Setting: Deep inside NHL headquarters. Date: July 2020.
Carruthers: I’ve called this meeting to discuss one or two challenges we have identified in advance of restarting this year’s NHL season.
Morris: Such as the fact that it’s almost August and much of North America is in a heatwave and hockey is the last thing on their minds? Someone begins playing the Dropkick Murphys’ “Time to Go” on a harmonica.
Carruthers: Thank you, Peters. (to Morris) Marketing is on that. They’re positioning the restart of hockey as a virtual way to beat the heat. No, one of the challenges is swearing, and what we do about it.
Jenkins: We could put a swear jar in the coffee room. $1 for every obscenity. At Major League Baseball HQ they’ve made a fortune.
Carruthers: No, Jenkins, not here; in the rinks, during games.
Jenkins: Um, a swear jar on the end of each bench? And a big one in the penalty box?
Carruthers (sighing): I mean how do we mask the fact that the players are swearing when they’re on the ice.
Morris: Everyone knows the players swear on the ice.
Carruthers: Yes, but viewers usually can’t hear them over the sound of the crowd. Which we won’t have.
Jenkins: We could ask them to swear in a foreign language. It won’t be a problem for a lot of the players.
Carruthers: That won’t work. If a Russian player skates past the ref and says blyat, everyone will know they’re not saying “Have a nice day.” No, Jenkins, I’m not going to explain what it means. Google it. (impatiently) After the meeting.
Morris: What about putting the games on a 10-second tape delay? That would cover everything, including arena employees. Some of their language can be pretty harsh. Someone begins playing the Zambonis’ “I Want to Drive the Zamboni”.
Carruthers: Very droll, Peters. But that’s a good idea, Morris. It means hiring more staff, but we can position that as a win: “NHL contributes to job creation”.
Morris: Will there be any crowd noise?
Carruthers: We’re trying to decide. With almost no one playing in their home rink, what do we do when there’s a goal, hit, or fight? Someone begins playing Warren Zevon’s “Hit Somebody”. Must you, Peters?
Morris: We could have an equal crowd response for everything.
Jenkins: Or we could poll the crew before each game and see which team is the favourite, have crowd reaction for them, and silence for the other team. It would generate a lot of fan reaction.
Carruthers: But not the kind we want. I think, in the interests of broadcast fairness, we would have to go with Morris’s suggestion. Then there is the lack of a crowd, which means no punching in on individual fans for reaction shots.
Morris: We could focus more on the players on the bench.
Jenkins: But not the ones using sweaty towels. Or spitting. Or doing that thing where they chew on their half-in, half-out mouthguards. That’s just gross. Someone begins playing Belvedere’s “Two Minutes for Looking So Good”.
Carruthers: Knock it off, Peters. (to Jenkins) Point taken. Finally, we come to the between-periods segments. Obviously we do the usual: in-studio talking heads, game analysis, scoreboard watch, interviews with whatever players drew the short straw. We should also acknowledge COVID-19 in some way, and show that we’re taking it seriously. Suggestions?
Morris: “The NHL is committed to responsible oversight and taking all precautions necessary to ensure the safety of players, staff, and employees, while bringing fans the game they love.”
Jenkins: “The NHL: at least we’re doing better than Major League Baseball!” Someone begins playing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”.
Carruthers: Thank you for your input; I’ll think about it. Meeting adjourned. Peters, I’d like a word before you go… .