At around noon EST, USA Hockey announced that not only will the NHL Network be airing 15 World Junior contests, but that the U.S. games will be called by none other than Gary Thorne. Joining Thorne in the booth will be Dave Starman, who handled color commentary for last year’s event with JP Dellacamera.
For those who didn’t know, Thorne was actually scheduled to be the play-by-play man for last year’s World Junior Championship. However, for family reasons, Thorne had to bow out.
For anyone that loved hockey on ESPN or for anyone who loves broadcasting, getting Thorne for this event is a coup for USA Hockey. Thorne brings enthusiasm, excitement and just an overall aura to every broadcast. His commanding voice is among the best in the biz. He’s called huge games and was the voice of some iconic moments in the NHL.
In addition to his great TV calls, perhaps hockey’s younger audience knows his voice better from video games. Thorne, along with former ESPN partner, Bill Clement, has provided the play-by-play in EA Sports’s wildly popular NHL series for the last few years.
I know not everyone is a fan of Gary Thorne doing hockey. However, I am a big supporter and have been since I was a kid. His work during the NCAA Frozen Four has been magnificent. Watch that video and notice how long he stays silent. He gives you a great goal call and then just allows you to enjoy the crowd noise and bench reaction. He does the same thing here. I’ve always been a fan of the pause as a technique in bringing more to a broadcast. It’s that whole “less is more” thing.
I actually really enjoyed JP Dellacamera’s work last year as well, but I think Thorne’s voice is more geared towards this kind of event. I expect him to add a lot to the viewing experience.
Other important notes about the broadcast team. Fred Pletsch, who is the associate commissioner of the CCHA, will be the rink-side reporter for the preliminary round, while Billy Jaffe will take over that role during the medal round. Both guys are great at what they do.
You may remember Fred Pletsch as the rink-side reporter last year at the WJC and the Big Chill earlier this month. The thing that makes him so good is that he knows the players and coaches in a different way than other reporters. As an associate commissioner for an NCAA conference, he is able to get to know these people on a different level. That came across in the way he asked questions last year. The coaches also gave him good answers because they felt comfortable talking to Fred. His interview with goalie coach Joe Exter before overtime in the gold-medal game last year provided some insight into how the team was feeling and the confidence they still had after giving up two late goals. You don’t often get something like that in that situation.
Billy Jaffe brings that professionalism and enthusiasm you come to expect from a veteran of broadcasting. He’s going to entertain you and hopefully get you some good answers from the coaches. He also brings a face that hockey fans know. They’ve seen him on the NHL Network and on Versus. The World Junior Championship is still a bit of an unknown in this market, so having someone’s voice that they know and trust helps.
Dave Starman is a good choice for color commentary because he’s very in tune with the college game and its players. That will help, seeing as much of Team USA’s roster will be current collegiate stars. Starman handles color commentary for CBS College Sports hockey coverage regulary and also writes a column for USCHO.com. You can’t just stick a guy in the booth who is unfamiliar with these players and this tournament. This will be Starman’s third consecutive World Juniors in the booth. His experience, along with a broadcast partner that’s very giving to the color commentator, will make for good broadcasting.
I’ve got to hand it to the folks at USA Hockey and the NHL Network for putting together another great broadcast team. This group should bring excitement and insight to the broadcast that will only enhance the viewing experience of an already TV friendly event.