It looks as if Bristol University has just added a College of
Frozen Pond. This Sunday's ESPN2 telecast of the Colorado
Avalanche-Chicago Blackhawks game (8 p.m.) will be geared toward
the hockey neophyte, with somewhat less emphasis than usual on
the action and much more on education. "There are still too many
people," says ESPN hockey announcer Steve Levy, "who think that
icing is when players stop short on the ice and their skates
send up a plume of shavings."
Exactly, Steve. Everyone knows that icing is um, well, uh....
"When the puck crosses two red lines without being touched, which
results in a face-off," Levy says with a smile. "People also ask
me, 'Are you going to be on at halftime?' There's no halftime in
In a sense the telecast will work shorthanded: There will be no
play-by-play man. Instead, analysts Bill Clement and Darren Pang,
both former NHL players, will provide running commentary,
explaining to viewers simple infractions such as icing and
offsides, as well as standard practices such as shift changes and
beating an opponent to a bloody pulp. In a second booth Levy will
be joined by Bryan Lewis, the league's director of officiating,
and the two will provide rules commentary. Says Levy, who serves
as the unofficial NHL players' name pronunciation guide for his
SportsCenter colleagues, "This will not be your typical 'He
shoots, he scores!' broadcast. We might even miss a goal."
The telecast will make use of pretaped segments on a goalie's
equipment and on face-offs. Moreover, during the broadcast,
viewers will be able to go on-line at ESPN.com and ask questions,
with a selection answered on-air. Even the players will get in on
the educational act: While toweling off between periods, some
members of the Avalanche and the Blackhawks will make themselves
available for on-line questioning.
"We hope to provide a service, but obviously this is in our best
interest, too," says Levy, alluding to ABC/ESPN's recent
five-year, $600 million renewal of its contract with the NHL, a
league that historically has been an underperformer in the
Nielsens. "We hope to generate more interest in the sport and, as
a consequence, more viewers."
And if as a result of the evening's education folks stop
pestering Levy about his plans at halftime? Well, that will just
be cake on the icing. --John Walters
COLOR PHOTO: BOB ROSATO
A Web site tells you what sports events the little bundle of joy
might make you miss
When your mom, dad or the film Porky's first explained the facts
of life to you, she, he or it didn't cover all the bases. Did
anyone inform you, for example, that the birth of your child will
most likely require you to miss at least a solid week of sports
The folks at BabyCenter.com are at your cervix...uh, service.
The site, a virtual Birds, Bees & Beyond, includes a
"Preconception" link, which encompasses a "Sports Conflict
Catcher" section (reached directly at
www.babycenter.com/conflicts). By clicking on it, prospective
moms and dads can avoid nasty parent traps such as a labor that
coincides with Labor Day weekend U.S. Open tennis action.
The "Sports Conflict Catcher" provides a three-pronged crystal
ball. You can input "Your Partner's Due Date" (sexist, no?) and
be given a list of events that are scheduled to occur on or about
the big day; you can click on to "Choose an Event/Tell Me When to
Be Careful"; or those couples feeling randy can hit "What's
Coming Up in 9 Months."
As of last week the events nine months hence included the Summer
Olympics, from Sept. 16 through Oct. 1. "To be sure you can give
this event your full attention, you should avoid each other Dec.
24, 1999--Jan. 8, 2000." (Not a problem, given the plethora of
college and pro football on TV during that time.)
Still, the stork has to visit sometime--and you've got to
live your life. Just go to BabyCenter.com's "Directions to the
Hospital from Your Favorite Event." --J.W.
"Rocker is awesome and proved it on the mound last season. The
controversy with the Mets only fired him and the rest of the team
up more, and it paid off in the NLCS. He ran his mouth and backed
it up with his arm. How many other people can do that?"
Atlantan, on CNNSI.com, reacting to Braves reliever John
Rocker's anti-New York remarks in the Dec. 27-Jan. 3 SI.
ESPN hopes Sunday's one-night, on-air crash course will demystify
hockey for neophyte fans and casual viewers.