocked off his Miller-Fox mooring, trying to simply locate the game somewhere on a tier of channels they’d never venture into unless they sought 401k advice or were into bull riding.
Tell us again what happened again during the first period of Game 3, while the preceding Flyers-Devils contest went on and on into overtime. Do we switch from NBC Sports Network to CNBC? Nope. To the NHL Network? Not as if we had that channel anyway . . . which means today’s game is on . . . the NBC regular channel?
The Oprah Winfrey Network would be a better alternative at this point.
All the while, Miller and Fox — the Hockey Hall of Fame play by play man and one of the Kings’ all-time great right-wingers who have been broadcast partners the last 20-plus seasons – are out of their element, present but absent at the same time. Detached until further notice.
Not as blue as 0-3 St. Louis, but not with a case of the blahs either. They’re ready, willing and able to help anywhere needed.
It was hardly this way in 1993. When the Kings went all the way to the Stanley Cup finals, Miller and Fox called every one of them for Prime Ticket.
“The Kings are three wins away from the Stanley Cup!” Miller was able to proclaim after the Game 1 win at Montreal.
ESPN, the national network, didn’t have exclusivity back then. A year later, when the New York Rangers went to the title, ESPN was blacked out again in their home market so the regional TV partners could stay on.
Take the country’s No. 1 and 2 TV markets out of the NHL finals two years in a row doesn’t last long in the big picture, with a league that counts money for its greater cause.
It’s brainlessly, business-minded backward, of course. For the entire regular season, Miller and Fox build the day-to-day drama of the Kings’ up-and-down season. They get to do a couple games in the first round as the suspense builds.
Now, with the franchise a game away from going to the Western Conference finals for the first time in nearly 20 years, they’re in the media penalty box.
It’s brainlessly, business-minded backward, of course. Miller and Fox weaved the daily storyline in the regular season, got to do four games in the first round, but now with the franchise a game away from going to the Western Conference finals for the first time in nearly 20 years, they’re in the media penalty box.
Sure, it happens in the MLB and NBA, too. It’s just that the connection L.A. has to its local Hall of Fame broadcasters wasn’t unplugged. The Dodgers make the playoffs, and Vin Scully is back on radio (where he’s the best anyway). When the Lakers made the playoffs in the past, the late Chick Hearn, who did a simulcast anyway, just did radio.
When the Kings make the playoffs, Miller is a seat filler. Excited to watch what’s happening, but a bit excommunicated.
Fox is thinking outside the box. He’s hunting-and-pecking his way on his laptop keyboard, doing a live chat. He’s been reporting for the NHL Network. He has pulled Miller in for updates on Kings Vision, carried on the team’s LAKings.com site during the games.
Fox and Miller are at least given a place to do a live post-game show for FSW or Prime Ticket. Small consolation. And somewhat condesending.
When the pair sat together in the St. Louis press box for the first two games of the series, Fox admitted he “was borderline unprofessional.” His adrenalin was flowing, but he had no outlet to voice his opinions. He got antsy and started shouting to whomever could hear him below.
“I was prepared for this (scenario), but I’m still learning how to deal with it,” said Fox.
“I do get to watch a game a lot like a fan does now, and that’s kind of different. Ever since Darryl Sutter came in (as the coach in late December) and instilled this new attitude in the players, it really rubbed off on me, too. I’ve found myself, especially for the last 20 (regular-season) games, really ready to go out and care even more about the broadcast. That’s not happened to me in a long time.
“Playoff games are never hard to prep for. And I knew this was coming. But the biggest negative thing for me was: This regular season wasn’t as successful as the team thought it was going to be. Bob and I were truthful and honest about the team’s play, and never made excuses. We appreciate the fact the team let us operate that way.
“But now they’re having success, and we can’t explain it in a live game call. We have some outlets, and I think people trust us to stay the same with the approach. But . . .”
Miller admitted Thursday that it’s “just . . . kinda weird,” as he sat three hours before the game going over sheets of notes that he meticulously wrote out if, for no other reason, a force of habit.
“I’m not prepping, studying rosters, looking at stats, but there’s a game coming up,” he said.
We’ll butt in here, if it’s OK.
What if Miller and Fox did an audio streaming call of the game for fans to hear on their computers while watching the telecast? Probably because you can’t syphon listeners from the radio call of Nick Nickson and Darryl Evans.
What if Miller and Nickson were paired together again on the radio, like the old simulcast? Then create an “inside the glass” reporter roles for Fox and Evans. Go four deep.
“After 31 years (as a team broadcaster), Nick deserves to be in this situation,” said Miller, dismissing that thought.
More than 400 signatures have been generated on an iPetitions.com proclamation (linked here) to let someone know that there are people who’d like to have Miller and Fox be part of the NBC stable of hockey broadcasters and maybe do the Western Conference finals.
At least that could give people something to talk about during the game. Which is more than the Kings can do right now with Miller and Fox.