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Peng to the Point

Mick & Milbury



Every Sunday at Peng to the Point, we talk about the world away from the San Jose Sharks.

“Women weaken legs.”

That’s what cantankerous Mickey Goldmill, Rocky Balboa’s fictitious trainer, stressed as Balboa was hitting the bag in “Rocky.”

“Not even any women here to disrupt your concentration.”

That’s what cantankerous Mike Milbury, NBC Sports not-so-fictitious commentator, cracked in response to Brian Boucher’s paean to the playoff hockey bubble environment.

I love “Rocky.” A lot of America loved it too, judging by its Oscar for 1977’s Best Picture.

I don’t love Milbury, but I’ve been entertained by him at times for 30-odd years, from pointing out Ziggy Palffy’s agent was depriving a “small village of a pretty good idiot” in 1998 to the recent, now-deleted tweet mistaking Toronto’s CN Tower for Seattle’s Space Needle. A lot of America has been entertained by Milbury too, judging by his 13 years on the air.

This might be it for Milbury, however, who “has decided to step away” from the playoffs after censure from both the NHL and NBC for his latest of many offenses. Ironically enough, Milbury professed to “not want my presence to interfere with the athletes.”

In the other words, NBC has let him go, at least for now.

So when’s enough enough?

I would argue — never.

You can call it “cancel culture” if you’d like.

I call it a constant questioning of actions, past and present. I think, by and large, it’s a healthy thing to ask: What was right in 1977, is that right today? And so on. It’s good to talk about it. It’s better to learn from it.

Looking specifically at what Mike Milbury said this time, I think he meant it as a joke. I believe he didn’t mean anything by it. But “it’s just a joke” is a flimsy defense. More importantly, in the spirit of constant growth and inquiry, we need to listen to the many voices who have reacted in righteous fury: A woman in sports is more than just a distraction. A woman in sports is more than just a pretty face.

Going back to Mick.

I can still love “Rocky.” I can still love Mick. But it’s okay to acknowledge that Mick’s sentiments are outdated. Fair to say, Mick would have a lot of trouble with 2020.

Times change. Best to listen or be left behind.

As for Milbury, in his 50-plus years in hockey, he’s done a lot to grow the game — but it appears that he’s not growing with the game. I’d love to give him a chance to learn from this, except he’s been given many chances before to learn from his gaffes, and I’m not sure if he’s learned anything.

It’s incumbent then, on NBC and the NHL, to learn from this: Who will they hire to replace Mike Milbury?

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