Mix It Up Boys!
Updated: Jul 15, 2020
By Mike Toth In the midst of a life-changing pandemic, it's amazing how much time you have to contemplate some of life's big (and teeny weeny) questions. The sports world has a myriad of such mysteries and if you happen to be a fellow soul-searcher, perhaps you can provide some enlightenment on this particular query.
Why are so many hockey play-by-play broadcasters addicted to the "Centering Pass" description?
A few dozen fresh Covid cases aside, the NHL is still planning to drop the puck in a few weeks to resume their virus-halted season. It's going to be tough enough watching hockey in the sweaty summer months. But toss in an aggravating habit that a number of TV play-by-play announcers have developed, and you could have a lot of fans crying in their beer; especially if they forget to remove their mask when they take a sip.
Speaking of the suds, try this as a drinking game. Every time a broadcaster screams "Centering Pass", take a belt. Trust me, you'll be so full of Corona you'll forget all about the virus part of the equation. I'm not going to call anyone out, but a couple of Canada's most prominent NHL play-by-play voices have fallen into the annoying habit of using the "Centering Pass," description over and over again. In fact, the guys I'm thinking of are so talented and professional that if they went back and reviewed tape, they would be shocked and embarrassed if they counted how many times they bellowed out "Centering Pass".
Mix it up boys!
"Passes in front", "Slides it over", "Moves it across".....or how about just plain "Passes"? After all, does EVERY pass to the front of the net have to be considered a "Centering Pass"? It sounds more like a Provincial Park than a simple narrative of where the puck is heading.
I know it might seem like a small thing, and many of you are mumbling that I've gone COVID-crazy from being cooped up for too long. But, believe me, when "Centering Pass" gets stuck in your brain and some of the best in the business use the phrase fifty times a game, it really does drive you bonkers.
Now, ladies and gents, it's time for the "look in the mirror" portion of our program.
When I did hockey play-by-play for Sportsnet, I had more than my share of irritating habits and catch phrases. In fact, they once did a whole radio show in Calgary filled with irate callers complaining about my annoying habit of constantly referring to Flames netminder Fred Braithwaite as "Fast Freddy". (I have to admit, it was annoying. But, dang! Freddy WAS fast.)
Another "Toth-ism" that failed to catch on?
”Pass the peanuts, Penelope! That's a home run, Cannons-style!" That was my home run call on radio broadcasts for the minor league baseball Calgary Cannons. It didn't have quite the same ring to it as the great Jerry Howarth's famous "There she goes!" home run call on Toronto Blue Jays broadcasts; which might explain why Jerry spent 36 amazing seasons in the Blue Jays booth, while my baseball broadcasting career wrapped up after just two short years. We didn't exactly have a huge audience, as Cannons games aired on one of the lowest-rated radio stations in Calgary. I remember being pumped, however, when a guy came up to me and said that he listened to each and every broadcast. "Of course," he quickly added, "I work way out in the bush and for some reason, your station is the only one I can pick up."
Ah yes, another devoted fan.
But when you're broadcasting to a hostage-free audience, you're often so caught up in the action that you don't even realize you're repeating a certain phrase over and over again. That's where an attentive producer with a good ear comes in. Unfortunately, though, a lot of behind the scenes people are too intimidated to correct the on-air "talent". Similarly, some big-name broadcasters and their oversized egos aren't willing to take any advice.
It's too bad.
Because it's funny how a few tiny words, repeated ad nauseum, can get in the way of a really good game. So, please hockey announcers. If you do get a chance to broadcast some pandemic puck, I beg of you - stay away from too many "Centering Pass" calls.
And if you're really stuck, I give you official permission to replace "Centering Pass" with good old "Pass the peanuts, Penelope!” every once in a while.