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Archive for January 7, 2023

Jan. 7, 2023 — The silent winter

Yesterday, I settled in to watch a doubleheader of women’s ice hockey.

The games were being broadcast from Fenway Park in Boston. The NHL left up the same rink that it built last weekend for the Winter Classic, and were letting other teams and the community use the space until the inevitable thaw of the spring and a return to baseball.

Women’s ice hockey is a particular provenance of New England universities. For years, the three dominant teams in the pre-NCAA era were Providence College, Northeastern University, and the University of New Hampshire. The three schools recruited heavily from Canada and from the top tiers of the American development system.

The Fenway rink saw Quinnipiac, Harvard, Holy Cross, and Boston University take part in the doubleheader. It’s a sign of growth, given the fact that only one of these four schools had varsity women’s ice hockey 25 years ago.

But much has changed since then. The number of current teams in the National Championship division (combining Division I and II teams) stands at 42. A number of big-time athletic programs, such as Penn State, Wisconsin, Syracuse, and Minnesota, have women’s hockey.

The quality of the game has changed for the better over the years. Goalies no longer look like Weebles when going after a stray puck. Every player seemingly has a slapshot. No longer are rosters filled out by players wearing figure skates with toe-picks on the front. The pace and rhythm have increased with the increase in skill and physicality.

And I was noticing this on the game broadcast yesterday while listening to the ambient crowd noise, the occasional shout from the bench, and the sounds of skates crunching into the snow.

Because that’s all I was hearing.

Somehow, the New England Sports Network, the broadcaster of the games, failed to make available the play-by-play for the broadcast. I’m pretty sure there had to be someone in that booth, because there were some interstitial video of a couple of backyard rinks and the installation of a goalie mask in a museum.

I didn’t hear any of the backstory of the game, or get information about what was really going on. For example, I had to take to Twitter to figure out that there was a communications breakdown amongst the Harvard team when it was trying to pull the goalie for a sixth attacker late on. The breakdown led to a minor penalty for too many players on the ice, effectively ending the Crimson’s chances.

It’s a shame that NESN silenced its on-air talent during the broadcasts. I’ll be interesting to hear whether the same happens during today’s men’s doubleheader of games.