TUESDAY, MAY 31
2 P.M. ET
CHRIS MCCLOSKEY: Joining us on our conference call today is executive producer of NBC Sports, Sam Flood, and our play by play team of Mike “Doc” Emrick, Eddie Olczyk and Pierre McGuire. We’ll begin by taking opening statements and then going to questions and answers.
SAM FLOOD: Thanks for joining us today. We’re excited about this Final. We love the fact that Pittsburgh is back with Sidney Crosby leading this team into the Finals. And the local Pittsburgh market showed up in record numbers to watch last night’s game which is great to see since our last appearance in ’09 how big the passion is for Pittsburgh. It’s always been a great sports town. But this team has captured the city based on its turnaround after Christmas.
Then on the other side, to see San Jose finally make to it the Final and have the opportunity to expose that market to the NHL and the Stanley Cup Final. We love the idea of gaining a bigger foothold for the NHL in the West Coast. We saw what it did do the LA teams when they made their two Finals in the past decade. That’s exciting for the sport of hockey. Exciting for the growth of hockey. That’s what it’s about right now is growing this game and it continues to get bigger and hit very important markets.
I will now pass it off to a man who every spring now seems to be receiving the Emmy Award for the best play by play guy in all of sports television, Mr. Doc Emrick.
MIKE “DOC” EMRICK: Thank you, Sam. Sitting at our location where we saw the thrilling finish last night, just watching some of the Sharks practice right now.
But this was this is anything you’d hope for in a Game 1 and it makes you feel so strongly about the excitement of this series as it goes on, because we had everything to keep the fans there to the end. We had a one-goal game. The outcome was in doubt. There was a power play on, the goalie was pulled and they battled right down to the end.
And San Jose knows they only lost by a goal. They could have played a lot better. That’s what they said yesterday. That’s what they’re saying today. They had first period jitters. A lot of surges after that. So this is going to be a lot more about what San Jose is about tomorrow and it’s going to be fun again.
Sam mentioned how Pittsburgh came on and San Jose did, too. This will be the 102nd game for these teams tomorrow, and they’d like to throw the first 40 away because neither team was very good during the first 40. But boy did they ever come on to be from mid December on these were the two best teams in the league in terms of the amount of points they’ve put up and the amount of wins that they were able to record in the playoffs. A lot of reasons to be excited about that, and I’ll pass the puck on now to Eddie Olczyk.
EDDIE OLCZYK: Thank you, Doc. It’s great to be back here in the Stanley Cup Final with our great team, both on the air and most importantly behind the scenes with our great crew.
To me, this is a series that, what we saw a taste of last night is what I think we all anticipated was up and down hockey, great speed, physical hockey. You have a heavy team in San Jose who dictated the terms in the second period.
I think they were caught off guard a bit by Pittsburgh’s speed in the first period. And that’s why the Penguins dominated as much.
We talked about adjusting to the game and the style and the speed of the game. San Jose certainly did that in the second period. Weren’t able to keep up with the Penguins in the first period. Expect a long series. San Jose Sharks are a big, heavy team. They like to grind it out. They like to play below the goal line. And we saw that at times last night for the Penguins.
It’s all about transition. It’s all about less defense, get the puck up the ice, transition game, and get the puck going ahead instead of retreating and playing in your own zone.
So when you have two teams that haven’t seen a lot of each other and haven’t seen the type of team that they’re facing in the Stanley Cup Final, as somebody once said: Something’s gotta give. And last night the Pittsburgh Penguins found a way to jump out to the series lead in Game 1.
PIERRE MCGUIRE: Doc, way to go with another Emmy. Awesome stuff. Three in a row. A lot of times would like to have that kind of dynasty mark on their record and their resume. You obviously own it.
Biggest thing to me last night was experience versus nonexperience in the Stanley Cup Final. Everybody dreams about being in the Stanley Cup Final. Very few people can say they’ve actually been in the Stanley Cup Finals, and we saw that last night with Marc Andre Fleury, Kristopher Letang, Chris Kunitz, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, being five Pittsburgh Penguins players that have multiple Stanley Cup Final games and experiences, some winning, some losing but having that experience.
They didn’t freeze at the starting line. The San Jose Sharks did. That’s why you saw the huge shot disparity in the first period. To San Jose’s credit they found a way to reel it in.
I think going forward they will no longer freeze at the starting line. This has a chance to be an unbelievable series because the stars will elevate in this series. We got a little taste of it last night especially from Pittsburgh.
Sidney Crosby was off the charts with his domination. Kristopher Letang played a fantastic game setting up the winning goal.
The unsung heroes for Pittsburgh in particular Bryan Rust, what a great story he’s becoming. And you look at Nick Bonino. Doc talked about his shot blocking last night, and you see him scoring the game winning goal. You see a player like Ben Lovejoy sitting in the penalty box, and the human emotion of saying, please, don’t let them score while I’m sitting in the box.
This series has everything you want. It’s got emotion. It’s got passion. It’s got skill. It’s got heaviness. Like Eddie just talked about. That’s what San Jose’s all about. It’s got a great American story in Joe Pavelski. What an unbelievable story.
I can’t wait to watch the next six games of the series because I think we have to go right to the finish lines with both of these teams because they didn’t cheat us in Game 1. It was fantastic to watch.
Q. Eddie, you obviously had coached Sidney Crosby his rookie season for a brief spell there. What have you seen in terms of growth from him as a person and player since that time you were behind the bench?
EDDIE OLCZYK: Well, look, there’s much more maturity there. There’s a lot of experience, but I still see the same drive and passion from Sidney Crosby as I saw some 10 or 11 years ago.
The drive that he has is really what separates him from a lot of players. I’m not just talking about in games. I’m just talking about in practice and how he carries himself. So for me you knew he was going to be an elite player. But with everything that comes with that, that is not easy.
And, look, this is his third Final in his short career to this point. And that’s pretty good. Now, in saying that, there haven’t been many teams that have underachieved more than the Pittsburgh Penguins over the course of the last five or six years, considering the Game 7s that they haven’t been able to win, scoring only two goals against the Boston Bruins in an Eastern Conference Finals in a four game sweep.
The series against Philly where it absolutely got out of hand and there were goals going in left and right and everybody was getting suspended. So, look, the teams that they’ve had in the past, they haven’t been able to adjust. They would not adapt.
They didn’t become a chip and chase team when it needed to be. So I think they’re much deeper now. I think it takes a little bit of the pressure off Sid and their better players. But as Pierre touched on a little bit earlier and as we talked about last night, he was flat out awesome last night. He could easily have had four or five points last night.
But to me, it’s maturity. It’s experience and the drive to want to be a difference maker every day, not just in games. I think that’s where he has separated himself from a lot of players in this league over the course of the last 10 or 11 years.
Q. Related question to that, Eddie and Pierre, how if Sidney stopped playing today he would have had a great career. But how much do you think it could enhance his historical legacy to add another Cup to his resume?
PIERRE MCGUIRE: I think anytime you compete for the Stanley Cup you’re adding to your legacy, but the truth of the matter it’s a huge accomplishment. He would have played in three Stanley Cup Finals. He would have won two if in fact they do win which is a long way to go to decide it. He has World Junior gold. He’s got World Champion gold. He’s got two Olympic golds. He’s won major awards. I think it’s a Hall of Fame career. I don’t think Eddie would dispute that or Doc would dispute that, and they’re both members of different hall of fames Eddie in the U.S., and Doc in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
I look at it and I would say that Sidney Crosby is well on his way to being a Hall of Fame player and has been for a long time.
EDDIE OLCZYK: I think that when you look at the body of work, and you have to look at the individual side of it, and the team aspect of it, which is very important, but there are a lot of great players that have played in this game, in this league, that have not gotten that opportunity or have never gotten a chance to win the greatest trophy in all professional sports.
So for me, look, to get to three Finals is something. And I mean that is incredible. But, look, we always want more from our best players. We always expect more from teams when you look at them, and, as I said earlier, and the Penguins have had some opportunities and for whatever reason they haven’t been able to take that next step.
And it’s been a while. But now they’re here. And a lot has to do with their leadership. It has a lot to do with Sidney Crosby. And there’s no doubt, I mean to me he’s going to the hall of fame. Without question, as Pierre talked about, his accomplishments team wise and MVPs and everything else that goes with it.
To me, yeah, if you win another one that’s awesome. That’s great. Will that be something if he doesn’t? Will that be something that people will come back say he’s only won this and this guy’s won two or three, that’s for people to debate.
But for me, without question, he’s done a lot for the game, and the numbers back that up. And the more you win, you know, the more accolades you’re going to get and the more people will probably sit there and say, yeah, it’s a no-brainer.
Q. Sam, I know that throughout the playoffs it’s really a buildup for you guys, kind of culminating here in terms of equipment and just kind of the scope of the production. Any highlights in terms of some cool technology or production story lines that you guys are going to focus on as this is kind of the end of a very long road for you guys?
SAM FLOOD: I think the coolest thing is that we have got the CSN Bay Area group out here as well. They’ve got a studio show coming from the rink each night.
We have two sets for our shows and NBC and NBCSN, an outdoor and an indoor set. And then you’ve have Doc, who’s hanging out in the Captain Morgan Club with Eddie for their unique play by play position so we can get Doc closer to the ice. So anytime you can have Captain Morgan over the shoulder of Doc as he’s calling a game it makes it a special environment (laughter).
And then playing around with 4K and the ability to do NBCeeIt and get tighter and to show the moments. And as we all know hockey is a sport designed for 16:9, designed for high definition.
And our ability to showcase with the Super Bowl replays and the way we’re able to slow shots down to see the puck and see the puck entering the net, it makes a huge difference to have multiple expo devices where you can really show every frame of what’s happening with the puck and whether it’s in or not in the net.
You add to all that, all the additional technology around the net to confirm or not confirm goals has made it a pleasure to be able to showcase the NHL at the very best, with the two best teams in hockey right now.
Q. You mentioned the officiating cameras. How have the blue line angles added to just specifically the NBC coverage?
SAM FLOOD: It gives you one more chance to make sure the call is right. Although, I wish the legal put in a rule where, after 15 seconds in the zone, you can’t go back, decide whether the play was offsides or not because at a certain point you’re in the zone long enough we shouldn’t have to go back to an offsides; you have plenty of chance to get the puck out. But that’s my one political statement for the call.
Q. Eddie, you picked Exaggerator over Nyquist, a horse named for a hockey player. Have you heard anything from those folks in the league in the NHL; and, if so, any picks on the Belmont?
EDDIE OLCZYK: No, I didn’t hear anything from anybody on going against the hockey tie in the Preakness, but that’s part of my job description. And Sam can certainly speak to that when it comes to picking horses.
It’s a little too early. It’s a little too early for the Belmont. We’ve got to see post positions. We’ve got to see who is going to be in. And we also have to see the also have to see the track conditions.
But I think it’s been great for the game. Mr. Reddam who owns Nyquist, team O’Neill, Doug O’Neill, the trainer, to have a horse named after a pretty good hockey player for the Detroit Red Wings in the Original Six franchise, I think it’s been great cross promotion for both sports and being part of both, try to carry the silks for both.
And it’s been very I think it’s been really beneficial to be able to have that extra story and extra tie in on both broadcasts. But when it comes to picking the horses I’m trying to pick the right one, not necessarily the name or the tie in with the National Hockey League.
MIKE “DOC” EMRICK: When Eddie makes picks, in Eddie we trust. (Laughter).
Q. Eddie, I just saw your notes on Twitter about Tom Lysiak. I’m curious, I know this is only tangentially related to the Final, but have you had a chance to talk to Justin Braun about his father in law, and any other thoughts you had about Tom as a teammate as something of an idol growing up?
EDDIE OLCZYK: I haven’t seen Justin Braun. I’ve known Justin Braun a long time. He played college hockey with my oldest son at UMass Amherst. I think growing up and idolizing certain athletes and certain players is what I did. And Tommy Lysiak was certainly one of those players I loved growing up in Chicago. And to have an opportunity to eventually play with him four years later was something that was just incredible.
I played with him and Darryl Sutter in my very first game in the National Hockey League. And he was a great mentor. He was a really good player, very underrated player when it came to the passing and faceoffs and what have you.
But it’s just Doc did just a tremendous job, Emmy Award winning condolence acknowledgment to Tommy Lysiak and his family and obviously Justin Braun being his son in law, it brought back a lot of memories for me and kind of found it a little difficult to even talk about that because of the impact a guy like that had on me as a young kid. And that’s why I think hockey and the people involved in our game are the greatest.
People do things there are a lot of things that people do behind the scenes that a lot of people don’t know about. And that’s the way I think most people in the game like it.
But for me, growing up and having a friend of mine send a letter to Tom Lysiak when I was 14 years old telling him what a fan I was and was hoping to maybe play with him some day. Then a few weeks later Tommy Lysiak sends an autograph picture to my friend and my friend gives it to me, and on that picture it says: To Eddie, hope some day we can play together, best wishes Tommy Lysiak. I thought that was the greatest thing ever.
I still have that picture on my mantel at home. There’s not a day that I don’t see it, and then four years later I get a chance to play with a guy that I idolized, it was just incredible.
And showing Tommy that picture a couple of years ago. I mean he’s been in a battle for a long, long time, to show him that picture and to show Melinda, his wife, and his daughter at an event I was with them at three or four years ago, it was pretty emotional and for him to have done that for some kid that followed him was pretty special. And I think that speaks to the type of guy Tommy was. And I know Justin thinks a lot of Tommy and his family.
But he’s been in a battle. And we certainly are thinking about the Lysiak family at this time.