Saturday, June 06, 2009

Bingo Bango! Redmond Preaching What He Didn't Practice

He’s not in the broadcast booth right now, for that is solely the turf of Mike “Doc” Emrick and Eddie Olczyk, with just two teams standing in the NHL playoffs.

I enjoy Olczyk as the game analyst for Versus and NBC, but “Edzo” doesn’t talk about “B.C. two-handers” or “Katie bar the door” or declare that “school’s out.”

There is no “Johnny on the spot” in Eddie’s broadcast world.

No “Bingo-Bango.”

Those are the colorful words of Mickey Redmond, who—and don’t look now—has just completed his 30th season of donning the headset and yakking, in his own inimitable way, about the sport he’s known for over 50 years.

Redmond’s popularity has pretty much reached cult-like status.

In football, you had John Madden, the former coach who wasn’t the first to use a Telestrator, but no one used it with as much vim and vigor.

“Boom! Right there!” Madden would scream as the television screen was showing us a wide, overhead shot of the football action, adorned with Madden’s circles and lines and arrows.
Madden just announced his retirement, only last month. He’ll spend more time with his family—the usual explanation for why someone walks away while their popularity is still high.

At his peak, Madden was almost bigger than the games he broadcast. And I don’t mean that literally, despite John’s famously large waistline.

Fans got jiggly and smitten whenever Madden was assigned to do a game involving their team.

For if Big John was doing your team’s game, then it must have been a very big game, indeed.

He traveled the country in a big bus, being deathly afraid of airplanes, and his time spent in a city was like that of a rock star.

Across the border, in neighboring Canada, there’s another loudmouthed ex-coach who elicits such response.

Don Cherry, the self-caricature, has shtick.

The outlandish suit jackets. Stiff-as-board shirt collars that occupy every square centimeter from neck to chin.

A legendary hatred for European players.

Cherry’s entrance into Joe Louis Arena for the CBC audience prior to Game One of the Stanley Cup Finals was a scripted, shlocky, overdone display more befitting a professional wrestling pay-per-view event than a humble little hockey game.

Cherry stepped off a boat that purportedly carried him across the Detroit River from Canada. He was accompanied by some female lovelies.

A voice-over accompanied the pictures, a take-off on the current Dos Equis beer commercials that trumpet “the most interesting man in the world.”

Cherry, through the years, has created a play-on-words term for his sport.

Hockey shtick.

It’s the natural progression of time that can be blamed for why there are fans of Madden, Redmond, and Cherry who know little, if anything, about the careers of their heroes before blabbing into a microphone began putting food on said heroes’ tables.

Example: Redmond, to hear him call games, must have been quite the fighter and physical player, for as much as he gets excited over the rough stuff on the ice.

Or so the younger, more naïve kids out there no doubt believe.


It’s laughable, to me, to hear Mickey get his shorts in a bunch over why fighting has been legislated to near extinction, when Redmond never, that I recall, dropped the gloves and went at it as a player.

Mickey Redmond was, for a few precious years, one of the most prolific goal scorers of his time whne he played for the Red Wings from 1971-76.

He scored 50 goals in a season two years in a row—in 1973 and ’74.

I was there, in Olympia Stadium, the night he scored No. 50 in 1974.

Redmond lumbered over the New York Rangers’ blue line, playing right wing, and blasted one of his famous slap shots from the top of the face-off circle. The screamer beat goalie Eddie Giacomin cleanly, and the Olympia crowd went nuts.

Fifty goals—again!

But Mick’s eventual bad back got him, and he was forced to retire at age 28. He gave it a go at training camp at age 31 in 1979, but after a few days he retired again, for good.

Redmond was a fine player, and it was too bad that he had to hang up his skates so soon.

But he was not, by any stretch of the imagination, considered a physical player.

Not that you could tell, by the way Mickey screams whenever the gloves are shed and two players dance on the ice.

“There they go! Look out here!” Redmond might bark, and I must admit, his enthusiasm for the fisticuffs is rather contagious, as a viewer watching at home.

Then the linesmen step in, and heaven help them if they do so too early for Mick’s liking.

“Oh, come on! Let ‘em go! See? The linesmen, ruining the fun again.”

Redmond is another broadcaster whose fame was greater behind the mike than in uniform

I’ll call it the Jack Eno Syndrome.

My father, Jack, was as mild-mannered as they come. I don’t think I saw him so much as kill a housefly.

But get him in front of the TV when a boxing match was on, and it was, as Mickey would say, “Katie bar the door.”

My, how much my father loved his boxing—and his hockey fights, too, truth be told.

Clark Kent couldn’t get enough of it, in fact.

He’d seek out boxing every night, and on most evenings he found some, on some channel, somewhere on the cable dial.

Didn’t matter if he knew the combatants or not. As long as they had gloves on and the action was taking place in a ring, then that was enough for dear old dad.

Maybe Redmond was a wannabe fighter whose desire was forcibly suppressed so he could go out and score goals.


I don’t know how else to explain Redmond’s bloodthirsty veneer that has been manifesting itself for three decades in the broadcast booth.

Now, during the Finals, Redmond is relegated to post-game analysis with channel 4’s Bernie Smilovitz.

Teaming with Bernie might be enough to cause a non-physical broadcaster to wanna drop the mikes and have at it.


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