Pierre McGuire was already a less-than-popular figure among hockey fans, and it’s safe to say he didn’t win too many more supporters Wednesday night. The NBC commentator was criticized for what some viewers regarded as “cringeworthy” interactions with U.S. women’s hockey star Kendall Coyne Schofield, who was serving as an analyst during a telecast of a Pittsburgh Penguins-Tampa Bay Lightning game.
After contributing to the pregame coverage on NBC Sports Network’s “Wednesday Night Hockey,” Coyne Schofield joined McGuire at his familiar rink-side perch, between the benches, for the first period. McGuire got things off to a very questionable start by making a show of pointing out to her that “Tampa’s going to be on your left. Pittsburgh’s going to be on your right,” as if she weren’t fully aware of that or couldn’t figure it out.
He followed that up with, “What are you expecting out of this game?” Gesticulating toward her with both hands, he added, “We’re paying you to be an analyst, not to be a fan tonight!”
Coyne Schofield, 26, not only has won Olympic gold and silver medals with Team USA, meaning that she probably knows a thing or two about hockey, but she was a communications major at Northeastern University and worked as a sideline reporter while at the school. So, you know, she was probably well aware that NBCSN hired her to provide some analysis and really didn’t need him to say much of anything, let alone some condescending gibberish, before she got to it.
Not surprisingly, the comments by McGuire, 57, sparked numerous negative reactions online.
More than a few observers were reminded of a moment between McGuire and Coyne Schofield just a few days earlier that many found objectionable. She had just become the first woman to compete at the NHL’s All-Star Game skills competition, turning in a solid performance in the fastest skater event, when he put his arms around her waist as she went by on the ice.
It didn’t help that after McGuire told her at the event, “So, as you were skating by all these players, you know what they were doing? ‘Oh, my gosh, is she fast!’ ” He added, “Nobody wants to lose to you!”
“McGuire meant well, and Coyne Schofield replied graciously (‘Thanks, Pierre!’), but the patronizing turn sank a triumphant moment,” wrote the New Yorker’s Ben McGrath.
At Wednesday’s game, McGuire also gained notice for another comment to Coyne Schofield. When she joked that, unlike for the U.S.-Canada gold medal game at the 2018 Olympics, she didn’t have “a cage on” for Penguins-Lightning, he said, “I’ll be your cage tonight, how’s that?”
Fortunately for all concerned, Coyne Schofield moved up after the first period to the announcers' booth, as previously planned, where she was seated with NBCSN’s John Forslund and Eddie Olczyk. Before the game, she had said (via NHL.com), “I’m excited to learn in between the glass with Pierre and go up in the booth with John and Eddie, and just experience them at their best.”
“It’s a huge transition, but I’m looking at it in the same regard as I just want to be myself, showcase my personality,” Coyne Schofield added, “and prove to the world that women can talk sports, women can talk hockey, and we know the game as well as the men.”
One might have hoped that, even if there are some who still required such proof, none of them would have been wearing microphones for NBCSN’s telecast, but here we are. It’s likely that, at this point, more than a few hockey fans would be willing to pay McGuire just to be a fan — and not to be an analyst.
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