NBC Sports Network has some issues on more than just the ratings front. One of their biggest programming hits thus far is live hockey games, and they generally have done a pretty good job thus far with those broadcasts, but there was a notably questionable decision Sunday night on their coverage of the Montreal Canadiens – New Jersey Devils game. The Canadiens started with a moving pre-game tribute to former Montreal Expo Gary Carter, and that tribute was televised on Canadian networks CBC (English) and RDS (French). However, NBC Sports Network elected to instead show a pre-taped feature on one of the Devils, depriving American viewers of the chance to see the Habs’ touching Carter tribute. Here it is for those who missed it:
The Canadiens’ tribute is thoroughly terrific, coming in both French and English (English starts at 0:58) and complete with a slideshow of his career, a moment of silence, and the Montreal players all donning “#8 Carter” Canadiens’ jerseys in honour of the man (which you can see from the Jumbotron shot above, from Montreal broadcaster Dave Kaufman). “The Kid” was a legend in Montreal (his importance to the Expos and the city has been eloquently described in The New York Times by Montreal broadcaster Mitch Melnick), as he was the team’s first superstar brought up through their system and a key part of their rise to becoming a relevant contender in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He’s still beloved in Montreal, as shown by the great tribute shows on that city’s airwaves. It’s perfectly appropriate for one team in a city to recognize the contributions of a legend who played in their city in another sport, and the crowd’s reaction to the Carter tribute illustrates just how much the man meant to Montreal. CBC and RDS did very well to broadcast the tribute in its entirety thanks to its relevance to Canadian sports fans, but NBC Sports Network blew it with their decision not to show it.
Under normal circumstances, it isn’t exactly unprecdented for the visiting broadcast network to ignore a ceremony by the home team. NBC Sports Network isn’t a traditional “visiting network” as they’re national in the U.S., but in a game pitting Canadian and American teams against each other, they’re understandably more interested in features on “their” team. That’s no controversy; CBC and RDS tend to do the same thing in reverse in games involving one Canadian and one American team. The problem here is that Carter was tremendously important to many American fans too, both from his time with the legendary late-1980s Mets and from his overall incredible career, and he’s been honoured by many American teams, including the New York Knicks. The decision to ignore the Carter tribute in favour of pre-taped programming was somewhat tone-deaf. Fortunately, the magic of the Internet does allow you to catch up on things like this, but it shouldn’t have been required to.