A year ago, Mike Milbury stepped away from NBC’s NHL coverage in the Canada bubble after (another) comment drew the ire of hockey fans.
While talking about the bubble, Milbury said “it’s the perfect place. Not even any woman here to distract you.” That led to the predictable blowback, and Milbury stepped away from his position after condemnation from both NBC and the NHL. When the NHL’s season resumed outside of the bubble in January for the start of this season, Milbury was nowhere to be found on NBC’s coverage, and the network announced he would not be a part of their coverage going forward.
After a somewhat quiet year, Milbury spoke about his departure to Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe this week. He attempted to rationalize his comment and complained about the attempts to “cancel” him (which, well, NBC didn’t put him on the air and he didn’t get hired by either ESPN or Turner, so…).
“Now it’s time to say something,” Milbury said Thursday on a phone call from the Cape. “I don’t want to end 46 years of a career like this.
“I want to explain the comment from that day. As a player and coach in the league, I’ve been on a lot of road trips and around a lot of guys that are young, fit, well-compensated, have celebrity status, and when they go on the road they play hard and they party hard. And a lot of their attention is on women, and I certainly don’t mean that in a bad way.
“Now I get it, everybody else has other ways to party, but that’s my experience and I stand by it. It’s biology, for [goodness] sake. So sometimes their lust for companionship was a distraction. So I didn’t think there was anything wrong with the comment, but apparently it was to other people. And I got dismissed from my job.
“Excuse me, but I’m not going to be canceled. I refuse to be canceled. The only thing that’s going to cancel me is the grim reaper, and I can see him in the distance, but not yet.
“While I’ve been on this sabbatical, I’ve thought many things. Long walks. There are many social inequities in the United States, and I am glad they are being addressed. Great things. I think we can all agree with that. But it’s become a tsunami of social change and tsunamis are indiscriminate. They’ll wipe out the good and the bad and anything in its way, and I don’t think that’s right. It makes heroes out of people that aren’t heroes, and villains out of people that aren’t villains, and maybe worst of all, a social tsunami is too quick to point a finger and too quick to declare guilt by legacy, and I’m not going to accept that. Just because bad things happened in the past doesn’t mean I’ve got to be guilty for things that happen today. I don’t buy that.
“What if I had said there aren’t any dogs here to distract the players? Or any wives? Or children? Do I have to describe the whole pantheon of the human race in order for it to be politically correct? . . . I didn’t feel like I was offending anybody. Has your wife ever been a distraction in your life? I hope you give me the right [expletive] answer.”
Well, those sure are a lot of words, with nothing really resembling an apology in there.
The dirty secret here is that hockey fans didn’t like Milbury even before his comment in the bubble. That was just the straw that broke the camel’s back. A 2016 petition to remove Milbury from NBC’s NHL coverage gained plenty of traction. Fans in both Nashville and Detroit hate him. Hell, NBC tried to bribe Predators fans with free hats to not show off anti-Milbury signs.
Yeah, Milbury was pulled off the air following his comments in the bubble. But his future as an NHL broadcaster always seemed to be hanging by a thread, and each shitty comment he made seemed to unravel that thread a little more. The thread finally snapped last August.