Milbury came under fire in August over a comment he made about women during a playoff game between the Washington Capitals and New York Islanders on NBC Sports Network. Milbury and studio co-host Brian Boucher were discussing the advantages created by the NHL’s coronavirus bubble.
“If you think about it, it’s a terrific environment with regard to — if you enjoy playing and enjoy being with your teammates for long periods of time, it’s a perfect place,” Boucher said.
“Not even any woman here to disrupt your concentration,” Milbury replied.
Milbury apologized for the comment and announced he would sit out the rest of NBC’s Stanley Cup playoffs coverage.
“It was not my intention to disrespect anyone,” he said. “I was trying to be irreverent and took it a step too far. It was a regrettable mistake that I take seriously.”
During a teleconference with reporters Monday, NBC Sports executive producer Sam Flood declined to go into details of the process by which the network decided to move forward without Milbury.
“It was an unfortunate situation. He’s a friend; he’s been a unique talent,” Flood said. “Sometimes you have to separate; sometimes you have to make tough decisions.”
Milbury, a former NHL player, coach and executive, has made a number of offensive on-air comments during his time as a broadcaster, repeatedly raising his apparent belief that a lack of toughness is a female or homosexual trait and one that is always negative. During the 2009 season, he used the term “pansification” at least twice while working for the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. while talking about the NHL debate over fighting. In 2011, he called the Sedin twins “Thelma and Louise” during the Stanley Cup finals. One year later, Milbury said Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma should have “taken off his skirt and gone over there” during a skirmish in which Penguins assistant Tony Granato held Bylsma back from Flyers coach Peter Laviolette.
During NBC’s 2018 Winter Olympics coverage, Milbury called the domestic violence conviction that ended the NHL career of Russia’s Slava Voynov “an unfortunate incident.”
NBC Sports on Monday also revealed its broadcast team for the 2020-21 season, which for the network begins Wednesday with a tripleheader. Longtime NHL coach Mike Babcock — who has been accused of verbal and mental abuse by multiple players and dubbed “the worst person I’ve ever met” by one of them — will join NBC Sports’ NHL coverage this season after he was fired by the Toronto Maple Leafs in November 2019.
Flood said Babcock approached the network about a job, and the plan was for him to join NBC’s coverage last season before the coronavirus pandemic intervened. He declined to go into much detail about whether the network investigated Babcock’s coaching history, saying merely that “we looked at everything.”
“We had a full process of conversations, as we do with anyone we bring in onto the team,” Flood said.
NBC Sports has not decided on a replacement for Mike “Doc” Emrick, its lead NHL play-by-play announcer who announced his retirement in October. Flood said Emrick will have a limited role with NBC and will provide the voice-over for the opening tease on Wednesday night’s telecast. A documentary on Emrick — a “doc on Doc,” as Flood put it — also is in the works.