Mike Milbury has been benched.
The former Boston Bruins player and coach temporarily stepped down from his role as analyst/commentator for NBC Sports’ coverage of the NHL playoffs after facing backlash for his response to a comment made by fellow NBC Sports analyst Brian Boucher.
Milbury and Boucher had this discussion on the two city bubble setting for the postseason:
“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,” Boucher said during Game 5 of the Islanders- Capitals first round series.
“Not even any women here to disrupt your concentration,” Milbury shot back.
The NHL condemned Milbury for his comment, calling it “insensitive and insulting” in an official statement.
Upon stepping down, Milbury issued an apology.
“In light of the attention caused by my recent remark, I have decided to step away from my role at NBC Sports for the remainder of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. I do not want my presence to interfere with the athletes as they try to win the greatest trophy in sports.”
This is the classic case of a solution without a problem.
Milbury’s job description is analyst/commentator. By definition, he is paid to analyze and comment. Milbury is damn good at both. He gives fans great insight into the sport, while never sugarcoating things.
But, whether he is a dynamic analyst or a vanilla one like Patrick Sharp, he should be free to comment without petty cultural constraints when it comes to things that impact players on and off the ice.
There are many things outside of the actual sport that affect an NHL player when it comes to playoff hockey. That is a fact. Was it inartful to position women as merely concentration disruptors? Maybe, but you’d have to completely dispel all context and that is not fair as the setting is a professional playoff hockey event and not a board meeting at the office or a lecture at a university.
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Milbury would be derelict of his duties if he didn’t give honest insight, especially with the NHL Playoffs being played in two bubbles (Toronto and Edmonton) due to the season being interrupted for more than four months by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Milbury is smart and experienced enough to know that an average analyst bloviates about the merits of dump and chase versus puck possession. But a brilliant analyst digs deeper and gets into the minds of players and how teams are handling these unprecedented times where players and coaches are being asked to sequester for as long as nearly three months in hopes of winning the Stanley Cup.
This cancel culture we now live in effects politics as well. Full disclosure, I’m an old school Democrat. If we are grading on a scale of 0-10, with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at 0 and Genghis Khan at 10, I’m a 3. But my friends to the far left are making it harder for me to defend them when it comes to the cancel culture.
I prefer to tangle with my friends on the far right more so than the group that I actually agree with more often on the left. First, it’s more fun to debate someone you disagree with than someone you are more aligned with. It is much easier clapping with two hands than one.
I’m for decency and respect. But we have become far too sensitive to what people say. Especially those who are paid to SAY THINGS. Comedians no longer want to or are not allowed to perform on college campuses for fear of being booed off the stage for not being politically correct. Who in their right mind wants to see a politically-correct comedian? That would be as ridiculous as opening a vegetarian steakhouse.
In fact, those who often overreact aren’t the ones who should be offended. Make a harmless joke or innocuous barb about Italian-Americans and I will laugh. The woke, cancel culture types will somehow be offended. Self-deprecation is certainly a lost art.
Back to Milbury. This could be a case of him paying the price of prior transgressions. But this particular dust-up doesn’t warrant him going to the bench for the duration of the playoffs.
In the cancel culture we live in we may never see Milbury back on local or national television coverage. And that’s too bad.
John Sapochetti resides on the North Shore of Boston and is a columnist for FullPressCoverageand co-host of THE GET OFF MY LAWN PODCAST WITH KEEGAN & SAP PODCAST heard on FullPressRadio. Follow him on twitter @JohnSap25