Howard Herman | Designated Hitter: Forslund doesn't view himself as homer during national hockey broadcasts
There might be two members of the NBC on NHL crews who could find Berkshire County without a GPS. One of them might have wrapped up his broadcasting schedule on Friday.John Forslund grew up in Springfield, is the current TV broadcaster for the Carolina Hurricanes, and handled the Carolina-New York Islanders series on NBC and the NBC Sports Network.
Forslund's boss, NBC executive producer Sam Flood was a hockey player at Williams College.
Forslund was at the center of a small storm last week because some Islanders fans thought he was pulling for the team he spends all winter watching.
"I took some hits from passionate Islanders fans who are looking for something to lash out at," Forslund said when I reached him late last week, "looking for a reason for me to do something wrong. I don't know if it's their entire fan base, but it's loud enough on Twitter, the way the world is today, to get some attention."
It was Game 3, and during the broadcast, he said "We're okay" after New York's Jordan Eberle hit the crossbar during a flurry in front of the Carolina net.
"I called it live off the crossbar. At the Barclays Center, it's not the best location. It's hard to see, it's a horizontal view," he said. "I had it off the bar. Brian [Boucher] on the other side of the rink [inside the glass] thought it hit the inside bar and bounced out. That's why they stopped play to look at it. Eddie [Olczyk] had it off the bar, and that's when I said 'We're okay.' They took that 'we're okay' as we for the Hurricanes. That's how the firestorm started."
It reminds me of Fox broadcaster Joe Buck's Twitter biography. The bio reads "I love every team except yours."
"I wasn't always on this one. It kind of worked out this way," Forslund said, when I asked him about having the Hurricanes and Islanders. "Long story short, Sam Flood, who makes the assignments and decisions for NBC put me on the series. I've had Carolina on national television before. I had them in the first round against Washington, Game 5 on NBC. No big deal."
It isn't a regular occurrence, but local broadcasters have done national games. NBC's Kenny Albert has done Rangers games on national TV to go along with his New York work. And the most famous/infamous was Boston's own Tommy Heinsohn, who was the analyst for CBS' NBA broadcasts while he did Celtics games.
If you listened to him, you wouldn't know it was the same guy. Even doing a Celtics game on CBS, Heinsohn reigned in the criticism of officials that you hear with regularity as he sat alongside Mike Gorman.
"I kind of look at every guy that does a team as a 'homer,' because you're assigned to a team, you cover their story from the beginning to the end, so that would make you in essence a homer," Forslund said. "The blatant, unabashed, everything goes right and nothing ever goes wrong, over flowery or disdainful to the other team, is the stuff I don't like. I call a game, when I do my local feed, on a 60-40 ratio in terms of information — 60 on the home side, 40 on the others, and still talk about the other team."
Much like when Heinsohn switched to the "dark side" of the network, Forslund said his experience of more than a decade helps.
"I know how to call a national game 50-50, and that's what I do," he said. "It's not that difficult for me to switch, because I'm not shifting my style that much."
Up and down the NBC roster, there are quality play-by-play guys. Forslund, Mike Emrick and Canada's Chris Cuthbert — who works for that country's TSN, the Canadian equivalent of ESPN — have been at the top of my report card.
Forslund actually got his start broadcasting Springfield Indians games. He went to Hartford and became the Whalers' TV broadcaster on the old Comcast Sports Net New England before the team moved south to North Carolina.
So I had to ask about the Hurricanes wearing green Hartford Whalers.
"I was kind of indifferent to it because I thought it was a reach for marketing. I'm one of the few people that understands the pain of leaving the market and leaving the fans," Forslund said. "When they hit the ice, those uniforms, for whatever reason, jumped right off the screen. They were beautiful. They even looked better than back in the day.
"At the time, the 'Canes were playing really poorly. That game against the Bruins was just before the Christmas break. It gave them a little bit of life and they took off after Christmas."
Forslund was the broadcaster for the 1990 Calder Cup champions. Minnesota coach Bruce Boudreau played for the Indians in the late 1980s, while current Carolina assistant Dean Chynoweth was a member of the Calder Cup champions that Forslund broadcast for.
"Yeah, it's amazing. It does feel like yesterday," he said, referring to those years he spent at the corner of Main Street and Bruce Landon Way. "Those years were great and special. It sounds kind of trite to say, but I don't feel any different. I don't feel like the job has changed much.
"I don't feel any different than if I was calling a Calder Cup Playoff game in 89 or 90 than I do right now, which is kind of a good thing."
Howard Herman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @howardherman on Twitter, or 413-496-6253.
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