While the NHL playoffs are still in full swing, Mike Milbury’s season is over. After referring to women as a distraction during a recent broadcast, the NBC analyst won’t be calling any more games this summer; he’s since apologized and left the league’s Toronto bubble. His comments, however, weren’t his first mistake in the world of professional hockey.
As any long-time NHL fan can tell you, Mike Milbury isn’t a new face on the hockey scene; over the years, he’s been a player, a coach, a general manager, and a TV analyst. Regardless of his role, though, he’s been no stranger to making bad decisions along the way.
As a player, Mike Milbury slapped a fan with his own shoe
During his playing career, Mike Milbury played 754 games across 12 seasons with the Boston Bruins. His time on the ice, however, is most remembered for a notable incident in the stands.
On December 29, 1973, the Bruins defeated the New York Rangers in a game at Madison Square Garden. After the final whistle, however, tempers flared, and a brawl began. As the action moved closer to the boards, however, things went to the next level.
A fan leaned over the glass and hit Stan Jonathan of the Bruins with a rolled-up program; after that, an all-out melee ensued. “Some guy took off his belt,” longtime hockey reporter Larry Brooks told Evan Grossman of VICE Sports. “He was swinging his belt. Finally, a guy did grab Jonathan’s stick out of his hands and the Bruins started climbing [into the stands].”
After a while, Milbury, who had already headed to the locker room, returned to the ice and joined his teammates in the crowd. “Beer flew. Punches, too. Milbury came up the steps and joined Peter McNab jostling with a fan. They had John Kaptain, a New Jersey businessman, pinned down over a seat. That’s when Milbury famously pulled off one of Kaptain’s shoes and slapped him with it.”
Making things worse as the New York Islanders general manager
Mike Milbury’s poor decisions weren’t confined to his playing career, though. As New York Islanders fans can tell you, he wasn’t much better as a general manager, either.
While the team’s tight budget didn’t make Milbury’s time on Long Island any easier, the general manager made plenty of regrettable decisions. Over the years, he traded away the likes of Roberto Luongo, Olli Jokinen, Zdeno Chara, and Chris Osgood, among others. Luongo and Chara would turn into legitimate stars elsewhere as the Islanders tumbled down the standings.
Those trades, for the most part, set the stage for some equally-regrettable contracts. After trading Luongo, Milbury drafted Rick DiPietro; while his successor, Garth Snow, made matters worse by inking the goalie to a massive contract, the entire saga started with Mad Mike. The Zdeno Chara trade also brought Alexei Yashin to Long Island. Milbury gave him a ten-year, $87.5 million contract, and the center never lived up to his previous standards.
Mike Milbury keeps putting his foot in his mouth as an analyst
After his time with the Islanders came to an end, Mike Milbury found a home as a TV analyst. Stepping behind the microphone, however, hasn’t ended his series of missteps.
Milbury most recently made headlines for his insensitive comments, essentially calling women a distraction from more serious, hockey-related work. During a broadcast, Brian Boucher mentioned the NHL bubble could be ” a terrific environment” for players to bond with their teammates, focusing only on the playoffs. “Not even any woman here to disrupt your concentration,” Milbury responded.
That comment, however, wasn’t Milbury’s only misstep; during the 2020 playoffs alone, he’s caused controversy on multiple occasions.
“Remember that already during this NHL playoffs, Milbury degraded women’s hockey with such casual aplomb that he may as well have been dissecting a penalty-killing shift or neutral-zone forecheck,” Katie Strang wrote in The Athletic. “And it’s more than just misogyny. Milbury also reacted with extreme insensitivity when Toronto’s Jake Muzzin was seriously injured, down on the ice and vulnerable. Milbury suggested it wouldn’t hurt if he stayed down to take a whistle. Muzzin was soon stretchered off and taken to the hospital. Additionally, he criticized Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask for leaving the bubble to be with his family, questioning his commitment to his team.”
As mentioned above, Mike Milbury has left the bubble and won’t appear on TV again during the 2020 playoffs. While only time will tell if he’s done for good, one truth remains: his bad decision-making shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who knows hockey.