The Old College Try

•  My short shifts as a network TV sports analyst

•  Who can forget “Friday Night Hockey?” Many, probably

•  At least I got it right about a hockey movie

College Sports Television (CSTV) was launched in 2003. It carried, among other sports, live college hockey games. I just had to apply for work there, because:

>  At the time, I was writing the weekly College Hockey Report for the New York Times.

>  I’d been laid off in the CNN-AOL merger of ’01, and was looking to stay in television.

> Their studios and HQ were at Chelsea Piers . . where I played hockey in beer leagues.

I tracked down the powers that be at CSTV and began pestering them. (My agent had released me, saying she couldn’t find gigs for her other clients who were in their twenties and had fabulous heads of hair . . so she wasn’t optimistic about the chances of 55-year-old, follicly-challenged me.)

I landed a tentative position on “Friday Night Hockey” as a studio analyst.

Adam Zucker, me

I guess I was trying to divert attention from my hairline to my chin, trying out the goateed look.

G.O.A.T. (Goatee on a talker)

With anchors Adam Zucker and Greg Amsinger, I would provide between-periods assessments of the games, pick out video highlights and try to talk over them knowledgeably.  Frankly, knowledge was in short supply, because I had never so much as received actual coaching in hockey, having only played the “pond” version on the lake I grew up next to, and the adult rec league version for most of my life.

Employing the “presidential” thumb-and-forefinger gesture

My unfamiliarity with the “Xs and Os” of the game was pretty obvious. My ability to “fake it till you make it” went only so far.  I lasted about two or three games before I was replaced by a guy, Dave Starman, who today is a widely-seen analyst on college hockey telecasts (and is steadily losing his hair, I might add!).

(Adam Zucker is now a studio host of college football at CBS and Greg Amsinger is an anchor on MLB Network. CSTV was bought up by CBS in 2008 and is now branded CBS Sports Network.)

The one thing I know I got right, very right, was the subject of a segment I did on “Miracle,” the movie that re-creates the 1980 “Miracle on Ice,” where Herb Brooks’ band of college kids knocked off the mighty Soviet Union hockey team in the 1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympics. I had done a Times column on the making of “Miracle,” interviewing a couple of the college hockey players cast in the film.

“Probably the best hockey movie ever made,” I opined on CSTV in February of 2004.   “And, I think, it will be one of the best sports films.” 

Today, “Miracle” has an 80% rating from critics on and 90% from audiences. It was ranked #18 recently by Vulture in an article, “The 50 Best Sports Films of All Time.”

My enthusiasm for the film is apparent here:


More stories from the reporter on the road here.

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