Ok, here’s the last installment of the Darren Pang interview. You may think I’ve been drawing the whole thing out, and you’d probably be right. With all the off-days, it’s either this, or my review of the State Of Union address.
Let’s stick with hockey.
Here, Panger talks about why he thinks the Predators are so successful, why he likes being between the glass, why Sidney Crosby is a crybaby (Ok, I’m paraphrasing there), and why we’re lucky to have Aaron Sims as our play-by-play guy.
RM: The Predators are fourth in their confernece….going into the season, did you have any idea that they’d be as successful as they have been?
DP: Nope. I have all the admiration in the world for Barry Trotz…Peter Horachek is a good friend of mine….he was my former captain in Saginaw. I really think that they really epitomize how to coach in this league. How do they do it every year? How do they lose so many quality players, yet are able to go to the stable here in Milwaukee, and bring them up and have them compete at the NHL level? I can only think of one thing. They’ve got a low budget, I get that. But the coach has a message, and the players respond to that message. They play a hard game. They don’t give you a whole lot of room to make a play…they’re tenacious.
Every year, we fill out our ballot, and I think for four years, I’ve got Barry Trotz in one, two or three. I don’t care if he makes the playoffs. If he gets that team to 9th or 10th I still vote for him because I think that’s amazing. Last year I voted for him again…not as the winner. I thought that Dave Tippett should win it and he did. But I had Barry Trotz there, and I’m totally amazed at what he does every year.
RM: When broadcasting games, do you have a preference between being in the booth or between the benches?
DP: I’d rather be between the benches. In 1998, I did the olympics for CBS in Nagano, and CBS paid only so much money, that only one broadcaster was allowed between the benches, and it was no glass on either side. So I was able to be there for the Olympics. So that was phenomenal. John Davidson was up in the booth and I was down below. I could see things, hear things, and that was my first experience being down low. Since that time, NBC has designed “Inside The Glass”, but I often tell Pierre Maguire, “you weren’t the first. We did that in 1998”. So, to answer your question, it’s more thrilling being down there. You feel the game, you smell the game, you can hear and see the game a whole lot better down there.
RM: And there’s probably a lot more that you can report on than a sideline reporter in, say, football.
DP: Oh yeah, first of all you’re interviewing the coach at the under ten minute mark of the first period, and under ten minute mark of the second period, you do both coaches. So now you’re on the bench. You have a feel for what the coach is seeing, the frustration of the players, the animosity between the two teams. There’s a lot more to deliver in hockey between the two benches.
RM: Did you get a chance to see the HBO special leading up to the Winter Classic, and if so, what did you think of it?
DP: I watched it all — I loved it. We always said when I was at ESPN… we had a producer Bruce Collins, he said “if only we could do some of these games on HBO.” The entire game. You know, say what’s on your mind. If you’ve got a beef about a player and a little language slides out from a player, it’s okay — that’s HBO. But I think HBO produced it brilliantly. I thought they took the storyline of the struggling Washington Capitals, and the dark room and the curtains going down and the sad state…..and then they brought the happy Pittsburgh Penguins and you could really feel the flow of the two franchises. I give both teams a lot of credit for opening themselves up, because too many times the general manager or coach or the owner will say “absolutely not”. I think the fans saw great personalities.
RM: Do you think Dave Steckel’s hit on Sidney Crosby was a dirty hit?
DP: I don’t. I’ve talked to a lot of people, and it’s funny…half of them say it was a vicious dirty hit, and when I saw it at full speed, I swear he didn’t see where Sidney was, and Sidney didn’t see where he was. And it’s two players making a turn, and one player is 6’6, and the elbow pads are so darn hard….I know Sidney doesn’t believe that. But I don’t think Steckel is athletic enough — no disrespect to him — but I don’t think he’s nimble or athletic enough to avoid that confrontation. He was like a 747 making a turn, and his wing got in the way.
RM: You just had the chance to broadcast some of this game with Aaron Sims. How does he rank up there with the Jim Hughson’s and Gary Thorne’s, and Joe Benanati’s of the world?
DP: He’s good, he’s got a great call. Great voice, and he’s got great inflection. He knows when there’s a crescendo happening. Often what we talk about with play-by-play guys….when I’m with Doc Emrick on NBC, and it seems like there’s a lot of voices rambling, our producer will say, “It’s Doc time now.” Aaron has that ability to just take it and build it. And I think that’s what fans want to hear. They want to know, are people up on their seats? Is there a gasp? Is there anticipation? And I think Aaron’s call is great. Other than me getting in the way of him, I think he was great. I stepped on him! (laughs) He’s a terrific person and I think he does a great job.
Many thanks one more time to Mr. Pang for his time, opinions, and enthusiasm for the sport of hockey.