Mike Milbury is out and Mike Babcock is in for NBC Sports’ coverage of the NHL this season.
Milbury had been with the network since 2008 after coaching the Bruins and serving as coach and general manager of the Islanders. He stepped away from broadcasting during the 2020 playoffs after drawing widespread criticism for saying players should be more focused in the league’s coronavirus bubble because there were “not even any women here to disrupt your concentration.”
“It’s an unfortunate situation with Mike,” executive producer Sam Flood said Monday. “Mike is a friend. He’s a unique talent, and he’s given a lot to NBC and the NHL over the years. It was time to separate for a number of reasons.”
Asked later for details, Flood declined to elaborate. Milbury’s ouster is the second in less than a year for the NHL on NBC, which parted ways with Jeremy Roenick in February after suspending the former player for making inappropriate comments about coworkers.
In a statement, NBC Sports said: “We are grateful to Mike for all of his contributions to our coverage for 14 years, but he will not be returning to our NHL announce team. We wish him well.”
Milbury in August apologized for his on-air remark about women, saying in a statement: “It was not my intention to disrespect anyone. I was trying to be irreverent and took it a step too far. It was a regrettable mistake that I take seriously.”
Babcock, an NHL head coach for 17 seasons, joins NBC Sports more than a year after being fired by Toronto. The 2008 Stanley Cup-winning coach came under fire late last year for tactics that some considered to be mental abuse.
Flood said a representative for Babcock reached out about doing some work during the playoffs, and the network decided in light of pandemic protocols to wait until this season. Asked twice on a season-opening conference call about the decision to hire Babcock, Flood gave terse, brief answers.
“We looked at everything,” Flood said. “We’ve had a full process of conversations, as we do with anyone we bring in onto the team.”
Flood said he got to know Babcock more than a decade ago and called him “a fascinating, insightful man. I think he’ll be a great addition to the team.”
NBC isn’t naming a replacement for Mike “Doc” Emrick after he retired from his role as the top play-by-play announcer. Kenny Albert, John Forslund and Brendan Burke headline the group in 2021.
Former U.S. women’s hockey star AJ Mleczko will again be a game analyst, with current player Kendall Coyne Schofield making recurring appearances in the booth while also serving as player development coach for Chicago.
“I’m so excited to be able to call these games that I’ll be able to,” Mleczko said. “I’m also thrilled to be back with the NBC team.”